For this edition of the 3-on-3, Mathew and Spencer take two slots, and then we bring in some assistance from around the web for the third position, with Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm and CBSSports.com’s Eye On Basketball, Tim Donahue of Eight Points, 9 Seconds, and David Walker of Rufus On Fire rotating through. Let’s get to it.
1. Who on the Bobcats roster will have his breakout season this year?
Spencer: Gerald Henderson and Tyrus Thomas. These two guys are due for big seasons in my eyes. Gerald has always been able to score going to the basket and possesses a fair mid-range game, but he’s never been a dangerous outside shooter, which he’s reportedly been working on the most in the off-season. If he comes back with an expanded shooting arsenal then I could honestly see him being the leading scorer for this team next season. No one questions the ability and upside of Tyrus Thomas, a former 4th overall pick. Charlotte signed him to a five-year extension last year and expect Thomas to be a huge piece to this team moving forward. If he’s able to stay healthy then I see him breaking out next season and flirting with a double-double every night.
Mathew: Tyrus Thomas. The only thing that has really held back Tyrus to this point in his career is health. Although injuries are certainly a concern going forward, his output (18.1 PER) when on the court last season was indicative of the type of player many in Charlotte believe he can be.
Matt Moore: I really think it’s going to be Gerald Henderson. I think even with Maggette taking up minutes he’s got a great shot at getting decent usage. He needs to have a great shooting year, which is far from a guarantee, but I love his defensive work and the way he fits on the floor. He’s got such a great heads-up for being centered in, he’s coachable, and he can help be a finisher for them in transition.
2. Forward HEAVY: Between Tyrus, Biyombo, Diaw, Cunningham and White, who gets PT?
Spencer: Tyrus’s minutes will drastically increase if he can stay healthy and Diaw’s minutes will decrease. Diaw’s minutes will go down simply because he’s not part of the future in Charlotte, and the team will probably bite at the first opportunity to get rid of him before the season ends if it presents itself. Biyombo should see his fair share of minutes this season because of the fact that he was valued so highly by new GM Rich Cho, which will presumably trickle down to the coaching staff. A lot of people say that he’s ready to come in and immediately be a force on the glass and defensively, but the kid isn’t even 20 yet, so I’d just like to see him get 10-15 minutes a night and go from there on his maturation. Cunningham and White share a lot of similarities, so I’d be surprised if Charlotte keeps them both for next season, especially with the addition of Biyombo. Just don’t know that there’s room for both. I tend to like Cunningham a little bit more because of his ability to defend the rim, get on the glass, and the fact that he’s overall more athletic than White is.
Mathew: Thomas – 31.2 MPG; Diaw – 28.3 MPG; Cunningham – 15.3 MPG; Biyombo – 11.1 MPG; White – 7.4 MPG
David Walker: Considering Diaw averaged the most minutes per game (almost 34 a night) of any Bobcat last season outside of the departed Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, I think he’ll certainly continue to get the bulk of the minutes. Diaw played in all 82 games last year, something only he and D.J. Augustin can claim. Paul Silas had to count on both veteran players to be leaders each night and that probably won’t change a lot this season. But if he can shave a few minutes of Diaw’s workload here and there I think it would help over the course of the year. Certainly the key to Tyrus Thomas seeing the floor is his ability to stay healthy. Thomas only appeared in 41 games last season but brings athleticism and energy, something the Bobcats will desperately need to keep fans entertained if this lockout ever ends. Charlotte isn’t going to be a very good team, and its draft screamed young and athletic, for that reason I’d expect Bismack Biyombo to definitely get his shot at earning minutes. Depending on who you listen to he’s either ready to contribute instantly on the glass and defensively in the NBA, or he’s a project. But 10-15 minutes a game is not unreasonable if he can take those two translatable skills (blocking shots and getting rebounds) and produce. The Bobcats have to be counting on that otherwise GM Rich Cho and Michael Jordan wouldn’t have made moves to grab him. But Biyombo will have to fend off Dante Cunningham and D.J. White, especially if offense is a need (we know it is) and if Cunningham particularly can stay as consistent shooting the ball as he did last season (we don’t know this). Cunningham can also play some 3, so if he can be used in that spot as well he’ll see the floor a god amount this season. He and White really did provide some nice play last year and will both be a steady presence on this team. With a lot of experienced guys ahead of him, it will be interesting to see what kind of dent Biyombo can make in the rotation. Along with points, rebounding is a glaring need for the Bobcats and if the rookie can make an impact on the glass that could overshadow his predicted deficiencies scoring.
3. How are small market teams valued in the CBA, and should it be more/less?
Spencer: The fact that local TV contracts are so important to the financial stature of the league make teams like Charlotte less important than about 3/4 of the rest of the teams in the NBA. That being said, it’s going to be very interesting to see if we can somehow avoid desertification by the players, because if not then the whole landscape of what our league looks like today could be changed and the small market teams could be left behind. To me, if we could find a way to cut the season’s length in half then that would take away the importance of the local TV deals, but now I’m just trying to come up with reasons this will all be okay in the end. Starting to look like that may not be the case.
Mathew: Although Michael Jordan has recently gotten a lot of press for his hard-line stance – one shared by a majority of the small market team owners, the fact remains that they will not stand in the way of a deal eventually getting done. Their stance has been an effective bargaining tool for the owners to this point, but when the large and mid-sized market owners are content with level of concessions made by the Player’s Union the concerns of the small market owners will be pushed aside.
Tim Donahue: Truth be told, small markets like Charlotte (1.2 million TV households) and Indianapolis (1.1 million) are of dubious value in a league whose revenues are increasingly dependent on local TV revenue. Each would be doing well to get a local TV rights deal that gives them in ten years, what the reported new Time Warner deal gives the Lakers in just one year. It seems relatively clear that the NBA is far more important to these two markets than these markets are to the NBA.
However, they are not alone in this, as there are nine other markets with fewer than 1.5 million households, including six with fewer than 1.0 million. Those 11 franchises represent about $3.5 billion of franchise value, and more importantly, almost certainly the largest, most solid voting block among the owners. As such, they’ve been in position to shape, if not control, the owners’ negotiation stance. This heavy influence can not only be seen in the resistance to going over 50/50 on BRI split, but especially in the system issues and the drive for the hard cap or hard cap-like restrictions.
Individually, there is no small market that is of much value to the NBA – and that includes San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Collectively, however, the “Small Markets” are something the NBA must take seriously. In some ways, these “Small Market” owners are recognizing their common cause/ By leveraging various other issues that have created dissatisfaction for virtually every owner, they’ve put themselves in position to not only preserve their individual viability, but also their collective relevance.
If this works, then it should help the stability of these franchises throughout the league. If this “Small Market” play fails, and decertification follows, then it’s hard to see teams like the Bobcats and the Pacers coming out the other side of the battle.
(editor’s note: I really wanted to title this “The QC has guests” just so that I could then say don’t call it that)