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NBA Preview: Charlotte Bobcats

Oct 5, 2012, 3:42 PM EDT

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Last season: Worst. Team. Ever.

Literally, no team has ever finished with a worse winning percentage than the 7-59 Bobcats. That had to sting owner Michael Jordan. They were the least efficient team in the league on offense and defense (they both scored the fewest and allowed the most points per possession in the league). Yes, there were injuries on a team that had no margin for error, but they were destined to be terrible. Usually you try to find positives out of a season to build on, in this case just flush it. Flush it.

Key Departures: Can anyone from that last roster be called key? Anyway, Corey Maggette is gone, as is D.J. Augustin. But nobody they are actually going to moss.

Key Additions: With the No. 2 pick in the draft the Charlotte Bobcats selected Michael Kidd-Gillchrist, the high-energy wing out of Kentucky. A guy whose effort and defense stood out on a team loaded with future NBA players. In the one game Kidd-Gilchrist played in Summer League he looked good and now he’s got a reconstructed jump shot. He should be fun to watch.

They also added journeyman big Brendan Haywood, a reliable starting point guard in Ramon Sessions and they have Ben Gordon coming off the bench with a green light. (Might as well make it green, Gordon is going to shoot no matter the light’s color.) That’s not a playoff roster, but that’s not 12 wins, either.

Three keys to the Bobcats season:

1) Just how good is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going to be? This is a one-year question but rather a multi-year process. He was certainly the right call with the second pick in the draft — he’s a long, pretty athletic wing who can defend and will out work you. The question is how much his jump shot develops (he has already reworked the form) and will his handles get to the point he can create his own shot. In college his athleticism could do that, but he’ll need better handles at this level.

New coach Mike Dunlap was brought in because he can develop players. Here is his first project. Kidd-Gilchrist is going to be a key part of the rebuilding in Charlotte. How key a part we’ll see by how much he develops. He could be a regular All-Star, a guy who can defend on the wing and get you some points. Could. We will see.

2) The Bobcats have to play better defense. And they should — just by adding Kidd-Gilchrist on the wing and Haywood on the paint they have better defensive personnel. Plus they have Bismack Biyombo, who should leap forward as a paint protecting force this season. And finally Dunlap has said he wants to bring in a defensive mindset as well.

The Bobcats can make faster gains with their team and record on the defensive side of the ball. The offense will come along, but get stops and they can win more games. The pieces are there to improve fairly dramatically on this end. Don’t expect a miracle. I don’t even expect them to be average. They just need to not be historically bad.

3) Where does the offense come from? They should be better this season, if only because they can’t really be worse. This is where picking up Ramon Sessions is key — is a solid to good, dependable point guard who can set the table. He played well in the regular season for the Lakers last year, but it was his first ever playoff experience and he seemed overwhelmed by that stage. Still, for the Bobcats he provides a steady presence.

Behind him at the point is Kemba Walker, and Bobcats fans should be rooting for him to take a leap forward with his game.

As he did last year, Gerald Henderson will rack up points (nice fantasy basketball tip). Kidd-Gilchrist will get them some points, but we’ll see how many. I’d like to say Tyrus Thomas will give them more than 14 a game, he has the talent, but I’m don betting on that horse. He just never developed the handle and mental side of his game to go with the skill set.

Plus there is Ben Gordon gunning off the bench. Which is what the Bobcats need.

What Bobcats fans should fear: After you have been to the seventh circle of hell, what could be worse? What is their left to fear? Really, the fear is that GM Rich Cho misses on picks and this team continues to stumble rather than build going forward. Personally, I believe in Cho, I think the organization is acting more professionally, and I think they are moving in the right direction. Slowly, but in the right direction. That said, the fear is that those are really just wheels spinning in the mud.

How it likely works out: The Bobcats are not going to be good. Not as bad as last year, but not good. Still, there are signs of hope — watch Kidd-Gilchrist bring new energy to the team and see his offensive game develop. See if Bismack Biyombo can become a defensive force. See if Kemba Walker can start to look like an NBA starter. Heck, you can hold out hope that the switch flips for Tyrus Thomas if you want. Find a reason to hope. And expect a better season than the last one.

Prediction: 21-62, which means once again a whole lot of lottery balls. They and the Magic may well be competing for the worst record in the NBA, and they are a few years away from the playoffs. But this is the first steps back from the lowest of lows. Don’t expect miracles and find reasons for hope. Find guys you can root for, Bobcats fans.

