Concerns – Team direction, defense & chemistry
Pros – scoring, ticket sales, relevance
Okay let's get this straight out of the gate, Allen Iverson would help the Charlotte Bobcats get on ESPN more, sell more jerseys, and probably win enough games next season to push the team to a sixth seed in the playoffs. The question is at what cost? What happens when Iverson leaves in three years and the Bobcats are back to winning 33 games again and at the bottom of NBA relevance standings, next to Golden State and Memphis because the team couldn't balance planning for the future and fitting him in the line-up? Iverson does nothing to help this franchise long term and could stifle the development of its two point guards. He's best when surrounded by blue-collar types who will defend and rebound and can finish down low or on the perimeter. Iverson probably cost himself some money when he said that he didn't want to come off the bench, because he would be the perfect 6th man for a contender playing like a better version of Vinnie Johnson. If he signs in Charlotte Iverson would likely expect to start and play plenty of minutes, and that's something that concerns Larry Brown. There are three guards that deserve to play this coming season and they are Raja Bell, Raymond Felton & DJ Augustin, ideally these guys would soak up the 96 minutes a night at the two guard positions with each getting just under 33 minutes a contest on average. You can make the argument that Felton or Augustin deserves more time but if you add Iverson to the mix then that muddies the picture. With Larry Brown as the coach you can expect Raja Bell to get his share of minutes as the designated defensive stopper on the wings, and honestly he's the one Bobcat that makes for a good backcourt-mate with Iverson, so if 'The Answer' is signed there will be 4 players in competition for those minutes.
Where does that leave Raymond and DJ? As up and down as Raymond is he is one of the two unquestioned leaders on this team and he is the point guard that has the best grasp of what the coach wants from that position. Felton is also still a restricted free agent and an Iverson signing could push the Bobcats to make a decision on his contract that they may regret. The last time Raymond had the opportunity to play point guard under the same coach for two consecutive years he was at North Carolina, this upcoming season could be a year we see him truly develop. ESPN's John Hollinger says that small quick point guards like Felton can take a while to develop and it hasn't been the easiest road for Raymond as he's been moved back and forth from point guard to shooting guard.
Still the bigger concern is what Iverson may do to DJ Augustin's minutes. As good as Felton could be this upcoming season DJ could be even better. Augustin may not be a pick-n-roll wiz like Chris Paul but he sure does look like a high-efficiency scorer with a dangerous 3-point stroke. According to Jon Nichols there is a correlation between great shooting point guards and great offenses. Having both DJ and Raja Bell behind the three-point line while Gerald Wallace or Tyson Chandler slash and Boris Diaw pass could make for a potent combination. But putting Iverson in the mix robs us of the opportunity to see that line-up for 30 minutes a night. One thing is certain, playing DJ and Iverson together would be suicide on defense. But ultimately the problem here is that the Bobcats still don't know what they have in Felton and Augustin. Can DJ handle playing 30 minutes plus a night as a starter or is he injury prone? Has Raymond peaked as a player or will he learn to be more judicious with his shots while cutting down on turnovers and upping the assists? At some point the team has to make a choice between DJ and Raymond as its starting point and signing 'The Answer' ironically won't help answer that question.
The small backcourt combination of Iverson, Felton, and Augustin could work still work under a different system. Look back to the Bobcats first few seasons under Bernie Bickerstaff. The team played a gambling style of defense that allowed Gerald Wallace and Brevin Knight to finish first and second in steals in the 2005-06 season. That's not the style of defense Larry Brown plays. His brand is more conservative and he expects players to keep their man in front of them and challenge shots. One of the problems Brown had with Gerald early on (and why he almost got traded) was that he gambled too much on defense. Larry's offenses are also built on efficiency not speed, he's not turning Charlotte into a fast break team that will outrun opponents he wants a more methodical and efficient offense. I also don't think trading Raja Bell will happen since he's the designated wing defensive stopper that Brown covets on his teams, which brings me back to my point that signing Iverson would mean the Bobcats would have to make a preemptive decision on Felton and Augustin that could hurt them long term.Click here for Brett's Vote For Iverson in CLT