As a fan of the Charlotte Bobcats, you learn to cope with negativity, jokes, poor outlooks, and jabs to the stomach. You have to if you want to keep cheering for this team.
If there is one thing that the Bobcats have established since entering the league in 2004, it's that they're a mediocre team at the best, and a very, very bad team at the worst.
Outsiders looking in (AKA non-fans) will look at the state of the Bobcats now and say we're falling under that latter category. This is the worst team with the worst outlook in the NBA by a long-shot, most people would probably argue.
I'm here to disagree. I am not an optimist. Anyone who knows me personally would likely describe me as extremely pessimistic and sarcastic.
But I stand here telling you that the Bobcats are poised to pick up a ton of bandwagon fans, because things are about to start happening.
Say what you want to say about their current 20-61 record, it's nearly three times better than last season. Say what you will about Michael Jordan's management of this team, but his past few draft picks—Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist—are all pieces a team can build around.
On that note, I'd just like to say get off Jordan's back. He bought a team that was going nowhere fast and aging quickly, and he had a vision to rebuild. That rebuilding effort is taking longer than expected, but it's starting to work.
And to give Jordan credit where it's due (which no one does) he brought in former Seattle Sonics/Oklahoma City Thunder assistant general manager Rich Cho, the mastermind who drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden, to come in and help him fix this team.
Guys, seriously... it's time to get off Jordan's throat and let him breathe. We can still make fun of him for drafting Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison, but he and his staff have done a hell of a job with their past few picks.
Which brings me to my next point: Current players. I mentioned the four players that this team is building around (though Hendo's status is in limbo at the moment), and they're good. If I see one more article saying that Kemba Walker is not a true or good enough point guard, I'll seriously explode.
People who say things like, "Kemba Walker isn't a point guard" obviously don't watch games. They don't see his playmaking abilities. They read stats and make assumptions based off of those stats. Yes, he shoots a lot, and yes, his assist and assist-to-turnover totals should be higher.
But what do you expect when this team doesn't have many players to feed the ball to? What is Kemba supposed to do? He makes plenty of plays, both for himself and for others, and within two years, you will see Kemba averaging 7.5-8.0 assists per game.
Just in Monday night's game against the New York Knicks alone, Kemba pulled off an impressive double-double, scoring 23 points and dishing out 13 assists.
If those aren't "true point guard" numbers, I don't know what people are expecting.
Also worth noting? Kemba's steal in Monday night's game broke the franchise single-season record for most steals. In his second year, Kemba has developed from a ho-hum tweener prospect into a good point guard with exceptional playmaking skills, quick hands, vastly improved defense, and strong leadership qualities.
At the risk of writing a book instead of an article, I'll sum up everything else. You can read my thoughts on Biyombo here, where I point out that Bismack (again, looking past just the stats posted on ESPN) has improved across the board in his second season. Not to mention the fact that the kid isn't even 21 yet.
Same goes for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is the NBA's youngest player this season. His numbers are somewhat underwhelming, but as a teenager, MKG has established himself as a lockdown wing defender.
He has shown great potential as a rebounder and second or third scoring option, just as soon as head coach Mike Dunlap stops erratically playing him and putting him in ridiculous rotations.
Gerald Henderson has been tearing the courts up lately, lighting up the scoreboard, he's expanded his range to become a legitimate three-point threat, and his passing skills are much improved.
Henderson's output leads me to my next, and final point. The future.
I've been a firm proponent of drafting Ben McLemore in this year's draft, as he is the most NBA-ready prospect by a huge margin. You can argue about it in the comments, but that's the truth as I see it.
Drafting McLemore would likely mean Henderson's departure, and... well... I really don't want that. His value is skyrocketing, and if he gets some big offers from other teams in restricted free agency, I think there's a point where we have to let him go.
But if he gives this team a discount and signs for cheap, I think we should pass on McLemore, as much as I love his game.
That gives the Bobcats a few options with their pick... Nerlens Noel is the projected No. 1 pick overall, but the Bobcats probably won't get the first pick because they have the luck of an ant crawling on a can of insecticide, but Noel (once healthy) would pair up with Biyombo to become a terrorizing defensive force in the frontcourt. He needs offensive work, but the potential is there.
The other main prospect that intrigues me is Anthony Bennett, the 6'7" forward out of UNLV. Though he's something of a tweener, playing power forward, he is bulky and strong, and many are comparing him to Larry Johnson. Lofty comparisons.
Watching him play, it's obvious he can score and rebound, but his defense needs a lot of work.
If the Bobcats don't get the top pick, I think they should trade down and try to nab Bennett or possibly Alex Len. Either way, this draft is just a set-up.
Depending on how the Bobcats do next season, there are two potential franchise-makers in the 2014 draft in Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. I'm not saying I want them to lose 60 games again... I'm just saying, they've both been compared to LeBron James and Kevin Durant. That would establish the future for good.
The Bobcats have to decide very soon how to make this team better... do they spend the cap money they have on a game-changing free agent, draft an impact prospect now, and continue to watch the development of their young core this season, which would probably land them in the 30-35 win zone, well out of the Wiggins/Parker sweepstakes, or do they focus on rebuilding for one more season, sign enough one-year deals to meet the payroll minimum, and develop their players in order to lose out but win big in the 2014 draft?
Charlotte Bobcats Future: Moving Up or Down?
I don't know which they're going to do. I don't know which they SHOULD do.
But I'm tired of reading articles slamming individual players, I'm tired of reading about how this organization is going nowhere, and I'm tired of people letting statistics and numbers tell them the whole story. The Bobcats have one more game tonight (April 17) against the Cleveland Cavaliers, another up-and-coming squad. Watch that game, and you'll see some exciting basketball from a bunch of players who are clearly improving.
Stop letting numbers and contrived statistics paint the picture for you.
I'm excited for what the next two years hold for the 'Cats. And I'm expecting a lot of incoming bandwagon fans, and writers, commentators, and pundits backpedaling on what they have said about this organization's direction.
Oh yeah, and bring back the Hornets. I'm ready for the Hive to be swarming again.