We've known for a long time that the Charlotte Bobcats were a playoff-caliber team. We weren't sure the Cats would actually make the playoffs, but virtually every personnel move the franchise has made since hiring Larry Brown as coach has been aimed at making the playoffs sooner rather than later, and with little regard for longer term planning.
- Good bye, Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley. Hello, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw.
- Hello, Juwan Howard.
- Good bye, Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown. Hello, Vladimir Radmanovich.
- Raymond Felton comes back and D.J. Augustin stays on the bench.
- Screw you, Gerald Henderson. Stephen Graham is a "veteran" and "understands how to play".
- Good bye, Raja and VladRad. Hello Stephen Jackson and your $27 million-plus guaranteed from 2010-2013. Henderson definitely won't play, now.
- Alexis Ajinca goes to the D-League and is never mentioned again. Like the first Chris on the Partridge Family.
Here's the thing. All of those moves were successful in the sense that they ultimately achieved the intended goal.
The only major move that went against the grain was trading Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler, and that's worked out about as badly as the crowd expected, in sum. They've been roughly as productive as each other when they played, but Chandler's only played 47 games and Okafor is on track for his third straight 82-game season. More and more, in retrospect, that looks like an aberration, and its effect was dulled by a shockingly effective half-season from Nazr Mohammed.
Based on previously-established talent, we were watching a 36-38 win team. But then Gerald Wallace decided to kick it up a notch and become an All Star. And Raymond Felton decided to stop shooting (he'll have his fewest shot attempts this season since his rookie season) and bring his PER up to league average. And Stephen Jackson was an upgrade on Raja Bell. And Nazr Mohammed decided to play his best ball since... well... ever. And adding Tyrus Thomas and Theo Ratliff mean the Cats have, potentially, the best defensive front court rotation in the NBA playoffs. And that leaves the Cats with a 4-7 win upgrade for the season.
We'll worry about 2011, and 2012, and everything after some other time, because nothing's changed on that front. The Bobcats have made the playoffs. It's gravy time. Give 'em hell, guys.