2009-10 Record: 44-38
Key Losses: Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler
Key Additions: Tyrus Thomas, Shaun Livingston, Kwame Brown, Matt Carroll
What significant moves were made during the off-season?
The Charlotte Bobcats have spent the past two seasons under Larry Brown building up for... something. In the most optimistic light, they've been adding talent, whenever they could acquire it, in order to gain credibility in the local sports scene, build up a fan base more quickly, and perhaps get good enough to make noise in the playoffs until they get lucky in the draft and land a franchise player or two. The pessimist (cynic?) would say that Brown is merely trying to gild his legacy with an end-career "turnaround", bringing a team from the throes of expansion to the playoffs and leaving them on supposedly solid footing -- only to have everyone realize after it's too late to do anything about it that he'd mortgaged the next three years on two years of middling success.
As always, it's probably more complicated than that.
This off-season, the Cats let Raymond Felton depart via free agency, and traded away Tyson Chandler. Had either stayed, he would almost certainly have been a starter. To replace them, the Cats are probably going to end up starting D.J. Augustin at point guard and run a committee of Nazr Mohammed, Kwame Brown, DeSagana Diop, and Boris Diaw at center. If that makes your spine shiver, you're probably a Bobcats fan.
It's pretty clear the Cats wanted someone else to replace Felton, as they were linked to Chris Paul, Jose Calderon, and Devin Harris in trade rumors, but none were consummated, leaving Augustin and a still-recovering Shaun Livingston at the point. It remains to be seen what kind of effect Brown's clear distaste for point guards with Augustin's skill set will have on the team.
At center, Diaw is probably the best all around player on the roster with experience matching up against the other centers in the league, and playing him there would give more playing time to Tyrus Thomas, but it's hard to imagine that Thomas's impressive defense and rebounding at power forward would make up for the probable matchup nightmare Diaw against Lopez-Duncan-Shaq-Bynum-Noah-anyone-with-real-size would be. Thus, Nazr Mohammed and Kwame Brown will probably share the bulk of the minutes at center, and Diaw will play during crunch time, when his offensive versatility might outweigh his defensive deficiencies.
What are the team's biggest strengths?
Defense. Lots of it. The Bobcats can throw out a lineup of Livingston, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Thomas, and whichever center they choose, and have four lockdown on-ball defenders. Add to that Larry Brown's commitment to defense and the players' demonstrated ability to work together at that end of the court, and the Cats will likely be in the running for best defense in the league.
What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
They'll have to play incredible defense just to keep up, because the Bobcats' offense is atrocious. I'd like to see them play a totally defensive-oriented style, simply because the personnel they have lend themselves to that, but we're going to see plenty of Mohammed, Augustin, Diaw, and Derrick Brown because without them, the team's offense would be historically bad. Jackson and Thomas have put up apparently-impressive PPG numbers in the past, but those were fueled by high volumes of shot attempts. Augustin's rookie year showed he could shoot with deadly accuracy from distance, but he completely fell off the cliff last year and will have to prove he can play Larry Brown's style -- point guards don't score -- to get real playing time. Gerald Wallace had a monster season in 2009-10, but he's still a defense-first wingman, and it'll be pretty shocking if he maintains his scoring efficiency from last season.
All that's to say that Stephen Jackson is the team's most potent scoring threat. Yikes.
What are the goals for the team?
After failing to land a proven point guard and trading away a halfway decent center in the process (one who played with Team USA this summer), making the playoffs seems like a pretty long shot. Based on thousands of votes tallied on this site in late summer, fans seem to think the Cats will be fighting with the Knicks and Wizards for the final two playoff spots.