Most ‘experts’ will tell you that the Bobcats, although seemingly heading in correct direction, will carry the worst record in the NBA again next season, but I’m here to offer some hope to the contrary.
I’m not writing this post to talk about salary cap issues or focus on what any player on the Bobcats roster is owed next season, but rather to dissect the talent that is now in Charlotte. For starters, how it’s drastically better than last season, and secondly, how it may not actually be the worst in the league anymore thanks to a blockbuster trade that finally shipped Dwight Howard out of Orlando.
Last season, the Bobcats leading scorer was Gerald Henderson who averaged 15.1 PPG. And it wasn’t even close. Well, Maggette averaged 15 PPG, but that was in only 32 appearances compared to Hendo’s 55. The next guy on the list- rookie Kemba Walker at 12.1 PPG on 36.6% from the field. Fast forward to this coming season. Hendo and Kemba both could potentially be out of the top two on the team in the scoring department with the additions of Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Hendo is still likely to be one of the two scorers on the team, but you get the drift- offensively, Charlotte has definitely improved.
In 2010-11 Sessions averaged 13.3 PPG on 46.6% from the field in 26.3 MPG. If my projection for him is accurate at all for next season, he will see very similar minutes and carry a large scoring role, so I’m going to go ahead and presume that the offensive numbers climb from the ’10-’11 season- this knocks Kemba down the list, at least.
Last season, Ben Gordon averaged 12.5 PPG in 26.5 MPG. Gordon should see very similar minutes in the Queen City this coming season, and like Sessions, should expect to also take on a large chunk of the scoring role off the bench- presumably. Assuming Gordon does average north of 13 PPG, that knocks Kemba down the scoring list again and now the Bobcats have 4 players that could potentially average 12+ PPG. Imagine that.
Lastly, Kidd-Gilchrist averaged 11.9 PPG last season at Kentucky in 31 MPG. That was college and this is the NBA, but remember that Gille the Kid was playing with a team full of current pro’s, so the wealth had to be shared, in a sense. MKG isn’t an offensive force by any stretch of the imagination, but he is very capable of scoring is double figures every night if he gets 30+ minutes, which he should. Now, grasp yourself. Are you ready for this? The 2012-13 Charlotte Bobcats could possibly have five players to average in double figures over the course of a season. That’s 50+ guaranteed points every game. WOW. Not to mention Byron Mullens, who’s without a doubt going to get his 15 shots up every night.
Okay, I’m going to tone down the sarcasm and get back to the main point. We didn’t go out and get any all-stars, but the Bobcats did improve as far as offensive production is concerned and when you break it down, they improved drastically. Sessions and Gordon are going to add offensive punches to help Kemba be more of the true PG he’s attempting to evolve into and hopefully open up the floor for Henderson to continue his maturation as an all around offensive threat in this league.
Best case scenario next season, Bobcats win 27 games. So yes, on the team chalkboard in the locker room this coming season under ‘season goal’ it will read 27-55 (sarcasm). Baby steps.
Now, allow us to briefly take a look at the team that Charlotte will be duking it out with for rights to own the worst record and highest #1 overall odds. Orlando Magic. This time last week the Magic looked like they were going to be a dysfunctional, low seed playoff team, but their wish came true and now they may have the right to be just flat out awful. Consolation- Dwight Howard is finally out of their hair and they got a lot back for him. Noticed I said they got ‘a lot’ back, but in no way insinuated that what they received was good. There’s no way that this was the best offer on the table for the Magic, but in the end it seems they got exactly what they wanted- the worst offer so they could get really bad, a lot quicker. It’s the classic Oklahoma City model and as Bobcats fans we know all about it- been seeing it right in front of our eyes for two season now. Oh, not to mention Orlando will also have a first year head coach at the healm- Jacque Vaughn.
Comparing the Bobcats and Magic projected starting lineups would give the slight edge to Orlando. Jameer Nelson is better than Kemba at this point. Afflalo is a better player than Hendo. Turkoglu is better than Kidd-Gilchrist by default- MKG is a rookie. Glen Davis > Tyrus/Mullens/Biyombo- umm, yes. Brendan Haywood will score the one victory for Charlotte as he’s got the slight advantage over Gustavo Ayon/Nikola Vucevic. Now, these two teams benches are a different story. I’ll take the likes of Sessions, Gordon, Tyrus, Reggie Williams and Mullens all day over Quentin Richardson, J.J. Redick, Al Harrington and a gaggle of rookies/second year guys. So, the Magic certainly have the advantage when it comes to the starting lineups, but when you look at the overall body of work on each roster, my natural bias leads me to believe that the Bobcats may just find a way to sneak into the 4th spot of the southeast division and the 29th spot in the NBA.
Does any of this matter at all when next season is all said and done? Nope, not really. Unless you’re one of those people who really believes that going all out for best odds to land #1 pick is really worth it. If you are, see last season’s result for the Bobcats and then try to tell me it was worth it with a straight face. I’m simply fascinated with the thought that there is actually a possibility Charlotte could avoid being the worst team in the NBA this season. After last year, I just assumed we’d be the worst team in NBA history every single year for the remainder of my existence.
For the record, here are Eddy Rivera’s (ESPN TrueHoop blog ‘Magic Basketball’) thoughts on this debate.
“I think Orlando will be slightly better than Charlotte still. I do think they’ll be duking it out for 4th and 5th in the Southeast and also the worst record in the NBA.”
So, if you’re a betting man and in Vegas between now and the start of the NBA season- who you taking to finish with the worst record. Orlando or Charlotte?