If you check the team stats on ESPN.com, you will see the Bobcats tied for 11th in the league at 93.8 points allowed per game. That might trick you into thinking they are pretty good defensively, though I hope you do not fall into that trap if you have been reading this site regularly. Why do I call it a trap? Because the Bobcats actually one of the worst defensive teams in the league – and the numbers back it up.
You see, while the Bobcats allow a low average score against, they are playing at the slowest pace in the league – 85.6 possessions per game. League average is 92.7, over an 8% increase on the Bobcats' pace. When you account for the fact that teams average over a point per possession, those 7 possessions per game would quickly move the Bobcats down the defensive rankings. The good (well, kind of bad, actually) news: We know how to account for it. It is the whole reason for keeping track of possessions, and it allows us to look at defense on a per possession (or 100 possession) basis.
When we do that, the Bobcats do not look so good – horrible in fact. The Bobcats defensive efficiency for the year is 110.0 – that number is 27th worst in the NBA, a far cry from that earlier mark of T-11th. The league average is 103.6, though that mark will probably go up as the year progresses and teams start to click on offense a bit more. That is the worst part of this for the Bobcats – teams tend to start poorly on offense and the Bobcats are already giving up big (efficiency) numbers.
The biggest reason for the Bobcats' early defensive struggles: How well their opponents are shooting. Bobcat opponents have shot 47.4% from the floor in the early going, with an average points per shot of 1.246. The rest of the league has allowed marks of 44.3% and 1.205. Oh, And at this point the Bobcats cannot point to the refs, as they have allowed a free throw rate of 26.6% (free throw attempts per field goal attempt) which is below league average 32.4% (meaning that Bobcat opponents are taking fewer free throws per field goal attempt – so it seems the Cats are getting calls – or have been playing against jump shooting teams).
I did not intend for this whole post to flagellate the defense, so here are a couple of other things to note in regards to the slower pace:
Raymond Felton's assists – It may seem that Raymond has not been passing as well in the early going, as he is averaging only 4.8 assists per game. But when you consider that the team is playing slower and Raymond is playing fewer minutes…Raymond might not be doing so bad – in fact, his assist rate (assists per possession used – fga, fta, turnovers, and assists accounted for) is down only slightly from last year, from 30.1 to 26.6%. Oh, and the same goes for D.J..
The offense is not as bad as it looks – just as the defense is masked by a slow game, so is the offense – but in this case, it makes people think things are worse than they really are, rather than hiding problems. The Bobcats average only 88.5 points per game, 28th in the league. Their offensive efficiency is much better, at 103.1, 19th overall. Ok, so much better might be a slight exaggeration – but isn't being almost mediocre far better than what might otherwise be believed? Oh, and again, the Bobcats' undoing is shooting – in this case, their offense is being brought down by their 23rd ranked field goal %, 43.1%.
This concludes my public service announcement on the lying nature of numbers. I hope it might have been a useful reminder that things are not always what they seem (and that the Bobcats may (or not) be better than you thought).