Greatest Bobcat Ever

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BEST-EVER-COVER

The Charlotte Bobcats/Neo-Hornets have been to the post-season twice, being swept both times by a Florida team. They’ve had a single All-Star representative in their 10 years, 1 All-Defensive 1st Team member, 1 Rookie of the Year, 1 All-Rookie 1st Team member, and 5 All-Rookie 3rd Team members. That’s not many accolades for a team that just celebrated its 10th year of existence with a complete rebrand. Reflecting on 10 years of consistently not good basketball naturally leads to debating who has had the best season in that 10 years.

The majority of players that have worn the orange and blue (and the other blue, then the next blue) can be ignored. Tamar Slay (props if you didn’t have to look him up) didn’t exactly set the NBA on fire. The list can be trimmed pretty quickly. A quick Family Feud survey on who the best players in team history are and will return some mix of Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace, Kemba Walker, and Al Jefferson. Jason Richardson’s name will rightfully show up with 1 or 2 votes. If Stephen Jackson showed up, just no. He might make love to pressure, but that stat doesn’t seem to exist anywhere.

The goal is to identify who had the best individual season, regardless of overall team performance. Impact on the team as a whole does matter, just not the final win/loss record. Players won’t be penalized for unluckily ending up on one of the many bad Bobcats rosters or reward Stephen Jackson for being on one of two playoff teams. Individual seasons can be compared using composite ratings such as PER and points per 100 possessions, plus-minus information, tempo adjusted performance rates, and individual play type performance. All stats come from ESPN.com, NBA.com/stats, basketball-reference.com, 82games.com, and mysynergysports.com.

During the research process, it became apparent that it wasn’t fair to single out one season as the best. Too many good and often underrated performances would go unnoticed and since the Bobcats no longer exist (or won’t soon? It seems nobody knows the timetable on this)* they deserve some recognition. Apologies to any that have been missed.

Honorable Mentions

Charlotte Bobcats, 2004-2005

In honor of the re-brand, the entire team gets some space. Brevin Knight led the team with an 18.2 PER, followed by Jason Hart at 16.91. Yes, Jason Hart was an above average NBA player by PER on this team. Jason Kapono shot 41% from deep. Emeka Okafor began his career with an impressive 16.39 PER and Rookie of the Year award. Aside from gaining cult status over time overshadowed by only Walter Hermann’s hair, Primo Brezec had the best career of his season with a 16.19 PER while averaging a career high 31.6 minutes and 13 points per game. Melvin Ely was on the team. Apparently Steve Smith was too, shooting 42% on three and 87% from the line then calling it quits because NBATV money is better than wearing yourself out on an expansion team. Eddie House posted a 15.88 PER while averaging 11.1 points and shooting 41.4% from downtown (this team sure had a lot of shooting… that must have been nice). Jahidi White had a 17.5% usage rate for some reason, along with an 18.2% turnover rate. Bernard Robinson scored 18 points in Madison Square Garden, the ultimate King Maker Arena. Gerald Wallace began his ascension, posting a 14.12 PER in more than triple the minutes from his previous season. Tamar Slay finished his final NBA season with a 1.49 PER which may be the lowest in team history if it was worth looking up. And orange jerseys. Because just look at them.

okafor-profileEmeka Okafor, 2008-2009 Season

The adjective for Okafor’s tenure in Charlotte is solid. Never spectacular, never terrible, just consistently solid. That being the case, it’s tough to single out an individual season as the stand-out but, as the onlyRookie of the Year amongst a plethora of failed lottery picks, he deserves to be recognized. Forced to p
ick just one, 2008-2009 comes the closest to a marquee Okafor season. Posting an 18.01 PER, the second highest of his Charlotte tenure, and an offensive rating of 102.2, his highest over that same time period, with a .581 true shooting percentage and a .561 effective field goal percentage, this was his best offensive season. Defensively he was solid as ever with the Bobcats being 4.3 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor. While he pales in comparison to Dwight Howard who was drafted just before him, Okafor was a solid rim protector and a decent offensive option, something Charlotte could definitely use behind Al Jefferson right now.

Jason Richardson Illustration by Mike SJason Richardson, 2007-2008

Richardson’s tenure in Charlotte was (too) short, but merits a mention. With a PER of 18.6 and an offensive rating of 103, he was one of the best offensive players the Bobcats have seen. He got torched on defense, but a player that shoots 40.6% from 3 has been a rarity in the Queen City over the past 10 years. It would have been interesting to see that team develop with a decent coach. Instead J-Rich got shipped out to Phoenix for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw and the rest is painful, eye gouging, Larry Brown hating history.

