This post is a part of the NBA Blogger Previews being spearheaded by the good people at Celtics Blog and designed to educate other fanbases about our teams. Read the other Bobcats preview from Queen City Hoops, and be sure to check out all the other bloggers' previews.
Team Name: Charlotte Bobcats
Last Year’s Record: 35-47
Key Losses: Emeka Okafor
Key Additions: Tyson Chandler, Ronald Murray, Gerald Henderson
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
The Bobcats traded away their first draft pick, and arguably their best player, Emeka Okafor, receiving Tyson Chandler in return. The front office described the trade as a basketball decision, but Chandler's recent injury history and lesser offensive skills cast doubt on that claim. More likely, the trade was prompted by owner Robert Johnson's attempts to sell the team combined with Larry Brown's notorious fickleness.
Okafor's contract runs through 2014, while Chandler's runs through 2011. A prospective owner might see Okafor as a valuable asset, probably well worth the investment in him, but others might see a long term contract as an unwelcome commitment, no matter how advisable the investment actually is. The move added financial flexibility starting with the 2011 offseason, but at the cost of a franchise cornerstone.
The only other new player who looks to see significant minutes is Flip Murray, most recently the Atlanta Hawks' spark off the bench. The Cats signed him to a ridiculously inexpensive $1.9 million, using their biannual exception, and he'll see plenty of time at both guard spots, splitting time with Raymond Felton, D.J. Augustin, and Raja Bell.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
In a word: defense. Larry Brown's major contribution to the organization has been a clear focus on defense. It doesn't hurt that Chandler, Bell, Felton, and Gerald Wallace all relish playing defense and attack the challenge with as much vigor as they do playing offense.
Boris Diaw is no slouch on D, but he's there to affect the offense. Even though, in sum, the Bobcats have trouble scoring -- even on a per-possession basis and not just their pace-depressed per-game basis -- Diaw's presence gives the team a unique look. Wallace has always been a big man trapped in an uber-athletic swingman's body, and Diaw is a point guard trapped in a big man's body, so when the two of them are in the game together, they complement each other perfectly. Add in Augustin's and Felton's shooting dispositions, and suddenly it's clear why he's been called a "transformational" presence.
In most contexts, Diaw's skills are either redundant or esoteric, but for this team, with the combination of players already in place, Diaw's particular set of skills fit perfectly. Some teams simply won't be able to deal with the odd lineup the Bobcats throw out every night and will get flustered, an advantage Charlotte has to exploit whenever it presents itself.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Larry Brown represents the Bobcats' biggest strength, but he also causes their most important weakness. The roster seems designed to play a free-flowing, fast-paced, gunner-ific, and ally-oop-ish, game, but instead plays with agonizing deliberation and very little improvisation.
On defense, Brown has instilled strong principles and a foundation upon which the players can produce without constant guidance. However, on offense, Brown can't leave it at that. Possession after possession, he insists on calling out the play to run, even if it's the same damn mirrored screens at the elbows again and again.
Personnel-wise, the Bobcats don't have any kind of post scorer. Gerald Wallace thrives when he can slash from the perimeter or get out on the break. Boris Diaw looks to pass first out of the post and has been rejuvenated as a scorer by a newfound three point shooting touch. Tyson Chandler has never been a skilled scorer, mostly getting his points on putbacks and alley-oops from Chris Paul. Nazr Mohammed has looked fresher this preseason than he has in years, but are you really going to ask him to for significant production at this point in his career? Don't ask about DeSagana Diop's offense, because he's never played offense and never will.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Every move the Bobcats have made in the past couple years, save the Chandler trade, has been designed to help make the playoffs. No more than that is expected. After Bell and Diaw came aboard last season, the team looked like the kind of squad that could top out at the six seed.
However, the team's also got to be concerned about building for 2011 and beyond, not just this season. To that end, it seems to make sense to give Augustin, Henderson, Alexis Ajinca, and Derrick Brown as much playing time as they can handle in order to figure out how much they'll contribute to the first truly successful Bobcats season. Unfortunately, Larry Brown's probably the last coach one would tap to give young players significant playing time.
Projected Finish: 37-45