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New look, new team, new scheme- better results? My forecast for 2012-13

Last season was historically bad and everyone is well versed on that by now, so no point in beating the drum on that any longer. There is a lot of bashing still going on in the media and blogosphere about the this team and how it’s going nowhere, but if you really pay attention that simply isn’t true. Look, if you’re a ‘what have you done for me lately’ type of fan, then you really have no business in being a Bobcats fan.

Mike Dunlap now inserts a fresh and energized coaching mentality to this franchise and the rookie additions of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor bring the right kind of young talent to continue the transformation on the floor. Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood have also arrived in Charlotte and will provide proven production to go along with veteran leadership. Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo now enter their second season in the league after starting a combined 66 games last season- history tells us that we’ll see improvement in both of them.

In short, the Bobcats are going to improve this season- drastically, I believe.

The first thing we’ll focus on is the direction of the franchise from the very top. The hand prints of Rich Cho are starting to show in the molding of this team. Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo are now projected starters, center Byron Mullens is proving to be all worth the second round pick Cho traded for him, Ben Gordon arrives along with a first round pick from Detroit for Corey Maggette (what a deal), Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood are under contract for a combined 5 years at about $11 million (yep, that’s cost effective), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor add two more high quality character assets to this roster, and coach Mike Dunlap seems to be the energized shot in the arm that the Bobcats needed. Whether or not you believe that Jordan had loosened up on the reigns, the evidence is all around you that Rich Cho is making most of the decisions. Have the Bobcats added immense talent to the roster? Well no, but talent nonetheless, and the price that is being paid makes it all worth the while at this juncture of the rebuilding process- it’s called cost effective and over time it will permit more flexibility and bring more talent to Charlotte through drafts and free agency. I know that talking about the long term forecast of the team doesn’t answer the questions about the immediate future, but I always feel obligated to remind everyone that this franchise has as much of a direction as it’s ever had. No matter what the results are, because direction doesn’t promise success, just simply that there is a plan in place.

The additions in the off-season have added quite a bit of talent to this roster. It’s deep in the backcourt and thin in the frontcourt, but there are more players on this team that contribute on both ends of the floor now.

The additions of Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions are going to add a significant scoring boost. Last season, Sessions and Gordon averaged 11.3 & 12.5 PPG, respectively. Sessions carried a PER of 16.79, which would have been the best on the Bobcats roster last season. Gordon had a PER of 13.52 last season and that would have been good for third best on the team last season behind Kemba and Hendo. So here are two players in Sessions and Gordon who both have the chance to be leading scorers for this team and both could potentially be left out of the starting lineup. Kemba is expected to be the starting PG and Dunlap has made that fairly clear, so that leaves Sessions as the backup PG. Hendo will likely get the nod at SG in the starting lineup which leaves Gordon as his reserve. I think you get my point- there’s some depth on this roster, especially in the backcourt, that Bobcats fans haven’t been accustomed to lately.

The frontcourt is a different story. Your guess is as good as mine to who will be the starting PF and center come opening night. I would like to think that Haywood gets the nod at center because of his experience and ability to be physical with any opposing center in the league. Haywood will be a better option on a night-to-night basis to defend and rebound with opposing centers. I think most would agree that Mullens just isn’t ready to be a starting center in this league with his putrid shot selection and defense. At PF, I don’t see how Dunlap could leave Biyombo out of the starting lineup. Dunlap has preached since he got the job how he wants to get the youth on the floor and develop it from day 1- that would certainly suggest that Biyombo will be on the floor a lot with Kemba and Kidd-Gilchrist. Tyrus Thomas is probably the best talent on the team at the PF position, but nobody knows which Tyrus will show up this season. He did admit earlier this week at media day that the reason for him losing so much weight last season was because of bad stomach ulcers and that he’s added 20 lbs. this off-season, but none of that excuses his attitude last year and further fogs what Tyrus we’ll see this season. If Tyrus comes out from day 1, gives great effort, makes the simple plays more often, rebounds & defends, and overall comes into form then there’s no question that he’s the starting PF on this team. I’m sorry that I don’t believe all, if any, of that will happen.

The SF position is set in stone and it’s the only position that will feature a player that’s never touched an NBA court. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will start for the Bobcats and is going to provide the style of play that Cho and Dunlap are trying to implement in Charlotte. Up-tempo, aggressive and energetic. MKG has the ability to turn into an elite defender in this league as quickly as this season, but he’ll likely have to adapt to the NBA whistle. On the offensive end, MKG is much more of a question mark and hung his hat in college on his ability to get to the rim. I’ve heard many say that MKG has a ‘broken’ jump shot and if you’ve seen it from last season that’s a pretty accurate observation. MKG has been working on that form with Dunlap and the coaching staff. Dunlap has already commented how willing the rookie has been to change his shooting form and approached it with an open mind. Jeff Taylor and Reggie Williams will backup MKG. Like MKG, Taylor is a lockdown defender that can definitely defend any reserve that will be on the floor and will be a great backup for MKG when he gets in foul trouble, which he will on occasion. Williams could surprise a lot of people this season with his production on the offensive end. In ’10-’11 Williams shot 43% from behind the arc in an up-tempo Golden State system, so he saw tons of open three’s in transition with the open floor. He could see a lot of the same thing this season in the system that Dunlap is implementing.

When I look at this Bobcats roster I don’t have a very hard time finding some optimistic thoughts about what this group could accomplish. On the contrary, looking at the roster at the beginning of last season was a different story. It was fairly clear that last year’s group was the worst in the league before a ball was even thrown up. Sure, the coaching staff is basically all new (except for Stephen Silas) and five new faces that will all be significant contributors are new to the team as well. Nobody knows how quickly those new factors will mesh together, but make no mistake that this franchise is much better off than it was a season ago and making the next step into the future plans of Jordan, Cho & Co.

Win/Loss Scale: 18-32 wins.

Projection: 25-57