Adam Morrison, 2006-2007

Haha. Just kidding.

kemba-sketch-01

Kemba Walker, 2013-2014

Kemba is a key piece of the Charlotte Hornets moving forward and has been worthy of the 9th pick in the 2011 draft. It would be easy to select 2012-2013 as his best season as he improved his shot selection and had easily his best shooting percentages in his (extremely) short career thus far. It’s hard to disentangle Kemba’s performance from Al Jefferson’s in 2013-2014, but that’s the beauty of what he’s done this past season. Walker has been the number one option on every team he’s played. He’s been expected to create shots for himself first and involve his teammates second. This is delving into “intangibles,” but Kemba’s ability to change his mindset and learn to play with a post player was impressive. While his shooting percentages regressed, his assist ratio improved and turnover rate dropped. Defensively he had his best season with a 99.1 rating and 3.3 defensive win shares, continuing to block shots and get steals with his quickness and athleticism and rebounding well for a small guard. His biggest defensive concern is his size, yet in isolation plays the opposing player scored .73 points per possession on 31.6% shooting. He’s doing just fine. Plus/Minus stats aren’t particularly helpful here because Luke Ridnour was the backup for 1/3 of the season and Ramon Sessions is a known terrible defender. Kemba’s future is bright as he had arguably his best season yet even if it wasn’t a massive statistical improvement on his 2nd season.

Al Jefferson illustration by Mike S.3. Al Jefferson, 2013-2014

Jefferson came to Charlotte and made an immediate impact, leading the team to the playoffs and even receiving MVP votes. This speaks to the dearth of centers in the league and the massive improvement in the Bobcats record from 2012 to 2013, more than doubling wins. This is not to diminish his accomplishments. Jefferson is a low post savant that found a way to be competent on defense in a way he hadn’t been at any other point in his career. Jefferson posted the highest PER in team history at 22.7. He was the focus of the offense and the main focus of defenses every night, allowing other guys to find their spots. Despite all that attention, his effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage were the 3rd best of his career at 53.2% and 51%, respectively. Jefferson had the highest assist percentage in his 10 years at 12.8%, a welcome improvement in his game. All of this while posting his highest usage percentage ever at 29.3%. He also had his best defensive rebounding percentage at 28.2%, an important part of finishing defensive possessions. Defensively he was solid, helping hold opposing players to less than 1 point per possession in all significant play types (play types run more than 40 times). He struggled with stretch 5’s like Chris Bosh as they shot 40.7% on 3’s in spot up situations, but that’s a concession that has to be made given Al’s physical limitations defensively. All in all, Al Jefferson had an excellent season relative to both his career and the Bobcats history, with defense being a particular bright spot considering his reputation.

2. Gerald Wallace, 2009-2010

The 2009-2010 season was the year of Crash. He earned the Bobcats first and only All-Star appearance (including a lackluster, at best, appearance in the dunk contest) while earning All-Defensive 1st Team honors and finishing third in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He also lead the Bobcats to their first ever playoffs appearance. He had no chance at an All-NBA team due to the glut of quality wing players in the league, but that shouldn’t take away from a great season. Based on accolades, this was easily Wallace’s best season and the best individual Bobcats season. He was a defensive beast, averaging 1.5 steals, 1.1 blocks, and 10 rebounds per game with a defensive rating of 100. Overall, Charlotte was a great defensive team and with Wallace on the court they were 1 point per 100 possessions better than when he rested. Offensively, Wallace was solid. He averaged 18.2 points per game, the highest of his career, while shooting 37% from three, a major outlier in his career, and 48.4% overall to go with 10 rebounds and 2 assists. All of this playing a career high 41 minutes per game, often at power forward (not his preference). In the team context, Wallace was a net positive on both offense and defense, though not significantly so. The team was .7 points per 100 possessions better on offense and 1 point better defensively, as noted previously. Why is this not the best season in Bobcats history?

BEST-EVER

1. Gerald Wallace, 2008-2009

While the awards came in the 2009-2010 season, Wallace’s reputation in the league was established in the prior season. That season he had the second highest PER of his career at 18.64. His offensive rating was 101.7, better than his All-Star season.  While his raw stats aren’t as impressive as that season, he played 3.4 minutes less per game, averaging 37.6 minutes. Efficiency is what sets this season apart from that season. Per 36 minutes his scoring average was almost identical at 15.9 in ‘08-‘09 and 16.0 in ‘09-‘10. Despite the unexpected 3 point efficiency the next year, his overall shooting efficiency was also close with true shooting percentages of 58.5% and 58.6% and effective field goal percentages of 50.4% and 51.1% (this is where the 3 point shooting shows itself). He was able to make up for the 3 point shooting by being better at the free throw line, 80.4% to 77.6%, and better from 2 point range, 51.5% to 50.3%. Wallace also had a 12.4% assist rate in ‘08-‘09 but only 9% in ‘09-‘10, all to go with a better turnover rate in the prior season at 12.8% vs 13.1%. All of this offense came at a slightly higher usage rate, going from 20.5% to 20.3%. If these minor differences seem like splitting hairs, it’s because that is exactly what differentiating these 2 seasons is.

