Having completed my 4-part study on disastrous Bobcats moves of yore, we now transition from mourning the Bobcats’ past to vomiting over their future. (Yep, being a Bobcats fan is like being told by God that you can be any Stand By Me character you want…only to have Him change his mind and force you to choose either Wil Wheaton’s haunted, scary dad or Lard-Ass; even Vern is too good for us). So this week begins my 3-part preview of the upcoming Bobcats’ season. In other words, I’m going to stop dwelling on the Bobcats’ past failures and instead concentrate on their future ones. If you think I’m being too hard on this team and/or myself, Sports Illustrated actually wrote that the Bobcats’ best-case scenario this year would be to finish dead-last, giving them a chance to get 3 lottery draft picks. That’s their best-case. Their worst-case is that President Rod Higgins assassinates GM Rich Cho via satellite access to his pacemaker and then trades those top 3 picks for Raymond Felton and Sean May. So pardon me if I’m not sniffing a championship, but rather the fingers of an organization that have been up its own ass for far too long. Anyway, I’ll break down the bigs this week, the wings next week, and finally the guards in three weeks, at which point the season will either have started or I’ll have set myself on fire.
And speaking of “breaking down bigs,” we learned this week that Brendan Haywood will miss the first 12 weeks of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot. This was terrible news for Bobcats fans, because it reminded us that Haywood was still on the team in the first place—perhaps we could arrange a trade between Haywood and Christy Brown? I guess I shouldn’t poke fun, because Haywood seems like a solid citizen—it’s just that he’s a solid, non-athletic, extremely offensively limited citizen who somehow still has 2 years and $4.1M left on his contract. In speaking to the media about Haywood, new coach Steve Clifford said of Haywood’s injury, “From a team standpoint, it’s a hit. He’s our biggest guy, he’s our best basket protector. When he got on the floor the day that he got hurt, he was moving well.” I have to say that I respect coach, but of the three sentences he spoke, I only agree with the first independent clause in the second one. He’s our 3rd big, and he’s terrible. Jason Collins is out there, let’s hire him and feel great about ourselves. Moving on!
Or are we moving on, because the next guy I want/have to talk about is Bismack Biyombo, whom if he works really hard might someday develop the offensive game of Brendan Haywood. It’s hard to believe that Mack is now in his third season, because anyone who saw him play in Summer League would have guessed that he’s entering his negative third season. His PER in year 1 was 10.6 (Wait, how was it even that high? Is PER like the SATs, in which you get, like, 2.5 points just for entering your name correctly?), and then in year 2 it was 10.1. At this rate his image is going to slowly start vanishing from photographs unless somebody makes a trip to his native Congo and gets his parents to kiss each other. Biyombo’s talents supposedly lie on the defensive end—except they don’t, unless you mean they’re lying dead on the floor. He does have a good block rate (20th in the league last year), but opponents put up a mid-17 PER against him and the defense allowed +.3 more points/100 possessions with him on the court. This guy has been our starter for the past two years, people! I feel like my grandfather describing the year 1933.
This takes us to Al Jefferson, and now I’m realizing how little I planned this out. I basically prepared to write this about as hard as the Bobcats prepared for the 2008 draft. I say this because I just panned Biyombo’s defense, which leaves me nowhere to go with Jefferson. Individually he’s probably not as bad as you think: Synergy Sports ranked him 279th last year, which is comparable to Biyombo’s 256th ranking (considering there are ~450 players total, that’s lower middle-class). Big Al also allowed roughly the same opposing PER as Biz, 17.3, which is bad, but only bad-ish.
It’s on a team-level, though, in which Jefferson’s probably much worse than you think. 82games.com says that Al’s former team, the Utah Jazz, allowed a staggering, swerving, drunk-driving, passing-out-after-crashing-into-a-parking-meter 9.3 points/100 possessions more with Jefferson on the court last season. I’m struggling to even contemplate how terrible that is; Jefferson is the Higgs boson of bad team defense. For comparison’s sake, Monta Ellis, who is the media’s perennial contender for worst defender in the universe, was just -2.0 P/100P defensively, making him look like the Ender’s Game kid next to Jefferson. It’s bad, folks, it’s bad. Fortunately, the Bobcats have Patrick Ewing aboard to help coach Jefferson up. “I knew that working with him (Ewing) was my chance to bring my defensive game to another level,’’ said Jefferson to reporters last week. Let’s hope so, because for Jefferson, the next level up would be the hidden jerky stash beneath the basement of the prepper cabin; that’s how low his current level of defense is buried.
Dude can play offense, though. As can rookie Cody Zeller. Zeller, the 7’0”, somewhat controversial 4th overall pick out of Indiana this summer, remains zealously praised by the Bobcats’ brass. “He’s the most talented rookie in the league,” says Coach Clifford, “And his intangibles are off the roof.” Usually great things are through the roof, but I’ll take his word for it. I tend to think that Zeller’s main skill compared to other draft picks was his ability to avoid major surgery. Zeller’s not much of a rebounder or a shot-blocker, but hey, he’ll be playing power forward now that he’s in the pros, and since when are those skills relevant? Besides, have you seen the big guy run? “He’s a pretty unique player with his size – a legit 7-foot – and he can run as well as any 7-footer out there,” a beaming Rich Cho recently told the Observer. Let’s hope he can actually run better than any 7-footer out there, because I’ve seen Gana Diop run, and it won’t do us much good if Zeller can only run as well as Diop. Let’s also hope that Zeller continues to drive to the hoop like he did at IU, because if he starts doing what I call “pulling a Mullens,” we’re going to end up in SI’s best-case scenario.
Finally, we have to talk about Josh McRoberts. But not for long. McBob’s a great passer (3rd in assist rate among PF’s last year), but he hangs on the perimeter a little too much (just a .527 TS% last year, and only 3.6 of his attempts per game were within 9-feet). His defense can tread water, but I wouldn’t want to escape Cuba with it. He’ll be a nice bench player who will give us at least one cool pass attempt per game.
As a whole, this is one of those “nowhere to go but up” scenarios…unless they just go sideways. Last year the Bobcats’ PFs collectively put up a 12.6 PER and gave up a 19.1, while the centers were 12.6 to 18.8. That’s a snot bubble in the nose of decency. Jefferson and Zeller should at least help the offensive side of things. But the defense is probably going to remain more porous than Spongebob Squarepants’s crotch. And there’s a bigger problem, which is the rebounding. The Bobcats were 29th last year in team rebounding rate, and their best rebounder remains little Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Jefferson was only 18th among centers, and if you search “CHA” among top rebounding power forwards, the first thing you come to Biyombo at 27th, and the second is “CHArlie Villanueva” at 49th, which is never a good sign. Neither Zeller nor a full season of McRoberts will be of much use there, and Biyombo will hopefully mostly just be rebounding the pubic hairs he scratches off his testicles while sitting on the bench. All in all, the 4’s and 5’s are painful to think about and—save for some nice post-ups by Jefferson, some nice fast breaks from Zeller, some nifty passes from McRoberts, and some nice substitutions for Biyombo—will be even more painful to watch.
(Reminder: Please don’t forget to check out my e-book at the following link)
 Not because I ran out of disastrous moves, mind you, but because the thought of continuing seemed less appealing to me than being strung up by Kathy Bates and suffocated with the decapitated head of a bull.