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The Bobcats (finally) are in the house. After a year of planning, scouting and
strategizing, the Charlotte Bobcats will begin adding the first key pieces of
their franchise tonight in the NBA expansion draft.
Charlotte actually got a head start Monday night when it shipped its No. 4 and
No. 33 picks in the regular draft to the Clippers for the No. 2 pick and Peja
Drobnjak. By virtue of the trade, which was completed last night, Drobnjak
officially becomes the first Bobcat.
On Thursday, the Bobcats will cap the week with the No. 2 pick. It's no secret
Bobcats general manager Bernie Bickerstaff prefers the Magic take Dwight Howard
and leave Emeka Okafor for Charlotte. But if Howard falls to them, the Bobcats
can live with it.
Tuesday night's expansion draft should add anywhere from three to six pieces to
the Bobcats' puzzle. While they must select a minimum of 14 players, the Bobcats
are expected to select a number of restricted free agents, who will
automatically become unrestricted free agents and won't play for the Bobcats
For the most part, the work is already done. Charlotte must submit its list to
the league no later than noon ET on Tuesday. Several league sources told Insider
on Monday that the Bobcats already have agreed to two trades and have decided to
select and keep at least three players on the list.
Bickerstaff reiterated Monday evening that the team would not select any
"big-money players." That means names on the expansion list like Antoine Walker,
Penny Hardaway, Eddie Jones and Jerry Stackhouse can rest easily.
Bickerstaff also made it clear what he is looking for in his expansion players.
"We're looking for young players who need an opportunity to play, to get
minutes," Bickerstaff said. "They've got skills, athleticism and talent, and we
just feel they need the opportunity. That's how you get better. You don't get
better through osmosis. You have to get on the court, and you have to
participate. What we like about it also is that a lot of these young men will
come into the situation and they will be hungry, simply because a lot of them
are in the last year of their contract also."
That means the Bobcats are going to be looking for deals that land them draft
picks, young players with a chance to develop, and/or players with low-priced
contracts or team options whom Charlotte can clear off the books quickly to make
room for free agency.
Before we begin, just a quick reminder of the rules of the expansion draft:
Unrestricted free agents are ineligible for the expansion draft.
Each team can protect up to eight players. A team with fewer than eight players
on its roster to protect (because of pending free agency) still must leave at
least one player unprotected.
The Bobcats must select a minimum of 14 players and can select a maximum of 29
The Bobcats can select only one player from any one NBA team.
The Bobcats are not bound to the salary cap during the draft. They can take on
as many contracts as they choose. However, once the draft is over, any players
they've drafted and kept on the roster will count toward their cap (which should
be around $29.5 million next season, 66 percent of the full cap number).
If the Bobcats waive a player selected in the expansion draft before the first
day of the regular season, the player's remaining contract will not count
against the team's salary cap. Of course, Charlotte still would be on the hook
for the actual salaries of waived players, but there would be no cap effect.
Restricted free agents selected in the expansion draft automatically become
unrestricted free agents.
Teams are allowed to entice the Bobcats to select players by offering cash (up
to $3 million), draft picks or agreeing to additional trades in return.
If a team has a player selected by the Bobcats, it receives a trade exception
equal to the player's 2004-'05 salary. This allows teams to replace a player
lost in the expansion draft with another player of comparable salary.
Here's Insider's take on what could go down tonight. Insider has learned that
some of these players on the expansion mock draft will be taken by the Bobcats.
Others are speculation. The comments detail which is which.
MOCK EXPANSION DRAFT FOR CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
C Peja Drobjnak Clippers 2 years, $4.7 million As part of the trade that
sent the Clippers' No. 2 pick to the Bobcats, Charlotte agreed to select
Drobjnak. According to Bickerstaff, it looks like the team plans on
keeping him on the roster this season.
C Jahidi White Suns 1 year, $6.2 million According to several league
sources, this deal is basically done. How did the Suns convince the
Bobcats to swallow this contract? They offered $3 million in cash and a
future first-round pick, perhaps the one Cleveland owes them (that pick is
lottery-protected, so Phoenix won't get it until the first year the Cavs
make the playoffs). The Bobcats likely will either turn around and trade
White to a contender or waive him to get his salary off their cap. Getting
White off the books gives Phoenix roughly $14.1 million in cap space to
make a run at a free agent this summer.
PF Malik Rose Spurs 5 years, $32.8 million Call this one "informed
speculation." Bickerstaff has been in heated talks with Isiah Thomas about
selecting Rose and sending him on to the Knicks. Here's how it would work
if the three teams make a deal: The Spurs, who are trying to clear cap
space to make some noise in the free-agent market, would send the Bobcats
$3 million and their first-round pick (No. 28) in return for Charlotte
selecting Rose. The Bobcats then would ship Rose to the Knicks for Dikembe
Mutombo, who is in the last year of his contract, and the Knicks'
second-round pick. Mutombo would end up costing the Bobcats a little more
than $1 million once you factor in the Spurs' cash payment.
C Primoz Brezec Pacers 1 year, $1.5 million Bickerstaff revealed Monday
night he would be taking one of the players the Pacers left unprotected.
The word out of Charlotte was the team had settled on Brezec -- a 7-foot-1
center who has played very sparingly over the past three seasons in
Indiana. It's likely the Bobcats will keep Brezec.
PF/C Jamal Sampson Lakers 1 year, $695,000 (team option) Sources claim
Sampson -- young, athletic and inexpensive -- is another player the
Bobcats will draft. That doesn't mean they'll keep him, however.
SG/SF Aleksandar Pavlovic Jazz 3 years, $4.3 million This is a no-brainer
for Charlotte, and sources claim it's very likely he'll be on the team's
list. The question is, will the Bobcats keep him? There are several teams
around the league who covet Pavlovic. Expect one of them to offer a
first-round pick (either this year or in the future) for the Bobcats to
take Pavlovic in the expansion draft and ship him off in a trade.