The defensive side of the ball is the real clincher.  In that season the team was 7.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court. While individual defensive efficiency can be noisy, that difference is enough to have merit. The defense was anchored by Emeka Okafor who posted a solid 102.3 defensive rating with a defensive +/- of -4.3, but the effect Wallace had from a wing position is extremely impressive. On the court, the Bobcats had the 7th most efficient defense in the league. With him off the court, they had what would have amounted to the 29th best defense. Wallace posted a better steal rate (2.5% to 2.0%) and equivalent block rate (2.1% to 2.2%) in ’08-’09. This was a significantly worse defensive team overall, ranking 14th overall as compared to 1st the following year, but Wallace certainly wasn’t the problem. While the ’08-’09 and ’09-’10 seasons could essentially be combined in regards to defensive and offensive performance, 2008-2009 wins out by virtue of the “doing more with less” axiom. This all comes down to a matter of opinion. You can’t go wrong with either season. Just know that Gerald Wallace is the King of the Queen City. All hail Crash.

*Sadly this joke died as the Charlotte organization has announced the name change will take place on May 20th.

-Bradford Coombs

 


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Charlotte Bobcats Draft Retrospective | Part Two

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Editor’s Note: In Honor of the June 13, 2014 Charlotte Hornets re-organization news, the Baseline presents an updated, re-published account of the entire Rod Higgins era.

Part One | Part Three

Part Two: ’07-’09 The Friends of Michael Era

On May 31st, 2007 Bobcats expansion architect Bernie Bickerstaff stepped down as both coach and general manager, replaced by former Golden State executive and longtime “friend of Michael” Rod Higgins. Higgins would preside over the next four Charlotte drafts to mostly awful results though it must be noted that many of his personnel moves were likely at the behest of either an absentee Jordan or a certain kvetchy, neurotic head coach. As with Bickerstaff, Higgins’ tenure started out decent enough but nosedived fast.

The 2007 Draft: Brandon Wright PF UNC, Jared Dudley SF Boston College, Jermareo Davidson C Alabama.

Wright (8th overall selection) never played a minute in Charlotte as Higgins used his connections with the Warriors to engineer a Draft Day trade. In exchange, the Bobcats received their biggest “name” player to date, Jason Richardson. A hyper-athletic, sweet shooting two guard, “JRich” had missed a big chunk of games during the Warriors’ Playoff run the previous season and coupled with the sudden emergence of Monta Ellis, was deemed expendable by Golden State management.

With the 22nd overall selection (from TOR via CLE) the Cats picked up blue collar small forward Jared Dudley. Jermareo Davidson, a 2nd round pick selected one spot ahead of future Bobcat Josh McRoberts, was sent to Charlotte as part of the Richardson deal.

How It Played Out: At the time the JRich trade made all kinds of sense for Charlotte. First, having whiffed on Brandon Roy in the ’06 Draft, the Cats desperately needed a floor spacing, high scoring two guard to pair with Gerald Wallace. Second, they needed someone who was ready to do this immediately as both Emeka Okafor and Wallace were already in their mid-20s primes. Finally, the local fanbase hadn’t exactly come out full force for a no-name, no-win team and needed someone at least vaguely recognizable as an NBA player to get excited about.

Jason Richardson Illustration by Mike S

As a two-time Slam Dunk champion and 20ppg scorer, Richardson was exactly what the doctor ordered. He started all 82 games for the Bobcats that season, averaging 21.8ppg on 44% shooting and a phenomenal 40% from downtown — phenomenal because he shot 599 threes on the year, making 243 of them (that’s more than Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon hit combined during the ’12-’13 season). Richardson rebounded at a high rate (5.4 per), made some spectacular dunks and played hard every night. So why aren’t we talking about JRich as one of the all-time great Charlotte ballers? The answer to that question is precisely what has plagued the Bobcats franchise from the beginning: coaching and management instability.

Earlier that summer, following the departure of Bickerstaff, Jordan began a search for what he called “the next Avery Johnson“, a former player, ideally a point guard, who could relate to and inspire young prospects to win big. His choice was Sam Vincent, yet another former teammate, whose biggest head coaching gig to date was with the Nigerian Women’s National Team. I swear I didn’t make that up. Vincent’s lone season with the Cats went much as you’d expect and less than a year later Jordan replaced Vincent with (very) old chum Larry Brown.

Cut to December 10, 2008: Larry Brown so despised Richardson’s efficient (18.6 PER), exciting all-around game that he sent Jason and promising youngster Dudley (aka the Bobcats entire 2007 Draft) to the Phoenix Suns for role players Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. Despite Richardson’s outstanding first season in the QC, the Cats class of ’07 never really had a chance to shine.

How it Should Have Played Out: It’s easy to say that Charlotte should have kept the 8th pick and selected Florida center Joakim Noah, who went one selection later to the Bulls. But at the time the organization was committed to Okafor long term and there were major questions regarding Noah’s role in the pro game. Had the organization resisted overpaying Emeka (again, they bid against themselves) and not kowtowed to Larry Brown’s every neurotic wish, Okafor would likely still be manning the middle for Charlotte today as a solid Top-15 NBA center. Had the organization stuck with their strategy and either retained Bickerstaff or hired a competent head coach who could work with the roster he was given, the JRich Draft Day trade would look a lot better in retrospect and it’s likely Richardson’s name would be synonymous with the franchise as much as Wallace’s has. The organization could have also given Dudley at least another year or two to blossom before trading him for a greater return.

