Well, there's no point in mincing words. This is a tough task. To go from being the worst team in the history of the NBA to being one of the eight best teams in an altogether improved Eastern Conference is highly unlikely.
But is it doable?
The Bobcats fan in me screams, "Yes! Yes you idiot, of course it's possible!"
The realist in me just shakes his head at the naivety of the above exclamation. But still, it's worth taking a look into. It's worth looking at some of Charlotte's major strengths and weaknesses to see if they can realistically compete.
If not this year, then when will the Bobcats become a contender in the East?
The pieces are in place. They have a deep backcourt with proven names like Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions, and they have a young, eager and energetic Kemba Walker. Most importantly, though, they have who will be one of the biggest surprises in basketball this year:
Henderson showed last year that he is more than capable of being a big-time player. Despite the 23-game losing streak, Henderson continued to play hard, and oftentimes was the best player on the court from both sides. He's a vastly underrated player whom the Bobcats can and should lean on moving forward.
They have two young players at small forward after the draft with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor. I think it's fair to say that we all know what MKG is capable of—a more athletic version of Gerald Wallace. He needs to work the kinks out of his jumpshot and he will be a fantastic player in this league.
And Jeffery Taylor behind him isn't so bad either. Taylor will be a combo forward-guard and a three-point specialist. His jumper is much more refined than Kidd-Gilchrist's right now, and both of these young forwards play tenacious defense.
The addition of Brendan Haywood was about as savvy of a move as the Bobcats have ever made. Byron Mullens is a great player, but as I mentioned here, he would be better suited to play power forward, a position that the Bobcats are especially thin at. Haywood is a good defensive center, and a good stopgap until someone like Bismack Biyombo is ready to take over full time.
As I just mentioned, the Bobcats are very thin at PF, and reportedly still chasing Carl Landry. Adding Landry would allow the Bobcats even more flexibility with Mullens and Biyombo, both of whom are on the verge of becoming very good players. Landry is an excellent scorer at PF, an efficient player, and he gives the Bobcats a truly reliable power forward.
So, that's what the Bobcats have done and are still trying to do to improve the team this year. Is it going to be enough to make the playoffs?
No, almost definitely not.
The Eastern Conference is extremely difficult, and virtually every team benefited from a deep draft and has managed to get better (with the obvious exception of the Orlando Magic). The Bobcats are going to be much, much better than last year, and likely could push for up to as many as 30-35 wins optimistically.
But playoff contention is still at least two years away. To get there, the Bobcats must continue to trust Rich Cho and his ability to spot talent. He helped orchestrate the dynasty-in-the-making in Oklahoma City, and Michael Jordan must put all of his faith in Cho.
Another solid draft, and hopefully luring a top-shelf free agent to Charlotte, would put this team into playoff contention. Until then, Charlotte fans can look forward to watching what will be a vastly improved team in 2012-13.
New head coach Mike Dunlap has the players running hard, putting on a ton of pressure, and slowly but surely, improving this team.