Today, February 19, the Bobcats sit atop mighty last place in the NBA with a 12-40 record. Sunshine broke through gaps in the clouds early in the season as the Bobcats ran out to a 7-5 start. But the opening closed quickly and Charlotte endured an 18-game losing streak. Since then, it's been rather full of ups and downs (mostly downs). But in this last time before the rest of the season begins, let's take a look back at some of our early predictions and see how they're going so far.
David (prediction: 16-66)
I'm pleasantly surprised and totally fine with my prediction of 16 wins looking like an afterthought for the Charlotte Bobcats this season. They currently sit at 12 so I feel pretty good about them breaking my predication, but then again, I felt pretty good about my prediction back in October.
My biggest worry to start the season was that the Bobcats just hadn't added enough talent to the team that set the league record for futility. But Ramon Sessions has been the biggest reason my initial assessment was (way?) off. Sessions is having the best scoring season of his career, despite not starting one game. He's been a ridiculous upgrade over D.J. Augustin who never quite found his place with this franchise.
Sessions has been asked to be a scorer for this team and responded with 15 points per game. He's playing 27 minutes per game, slightly more than his career average but is scoring a career best per 36 minutes as well (almost 20 per game.) Much of his success can be attributed to Sessions' ability to get to the line. He leads the Bobcats with about six free throw attempts per game (also a career high) and is the team's best free throw shooter hitting 86%. He's been something the Bobcats have typically been lacking: a dependable scorer. Sessions' worst scoring month, December, was also the team's worst as the Bobcats went 1-15.
I also was not expecting Kemba Walker to make quite the jump he has. Walker struggled at times last year shooting and running an NBA team. But this year, with a much more defined hierarchy in the backcourt, Walker has flourished. Both scoring average and assists per game are up (he's averaging 17 points and five assists through the All-Star break) and he's shooting the ball much better.
Walker has been the team's best and most electrifying player this year. Despite sputtering out a little bit towards the All-Star break, he looks to be someone the Bobcats can legitimately start to think about at least considering to build around, or at the very least, a piece of that puzzle.
The inside game is pretty much what we thought it would be (atrocious); although I'm pleased Bismack Biyombo has made strides. He looks much more comfortable for longer periods of time, and quite honestly has improved light years on offense. He's still a major work in progress but he works, and he's young and the Bobcats seem to like that. It's been fun to watch him have some success.
Mike Dunlap has also had a big effect on this team. I still say it's very tough to judge him based on the squad and situation he's in. Yes, I would like to see him play Michael Kidd-Gilchrist more down the stretch but I also pretty much get it every time he doesn't. Dunlap has at least renewed some energy and fight in team that desperately need both after last season.
So with 30 games left, it looks like the Bobcats will make a fool out of me. But the jokes on them, it happens all the time. They play well enough, and much more together this season, that the team should be able to crank out a few more wins. The most likely junctures appear be maybe the next two to three games, and a sweet spot in March where they host Washington, Toronto, and Detroit in Charlotte for a three-game home stand.
But at this point who knows. The team has played some of its best games against the top teams in the league. Depending on what happens at the trade deadline, how this Ben Gordon situation plays out, and if they can avoid injury, the Bobcats can certainly make a run into the twenties.
Brandon (prediction: 21-61)
Going into the season, I expected an improved Bobcats team that would reach the 20-win plateau under a new coach and with the addition of Brendan Haywood, Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions to the roster. In order for my prediction of 21 wins to come true the 'Cats would have to finish out the year 9-21. I think as the season winds down they'll pick up a couple of wins against teams who don't have much to play for to make it close, but I see them falling a game or two short of the 20-win mark.
What's surprised me the most about this team is how bad its been on the defensive end. All offseason all we heard about was Dunlap's focus on the defensive side, his long practices and how he was an attention to detail kind of guy, yet it hasn't translated to the basketball court. The Bobcats are giving up the fourth most points per game at 102.7 and routinely look like a mess when defending. Hopefully we will see some signs of hope down the stretch.
Derek (prediction: 22-60)
When I initially was making my prediction I was trying to decide between 20 and 25 wins. I felt that the team was improved, so 20 was possible, and maybe they would be able to steal enough games to get to 25. I mean, 25 isn't good by any means, never mind 20, but it's a step above embarrassingly bad to say the least.
So, I settled on 22 because I couldn't make up my mind. I felt better about my prediction when they were 7-5 through twelve games this season, but I'm not so sure about it since they're are sitting at twelve wins right now.
Although the Bobcats play fringe-to-non-playoff teams like the Pistons, Raptors, Magic and Bucks twice each, the 'Cats would have to win all of those games just to get to 20, and then hope they can steal a few from teams like the Celtics, Nets or Sixers. Yeah, they play the Wizards, but since they've shown glimpses of what they could've been had they not been injury ravaged all year and should provide a tough test for the Bobcats.
Sure, 22 is possible, but I just don't feel like it's that likely anymore. I'd love to be wrong about this, though.
Ben (prediction: 20-62)
I win, I win!
According to ESPN's Hollinger Playoffs odds, which also estimate final records, the Bobcats are likely to finish 20-62. You may now bow down to me, mere mortals.
OK, but yes, this was not how I expected it to go. I certainly thought the defense would be better. I still didn't think it would be worth much, but I thought that it would hustle to beat the teams that didn't have Roy Hibberts and David Wests. At the same time, I didn't think much of the offense. It had more weapons than the previous year but they were mostly located in the backcourt, which tends to be a rather streaky thing to rely upon rather than have a good spread of scoring talent.
Right on some things, wrong on others. Alas.
It's just a shame Joshua is out of town and can't answer for his 25-57 prediction.