2007 Draft Fun Fact 1: To date, only two of the twelve Bobcat first round draft choices have signed rookie deal extensions: Okafor and Dudley. That pretty much says all you need to know about the Charlotte Bobcats as a franchise.

2007 Draft Fun Fact 2: The Bobcats are so bad at drafting that picking Dudley one spot ahead of Wilson Chandler isn’t even worth mentioning. Just a run of the mill Bobcat screwup.

Grade: B+ (for the Draft Day haul), F- (for what they did with it)


The 2008 Draft: D.J. Augustin PG Texas, Alexis Ajinca PF France

Brown was hired just two months before this Draft and had already started making demands on Higgins and Jordan to get the players he wanted. Even though Brown had been both a point guard and a Tar Heel himself, he was not a fan of incumbant starter Raymond Felton and wanted the organization to draft a new point man whom Brown could mold from scratch.

The story is by now infamous. The Bobcats were on the clock with the 9th overall pick and had sent a representitive to the podium to relay the selection of Stanford center Brook Lopez. Larry threw a hissy fit at the very last moment and the pick was changed to Augustin, a five foot ten inch sophmore from Texas. But Larry wasn’t done yet. He was convinced that there would be another quality big available later in the first round so urged the Cats to make a blind trade with Denver for the 20th overall pick in exchange for a future first rounder. With that selection, Charlotte selected the great French BMX rider Alexis Ajinca.

How It Played Out: Classic Bobcats. They make a mistake and reach for a point guard in ’05 (Felton), assign him three coaches in four years and decide that he’s a bust. Learning nothing from the experience, they use another Lottery pick to reach for another PG (Augustin) three years later which creates an unnecessary controversy that ends up screwing up both of their careers. Presto! Ah-la-ka-FAIL!

D.J. had some nice moments in Charlotte early (43% 3pt FG percentage as a rook) but never really put it together. To the surprise of no one, Augustin’s size was a major liability on defense and unlike the handful of successful small lead guards, D.J. couldn’t finish anything at the rim. Once defenses figured out that Augustin could only punish them on the perimeter, D.J.’s shooting percentages tanked. Four seasons later, he signed on as the Pacers’ backup for the league minimum.

It is an extemely impressive feat that  Alexis Ajinca makes the Bobcats’ Mount Rushmore of terrible draft picks – the exclusive club that it is. What Brown and Higgins saw in Alexis is a mystery: He had no real basketball skills, just a tall lanky man-child who could occasionally hit a jumper. His attitude and work ethic were questioned from the start. Even fellow frenchmen and teammate Diaw seemed to distance himself from the kid. Long story short, Ajinca was jettisoned to Dallas less than three years later as part of the Tyson Chandler reverse salary dump, never to be seen or heard from again.

How it Should Have Played Out: The 2008 NBA Draft may go down as one of the greatest draft classes of all time. We’re only five years in and already have one MVP (Derrick Rose), five All-Stars, at least a dozen legit Playoff-quality starters along with another dozen ten-year career guys. The Bobcats had to try REALLY HARD to screw up a Draft like this – especially since they owned two of the Top 20 picks – yet somehow, some way, Brown and Higgins pulled it off.

Let’s start with the obvious. They should’ve drafted Lopez. It was just as obvious then as it is now: seven footers with skills like Brook’s are a lot rarer than mediocre 5’10” point guards. Case closed. And just how bad was the Ajinca pick? Here are the guys drafted immediately after Alexis: Ryan Anderson, Courtney Lee, Kosta Koufos, Serge Ibaka, Nicholas Batum, George Hill, Darrell Arthur. You could’ve picked a random stranger off the street, blindfolded them and had them throw a dart at the draft board and ended up with a better prospect. So yeah, instead of walking away from the decade’s deepest draft with Lopez/Ibaka, Lopez/Batum or Lopez/Hill, Charlotte reached for two guys who’ll be lucky to total nine seasons in the league combined. There are literally not enough F’s or minus signs I can give this debacle.

GRADE: F—————


The 2009 Draft: Gerald Henderson SG Duke, Derrick Brown SF Xavier

How It Played Out: Whoa! What’s this? Did the Bobcats find a way to not completely blow a Draft???!!! While I would’ve loved to have seen the team make an aggressive move up to take homegrown Steph Curry (7th overall), staying put at pick 12 and landing Gerald Henderson was as big a Draft win as this organization has had since its inception (a sad truth). Sure, passing on Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson subtracts some points but the Cats already had two Lotto PGs on the roster and needed some youth at the wings. The best part about Henderson is that he was likely the organization’s second choice as rumors before the draft had Larry Brown very high on Louisville’s Terrence Williams (of course he was). Thanks to former Nets GM Rod Thorn, T-Will went 11th and the Cats dodged a major bullet.

