July 1 marks the beginning of the free agency period, when the Charlotte Bobcats will be far enough under the cap to be spenders this summer.
Don’t expect hometown star Chris Paul or the indecisive Dwight Howard to consider relocating to Charlotte. The Bobcats could be reluctant to pursue the offseason’s biggest prizes and may go after moderate signings. Ramon Sessions two-year, $10 million deal is a great model for such a strategy.
The Bobcats will have to decide on Gerald Henderson’s future. Friday Henderson was extended a $4.5 million qualifying offer, giving the team the right to match any offer sheet he signs during a three-day window. Given his age and continuous improvement, Henderson should receive anywhere from $6-$9 million a year. If he is let go, O.J. Mayo and reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith are quality alternatives.
The Bobcats ranked 27th in three-point makes and percentage last season. VCU guard Troy Daniels was signed Friday as an undrafted free agent and shot over 40% from three as a senior.
Former Duke sharpshooter J.J. Redick would further help address the perimeter shooting. Redick has familiarity with Steve Clifford and Patrick Ewing from their time in Orlando, and is a career 39% shooter from distance. Specialists like Wayne Ellington and Anthony Morrow should come cheap for depth.
After making 66 starts in two seasons in Charlotte, Byron Mullens was not given a qualifying offer by the Bobcats. With the addition of Cody Zeller, Rich Cho says power forward will be less of a concern. If Mullens and Josh McRoberts find new teams, the Bobcats will be in the market for veteran big men. Carl Landry and Antawn Jamison, both pursued by the Bobcats last summer, are available. Former Bobcat Ryan Hollins would add size and athleticism behind Bismack Biyombo and Brendan Haywood.
The Bobcats should be cognizant of the contracts given out this summer. Milwaukee Bucks’ guard Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent and could determine how much Kemba Walker commands for a contract renewal. Walker, who averaged 17.7 points and 5.7 assists last season, is eligible to sign an extension after the upcoming season. Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson signed four-year deals last offseason, worth more than $40 million.
Trades will continue to happen, as teams dump contracts in preparation for signings. The Bobcats project as a logical trading partner for teams looking for cap relief. While the team may or may not be interested, Danny Granger, Eric Gordon, Andrea Bargnani, and Shawn Marion are just some of the names who could be dealt. Houston Rockets’ center Omer Asik might be available if his team is successful in landing Howard.
This year’s free agency class isn’t as strong as past years. They may look towards next summer, when DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Paul George and John Wall could all be free agents. The Bobcats can’t afford to have a long-term contract backfire on them while they rebuild. They could have up to three first round picks in next year’s stacked draft and over $18 million off the books with the contracts of Sessions and Ben Gordon expiring. With a little bit of luck, the Bobcats will be better suited to spend lavishly in 2014.
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