The Charlotte Bobcats’ biggest weakness, both offensively and defensively, is their frontcourt. Hoops Stats ranks the Bobcats last in frontcourt points and in efficiency differential. With over $20 million projected in cap space, it’s widely assumed the Bobcats will look to upgrade their bigs in the offseason. They could increase their cap space by using the amnesty provision on Tyrus Thomas, who’s owed $8.69 million next season.
The Bobcats could pursue big men like Josh Smith, Andrew Bynum, or Al Jefferson in free agency. They would all likely require a hefty long-term commitment to spend the prime of their careers in a rebuilding process. The trade market is another option, if the Bobcats want to re-assess what it would take to acquire a talent like DeMarcus Cousins.
An alternative that’s seldomly discussed is the amnesty provision system. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times writes that the Los Angeles Lakers would have to consider amnestying forward Pau Gasol to avoid a bloated luxury tax bill. The Lakers want to re-sign Dwight Howard to a maximum contract, which would further boost their salary. The Lakers potentially face a $100 million payroll next season, and Bresnahan writes their luxury tax obligation would bloat to about $85 million.
Though the Lakers have been free-spending in the past, the new collective bargaining agreement is designed to curb the NBA’s highest spenders. Gasol has struggled the last few seasons and has looked like the odd man out in Hollywood. He’s in line to make $19 million next season in the final year of his contract, a number many suspect is too large to deal and wouldn’t provide salary relief.
Amnestying Gasol would save the Lakers upwards to $60 million in luxury tax expenses. However, which ever team scoops Gasol via the amnesty bidding system, would slash that number significantly. If amnestied, the Bobcats are in prime position to make a high bid to snatch Gasol. Different from the NBA’s waiver system, amnestied players are awarded to the team who submits the highest offer. Only teams who are under the cap can make a bid.
Gasol turns 33 this offseason. While his numbers have dropped next to high-volume scoring centers, the Bobcats could give Gasol the touches and position to pick his production back up. Even with Gasol on decline, at the bare minimum he’s still an above-average power forward. Gasol would provide legitimacy and a recognizable NBA name that fans can get behind on a young and inexperienced Bobcats roster.
The Bobcats would likely have to make a very high bid to get Gasol. It’s unlikely any team will opt to make a full claim of Gasol’s $19 million salary. But he could stand to get a bid of anywhere from $10-13 million, maybe a bit more. Despite his age, Gasol would be a player the Bobcats could take on for the 2013-14 season and beyond. Every rebuilding process needs a quality veteran and Gasol would be a big step in competing for a playoff spot earlier than expected.
While the Bobcats brass is contemplating whether a name change back to the Charlotte Hornets would get fans to come out and support the tea, acquiring a talent like Gasol would require no contemplation. The downside is marginal and the Bobcats have everything to gain from getting the post-savvy Spainard.