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Behind Enemy Lines: Charlotte Bobcats

Hornets visit their old digs tonight. Should be a great one. I really expect Paul and the guys to bounce back in a big way from that ugly Atlanta loss. I talked to Bart of Queen City Hoops to get a taste for the matchup:

At the Hive: Charlotte's been a bottom feeder for a good bit now. When can we reasonably expect some positive change? Are those potential agents of change on this team right now, or will it take a complete overhaul?

Queen City Hoops: To be fair to the Bobcats, they had been steadily progressing up until last season, when they regressed to 32 wins.  I am not going to do the research, but, barring Shaq and Penny falling in your lap in back to back drafts, I would think 33 wins in year 3 was good.  So, I say that this year will be the real test – and it will be slow early, with the 3rd coach in 3 seasons, but I think they have a chance to challenge the franchise mark for wins, if not the 8th seed.  That steady progress has been built around a solid core in place with Emeka, Gerald, and Jason Richardson.  Jared Dudley, Raymond Felton, and D.J. Augustin all look like contributors.  But there is no "The Man" that puts them over the top.  They have the pieces to make the playoffs, but probably not too advance, barring good fortune like the Bulls last season in landing Rose.

@tH: How does a Larry Brown coached Bobcats team differ from last year's incarnation, and how has it been manifest on-court in the first couple games?

QCH: More driving, less jumpers.  The Bobcats 3-point attempts are down early and their free throw attempts are up.  So are the turnovers.  It is taking some adjustment but after 4 games, the Bobcats offensive efficiency is actually better than it was last year, a big surprise after their craptastic preseason.  Defensively – well, Larry Brown has gone small, with no true power forward, so despite best intentions, the Bobcats are actually worse rebounding right now than last year, despite Gerald Wallace making a renewed commitment to board work.  The effort seems to be there, even for Jason Richardson who did a solid job on Dwyane Wade, but it is tough when your opponent consistently gets multiple chances.

@tH: If you could go back in time, would you pull the trigger on Brandan Wright for Jason Richardson?

QCH: As much as I like watching Jason play, he is overpaid.  And that is tough for a team that is unwilling to hit luxury tax territory. Between Richardson, Wallace, and Emeka, the Bobcats have about $35M (going off memory, should be close enough) a year in salary to those 3 players…but none is a sure fire all-star.  Again, not a recipe for greatness.  Mediocrity, maybe.

@tH: What are the best-case scenario stat lines for Sean May and Adam Morrison this season?

QCH: For Sean May – 20% body fat, 1 doughnut a day,…Man, the fat jokes are tempting, but I will try to stay positive.  7 points, 5 rebounds in 20 minutes a game? The talent is there with May, we have seen it in the spurts that he has been healthy.  But his weight and conditioning are such an issue right now, that it is hard to know when he will really be ready to contribute this season.  Adam Morrison – 9 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists in 20 minutes a game off the bench, while shooting 45% from the floor. The Bobcats need Adam to play a more well-rounded game than he showed his rookie year, and they need him to make shots when he is in.  The good news is the pressure is off to be the main scorer; the bad news is that he is still not a great athlete and is recovering from major knee surgery.  If he can be a solid contributor off the bench, the Bobcats will take that at this point.

@tH: There seemed to be a period when most people were pretty high on Raymond Felton; it looked like he might grow into the underappreciated, third point guard in that '05 draft. Then, suddenly people started souring on him, the Bobcats drafted Augustin, and Felton's role looks like it may be reduced. What exactly caused that shift and when did it happen?

QCH: In Raymond’s defense, he had been getting played a significant number of minutes at the shooting guard his first couple of years in the league.  The problem:  He cannot shoot.  He is not a great jump shooter (or good) and he struggles to finish from in close.  So, putting him in a position where his role is to be a scorer is not in the team’s best interest.  People turned on him because of his poor shooting numbers and high attempts, but it was in part due to being played out of position.  By waiving McInnis in the middle of last season, the Bobcats showed faith in Felton, handing the reins over to him to pull the full time point guard.  Then, Larry Brown came in, decided he didn’t like Felton/loved D.J. and forced the Bobcats to draft his new future ex-point guard.  While Raymond may never be an All-Star, he showed at the end of last year that is perfectly capable of being a starting point guard in the league and I think LB will have no choice but to continue to give him starter’s minutes, as D.J. is struggling severely with defense in the early going.