Don’t look now, but your Charlotte Bobcats are 5-4. That’s right, they’re a game above .500, riding a crazy four-game winning streak, and have a date with the hapless 3-7 Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. Should they laugh in the face of the gods, they could enter Thanksgiving Day as a very, very thankful bunch. And even if they’re not so thankful, they’d still be 6-4.
But that’s if all goes according to plan. Let’s hammer out the details of their next court battle, and see if this Charlotte team can keep this run going.
1. The Point – Edge: Bobcats
Normally I’d five the edge to Toronto, as Jose Calderon is averaging an insane 13.5 assists per game, but we need to look at some other facts outside of gaudy assists numbers. First, all those assists aren’t really adding up to a lot of wins. Calderon pushes the pace and runs a fluid offense most of the time, but he also rarely is selfish and looks for his own shot. Kyle Lowry also isn’t around. I prefer Kemba Walker’s Tim Hardaway-esque game and Ramon Sessions helping out at the point and at the two spot. Not by much, but I prefer it, nonetheless.
2. The Wings – Edge: Bobcats
Ben Gordon is giving the Bobcats what they asked for when they landed him: offense. His 13+ points per game through six played games is the most offensive out-put he’s had to offer since being a Chicago Bull, and he seems to be finding his place in the offense. He doesn’t do much else, but you have to give him credit for at least bringing what he’s asked to do to the table. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has loads of potential and is a threat to go off on any game going forward. He’s young and erratic, but his upside is enormous. The Raptors have loads of upside themselves in DeMarr DeRozan. He’s a freak athlete with an improving jumper and solid all-around game. Unfortunately, he’s all they got and he comes up small much too often. He has upside, but it’s not enough on it’s own to carry Toronto night in and night out.
3. The Bigs – Edge: Raptors
Jonas Valanciunas is inconsistent but is talented as heck. He’ll eventually turn out to be a solid center. However, he’s too wet behind the ears to depend on too much, while Andrea Bargnani is a shoot-first shooting guard in a center’s body. He’s as soft as they come, and calling him a “big man” is just a joke. Needless to say, the Raptors need to play Amir Johnson more. Charlotte doesn’t have it a whole lot better, but at least Byron Mullens is getting better and can hurt you on both ends of the floor these days. I’d like to see more out of Tyrus Thomas and Bismack Biyombo, but it’s just not there right now. It’s a close battle of average talent and little to no defense. Toronto wins this one, just barely.
4. The Coach – Edge: Bobcats
Dwane Casey has more experience than Mike Dunlap, but it’s pretty clear in the early going that Dunlap has his finger on the pulse of his team more than Casey does. I also think Casey benefited immensely from being an assistant coach for the Mavericks when they won the title in 2011, and he’s got his work cut out for him in Toronto. He’s not doing all that bad considering he’s been sans Kyle Lowry, but he’s not doing great, either. On the flip-side, some could say Dunlap is working with even less as a rookie head coach, yet he’s kind of killing it. I’ll give Dunlap the edge, as he continues to impress me.
5. The Verdict – Bobcats
Don’t mess with success. Mike Dunlap has these Bobcats playing with heart. They bring the offense when the tempo needs to be fast, and they buckle down on defense late in games. Their opponents haven’t been elite, but a four-game winning streak in the NBA isn’t anything to be laughed at. The Raptors could easily squash the fun, but I don’t see a reason not to try to ride this one out. I initially predicted the Bobcats would go 6-9 in the month of November, and happily admitted that was being kind. Now, I’m not so sure they can’t finish 8-7 and enter December above .500.
I’ll take Charlotte for lucky number five in a row, by a score of 97-93.