One of my favorite things about the start of the season is finding the outliers of the first couple games that are substantially inflated due to a small sample size. Most of these will drop or rise to a more reasonable average without fail. Example: Andre Miller leads the league in free throw percentage among those who have taken more than three attempts, at the time of my writing this. That means that for the moment, 77 percent is the best a player is shooting on the easiest set shot in the game. Of course that won't hold true for much longer, possibly even by the end of tonight.
We get a lot of misleading statistics about teams and players at the start of the season, so let's see what the Bobcats have in their own department.
1. The Bobcats are dead last in free-throw percentage. Despite having the eighth-most free throws attempted, the Bobcats are the worst at shooting them with a miserable 61.1 percent on 90 total attempts.
Nearly every league in the league has played the same number of games right now so we don't have to worry about this stat being inflated by the Bobcats having played more games than other teams. The number of free throws shouldn't be too surprising. The Bobcats were terrific at drawing fouls last year and this preseason, too, but if adjusted for free throws per field goal attempt, the Bobcats are in the middle of the pack so far through three games. Last year they drew the fifth-most free throws and had the third-best rate of drawing them per attempted field goal. The Bobcats relied on guard-heavy production and a lack of frontcourt talent required their guards to take the ball inside, a skill most of them are fairly proficient in. And so Charlotte returned all of their top eight players at drawing free throws from last season. Without Al Jefferson in two of their three games, they've had to resort to similar play from their guards. Unfortunately for them, they haven't connected on the freebies as much.
The Bobcats' statistical sample is larger than most teams, but should still be a fairly big outlier in regards to free throw percentage. Ramon Sessions leads the team in attempts at the line but has hit a hair under 70 percent of them, which is 10 percentage points below his career average. Meanwhile, Kemba Walker, last year's free throw leader, has made six of his 10 attempts this year, about 20 percentage points under last year's average. Then you have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor combining to go 13-for-26 from the line, a sad mark on their season's start. I expect their's to rise too, even though Kidd-Gilchrist's free-throw form looks like he's playing some kind of basketball-shaped Bop It that's asking him to Throw It.
Verdict: Don't count on it, bub!
2. The Bobcats are top-three in holding onto the ball, with 12 turnovers per 100 possessions. This probably comes as a surprise given the youth of the team and the reputation of the team among fans of how much the Bobcats offense sputtered to 24-second violations. Yet here they are nearly leading the league in lack of turnovers. The thing is, the Bobcats were decent at limiting turnovers last season, only slightly higher than the rate they're currently at. Though that may be quite heartwarming, the Bobcats still were nearly dead last in offensive efficiency and still are. Basically, a missed field goal has the same effect as a turnover, no? Well, the Bobcats sure did (and do) love missing field goals. Their offense has at times struggled to find the ball movement that makes them successful, instead miring them in an uncreative quagmire that sees possessions end more in ill-advised shots amid desperation than probing defenses and forcing the defense to think and rotate. This problem is unlikely to be solved this season but should see some help with Jefferson back in the offensive mix. Regardless, I don't think turnovers will be as big a problem as stagnant offense for the Bobcats.
Verdict: Buy a leather jacket, slick your hair into a pompadour, give a thumbs up and go "Ayyyyyy!"
3. PER fun! Your team leaders: Jeff Adrien (26.1), Josh McRoberts (21.3). Your team worst: Jannero Pargo (-9.3, ouch), Jeff Taylor (1.0), Gerald Henderson (2.0). PER is absurd at this point, but I enjoy laughing at numbers. The underlying performance backs them up. McRoberts has shot well and at a reasonable rate, including making two-thirds of his three-pointers, as well as giving the Bobcats a great passing threat. Jeff Adrien has been capturing rebounds at a great rate given the minutes he has, wrangling 21 percent of offensive rebounding opportunities when he's on the floor and 31.6 percent of the defensive rebounding ones. And he's made above 50 percent of his shots.
On the other side of the coin, Gerald Henderson and Jeff Taylor are shooting the lights in, each with field goal percentages well under 30 percent. They've performed better defensively, but that won't show up in PER. Unless they're on the verge of massive career lows that would haunt their days, expect them to bounce back toward normal averages.
Verdict: Don't count on it, bub!