It’s important not to get too down about Charlotte’s crushing defeat by the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, nor too excited about a narrow win over the Indiana Pacers to start the year.
By all accounts, this is still a young team that is going to have to play smart on offense and hard on defense for a chance even against the lowest of opponents. With that said, they’re well on their way to my predicted 6-9 mark for the first month of action, and they’ve shown enough in two games to lead me to believe that they can win more games than many initially thought. Maybe not many more, but more, nonetheless.
But that’s just talk until it gets done. Let’s see how the matchup with the Phoenix Suns for Wednesday’s game, along with a final pick prediction:
1. The Point – Edge: Suns
The Bobcats have the edge in terms of depth, but Phoenix has the edge when it comes to sheer talent and the ability to lead an offensve effectively. Goran Dragic is an underrated athlete and has the ability to defend, create, and score on his own. He’s also a human energizer bunny, so when necessary, he really doesn’t need to sit and can still play at a high level. Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions offer a better than advertised rotation, but neither can pass the ball like Dragic, and both still deal with bouts of inconsistency. They’re improving, but Dragic should be able to run circles around both of them.
2. The Wings – Edge: Bobcats
Normally I might give the Suns the edge here, but their wing play has been pretty erratic and I like the veteran leadership of Ben Gordon off the bench for the Bobcats. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist still has a long ways to go, but he’s working against guys who struggle on the defensive end, and also aren’t even in a groove on offense right now. Aside from Michael Beasley, who is more of a four than a three anyways, the Suns are not playing very well on the outside. That doesn’t mean they’ll come up empty against the Bobcats, but I think Gordon and Gerald Henderson are slightly more reliable just because they play within themselves.
3. The Bigs – Edge: Suns
I like Byron Mullens and Tyrus Thomas and even Bismack Biyombo offers potential, but these guys aren’t going to mess with Phoenix inside. Luis Scola fights all day for points and boards, and despite his lanky appearance, Marcin Gortat is very tough in the paint. The Suns shouldn’t have much trouble at all winning the battle of the boards, and could also get several blocked shots in this one. On top of winning the battle against Charlotte’s bigs, I can see Phoenix making life difficult for Walker or Sessions if they try getting points inside, as well.
4. The Coaches – Edge: Suns
I’m a fan of Alvin Gentry, as he does a fantastic job (usually) of incorporating up-tempo offense, while also still preaching solid defense. Phoenix is a work in progress, but Charlotte is well behind the curve. We don’t know enough about Mike Dunlap to say yay or nay, but he’s over-matched and just not experienced enough to likely have the leg-up on Gentry.
Ultimately, Charlotte would be wise to keep this game low-scoring and try to win on the defensive end, but I don’t think that works out the way they’d like. It may start out that way, but Kemba Walker will have to bring his A-game on top of that, and the Bobcats’ big men will have to out-work the Suns inside. Don’t bank on it, as the Suns should eventually run away with this one.
My Pick: Suns 112, Bobcats 94