With Danny Ainge building a dominant team in Boston, I can now sit back and enjoy Celtics game and waste my free time making up trades for other franchises. Unfortunately, the next Boston opponent might be one of the hardest teams to figure out.
The Charlotte Bobcats are problematic because they aren't really that problematic. Most of their players are solid and they have a little bit of cap space. The issue, however, is that nobody is really that great, the team simply isn't working together, and they aren't a franchise that is really on the top of any elite free agents wish list.
Issue #1: Emeka Okafor
On the bright side, Emeka Okafor had a solid but not spectacular season which could limit how much he can demand in a contract extension. On the downside, Okafor hasn't been spectacular and he isn't the answer in the paint for the 'Cats. He's a great defensive player but the team could still use a better offensive threat in the frontcourt. The Cats should look to re-sign Okafor for maybe 10 million a year; a deal similar to the one that Gerald Wallace signed.
Issue #2: Head Coach
Nothing against Sam Vincent but this team just hasn't looked that good this year and I really don't see him somehow flipping a switch to make things better. It's not like he has some system that the players haven't figured out yet. To me, the obvious choice as next head coach, if he'd take the job, is Larry Brown. Brown is a defense-first kind of guy and the duo of Okafor and Wallace should keep him happy. Can one city survive the egos of Brown and Michael Jordan? Who knows? But both men are focused on winning now and I think their competitive drives could help smooth over their problems.
Issue #3: The draft pick
The Bobcats are likely going to have the 8th pick in the draft. I really doubt Jordan (or Brown, if they hire him) would want to get any younger. The best possible move the team could make would be: Jason Richardson and #8 for Elton Brand. Of course, to make it work the Bobcats would need to add another salary but I think either the overpaid Matt Carroll or overrated Adam Morrison can be thrown in. Depending on who comes out, the 'Cats could ask for more in return but I think any coach, even Larry Brown, would be happy with a Okafor/Brand/Wallace frontcourt. Another option could be to drop down in the draft and swap Nazr Mohammed, Matt Carroll, and Adam Morrison for Kenyon Martin. Depending on where the Nuggets end up, they might have to add in a future pick but that deal could work. Any way you slice it, the Bobcats are likely going to need to use the pick and/or Jason Richardson in hopes of bringing in some help to get them into the playoff picture.
Issue #3: Free Agency
I doubt the 'Cats are really going to be able to snag any big ticket free agents so they should really look for some lower level guys like Bonzi Wells, Matt Barnes, Eduardo Najero, Delonte West or Ryan Gomes. The key, of couse, is not to make the same mistake they made with Matt Carroll, which was to give a role player an MLE type contract. While I know that the 'Cats might want to make a splashy signing, it's better to show some financial responsibility and save the cash for future free agent classes which will likely be much better than this offseason's.
The odds of the Bobcats turning things around in one fell swoop this offseason seems slim. Still, with a few slight chances and an upgrade at head coach, there's no reason to think that they could improve ala the Hawks and make a run at the playoffs. One move can make all the difference. If they listened to me (and pretty much anyone who watched college hoops) two years ago, they'd be sitting pretty with Brandon Roy instead of Adam Morrison.