A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The Bobcats’ all-time worst NBA season: Blame the last decade’s moves, not this year

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Primary logo (2004–present)

Primary logo (2004–present) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, it’s official. The Charlotte Bobcats finished with the all-time worst winning percentage for an NBA team (.106), at 7-59 in this shortened season. Their adjusted point differential (SRS) of -13.96 also broke the futility record.

How did this happen? On the surface, the Bobcats certainly “tanked” this season – after trading veterans Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson for long term draft pick depth, they handed the team over to young players like Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo and BJ Mullens (Corey Maggette was the “veteran leader” of the team, but let’s just say there’s a reason his nicknames from previous teams include “Bad Porn” and “The Mole”). GM Rich Cho has been relatively open about how he told the Bobcats franchise that if they wanted to win, they’d have to take a step back for a few years. In other words, they’d have to tank for draft picks.

But in reality this season for the Bobcats was swallowing much needed medicine to get healthy more than the sickness.  One of the themes I have concentrated on is the concept of asset value as a way to measure a team’s position in the league. If you have players that give you an optimistic future, they should have value. For the last half decade or so the Bobcats have been unofficially way behind everyone in asset value. The problem is the immense lack of return on their draft picks. Emeka Okafor was picked 2nd in overall in 2004 and after signing a massive contract, was traded for Tyson Chandler. Chandler eventually was traded to Dallas for a trade exception. Raymond Felton was picked 5th in 2005 and eventually was lost to the Knicks in free agency. Sean May was picked 13th in 2005 and busted out of the league. Adam Morrison was picked 3rd in 2006 and obviously being a complete bust, his value bottomed out extremely quickly. Brandan Wright was picked 8th in 2007 and immediately traded for Jason Richardson, who they eventually traded with 2007 22nd pick Jared Dudley for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. Bell was eventually involved in the Stephen Jackson trade, and Diaw recently bought out. Alexis Ajinca was picked 20th in 2008 and busted to no value. DJ Augustin (9th in 2008), Gerald Henderson (12th in 2009) remain on the team and are arguably the team’s two best players, but ultimately far from impact players. As a result, by the time of the 2011 trade deadline, the Bobcats only true assets were veterans Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, who helped them make the playoffs in 2010. Because most teams are built on more valuable young prospects which their lack of returns from 2004 to 2007 prevented them from getting, the Bobcats easily brought up the rear for asset value by anyone’s estimation. By trading Wallace for two draft picks and using one of them combined with Stephen Jackson to move up in the draft, Cho improved his team’s long term asset value. The problem is that their position was so poor that fixing it was going to be painful and long. If the Bobcats refused to trade Wallace and Jackson and simply waited until the former hit free agency and the latter became too old to be valued on the market, they eventual hole to dig out of would’ve been even bigger a few years from now – and they’d have wasted a few more seasons to get to that point. The Bobcats didn’t screw themselves by resigning to a horrible roster this season instad of attempting to improve the team with free agent pick-ups – They screwed themselves from 2004 to 2011 by letting their asset value drop to an all-time low level. Their options was to suffer the inevitable correction phase or kick that can down the road a few more years.

Bobcat fans should take solace in that they will never see a season as brutal as this one as long as management is on the right track – and if it was to happen in any year, it may as well be in a 4 months season that seemed to zip by. The combination of Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo and this year’s draft pick (A lock to be one of Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal or Thomas Robinson) should improve the team to respectably bad next season, echoing the Cavaliers improvement from last season to this one. This is ultimately a better place to be long term than the one they were in at the trade deadline in 2011 – that is arguably the true nadir of the Bobcats’ long term outlook and asset value. They are likely in for a 3 or 4 year rebuild from this point forward, just because the hole they dug was a full 25 or 30 feet deep. But if the franchise is committed they can get back to a healthy place.

Written by jr.

April 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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