Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
- Ramon Sessions: Two years, $10MM. Signed via cap room.
- Cory Higgins: Two years, $1.65MM. Signed via minimum salary exception. Non-guaranteed.
Trades and Claims
- Acquired Ben Gordon and a protected 2013 first-round pick from the Pistons in exchange for Corey Maggette.
- Claimed Brendan Haywood off amnesty waivers from the Mavericks. Bid $6.15MM over three years.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Round 1, 2nd overall). Signed via rookie exception.
- Jeffery Taylor (Round 2, 31st overall). Signed via cap room.
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
The only glimmer of optimism for the Bobcats, as they finished off a season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history, was that it couldn't conceivably get any worse. Though the team failed to parlay a one-in-four chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick and the opportunity to select Anthony Davis in this year's draft, the Cats still wound up with the No. 2 pick, which they used on defensive ace Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. President of basketball operations Rod Higgins said around the trade deadline last year that he and GM Rich Cho weren't looking for any quick fixes, and it seems like, with expectations as low as they can be, owner Michael Jordan is content to let his front office build at a deliberate pace. That seems logical, given the daunting task of rebuilding ahead of them.
Charlotte's philosophy was reflected in its coaching search, which Higgins once referred to as moving at a "nice, slow pace." Cho said the team wanted a coach who saw the job as an opportunity rather than a burden, which may have been tough to find if many agreed with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who called the opening "one of the least appealing coaching jobs in modern NBA history." The Bobcats made a surprising hire, going with Mike Dunlap, a relatively obscure college coach, over Nate McMillan, Brian Shaw and others. Dunlap has answered doubts as the team has shown competency early in the season, but even if the Bobcats had fallen flat, he'll be measured more by the development of the players than by wins and losses. The hiring came with risk, like any unconventional move, but he was an inexpensive choice, and the gamble could pay off if he's able to connect with the team's young talent.
Furthering their commitment to a slow-paced rebuild, the Bobcats traded Corey Maggette, who had one year at $10.9MM on his deal, for Ben Gordon, who'll get $12.4MM this season and will almost certainly exercise his $13.2MM player option for 2013/14. The payoff for taking on more money and more years is a protected first-round pick. The Pistons will keep the pick next June as long as they're in the lottery, which seems likely, but the selection is only top-eight protected in 2014 and top-one protected in 2015. If the Bobcats still haven't received the pick by then, it becomes unprotected for 2016. In any case, Charlotte seems destined for an extra lottery pick sooner or later, which seems to justify the use of cap space on Gordon that they probably wouldn't otherwise be using for a player who might put them over the top.
Other teams tried to convince the Bobcats to pull off one more trade, as the No. 2 pick in June's draft drew plenty of interest. They turned down an offer from the Wolves for 2011 second overall selection Derrick Williams, choosing to hold on to the pick and turn it into Kidd-Gilchrist, a lockdown perimeter defender who helps a Charlotte team that gave up 100.9 points last season, the fourth most in the NBA. Kidd-Gilchrist put up only 10.9 points per game in his only college season, but that's largely because he only averaged only 8.9 shots per contest for a loaded Kentucky team. The Cats also got Vanderbilt sharpshooter Jeff Taylor with the first pick in the second round, locking up a player who seemed targeted as a late first-rounder to a three-year deal at only slightly more than the minimum.
Higgins and Cho could have opened up more cap space by putting Tyrus Thomas on amnesty waivers, but there was no pressing need to do so. The team is looking to get rid of the final three years and $26.083MM of his contract via trades, though his left leg injury this season complicates that effort. The team used most of its available cap room to snatch up Ramon Sessions at an annual cost of $5MM for two years. Sessions declined his $4.55MM option with the Lakers for 2012/13 even though he said in May that he wanted to stay with the team, and when Steve Nash unexpectedly took his spot as the starting point guard in L.A., it short-circuited any plan Sessions might have had to re-sign with the Lakers. Sessions said last month that he opted out because he was looking for long-term stability, but he probably didn't envision going from a perennial contender to the worst team in the league on a two-year deal worth only slightly more money per season. He surely didn't imagine coming off the bench for the Bobcats, either, but he's served the team well in that capacity, as he's their second-leading scorer this season at 15.6 points per game. That's much more scoring than they got from D.J. Augustin, whom the team allowed to sign with the Pacers once Sessions was on board.
Charlotte used its cap space one more time to claim Brendan Haywood off amnesty waivers from the Mavs, winning his services with a bid worth slightly more than $2MM a year for three seasons. That's probably still too high a price for the 33-year-old big man, but for the Bobcats, the addition makes sense, since he's a legitimate center and 11-year vet who was a mainstay on a string of playoff teams with the Wizards. He's also a former teammate of Jordan's, which surely didn't hurt his chances of getting claimed by the Bobcats, even if the move does nothing to dispel Jordan's reputation for surrounding himself with cronies.
The Bobcats decided against an extension for Gerald Henderson, their 12th overall pick from 2009, an unsurprising decision that may signal the end of the swingman's time in Charlotte, particularly since the team drafted fellow wing players Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor this year. Byron Mullens, who's exceeded expectations this season, will also hit restricted free agency next summer. Charlotte faces plenty of decisions on which of its young players to keep in the coming seasons, but offseasons like this past summer, in which the team isn't scrambling for a quick fix, will allow the Bobcats the flexibility to stay focused on youth and retain homegrown talent as they see fit.