The Charlotte Bobcats made two personnel moves today that make sense for both the present and future of the franchise, continuing a string of decisions that indicate management has a philosophy, and are sticking to it. That said, they could still do better.
First, Tyrus Thomas is going to be a Bobcat this season, as he and Charlotte agreed to a contract worth $40 million over five years. Second, the Cats signed Dominic McGuire to a one-year deal. I'm beyond pleased with signing Thomas and incredibly frustrated with signing McGuire, and here's why.
(UPDATE: Raymond Felton set to sign with New York Knicks for $7 million per season.)
Signing Tyrus Thomas represents a cannon shot to the rest of the NBA: You will not score on us. If Thomas starts and Boris Diaw becomes the first man off the bench, the Cats will have four above-average defenders in the starting lineup, both on-ball and help. Pending resolution of the point guard situation, it could be five guys. That's fantastic.
We all know what Thomas brings to the table, from his excellent defense -- both of the highlight reel and subtle varieties -- to his energy running the floor and rebounding. He's also a bit of a gunner, putting up too many shots when he's not particularly skilled at jumpers and his athletic type screams "slasher", or "putback artist". If only he had more David Lee in him than Mike Miller, with his defense he'd be a Josh Smith clone. Instead, he's Josh Smith on defense with nowhere near the offensive sense that J-Smoove brings. That's still an incredibly valuable player to have, especially paired with a similar player like Tyson Chandler, who, though limited on offense, is also a valuable defender. Those two make the paint a serious no-fly zone.
Tyrus is still only 23 years old, so while the odds are he is who he is type-wise, he could still be getting wiser and better. True, if the NBA were a completely free market, this deal could easily end up being an overpay, but that's only if you count the players whose salaries are still suppressed by their rookie contracts. In the free agent marketplace, Thomas is a bargain. In a world in which Drew Gooden gets $32 million over five years, Thomas's contract looks mighty fine to me.
McGuire, on the other hand, is an epic non-scorer. Though he has a reputation as a guy who can do all the little things that make an offense hum except actually put the ball in the basket, while playing top level defense as a 3/4 swingman -- basically, he's Stephen Graham all over again without any of the "offensive upside". I mean, for a guy who supposedly makes his living doing things that make his team better at the expense of his own statistics, his team's weren't better when he was on the floor. In fact, McGuire's +/- was horrific in just about every combination he's ever played.
Here's the thing: I like the idea of signing McGuire's type and often use him as an example of the kind of guy I like, but, in retrospect, I've been thinking of him as an untested 24-year-old it seemed everyone was underestimating. I fear that he's going to get a chance to do more than that when Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson are already on hand and can likely do what he does with no problem.
Now, maybe Larry Brown turns him into Matt Barnes, but what about using a roster spot and some (all?) of our exception money on Matt Barnes? Or make a play for (alphabetically) Tony Allen, Ronnie Brewer, Rodney Carney, Kyle Korver, Roger Mason, Jr., Anthony Morrow, J.J. Redick, or Craig Smith? All those guys bring something important to the table that the Cats lack (shooting!) or that McGuire, et al, will be expected to do, but they can do it better.
And if the Bobcats only want to sign minimum guys for the back end of the bench because more luxury tax money is too much to swallow, then why aren't we sifting through the untried and untested and hoping something sticks? Instead of McGuire, the proven sub-mediocrity, guys like Patrick Mills, Joe Alexander, and a host of D-League stars should be our targets.
Don't get it twisted: the Bobcats are a much better team today than they were at the start of last season. As an organization, they've made huge strides from the train wreck they were under Sam Vincent. Here's hoping the troubling and puzzling moves Larry Brown, et al, make are minimal and the positive and wondrous moves far outpace the rest.