NBA AM: Bobcats Planning For Aggressive Summer

Bobcats GM says team has the cap room and ownership approval to be buyers in free agency this summer

After winning just 28 games combined the previous two seasons, the Charlotte Bobcats ran off 43 victories during the 2014 campaign and secured the franchise’s second ever playoff berth in the process.

While the Bobcats  would ultimately be unceremoniously swept at the hands of the reigning two-time defending champion Miami HEAT, there is no question about the positive energy now surrounding a team that was recently considered a laughingstock. With a little taste of success, the Bobcats have no intention of revisiting their old stomping grounds as one of the league’s doormats and the club has enough options to pull it off.

Charlotte is strongly positioned to be players in the draft, free agency and the trade market this summer. The team has just $41 million in guaranteed salaries on the books for the 2015 campaign and the number could increase depending on if forward Josh McRoberts opts out of the final year of his contract ($2.7 million).

Bobcats general manager Rich Cho says the combination of being in a strong place financially and possessing draft options is a blessing. The team could get the Detroit Pistons’ lottery pick this season (Corey Maggette trade, top eight protected in 2014). The pick is only top one protected in 2015.

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“We’re going to have some cap room this summer ,” Cho said during the team’s exit interviews with the media. “We’ll also have some assets to play with and a future pick if we don’t get the Detroit pick this year. But you always have to balance short term versus long term. We’ll have a nice range of cap room this summer. It depends on a lot of different variables if Josh [McRoberts] opts out and so forth and if we get the Detroit pick or not.

“If we get the Detroit pick the cap room can go up to about $17 million. If we don’t get the Detroit pick it could co up to $19 million. Again, a lot of that depends on what Josh does and if he opts out. The good thing is we’ll have a lot of flexibility. A lot of different options.”

President of basketball operations Rod Higgins echoed Cho’s assessment and confirmed that Bobcats owner, Michael Jordan, doesn’t have a problem with the franchise opening up its wallet.

“That’s why you try to create that flexibility, to have an opportunity to get an Al Jefferson,” Higgins said alluding to the team’s ability to sign Jefferson last summer. “So we’ll identify some free agents and we’ll talk about it ,so of course we will go down that route if need be. I think our owner is motivated to get our team better so with that being said Rich and I are hitting the ground running trying to do that.”

While the Bobcats will have the money to spend on free agency or bring in a top dollar guy via trade, Cho warned that it will be important to keep its team chemistry intact. One way Cho plans on accomplishing  this is his continuation of only bringing in good players with high character and a competitive streak.

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“When you’re trying to build a team from the ground up it is important to have guys you want to build around and have the same common thread,” Cho said. “Which is, one, for starters they’re good people and two they’re good teammates and unselfish with a high degree of competitiveness. I think that’s the common thread with the kind of guys we’ve brought in the last few years.”

Jefferson wasn’t selected for an All-Star nod earlier this season, but his development and leadership along with third year guard Kemba Walker has the team pointed in the right direction.

Higgins feels the presence of Jefferson, Walker and head coach Steve Clifford will attract some free agents and have many of them wishing to join the Bobcats this summer.

“I think the short answer would be yes,” Higgins said on whether the Bobcats should be high on free agents’ list this summer. “If I was a free agent as a player I would think that I would want to go and try to play with good players and Al and Kemba, among others, are good players. Combine that with the success we’ve had over the last year and having a coach that players want to play for, of course.

“I think our fan base is there and the uptick of us rebranding. All of those things are hugely positives for free agents to come to this market and help us establish ourselves as a legitimate playoff caliber team.”

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