I've asked our writers to send me their brief thoughts on the Bobcats' upcoming season. Some were briefer than others and some ... and some were David, haha.
Ben: I'll go ahead and shoot for the stars here taking the Bobcats winning 29 games, losing a mere 53. They're not going to be good, largely due to their poor shooting and worse defense. If nothing else, it's an improvement over the previous season. I'm excited regardless of the impending nights of bloodshed for there is potential to see the further development out of the Bobcats' younger players because of better talent surrounding them, an important weakness in the past couple years.
In this, the Year Of The Tank, I think the Bobcats will add on a significant number of wins mostly because of their newly acquired players through free agency and the draft and better coaching. So why 29? A) Record predictions are arbitrary. We're just trying to ballpark our general outlooks for y'all. B) The added benefit of better coaching and more experience means the Bobcats will be better in late game situations, which equals more wins in the same vein as the games they lost last year (remember the Trail Blazers and Lakers?). C) 29 is the number of days in February on a Leap Year. Leaping is a very important attribute in basketball.
Brandon: W-L record: 25-57. Despite the addition of Jefferson the Bobcats are still going to be bad. He'll make the team easier to watch, but I don't see his presence on the court causing Charlotte to improve its win-loss record drastically.
Chris: This season for the Bobcats is an interesting one. They're going into the season with a lot of questions about the roster and no real answers. What's most important for the Bobcats is to finally get an identity. They've spent too much time trying to figure out what kind of team they are. This season is crucial in finding a way they like to play and playing that way, whether they want to focus on shooting 3-pointers, utilizing the pick and roll, slowing the game down and grinding it out -- whatever it is they need to find the way they want to play. Once they do this it will be much easier for everybody involved to decide who fits the team and who needs to be traded, not re-signed when their contract runs out, and what skill sets they need to add to the team. Expect nights where the team is clicking on everything and they look like they could put up a fight against the best teams in the NBA. Also expect nights where the game's already a blowout in the second quarter.
My predicted win total for the Bobcats this season is 28-54. They'll be better than last season but not by a lot. They still lack players that can shoot, the defense is going to struggle, and they have some major spacing issues. With the lack of space and lack of shooting, teams will again be able to clog the inside forcing a lot of jump shots. The team is going to be much more watchable this year but there are still going to have some really frustrating games.
David: I really like the Bobcats to be better than last year. How much better? That's not quite as clear. Adding Al Jefferson makes this team better without question. Adding just about anyone to the teams of the last two years would make a better squad but Jefferson's a legit talent, as we all know. He is the first legitimate offensive post presence in franchise history.
Though his defense and passing might not help as much (he's adamant the latter has improved markedly since his early years in Utah, and who are we to argue) whatever downside they may represent is outweighed by his contribution on offense.
Jefferson is going to score by himself, but he's also going to make the game better for everyone else, Kemba Walker perhaps more than anyone.
Walker made the jump in his second year in the league, validating his selection in the lottery (was it Michael Jordan's pick? Was it Rich Cho's pick? Ehhhh, who's to say...it was the right pick) and giving the Bobcats a young player who can direct the action on the floor and take matters into his own hands if need be. Having Jefferson on the floor is going to help spacing for Walker, and give him a dump off option who can actually convert around the basket. Expect to see Walker's assists tick up, even if his scoring dips slightly. However, I except Charlotte will still need Walker to be one of the primary scorers, and he's still going to get his opportunities. The good ones should be more plentiful this year.
Yet, the success of this team could be answered simply by the results of how good Jefferson and Walker can be. The two best players on the team will need to be just that every night for Charlotte to truly take a step forward with more wins. Of course the catch-22 is we want to see improvement, but not too much.
By signing Jefferson the Bobcats roll the dice by possibly getting just good enough to miss out on some of the potential All-Stars predicted to be available in next year's draft. There is so much unknown though, so it's difficult and futile to say at this point exactly what that picture will look like. Jefferson gave this team some credibility, and it needed that as much as anything.
If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can take a step forward this year, the Bobcats can get very interesting. Based on what we've seen so far, his jump shot is still his same jump shot, more or less. That's not a one-summer fix by any means. But new head coach Steve Clifford likely wants to see MKG run, crash the boards and attack the rim. The jumper may come, it may not. But if he can be that energy guy and run the floor with rookie Cody Zeller the Bobcats will be a fun watch.
Zeller runs the floor with the ease most of us can only achieve waking on those moving sidewalks at the airport. He's going to have to get used the NBA contact and hold his ground. But hopefully for Charlotte, being on the floor with Jefferson will accelerate that.
Jeff Taylor, Josh McRoberts, Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon should all provide steadying options off the bench. If Bismack Biyombo can prove reliable on just the defensive end, that will be a huge step in the right direction for him and a shot in the arm for the team. He should be able to pick up whatever scraps Jefferson and maybe Zeller leave for him on offense.
The Bobcats will be more so much more enjoyable to watch this year. We should start to see the makings of an actual playoff team, the foundation. But this beast scenario is competitive. There is a real possibility Charlotte will have three first round picks in next summer's draft (their own and potentially Detroit's and Portland's) and if their own is top-five the team is almost guaranteed a game changing talent. I think the 26ish wins Vegas sees happening keeps them in that conversation. But tanking is going to take on a life of its own this season. It will be interesting to see if those teams receive the same level of vitriol the Bobcats did during the lockout season. Ultimately it feels like 30 wins is doable for Jefferson, Walker, and company. But erring on the side of reality I'd guess 28 wins. Guessing is difficult though.
Derek: Without going month-by-month down the line, I expect the kind of up-and-down season that typifies the early stages of development for young teams. For every game they let slip away, they'll probably steal one somewhere along the lines. They may get blown out a time or two, but those blowouts will be less frequent and less-severe than in recent years. Ultimately, I expect to see some signs of progress that offer further encouragement. After all, you don't want to see them take a step back after a productive season like 2013, but judging by the moves they've made they are a better team than they were one year ago.
There's a lot we don't know. Is Steve Clifford a good coach? Will Al Jefferson be more of a benefit or a hindrance for the Bobcats? What about Cody Zeller? How much better can Kemba get? How could a potential emergence of Jeff Taylor affect the minutes or roles of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson (If at all)?
This tells me that there will be a lot to look forward to this season and lots to watch for. The Bobcats have improved -- like much of the rest of the Eastern Conference -- so I can't quite give them 30 wins, but I will go as high as 28. So my record prediction is 28-54 as the team continues to take another step forward.