From the national media to the local press and back, it seems that everyone’s expectations are pathetically low for the Charlotte Bobcats as they enter the ’09-’10 NBA season.
[see also: ESPN The Magazine Eastern Conference Predictions | The Sporting News Season Preview| TSN’s Shoals on the Bobcats “Mess“]
Am I missing something here? Was there a secret meeting held somewhere deciding that all b-ball pundits reverse jinx the deepest, most talented squad in the Bobcats’ brief history?
Allow me a few points as to why the Bobcats are going to “BEAST IT” this year:
1. The team goes 2 deep at every position.
Gone are the days of depending on Jeff McInnis, Bernard Robinson, Adam Morrison and Melvin Ely to fill minutes. As John Hollinger likes to point out in his team assessment, the Bobcats have historically relied upon a disproportionate number of “sub-replacement level” players to contribute. By having players like McInnis, Morrison, Cartier Martin, and “Fat” Sean May sucking it up on the court, the ‘Cats have put themselves either in deeper holes or lost leads when they could have been staying in games. That changes this year.
Even with Raja Bell out indefinitely with a gimp wrist, the ‘Cats can still go two deep at SG with Gerald Henderson and 6’4″ Flip Murray. Henderson had a nice rookie preseason and Flip garnered some Sixth Man Award attention last year while playing with the Hawks. Hardly Kareem Rush-caliber options in my opinion. Things get even better when Raja comes back into the mix.
At the Point, the Bobcats are set. Raymond Felton, while not the world’s greatest PG, is a starter in the NBA and by all accounts a great leader. His backup, D.J. Augustin, is probably going to take over the starting gig by midseason and looks like he could turn out to be a sort of a “Damon Stoudamire: EVOLUTION” when all is said and done.
The team’s best players start at the forward spots. Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace is the best forward combo the team has ever trotted out and you’d have to go back to the Anthony Mason/Glenn Rice combo in the late ’90s to find a more versatile, skilled frontcourt in Charlotte NBA history. Unlike last season, when the ‘Cats had to basically add 10 points to the opponents’ score whenever the two starters went out, this season the team has real quality on the bench with veterans Vlad Radmanovic and Stephen Graham and youngsters Derrick Brown and Alexis Ajinca. Last season ‘Lex was one of those sub-replacement guys. This season? If he keeps up what he started in the preseason, he might be a real contributor off the pine. The rookie Brown also showed consistency and poise during the exhibitions season. Either way, expect the Bobcats to go a reliable four deep at the forward position.
With all of the talk of salary dumps and downgrades at the Center spot, the ‘Cats still find themselves 3 deep in the middle. While Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop aren’t players that you want starting for a playoff team, as 15 minute role players they are huge upgrades over the Primoz Brezecs, Jamaal Sampsons and Andre Brown’s of the world. Nazr has looked good in the preseason and I find it hard to believe that Diop won’t eventually play his way into shape come December. Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler is healthy and should make up for some of Okafor’s lost offensive production with his extroverted exuberance and energy.
2. Larry Brown has history. Don’t screw with history.
Brown has coached 11 NBA team during his career. NEVER has one of those teams failed to make the Playoffs two years in a row. I don’t think that this can be stated enough. There is magic here. Maybe if that coaching factoid was something like “in 3 coaching jobs in the NBA, coach Jeff Van Gundy has never…” but no, we’re talking about ELEVEN. Whatever Brown is doing it’s not accidental. He’ll find a way to make this happen. Watch and Learn.
3. The Sun Shines on a Dog’s Posterior Every Once and a While
It’s been five years. The team has made so many poor business and personnel decisions and had so many bad breaks over the past half decade that their luck is bound to change, right?
This season, that luck will probably be reflected most in their draft selections. Between 2005 and 2007, the team had 5 first round draft picks (#5, #13, #3, #8, #22) that, as of October of 2009, has resulted in the following players: Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Raymond Felton and Vlad Radmanovic.
Alright, I apologize. I realize that after reading that last fact, you’re probably contemplating a cyanide tablet. But here’s the brightside: The last four draft picks look like keepers. Augustin, Henderson and Brown look like at minimum second contract guys and Ajinca could either be a stud or a bust, we’re not quite sure. This is an upgrade from last season, of course, when we were sure – that he sucked.
I challenge the fans, the bloggers and the local media to expect more from this team going into next week’s Season Opener. This is the best team that the organization has ever assembled with the best coach and the best talent. Expect them to be good. Very good.