For the casual NBA fan, the Bobcats improvement from season four (32 wins) to season five (35 wins) may seem minimal, but for the Bobcats, it was a season defined by more than just the final win/loss record.
The season started terribly. After the first 23 games of the season, the Bobcats had a record of 7-16 with no sense of a turnaround coming, and then quite possibly the best trade in Bobcats history went down.
The Bobcats shipped out Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, and a second-round pick to the Phoenix Suns for Boris Diaw and Raja Bell. The second the trade went down, the Bobcats were laughed at by many fans and writers, who saw the trade as a dumb move on the Bobcats part, but looking back, how wrong they were.
After two more losses gave the Bobcats a record of 7-18, the Bobcats began to turn things around. The team finished the rest of the season with a 28-29 record, which included a franchise-record six-game winning streak. Although a great turn around, this may not equate to high expectations for next season until we make a deeper analysis.
Before the trade, the Bobcats were 7-16, as mentioned before, while post-trade the Bobcats were 28-31. However, of those 23 games before the trade, 14 were home games. That comes out to 60.9 percent of their games up to that point being home games. Post-trade, of the 59 games, 27 were home games. That comes out to 45.8 percent.
Next, taking a look at the Bobcats' win/loss record, we can see that they were 23-18 at home and 12-29 on the road. In the 14 home games before the trade, the Bobcats were 6-8. Meaning, they were 17-10 in their home games post-trade. This tells us before the trade the Bobcats were a terrible 1-8 on the road, while post-trade the Bobcats were 11-21. Not great, but a substantial improvement.
Based on the math in front of us, had this post-trade team been able to play those first 23 games, they would have won nine home games (17x14/27) and three road games (11x9/32). That equals a total of five more wins, which would have been just enough to squeeze the Bobcats into eighth place in the playoffs over the Detroit Pistons, who won 39 games.
There were other factors that could have improved this hypothetical record, as well. Gerald Wallace, D.J. Augustin, and Bell all missed significant time throughout the season. Not that injuries don't happen to all teams, but it is noteworthy that they all missed time post-trade, not before. This is obvious for Bell, not so much for Augustin and Wallace, so I'd like to point that out.
In addition, making trades leaves a team short-handed for a game or two -- between bringing in Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, DeSagana Diop, and Vladimir Radmanovic, the Bobcats were short-handed quite a bit. Also, in the final two games of the season, Brown played the bench just as much, if not more, than the starters.
Not that other teams may not have done this, but the Nets' starters played throughout, and Stan Van Gundy played his starters more than Larry Brown did his, as well.
And unfortunately for Bobcats' fans, the team folded down the stretch of their first ever playoff chase by finishing the season 1-7. What the coaches, management, players, and fans can hope for is that this will be used as a learning experience and next season the team will finish 7-1.
So, looking forward to next season, how can the Bobcats improve?
Finding a backup shooting guard should be priority No. 2. There are three ways to go about doing this: a trade, free agency, and the NBA draft.
I'm betting on one of the latter two. At pick No. 12, the Bobcats should have an opportunity to take Gerald Henderson if they so choose. In free agency, Anthony Parker could help a ton. If nothing else, by simply being a second shooting guard on the roster.
Yes, you heard that correctly. The Bobcats did not have another shooting guard on the roster after Bell, which partly contributed to the bad finish; Bell missed the final six games of the season and only played 20 minutes in the prior game—a loss to Miami.
As for priority No. 1, re-signing Raymond Felton. He's the captain of this team, a leader on the court, and he plays hard game in and game out. However, this isn't improving, but retaining. Which is all right, because it can be just as important. And in this case, it is.
Having a training camp with all the new acquisitions throughout the season will help, too. This is certainly true for the bench players, who were the Bobcats' Achilles heel this season.
Improvement from Radmanovic and Diop, the development of Alexis Ajinca, the continued development of Augustin, and a career resurrection from Sean May would certainly help.
All-in-all, by this time next season, the Bobcats may be playing a game instead of watching one.