January 26, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker (15) drives to the basket and looks to pass as he is defended by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham (33) during the game at Time Warner Cable Arena. Bobcats win 102-101. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

How Close Are The Charlotte Bobcats to Competing?

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Edward Shuler Jr. recently asked the question “should the Charlotte Bobcats Switch to win-now mode?

Now I’m asking the question, how close are the Bobcats to reaching that win-now level?

It’s pretty clear that even if Charlotte became the Hornets again tomorrow, the number one thing that would put more butts in the seats at the Cable Box is a winning team.

If you think that’s bad news in regards to a possible reswarmification, think again. The groundswell of support for a name-change is there, and if (when) Michael Jordan and his brain trust pony up the $3-or-so million to re-brand, he’s going to want to make that move worth it.

Which brings us back to the prospects of a winning team take the court in Charlotte.

If you’re reading this from the perspective of a non-Bobcats fan, you might not know this, but Kemba Walker is a very good, potentially All Star caliber point guard. His PER has hovered around 20 all season (just two points off what stat guru John Hollinger says is the PER of a bonafide All Star), he’s a steal machine and he’s drastically improved his field goal and three point percentages this season.

The ‘Cats also have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, an already solid defender. He’s also the youngest player in the league this season, and, despite his gruesome jumper, he’s averaging 10 points per game (oh yeah, and six rebounds per contest, too).

While the rest of Charlotte’s roster isn’t too impressive, the Bobcats have a ton of cap space to work with over the next two off seasons.

Rich Cho, Charlotte’s GM, has already made a few quiet, but very good moves by bringing in Ben Gordon AND a future first round draft pick from the Pistons, as well as signing Ramon Sessions, who’s having arguably the best season of his career as the Bobcat’s sixth man this season.

So let’s recap for a moment.

Charlotte has one of the best young point guards in the league, a very young wing who can defend almost every team’s best player and two solid scorers off the bench.

The ‘Cats also have at least one first round draft pick this summer. If everything works out for them, they’ll probably take a center (Cody Zeller, please). They could also have another draft pick in the teens depending on how the Trailblazers season pans out.

And then there’s Charlotte’s cap space. Gana Diop’s $7 million contract is coming off the books, Tyrus Thomas’s $8+ million will be, because Charlotte will almost certainly amnesty him, and if the ‘Cats do not retain Hakim Warrick, Gerald Henderson or Byron Mullens, $11 million more will be lifted off Charlotte’s shoulders.

That’s $26+ million of new money the Bobcats could possibly have to work with this off season.

I don’t want to speculate on who Charlotte could add, but there are plenty of players this off season who, if added to the mix of Walker, MKG, Gordon and Sessions, could realistically turn the Bobcats into a playoff team.

 

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