PG Troy Bell Grizzlies 2 years, $2.8 million From here on out, this is all
speculation. Bell is one of the most attractive names on the expansion
list. Sources claim Charlotte has been debating between Bell and
Washington's Juan Dixon. It's likely one of the two will be on the
Bobcats' list. The Grizzlies have several other players, including Dahntay
Jones and Theron Smith, that also have some appeal to Charlotte.
SG Gerald Wallace Kings 1 year, $1.7 million Wallace fits the description
of the type of player the Bobcats want more than anyone on this list. He
is another player with huge upside who just never really found his groove
in Sacramento. At one time he was considered the best high school player
in the country. The Bobcats could give him a starting role and lots of
shots next season.
SF Jason Kapono Cavs 1 year, $620,00 Kapono is a skilled, big-time shooter
who got some valuable playing experience in Cleveland last year. He's
likely to make the roster given his minimum salary.
PF Brandon Hunter Celtics 1 year, $620,000 (team option) Hunter had a
stretch in late February where he looked like a real keeper. Obviously
this list isn't littered with serviceable big guys. He's a little
undersized for the position, but Hunter is worth a gamble.
SG/SF Tamar Slay Nets Restricted FA Slay is a promising talent whom the
Bobcats like. However, he'll become an unrestricted free agent if the team
drafts him, making him eligible to sign with any team in the league.
G Jeff Trepagnier Nuggets Restricted FA He'll become an unrestricted free
agent, and the two sides likely will part ways.
PF Marcus Fizer Bulls Restricted FA Fizer becomes an unrestricted free
agent if he's selected. The Bobcats can either dump him off the books,
faciliatate a sign-and-trade or re-sign him if the price was right.
SG Courtney Alexander Hornets Restricted FA He becomes an unrestricted
free agent if he's selected and will be in the same situation as Fizer --
he'll either be dumped off the books, be part of a sign-and-trade or they
could keep him if he's willing to work cheap.
With the first three picks, the Bobcats are dealing with an eye toward picking
up draft choices and moving veteran players to other teams in trades. They've
already picked up the No. 2 pick as part of the Drobnjak trade. The Suns'
first-rounder is a future pick. The Spurs' pick, if that deal actually happens,
would give the Bobcats the 28th and 43rd pick in the draft this year.
In the three trade scenarios, the Bobcats gain $6 million in cash to offset the
$13.4 million cost of those players next season. Under the rules of the
expansion draft, Charlotte could waive White immediately and clear his $6.1
million salary completely off their cap. Chances are, they'd do just that.
There's also a good chance the Bobcats would trade Pavlovic if he was selected.
That deal also could include a first-round pick and cash.
The next group of players are those the Bobcats are likely to keep. This group
includes Bell, Brezec, Wallace, Hunter, Kapono and Sampson. If the Bobcats kept
all six, the total cap hit comes to just $6.4 million. Add in Drobnjak's $2.6
million salary and Mutombo's $4 million (assuming again they make this trade)
and the Bobcats have spent $13 million of their projected $29.6 million cap.
That's not a bad core. Bell is capable of playing point. Wallace is a young,
athletic two. Kapono can play the three. Hunter and Sampson can play the four.
Drobnjak, Brezec and Mutombo can all play the five.
The last four players -- Trepagnier, Slay, Fizer, Alexander -- become
unrestricted free agents and wouldn't count against the cap unless the Bobcats
Next, the Bobcats turn to the regular draft. With the No. 2 overall pick,
they're looking at either Okafor or Howard. The Bobcats prefer Okafor, but can
live with either one. Either way, they'll get their starting four in the first
Bickerstaff also has been trying to acquire a late-lottery or mid-first-round
pick in an effort to draft Jameer Nelson. Given all the deals the Bobcats are
looking to do, it seems possible they could get that done.
If the Bobcats pick up a late first-round pick from the Spurs, they could use it
on another point guard. They're said to be fond of both Beno Udrih and Chris
Duhon. However, if they somehow find a way to get Nelson, they instead could
focus on a big man like David Harrison.
The Bobcats won't find everything they need in the draft, but given the extra
cap space they'd save in the expansion pool as outlined above, the team would
have roughly $13 million to fill in the holes via free agency.
With young players such as Kenyon Martin, Mehmet Okur, Jamal Crawford, Quentin
Richardson, Stromile Swift, Rodney White and Hedo Turkoglu available, Charlotte
might be able to land a couple of nice, young free agents.
If I were Bickerstaff, I'd conserve cash and offer nice deals just above the
mid-level exception to restricted free agents Swift and Crawford. Both are
young, immensely talented and really need a change of scenery. If you offered
both a starting salary around $5.5 million to $6 million a year, chances are
Memphis and Chicago wouldn't match.
I'd use the rest on a few well-placed veterans who know how to win and play
hard. Players such as Brian Cardinal, Bob Sura, Bruce Bowen, and Michael Curry
would all be good fits on an expansion team.
If the Bobcats follow that blueprint -- and if other teams and players cooperate
-- here's what their lineup could look like come October.
Point guard: Jamal Crawford, Troy Bell
Shooting guard: Gerald Wallace, Bob Sura
Small forward: Jason Kapono, Brian Cardinal
Power forward: Stromile Swift, Brandon Hunter, Jamal Sampson
Center: Emeka Okafor, Peja Drobnjak, Primoz Brezec
That's a pretty decent team to put on the floor in year one -- high-octane, fun
to watch, with a real eye toward developing some young stars for the future.
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN.com's Insider.
Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
And life itself, rushing over me
Life itself, the wind in black elms,
Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you