This July, Henderson may very well be, wait for it, the THIRD Bobcats draft pick to sign a rookie deal extension!* It probably won’t be with Charlotte but beggars can’t be choosers. While it’s doubtful Henderson ever earns a trip to an All-Star game, as a plus defending, Rip Hamilton-lite, Gerald has become an honest to goodness NBA player.

*Editor’s Note: Henderson did indeed sign an extension later that summer (3yrs, $18m) – thus becoming the SECOND ever Bobcat draft pick to sign an extension with the team.

It didn’t start out that way. Coach Brown, likely still bummed that he didn’t get T-Will, benched Henderson for most of his rookie season while 2nd Rounder Derrick Brown stayed in the rotation. Midway through year two Coach Brown was ousted and “Hendo” saw his playing time double under new coach Paul Silas. In years three and four, Henderson was a proud co-Captain of Team Tank, providing some of the era’s rare highlights. His reward? At least $5-6 million annually from someone this July. Nice work Gerald, you’ve earned it!

How it Should Have Played Out: Ideally, the team would’ve used the 2010 pick that they swapped for Alexis Ajinca to trade up five spots for Steph Curry. One can only imagine how the QC’s favorite hoops son would’ve have ignited the fanbase new and old. Watching Steph swish deep threes while wearing his dad’s old Hornets #30 would’ve made even the most hardened of Charlotte NBA fans misty. Actually, no, don’t imagine it. It’ll just make you sad. And then angry. And then sad all over again.

GRADE: B


Rock Bottom

In May of 2010, the Charlotte Bobcats made their first ever Playoff appearance. The series wasn’t competitive – they were swept by the Orlando Magic in four games – but young franchises traditionally celebrate their initial break-throughs into the post-season, toasting their efforts as the first of many appearances to come. But this wasn’t the case with the Bobcats at all. In fact, the appearance signaled the beginnings of a very dark time in Queen City hoops history. A time the franchise is still mired in today.

In order to achieve their lone Playoff cameo, Michael Jordan and Rod Higgins had sacrificed the franchise’s future with short-sighted, cap-killing trades and draft pick give-aways while handing over whatever talent that was left to a senile phony of a head coach primed for sabotage. Suddenly, all of the franchise’s past blunders would collide, setting them on a collision course with rock bottom.

The 2010 Draft: No Pick.

How It Played Out: Want to know how the Charlotte Bobcats became the national laughingstock they are today? Let’s take a short detour back to the year 2010 and see how Jordan & Higgins demolished the franchise’s future in Four Easy Steps…

STEP ONE: The Bobcats didn’t have a first round draft pick that year because they had traded it two seasons earlier for Alexis Ajinca.

STEP TWO: The team traded ANOTHER future first round pick at the Trade Deadline for Tyrus Thomas. And since you can’t trade a future first round pick for a restricted free agent then have him walk, MJ and Higgins promptly signed Thomas to a 5-year $40 million contract that July.

STEP THREE: The Tyrus contract was bad news for 2005’s fifth overall pick (and starting point guard) Raymond Felton. The team was in major cap trouble and had another Lottery point guard (D.J. Augustin) already on the payroll. Just five years earlier the team had choosen the Felton/Sean May combination over Chris Paul and now both were gone via free agency netting zero compensation in return.

STEP FOUR: Having dedicated over half of their cap space to the legendary likes of Gana Diop, Nazr Mohammed, Boris Diaw and the noveau riche Tyrus Thomas, Jordan & Higgins decided to make a final major move to trim salary. Their solution: Trade Tyson Chandler to Dallas for the instant cap relief of Erick Dampier’s unguaranteed contract and over $20 million worth of Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera. The trade was ridiculed from the moment it happened and only looks worse with time. Let’s break it down:

Jordan & Higgins had painted themselves into such an unnecessary salary corner over the years that they had to choose Diop and Mohammed over future Defensive Player of the Year Chandler. That’s a tragically terrible move on its own but IN ADDITION to this devestation, they were somehow talked into taking on three more years of dead-weight, end-of-the-bench salary in the forms of Carroll and Najera. The trade was so lopsided that it actually swung an NBA Championship ten months later. It was simply the worst transaction in franchise history (which is no small feat) and possibly the league’s worst trade since Boston’s McHale/Parish heist of Golden State thirty-five years earlier.

Now back to the 2010 Draft…

How It Should Have Played Out: Had the Bobcats not traded their pick, they would have selected 16th overall. Kevin Seraphin, Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley were picks 17, 18 and 19 respectively. None are likely to be All-Stars but each is a bonafide rotation player and are drastically more talented and valuable than Alexis Ajinca ever will be. Between his lowly Drafts, questionable trades and a blatant display of nepotism (wasting a roster spot on his son Cory over two seasons), it is absolutely ASTOUNDING that Rod Higgins still has a job in the league – with the same team no less! All I can say is, those compromising photos of MJ better be worth hiding.

GRADE: F- (for the Draft),
F————————————-(for the Higgins Era)


NEXT UP IN PART THREE: MJ HIRES A SMART PERSON TO PRESS RESET!

