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What I Expect From the Charlotte Bobcats in 2007-08

I know that I gave a bit of a preview of the team when I posted the Division Preview last week, but, looking back with all the insight a week can give, I want to dig in a bit deeper. While I stated a predicted record previously of 39 wins and 43 losses, I do not feel beholden to that prediction and will make another at the conclusion of this post. It may or may not coincide with said previous prediction (and no, I do not have multiple personalities).

What the Bobcats Did Last Year:
Record: 33-49
Offensive Efficiency: 103.4 Points per 100 Possessions
Defensive Efficiency: 107.7 Points per 100 Possessions

That is not encouraging. But as I have noted previously, the Bobcats were really 2 different teams last year – one early in the season, when Gerald Wallace was struggling to recover from a nasty fall in the opening game, Adam Morrison was throwing bricks at a prodigious rate, and Walter Herrmann spent the whole game on the bench, trying to ward off cheerleaders from stroking his hair. The other team was one that featured a dominant Crash, less Ammo, and more Fabio (additionally, very little Sean May, so it has that in common with the year to come). And that team was not too shabby, as seen from these new numbers:
What the Bobcats Did Last Year after December 27th:
Record: 26-29
Offensive Efficiency:106.3 Points per 100 Possessions
Defensive Efficiency: 107.4 Points per 100 Possessions

All of a sudden, the Bobcats start to look like a border-line playoff team…for last year. So, with that said, how does that team compare to the squad of this year?

The Bobcats Added:
-Jason Richardson
-Jared Dudley
-Jermareo Davidson

The Bobcats Lost:
-Jake Voskuhl
-Brevin Knight
-Alan Anderson

I have to say that I think they came out ahead on those exchanges, if only because of Jason Richardson. Additionally, as I noted previously, the good version of the Bobcats last season shared three things in common with the year ahead – Less Ammo (out for the year), little (or no) Sean May, and more Walter Herrmann (I've got a fever and the only prescription is more Herrmann). So, with those additions and subtractions, what does the Bobcat's depth look like compared to other squads?

Point Guard
Starter: Neutral/Negative – Raymond Felton has potential, I am not denying that. But he was not a good player last year, but, at best, more average. He led the team in field goal attempts, despite shooting 38.4% from the field. His assist rate was low for a point, but that was partly due to playing some time at the 2, with Brevin in the game. I think he has the potential to be a good player, but to this point, he has not shown it.
Backup(s): Negative – Jeff McInnis and…well, that is it for the Bobcats as far true point guards go. Derek Anderson was resigned and he can play at the point if needed for spurts, but it is not his natural position. All I can say for McInnis is he was cheap and I hope he is better than last year.

Shooting Guard
Starter: Positive – Jason Richardson was brought in to do one thing for this team – score. While Gerald Wallace has seen his scoring average increase over his time with the Bobcats, he is a still developing offensive player. Richardson gives the Bobcats an established 20 points per game scorer, who, if he reaches that mark this season, will be their first.
Backup(s): Positive – Matt Carroll was resigned to long term deal after being one of the Bobcats most efficient scorers last year. He was a solid starter for the Bobcats this past year, and will bring his sniping skills off the pine going forward. Derek Anderson can also back up this spot if needed.

Small Forward
Starter: Positive – Drum roll please. Gerald Wallace, everyone, the heart of the Bobcats. For an idea of his impact (and ability), just read this.
Backup(s): Neutral – I have high hopes for Jared Dudley, but it remains to be seen how he transitions to the more athletic game of the NBA. This is Derek Anderson's “true” position, and if Jared does not prove capable of handling the League right away, he will be here to act as a safety-net.

Power Forward
Starter: Positive – Emeka Okafor. Last year, he continued his development into one of the best young bigs in the NBA. For proof of his impact, just consider that the Bobcats gave up 106.4 points per 100 possessions last year with Oak on the floor, but 112.2 without him. He has to be healthy for the Bobcats to be competitive this year, as Jake Voskuhl's departure left them with one less reliable big man…leaving them 2 – Okafor and his backup (note – I said Jake was reliable, not great, or even good. But compared to the Bobcat's other options? I think he will be missed).

Backup(s): Positive (assuming last year was no fluke) – Walter Herrmann provides a backup about as different from the starter as they come. Where Okafor is a defensive beast and a burgeoning offensive player, Walter is the polar opposite. He has range out to the 3 point land and provides the Bobcats with another scoring option off the bench. He is not much of a rebounder, however, and his defense is still in question. Jermareo Davidson may provide the deep depth at the 4, and based off his college career, he will more closely resemble Walter, except without the 3 point range and a lower shooting percentage.

Starter: Negative – Last season, the reason for Primoz Brezec's poor play was said to be exhaustion, following a long summer with the national team. But that does not account for his effect on the Bobcats in the years prior. As noted here, Primoz has been a liability to the team from year 1, and I do not see that changing now. He may shoot the ball decently for a center, but his defense and lack of rebounding outweigh any other benefits.
Backup(s): Negative – Ryan Hollins was nothing short of a train wreck on the court last season and, despite the heavy minutes with the starters this preseason, I will have to see regular season action where he makes a contribution before I can change my mind. Othella Harrington will also provide depth at the 5, assuming the team does not convince him to reture due to his knee issues.

Put it all together
On the whole, the team improved with the past offseason, though depth at point and center suffered slightly. The team may in fact be better off playing a small lineup with Carrol at the 2, and Primoz bumped out, or possibly Herrmann stepping in at the 4 and Emeka manning the post. Those are questions to be answered going forward. Another question remains and it will certainly play a large role for this injury-prone team: How many games will this team miss due to injuries? The starting 5 is better, but that only matters when they actually are together to play. Let us assume, though, that the starting 5 is available for 60 games. Considering that a similar squad managed to go nearly .500 over the last 2/3 of the season, I would say they are certainly capable of going 33-27 in those 60 games. But what about the remaining 22? Can they get the additional 7 to 9 games needed to make the playoffs.

That question depends on who is missing those games. If it is Gerald? Maybe. If it is Jason Richardson? Maybe. If it is Felton (not likely, since he has played in 158 out of 164 so far, but just in case)? Not unless McInnis finds the juvenation machine. If it is Emeka? Not a chance. But I am going to be the optimistic fan, and say that injuries have done their worst for the year. I am going to put the Bobcats in the playoffs at 42-40, with Okafor leading the way on defense, Richardson leading the team on offense, and Gerald Wallace putting his stamp on both ends of the court. Let's play some hoops in the Queen City.

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