Throughout September and October, we’ll be examining all 30 teams in the NBA and previewing the 2013-14 season through the lens of each particular organization. I’ll be going through each team’s roster and expected outcome for the upcoming campaign in reverse order of predicted finish, starting with the worst team in the NBA. At the bottom of each preview there will be a table with each division that will link to already-completed previews.
Ah, the Bobcats. They’ll soon morph back into the Charlotte Hornets, but I don’t think that Glen Rice and Anthony Mason are walking into the arena anytime soon.
As much as it feels like the Bobcats should be about ready to turn things around, their front office keeps making head-scratching decisions that have plunged Charlotte’s salary cap further and further into questionable, middling territory. As a team that went just 7-59 in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season and went 21-61 last year, well….middling isn’t what we’re looking for.
Organizations that we have already covered such as Orlando, recently-gutted Philadelphia, and even Phoenix have actively torn down their rosters and largely cleared their books with the goal of rebuilding as true contenders. Charlotte? Not so much.
Most teams that won just 28 games over the past two seasons wouldn’t drop $41 million over three years for a 28-year old, non-All-Star big man (Al Jefferson). They certainly wouldn’t outbid the market and re-sign a middling shooting guard to a three-year, $18 million deal (Gerald Henderson). And it’s highly doubtful that they’d clog up much of the team’s cap space with role players like Michael Jordan and Co. have done.
For a team that has been so terrible, they shockingly only have one significant expiring contract heading into 2013-14 (Ben Gordon’s $13.2 million), along with one likely useful deal in Ramon Session’s $5 million. Part of the cap mess is the number of rookie contracts that Charlotte is carrying on its books, but it’s debatable how much of that youth is useful, and could be considered an asset and not a cap liability.
All that being said, the talent is certainly upgraded. But in today’s NBA, as team’s get smarter with how they handle their precious assets and smart cap management is vital, at what cost as the roster seen an upgrade? Jordan now employs highly-regarded general manager Rich Cho (formerly of Oklahoma City and Portland), but his track record thus far in Charlotte is decidedly shaky, leading one to wonder how much weight Cho really holds when working under Jordan.
It appears as though the Bobcats are attempting to seize on the high number of teams that seem to be tanking in 2013-14, and hoping that a young nucleus of Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Al Jefferson will be enough to have some playoff success. Depending on Kidd-Gilchrist’s development, the Bobcats could be respectable. But they seem to be banking on a lot of things to go perfectly, and they payoff is still simply “respectable”.
Best Case Scenario
Kidd-Gilchrist develops on schedule, Walker takes another step forward, and a front court player other than Jefferson is better than expected (Bismack Biyombo or rookie Cody Zeller, most likely). The Eastern Conference is weak enough that Charlotte could be a mild surprise and 33-36 games.
Worst Case Scenario
The rookies don’t produce and Walker, Biyombo, and Kidd-Gilchrist don’t improve. Jefferson, Sessions, and Henderson form an uninspiring “Big Three” and the Bobcats stumble to 25-28 wins.
Most Likely Outcome
The more I look at the roster, the more I think that they’ll be decidedly decent. I ranked them low because I strongly believe that the current approach is all too short-sighted, and when Jefferson opts out of his contract in two seasons we’ll all wonder why Jefferson on the Bobcats was ever a thing. There remains a solid chance that I’ll chuckle at initially ranking them this low, but I’m simply not sold on the team’s overall direction, and it’s hard to put too much faith in the on-court product at this point in time.
I keep coming back to the stunning weakness of the Eastern Conference in general, which will only serve to help the Bobcats. The bench is much too shaky and roster too young and inconsistent for Charlotte to do any real damage, but Charlotte should manage to win 29-32 games.
|Charlotte Bobcats (26)|
|Orlando Magic (27)|