The Bobcats have built a nice little core that's on the cusp of ... something. Depending on your outlook, Charlotte's base is mostly quite young with room to grow or it's young and limited in where it can grow due to individual weaknesses.
The main source of dissonance between fans is the ceiling of the team, although I think everyone can agree is above where the Bobcats are currently, thanks to its youth and draft picks.
Whatever your viewpoint, the team is on the cusp of big moves. We've established in previous posts that the Bobcats are clearly ready to switch gears from previous years to become a team positioned to acquire talent.
If Charlotte doesn't succeed in making a deal before the deadline, it certainly won't be for a lack of trying. The Bobcats' name has come up often in recent weeks in trade rumors. It's certainly possible they come away with the same team after 3 p.m. EST on February 20.
In the position they're currently in, the team is not prepared to go further than the first round due to issues of three-point shooting, wing and frontcourt depth and ball movement. To improve on this front the Bobcats would have to sacrifice a young player or draft pick. Charlotte's wings have had pretty good defense but they might have to give one up to get a current asset they're eyeing in return.
A trade for a three-point shooter like, say, Kyle Korver could add significant dividends to the current roster, but with possibly multiple picks in the approaching ballyhooed draft, the Bobcats' best long-term interest could be in standing pat, which, of course, depends on your confidence in the Bobcats' front office's drafting ability.
It's not a given that the Bobcats are going to make the playoffs, but they'll certainly have a good shot. Outside of Brendan Haywood and Jeff Taylor, the Bobcats are fully healthy. Walker's return from his ankle sprain hasn't been terrific as a scorer, but he's been having a solid impact as a distributor and the added rest of the All-Star Weekend should afford him more recovery time. It's plausible that the Bobcats haven't even hit their stride yet as their offense starts to round out with a fully healthy squad back and Al Jefferson finding a supreme groove on offense.
Taking a peak at the standings, they're barely edging out the Pistons for the last playoff spot. Charlotte has the half-game lead on Detroit, sure, but they also hold an advantageous schedule over the Pistons.
Charlotte's post-break schedule is no cakewalk -- a string of games against the Spurs, Thunder, Heat and Pacers awaits them starting at the end of the month -- but if anything, Detroit's is even less so.
The Pistons' opponents from here on out boast a 50.1 win percentage and 17 of their final 30 games are on the road. Furthermore, 10 of those 17 away games are against teams currently slated to make the playoffs.
In comparison, the Bobcats have 29 games remaining against opponents who have a combined win percentage of 48.3. Road games make up 14 of those matches, seven of which are against teams currently predicted to make the playoffs.
ESPN's Hollinger Playoff Odds show the most likely outcomes at the season's end based on each team's performance to date. This model has the Bobcats with a 69 (lol high five) percent chance of making the playoffs. Computers have been wrong before and will be wrong time and time again, but this is just a prediction based on the odds. The natural entropy and randomness of reality could eventually prove the computer's prediction incorrect, but as it stands now, the Bobcats are much more likely than not to make the playoffs.
Looking in the other direction, the Brooklyn Nets currently have a small two-game lead on the Bobcats in the 7th seed. With the Nets set to begin a six-game road trip, Charlotte could have a chance to move up if they play well enough. Ultimately, the Nets' remaining schedule is much weaker that Charlotte's on paper (46% win percentage, six road games against playoff teams), which could help the Nets secure the 7 seed or better when the regular season comes to a close.
How well the Bobcats do could result from what moves they make at the deadline, too. That goes for other fringe playoff teams, as well, including Detroit, New York and Cleveland. The odds are far from in their favor, but the chances are there.