Are the Bobcats a Playoff Team?

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Bobcats Illustration by Mike S.

Last season we saw an aging and aching Boston squad hobble into the post-season as a 41-win seventh seed while the oddball mix of young talent in Milwaukee did just enough things right to default into the eight spot. With both of these franchises taking a clear step back this summer, which 2013 Lotto teams will rise up to take their place in the Eastern Conference Playoffs?

SEEDS 1-4 | The Locks – Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Nets

Miami are the champs and didn’t get appreciably worse. Indy pushed the Heat to seven games and that was before massively upgrading their bench. Chicago gets their former MVP back. Brooklyn added two Hall of Famers to a roster that already looked like the Casual Fan All-Star team. Chisel these four into your 2014 Eastern Conference bracket.

SEEDS 5-6 | One Catastrophe Away – Knicks, Hawks

If Carmelo Anthony or Tyson Chandler miss any major amount of time, the Knicks are toast. Same goes for Atlanta if either Al Horford or Jeff Teague go down. Barring disaster however, both of these rosters are strong enough to secure a playoff spot in the East.

SEEDS 7-8 | The Best of the Rest – Pistons, Wiz

The last two Eastern Conference Playoff Spots are theirs to lose: Detroit just dropped all that Corey Maggette cap money on Josh Smith, then upgraded Brandons (Knight to Jennings) – they seem hell-bent on forcing that Top 8 protected pick they owe Charlotte out of the Lottery. The Wizards were 24-25 when John Wall played last year and are banking on their max-man to finally stay healthy (though he’s never played more than 69 games in a season).

THE ALTERNATES | If Everything Goes Right – Cavs, Raptors, Bobcats

I’m assuming the Celtics are all in on The Wiggins Lottery and that Milwaukee’s ever increasing oddball roster won’t have enough offensive firepower to stay in close games (although the young defenders along the frontline are very intriguing). That leaves us with…

Toronto. Rudy Gay and Demar Derozan are talented, high-usage scorers but will need to establish a pecking order and get others involved. Summer League MVP Jonas Valanciunas could be a beast in the middle and last year’s Lotto Pick Terrence Ross could morph into Klay Thompson East. The Raps notched 34 victories last season despite having to incorporate Gay on the fly. They’re the most likely candidate to jump into the eight seed should one of the above franchises stumble.

Cleveland wants to put the post-Lebron Lottery days behind them but the Cavs only won three more games than the Bobcats last season – astounding when you factor in Charlotte’s paper-thin front court and coaching problems – and the jump from 24 to 40 wins is rarely made without adding a superstar. If the ramshackle center duo of Anderson Varajao and Andrew Bynum can’t synchronize their annual injured reserve stints, Cleveland will struggle to reach the post-season

Finally, we have our beloved Proto-Hornets in Charlotte. Coming off a tremendous offseason that saw the team massively upgrade their coaching staff and front-court, Kemba & The Gang will likely surprise many by actually competing on a nightly basis. The addition of Al Jefferson will aid in Walker’s transition from dynamic scorer to dynamic point guard. Jefferson and Cody Zeller’s inside/out abilities will free up driving lanes for the still 19-year old Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Both the coaches and reserves on the Bobcat bench are the strongest in franchise history. These are all signs for optimism should everything come together.

Unfortunately, the interior defense is a major question mark and the Cats’ two strongest defenders (MKG, Bismack Biyombo) are liabilities on the other side of the ball. Also, the bulk of the team’s core is still incredibly young and inexperienced.

Given the talent parity in the East’s muddy middle, it’s unlikely Charlotte will make the post-season jump this season – but that’s probably not the team’s plan anyway. A successful 30-34 win campaign combined with at least two (potentially three) 2014 first round picks, $10-$12 million in cap space and another year of growth under a legit coaching staff should be more than enough fuel to launch the ’14-’15 Charlotte Hornets into the Playoffs and keep them there for a while. UNLESS…

A ‘James Harden Scenario’ Appears

If Charlotte shocks everyone by playing .500 or so ball by the All-Star break and a disgruntled All-Star becomes available (Lamarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, ???), the Cats have enough in the war chest to out-bid anyone. Large expiring contract? Check. Enticing 2014 First Round Picks? Check. Young prospects on cheap rookie deals with some upside? Check. In this kind of James Harden scenario, Charlotte could certainly separate themselves from the middle of the pack ahead of schedule and find themselves playing meaningful games next April.

