It's that magical time of the NBA season where rumors are flying, and trade ideas are being dished out like Kemba Walker assists (or something like that). Since we've begun to hear rumors about the Bobcats' activity at the deadline, this would be a great time to evaluate the team's needs, and go through the roster to figure out who does and who doesn't have value. Let's take a minute to reflect on just where we stand with the trade deadline rapidly approaching.
First off, at 12-39, there shouldn't be too many players who are untouchable. Although the team has improved, there is still has much room for improvement. After all, the Bobcats rank near the bottom of the league in every major category except for things like turnovers and free throw attempts. Secondly, we know that the roster needs more of a balance between the front and back courts, in addition to more depth to increase their odds of winning on a given night. It remains to be seen if they'll be able to achieve that balance and the deadline, but let's look at our trade chips a little more in-depth.
Do I Have to Hang Up on You, or Are You Just Gonna Hang Up: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, and Jeff Taylor
I'd imagine the call to Richard Cho asking for the players above from an opposing GM would only end with him laughing hysterically unless a team was really offering something grand, but that's not happening and these two have no shot at getting moved. Both players have thrived under rookie coach Mike Dunlap, and will likely only get better. With more minutes, we've seen Kemba Walker improve his efficiency, make more plays for others (Despite the Bobcats being last in the league in assists), and is the team's go-to player in crunch time. Having committed a lottery pick to him nearly two years ago makes it even more unforeseeable that he gets moved.
Same goes for MKG despite having hit a bit of a rookie wall the past couple of months. Part of that could be attributed to the various injuries on the roster and being asked to do more than he's currently able to, but he's shown to have a ton of value to the franchise. I don't know what else to say here, because, yeah, he's not going anywhere. Above I said there shouldn't be too many untouchables on this roster, but these are likely the lone two on this roster (barring some very favorable offer).
I debated including Taylor in this section or the next, but this is what I've learned about the NBA: 1) General managers love the players they bring in via draft, trade, or free agency, and same goes for their coaching hires; 2) coaches love to bring in players that fit their vision. With all of this being said, there is no way Cho will trade a Mike Dunlap player like Taylor that they just invested a draft pick in while he's shown improvement as the season has gone on. Taylor isn't necessarily untouchable, but he's less-likely to be moved in my mind than the next three players I am going to mention.
Make Me an Offer: Ramon Sessions, Gerald Henderson, and Ben Gordon
First things first. With the Bobcats having only two point guards on the roster, and Sessions being on a very reasonable contract, it's difficult to see Ramon going anywhere, but if another team liked Sessions more than their current PG it's not the craziest thing in the world to see happening. However, I just don't buy that he's going anywhere this season, and if they were going to move him, it would make more sense to me to see how things play out in free agency and the draft before moving a solid player at a position you actually have depth at. It doesn't seem like there's much commotion for Sessions right now, despite solid play this season. It doesn't make much sense for any team besides contenders who think they're on the cusp of a title and desperately need a spark off the bench or think he would be an apt starter for the rest of the season. But I'm afraid most contending teams are more or less set at the position and his performance for the Lakers last year isn't quite wooing GMs.
Who wants a young shooting guard on the cheap that is a capable shooter, generally works on defense, and can make a few plays for others? If the Bobcats didn't like Henderson's $4m dollar price tag for next season, and chose not to exercise their team option on him for 2014, why let him get away for nothing? And if they regret it, they could still try to re-sign him in the offseason, although it would be more difficult.
I'd say that Ben Gordon's contract would make it difficult to move him, but we've heard the Nets possibly discuss a Kris Humphries-for-Ben Gordon swap, which would be great to balance out the Bobcats' roster and gives New Jersey a nice shooter off the bench. Of course, any team that trades for Gordon would have to deal with the reality of paying him $13m for next season since there's no way he doesn't exercise that option for next year knowing there's no way a Joe Dumars is going to come along and give him that type of money again. Basically, Gordon is on the table but the Bobcats will have to take back someone's bad decision in return.
