As far as I am concerned the Bobcats need to undergo a major change in culture or they will lose this town and it will be tough to win them back. I am a big of Bobcats fan and I love the NBA but even I am getting burnt out after these last two seasons. There is a culture of losing in Charlotte that has to change and as far as I am concerned it needs to change on all levels.
(1) The Name - The Bobcats name needs to go as soon as possible. Bring back the Charlotte Hornets. I know it seems like a small thing but when I was a little kid there was nothing I looked forward to more than going to "the Hive". The environment was electric and the arena was always full. The name Hornets means "success" to Charlotte while the name Bobcats means "failure". It is necessary for them to make this change.
(2) New Coach - Look, I like Mike Dunlap. I believe he would be an incredible NBA assistant coach but he is not a head coach. I respect his effort, intensity and determination. I also respect that he was willing to take a job when he knew he was placed in a no win situation. There was no way any coach could take a roster this flawed and make the team a success. I have 4 candidates who I would like the Bobcats to pursue this offseason, all come from a culture of winning: (4) Stan Van Gundy, (3) Brian Shaw, (2) Mark Malone, and (1) Jerry Sloan. All four of these guys know what it takes to win in the NBA and would immediate give some respect and credibility to Charlotte.
(3) Completely Rebuild the Roster - This roster is incredibly flawed. Nobody can question that and keep their credibility. When I look at the current roster there is truly only 1 player I would say is untouchable - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He is only 19 years old and he is part of the change in culture. I would make anyone else available for the right price. However, I believe the Bobcats will most likely have to keep Kemba Walker, Jeffrey Taylor, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Brendan Haywood. I am fine with that but everyone else needs to go. (1) Michael Jordan needs to get creative with Ben Gordon's expiring contract. My favorite move would be to trade Ben Gordon's expiring contract to Chicago for Carlos Boozer and get back the 1st Round Pick they owe from the Tyrus Thomas deal. If I was the GM I would do everything possible to make this deal and for the rest of this blog lets say they make that deal. (2) Then amnesty clause must be used on Tyrus Thomas. As athletically gifted as he does is bring down a team. (3) Byron Mullens is fine and he is improving but he is not worth the salary that the Bobcats would have to pay him. (4) Gerald Henderson is not the future starting SG for the Bobcats as long as MKG is your starting SF. You need an elite scorer and 3-point shooter which that is not Gerald. Also, you let all of the unrestricted free agents walk.
(4) Trade - Ramon Sessions has been an excellent player off the bench for Charlotte and I believe that his value is at an all-time high headed into this offseason. He would be a very valuable piece for a playoff team that needs a PG for a reasonable price. He has 1-year and $5 million dollars left on his contract and I bellieve the Bobcats could get a mid-1st Round Pick for him. In speaking to a friend of mine who is a diehard Utah Jazz fan, he thinks the Jazz would gladly trade the 1st Round Pick they are receiving from Golden State for Sessions this offseason because they desperately need a PG who can get out and run with a young team.
(5) A Great Draft - This is obvious, but the Bobcats must have a great draft. For arguments sake lets say they only have their 1st Round Pick because Portland continues to falter. With the #1 Overall Pick the Bobcats must draft Ben McLemore. McLemore is a 6'5 195 pound SG that has elite NBA scorer written all over him. He has explosive athletic ability and a pure shooting stroke. According to Kansas coaches his work ethic is off the charts too. This young man would be the ideal pure shooter than can stretch a defense to pair alongside Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Once again for arguments sake lets say the Bobcats have the #1 Overall Pick (you still draft Ben McLemore) and get Portland's Pick at #13. At that point with the #13 Pick I would draft Kelly Olynk. I know what people are thinking - another uncoordinated white boy from Gonzaga with long hair. However, I think Olynyk is a great piece to add to the Cats roster. He is incredibly coordinated, has great touch around the rim with both hands and can step out and hit the jumper. Also he has something that no Bobcats front court player has - a back to the basket game. I know once again some people will think I am crazy but he reminds me a lot of a young Pau Gasol. If he fell into the Bobcats hands at #13 a lot of teams would regret not picking him. For the sake of the rest of this blog lets say Charlotte gets both Ben McLemore and Kelly Olynyk.
(6) Free Agency - If Charlotte drafts both McLemore and Olynyk there roster will look like this heading into Free Agency:
PG - Kemba Walker - 6'0 185
SG - Ben McLemore - 6'5 195
SF - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - 6'7 232
SF - Jeffrey Taylor - 6'7 225
PF - Carlos Boozer - 6'9 265
C - Bismack Biyombo - 6'9 245
C - Kelly Olynyk - 7'0 240
C - Brendan Haywood - 7'0 285
Obviously, Charlotte will have a gaping hole at the PF and PG positions and I think the Cats can do a nice job filling that void in Free Agency with solid players that will be a valuable piece for this team moving forward. My number one target for PF is someone who was once my arch nemisis, Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough brings relentless effort, a back to the basket game and a high-volume rebounder. He would be a huge part of the change of culture for Charlotte because he plays hard every single minute of the game. I would even go as far as to overpay a little bit for Hansbrough to make sure we offer the best deal because you know what you will get from him every single night. I think with 28-32 minutes a night in Charlotte he would be a guaranteed double-double. Charlotte must get him! Then, I would fill out the roster with some young players from the D-League that I believe have the potential to be solid role players in the NBA. (1) Andrew Goudelock (PG) who can play some minutes as backup to Walker and can stroke the 3-ball. (2) Travis Leslie has been a superstar in the D-League and is only 23 years old. He is 6'4 and an elite athlete and defender. He is currently listed as the #1 propsect in the D-League and won the D-League All-Star Game MVP award. (3) DaJuan Summers is a 6'8 240 pound combo SF/PF that has done well in the D-League. He would be a nice versatile player to fill out the roster. (4) Sundiata Gaines has bounced around the NBA and shown flashes of ability to play backup PG in the NBA. He is just looking for an opportunity and Charlotte can give him one.
That would leave the Hornets (hopefully) an Opening Day Roster of:
PG: Kemba Walker - 6'0 185
PG: Andrew Goudelock - 6'3 205
PG: Sundiata Gaines - 6'1 200
SG: Ben McLemore - 6'5 195
SG: Travis Leslie - 6'4 205
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - 6'7 232
SF: Jeffrey Taylor - 6'7 225
PF: Tyler Hansbrough - 6'9 250
PF: Carlos Boozer - 6'9 265
C: Bismack Biyombo - 6'9 245
C: Kelly Olynyk - 7'0 240
C: Brendan Haywood - 7'0 285
With that roster you would give your young players that are part of your future - Kemba, McLemore, Kidd-Gilchrist, Taylor, Hansbrough, Biyombo and Olynyk a majority of the minutes. You would also give other young players like Goudelock and Leslie to show that they can be a role player for your team moving forward. Your front court is hugely improved with the addition of Hansbrough, Boozer and Olynyk. Boozer gives you a mature veteran in the locker room that can still play ball and mentor this young team out on the court instead of from the bench like Haywood. This roster will make this team much more competitive and a lot more fun to watch but will still put the Charlotte in position to for a top draft pick in 2014 to hopefully land the superstar that will change the franchise forever in 2014 with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Noah Vonleh or Julius Randle who I believe make up an incredibly strong top of the draft next year.