Similar to the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, this turnaround may take awhile; however, the Bobcats are headed in the right direction.
It’s hard to take away concrete positives from the 2012-2013 preseason that Charlotte had, as they finished with a 1-7 record, including their latest loss: a 99-82 flop against a depleted Dallas Mavericks team, during which the Cats shot a lowly 30-percent from the field. Yet there were some positive signs both outside of the box score as well as what lies within.
Mike Dunlap has emphasized defense since his arrival to the team in June, and the team has clearly taken to the philosophy. More effort on the defensive side is clearly visible, as the team held opponents to 97 points per game in the preseason, down from the 101 ppg allowed last season. Likewise, the Bobcats have had much better hands on defense as well, as they averaged 9 steals per game this preseason, as opposed to the 6 steals they averaged last season.
On the other side of the ball, the Cats have shown both the ability to put the ball in the basket, and the ability to struggle. Last season, Charlotte averaged a lousy 87 points per game, good enough for last in the league by almost three points per game. Throughout the preseason, Charlotte averaged 88.8 ppg. While not the most impressive jump in numbers, the increase is an improvement nonetheless. The Bobcats have also been able to increase their total number of rebounds per game; they averaged 41.25 boards per game as opposed to only 39 per game last season.
While the improvements are nice to see, they unfortunately haven’t been able to show any improvements where it matters most: in the wins-losses column. Charlotte’s 1-7 record was second-worst only to the Lakers’ out-of-character 0-8 showing; yet the Lakers rested Dwight Howard for a majority of their games, and limited their other stars’ minutes to keep them well rested and try to prevent injuries.
Another unfortunate sight was Charlotte’s efficiency. From last season through this preseason, Charlotte’s field-goal percentage dropped from 41.4% to 38.5%, while their 3-point percentage improved from 29.5% to 31.4%. While the slight improvement in 3-point percentage is a welcomed change, the drop off in field-goal percentage is not very encouraging. One can only hope that the drop off is due to a high number of shots taken per game rather than a legitimate drop in the players’ overall efficiency. The Cats’ free-throw percentage has also declined from 74.6% to 71.3%.
The defensive improvements are a great thing to see, especially for a team that is continuing to learn to play as a cohesive unit. The other “improvements”, however, could do with a bit more time and effort on the practice court.
Regardless of how long it takes to start turning the blowout losses into close losses, and the close losses into wins, the Bobcats are moving in the right direction. How long it takes them to reach the finish line is another story.