- AS Chin

Read More:  Charlotte Bobcats Draft Retrospective | Part One


POLL : Best Bobcats Draft Pick

  • Emeka Okafor (9%, 27 Votes)
  • Kemba Walker (62%, 188 Votes)
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11%, 32 Votes)
  • Raymond Felton (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Gerald Henderson (14%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 301

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Bobcats Get Gutsy Overtime Win In Phoenix

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Suns 1/26/10

Running diary-style, like usual for these late-starting Western Conference road games.

The Suns come in 26-20, in 7th place in the Western Conference.  Leandro Barbosa is out after wrist surgery, Grant Hill will sit tonight with a heel, Amare Stoudemire is on the trading block, and I’ll be trying to catch my Gamecocks as they attempt to hang with John Jesus Christ Wall and the Wildcats on ESPN during commercial breaks.  Let’s go.

In pregame, the crew mentions that Boris Diaw still owns a house in Phoenix, and got a haircut in his old hometown today.  What, you can’t get a decent buzzcut in Charlotte?

First Quarter

Well, this is not quite like the start of the last Bobcats/Suns matchup — just 10 days ago at the Cable Box the Cats blitzed the Suns right out of the gates for a 43-22 first quarter on the way to a 125-99 win.  Looking back, that was my favorite home game of the year so far.  Here it’s 33-26 Suns after one — and the Suns are already 4-7 from 3PT range.

Boris led the way for the Cats with 12 points on 5-6 FG in the quarter.

Second Quarter

42-36 Suns, 6:29 left and Amare picks up his 3rd foul and has to come out.  Time for the Cats to make a run, and Jack gets a 3-point play on the ensuing possession — 42-39.

Ooof, after his great start to the season, Nazr Mohammed has really come down to earth over the last week or two.  He’s 0-7 FG right now and I’m actually starting to look forward to seeing Tyson Chandler get back in the lineup.

Nice little kerfluffle between Raymond and Channing Frye as they draw double techs after jawing at each other.  I’d take Raymond in a heartbeat in that one.  Channing Frye does not want any of the pride of Latta, South Carolina.

Well, that’s no good.  Despite holding Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire to a combined 2 points/0-8 FG in the first half, the Cats find themselves down 54-48.  The Suns are 7-15 from 3-point range; the Cats are 0-4.

Meanwhile, Gamecocks/Wildcats is a far more compelling game at this point, despite my Gamecocks’ best efforts to slow the game down and ugly it up.

Third Quarter

Nice little 7-2 push to open the second half for the Cats as they cut the Suns lead to 56-55, but can’t get over the hump and the Suns (Dudley, specifically) hit another three.  And Nash with yet another three, 62-55, just like that.

And now its’ the Bobcats turn to heat up: Jack and Felton with back-to-back threes to cut it to one again — 62-61.  But again they can’t get over the hump with a turnover, then giving up a Stoudemire layup on the other end.

Huge highlight there as Gerald Wallace smokes J-Rich on a behind-the-back-dribble from the left wing, then stuffs it on Stoudemire, who wisely didn’t challenge.

Wow: 8 times tonight the Cats have either cut the lead to one or tied it, only to see the Suns respond with a three.  Amazing, just happened again with Nash, 72-69 Suns.  Suns now 11-20 from three-point distance overall.

Bobcats hanging around – Stephen Jackson with another basket (14 so far this quarter) to make the score 77-73, but Amare gets Gerald back on the other end with big dunk.

Cats can’t break through, but Suns can’t pull away, either. 83-77 after three.  By the way, Stoudemire gets 10 in the quarter, Nash 9 — shoulda kept my mouth shut.

Fourth Quarter

Cats again cut it to one early in the quarter, 83-82, and yet again can’t get a stop on the other end, as the Suns get two straight buckets to bump the lead back out to 87-82.  So frustrating…

And the Cats FINALLY do it.  6 straight to take the lead 88-87 and get a stop on the next possession.  Only to give up back-to-back Nash and Frye threes soon after.  Flip with a three to tie it back up 93-93 — back and forth.  Fun finish on the way?

Gerald Wallace fouls out on a shaky offensive foul call with 3 minutes left.  Ouch.  Derrick Brown will get some key minutes.

Nash killing us here, with a big three, a big two and a steal.  Suns up 3, 98-95 under a minute left.  Jack with a big three!!!  Tie game!!!  Dudley misses a potential game-winner at the buzzer and we’re going to OT – 98-98.  What a finish!

Overtime

The Cats get the first two buckets of OT on a Jack jumper and a Felton drive; meanwhile, they turn up the pressure on the defensive end, getting multiple stops.  Dudley answers with a three to make it 102-101, but Boris turns in two big plays in a row, hitting a runner for 104-101, then blocking Nash’s jumper on the other end.

Flip then gets a huge three for 107-101 to give the Cats some breathing room.  Free throws from here on out could ice it.

And that’ll do it.  Raymond hits 2-2 FT for a 114-109 lead with 9 seconds left; Nash can’t hit and that’s ballgame.

