The Charlotte Bobcats are due for plenty of changes.
The team that just completed a 21-61 season will have a top-five pick in June’s NBA draft. Beyond that, the front office could create up to $21 million in room under the salary cap this summer to sign free agents or facilitate trades.
Getting that far under the cap would get pretty involved: They would have to waive power forward Tyrus Thomas under the NBA’s amnesty clause, allowing each team to stop counting one player’s salary against the cap. They would also likely have to give up the option of signing any of their own seven free agents.
Those seven expiring contracts represent five unrestricted free agents (most notably power forward Josh McRoberts) and two likely restricted free agents (Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens).
With contracts for nearly half the roster turning over, it’s inevitable the 2013-14 roster will look quite different from 2012-13. At minimum, the Bobcats finally get out from under the $7 million-plus they were annually paying little-used center Gana Diop.
With all that in mind, the Observer offers a player-by-player breakdown of the 15 guys who finished the season as Bobcats.
PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT FOR NEXT SEASON
Bismack Biyombo, center. Will make $3.2 million next season, with the Bobcats holding options for the following two seasons. Key statistics: 4.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.79 blocks. (as a rookie, 5.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks).
Perspective: The statistics suggest Biyombo didn’t progress much from last season, but he’s not as much of an offensive liability as he once was. He catches the ball in traffic better and has started making some jump shots. Baby steps, but that’s what they signed on for when they drafted so inexperienced a player.
Ben Gordon, guard. He’ll make $13.2 million next season, the last on his current contract. Key statistics: 11.2 points, 1.9 assists, 41% field goals. (career: 15.9 points, 2.7 assists, 43%).
Perspective: Gordon is here to a large degree because the Detroit Pistons agreed to give the Bobcats a future first-round pick (with minimal protection) in return for Charlotte taking on Gordon’s 2013-14 salary. He’s still capable of the occasional big scoring night (five games of 25 or more points this season).
Brendan Haywood, center. He’ll count for $2 million against the Bobcats’ cap each of the next two seasons. Key statistics: 3.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 43% field goal (career: 6.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 53% field goal).
Perspective: Paying $6 million of what the Mavericks owed Haywood was a worthy experiment. The results have been mixed. He missed the final 15 games of the season with a stress reaction in his left foot. He’ll be 34 in November, so durability might be a question.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, forward. He’ll make $4.8 million next season with the team holding two one-season options beyond that. Key statistics: 9.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 46% field goal.
Perspective: Over his rookie season he was pretty much as billed – a tough-minded energy guy who helps in numerous ways. But his shooting still needs so much help. It’s telling that he leads the NBA in having his shot blocked.
Ramon Sessions, point guard. He has next season remaining on his contract at a guaranteed $5 million. Key statistics: 14.4 points, 3.8 assists. (career: 11.6 points, 3.1 rebounds).
Perspective: Sessions might have been the best free-agent signing in franchise history. Whether he was backing up Kemba Walker or moving over to shooting guard, he was an effective scorer on a team that struggled for points. He has a particular knack for getting to the foul line. He missed the last month of the season with a sprained left knee.
Jeff Taylor, guard-forward. He’s guarantee $788,000 next season. Key statistics: 6.1 points, 1.9 rebounds.
Perspective: The Bobcats chose Taylor at the top of the second round in the last draft. Coach Mike Dunlap has compared him to former San Antonio Spur Bruce Bowen for Taylor’s defensive versatility and ability to make 3-point shots.
Tyrus Thomas, power forward. The Bobcats owe him about $18 million total over the next two seasons. Key statistics: 4.8 points, 2.3 rebounds. (career: 7.7 points, 4.8 rebounds).
Perspective: It was pretty clear Dunlap doesn’t see Thomas as an asset, but the Bobcats owe him more money beyond this past season than any other player. The Bobcats have the option of waiving Thomas under the amnesty rule, which would allow them not to count his remaining salary against the cap.
Kemba Walker, point guard. He has a $2.7 million salary next season, before he would become a restricted free agent. Key statistics: 17.7 points, 5.7 assists. (rookie statistics: 12.1 points, 4.4 assists).
Perspective: Walker was this team’s most valuable player, leading the Bobcats in scoring, assists and steals. Both the coaches and front office have said this is Walker’s team. Essentially whether this team wins or loses in any fourth quarter is in Walker’s hands.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
(assumes Bobcats make qualifying offers)
Gerald Henderson, guard. He’ll be a restricted free agent, assuming the Bobcats make him a $4.26 million qualifying offer. Key statistics: 15.5 points, 45% field goal, 33% 3-point (career: 11.3 points, 45% field goal, 27% 3-point.)
Perspective: Both as a shooting guard and a leader, Henderson played a big role in whatever good happened to this team this season. Mike Dunlap said he had to be a better 3-point shooter; he improved his shooting by 10 percent and made more 3s this season than his previous three seasons total (33 versus 22).
Byron Mullens, forward-center. He’s a restricted free agent. Key statistics: 10.6 points, 6.4 rebounds. (career: 8.4 points, 4.8 rebounds).
Perspective: Mullens had a great start this season, as both a rebounder and a scoring threat. Then he missed a month with a severe ankle sprain. Mullens’ impact diminished after that injury and with McRoberts becoming a starter.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Jeff Adrien, power forward. Unrestricted free agent. Key statistics: 4.0 points, 3.8 rebounds.
Perspective: Adrien made five starts, but he was essentially a fill-in – a tough, solid guy of limited talent when compared to Josh McRoberts or Byron Mullens. If he’s back next season, it would likely be on some sort of unguaranteed contract.
Gana Diop, center. His contract has expired (thankfully). Key statistics: 0.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.7 blocks.
Perspective: Trading for Diop’s contract proved to be an incredibly expensive mistake. He played in 22 games this season and made $7.3 million. In other words, he made approximately $30,000 for every minute he played.
Josh McRoberts, forward-center. Unrestricted free agent. Key statistics*: 8.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists (career: 4.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists).
Perspective: He arrived in Charlotte in what seemed like a minor trade-deadline deal, but he started the final 19 games of the season and improved the team’s ball-movement with his passing and decision-making. Seems like a keeper if his salary expectations aren’t excessive.
Jannero Pargo, point guard. He’s an unrestricted free agent. Key statistics*: 8.4 points, 1.9 assists. (career: 6.5 points, 2.0 assists).
Perspective: He was brought in on a 10-day contract as a fill-in for Ramon Sessions and hung around the rest of the season. He was a solid veteran and a strong 3-point shooter (38 percent). Might he make sense as a third option at the point next season?
Reggie Williams, shooting guard. He is an unrestricted free agent. Key statistics: 3.6 points, 31% 3-point. (career: 10.1 points, 37% 3-point).
Perspective: Williams was brought in to address the deficient 3-point shooting. He had relatively little impact, with Jeff Taylor and Ramon Sessions drawing many of the minutes that might have gone to Williams.
* - denotes only games played with the Charlotte Bobcats.