After the Bobcats beat the Knicks last night, 114-105, in New York, on the second half of a back to back, we have some pressing questions to answer.
1 -- Should Bobcats fans be happy to make the playoffs, or should they be worried because they're going to lose their first round pick if they do?
Rick Bonnell suggests making the playoffs is better than not, and he's right that since we eventually have to give up that pick, we may as well do it quickly, when it's not as valuable as it could eventually be, when its lottery protection expires.
However, it's a valid point that there's a certain fatalism to this whole endeavor because getting the eight seed earns the right to get crushed by Cleveland or Boston. Granted, Boston would be far better matchup for the Bobcats, and if everyone involved is healthy, that series goes to six games, but we'd still be heavy underdogs.
And so I ask: If just making the playoffs is the goal, then what's next? If we've set up the team to be this good for the next two years, then what's next?
2 -- What will happen to Charlotte the day the Bobcats make the playoffs?
I predict it will be a story cast in terms of how the older generations really want to move on from the Hornets breakup and enjoy the Bobcats' success, but still can't. The Official Girlfriend of Rufus on Fire's father used to work for the Hornets, and he expresses absolute disgust with the way the arena deal went down, and I sense he still thinks the NBA has treated this city as an income source more than a place that likes pro basketball.
The Cable Box will be sold out for any playoff series. That's guaranteed. The problem is that even a playoff appearance won't repair the heartbreak of people who poured their lives into the Hornets. The Bobcats are not a true startup endeavor; to win this city over, they'll have to outlast everyone who loved the Hornets and now can't love another team.
3 -- What changes should the Cats make for next season?
I agree with Rod Higgins that no one on the team is untouchable from a talent perspective. All that means is that if Otis Smith blows a synapse and Orlando dangles Dwight Howard, we offer everything we have. But that's not going to happen.
Right now, Gerald and Emeka are the cornerstones of the franchise. Their contracts are appropriate, neither is overpaid or underpaid, really, so if they were to be traded, we wouldn't gain or lose any talent equity. Their deals are pretty long, though, so other teams will be hesitant to take them on, especially Wallace's, since he has a more troubling injury history than Emeka does.
Boris Diaw is basically doing what he's always done, but with an uptick in points that might be attributable to all the three pointers he's decided to take this year and the insane 45% three point shooting percentage he's put up. It's kind of like how every single issue of O Magazine has had Oprah and only Oprah on the cover, but then, this week, Oprah's still there, just accompanied by Michelle Obama. If you're used to the old Boris, all those threes are shocking, but only to the point that you kind of wonder why he wasn't shooting them before.
Augustin will almost certainly be the starting point guard next year. He's a better offensive player than Felton, and as much as Raymond might be a good guy to keep around, he deserves to seek out a starting role somewhere, and the Bobcats would do well to find a backup who will go into the season expecting to be the backup and both comfortable and hungry to prove himself in that role. Felton is too young to ask him to accept a demotion, and he's not a good enough scorer to keep him around as the resident combo guard off the bench the way Augustin's played this year. Let him go.
And that leaves Raja and the other guard spot, which is the only one not spoken for in the medium to long term. His contract expires after next season. It may be wise to simply keep him around and let that deal run its course, but Raja's spot in the lineup and his contract make this the only place where the Cats can make a big improvement quickly with NBA-proven talent. I don't think the Magic would do it (another Orlando reference!), but Courtney Lee has played well enough of late that they might want him to be the starting two guard next year, alongside Jameer Nelson. That would push Mickael Pietrus into bench purgatory. While he's a valuable player and I'm sure the Magic would love to have him around, they'll be paying him MLE money through 2012, and might decide that money is better spent elsewhere than on a bench player. Raja and Mickael match up salarywise, and Raja's done after next season, so we get the younger, better, player, while the Magic get a better three point shooter--better for their offensive system--without giving up too much more on defense and getting a lot more payroll flexibility. (/roster fantasy)