Well, the word for the week is regression, as in regression to the mean. The Bobcats started the week at a remarkable 7-5, having equalled last seasons’ win total in just 22 days. But the impressive start was on a shaky foundation for a couple of important reasons. One, the Cats had consistently been the beneficiaries on good fortune (OK, luck) in close games. And two, the Bobcats had played the weakest schedule in the league. Both luck in close games and strength of schedule tend to even out as the games pile up; hence the Cats were due to see their record come back down to earth.
So regress they did, dropping all three games this week against three likely playoff teams to fall to 7-8. After getting blown out in Oklahoma City on Monday night, the Cats rebounded with better efforts in Atlanta and at home against the 76ers. They hung around in the fourth quarter in both games, but didn’t get any of the breaks that had been going their way in the first few weeks of the season.
Three Thoughts on the Week
#1 – Finally Got To See Ben Gordon Do Ben Gordon Stuff
Gordon has had a choppy start to the season. After a 34-point outburst against New Orleans early on, he missed a couple of games. Then, since coming back he had a couple really quiet games. But the past two have been pretty great. Against Atlanta Wednesday night Gordon caught fire with 20 points on 5-7 3pt in the fourth quarter and almost singlehandedly kept the Bobcats within striking distance. He had a similar, though less impressive, stint in the second quarter Friday night against the 76ers, with 11 points on 3-3 3pt.
Gordon’s on the downside of his career, so spurts like this will happen less frequently than we would like on this otherwise offensively limited Bobcats squad, but when he does catch fire it’s fun to watch.
#2 – Again, We Are Loving Jeff Taylor
Sorry for the repetition, as ASChin covered this in last week’s recap, but holy moly Jeff Taylor is looking like a steal. His on-ball defense is as advertised, featuring an impressive combination of size, strength and quickness. He’s fouling quite a bit, but I would expect that to improve over time as he goes around the league a few times, learning the tendencies of his opponents and the officials.
And his offense has been a nice bonus. We knew he had a stellar senior year shooting the three at Vanderbilt, but there was concern that it may have been a little flukey, and whether it would translate out to the NBA line. No worries, as Taylor’s hitting threes at a 40% clip, good for top 50 in the league overall and the second best among rookies (behind Kyle Singler).
Having someone on a second-round contract that can be a legitimate part of your rotation is a huge plus for any team, and something that hasn’t happened for the Bobcats until now (Bernard Robinson, Kyle Weaver anyone?).
TV play-by-play man Steve Martin referenced a moment from the little documentary on the Bobcats 2012 draft that has been showing that I’ve also recalled when watching Taylor. In the Bobcats war room on draft day, they show Rich Cho taking a call from from another GM proposing a trade for the #31 pick. You don’t quite get to hear all of the details, but what you do hear is Cho quickly reject the idea. He’s polite enough, but there’s definitely a bit of “don’t be ridiculous” in his tone. Cho knew he could get a player there, and he did.
# 3 – Signs Of Growth From Biz?
We all knew that Bismack Biyombo was a major project, particularly on the offensive end. But there were times last season when he had such trouble doing basic things like catching and finishing in traffic that it became fair to wonder if he’d ever be able to play in crunch time in the league. Fast forward to this year and I’m much less concerned.
Don’t get me wrong, Biyombo still has the occasional cringeworthy possession, but there have been more nice moments mixed in. Plays that make you think “OK, he can do this.” In the Philadelphia game in particular, the 76ers were religiously, almost embarrassingly, helping off of Biyombo. (This can make you unplayable in crunch time.) But credit to the Bobcats and Biyombo; they realized it and made the 76ers pay en route to a season high 14 points on 5-6 FG.
On one play a driving Gordon drew Biyombo’s man in addition to his own. Biyombo slid to the perfect spot and Gordon whipped a pass to him. This was the kind of pass that Biyombo routinely fumbles away, but this time he caught it and went straight up for the dunk.
In another moment from the same game, Evan Turner was mismatched on Biyombo in the post. Yeah, Turner’s a wing, but he’s 6’7″ 220lb. What’s important is that Biz confidently, purposefully, fluidly, and easily scored with a simple spin into a lefty lay-in.
The project appears to be coming along just fine.
5 thoughts on “Bobcats Baseline Season 9 | Week 4 Recap”
As much as I love Dunlap and I really think he is doing a great job with this team….he was the only reason the Bobcats lost the last two games.
He continues to live and die with that SUPER small lineup of Walker, Sessions and Gordon. When he did it vs the Hawks, it made sense because the Hawks had Teague, Harris and Stevenson, none of them too tall nor long.
But he did it with the Sixers (Holiday, Richardson and Turner) and it was a clear disadvantage for the Bobcats. Then he did it yesterday again vs Portland (Lillard, Matthews and Batum), and I cannot believe how he didn’t see the clear damage that was done.
I understand those three guys can create and score…but they cannot defend together. How good is it for them to score 25 in a quarter if they give up 35 to the other team. The biggest leadt this team built last night, was playing MKG or Taylor at SF, Mullens at PF and Biyombo at C. as soon as he took MKG/Taylor and put in the Walker/Session/Gordon backcourt, everything went south in heartbeat.
