The season isn’t over, but the Charlotte Bobcats should be looking ahead to free agency.
They should be looking at their own free-agents-to-be more specifically.
The ‘Cats have seven potential players leaving the pay-roll after this year. Some really need to go. Others should stick around for a few more years (at least).
Gerald Henderson is the most important player in the “should stick around” category. The Bobcats can make him a qualifying offer of $4.2 million and match any offer he gets after that (unless someone goes crazy and offers him something unreasonable). Hendo has played well lately, and, maybe more than any other player, his performance dictates how the Bobcats play. In the past five games alone you can see how much he meant to Charlotte; When he scored more than 20 points, the ‘Cats won. When he scored less, they lost. Over the course of this season, that trend has held true. In the 11 games that he played in and the Bobcats won, he shot better than 50 percent and scored an average of 20 points. In the 46 losses he’s been a part of, Hendo’s averaged less than 14 points and shot significantly worse than 50 percent. He’s been on a tear this month, and there’s no reason it can’t continue into next season.
On the same side of that “how he goes, so do the Bobcats” argument is Byron Mullens. In wins he’s averaged almost 14 points and close to nine boards. In losses those numbers turn into just 9.9 points and less than six rebounds. Even though he can probably be retained for cheap, the ‘Cats should cut their ties with Seven-Feet-of-Smooth, for this reason:
Josh McRoberts is also a free agent this off season. While Charlotte may have traded Hakim Warrick for him for exactly that reason, retaining him to be the Bobcats’ first big off the bench over Byron Mullens would make Charlotte better. McRoberts actually makes less this year than Mullens’ $3.3 million qualifying offer this summer, so it’s not crazy to think the ‘Cats could keep him for just as much as it would cost to keep Mullens. Charlotte has to be thinking about signing a starting-quality big man this offseason, and if that happens, McRoberts is a way better option off the bench than Mullens.
The only other free-agent to be the ‘Cats should think about keeping is Jeff Adrien. For the (very) reasonable amount of money he’ll probably make next year, keeping him around and seeing how he develops isn’t a bad idea. There’s not many other guys this summer that will be a third guy off the bench/role playing big for as cheap as Adrien will be.
The rest of Charlotte’s free-agents just have to go.
‘Gana Diop, Reggie Williams and Cory Higgins just aren’t good enough to spend any money on.
This year’s free agency is key for Charlotte’s development into a playoff team in the coming years. If the ‘Cats get this wrong it could set them back even further than they are now. If they get it right it might not be long until they’re back in the playoffs.
Stick with Roberto Gato as the season winds down for more coverage of free-agency and the 2013 NBA draft.