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Competition Discussion: Charlotte Bobcats

The season is still not here, 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, we're 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.

Previously: Atlanta, Boston.

Last year's record: 44-38 (Pythagorean Record: 45-37)
Playoffs: Lost to Orlando Magic 4-0 in first round.

Offensive Rating: 104.4 (24th)
Defensive Rating: 102.8 (1st)
Pace: 90.4 possessions/game (26th)

In: Erick Dampier, Shaun Livingston, Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire, Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera
Out: Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, Theo Ratliff, Acie Law

Projected starting lineup: Shaun Livingston, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Nazr Mohammad

Five big questions:

  • How much of a loss is Raymond Felton?
  • Can Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace duplicate the outstanding seasons they had last year?
  • The Bobcats tried to trade Boris Diaw and gave Tyrus Thomas a big contract extension. How will the power forward minutes shake out?
  • Who will get the majority of the minutes at center?
  • Will there reach a point where the team tunes out Larry Brown? Is Brown there for the long haul?

On paper, the Charlotte Bobcats certainly look worse this year than they were last year. Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler are two big-name players that are gone, and the Bobcats haven't really replaced them with anyone that jumps off the page. They also kind of came out of nowhere last year, and with many thinking that some playoff team should drop out, Charlotte has emerged as an easy candidate.

But I, for one, don't really see how Charlotte falls off much this year. Sure, Larry Brown can wear on his players, and sure, it's tough to see where the Bobcats actually upgraded their roster, but the core of last year's playoff team returns. While some other teams have to wonder about integrating new pieces or a new style of play, the Bobcats can afford to keep chugging along with their slow-paced, hard-nosed defensive identity. They might not have much potential room for improvement, but they shouldn't fall off much.

That said, I do see two potential X-factors. The first is at power forward. The team showed a ton of faith in midseason pickup Tyrus Thomas, signing him to a big five-year contract extension this summer. Meanwhile, starter Boris Diaw is still around, despite seeing his name tossed around in trade rumors. It looked like Diaw was headed to Toronto for Jose Calderon, but owner Michael Jordan (god that sounds weird to say) vetoed the trade at the last minute. Diaw is certainly a bit more reliable, but Thomas is a Brown favorite, and his style certainly suits the Bobcats better. There are a lot of different ways that situation could shake out.

The other is Shaun Livingston. Us Wizards fans clearly have a higher opinion of Livingston than most, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'm confident that he'll make the Bobcats forget about Felton pretty quickly. Felton was always a misfit in Brown's slowdown system, having played a completely different style in college. He shot too often and too poorly (though he did improve last season), and couldn't finish effectively enough in the lane. Livingston, on the other hand, will never shoot too much, and his size allows him to be a weapon in the paint. He'll take care of the ball and get it to the offensive threats without too much fanfare, which is exactly what Brown wants out of his point guards. I suspect he'll win the job from D.J. Augustin quickly (because D.J. Augustin is not good), and Charlotte won't miss a beat.

Add it all up, and I'm guessing we'll see a season similar to last year. They'll beat some teams they shouldn't, struggle on the road, and ultimately grab one of the low Eastern Conference playoff seeds.

Mike's prediction: 44-38, sixth in the Eastern Conference

BF editor predictions:

Team Mike Prada CJ Hempfeld Sean Fagan Rook6980 Jon Kelman Jake Whitacre
Atlanta 45-37 44-38 44-38 46-36 48-34 43-39
Boston 51-31 51-31 48-34 42-40 50-32 60-22
Charlotte 44-38 38-44 38-44 44-38 41-41 38-44
Golden State
LA Clippers
LA Lakers
New Jersey
New Orleans
New York
Oklahoma City
San Antonio