The guys over at Celtics Blog are doing their annual roundup of blogger previews and this is my entry for the year…
Team Name: Charlotte Bobcats
Last Season's Record: 35-47 (Franchise best mark)
Key Losses: Emeka Okafor (trade)
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
The Bobcats traded Emeka Okafor to the New Orleans Hornets for Tyson Chandler – one 26 year old center for another. Or, put in Bob Johnson terms, the Bobcats moved a 5 year, $60 million liability off their books for a 2 year, $24 million liability. That balance sheet looks better already. On the court, Tyson is a better defender and a “truer” center at 7-1, but the Bobcats gave up a dependable post scorer who was a solid defender himself. The move is somewhere between a slight downgrade and a large one: That will depend on how the rest of the team responds to an increased offensive workload.
The Bobcats also managed to snare an over 30 years old shooting guard that surprisingly few teams made a play for: No, not Allen Iverson, the other one, Ronald “Flip” Murray. A one year deal for the bi-annual exception, slightly less than $2 million got the Bobcats instant offense off the bench – Flip will be one Bobcat who does not require goading to take more shots, as his usage rate is routinely among the league's highest (but without the success of some of his peers in that category). Still, a potentially useful player who should fit in well on the Bobcats as a scorer on the second unit.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Backcourt depth – The Bobcats expected to have their backcourt depth be a strength as the season began, but with Raja Bell potentially done for the season before it begins, that could change. Should Raja be available, the Bobcats have a solid platoon of little guys, with Raymond Felton, D.J. Augustin, Raja Bell, Ronald Murray, and Gerald Henderson to fill the 1 and 2 spots. The Cats can go dynamic offense with D.J. and Flip or for lockdown defense with Raymond and Gerald Henderson. Raja provides a good deep threat who can still defend but not to his reputation anymore. If Henderson pans out, the Bobcats may still have the backcourt they hoped for, with an athletic defender to pair with the Ray/D.J. duo.
The other strength: The center position. Do not laugh – the Bobcats have 3 legitimate guys they can throw out there at the 5, with Tyson Chandler, DeSagana Diop, and Nazr Mohammed. Now, Nazr is the only one who scores on anything besides dunks, but all 3 can man the pivot and that depth may come in handy if Tyson has any relapses into his injury filled past.
3. What is the team's biggest weakness?
I adjusted the question from “weaknesses” to “weakness” because the Bobcats have one huge one that outweighs the rest: Scoring. They were horrible last year, at 27th in the league in offensive efficiency, and they could well go to atrocious this year. Trading one of your 2 post scorers (and the only one who might ever draw a double team) does not exactly improve the offense. Boris Diaw is the only big left that I expect to see calling for the ball on the post and while he can score there effectively, he likely will not be inclined to often enough. So, where are the points going to come from?
This team has no go to guy for buckets – Gerald Wallace is a solid all-around player, but is not that guy. Boris Diaw has a unique skill set but not the temperament of a lead man. Raymond has been thrust into the role of go-to-guy for the last couple of years, but his numbers show that it is not for him. However, D.J. Augustin has shown flashes of being a dynamic scorer, with a sniper's efficiency from outside – but can he create enough for his teammates? His assist numbers were nothing special last year. Flip Murray, as mentioned previously, knows how to get shots – but as a spark-plug off the bench: Can he do it for even longer stretches of the game?
Lot of questions for the Bobcats on offense and no answers yet.
4. What are the goals for the team?
Keep the playoffs in sight. They do not have to make them, but for the sake of the city (and attendance numbers), they need to at least make it look like a possibility. Nobody likes to cheer for a loser (except for the Cubs fans) and the Queen City is tired of being a joke. Stay in sight of the 8th spot.
Oh, but while you're doing that, play the kids – Raja and Flip are on the downside of their careers. D.J. and Gerald are just getting started. And then there is that Alexis Ajinca guy…
5. What can Alexis Ajinca do?
This is an extension of the team goals: Find out what Alexis is capable of doing. With his athleticism and long, long arms, there is intrigue there. Last season, he saw less than 4 games worth of minutes – as the Bobcats were on their way to 35 wins. With a similar cast around this year and similar expectations, a couple less wins would be a welcome price to see if the first-rounder from France is a keeper.
A lot of my expectations have been laid out, but to summarize:
-Very good defense: Will the keep the Bobcats in games
-Very bad offense: Will cost Bobcats games as the clock runs down
-Defense is good enough to keep them competitive for the 8th spot (but from the outside looking in)
-36 wins, 46 losses – Another franchise best mark, another season that ends after the bare minimum of games.