These Guys Have, um, Great Personalities: Bismack Biyombo and Byron Mullens
Here are all of the things I understand about Bismack Biyombo: He blocks shots, he's only twenty years old, brought in by Cho, and is very cheap with a contract that runs through 2014. Despite being just twenty years old and some ability to grab rebounds and make some plays on defense, he's still not an elite defender, and you certainly can't run an offense through him yet. Given what I've seen in terms of Basketball IQ, I'm not sure how good he'll ever be despite his age and "potential". Although he's not a Dunlap guy, the Bobcats may still keep him around given their frontcourt depth unless someone really sees something in Biyombo and wants to give up on something that immediately helps the Bobcats. You know what, can I just say it? I'm not a huge fan of Biyombo, but he's likely not going anywhere.
Oh, Mullens. I hate that I need you, but I need you. We saw what happened when teams were no longer were concerned with the Bobcats having the threat of Mullens' actual range when he was out with his ankle sprain, and it wasn't pretty. The team suffered without Mullens' ability to draw defenders out of the paint, and the team was missing their best rebounder as well.
Still, Mullens is averaging 12.8 ppg on 38% shooting and still is taking 4.5 threes per game even though he can't really shoot them (30%). While he is actually an effective rebounder, he doesn't add much on defense. He is, however, on $2.2 million dollar contract this year, but how many teams are looking at the Bobcats' roster and thinking Mullens is going anywhere? Probably not too many, and the Bobcats don't have many options in the frontcourt without him. Mullens has shown improvement and devotion to improving his game across the board. He has a wide skill set, for sure. They're not at a very high NBA level, but how much he can build upon them ranges to who you ask. It seems the Bobcats have really bought into him and he has bought into them.
Less-than Zero Value? You sure?: Desegana Diop, Reggie Williams and Tyrus Thomas
This is just getting gross now. I mean, would anyone even trade for Gana Diop's expiring deal to shed salary knowing that he's retiring? It's a long shot at best. How about who wants to pay Tyrus Thomas $16m combined for this season and next given his abhorrent production? Didn't think so. And the Bobcats' best option to wash their hands of Tyrus may be amnesty. As for Reggie Williams, he plays nine minutes per game, and; has an expiring $2.5million dollar deal that makes him all the more inconsequential to keep around.
Yet, if any of these three went away, I don't think the Bobcats would be negatively affected too much, but it's not as if anyone is blowing up their lines to pry them away from Charlotte.
I Don't Even Know What to Think About You: Jeff Adrien, Hakim Warrick and Brendan Haywood
This is the group that probably has more value to the Bobcats than anyone else. Haywood is really the only true center on the roster, and at $2 million per season through 2015 it's not a huge deal that he doesn't do much but help with spacing, throw in some points and a few rebounds, even though he'll be 35 when his deal ends. Of course, Haywood was amnestied, so he cannot be traded yet.
Jeff Adrien has been nice, but is only signed through the season, and while he's been a nice upgrade over Tyrus, players like him just don't have a ton of value and can typically be found on the open market quite often. With that said, I like what he brings to this team, and what he brings to the table for now.
Warrick, like Haywood, is another veteran presence who has a $4 million dollar expiring deal at the end of the season. It's highly unlikely he'll return next season considering the Bobcats' rebuilding status, so if they can find a team will to accept, essentially, a salary dump then perhaps they could move him.
In summary, the Bobcats do have some pieces they could move to balance the roster and improve the team without hindering their long-term growth too much. It most likely will come at the expense of guys like Henderson and Gordon because the team has depth there, and if they want to bring in anyone of quality to fill other needs, they're going to need to give up something tangible. Remember, no team is lining up to give their gold for your unwanted crap, nor will any team take a deal that leaves them with a smoldering crater for a team; this isn't 2K, people. Oh! And watch out for the fake Woj Twitter accounts, they're everywhere this time of year.