  1. tcclark - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    That’s too many wins. The east is just too strong this year. I don’t see where they are going to find 21 games that they can win. I mean Orlando is even going to be a tough game for them. Most teams in the NBA should be able to sweep their series with Charlotte and Orlando. Of course they won’t, but that means were looking at 13-14 fluke games where they somehow beat a much better team. This team wins 16 games at best and it has nothing to do with them. They’ve improved, but they’re not near the competition of the other teams in the NBA.

    • brewdogg - Oct 6, 2012 at 4:49 AM

      The east is too strong? Ummmm….maybe top-heavy, but top to bottom it is not. In the ESPN power rankings, only 4 of the top 10 teams were from the east, and 8 east teams were in the bottom 13 of the league, and none of them were the train wrecks in New York. Who rounds out the playoffs in the east? Toronto? Milwaukee? No, the west is still stronger

      You want to have some fun? Between the injury problems in Chicago, the aging Celtics, and the dysfunction in New York (and Brooklyn), convince me that anyone has even a slim chance of knocking off the Heat. Indiana? Philly? Really?

      • eventhorizon04 - Oct 6, 2012 at 8:24 AM

        East is weak, agreed.

        Celtics are the most realistic challenger to the Heat – they match up very well against them, so I expect a 7-game series between the two teams if they’re both equally healthy.

        I’d love the Bulls as a challenger to the Heat if Rose were healthy, but he won’t be until late in the year, and he’s still need time to regain the elite athleticism he had prior to the knee injury.
        Even with the Rose injury, I’d like the Bulls as a challenger to the Heat if they had kept their bench. However, while the new bench on paper could work out pretty well, it’s going to take time for them to develop the chemistry and experience the old group had that made them so effective.

        So that leaves Indiana – and I doubt it, unless Bosh gets injured again, the Knicks – and it’s possible if Amar’e and Carmelo learn how to play together and commit to defense but I need to see that first, the Nets – if Deron Williams and Joe Johnson play well together and Brook Lopez becomes a force on the glass and defense they can contend but I need to see that first, and maybe the 76’ers if Bynum proves he can be the franchise guy dealing with double teams every night. Those are the only realistic challengers and that’s not a long list at all. West has Spurs, Lakers, OKC, Nuggets, Memphis, and Clippers as all very dangerous teams. And the West’s 10th place team could probably have been the East’s 7th seed based on win-loss record.

      • tcclark - Oct 6, 2012 at 3:40 PM

        The west is still the stronger league, but the east is a lot better than it has been in a while. The Heat are obviously huge favorites, and the chances of anyone beating them are slim, but that really has nothing to do with Charlotte’s ability to win 21 games this season. if we look at the teams in the east Miami got better (which is scary), Indiana got deeper, the Celtics got younger and better, Philly got better, New York got better, Brooklyn got better, Atlanta will be interesting, and Derek Rose isn’t dead, he’s coming back this season. So concievably, you could have the Hawks or the Bulls with Derek Rose playing as the 8th seed in the East and that’s just the Playoff teams. Milwaukee will be interesting with Jennings, Ellis, and Scott Skiles Defensive Style, Washington is much improved with the new maturity and defensive focus, Cleveland should get a full year with Irving, Detroit has a lot of potential, and Toronto has some interesting pieces. My question is where are the wins coming from for the Bobcats, not ‘The East is better than the west,’ or ‘the east will be highly competitive come playoff time,’ or ‘the Heat are going to lose.’

        Also in what way are their train wrecks in New York and Brooklyn? I’m not saying they’re going to win a championship, but there’s a lot of talent between both of those teams. Much, much more than in Charlotte.

  2. dysraw1 - Oct 6, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    rebuilding is a process it takes patients, the weeding of players that are not positive contributors is really the hard part. Tyrus should know by now what he has to do to be successful on the court. hes been around long enough, a bad year could mean not even being a viable trade chip. and i like the guy.

  3. lucaslatronico - Oct 8, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    When you are coming of the bench for the bobcats, you know that your best days are behind you (Ben Gordon)

  4. rocirius - Oct 12, 2012 at 12:22 AM

    Hasn’t Gordon come off the bench his entire career?

  5. KOBEshigawa - Oct 15, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Well, the best thing I can say about the Cats this year is that they won’t be as bad as last year – but not because they’re not terrible. It’s because i don’t think they can be the worst team in NBA history. This is going to be one of the most boring teams in the league this year, even with a high lottery pick in MKG. Unfortunately for Charlotte fans, MKG is a defensive slasher-not an exciting offensive player like Beal or Waiters that could electrify a crowd even if the team is down 15. What a bummer for Charlotte.

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