Postmortem

Huge win given the Bobcats’ struggles on the road this year (and combined with the Gamecocks’ upset win over Kentucky, I’ll be sleeping easy tonight).  Even bigger considering that the Cats didn’t ever have a lead in this game until under 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter.  The Cats are now 1-1 on the Western Conference road trip so far, and back to .500 overall (the wallpaper lives another day!).

In overtime, the Cats did a nice job of playing to their strength — they tightened up on defense and forced a couple of turnovers, which led to a big clutch three from Flip to seal the deal.

Jack ended up with 30 points on 11-23 FG/4-8 3PT with 9 rebounds, 5 assists.  Boris gets a double-double with 24 points/11 rebounds, and Gerald had 21/9 before fouling out.

The most glaring differences in the box score are turnovers (Bobcats 12, Suns 18) and points in the paint (Bobcats 54, Suns 36).  The Suns ended with 15 threes to the Bobcats’ 7, but the Cats made up the difference by getting 25-30 FT to the Suns 16-17.

The Cats get a couple days off; next game is Friday night at 10:30 PM ET against the Warriors.  I would say “let the slobbering over Steph Curry by the Charlotte media begin” but it already has.

-Dr. E

Charlotte Bobcats Season In Review – Part 3

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Trades & Acquisitions

The All New, All Improved Bobcats

Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Vlad Radmanovic

The Charlotte Bobcats made three major in-season trades during the ’08-’09 season involving eleven different players. Coupled with the free agent signings of Juwan Howard, Cartier Martin and assorted other D-Leaguers, Charlotte suited up a total of 24 players – most in the League. One anonymous fan commented on SI.com that “the Bobcats make more roster moves than a fantasy team.” It sure seemed that way.

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WTF is going on in Phoenix?

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1.  First of all, they’ve clumsily broken up the most fun basketball team in recent memory (D’Antoni’s Seven Seconds or Less squad).  They brought on the wrong coach, and fired him after half the season (eating $4 million in the process).  They’ve made Steve Nash borderline depressed by trading away his buddy Raja.  And now, depending on owner Robert Sarver’s mood (and portfolio) swings, they’ve been strongly considering trading their 24-year-old superstar, Amare Stoudemire.  (UPDATE, probably not.)  What a mess — Steve Kerr (and Sarver) are like bulls in a china shop.

2.  Then, they hosted a totally lame All-Star Weekend.  Granted, the crummy economy had a lot to do with this, but still.

3.  Now comes word that former Bobcat/now Sun Jason Richardson has racked up his second driving-related arrest since being traded.  Just one week after the trade, J-Rich got pulled over for a DUI.  But on All-Star night he got pulled in Scottsdale doing 90 mph in a 35 mph zone… with his 3 year old son unrestrained in the back seat!

What the hell is going on?  That J-Rich for Bell/Diaw trade is looking better by the day.  In all seriousness, I hope everything’s OK with J-Rich.

4.  And to top it all off, Suge Knight got beat up while in Phoenix for All-Star Weekend!

It’s like Bizarro World — what are they putting in the water out there?

-E

Baseline Observations : Suns vs Bobcats 1.23.09

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Bobcats defeat the Phoenix Suns - Friday 1.23.09

The Charlotte Bobcats blew out the Phoenix Suns 98 – 76.  [ Recap and Box Score ] A huge win in front of a good crowd on a Friday night.  The Bobcats seemed to have played beyond their potential on both sides of the court and secured the game early.  More impressive than the huge win, was the style and continued effort that they exercised until garbage time in the fourth.

The main draw going into the game was the story of the traded players facing their previous teams, the Suns with JRich seem to be slipping lately and the Bobcats have experienced an infusion of a winning mentality with Boris Diaw and Raja Bell.  The secondary draw for the game was the “Nascar Night” theme at the arena.  The Bobcats partner with Nascar for a series of cross-promotional events and this is the Bobcats opportunity to pull in some of the dollars that Nascar generates from its supporters.  Annually, the Cats sport a “checkered stripe” jersey with some alternate lettering on their blue alternates.  This is horrible look but if the jerseys help the team play like they did Friday, no one would complain.

The game started off like any other – some back and forth between the teams as they worked to figure each other out.  Then, slowly the Bobcats started to eliminate any offensive opportunity by the Suns.  The once “high octane” Phoenix Suns had only 13 points after the first quarter.  The second quarter started with Phoenix putting the ball right into the paint for Shaq.  It seemed as if the game played out just as Larry Brown had planned.  Sure, Diop and Mohammed were stiffs and made Shaq look like his days with the Magic.  Still, the Bobcats had enough of a lead to make that slow pace of play ineffective if they kept trading shots.  The Cats played almost like a football strategy at that point.  They allowed the Suns do their slow inside work, but none of the fast paced scoring ever got rolling.  Charlotte played the best 3 quarters of basketball anyone had seen them play and the game was decided before the final quarter had begun.

