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Commentary: Bobcats Are For Sale!

Despite defeating both participants in last year’s NBA finals and constructing an unbelievable comeback against the mighty Atlanta Hawks, all in the past week, the Charlotte Bobcats aren’t an elite basketball team. This year’s actually been quite disappointing. They’ve undergone a coaching change, are currently stuck in borderline playoff berth purgatory, and base their most interesting news around whether their owner will ever play again. Right now they’re a ninth seed in the East. Even if they make the postseason, they’ll surely be eliminated by either Boston, Miami, or Chicago in four or five games. Their aforementioned owner would love to trim payroll, blow up the current roster, and start from scratch—though, given Jordan’s history, it’d be through free agency instead of draft development. And so, over the past couple months, three of their most useful and highly paid players—Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, and Boris Diaw—have been rumored to be on the move.

This from the Charlotte Observer:

Bobcats management is apparently assessing its trade options. The two sources – executives with other NBA teams – spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “It would not surprise me at all’’ if the Bobcats move one of their top players, one source said. “I will say I think they’re asking for a lot.’’ … “I’d think they’re proposing different scenarios to different teams; maybe 15 or 20,’’ said one of the sources, adding that Chicago and Detroit might be two teams receptive to making a deal.

All three of them could help aid a title contender—most notably Wallace who is one season removed from an All-Star game appearance—but how and which ones? With the trade deadline approaching, Charlotte should find themselves in a Sell! Sell! Sell! situation, so let’s discuss each player one at a time, including contract situations, how they’ve performed this season, and what they could bring to the table for a hopeful suitor.

Gerald Wallace

Contract Baggage: Two years, $22 million (player option in the second year). Not bad for a 28-year-old athletic marvel who’s supposed to be entering his prime.

Stats: 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 43 percent from the field, 34 percent from beyond the arc. His numbers are down across the board from last season’s All-Star campaign. He isn’t getting to the free thrown line as much either, despite his usage percentage remaining the same. But Wallace is playing like someone who’s screaming for a change of scenery and reading too much into a dip in his numbers would be a certain mistake.

Admirers: Granted this news broke exactly one month ago, but the most recent suitor in want of Wallace is the Cleveland Cavaliers—the exact opposite of a contender. What this would do is give Cleveland a legitimate small forward in their starting lineup for the next season or two, but unfortunately his name isn’t LeBron.  From Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

The Cavaliers would use their trade exception to acquire Wallace, but have also pushed for a lottery-protected first-round pick for them to take on the two years and $22 million left on Wallace’s contract through the 2012-13 season, the source said. The Bobcats would receive a $10 million trade exception in return.

This likely won’t happen because of Wallace’s player option for the 2012-13 season.  Nobody wants to play in Cleveland right now; their road to success is long, windy, and destined to go through the draft. Giving something up for a one year rental wouldn’t be the brightest move. Wallace’s skills would better be suited for a championship contending, business-like professional team like Dallas, where everyone knows and sticks to their roles. He’d be a more than suitable replacement for Caron Butler, someone to help cover the West’s more dynamic threats come playoff time (like Kobe, Manu, Carmelo, and Kevin Durant).

Ability: The best and, as just mentioned, the most permeable player of the three, Wallace doesn’t need the ball in his hands to impact basketball games; he made the first team NBA All-Defensive team last year and could seamlessly fit into the role of glue guy if not the primary offensive option for a team. Gerald Wallace can guard all five positions, while swooping up and down the court, helping facilitate easy baskets.

Boris Diaw

Contract Baggage: One year, $9 million. Slightly pricey for the underachieving Frenchman, but not too terrible for a general manager looking for a dependable body with playoff experience. Also, depending on the new CBA’s resolution, he could be dangled as a valuable expiring contract next season.

Stats: 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 49 percent from the field, 35 percent from beyond the arc. Playing in his eighth season, Diaw has had plenty of time to paint a picture on what kind of player he is, and this season’s performance hovers right around his career averages. He’s not miraculous or terrible, just solid.

Admirers: Teams looking to add Diaw could be contenders, or someone interested in shedding salary next year.  One team that’s in dire need of a backup big man is Orlando, but it’s questionable as to what impact a player like Diaw would bring in the role of Dwight Howard’s backup.  This from the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn in late December.

“The one thing I want to do is to bring energy to this ball club,’’ [Bobcats head coach] Silas said. “We are going to have to try to get up and down so the fans can see us at our best.’’

First, the Bobcats need a front-line point guard. They would love to move the final two years of Jackson’s deal to get one, but Wallace seems more likely because he’s younger and comes with less baggage.

Also, look for the Bobcats to try to gain cap relief by offering Boris Diaw to Orlando for the expiring contract of Jason Richardson, a former Bobcat. Diaw has a player option for $9 million next season, while Richardson’s $14.4 million comes off the books.

Come playoff time when Orlando needs to defeat either Boston or Miami to advance, Diaw’s numbers this season are nothing special: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and that’s as a starter. (Although against Boston, this year, he’s shooting 64 percent from the floor.)

Ability: As doughy as a professional basketball player can get; it’s almost as if every time an announcing team covers Boris Diaw, a contractual obligation requires them to mention his weight problems. He’s the third or fourth best player Charlotte has, depending what you think of D.J. Augustin, and how much of a contribution he can have on a contending team is debatable. For the most part, he doesn’t get injured and was the league’s Most Improved Player in 2006.  So yea, that’s pretty much what he’s got going on.

Stephen Jackson

Contract Baggage: Two years, $19.3 million (guaranteed). A contract for the desperate.

Stats: 19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 41 percent from the field, 34 percent from beyond the arc. Looking at Jackson’s career numbers, his consistency as a scorer is actually quite surprising; since 2007 he’s averaged at least 20 points per game. Unfortunately, due to what he’s chosen to partake in off the court, this doesn’t mean too much, especially if Jackson is traded to a winning team with their scorers already set in place.

Admirers: Not sure how anyone can truly admire Jackson, for several reasons. Maybe “approaching at their own peril” would be a better description for the teams trying to get him. According to Hoopsworld, several teams have reportedly inquired about him.

Among the teams rumored to have interest in Jackson are the Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls and, of course, the Los Angeles Lakers. All three are a lock for the playoffs but, at one point or another, felt like they needed a spark at the guard position.

Sources say Dallas expressed interest in Jackson shortly after Caron Butler went down with a season-ending knee injury in early January. The Mavs interest faded shortly thereafter due to the high price they would have had to pay for the 32-year old shooting guard (Butler’s expiring, cash and a pick was likely the ceiling for Dallas) and now, coming off of a 10-game winning streak, it appears their infatuation with Jackson is over.

In late December it appeared Chicago was interested in the Bobcats’ swingman, but the Bulls purportedly didn’t want to surrender Taj Gibson as a part of the deal to pick up Jackson, and feel there are better, younger options on the market such as the Nuggets’ J.R. Smith and the Grizzlies  O.J. Mayo.

The Lakers were rumored to have discussed the prospect of sending the struggling Ron Artest and cash to the Bobcats for Jackson.

Of the three Bobcats on the trading block, Jackson is the one Jordan would most like to move. He’s also the least likely.

Ability: He’s a pure scorer with some decent length. He’s also an underrated passer and pretty good teammate. His reputation on the court is one of a hard working, emotional, savvy veteran. An above average player in the league, and someone who’s worked on his game and improved dramatically throughout a decade long career. With that being said, now that Rasheed Wallace is gone, Jackson is the craziest person in the league (until Ron Artest burns his house down).


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