The Charlotte Bobcats’ outlook is changing.
When they signed Al Jefferson this summer, the theory was they would rather be pedestrianly bad rather than historically bad – even if that meant lower lottery odds. I argued Charlotte should go all-in to be totally bad for another season, and that pulling in itself in opposite directions would be counterproductive in the long run.
But in this Eastern Conference, degrees of bad actually matter.
The 10-11 Bobcats have the East’s fourth-best record, and the franchise’s second-ever playoff appearance is a real possibility.
So, offseason moves that were geared toward tanking – like I said, signing Jefferson was a tug in the opposite direction from the overall plan – don’t make as much sense anymore. One of those moves was signing undrafted rookie small forward James Southerland from Syracuse, a cheap option who theoretically had high upside relative to his current production given his youth.
With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor ahead of him on the depth chart, it was always unlikely Southerland would play a significant role this season regardless. And if he were needed, who cared? His low salary and possible future contributions rated ahead of winning right now.
At least that was the thinking before the season began.
But now that that the Bobcats could make the playoffs and Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor are injured, Charlotte wants someone more capable of helping immediately. That’s not Southerland, who has played just three minutes this season.
So out goes Southerland, who was on a fully unguaranteed minimum contract, and in comes Chris Douglas-Roberts from the D-League.
Douglas-Roberts has averaged 7.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 20.3 minutes per game in four NBA seasons. He’s fine as a back-end rotation player on a bad-to-average team like the Bobcats.
But that experience also makes him more expensive than Southerland considering the NBA’s minimum-salary requirement increase with years in the league. Assuming Douglas-Roberts is also on a minimum contract, he’ll cost Charlotte $2,318 more per day than Southerland would have.
As far as investing in a playoff run, this move rates pretty low. But is signals Charlotte is a little more serious about reaching the postseason than it previously seemed.