-ASChin
@BobcatsBaseline

 


POLL : Will The Bobcats Make The Playoffs?

  • Yes, Easily (14%, 37 Votes)
  • Just Barely Get In (29%, 78 Votes)
  • Close, But No Cigar (29%, 79 Votes)
  • No Way (16%, 42 Votes)
  • Hope Not (12%, 32 Votes)

Total Voters: 268

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WHICH BOBCATS ARE PLAYOFF MATERIAL?

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January 19th, 2013. It was Saturday evening in Austin, Texas. Though there were plenty of interesting things to do in and around the nation’s live music capitol, my brother and I decided to dedicate our night to watching a crappy Bobcats team take on a slightly less crappy Sacramento Kings team via League Pass. Questionable lifestyle decisions aside, we were at least prepared: half a pint of Stoly in the freezer for me, a couple of hipster approved craft brews for my bro. At somepoint in the 3rd quarter, fueled by booze and Mike Dunlap’s putrid offense, the following question was asked:

“What roles would these Bobcats play on a good team?”

Ultimately, the answer to this question both illustrates the true state of the roster and explains why the team has struggled to a 10-30 record. Let’s begin with the positives.

Players in their Proper Roles

Kemba Walker. Playoff Role: STARTER.
The only guy on the Bobcats roster worth watching for 82 games, Kemba has improved tremendously since last season, notably in the passing game and with his shooting percentage (from 36% to 43%, 46% TSP to 54% TSP). Because he’s not in the Chris Paul-mold some feel that Kemba’s ceiling is limited as an NBA point. I would point out that CP3 built a career tossing alley-oops to Tyson Chandler, David West, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Meanwhile Walker’s been saddled with Bismack Biyombo and hodgepodge of sub-standard offensive bigs. Let’s reserve judgement on Kemba’s playmaking abilities for now. In the meantime, as a tough, scoring lead guard, Kemba is simply awesome to watch.

Brendan Haywood. Playoff Role: BACKUP CENTER.
This is cheating a little since Haywood’s previous gig was as the Backup Center on a Playoff team in Dallas (though Ian Mahimni stole his minutes when it mattered), nonetheless, Brendan’s decent-at-everything approach and low price tag more than qualify him for the role of Playoff team backup center.

Ramon Sessions. Playoff Role: BACKUP POINT GUARD.
The Bobcats may not be a Playoff team but they do have postseason depth at the game’s most important position. Session’s size and play style has proved a nice complement to Walker. Although he’ll never make an All-Defensive team (opposing points have posted a scorching 19.5 PER against him), it’s not for a lack of effort. Surround Sessions with some quality teammates and he’s a solid Playoff third guard.

Players Slightly Miscast

Gerald Henderson. Playoff Role: ???
Henderson’s had a strange season since returning from November’s ankle injury. His career high near fifty percent mark from beyond the arc has been a pleasant surprise (granted he’s only averaging a single attempt per contest) and his mid-range game looks as solid as ever. The problem is that defensively, GH2 has taken a major step back. In his previous two seasons, Gerald’s opponents were managing a paltry 14.0 PER against, establishing Hendo’s reputation as a near lockdown defender in the making. Unfortunately, this season opposing SGs are toasting him: a 20.6 PER against more than negates the positive strides GH2’s made offensively. This is likely an abberation due to Gerald’s foot and back injuries and to the complexities (I’m being nice) of Dunlap’s zone-based defense. Regardless, Henderson is currently not a starter on a Playoff team and given his preference for that gig, I’m not certain what role he would play.