The only thing I can really think of, is that they are showcasing Gordon as the capable and huge scorer he is, and infalting his stats, in order to trade him for some expiring contracts at the trade deadline. My other options are that the Bobcats are tanking or that he is indeed a bad coach – none of these I believe is the case.
Coach Dunlap, please give up on the idea of playing Walker/Sessions/Gordon for 20 minutes of every second half…you should be able to see by now (after 3 losses) that it doesn’t work. That can be good for 5-8 minutes, but not for most of the second half.
Also, for many out there who talk about Mullens, he had nothing to do with this, he was left alone to battle down low against 2 or sometimes three guys. That’s what happens when you have 3 undersized guards on the court at the same time. Mullens played solid last night and was rebounding fine, until he was left alone to battle against Aldridge, Babbit and Batum, all by himself. It is way unfair to say he lacked effort…effort was about the only thing he had left in the 4th quarter.
RobC – I agree that Dunlap owns a good bit of the blame for the last couple of losses. It’s tough to get down on him, though. We have to remember that he’s a part of the reason that the Cats are even playing close games these days.
Against the Blazers, Dunlap did wreck their chances with his lineup selections. He had to leave Ben Gordon in the game, and Ramon is always a steady hand. I’m not sure just why, but Dunlap felt compelled to keep Kemba in there despite his ice-cold offense in the second half.
I totally disagree about your view on Mullens. He stepped in and the Cats fell to pieces on offense and defense. I don’t see any redemption in the position that “his effort was all that he had left in the 4th quarter.” That’s not enough of an excuse for his poor play on both ends, or his jog down court on Babbit’s three-pointer. He left his guys short-handed, 4-on-5, on the biggest possession of the game. The Cats are playing hard, and deserve a big-man that performs much better.
I’m hoping that the Cats are leaving Mullens on the floor to showcase him. Maybe Rich Cho can find someone to take him off their hands for the rest of the season.
Mike, although I know what you are saying, Mullens played pretty much by himself the entire 4th Quarter, he was exhausted and frustrated by seeing is teamates settling for jumpers instead of going inside with him. He played solid almost the entire game, until he was left alone, in what was pretty much a recipe for failure. He was playing vs Lamarcus Aldrige, one of the Top 10 PF in the league, a veteran and extremely underarted. He had his hands full and he did a great job.
I believe people forget that technically (not in theory) this is Mullens 2nd season. The kid is pretty much a double-double 7-footer, who can stretch the floor and really hustles and tries on defense. Yes he still needs to grow, mature and has a lot to learn. And that is exactly the reason why the Bobcats should keep him and resign him, unless his demands are unrealistic or someone offers something really valuable for him. Mullens can become a poor’s man Nowitzki, who by the way is a pretty bad defender and rebounder, but can score. Mullens will be a better defender rebounder, although less offense. Actually, I would not trade Mullens for a lottery pick in the 2013 Draft unless is a Top 5, anything other than that will not give you a better player than Mullens.
And yes, as I said in my first sentence, I love Dunlap and I like what he has done, but even he acknowledge that he made bad substitution patterns and that’s why they lost the game. Mullens was asked to play against a premier PF playing Center(Aldridge), a scrapy PF (Babbitt) and a long/solid SF (Batum), all by himself for pretty much the entire 4thQ. Biyombo and a combination of MKG/Taylor should have played the enrire 4th Quarter, that’s how they build the 18pts lead in the first place, Mullens was set to fail in that last quarter.
And just to clarify, I do agree that he needs to get more aggresive and improve his attitude, but ultimately, I think people forget that he is in essence a sophmore, only 23 and still has a ton of upside. He hardly played before last season and had almost zero NBA coaching before. I honestly think that he will be a capable starting PF as soon as next season, or at the very least, a longer version of Taj Gibson of the bench.
To continue this conversation, the Cats had another rough finish last night in the loss to the Knicks. Gordon had 3 turnovers in the last 2:46 that really were the difference in the game. (Mullens didn’t play the entire 4th qtr FWIW)
Gordon’s shotmaking has been great, but I really question having him and his shaky ballhandling out there against a Knicks team that was pressuring to try to come back. I can only imagine that Kidd & Co.’s eyes got big when they saw Gordon handling the ball and knowing they needed to force some turnovers.
Not sure what lineup I would have put out there, though. Gerald Henderson (least imagninative alternative to Gordon) doesn’t exactly have a great handle either. Serious question, are we missing Tyrus Thomas a bit? Could you go with Biyombo, Thomas, and some combo of Walker/Sessions/Hendo/MKG/Taylor down the stretch in a game where you needed to protect the lead?
Also, don’t think Gordon or Mullens could be “showcased” for a trade. Think you can rid yourself of that notion. Mullens is still developing, but as a sweet shooting big man, he is a valuable commodity — can’t imagine him leaving in a trade. He would be great in limited-to-moderate use off the bench, but as the roster stands, he’s a starter playing big minutes currently.
Gordon is not tradeable this year due to his $13M player option for next year. (He will be a likely trade chip to a contender NEXT season, when his contract is expiring). He’s playing a lot now because he is the most potent offensive player the Cats have. Just doesn’t need to be playing when ball security and defense and protecting a lead are the order of the day, like they were in crunchtime last night.