It started with shaking hands and a flop sweat. Then I started seeing large yellow lizards and robotic sea horses battling one another in my wallpaper. After that I became convinced that Kelly Tripucka and Roseanne Arnold were my parents and at any moment they were coming to punish me. Then... what? OHhhhhh, a breakdown of the BOBCATS! Yeah, sure. I can do that. Uhm... just forget that other stuff. That stuff never happened and I'm under orders from my ferret not to talk about it anyway. Let's just get past the jump and I'll get on with my final long post of the 2009/2010 season.
The coaches working teams in the post season are all experts at studying other teams and figuring out the best ways to exploit opponents. That's part of how their teams got there in the first place. As teams get eliminated one of the side effects of the process is that every weakness gets exposed. The wise owners learn from it and know just what needs to be done to improve for the following season. I won't lay claim to that level of wisdom, but our all-too-brief experience against the Magic did lay bare some things we knew about our Cats going in and a few things we might not have suspected. Hopefully in return Larry Brown's strategy against Orlando gave Van Gundy some insight into adjustments the Magic will need to make if they want to succeed as they move forward as well.
It's not all bad and we don't have as much to fix as many other teams, so let's not panic, ok? I'm going to rank what I personally came away with on a 1 to 5 scale with 1 being an immediate need and 5 being something we really don't need to worry about at all. Let's begin with the starters.
POINT GUARD - We came into the season thinking we had it pretty solid at the 1. DJ Augustin had played some pretty dazzling ball to close out 08/09 and most of us felt that Felton would do just fine as the backup. We all know what happened. RayRay bloomed and Augustin wilted for much of the year. Once we got into the playoffs though, Raymond Felton got overwhelmed by an opposing player that while good at his job, shouldn't have been able to completely school Felton the way he did. Jameer Nelson added over 10 points per game over his regular season numbers and while you expect a player to bring the A game to the playoffs, his performance was ridiculous. Felton should have been able to handle Nelson and instead a player we felt was our number one signing priority is now surrounded by question marks. But let's not freak out over it. Felton's shaky performance on defense is actually a good thing. The Free Agent market is crowded and Ray is far from the only point guard in the display case when the owners start shopping. We all know Ray is better than his playoff performance and keeping him is still a top priority - especially if Coach Brown's still in town. One upside to the sweep is that we should be able to sign Felton for much less than we thought. DJ Augustin is the bigger problem. If Brown leaves, it might even herald the return of the "old" DJ. Brown puts a hell of a lot of pressure on his backcourt and Augustin appeared to suffer as a result. He might actually do better under a new coaching regime. Nonetheless, at the point guard, we do have to resign Felton and that effects my rating for this position.
Point Guard - 5 if Felton signs. 1 if he doesn't.
SHOOTING GUARD - We began the season with a logjam at this position and the front office made some masterful trades that made this one of our most solid spots. The only real question mark here involves Gerald Henderson. His performance in the summer league is going to go a long way toward telling us what we can expect from the young man, but we're not likely to need him to start at the 2. Even if he excels, he is still going to be looking at better players in front of him on the roster. We're good and deep at this position and it's amont the least of our worries. Stephen Jackson has found a home on this team and even if the front office decides to dangle him around as trade bait, we have enough coverage to still do well.
Shooting Guard - 5
SMALL FORWARD - Gerald Wallace. 'Nuff said.
Small Forward - 5
POWER FORWARD - Uh-oh. Charlotte, we have a problem. We're carrying enough big centers on our squad that we should be able to pack our frontcourt with beasts in any number of combinations, but we all know that's not the case. Boris Diaw has been painfully erratic all season long and only showed up for brief moments during the playoffs. I feel as if he spent the bulk of the season standing around and watching the Crash N Jax show with the rest of us instead of getting involved. I'd even go so far as to say that he's the one person in the city of Charlotte that actually suffered because of the arrival of Stephen Jackson. We have 2 huge problems at the 4. Many don't know this but Diaw is actually French slang for "dead weight." Problem 1 is getting rid of Boris. If Larry Brown couldn't motivate him this season, it's not very likely that next season is going to bring a magical transformation. Problem 2 is that we don't have the money to replace him with anything better. Signing Tyrus Thomas isn't going to be cheap and we don't have dime one to sign anyone else either - not if we're going to keep Felton. This position is one of our massive gaping holes.
Power Forward - 2
CENTER - Tyson Chandler regained his health at the end of the season - but for how long? He saw limited action during the playoffs and I've come to believe that the principle cause of our failure to beat Orlando even once is because of the way Larry Brown managed the 5. A lot of ink and bandwidth was spent on the "Hack Howard" strategy but I think we actually got outsmarted by Van Gundy here. Call me crazy but I've come to believe that Van Gundy built his team attack on the Cats around the strategy of attacking our centers. Collectively they got called for 44 of the team's total 107 personal fouls. That's almost 42%. Orlando shoots a lot of jumpers and Howard spent the bulk of the series on the bench. The constant foul trouble we endured at the 5 was no accident. Van Gundy's strategy was so good here that I don't think most of us ever caught on. We all blamed Theo, Tyson, and Nazr for their foul trouble, but I think they just got victimized by a good coach. We didn't really learn anything new from this however. We already knew that our revolving door at the 5 would need to be dealt with in the off season. We'll start off the season with both Nazr and Tyson returning and both in the final year of their respective contracts. If we want to, we can likely sign Theo for the veteran minimum in the off season and even though he didn't give us much in the playoffs, we may need him. If our starting power forward is a big problem, the center spot is a total nuclear meltdown.
Center - 1
THE BENCH - All bets are off, all options open. Derrick Brown showed us some unexpected promise in those periods where Larry Brown actually used him and hopefully a strong summer season will provide him with opportunity to improve even further. We're gonna need him. He's either going to be an answer or he'll make our problems worse. Henderson has shown us almost nothing since very early in the season and nobody can really predict just how useful he's going to be. We not only need answers at the 4 and 5, we need strong backups able to come off the bench at both positions as well. Right now our bench is packed with mediocrity. It's good enough to get us a return trip to the playoffs next season, but we aren't going to do any better unless we have a more reliable bench presence.
Bench - 3
COACH - The rumors are flying and Brown is denyin'. That's all it comes down to. We need him back but nobody is going to begrudge his desire to be with his family. A regime change wouldn't necessarily be a disaster and speculation is going to run rampant. I might as well throw my conjecture on top of the pile. While everyone else is looking around the league for available options, I think there's a good chance that Jordan will look in his own back yard. IF (and that's the biggest little word in this massive post) Brown leaves us Jordan can save a lot of coin by promoting from within. There is a lot of experience assisting LB on the bench and Ford, Capel, Hanners, and even Herb Brown (LB lite) are all capable of stepping up for a season or two before overwhelming fan hatred requires a pink slip. The big disaster here would be if Jordan decides he himself is destined to coach, manage, run, AND own this team. Hell, he's already providing a lot of the gift shop swag, all he'd need to do then is open a hotdog stand on the concourse and he'll be doing it all. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Coach - ????
If you made it through all this, thank you.
I took a lot of time with this because I love this team, I love this site, and the two together gave me the most exciting basketball season in my half-century of life. Next season should be even better and there will be plenty happening during the summer to keep ROF vital as the center of the universe for all things Bobcats.
Thanks for being here guys. If you don't hang through the summer I'll see y'all back here for the tip off of the first opening game thread of the new season.