A short while ago I came across the idea of the democracy of the internet. Indeed, the internet has given a voice in a public forum to countless people who would not otherwise have one (myself included). The internet has become a place where a statement or action, no matter how thoughtful and informed it may be, will be scrutinized and exposed for all its various flaws. This sort of thing, of course, is the hallmark of democracy.
I really don’t have it in me to start waxing on about how profound (or un-profound) an idea like this really is. I only bring it up because it sparked a hypothetical question that I’d like to explore. What if the Bobcats, and the personnel decisions that the team has made since the arrival of Larry Brown, were run as a democracy? If the public were allowed to vote on all of the major trades made since this time, how might the roster be different? How would this team compare to the one we have today? Larry Brown is well known for the way he shapes a roster. This time around, he’s had to bring many fans kicking and screaming as he’s turned this team into a playoff contender. One note before we get started. I’m leaving draft choices and free agent signings out for the sake of clarity. If we must consider every possible variable, this just becomes an endless game of "what if?" Looking at the major – and often controversial – deals is enough.
The first move to consider has had perhaps the biggest impact. Trading away Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler, though accepted by some, was widely criticized. It would have been voted down almost instantly. We all know why and how it happened, but where would the Bobcats be today is Okafor were still on the roster? Though underwhelming, he’d still be pulling a double-double and giving the team solid defense in the post. With Chandler now gone, Charlotte essentially traded Okafor away to erase payroll. They’ve done that now, and they’ve almost erased Meka’s production along with it.
Trading away the team’s best scorer (Jason Richardson) for a defensive specialist (Raja Bell) and a utility player off the bench (Boris Diaw) seemed rather intuitive once you put all the pieces together. On the surface, however, this deal screamed "mistake!" Larry took a beating in the press. Though the criticism vanished as the team started winning, this deal seems so counterintuitive that it never would have happened. The result would be 20 ppg from the starting 2 guard and the absence of a power forward (more on that later). Further, without Bell’s expiring contract and with Richardson already on the team, no Stephen Jackson.
The Matt Carroll/DeSagana Diop deal is tricky. I was never opposed to bringing in Diop because I knew he could be a solid defender in the post. Many didn’t like his contract, however, which leads me to believe this deal may have been voted down. Diop’s deal isn’t much worse than Carroll’s, but it’s certainly better to have Carroll or Diop than to have Carroll AND Diop. That goes without saying. On the court, the Bobcats still have Okafor and Nazr Mohammed in the middle. Matt Carroll’s still on the bench.
The Adam Morrison deal is a bit of a puzzle as well. Vladimir Radmanovic was a welcome change in the midst of a surge for a team trying to make its first ever post-season. Radmanovic was also owed a great deal more money than Morrison, which would have been costly in the long run. The playoffs are just too tempting, so the deal would have likely been approved by the fans. However, had the team not traded for Diaw and Bell, the playoffs would have likely been out of the question. I’ll argue that this deal would have not happened, keeping Radman’s contract off the books.
The power forward position is interesting. Without trading for Diaw, the likely options become either playing Okafor and Nazr together, or starting Jared Dudley. Undoubtedly, many of us would have continued to spend much more time than is necessary debating whether Okafor is a power forward or a center. Well, he’s a center, which means Dudley would have been asked to accentuate the rugged part of his game at the 4. His shooting touch would have likely never flourished under a coach like Brown (and in the absence of Steve Nash). It’s hard to say if Dudley would have been a better or worse player had he remained a Bobcat, but he certainly would have been asked to play a much different style of basketball. As far as the team’s current make up, there’s no way the Tyrus Thomas trade doesn’t happen; giving the Bobcats Gerald Wallace, Thomas, Dudley, and Derrick Brown to play the forward positions. Not bad.
As far as small forward and the point, no trades have occurred. It’s safe to say that Charlotte would have the same players that they have now at these positions. So how does the roster for the "Democratic Bobcats" look?
In many ways, this roster is as good, if not better, than the one the team fields today. The starting 5 is more solid and the bench holds up. Richardson gives you fewer assists than Jackson, but he gives you fewer turnovers as well. Thomas deserves to be a starter, and the absence of Diaw would allow D.Brown and Dudley to shine off the bench. Okafor solves any problems in the middle, though in a fashion admittedly less than spectacular. With some quick calculations, this team even yields a similar total salary to that of the current roster. The only problem, as I see it, is what you get with Richardson vs. Jackson. Richardson may give you the numbers (his adjusted PER is significantly better than Jackson’s for this season), but he doesn’t come close to bringing the intensity, leadership, and winning mentality that Jackson brings each night. For that reason, I’m not sure this team makes the playoffs. Gerald Wallace is a star, but he can’t do it alone. Despite the solid all around play from this hypothetical squad, it fails to bring that one guy who can consistently put the team on his back (or whatever other cliche you want to use) and get a win. We’re starting to see that Jackson may not be that player either, though he was last season. It’s as true now as it was last season; the Bobcats live and die with Capn’ Jax. Ultimately, I take what we have today over anything else that could have been.