BOBCATS ON COURSE TO REPEAT (LAST SEASON)
The Charlotte Bobcats have played their first first 8 games and have shown their small cult much about what kind of team they will be watching this year. This first stretch of games represents nearly one-tenth of the full 82-game season and their current record looks to fall in line with many of the media projections of about a 30 – 35 win total for the season.
STYLE OF PLAY
Most anyone that’s watched the Cats play this season seems to be struggling to characterize the team and their style of play. Early in pre-season, chatter leaked from the club about pushing the tempo and running a bit on offense to boost their scoring output. As the training camp concluded, it seemed that the team was simply trying to get their players back from injury and everyone adjusted into the mentality that led to their few successes last season. Defense was to be a cornerstone of the Bobcats team play and the offensive formula was trusted to Larry Brown’s basketball genius. So far this season, no one has seen Charlotte exhibit any sort of expertise on offense or defense. The few periods of solid basketball have come in short bursts, while the slumps of poor play have dragged across games.
Seasons ago (Sam Vincent Era), the Bobcats had several talented players but seemed to lack a core identity as a collective unit. During the installation of the Larry Brown scheme, the concerns about the team’s identity were forgotten. Now, in Brown’s second year, that question returns. What kind of basketball team is this? Right now, they are a slow, sloppy, and generally bad NBA product. Coach Brown probably didn’t plan to lead the league in Turnovers and sit last in Field Goal Percentage. These traits don’t really fall into his “Play The Right Way” philosophy.
In brief, the 2009-2010 Bobcats team can be described by their slow-pace, low scoring, consistent turnovers, and lack of on-court leadership. Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton may be team Captains, but their doing little to motivate or assist their partners. The “Right Way” offense lacks any true centerpiece at this point of the season, so defenses have yet to find any difficulty stopping the Bobcats.
THIS SEASON AND BEYOND
For this year and the next few along the horizon, this will be a team and roster in transition. The organization surely wants the club to improve and begin turning some measure of profit. After five years, no one has discovered what it will take to make that happen. Owner Bob Johnson has all but surrendered his efforts to improve the situation and there’s really no need for the Bobcats basketball operations to spend beyond the salary cap to patch this clunker of a team. The Cats should seriously consider any potential option to unload some of their big contract baggage (Mohammed, Diop, Radmanovich, Diaw, Wallace) to pave the way for some future opportunity toward improvement. This year’s team doesn’t look to be on course for that elusive post-season goal, so this would be the period where a team’s organization begins to maneuver for better positioning toward the future.
In the short term, the Cats have several young players that could benefit from their time with Coach Brown. This year or the next may be his last season, so the men that stay with the team after his departure will be young, well-coached, and preparing to hit their prime. Most of the team’s currently trade-able players should benefit from their season with Larry, and continue on toward the peak of their careers with another club. Right now, the organization would do well to get the most in return for their “assets” and begin planning for the future. There are no real stars like Wade, James, Bosh, or Durant on this team on which to build a foundation. Their best bet is to acquire one via trade or free agency in the coming years.
For the long-term, the Bobcats should aim for two big-picture goals. First, they need to get their house in order, financially. This team needs to unload bad deals, even if that means throwing in one of their better players (Bell / Diaw / Wallace). Charlotte’s team is nearly unbearable to watch right now, so they can’t really get any less entertaining this season – can they? Secondly, the team will benefit greatly from the wave of fresh, positive energy with a new ownership group. Though, things won’t magically become prosperous for the Cats once Bob Johnson finds a taker. There’s still a lot of work to be done to create a solid, marketable on-court product. Hopefully, the next owner will be up to the superhuman task of winning the favor of Charlotte’s public (who have outright despised their previous two NBA club owners).
Upon the shock of seeing how disoriented the team looked at the onset of this season, tons of fans have hit their keyboards in order to suggest potential fixes for the team. Most of those suggestions are trades, so it’s worth taking a quick look at what the team has available. With the look of the Cats so far, no one is untouchable. If the Bobcats have any truly desirable assets for other clubs, here’s the top of the list :
Gerald Wallace (Pros : Skills, Stats, Best Talent on the Team / Cons : Big Contract)
Raja Bell (Pros : Great Defender, Expiring Contract / Cons: Serious Injury)
Raymond Felton (Pros : Expiring Contract, Young Guard / Cons : Skill Level)
Boris Diaw (Pros : Shooting, Passing / Cons : Big Contract)
DJ Augustin (Pros : Young, Shooting, Talent, Contract / Cons : Poor Passing, Unproven)
Vladimir Radmanovich ( Pros : Shooting, Size / Cons : Big Contract )