As the draft was approaching last week, everyone had their eye on the Bobcats. Trade rumors swirled about us trading down to get 2 picks from Cleveland or some other combination of a pick and a player or a pick and a Tyrus Thomas salary dump. Lo and behold, the Bobcats did pull the trigger on a substantial trade but it didn't happen to revolve around the draft. A few nights earlier, Charlotte agreed to send Corey Maggette to Detroit for Ben Gordon and a future protected 1st round pick.
From a basketball point of view, this is close to a wash. Maggette averaged 14 pts/game for the Cats last year but wasn't particularly efficient at getting there. He shot just 37% from the floor and 36% from behind the arc. Maggette's strength has always been getting in the lane and drawing fouls. Last year, he remained effective at getting to the FT line and shot a phenomenal 86% when he got there. The Bobcats were obviously a more competitive team when Corey was on the floor but, unfortunately, that seemed to be a rare occurrence. Maggette missed 34 out of 66 games, which did little to shed the "fragile" label that follows him around.
As for Gordon, he saw his minutes decrease last year and played primarily in a reserve role for the Pistons. His scoring average dipped to 12.5 pts/game but that was largely due to his decrease in minutes because he shot an outstanding 43% from 3-point range last season. Detroit had some chemistry issues and Gordon fell out of favor with new coach Lawrence Frank so a change of scenery will probably do him some good.
Let's get real here though. Basketball had very little to do with this trade. From Detroit's perspective, this was a good ole fashioned salary dump. Maggette is in the final year of his contract ($11 million) and Gordon has 2 years, $25 million remaining. The Pistons have been struggling and cap strapped, a double whammy for any team in the league. Shaving the last year off Gordon's deal saves them $13 million in the 2013-14 season and puts them in a position to be active in free agency.
For the Bobcats, this was all about landing the draft pick. Under Cho's leadership, the Cats' new model is all about adding assets and then picking the right time to leverage those assets. The pick exchanged is lottery protected in 2013, top 8 protected in 2014, top 1 protected in 2015, and unprotected in 2016. More than likely, Detroit will convey the pick to us in 2014 and likely no later than 2015. Taking on an extra year of Gordon's contract could very well lead to an additional lottery pick in the next couple of years and that is a homerun for the Bobcats if it works out that way. Additionally, the salary for Gordon isn't a huge deal either. Even including his $13.2 million salary for 2013-14, the Bobcats are still likely to be $20 million under the cap so the hit will be irrelevant to Charlotte. Overall, this trade looks like a win-win for both sides.
Personally, I love this trade for the Cats. As I mentioned above, landing the first round pick from Detroit is like an extra Christmas present for a rebuilding team. We now have the ability to select an affordable young player in an upcoming draft or flip that pick for another player to help the team. It's also worth noting that Ben Gordon is only 29 years old and still has a lot of game left. He is a career 41% 3-point shooter and even shot 43% last year. In fact, he has only shot less than 40% from downtown once in his career and the Bobcats were the worst shooting team in the league last year.
This trade also sets the wing positions up rather nicely for next season too. Depth at SG/SF was a major issue last season, bottoming out when we were forced to start Matt Carroll and Derrick Brown a few times due to injuries. We can now use Henderson and Gordon at the 2 and the new draftees (Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor) at the 3 spot. Throw in Reggie Williams (who can play both positions) and the fact that Gordon can play some PG too and the rotation looks a lot more solid out front.
I think we can expect another rough season for the Bobcats this year but kudos to the front office on this trade. It is a rarity when a trade nets you a good player, a draft pick, and doesn't hurt you financially. Welcome to the Queen City, Ben!