When the Bobcats, on the mandate of new owner Michael Jordan, decided to do a fire sale of the team’s assets prior to last season and tank their way to a high draft pick, they did not see this coming. They expected a bad season, sure, but this? This catastrophe, this blight upon the good name of NBA basketball? No way. Bad teams are a necessary reality for any fan base in the NBA. That’s how the current system is designed – it rewards teams that stink on the court with high draft picks in the name of greater ‘parity’. But no team in the history of the NBA has been this bad; absolutely putrid, unwatchable to the point where that phrase has to be redefined in some greater magnitude to even begin to capture that utter mind-boggling pile of refuse that was the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats.
They didn’t just have the worst winning percentage in NBA history, they also had the worst field goal percentage as a team in NBA history, the second worst 3 PT conversion rate in NBA history and the second worst game-by-game point differential in NBA history (13.9 ppg). Let that sink in for a second. We’re talking about over fifty years of NBA seasons – there’s good teams, average teams, bad teams, terrible teams – but there hasn’t been a single team quite like the Bobcats. The Bobcats were outscored by nearly fourteen points every game last season, and this is despite playing ugly teams like the Wizards and the Raptors three times apiece last season.
The question on everybody’s minds now has to be, for the sheer love of basketball, simply has to be: Can the ‘Cats get better next season? Unfortunately for them, even the basketball gods decided the Bobcats were too much of a disgrace to be rewarded with the top pick in the Unibrow sweepstakes. So the ‘Cats got the second overall pick in a one man NBA draft. Can Michael-Kidd Gilchrist rescue the Bobcats from NBA oblivion? We break down the roster in preview of the 2012-13 NBA season:
Who’s Out: D.J. Augustin, Corey Maggette, Matt Carroll, D. J. White, Derrick brown, Eduardo Najera.
Augustin (drafted 9th overall in 2008 by Charlotte) led the team in assists last year (6.4) but shot an awful 37% from the field and generally sucked at playing basketball. He’s only 24, and just a year back was considered a franchise cornerstone, but ah, how things change when you reach such historic levels of suckiness. Augustin signed a one year, three million contract to play for the Pacers, so the decision to let him walk wasn’t financial but instead made for basketball reasons. The ‘Cats have to hope their other first round picks from the last few drafts pan out better than Augustin, who looked uninspired and uninterested in playing for them last season (who wouldn’t?) Letting go of Corey Maggette (15 ppg, 4 rpg last season) was smart because no team in the NBA that has added Maggette to its roster has ever improved. At best, Maggette’s a relentless chucker and black hole who you put on the court only if you’re the Bobcats (oh, wait.) Only it turns out the ‘Cats flipped him for Ben Gordon, who’s essentially the same thing, only a shooter instead of a slasher. Strike out that bit about the ‘Cats and being ‘smart’.
Who’s In: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hereafter MKG), Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, Brendan Haywood.
The Bobcats have made some solid offseason moves, the Gordon-Maggette trade notwithstanding. Sessions (11ppg, 5.5apg) is an average point guard who can penetrate, dish, and play some semblance of defense without looking clownish. That’s one more than the total number of such players the ‘Cats had last season (zero). The ‘Cats will be hoping that Haywood, freed from an ugly jail term in Dallas, can play like he did for the Wizards in ’09-10, where he nearly averaged a double-double and two blocks a game. Anything close to those numbers and he immediately helps shore up the Bobcats frontcourt in defensive ability.
Ben Gordon is both going to shoot the ‘Cats out of a few games next season as well as catch fire and shoot them to victory. His numbers across the board have steadily dropped over the last two seasons. Gordon’s a 40% career 3-PT shooter and a god-send threat from beyond the arc for the ‘Cats, who simply couldn’t make a jump-shot last season.
Strengths: On the basketball court? They don’t have any. They play awful basketball according to just about every statistical indicator you can think of. As for long term prospects, the ‘Cats can take solace from the fact that their core is very young and can only get better with each season. MKG and Biyombo (both 19) will give them a deadly defensive duo on the perimeter. Biyombo’s tall, long, rangy with a phenomenal wingspan and vertical. He also led the Bobcats in rebounding (5.6) last season. MKG has to be considered an elite NBA defender from the moment he steps on a court next season. Kemba Walker (22), who will likely start for the team next season, can score, he just needs to learn to do it efficiently – he averaged 12 ppg last season on 36% shooting from the field. They need him to be more like the assertive scorer who won UConn a bunch of games in the NCAA while averaging nearly 24 ppg. Seven footer Byron Mullens rounds out the core and he projects as an able big man who can give the ‘Cats solid production in 25 minutes a game. This is all you need to know about him.
Weaknesses: Everything. The ‘Cats didn’t have good perimeter defense, interior defense, perimeter shooting, rebounding, a skilled distributor, a skilled big man to plug in the post, any semblance of a threat from downtown last season. They were 29th in the league in Rebounding Pct last season, 30th in offensive rating (87 ppg, lowest in the NBA), 28th in points allowed and the worst team in the NBA in field goal percentage. MKG and Biyombo should help those rebounding and defense ratings, but it’s tough to fathom a drastic reversal of stats next season. It doesn’t help that MKG, their great hope for the coming season, is offensively raw and an awful perimeter shooter.
X Factor: How much can the Bobcats realistically expect from MKG next season? In the only Summer League game he played, MKG posted 18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in 22 minutes of play. While those numbers are promising, MKG will likely be 10-11 ppg scorer in his first season. In his only year at Kentucky, MKG posted 0.948 points per possession, which basically means that he’s not an efficient offensive player by any stretch of the imagination. He plays best in transition, and scores best close to the rim. With guys like MKG, Biyombo and Walker on the roster, the Bobcats should look at playing an up-tempo offense driven by fast breaks. MKG’s got the physical tools and motor to be a very successful NBA player. The ‘Cats are hoping he realizes his potential sooner rather than later.
What to Expect: The 2012-13 Charlotte Bobcats will almost certainly be a bottom-3 team in the NBA next season, which suits them just fine, because they’re looking for another high draft pick to add to their core. Expect the ‘Cats to win a handful of games more next season. W/L projection: 20-62.
Playoff meter (the likelihood a team makes the playoffs): 0.01%.
Fan Meter – the rating for newbie NBA fans looking for a young, exciting team to support – 4/10.
*Note: Watch this space for the previews of all 30 NBA teams will be previewed in advance of the NBA season.