We Beat the Sixers. Now What?

Facial Hair

This photo was taken in Paris, summer of 2003. The sun was out, the Seine drifted by in the background, and everyone was happy.

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Raymond Felton and DJ Augustin both had their best games of the young season last night in the Cats' 93-84 win over the Sixers. Felton, in particular, showed why three different NBA coaches have wanted to move him to shooting guard by scoring 23 on 8-11 shooting and grabbing 7 rebounds. Augustin, for his part, shot the lights out, too, putting up 25 on 8-11 shooting and dishing 11 assists.

On defense in the back court, Andre Miller was held in check and Louis Williams never found a shooting groove. Andre Iguodala found himself guarded by Felton at times, but also had to deal with Gerald Wallace. Iggy still put up a solid 17 with 5 boards and 5 steals. In two of the past three games, against 6-8 Joe Johnson of the Hawks and 6-6 Iguodala, the Bobcats have mixed coverage assignment between Felton and Wallace, with mixed results, considering that both opponents outperformed their season scoring averages, but it wasn't as bad as I feared.

The optimist might believe that the double point guard offense is starting to click, especially given Felton's and Augustin's scoring abilities. However, the realist points out that it's a bit of a fallacy to conclude that the pairing is the cause of the scoring outburst. The realist also wonders why Felton has to be in the two guard slot in order to be allowed to score like this. Dude created his own shot a lot and did most of the work when he was assisted by coming hard off screens.

And this illustrates why I was frustrated with the Augustin pick and continue to maintain it was the wrong decision. Even if Augustin is the next Damon Stoudemire, Raymond Felton is still a perfectly solid point guard who plays better defense than Augustin, while Brook Lopez puts up Chris Kaman numbers in New Jersey. There is no rule that the point guard can't shoot the ball. When Augustin puts up 20+ points two games in a row, is that evidence that he's not doing the point guard's job? Is that evidence that he's probably better off playing the two? Of course not.

To add insult to incompetence, Alexis Ajinca might be the hardest worker in the world, but in a handful of minutes, he's been historically bad, and Larry Brown's insistence he get minutes boggles the mind. Check out the following five rookie stat lines, per 36 minutes, from Basketball-Reference. They're all big men.

A -- 10.9 pts, 9.7 reb, 3.4 blk, 159 minutes
B -- 9.6, 9.0, 0.4, 736
C -- 11.3, 9.6, 0.4, 169
D -- 8.6, 4.9, 0.8, 1326
E -- 6.5, 5.0, 2.5, 72

Player E is, of course, Alexis Ajinca. To say he's struggling mightily is an understatement, because if Larry Brown really does play him significant minutes this year, at this rate Ajinca will go down as one of the epically worst players in league history.

Player A is Darko Milicic. Player B is Rafael Araujo. Player C is Mouhamed Sene. And Player D is the standard for awful draft picks, Nikoloz Tskitishvili. While Ajinca will almost certainly get better, I will confidently predict that he will be nowhere near the player Brook Lopez already is or Ryan Anderson already is. At best, he'll be Ryan Hollins redux, and that's just not worth the twentieth pick in the draft.

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When JRich gets back from injury, I'm not sure I like the possibility of playing him at the three in order to continue running the Twelve Foot Back Court out there. It's probably the best offensive lineup we have, unless you believe Morrison brings more to the table at the three than Felton does at the two.

The bigger issue is that Larry Brown is trying to mold his ideal team out of a group of guys with an obvious identity. If I took over the team tomorrow, this team would become a much much much faster paced group. Brown wants a squad of grinders, whereas this team is built to play frenetic ball. Felton, Augustin, Wallace, Richardson, Morrison, and Shannon Brown can all get in the paint to score, but they can all also shoot from near or beyond the arc. Emeka can just do his defensive thing and concentrate on rebounding. Jared Dudley can carve his niche as a defensive stopper and offensive facilitator. Ryan Hollins is a fringe NBA player, but he truly excels at running the floor. Matt Carroll and Nazr Mohammed are the odd men out in this proposed rotation, but they could still see limited minutes.

When Adam Morrison gets the ball at the arc with no one within six feet of him, and he immediately looks to pass, that's a crime against nature, and he looked awkward doing it. Let the players be who they are and stop trying to change them at their cores.

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