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3-on-3 Preview: Bobcats @ Hawks

3-on-3 TrueHoop Network

1- OPINION: Atlanta is top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. The Bobcats, on the other hand, rank in the bottom five in both categories. What category must Charlotte utilize the most to be successful tonight?

Spencer Percy: FG%. The Bobcats still rank 7th in the league in the PACE factor, so they do generate more possessions than most their opponents. Problem is, they’re not capitalizing on enough of these possessions. If Bobcats can find a way to shoot 47.5%+ and keep it close on the glass then there is a chance.

Bryan Wendland: I really want to say defense here, but the Bobcats are so bad at it I don’t think they’ll be able to just turn it on against the Hawks. The last time the two teams met, though, the Hawks did shoot just 44.2% from the floor and 35% from behind the arc. They also aren’t a great free-throw shooting team, so if Charlotte can hack the right players at the right times, that might be as good a defensive plan as any they could throw at Atlanta. For Charlotte to win this game, they’re going to have to force the Hawks to play their style of offense, get out and run and score easy buckets.

Brett Hainline: Defense/effort.  The Bobcats are not an overly talented team – they have some interesting young players and that’s a start.  But for now, to win games, the Bobcats have to do so by out working their opponents, and that is primarily accomplished without the ball.  Hustling after rebounds (limit the Hawks second chances), diving for loose balls, and forcing turnovers with aggressive defense (there’s no Bobcat so important he has to worry about foul trouble).

2- FACT or FICTION: Byron Mullens is the highest rated player (21.12 PER) on the Bobcats roster according to Hollinger’s player efficiency ratings and will finally break into the starting lineup tonight, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Has Mullens earned it?

Spencer Percy: FACT. I’m torn here because I like Mullens coming off bench to gain favorable defensive matchups, but on the same token Mullens is showing the potential of being a deserving starting center on this team right now, and he’ll also be forced to develop in other areas going against starting centers. This is a rebuilding year and a time for management to evaluate what they’ve got. Start Mullens and see if he’s a legit starting center option for this team moving forward.

Bryan Wendland: FACT. He should certainly be in the starting lineup. Mullens is their best option at center, and he proved against Houston that he can play tough inside with a 15 point, 10 rebound performance.

Brett Hainline: FACT. I do think there is something to Byron’s success being in part due to the opposition faced, but tonight he gets a chance to prove himself against one of the league’s better defensive front courts in ATL’s Al Horford and Josh Smith.  Mullens’ has earned this start with improved defensive effort and focus and a better showing on the boards.

3- PREDICTION: Was Tuesday night in the Cable Box foreshadowing for what is coming this season for the Bobcats? Any chance for the upset tonight?

Spencer Percy: Yes, it’s going to be a very long season for this team. A depleted roster and numerous project type players don’t usually lead to successful seasons. As for tonight, the Bobcats have a chance for the simple reason that they are facing a Hawks team that was physically beat up by Indiana last night, but we thought that would be the case last week after the Hawks 3 OT marathon and it was actually just the opposite. Closer than some may think, but Hawks win 95-90.

Bryan Wendland: Foreshadowing, writing on the wall, a prophecy… Whatever you want to call it, the 2012 Bobcats probably won’t look much better than the team that played Houston Tuesday night. They’re not much good on offense or defense, and their most reliable scorer thus far has been point guard, D.J. Augustin. Even good teams who rely on their floor general to lead them in points don’t fare well in the playoffs, so for a bad team to be in that situation, it just makes things worse. The ‘Cats almost knocked off Atlanta the last time the two teams met, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t trust Charlotte with my money tonight.

Brett Hainline: Prediction?  Pain.  It won’t be often that I project a win for this squad – the odds will be against them most nights.  What I really want to see is effort from the young players and growth – is Bismack playing better team defense and getting out of position less?  Is Byron playing the pick and roll better (defensively)?   Is Kemba playing the pick and roll better offensively?  Improvement is a win for the Bobcats this season, as they look to rebuild.