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Sins of the Past

Halloween day.  Sunday afternoon.  An 0-3 start for the Bobcats.  I think it's time to examine the sins of the past. The Bobcats' roster mismanagement has been well documented.  The draft has yielded everything ranging from near misses to absolute failures.  Each successive trade has given us a better product on the court (sometimes only marginally so), but has also created an ever stifling cap situation resulting in a colossal salary dump during the offseason.  Further indignity arises from the fact that we took on more long-term salary just to get under the cap this season.  However, as I stated, this history has been written about extensively in the past.  Rather than re-hashing old stories, we're going to look at the ramifications for today.

Poor draft choices and a tricky salary cap situation caused the team to make moves that left glaring holes on the roster.  Do we need a point guard or a center?  The answer after the jump.

The great debate that started with the departure of Raymond Felton, raged on when Tyson Chandler got traded, and lasted throughout the preseason, seems closer to resolution with each passing game.  The answer, of course, is that we need both!  Optimists on both sides of the debate pointed to prior successes.  Some looked to the surprising effectiveness the team had with no clear starter at the 5 last season.  Only a few were concerned with the loss of Chandler.  Others pointed to D.J.'s proven ability to score, though they may have undervalued other aspects of the game. 

While Nazr Mohammed's surprising boost in offense last season has regressed to the mean, D.J. Augustin has answered the question about whether he can regain his scoring touch (yes he can).  He's also proven that he can get a few assists and keep from turning the ball over.  I still have to ask; what good is a reasonably efficient point guard when the team still averages 18 turnovers a game and has an assist/turnover ration less than 1?  The point guard is supposed to run the offense.  I have a hunch that D.J.'s teammates are making bad plays so he won't have to.  The same thing happened when Jackson and Diaw took over some play making duties from Felton last season.  His efficiency improved, but the team's efficiency was still poor.  So the offense is still not great.  But is this the real culprit for an 0-3 start?

As others have pointed out, the offense is better than last season.  The defense, however, is worse.  So the question becomes "what do you want from your point guard and your center on defense?"  My guess is that most answers revolve around stopping penetration into the lane from the point, and cleaning up messes in the lane from the center.  What do you need to effectively close out on a jump shooter?  Mobility and length (I was mildly excited last night to see a jump shooter think twice as the long arm of Shaun Livingston was closing out on him).  D.J. and Nazr are not defenders.  They never will be.  Deffensive is a team game that doesn't lend itself to individual honor or individual blame.  The four-headed switching monster of Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Tyrus Thomas, and Boris Diaw was supposed to cover our defensive woes at the 1 and the 5, but so far they haven't.  

In many ways this is the same team as last season.  The Bobcats are off to a slow start.  They played well at home and poorly on the road.  Jackson is taking bad shots and making big shots.  Boris is being Boris.  A low seed in the playoffs is up for grabs and we're all still praying for the next big trade.  I'll welcome an upgrade at either the point or the center, but until we see improvement from both positions, we're looking at first round playoff knockouts for years to come.

I'm still an optimist.  I still love how D.J. is scoring the ball (I'd just prefer to see him do it as the 6th man).  I still hope that Livingston and Kwame Brown can integrate into the system as useful defenders.  I still expect to enjoy another trip to the playoffs this season.  However, the reality is that Bobcats are still paying for the sins of the past.