When looking towards the upcoming Bobcats season, I believe it’s commonly understood by fans that expectations must be kept in check. This is not a team that will compete for a championship, yet alone the playoffs. However, it is a team that can offer a glimpse into what the future possibly holds.
Growing up a Philadelphia Phillies fan, I longed for a taste of the postseason. After spending a week and half worth of nights in 1993 listening on the radio to my team lose to the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series, I would wait more than half my life to experience anything remotely similar. When the team finally made the leap in 2007 (and winning the World Series in 2008) all the years of waiting had finally seemed to pay off. Although a now relevant and winning team provided its own kind of satisfaction, I came to the realization that looking back on it the road to relevance was in it of itself possibly even more satisfying. I’m sure many of you have heard many iterations of, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. For the Bobcats, this season marks the beginning of the journey.
Let’s take a look at a player I think fans can count on to help the team a little bit more than expected this year, and another vice-versa.
Buy Low – Reggie Williams (11-12 PER: 12.4): Williams had a career worst shooting year in his first season with the Bobcats. An effective 3-point shooter his first two years in Golden State, Williams shot .308 from behind the arc last year in Charlotte. Like a few other Bobcats, his conditioning and fitness level was questioned as the season progressed. Although I haven’t been provided with any evidence to support the claim of an improved physique for Williams, I like to think the familiarity of a regular offseason would provide enough opportunity to get his body in better shape.
Williams is a player who may not be termed a “3-point specialist”, but the majority of his contributions come from behind the stripe. Last season was a disappointment because he converted at an abysmal clip, especially when compared to his rates (10-11: .425; 09-10: .359) the previous two seasons. I believe Williams bounces back this year.
What do 3-point shooters need to be successful? Space to catch the ball and get a shot off.
What kind of players did the Bobcats add in the draft and through free agency? Slashers – players who can get to the basket and collapse defenders, creating open shots for 3-point shooters.
MKG, Taylor, and Sessions should add to the team’s ability to create open shots for their teammates. Outside of Kemba, last year the Bobcats had no one else that could consistently provide penetration to the basket. Williams will be the beneficiary.
PER Projection: 15.8
Sell High – Brendan Haywood (11-12 PER: 13.0): Gone are the days of Ewing and Olajuwon in the post. Here to stay are the days of LeBron at point forward. Even Dwight Howard is out of the division with his move to the Lakers. I think new Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap realizes this. The future of the League is now, with fast, athletic players who can get up and down the floor and defend. Brendan Haywood does not fit this profile.
Haywood is a solid player with size, but not someone (especially at his age) who can really get up and down the floor. Therefore, I expect to see a lot of smaller lineups with Biyombo at center and a combination of Thomas, Mullens, and even MKG at power forward. Haywood may prove valuable at times this season, but I think those occurrences will be less frequent than anticipated.
PER Projection: 11.5
Speaking of expectations, let’s finish with what those in Vegas expect out of the Bobcats this season.
Vegas Wins O/U – 22.5 Wins : For starters, the NBA lines in Vegas are some of the sharpest in the World. The betting market is dominated by pro bettors with the majority of recreational types flocking to NFL and College Football. In other words, this should be a relatively accurate portrayal of how those in the know view the team. For perspective’s sake, the next lowest win total is 24 for the Orlando Magic, followed by New Orleans at 25 and Sacramento at 29.5. Since these are universally agreed upon as the four weakest teams in the League, a good way to look at whether or not the Bobcats are accurately valued is by simply asking the question – are they better than any of the other bottom three teams? To this I would say…maybe.
I could argue they’ll be better than the gutted Orlando Magic, or possibly even the pass-me-the-ball-so-that-I-can-dribble-and-then-shoot-a-contested-jumper Sacramento Kings. I do not think the Bobcats win more games than the New Orleans Hornets, however. So how do we reconcile the Bobcats projected win total? We take a look back at history. Over the past five full seasons (not including last year’s shortened season), an average of 2.6 teams per season have put up a winning percentage of .268 or less (equating to a 22-60 record or worse), with more than a single team failing to stave off 60 losses or more in each season besides the 06-07 campaign. What does all this mean, you ask? It means that even if the Bobcats are better than one or two teams in the League they’re still likely to win fewer than 22.5 games.
W-L Projection: 20-62