It’s a temptation to say that the Bobcats are a ball of confusion entering All-Star Break, a temptation that unfortunately then leads to 4 lost minutes listening to the song “Ball of Confusion” by the Temptations before one can proceed further. That’s where I am right now: I’d rather procrastinate than reconcile my severely mixed feelings about the Bobcats season so far. And this confusing ball of a season, this problematic sphere, this conundrumcal globe was encapsulated perfectly by Charlotte’s final two games prior to All-Star weekend. First the Bobcats blew out the Mavericks in delightful fashion, 114-89, then they lost in nearly equally unfashionably, 105-89, to the Nets. In fact, if the Mavs win was a First Lady’s ballroom gown, then the loss to NJ was a fat guy’s plaid Speedo.
All of which leaves Charlotte in a Rorschach test of a situation that’s equally defensible from all angles. In the plus columns are their playoff status (8th place in the Eastern Conference), their defensive efficiency (ranked 6th), their turnover rate (#1 in the league at just 12.1%!!!), and Al Jefferson, whose 22.0 PER so far would be the best in team history (edging out St. Gerald Wallace’s 21.3 PER in ’05-06). There are also the smaller triumphs of Josh McRoberts (4.1 win-shares, trailing only Big Al for team lead!) and Anthony Tolliver (leading the team in net points per 100 possessions while he’s on the court with +1.4, 4th in league 3PT% with 44.2%, and leading the league in Jesus-related tweets, at least on a per-minute basis, with a hyper-efficient 0.5).
In the minus columns are nearly everything else. The 26th ranked offense—though much better than they were in November, when they flatlined at 94.3 points per 100 possessions—will never amount to anything as long as there is no one besides Tolliver and McRoberts to provide spacing while Jefferson clogs the lane worse than the arteries of an Alabama hog farmer. Also, the team’s playoff status is really just a bubble inflated by a schedule that’s tied for 6th-weakest. Meanwhile, rookie Cody Zeller is looking more and more like a human pyramid scheme. Go back and check out his draft report. It’s all right there: though he “looks the part of a high-level prospect on paper,” he has “limited jump shooting prowess,” “below average shooting in the post,” according to one whistle-blower. And even his advocates conceded that he basically had the upper body strength Macaulay Culkin and couldn’t rebound or defend (at least not without the use of a pellet gun and some Micro Machines). Consequently, he’s been a West Virginia chemical leak from the start, with a -0.2 estimated wins added score that is slowly seeping into Adam Morrison County (poor Adam finished with -3.0 EWA in ’06-07).