Ben Gordon. Playoff Role: SIXTH MAN.
There are times in which Ben Gordon is the best player on either bench. His gorgeous, high-arching jumper seems to have been gifted to us from the basketball gods. Rising, falling, fading away, every shot born at his fingertips, dying on twine. We knew there would be moments like these (the November near-win in New Orleans is still my favorite) but we also knew there was a reason Detroit gave up a potential lottery pick just to take him off their hands. As an aggregate, Gordon has been consistently solid on offense (24 points/40 on 45% shooting) – a positive but not exactly the type of production you’d want out of a $12 million per year, one-way guy. The advanced stats have him as a net neutral (-0.3) at SG but the eye-test proves that Gordon’s still a major liability on defense (Tyreke Evans abused him for the go-ahead basket last night in one of Dunlap’s most eggregious substition brain-farts of the year). Ideally, Gordon would be the Sixth Man on a strong defensive team with big PGs to pair him with. Returning to Chicago seems the most obvious fit but Ben’s contract may prohibit such a move for the next couple of seasons.

Sofia Coppola in Godfather III (aka Players Absolutely Miscast)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Playoff Role: ROTATION WING.
I’ll keep this short. Remember how slowly Utah developed its 19 year old physical specimen? Well, MKG is the wing-version of Derrick Favors. He should be playing 20 minutes or less a night behind an established, quality veteran and starting in another two or three seasons. At which time, he’ll own the position for a decade. His current mis-assignment as a starter isn’t helping anyone, especially his rep with the fans.

Bismack Biyombo. Playoff Role: RESERVE.
Speaking of having your reputation damaged, perhaps no other Bobcat has taken more internet heat this year than the lovable, mistake-magnet from the Congo. In Biz’s defense, he shouldn’t be starting for any team, Playoff or otherwise. Given the fact that he’s only been playing the game for four years, I’d say he’s made an excellent amount of progress. The problem of course is that he’s simply not NBA ready. He’s a moderately decent defensive center (16.2 PER against) and an atrocious offensive liability. It’s getting to the point where his development is taking a hit due to all that his bad team asks from him. Cho and Dunlap need to huddle and figure out a way to reconcile this before burning him out like a not-ready-for-primetime young quarterback.

Hakim Warrick. Playoff Role: RESERVE
He plays hard but couldn’t crack the New Orleans’ Hornets rotation. Next.

Jeff Adrien. Playoff Role: BOUNCER.
I love Adrien’s effort and throwback game but he wouldn’t sniff a Playoff roster.

Tyrus Thomas. Playoff Role: OPPOSING TEAM’S ROSTER.
A Playoff team would love nothing more than to face off against a lineup that featured Tyrus Thomas, the league’s first player to make a successful comeback following a lobotomy.

Byron Mullens. Playoff Role: BIG MAN ROTATION.
As much as it pains me to admit this, there is a very real chance that Byron Mullens could one day play meaningful minutes on a Playoff team. Certainly not as a starter but as a third or fourth change-of-pace big, sure. Before going down with a gruesome ankle injury last month, Mullens proved that he could rebound at a decent clip (7.8 rpg, 14 r/40) and could occasionally hit an open three. He’ll need to improve his shooting percentages tremendously (37% FG, 30% 3PT) and maintain the growth on defense but given his size and potential offensive abilities, it’s not out of the question Mullens could eventually play the role of a below-the-poverty-line man’s Dirk on a Playoff roster.

-ASChin

The Bobcats and the Playoffs, Redux

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Like the Bobcats actual chances of making the playoffs, the argument about whether they should even be trying to make them isn’t dead yet either.

I appreciate Rick Bonnell’s steady-handed beat writing on the Bobcats for the Charlotte Observer.  But I couldn’t disagree more with his take on the issue, posted on his blog on Monday night after the win over the Bucks.  Rick’s words are in italics:

I got an email today from a reader saying I should stop writing about playoff implications and that the Bobcats would be much better off chasing lottery luck.

Wasn’t me, but it might as well have been.

I get that email a lot, and frankly it disregards how the weighted draft lottery works these days. If you’re one of the last teams to reach the playoffs, you have a miniscule chance of a top-3 pick (about a 1 percent chance for each of those picks).

Frankly, I’m not sure Rick is properly regarding the weighted lottery system.  (Also, I’ll assume he means “If you’re one of the last teams to MISS the playoffs”, otherwise he really doesn’t understand the system.)

