“All we need is a little energon…and a lot of luck.” (side note: If you're trying to figure out my age, know that the movie this quote comes from is the first I saw in theaters.) The Bobcats are not counting on anything as esoteric as energon for the coming season, but I'd have to say that a good deal of luck is going to be required for some fans' expectations to be met (and the new coach's). Before anyone gets too upset that I may seem down on the team, I'm really not: I am excited for the coming season and think the team should contend for a playoff berth. But, like any team, the Bobcats are going to need for certain things to happen to make the season a successful one(besides the obvious: Win games). I've come up with 9 dependencies for a good season, but broken them into 2 separate lists. The first focuses on assumptions that would merely replicate the success (or failure, if you're a half-empty type person) of last year. The second list outlines the events (or series of events) that did not happen last year that need to happen for the team to improve.
If Nothing Else, We're Better Than The Clippers
1. Emeka must remain healthy enough to play 65 to 70 games. Instead of expounding on this again, just check out these posts I've written on him previously: What if Emeka hadn't gotten hurt? and Crash and Emeka: Who matters more?.
2. Crash can't get tackled on a dunk attempt and play like a sissy for a third of the season. Again, I'll just refer you to a link: Crash – The All-NBA Performer.
3. Walter Herrmann has to show that his end of the year play was not a fluke. Walter played a significant role for the team, as it closed the year winning at a much higher rate than at the beginning. That the team was winning more and Walter was playing more was not coincidental: He was not the only cause, but he did give the team more offense (and better shooting) than some other options (like Adam Morrison tossing up brick after brick).
4. Matt Carroll has to show that last year was not a contract push. While I think the Bobcats may have slightly overpaid for Matt's services going forward, he does fill a role: Gunner off the bench who can provide some points.
This next list outlines things that we did not have last year, that, were they to happen, make the playoffs much more likely.
Precondtions for the Playoffs (and more?)
1. Jason Richardson's knees must allow him to play like he did prior to last year, and not how he played last year. Want to know what the difference was between Jason Richardson and Matt Carroll last season? Per 40 minutes, about 1 point, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds in favor of Jason Richardson. The season prior for Richardson compared to Carroll last year? Richardson by 6 points, an assist, and 2 boards. If Richardson is going to justify the approximately $5 million more per year he is making than Matt Carroll, he needs to produce at closer to his 2005-06 form. Without that, the Bobcats would gain little this year aside from a higher payroll.
2. Adam Morrison and Raymond Felton have to meet shots they don't like. #3 and #1 in FGA per game for the Bobcats last year. As for their shooting percentages? #12 and #11 (out of the 12 players who played more 700 minutes last year). Either the attempts need to go way down or the shooting percentage needs to go way up. Otherwise, Raymond and Adam are going to have a difficult time providing much value to the team.
3. Primoz Brezec and Jeff McInnis need to provide quality minutes as backups to Emeka and Raymond. Both were horrible last year. Both have been better in the relatively recent past. For the team to make the playoffs, these 2 need to provide solid minutes backing up Emeka and Raymond respectively. Why? See #5.
4. Sean May has to man up. For most of the season last year, the only true post player seeing significant minutes (and providing any value to the team: Looking at you Primoz) was Emeka. As a result, the Bobcats struggled on the boards all year. This is an area where Sean May is capable of providing a useful skill to the team. The question is, will his knees allow him to?
5. Ryan Hollins, Jermareo Davidson, Jared Dudley, and Othella Harrington have to play better than D-Leaguers. These are the reasons that Primoz and McInnis need to be better. This is the rest of the roster (more or less) and they are too young or too old to be counted on at this point. You want proof? Ryan Hollins played fewer than 200 minutes last year, but while on the court, the team was outscored by 92. To break that down further, that means if he was to play the whole game, the team could expect to lose by about 25. That's not good.
Barring a run of luck with injuries like the Pistons had in 2005-06 (when they used the same starting lineup in 78 games), all of these things are unlikely to come true. Will enough of them happen that the Bobcats can continue the steady increase in wins we've seen each season? I believe so. What can we expect this year? I'm not ready to say yet, but there will be a season preview coming soon. Until then, “Bah weep granah weep ninni bong”.