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Competition Discussion: Charlotte Bobcats

(Previously: Atlanta, Boston).

The season is still a ways away, but most of the rosters are set, barring the requisite Michael Jordan comeback rumor (just kidding, but only a little).  We have an idea where our team stands, but we can't really know unless we discuss everyone else.  In that spirit, I'm going to throw up a "competition discussion" thread for each of the other 29 teams over the next couple months or so.  We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z.  Today's team: Charlotte.  Jump to the comments to discuss the Bobcats and make a prediction on their record.


Last year's record: 35-47 (Pythagorean record: 37-45)

Playoffs: None

Offensive Rating: 104.7 (27th)

Defensive Rating: 106.1 (7th)

Pace: 88.3 possessions/game (27th)

In: Tyson Chandler, Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown
Out: Emeka Okafor

Projected starting lineup: Raymond Felton (assuming he re-signs), Raja Bell, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Emeka Okafor

Key themes:

  • Will the Emeka Okafor/Tyson Chandler swap actually help the ballclub?
  • Who the heck is going to score for these guys?
  • Will they re-sign Raymond Felton?  Will he get a long-term deal or just come back on the qualifying offer?  If it's the former, for how much?
  • If Felton does re-sign, what does it mean for DJ Augustin?  Should the experienced Felton start, or the promising Augustin?
  • How healthy is Tyson Chandler anyway?  Remember, Oklahoma City nixed a swap of Chandler for Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith, less value than Okafor, because they were concerned with Chandler's toe injury.  Is he all the way healthy again?
  • Will they trade any of their overpaid stiffs on the bench (Nazr Mohammad, Vladimir Radmanovic, DeSagana Diop, Matt Carroll)?  Will anyone give anything for them?
  • Who does owner Bob Johnson sell the team to, if anyone?  What effect might that have on their season?
  • Is Allen Iverson coming?

Let's start with a bit of a tangent.  Many of you have probably read Michael Lewis' ground-breaking book Moneyball, which describes how the Oakland Athletics were able to succeed without spending much money.  The book details how Oakland went after players with high on-base percentages and tons of college experience, traits undervalued at the time.  Many readers wrongly equated the "moneyball" approach with the "get guys with high OBP" approach, when really the only reason Beane went after those types of guys was because they were undervalued at the time.  Moneyball was really about exploiting market inefficiencies, not about collecting players that possess certain qualities.

In the NBA, I think we are starting to realize that defense is a bit undervalued on the market.  Sure, we say "defense wins championships," but great individual defenders rarely get paid like the top scorers in the game.  An extreme NBA "moneyball" approach would be to build a team entirely of great defenders and forget scoring.  Someone would do this not because defense is more important than offense, but because defense costs less.

The commonly-cited NBA "moneyball" team is the Houston Rockets.  Lewis himself probably kick-started this movement with his long piece on Shane Battier in February, and it also helps that Houston's GM is a math whiz kid.  In pure moneyball terms, Houston fits.

But let's now define "moneyball" by the terms of those who read Lewis' book and assumed "moneyball"=get guys with high OBPs, forgetting the cost.  In NBA terms, that would mean fielding a team of defenders only because you think a team of all defenders wins.  If you define "moneyball" that way, the Charlotte Bobcats are the NBA's "moneyball" team.

Seriously, who is going to generate efficient offense for this team?  With the Emeka Okafor/Tyson Chandler trade done, the Bobcats now have just one player (Gerald Wallace) who posted an above-average PER last season.  While Wallace is a very good player, he's also very limited as a top option because of a spotty outside shot (not to mention he also has missed an average of 16 games a year in his five-year Bobcat tenure).

If Wallace doesn't create offense for himself, who does?  Raymond Felton can create shots, but he can't make them, not with a career 48.7 TS%.  Boris Diaw is the opposite; he can hit shots a bit, but doesn't attempt enough.  Chandler doesn't have a post game and got most of his points in New Orleans from Chris Paul.  DJ Augustin was solid as a rookie, but he'd have to take a major leap to be an efficient scorer with more usage.

The flip side is Charlotte could potentially be awesome defensively.  Chandler, Wallace and Bell are top-five defenders at their positions, and Diaw is pretty close behind.  Off the bench, Diop's an excellent shot-blocker and rookie Gerald Henderson was known in part for his defense at Duke.

Great defense, horrific offense.  It'll certainly be an interesting test.

My guess, though, is that Charlotte won't be very good.  You can be great defensively, but you can't win without some efficient scoring from somewhere.  There's not a whole lot of "greater than the sum of its parts" potential with this offense either.  Diaw's the only good passer, and everyone else either thinks shoot-first (Augustin, Felton) or is a finisher (Bell, Chandler).  Chandler and Wallace also bring a ton of injury potential, which will derail their season.  Add in improvement from teams like Toronto and Washington, who both finished below Charlotte last year, and the playoffs aren't going to be on the horizon.

Mike's prediction: 32-50, fifth in the Southeast, 12th in the East.

Atlanta Boston Charlotte
Mike Prada 47-35 57-25 32-50
JakeTheSnake 44-38 55-27 32-50
Truth About It 45-37 ?
Rook6980 45-37 44-38
Bwoodsxyz 45-37 56-26