The 2001 ROY and the Guy Who Took the 2003 ROY's Spot

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

A team's roster depth turns from blessing to curse when an expansion draft rolls around, and the Memphis Grizzlies may find themselves making some tough decisions. With 13 players under contract at least for next season, their prized asset and captain Mike Miller may be left unprotected in the hope that the Bobcats pass on his enormous contract. But will they? Cleveland faces the same difficulty, though while LeBron James will surely be protected, the guy who replaced him in the starting lineup at point guard, Jeff McInnis, may be left dangling. These are two potentially huge acquisitions for Charlotte.

Jerry West has made many tough decisions instantaneously throughout his illustrious career, both as a player and as the Memphis GM. But how will the 2003-2004 Executive of the Year choose which of his players to protect and which to expose to Charlotte?Mike Millerhas the team's longest and biggest contract, which runs through the 2009-2010 season, when Miller will be 30 years old. He was the 2001 Rookie of the Year after being picked fifth overall in the 2000 draft, and though he has had some injury bugs, he has also shown that he can play three positions, from point guard to small forward. His statistics show his versatility but are not extraordinary: his career averages are 13.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. He can do it all, but can he do it well enough to be the franchise player for an expansion team?

Because that's the decision Charlotte GM and head coach Bernie Bickerstaff will be making. Is Mike Miller the man the Bobcats want to build around? Assuming, of course, that West leaves him unprotected. In fact, the Bobcats have another option: take Miller in the expansion draft and look to trade him for players with shorter contracts. This expands the question from "Is Miller worth his contract to the Bobcats?" to "Is Miller worth his contract to any team in the league?" Quite possibly he is.

The other choice we examine today is not the 2004 Rookie of the Year -- there is no way LeBron James will be left unprotected, or heads will roll. ButJeff McInnismight be available. McInnis came over with Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje from Portland for Darius Miles in Cleveland's purge of previous athletic young players (Ricky Davis was traded to Boston on the same principle). Since his arrival, McInnis helped stabilize the point guard position, allowing James to move to the shooting guard spot. Handling both the team and his own position proved to be too much for the broad shoulders of the latest ROY; more accurately, McInnis was able to let James be more effective at the shooting guard spot. No one is arguing a coin toss between McInnis and James would ever come up with anything other than the King James symbol embroidered over a soaring eagle.

Nevertheless, McInnis is a quality point guard, and his injury late in the season was commonly cited as the reason the Cavaliers were unable to make the playoffs. McInnis is a seven year veteran with two years left on his contract, the last of which is a team option. He will be earning a reasonable $3.3 - $3.6 million in salary over that period. In his career, he has averaged 10.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game.

McInnis ranked tenth in the entire league this season with 4.6 assists per game, and fifth in the entire league with 3.8 assists per turnover. That ratio is phenomenal: anything over 3.0 is considered excellent ball-handling. The Bobcats, like any other team, could use his ballhandling skills, his ability to run a team, and his leadership on the court. Unlike other teams, however, if the Bobcats find themselves with a young point guard in the draft, even if it is a college player and not a lanky highschooler, it will be good to have a veteran to act as mentor and guide.

These two players may not, in the final analysis, become available if their respective GM's decide they can't live without them, or if they decide that the risks of the Bobcats snapping them up is too great.

But then these two teams in particular are left with a dilemma: just who do they leave unprotected?

Keep watching this space for further analysis.

The Bobcats schedule will be announced in late July.

166 days until opening night.


Skip Bayless ofThe San Jose Mercury-News writes: But why, if you're the Warriors, would you want to waste $10 million on a college coach from your area who wouldn't even be much of an initial draw in your arena? It isn't as if Mike Montgomery is Mike Krzyzewski, a basketball god in North Carolina, being lured away from Duke to help put the new Charlotte Bobcats back on the map.Stanford fans are passionate within reason about Stanford basketball. Warriors fans are nuts about Warriors basketball. Stanford fans won't make a habit of driving to Oakland to see their ex-coach, nor have most Warriors fans ever cared enough about Stanford basketball to be more than vaguely aware of Montgomery. He isn't an entertaining character or dynamic leader. The full ``Monty'' isn't half of what Rick Pitino or John Calipari offered as fan favorites and media charmers.

Rediff, Indiaran this Reuters story: Michael Jordan, widely described as the greatest basketball player of all time, has no desire to move into coaching and would rather own an NBA franchise. "My next goal is to own a basketball team, buy a basketball team, not coach," the five-times NBA most valuable player told a news conference on Thursday. "I don't have the patience for coaching." Last year, Jordan negotiated to buy the Milwaukee Bucks and to take a minority stake in the expansion of Charlotte Bobcats, but both times came away empty-handed.Asked if he would make another comeback as a player, the 41-year-old, who has retired from the sport three times, grinned and said: "No."

Charley Walters ofThe Twin Cities Pioneer Presswrites: Next month, the Timberwolves must make at least one player available to the Charlotte Bobcats in the NBA expansion draft. That player is expected to be center Ervin Johnson. Johnson, 36, has next season left on his contract for a guaranteed $4.99 million. Latrell Sprewell is signed for $14.62 million next season, but the Wolves don't believe they can expose him on the chance Charlotte might select him, then trade him. Injured Wolves guard Troy Hudson is guaranteed $2.8 million next season from the Wolves unless he opts for free agency. If Hudson doesn't opt out, the Wolves would have to expose two players for Charlotte's expansion draft, including him. The Wolves are allowed to protect eight players under contract.

David Scott ofThe Charlotte Observer writes:The Major Indoor Soccer League has spoken with the Charlotte Bobcats about placing an expansion team in Charlotte's new uptown arena, the Observer has learned."We have been contacted by the league and would be willing to sit down with anybody who wants to bring a team here," said Chris Weiller, executive vice president for corporate affairs for the NBA expansion Bobcats, who will operate the arena. "But we haven't heard anything from a specific group or individual."