Fortunately, I do understand the system and so can you.  It’s all right here on the Wikipedia page for the NBA Draft Lottery.  Scroll down about halfway to the “Process” section — the chart is very helpful in understanding.

Currently, the Bobcats have the 10th worst record in the league.  With Monday night’s win over the Bucks, it’s looking more and more like we’ll be locked in there to finish the season.  The “lottery” is indeed for the top 3 picks.  After that, the remaining non-playoff teams are simply slotted back in their order from worst to “best”.

With the 10th worst record, the Bobcats would have a 1.1% chance of winning the lottery for the #1 pick, a 1.3% chance at the #2 pick, and a 1.6% chance at the 3rd pick.  Another way of looking at it is that there is a total of a 4% chance of moving up into the top 3 picks.  Obviously, the chance that the Bobcats would end up with the 10th pick is overwhelming — 87%.

If the Bobcats could drop down lower than the Bucks (again, unlikely after Monday night) they’d be the 9th worst team.  That gets you a 1.7% chance at the #1 pick, 2.0% for #2, and 2.4% for #3.  Total 5.1% chance of moving up into the top 3 and 81% chance of sitting tight at the 9th spot.

If the Bobcats really got serious about tanking (it’s really not a dirty word — you can say it) they could pass up the Clippers for the 8th worst record in the league.  With that comes a 2.8% chance at the #1 pick, 3.3% for #2, and 3.9% for #3.  Total 10% chance at moving up; 72% chance at staying at #8.

Meanwhile the Bobcats would have a far greater chance (about nine percent) of actually moving DOWN in the draft order.

Yes, if the Bobcats finish in with the 10th worst record, they actually have a 8.9% chance of falling back one spot to the 11th pick (and a miniscule 0.2% chance of falling back two spots to the 12th pick) — that 9% chance represents the sum of the chances of teams 11-14 moving up into the top 3, thus bumping the Cats back.

You know what would DEFINITELY bump the Bobcats draft spot back — all the way to the 15th spot?  Making the playoffs.

And don’t even try to argue that the difference between #10 and #15 isn’t that big of a deal in this mediocre draft.  Not valuing draft picks like that is just the kind of lazy thinking and poor planning that have gotten the Bobcats into the mess they’re in.  (Hey, Adam Morrison!  He’s awesome in college!  3rd pick, you betcha!!!  It’s all a crapshoot anyways!).

Someone a lot smarter than you, I or Rick Bonnell figured out that the average player drafted in the 10th spot is roughly 31% better than the average player drafted in the 15th spot.  Scroll about halfway down the page to figure 7 and table 2 and the following discussion for the meat of the article.

In this particular draft, the 10th spot gives you a shot at getting Brandon Knight or Terrence Jones — guys that still have some star potential.  At #15, you’re looking at names like Jordan Hamilton, Kenneth Faried or John Henson — guys you’re hoping will carve out a spot in your rotation.

The playoffs are fun, and even if they were clobbered in the first round, the Bobcats would gain experience by participating.

Ahh, the tee-ball argument.  Everyone come to the playoffs, its FUN!  I disagree, getting swept/exposed/embarrassed by the Magic was not fun last year, and getting swept/exposed/embarrassed by the Bulls this year wouldn’t be any fun either.  As far as “gaining experience”, name me a player from last years’ squad who seems to have benefitted from the experience of last year’s playoff sweep.

If you have a young, developing team with most of the big pieces in place, then it’s acceptable to gun for the 7th or 8th playoff spot for “the experience”.  Think last year’s Oklahoma City Thunder, or this year’s Memphis Grizzlies.  But not the Bobcats — not a team sorely lacking talent that relies on a 33-year-old volume shooter to be its “star”.

You can’t convince me finishing ninth in the East is better than finishing eighth.

Agree to disagree, then?

And you sure don’t want to send the message to players that losing is ever better than winning.

Completely agree with this. It’s a very delicate issue and probably the strongest argument against tanking.  My only counter is to say that this probably underestimates the intelligence/maturity of the players.  They aren’t in a Disney movie; they know better than anyone that their squad needs an influx of talent to seriously compete.

