Henry at TrueHoop had a post up today about the magic number 3. The focus was on the logic behind the way the Spurs handle their personnel: Keep their main 3 guys, Duncan, Manu, and Tony Parker, and surround them with complementary players who will not cost too much. He then took the time to look at some other squads and if their team could separated in the same way (Boston, of course, is now a great example, and Phoenix fits with Amare, Shawn, and Steve Nash) – some could be easily, some not as well. A team he did not look at? The Bobcats, so I am here to rectify the slight (I do not actually feel slighted, lots of teams were not mentioned – but, to be a sports writer/blogger/fan, you have to maintain that everyone is out to get your team, so I concede to the expectation).
What do the Bobcats have? Well, if you look at the dollars associated with the players, two choices are easy: Gerald Wallace ($9.5MM) and Jason Richardson ($11.1MM). My initial thought would be that the big man rounds out the trio, and stick Emeka in there. But what about Raymond? A good point guard is a very valuable asset (just ask Atlanta how much that would like to have one). A case could even be made for Matt Carroll, considering he is the 3rd highest paid Bobcat this year…just not a very good case, so we are left with 4. Are they a big 4, though?
Looking at some of the top teams in the League, San Antonio, Boston, Phoenix, Dallas, and Orlando, and something stands out about their primary core of players: They were very good, very soon. Tim Duncan has led the Spurs since his rookie year, making an All-NBA team from year one on. KG? It took him 4 years…but he was only 22 when he first got the nod. In Phoenix, Amare made his first All-NBA team at 22, and Shawn Marion has been an All-Star multiple times, starting at age 24. Dallas? Dirk started making All-NBA teams at the age of 22 as well. As for Orlando….despite coming into the League at the same time as Emeka, Dwight Howard has taken a very different career path – Straight up compared to a slow climb for Emeka – as an MVP candidate the tender age of 22, the sky is the limit for young Master Howard.
The difference between those teams and the Bobcats? Well, myriad, but 2 that I want to focus on: These teams win a lot (or are winning a lot this year) and their core players are the best in the NBA – the Bobcats are struggling to reach mediocre…and none of their players has the look of a guy who will dominate the League for a 2 year stretch, let alone 10. And that is my concern: Is the Bobcats core good enough?
Emeka and Gerald are both 25 this year, with no All-Star appearances between them, let alone All-NBA selections. Jason Richardson? 27 – and the same lack of accolades. Of the four, Raymond stands the best chance to develop into an elite-level player for 2 reasons: Age, 23 years old, and position, point guard, where it takes a little longer to learn the ropes (Steve Nash made his first All-Star game at 27). None of this is to say that are not fine players, because they are – but they do not look like they are the type of players that championship-caliber clubs are centered around.
What to do? Well, I am not advocating tanking until a player that fits the superstar label can be drafted…but I do wonder what the future holds for a team built around good, but not great, players, with increasingly little cap flexibility. I guess I could ask a Bucks fan what it feels like to cheer for a routinely solid, never outstanding, team, because that looks to be the future the Bobcats have in store for them after they sign Emeka to a large extension next summer, and have $35MM tied up in the trio of Jason, Gerald, and Okafor.
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