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Bobcats vs Cavs Preview: QCH 3-on-3

Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs Cleveland Cavaliers

What: NBA Basketball – Bobcats Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Time Warner Cable Arena

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Charlotte 8-23 98.7 (27) 108.0 (30) 95.1 (8)
Cleveland 7-26 97.6 (29) 105.9 (27) 94.4 (14)

Previous Meetings:

Charlotte: Tyrus Thomas (OUT), Byron Mullens (OUT)
Cleveland: Anderson Varejao (OUT), Daniel Gibson (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Bobcats Cavaliers
PG Kemba Walker Kyrie Irving
SG Gerald Henderson C.J. Miles
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Alonzo Gee
PF Hakim Warrick Tristan Thompson
C Bismack Biyombo Tyler Zeller
6th Man Ramon Sessions Dion Waiters

3-on-3 TrueHoop Network Greg, Brett and I try to make sense of the opportunity that the Bobcats have tonight. A chance to win two straight games coming fresh off of a 18-game losing spurt.

1- STATS: Both of these teams rank in the bottom 3 within the league in both Effective FG% and Total Shooting %. One stat that the Cavs are fairly respectable in is the rebounding category. Cleveland has a total Rebounding Rate of 50.5 (14th), opposed to Charlotte’s 48.2 (24th) number. Except, there’s one outlying problem there for the Cavs — their best rebounder, Anderson Varejao (14.4 RPG), will miss his 8th consecutive game due a bruised right knee. Will the absence of Varejao be enough to give the Cats a statistical edge in this game?

Spencer: I’ll start by saying that I’m pretty excited about the toughness that Jeff Adrien could potentially bring to this lineup — he’s certainly going to help the Bobcats on the glass in the absence of Tyrus and Mullens and definitely adds more physicality to the DNA of the rotation. Even though it can be a very offensive stagnant lineup, I don’t see Charlotte getting beat up on the glass too badly with Biyombo and Adrien in the game together. The point here is that Adrien will help on the glass and add defensive toughness to the lineup, which in turn, will lead to more rebounding opportunities for the Cats and get them more possessions than their opponent. That recipe should be enough for Charlotte against the Cavs.

Greg: Tristan Thompson has done a great job of making up for Varejao’s absence — at 16.4 percent, he has a better TRB% than any of the Bobcats’ regular players. The Cavs have managed to outrebound their opponents in roughly half of the games since Varejao went down, so it’ll likely depend on which Bobcats play tonight. If MKG returns from his eye injury, and Jeff Adrien gets a fair share of minutes, I expect they’ll be able to hold off Cleveland.

Brett: It’s not a guaranteed statistical advantage for the Cats, but it certainly levels the playing field. With Varejao on the court, the Cavs are at 54.6 for Total Rebound Rate, and just 49.5 without him. Of note – the difference is almost entirely at the offensive end – the Cavs defensive rebound rate with and without Andy is basically the same, but their offensive rebound rate drops nearly 10 percentage points. That’s valuable to Charlotte, as defensive rebounding has been a pronounced vulnerability in more than a couple of losses.

2- Kemba -vs- Kyrie: Cleveland’s budding superstar Kyrie Irving (22.7 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.9 RPG; 20.75 PER) is taking the PG position by storm more-and-more every game, but Kemba Walker (18.1 PPG, 6 APG, 3.3 RPG; 18.90 PER) has made strides of his own this season. Is it crazy to think that Kemba will ever be in the same discussion as Kyrie when it comes to superstar PG’s of the future?

Spencer: Neither player has had much of anything put around them to this point in his career, but I think that could be the turning point for either player. No question that Kyrie is currently the better player, but Kemba also screams of a guy that could blossom into something very special when put on a team that has talent elsewhere. The closer Kemba is to being in a situation to win games frequently, the more he’s going to do that. Fact of the matter is, Kemba’s a winner. He has been his whole basketball life until Charlotte. So, to say that Kemba will never reach Kyrie’s level just isn’t fair at this point, but Irving is clearly on a different playing field currently.

Greg: I’d never say never, but Kyrie is pretty clearly in a class above at the moment. Despite their similar raw numbers, Kyrie has managed to be significantly more efficient than Kemba, and at a higher usage rate. A big part of that is how well-rounded of a scorer Irving is. Not only is he a better three-point shooter (39 percent vs. 33 percent), he shoots well from every area on the floor:


By comparison, Kemba struggles when he’s not taking shots near the rim or in his sweet spot (15-19 feet):


Kemba’s done a good job of playing to his strengths (54 percent of his shots come from those two areas), but he has a lot of work to do before he’s at Irving’s level, offensively.

Brett: I don’t want to call it crazy, since it can be difficult to tell just how much a player will improve during his career – but Kemba is at a disadvantage due to his stature. At 5′-11.5″ barefoot, Kemba is going to be undersized, and will have trouble defensively. While neither Kemba or Kyrie have distinguished themselves at that end to this point, Kyrie does have 2+ inches on Kemba, and coupled with a solid frame, has the potential to be more valuable at that end.

3- PICK IT: Bobcats or Cavs? Charlotte comes off a surprising win in Chicago on New Years Eve and is fresh off 4 days rest. Cleveland has lost 3 straight and is coming off of a rather disappointing loss at home to Sacramento on Wednesday night.

Spencer: Bobcats. This should be a rested team that has significantly less anxiety about a losing streak tonight. All Charlotte really has to do against this Cleveland team is come out with energy and stay consistent with the effort for 4 quarters. I know that’s all Dunlap ask of his young team. There will be times where the Cavs go on runs tonight — it’s the NBA. That being said, if the Cats can whether the storm with consistent effort and energy tonight, they’ll end up on the winning end against Cleveland.

Greg: The teams seem pretty evenly matched on paper. The Cavaliers have the best player, but they’re slumping and the long flight won’t do them any favors. I think the Bobcats come out fresh and pull out a squeaker.

Brett: I’ll take the Bobcats, as Cleveland is missing their second best player (I’m giving Kyrie the first slot, but maybe Cavs fans disagree), though that is contingent on the Bobcats having MKG. Both teams are dealing with injuries and mounting losses, though it is early enough in the season that neither team has lapsed into lacking effort or bad habits just yet. I expect a tough game, as both teams see this as one they should win.