Treat injuries conservatively and shift minutes to younger players who need the burn anyways.  The players save face while the losses mount.  As long as the locker room chemistry is good (supposedly the case with the Bobcats) there are probably not going to be any serious negative ramifications from a few extra losses to end the season.

Until next time, I’ll be “chasing lottery luck”.

-Dr. E

POLL : This Season: Where Did It Go Wrong?

  • Trading Tyson Chandler for Dampier (39%, 71 Votes)
  • Not Re-Signing Raymond Felton (14%, 26 Votes)
  • Starting Nazr Mohammed (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Firing Larry Brown (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Trading Gerald Wallace (32%, 59 Votes)
  • Re-Signing Tyrus Thomas (6%, 11 Votes)
  • Cutting Sherron Collins (5%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 182

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The Bobcats and the Playoffs

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Today I received an email from the Bobcats.  You see, even though I’m a season ticket holder who’s already re-upped for next season, I haven’t committed to playoff tickets this year — today is the deadline.  It’s easy enough: since I have re-upped for next season, I have the option to “Pay as We Play”, meaning that I’d only be charged after each round (ha! more than one round?) the Cats played in the playoffs.  It would just take a quick phone call to opt in on that plan — why not, right?  But I’ll pass.

I’m hardly risking anything.  But it’s also my quiet (and yes, petty and pointless) protest against the very idea of the Bobcats being in the playoffs this year.  It’s the principle of the matter.

First, the facts.  As of Monday night the Bobcats are tied with the Bucks in ninth place, a full two games behind the 8th place Indiana Pacers, with 13 games left.  Though the Cats have head-to-head matchups remaining with both the Pacers and Bucks, they’ve already blown the season series/tiebreakers with both of those teams.  Other remaining games include Boston and Miami on the road, the Knicks at home, and two matchups with the Magic.

As I post this, ESPN’s John Hollinger’s playoff odds system gives the Bobcats a 16% chance of finishing the season in the 8th spot.  Basketball-Reference.com isn’t even as kind, putting the Cats chances at a meager 9.2%.

Furthermore, the notion that the Bobcats should even be gunning for the 8th playoff spot is ridiculous.  Another sweep, this time by Boston or Chicago? No thanks.

Making the playoffs would also lock the Bobcats into the #15 pick in this year’s draft, while missing out will probably put us at the 9th spot with its small associated chance of moving up to one of the top three picks.  While there doesn’t appear to be any savior in this year’s draft pool, the difference between picking at #9 and #15 is nonetheless important.

So don’t fret about Stephen Jackson’s hamstring and don’t pay much mind to anyone saying how “big” Wednesday’s matchup with the Pacers is.  The Bobcats have no business making the playoffs this year, and won’t.  They probably wouldn’t even if Jack was totally healthy.  With him hurting, it makes more sense to me to shut him down for the season and embark on a full-on tankfest — the 8th pick isn’t out of reach.

-Dr. E

Magic at Bobcats – Game 4 Preview

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Will Game 4 Be The Last Day For Ray?

Throughout the 2009-2010 NBA Season, Raymond Felton was setting the table to make things easy for his agent this off-season. Raymond will be an unrestricted free agent, and had played the best basketball of his career. His team had excelled defensively, hit a franchise wins record, and landed their first trip to the Playoffs. Then, he started to make his agent (and Bobcats fans) a little nervous.

Things looked great for Felton until Game 1 versus the Orlando Magic. Jameer Nelson has spent the series shredding the Bobcats and making Felton look horribly outmatched. If the Bobcats are eliminated in Game 4 this evening, the team will likely look to make a few significant roster adjustments.  The decision regarding Felton’s free agency status should be the first order of business. And at this stage, it seems as though Charlotte would be better off to look elsewhere for their future starting point guard.

Also, let’s not forget that Game 4 might be the last chance that Charlotte fans have to boo, taunt, and berate J.J. Redick this year.

Go Cats!


POLL : SHOULD CHARLOTTE RE-SIGN RAYMOND FELTON?

