The Charlotte Bobcats, a Year in Review

Dan Wheat-RiversContributor IApril 3, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 31:  Gerald Wallace #3 and Raymond Felton #20 of the Charlotte Bobcats react after a play during their game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 31, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

I have been a Charlotte Bobcats fan longer than they’ve had a name, so I’m glad to see them getting better and having a decent year.  They have a real shot at the playoffs, being one and a half game out with eight games left.

 They actually have better control of their playoff situation than that make it sounds. They are one game behind Chicago in the loss column, they play Chicago one more time, and they own the tiebreaker with them.  So if they can win the same amount of games as Chicago, and beat Chicago next week, they’re in.

So let’s review how they go to this point, because this time last year, they were struggling to win, Michael Jordan’s career as a basketball exec was in a swan dive and their head coach was on the way out.

The first step was getting rid of a coach hired as an experiment/space filler and hiring Larry Brown. 

Jordan wanted to hire Brown the summer before, but Brown wasn’t ready to coach again, but he couldn’t turn Michael down twice (I still think the team would’ve been better off hiring Paul Silas two summers ago. He actually likes coaching and developing young guys, which the Bobcats have, whereas Brown likes veterans).

Next was the draft.  I think they made a good first choice, choosing D.J. Augustin.  He’s been a solid contributor and, while he’s no Rookie of the Year candidate, he has a huge talent potential and seems to playing well with Brown. 

The second choice they made in the draft, Alexis Ajinca, I’m still in shock about.  He is a huge project player and not an immediate threat to play at all.  Yes, the Bobcats need size and Ajinca is a seven footer, but they need someone to play first. 

Next we started training camp and the season, and it was a hard road.  Brown is a defense first coach that is hard on point guards.  Raymond Felton had spent last season in an identity crisis thanks to a coach that couldn’t decide if he was a two or one guard.  They fought through and started to understand what Brown wanted.

Then, in mid-December, they made a trade that changed the course of their season.  They traded Jason Richardson for Boris Diaw and Raja Bell.  It changed to total dynamic of the team and made them immensely stronger up front. 

With Bell you get a defense first guy that can shoot, the opposite of Richardson.  With Diaw, you get a versatile guy that can play all over the court.

They made a few other trades, and getting Vlade Radmanovic was a good move, but they have tied up a lot of future salary that is going to hamper them in the future.

So what happens from here?  First, I think they miss the playoffs.  Having six of their last eight on the road is going to be tough.  That puts them drafting in the 10-12 range most likely.  There should be some good players available, and the draft is important to them, because they don’t have the cap room to do much in free agency.

There is talk of Allen Iverson coming to Charlotte next year, but I hope that doesn’t happen.  I think he can set the progress of a lot of players back, and I don’t want to hear about him clashing with Brown, again, all season long.

If they do any trades this offseason, I hope they’re smart about it.  I think Emeka Okafor and Felton are tradable, but I wouldn’t trade anyone else from the starting five. 

I think if they return this team next year, plus a rookie or two, then they make the playoffs as a six seed. 

Good luck Bobcats, I hope I’m wrong and you make it to the playoffs this year.