After a summer filled with, admittedly muted, praise, it seems moving into fall is bringing a new perspective on the Bobcats' moves this off-season. Marc Stein has done a review of the off-seasons of the Eastern Conference teams, and he is not thrilled with the choices the Bobcats have made. Click here to read the full review, but here is his main critique of the summer:
Taking on the big Jason Richardson contract could indeed address Charlotte's longstanding need for a dependable go-to scorer, but I will continue to quibble over his go-to status if he continues to shoot below 70 percent from the line. It's happened for four straight seasons, which continually cuts into Richardson's aggressiveness and effectiveness because his free throw and ballhandling issues make him a reluctant driver.
You also can expect folks to keep asking if J-Rich was really the right guy to be the first big-money Bobcat until we know for sure that he can play alongside the versatile Gerald Wallace and sharpshooting Matt Carroll, who also landed nice deals from the Bobs in free agency.
After reading this, I took a quick look at 82games.com for his clutch numbers for the past season…and they're not good. 18.7 points per 48 minutes, on 30.4% from the field, and only 3.7 free throws made (again, per 48 minutes). So, maybe Stein has a point…but the prior season, in 2005-06, Richardson's clutch numbers tell a much different story. That year, in the clutch J-Rich (is that really his nickname?) put up 35.6 points per 48 minutes, on 43.8% shooting, with 7.9 free throws made. He was a totally different player, so the question is, which version will the Bobcats be getting? Well, if the playoffs are any indication, I'd say the Bobcats (and their fans) are going to pleased with the investment. 38.1 points per 48 mins, 40% shooting, and a whopping 11.6 free throws made (again, numbers courtesy of 82games.com). Those are not the numbers of someone who is a “reluctant driver”, as Stein described him.
It is an admittedly small sample size, but between the playoffs last season and his 2005-06 season numbers, I have to say that I am still optimistic that the Bobcats first big contract player will be worth it.