State of the Cap: Charlotte Bobcats
By Josh Redetzke
2007/08 Charlotte Bobcats Payroll: $27.6 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $27.4 million under cap
[img_assist|nid=3875|title=Walter Hermann|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=375]The Good: Power forward Emeka Okafor returned from last year’s injury-shortened season in a big way. Okafor had career highs in rebounds (11.3) and blocks (2.6) per game as well as field goal percentage (53.2%). While he did miss another 15 games because of injury, a healthy Okafor is definitely a force to be reckoned with on the boards and defensively. Charlotte has him for one more year on rookie pay scale. With virtually no long-term contracts to speak of, it should be very easy to keep Okafor in a Bobcat’s uniform, and his price should not even be close to a max contract.
The Bobcats struck Euro-gold with the free agent signing of forward Walter Hermann as he came on extremely strong at the end of the year. In the final 17 games, he averaged 17.5 ppg, taking over a number of games for the Bobcats. Charlotte went 9-8 over that span, effectively eliminating themselves from the Oden-Durant sweepstakes. He was so good, you have to think if he had been given a shot to play earlier in the season, he may have contended for rookie of the year. Hermann is signed for one more season at 1.8 million.
Shooting guard Matt Carroll has been a real find. The third-year player saw increased minutes this season and responded by shooting a blistering 41.6% from the three-point line. Carroll is up for a new contract this summer, but he is exactly the kind of role-playing shooter teams need and the Bobcats certainly have the ability to keep him around.
Once again, Charlotte had the lowest payroll in the league last season. Not one player under contract will receive more than $6 million dollars in any remaining year and the longest contract on the team belongs to rookie Adam Morrison. This team is living and dying with their young players and their options for the future are wide open.
The Bad: For a team depending on their young talent, Charlotte has really had some problems lately. Sean May severely struggles to stay healthy and has only played in 58 games during his two years in the league. Their top pick last summer, Adam Morrison, shot terribly at 37.6%. That’s not good considering it’s supposed to be his only real skill at this level. But he's young, so it's early to jump to conclusions.
Formerly promising center Primoz Brezec saw his numbers plummet even further. Even Raymond Felton has a problem. While his 14 points and 7 assists a game are nice, he can’t find a way to shoot any higher than 38.4%. Charlotte needs these players to turn a corner if they are going to do the same as a franchise.
The Future: Now is the time for the Bobcats to spend some of their precious cap space. They have been patient, accumulated talent, saved money, and watched their players steadily win more games every year. After the upcoming draft, they will have a nice nucleus of potential. One of their few veterans, Gerald Wallace, could be gone after another excellent season. In the weakened Eastern Conference, Charlotte might be just a couple free-agent vets away from a playoff team.
Vince Carter will be available and he would provide immediate star power to a team that has none. His price will likely be too high for the cap-conscious Bobcats despite their abundance of room. However, Vinsanity would be the big splash that the fans have been looking for. If the team spends too many years pinching pennies, fans will lose interest. Even if they don’t land Carter (which might not be a bad thing considering VC’s wavering enthusiasm), the Bobcats should be much more active in free-agency this summer. Michael Jordan sure didn’t come to Charlotte to be a lottery representative. It’s time to win.
Free Throw: Will Adam Morrison be able to save his career and survive in the NBA? For most of the season, he looked awful and out-of-place. His thin frame seemed incapable of being a reliable scorer. But, there were a few games here or there that provided a glimpse into what Morrison is capable of. I personally watched him torch the Timberwolves for 26 second-half points in a win, which included hitting dagger after dagger in the final minutes to seal it. That kind of performance leaves some hope that Morrison can make it in this league. As a fan of the 'stache, I hope he does.
*Includes a player-option on Gerald Wallace for $6 million.