  • YES
    (32%, 59 Votes)
  • NO
    (68%, 127 Votes)

Total Voters: 186

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Henderson Dazzles as Bobcats Close Up Shop in NJ

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Charlotte Bobcats @ New Jersey 4/12/10

As Fake Sinatra said to Steve & Edie: “Listen, it’s up to you.  You can either open for me at the Meadowlands or headline at the Tick-Tock Inn!

The Meadowlands (recently renamed The Izod Center) closed up shop after nearly 30 years Monday night with the Charlotte Bobcats taking care of business against the cellar dweller Nets 105-95.  With Miami winning on the same evening, the ‘Cats are now locked into the East’s 7th seed and will take on the Magic in Orlando on Saturday after wrapping up the regular season against Chicago on Wednesday.

AP recap here | Box score here

Welcome to the NBA, Gerald Henderson

The Bobcats get an amazing 50 points from the bench in this one as Gerald “The Sequel” Henderson led the way with 14 on 6-9 shooting in just 21 minutes of action.  This wasn’t garbage time folks (well, unless you consider any minute played against the Nets “garbage time”).  Henderson filled in nicely for Crash by throwing down a couple of monster dunks, connecting on an acrobatic, double-pump reverse layup, rejecting a Brook Lopez shot and grabbing seven boards.  Nothing against Terrence Williams, who was taken one spot ahead of Henderson and who had an excellent game himself (21 points, 13 boards and 6 assists in 41 minutes) but for the first time all season it seemed as if Henderson belonged in the League.  He looked confident and asserted himself at both ends of the court.  This looks promising.

The rest of bench brought their A-game as well.  DJ shot the ball well again (5-7) and dropped a beautiful 18 footer over Lopez’s outstretched as if to say “I know you should have been the pick but not on this play!”  Stephen Graham had his bi-monthly Stephen Graham baseline drive and dunk, Tyrus Thomas shot the ball poorly (he did have a semi-cast on his thumb) but played hard and got to the line (5 attempts) in 20 minutes of action.

Center Rotation

Theo Ratliff got the start tonight and really affected the game on the defensive end early.  Dude blocked two shots in two minutes (after the Nets TV team referred to him as a previously effective defensive player) and pulled down three boards.  The problem with too much Theo Ratliff is when he starts affecting the game from an offensive standpoint.  Theo was credited with only one Turnover but I counted three.  If Gana Diop and Emeka Okafor started a “Big Man Hands Camp,” Theo Ratliff would be their first product.

Nazr Mohammed got a little burn afterwards and looked slow defensively and out of synch offensively.  We might not be seeing the Nazr from earlier in the season again, folks.  At least not until next year.  Fortunately Tyson Chandler has looked very solid in the last few weeks and it looked like Larry Brown was saving Chandler’s legs for the first round matchup with Superman.

Bullets

  • Brook Lopez is just plain awesome.  Why the Bobcats passed on him for Augustin I’ll never know.  My only guess is that the organization didn’t realize how well he ran the floor as a college prospect.  Lopez is the anti-Rasheed.  At 7’0″, he’s running baseline to baseline on very play.  Lopez ran the break on one possession in the third quarter as he tossed a beautiful transition alley oop pass to T-Will for the jam.  Lopez has the body type to be doing this for a while too; he’s built kind of like a David Robinson or a taller Hakeem.  Bobcats will be paying for the 2008 NBA draft for a long time.
  • The Nets broadcast network ran several “Key Moments in Nets History” packages in tribute to the Meadowlands final game.  Seeing Jason Kidd tear it up with Kittles, Van Horn and KMart against Reggie and the Pacers made me realize how long Kidd has been in the League.  Drafted in ’94, Kidd has played against the likes of Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Skinny Shaq, Fat Shaq, Amare Stoudamire, Lebron James and Tyreke Evans.
  • Game’s Biggest Surprise: Yi Jianlian isn’t terrible.  He’s not great, don’t get me wrong but offensively he definitely belongs in the League as a seventh or eighth man off of the bench.  He’s got a nice jumper from 20′ feet plus and the size (7’0″)  to pull down boards over smaller forwards.  Not bad for 35 year ol-, pardon me, 22 year old prospect.

Until next time, Enjoy the Win Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin