The Charlotte Bobcats (44-38), under the direction of coach Larry Brown, finished fourth in the Southeast and seventh in the East last season. It was their first time in the postseason. The Cats met the Orlando Magic in the initial round of the playoffs and lost to them in four straight. That was a stellar season for a team that was overall mediocre. Can master coach Larry Brown get this year’s Bobcats back to the postseason? One thing is for sure—doing so won’t be easy.
Small forward Gerald Wallace (.484 FG%, .371 3PT%, .776 FT%, 10.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, 18.2 PPG), who is in his 10thseason, is the best weapon this team has in the frontcourt. Along with being an accurate shot, he’s a solid defender, averaging 1.54 STL and 1.09 BLK. At six-foot, 10 inches, center Nazr Mohammed (.553 FG%, .000 3PT%, .648 FT%, 5.2 RPG, 0.5 APG, 7.9 PPG) is undersized. His best weapon last was his potent inside shot. But since last season was an anomaly, there are doubts that he can convert on over 50% of his tries once again this season. The power spot is manned by seven-year veteran Boris Diaw (.483 FG%, .320 3PT%, .769 FT%, 5.2 RPG, 4.0 APG, 11.3 PPG). The frontcourtis solid but not spectacular, but there’s little depth.
Last year, point guard D.J. Augustin (.386 FG%, .393 #PT%, .779 FT%, 2.4 APG, 6.4 PPG) had a rough second season as coach Larry Brown was unhappy with the young athlete. His production fell off from 11.8 PPG and 3.5 APG as a rookie to 6.4 PPG and 2.4 APG. Shaun Livingston (.517 FG%, .000 3PT%, .875 FT%, 3.6 APG, 6.9 FG%), also a point man, was productive despite a nagging knee injury. If he’s healthy, he has great potential to be a solid scorer. Stephen Jackson (.423 FG%, .328 3PT%, .779 FT%, 5.0 RPG, 1.63 STL. 3.7 APG, 20.6 PPG) is a solid shooting guard with a decade of experience. He’ll be backed up by former Duke guard Gerald Henderson (.356 FG%, .211 3PT%, .745 FT%, 0.3 APG, 2.6 PPG). Henderson played sparingly in 43 games last season for the Bobcats.
Charlotte was one of the least effective teams on offense last season as they posted an Offensive Efficiency mark of 101.5 (24th). Mohammedled the team with a Player Efficiency Rating of 19.64. This was not a team that excelled in scoring. One reason was their propensity for turning the ball over.
The Cats led the league in percentage of possessions that ended in turnovers (16.8%). It’s tough to score and be efficient when you’re handing the ball back to the opposing team. They also led the league in own shots blocked (8.0%). One major problem for the team this year is age. Wallace and Jackson, who are 29 and 33 respectively, were fifth and fourth in time spent playing last year. They were important contributors but can they put in the same amount of time this year?
The amazing thing about the team was that they led the NBA in Defensive Efficiency (100.2). What’s impressive about that is that the Bobcats don’t have a massive defensive presence. They achieved this by causing opponents to turnover the ball on 16.4% of their possessions. That was third in the league. Also, although they allowed the most threes of any club, opponents connected on just 33.8% of those attempts. In other words, the Bobcats were giving other teams some of the toughest three-point shots there are.
This Cat’s biggest strength is head coach Larry Brown. Brown has made some mistakes by investing in aging players who are about to see the wheels come off, but he is a master at getting the most out of what he has. This season will probably call for his very best juggling efforts as there’s not much upfront, the bench is thin and guys are simply slowing down. Also, there’s not enough young talent with go-to potential. This is Brown’s eighth NBA team and he has one championship to his credit. Don’t expect another this year.
The Charlotte Bobcats will most likely sit out the playoffs this year. There’s just too much working against them. The “D” is still very good but you have to wonder who’s going to put points on the board? However, there is good news.
First, Michael Jordan’s ownership group is solid and committed. Second, Brown certainly knows what he’s doing. If the Cats can get into the postseason a second time, and with that a second straight time, that will help establish the team in fan’s hearts and heads. That’s a mighty big “if.” The reality is look for about 14 more loses, fourth place in the division and 12th in the conference.
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