With the NBA trade deadline approaching on February 20th teams by now have a pretty good idea of where they are and where they want to be. Many project this deadline to be a busy one. With many teams angling for a top selection in this summer’s draft and other teams operating under the mandate of “Postseason/Championship or Bust” it seems there will be many buyers and sellers. At 22-28 the Charlotte Bobcats currently hold the 8th seed in the East, which has surprised a lot of people. Based on recent reports it seems that the Bobcats look to be buyers at the deadline. This makes sense for several reasons.
First, this would mark the Bobcats’ second appearance in the postseason in the franchise’s ten year existence. For a team that lost 118 of 146 games from 2011-2013 it’s become paramount for the Bobcats to make the playoffs. This offseason the Bobcats made this decision obvious with the 3 year $41 million contract to sign Al Jefferson. Secondly, even though the Eastern conference is not exactly super competitive (comparatively in the West the 8th seed Dallas Mavericks are 30-21) both Detroit and New York are within two games. Both these teams also carry a mandate to win, Detroit tried to make a splash in the offseason with the signing of Josh Smith and New York being the most valuable franchise in the league while also having one of the most expensive rosters also carries a playoff burden. Cleveland is a fringe team trying to make the playoffs but they have their own major issues to overcome. To stay in contention and hopefully land a spot higher than 7th or 8th which would mean a first round exit by either Indiana or Miami the Bobcats are looking to make moves.
But are these moves what they need?
The major acquisition would look to be adding the Philadelphia 76ers’ Evan Turner. Turner, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, is a ball-dominant wing currently averaging 17.8 points and would be added to help boost the Bobcats offense which currently ranks 27th in terms of points per possession. He’s a fairly competent defender and would likely fit in well with Clifford’s system which focuses heavily on perimeter defense by the wings.
Part of the reason why the Bobcats have one of the worst offensive ratings in the league comes from a lack of 3 point shooting. The Bobcats average 15.9 3 point shot attempts per game. This puts them at 28th in the league and over 5 shots below the league average of 21.2. In recent years—due in large part to statistics and evolving defenses—the trend has been to take an increasing number of threes. Being able to shoot threes is valuable to stretching the defense and creating more open shots, especially at the rim. With a dominant post player in Al Jefferson one would think the Bobcats would want to look to add 3 point shooting around him like Orlando did with Dwight Howard.
Turner is not that kind of player. He shoots 28.9% from 3 and has a 45.7% Effective Field Goal percentage; both are below league average with his 3 point percentage nearly 7% lower. Turner is much more of a mid-range shooter and tends to be one of the league’s best. But Gerald Henderson has a similar shot chart as well, taking many of his shots from mid-range and this could really kill the team’s spacing on offense if they are played together. The mid-range shot is also currently one of the most discouraged shots as well because it is viewed as one of the least efficient.
Similarly the Bobcats have also looked at adding the Bulls power forward Taj Gibson. Gibson is a great defender and a good rebounder as well. Power forward is not the Bobcats strongest position and adding Gibson could help shore the Big Al’s defensive inabilities which have been much improved this season. Or Gibson could come off the bench and help anchor the second unit much like his current role with the Bulls. But the problem with Gibson is similar to Turner. Gibson takes nearly 60% of his shots at the rim and would clog the lane with Jefferson inhabiting the same spot on the floor. Coach Steve Clifford could try and make this work but with the lack of 3 point shooting already it would be more crowded down low than a subway car during the Super Bowl. This is why Josh McRoberts (a Luke Walton All-Star starter) sees the most minutes at the position because he creates spacing on offense with his 3 point range and good passing.
It’s not that these moves would be terrible—both Turner and Gibson are solid players—but they won’t necessarily help create the spacing needed to help the Bobcats run an effective modern NBA offense. The current offense is just too easy to scheme against with Kemba Walker and McRoberts being the only players getting heavy minutes that can shoot effectively from deep. Instead it might be beneficial for the Bobcats to look at getting some more depth on the wing that shoot well. Otherwise come playoff time when teams can effectively plan for and institute a game plan to counter their opponents, the Bobcats might be looking at short postseason.
Also of note, the Bobcats would have to include in their trade one of their three first-round picks. They currently owe one to the Bulls if it falls out of the top 10 and own Pistons’ first-round pick (top-eight protected) and the Portland Trail Blazers first-round pick (top-12 protected). With the current high value of first-round picks and the talent projected in this draft teams will really have to think twice about making moves with these pieces. If Charlotte is going to make a deal involving a pick it better be one that will help them into the playoffs and hopefully out of the first round, otherwise it may not be worth it.