Want a bold prediction? How about this: this'll be the last losing season for the Charlotte Bobcats -- ever!
That's because this marks the last year that we'll have to call this Charlotte team 'the Bobcats' and, if nothing else, that'll make this season a resounding success. Thanks to New Orleans becoming the Pelicans, next year the Hornets name returns to the Queen City and the losing will be done under the new old name.
Really, just with this name change the Bobcats season can be looked at as a resounding success. Nothing about this team since it joined the league in 2004 -- from the colors to the logo to the mascot itself -- was doing anything to sell the brand. The mere mental image of those old Charlotte Hornets striped jerseys has me giddily reminiscing about battling my friends in NBA Jam with 'Zo and Grandmama when I was little.
But before all that can happen, these guys need to play some basketball. Here's how I think they'll do.
Prediction: 27 wins and the fifth-overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft
Regardless of whether or not you like the Al Jefferson signing in the long run (three years, $41 million), he'll certainly make the Bobcats better next year. The team finally has that anchor on the low post, and a guy who should pair nicely with fourth-overall pick Cody Zeller.
Aside from Jefferson, they have a promising young point guard in Kemba Walker, who will only get better with time and should benefit from Big Al's presence down low. They also have Gerald Henderson, who is a walking, talking 15ppg. The team's also counting on former second-overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to develop -- namely to improve upon his poor shooting, which will really limit his game if he's not able to keep defenses honest and take full advantage of his athleticism.
Outside of a decent starting five, the Bobcats don't have much that should scare opposing teams. Their bench is weak (their two best bench guys, Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions, might well be traded before season's end), they have few players who can hit from beyond the three-point line, and their defense will be suspect at best.
The Bobcats will win their share of games, and should finish the season with a better record than teams like Philadelphia, Orlando and Phoenix. The problem? This is precisely the year that the Bobcats would have liked to have stuck to their particular brand of stink, given the treasure trove of talent that is the 2014 draft.
Still, any pick within the top eight or ten of next year's draft should result in an elite talent (though it would help if your owner hadn't once drafted Kwame Brown first overall). On top of that, Charlotte could potentially land two other first-round picks in the 2014 draft, since they have Portland's top-12-protected pick as well as Detroit's top-8-protected pick (reference: Hoopsworld).
Is Portland a top-18 team? Maybe. Is Detroit a top-22 team? Probably. Either way, that makes this year all the more interesting for reasons outside of what this team's win total will be. It also gives the once (and future) Charlotte Hornets plenty to look forward to.
- Cody Zeller will make the All-Rookie First Team (3 to 1)
- Disappointing former lottery pick Bismack Biyombo will be packaged with Ben Gordon's expiring contract in a mid-season trade (8 to 1)
- Michael Jordan will suit up for a game (MJ's ego/number of losses to 1)
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