So since I last blogged about the team and offered up a sort of Bobcats State of the Union things have really started to look up. We made a sneaky underrated trade with the Bucks to add a couple veteran guards and we moved up a spot in the playoff rankings.
The downside however; just as we build a little momentum and break out with a 4-game win streak (our longest of the season), we fall right into a six night layoff courtesy of the CIAA tournament. It is kinda nice that our new guys get a little practice time to become acclimated, but when you’re team is rolling you always dread the long layoff.
The trade adds veteran leadership, much needed 3-pt shooting, and another crunch time option in Gary Neal. The loss of Sesh will definitely hurt our bench production, but give it a few weeks and I bet you fans won’t even remember who it was we traded away in the first place. Also, it would appear the team is going to buyout Ben’s contract so we can finally move on from the dark period in Bobcats history known as the Gordon era. Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas were two of the worst value players in the league and soon we won’t have to deal with either. They both complained, they both missed a ton of games, and they both sucked when they were playing. The Heat are still rumored to be in the hunt for Gordon, although I can’t understand why. If he can’t get minutes on our team with our guard situation how the hell does he get minutes with the Heat?
Anyway, we’ve got 25 games left on the schedule, with 16 of those games coming against playoff teams. Considering half the league makes the postseason this isn’t too crazy, but so far this season we only have 11 wins against playoff teams so we will be fighting an uphill battle to gain any ground in the standings. Over the course of the next week the team will embark on a 4-game stretch that will determine the team’s readiness for the big time. If ever there were a way to measure and predict your team’s odds at success in the playoffs this is it. 6 nights, 4 games, 3 on the road. It’s as good a simulation of a playoff series as there is. As I’ve mentioned before, our best case scenario is a 6-seed matching us up against the Raptors who we beat in all three games we played against them this season. Don’t hold your breath waiting for us to climb in the standings. After looking at our remaining schedule I’d say if we can walk away winning half of em we’ve exceeded expectations.
Gary Neal gives us a playoff-tested guard capable of delivering in the clutch and Ridnour is a solid #2 PG that will give Kemba much needed rest down the stretch. All week the team has been releasing videos on Facebook of Neal knocking down 3‘s and I’m starting to get pumped. With the performance of Pargo in Kemba’s absence, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Pargo’s minutes increase. We’re still really hurting at the 3, but as long as Kemba and Al continue to perform at a high level we can continue to cruise by with a subpar performance from MKG/CDR. Until the playoffs that is. If only we still had Jeff Taylor.. Another change to look out for.. if Zeller can’t get things going soon I think Biz will start to pick up more minutes. As much as he lacks in offensive ability and knowledge of the game, if Zeller is going to continue playing like this he’s not going to be an asset to the team.
By no means are we a lock to make the playoffs. We made some good moves to improve the team at the deadline and we’re on a little bit of a roll but this thing is far from over. If Kemba or Big Al goes down again we’re likely out of it. Assuming we remain in good health I predict we’ll finish the season 38-44 which should be just good enough to snag a playoff spot. Since we’ll be looking at the 7 or 8 seed it would seem likely the Bobcats will move on without a playoff win in the history of the franchise. Sucks to know you don’t stand a shot at a title but would still be cool to see the team back in the postseason. Who knows?.. Maybe Lebron gets hurt and the Pacers’ plane blows up.. Vegas odds are at 500:1 that we win the title, which still doesn’t seem low enough when you consider both of the scenarios mentioned in the previous sentence would literally have to happen for us to win.
Last time I mentioned in a single sentence at the end of the blog that I hoped we would land Evan Turner at the deadline.. well we obviously didn’t get him. But.. the Pacers did. This probably makes them the front runners to win the East. If they can get even an ounce of production out of Bynum then, at the very least, they should cruise to the Eastern Conference Finals. Since I don’t expect Charlotte or Chicago to make any noise in the playoffs I’m really looking forward to a Pacers/Heat series. Could be the best of the playoffs. These guys are gonna beat up on each other guaranteed, which is good news for whoever comes out of the West. The NBA playoffs are f****n awesome and this year shouldn’t be any different.