As for the traded players, Raja Bell did a great job of containing Jason Richardson and Boris Diaw had a stellar performance against the team that benched him.  J Rich hit a few difficult three pointers, but it felt like the way he scored for the Cats – Wow, he hit that, now they’re only down by 15!  As a whole the Bobcats just played smarter and were led by Gerald Wallace, who excelled in every part of his game last night.  Wallace slashed by the Suns on several drives and hit a couple three pointers within a span of a minute that just squashed the Suns’ momentum.  G-Force took part in the Bobcats’ collective effort to force a load of turnovers and keep the Suns desperate to catch up.

The free agent signing of Juwan Howard was a solid move, but the rest of the bench really contributed little.  Adam Morrison seems to have no place on offense, although that is supposedly his strength.  Desagana Diop still need some time to become productive with the Bobcats.  At this point, he’s more useful than Ryan Hollins and the team won’t waste offensive possessions on him like they did Matt Carroll.  From here, he can only improve.  Just after the Phoenix trade, many argued that the Cats would miss a lot with the departure of Jared Dudley.  From the looks of Dudley’s prime garbage time stretch, that’s hardly the case since the swap.

The Bobcats are now 7 games below .500 and talking about reaching for one of the last Playoff spots.  If they play nearly this strong for the rest of the season, there’s a real chance that this will be the year that the Cats suit up for the postseason.

Bobcats Trade Rumor: Felton to Dallas?

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What Felton and May get you these days...

Another month, another weird trade rumor.  This one has some serious legs apparantly as the ‘Cats were all but ready to send Raymond Felton, Sean May and Nazr Mohammed to Dallas in a three team deal that would return Thunder backup PG Earl Watson and Mavs backup C Desagna Diop to Charlotte.  ESPN.com’s Mark Stein reports that the deal is currently “dormant” and that once DJ Augustin returns from his “abdominal strain/sports hernia” the deal may go down.

Some quick thoughts on the potential trade:

1. I really hate to keep bringing this up but if Felton/May get dealt together in this trade, we’re basically saying that instead of trading the two (as the 5th and 13th pick in the 2005 draft) for Portland’s #3 pick that year (your choice of Chris Paul or Deron Williams), we’ll instead hold on to them for four modestly-to-completely unproductive seasons and then unload them to Dallas for DeSagna-freakin’-Diop.  You gotta love being a Bobcats fan.

2. That said…this deal could turn out to be somewhat positive for the Bobcats.  If DJ is your man at the point for the future, then you could do a lot worse than Earl Watson.  The 29 year old has pretty much equaled Raymond’s PER over 7 years in the League and is more accustomed to playing in a backup capacity.  At $6.2mil and $6.4mil over this season and next, he’s paid about $2mil more this year than Raymond but he’ll come off of the books completely before the summer of 2010.  Yeah, Earl won’t provide the “heart” that Ray Felton has brought over the last four seasons in Charlotte but he won’t provide any of the “I’m going to drive to the hole at the end of the game indescriminately and throw up a shot and see what happens” as well.  We all like Raymond but his leaving the team won’t be as big of a hole as some might think.

3. DeSagana Diop coming to the ‘Cats is both a plus and a minus.  On the plus side, he provides a very good defensive presence in the lane as a backup C or together with Emeka when the team plays against the likes of the Cavs, etc.  Yeah, his offense sucks, but I’ll take 82 games of Diop playing defense and altering shots over Nazr laboring and incessantly fouling any day.  On the minus side, Diop’s contract is for roughly the same amount per year as Nazr’s but with 2 MORE additional seasons.  Not sure if I want to be paying my one-dimensional backup Center $7mil per in 2012 but hell, the world’s going to end in 2012 anyway so may as well go out in style.  Plus, Diop’s only 26 so we’ll only be paying him until he’s 30.

4. Sean May gets to eat all the Tex-Mex his heart desires.  And he can try out East Texas Burger.  As J.T. from “Planet Terror” would say, “Best in Texas, heh-heh.”

5. The minute that the JRICH/Diaw-Bell trade went down everybody from the local Charlotte online forums all the way up to the major sports networks trashed MJ and Coach Brown.  But guess what, since the trade the ‘Cats have played .500 ball, have looked more balanced, hungry and overall more like a pro-team.  So I’m giving LB the benefit of the doubt on this one.  He clearly sees that DJ is PG to run the show when the game is on the line and that getting another 7′ foot/280lb shot-blocker in the process is going to make the team that much more defensively capable.

Take a look at Boris Diaw’s post trade numbers btw.  Bell‘s too.  Now compare that to JRICH.

The Suns are getting around 17pts, 4 boards, and 2.5 assists per.  The ‘Cats get back a combined 25pts, 7.5 assists and 10 boards.  Not too shabby.

6. DIRECTION:  With all of this, we’re still looking at the ‘Cats building around Okafor, Augustin, Diaw, and (if he doesn’t get traded) G-Force.  They’ll have a decent bench with pro-depth and around $20mil to spend come 2010 if they can recruit someone to come play in Charlotte.  Hardly “State of Suck” worthy in my estimation.

-ASChin