At the beginning of the season, if you asked me “when will the Charlotte Bobcats clinch,” I would have thought you’d be talking about when they’d clinch their spot in the NBA Draft lottery. Instead, the Bobcats defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers by a score of 96-94 in overtime last night to clinch a playoff spot.
True, the Eastern Conference has been a bit of a joke and a 39-38 record isn’t exactly something to get overly excited about. But, we have to consider where this franchise has been in recent years.
This is the fourth consecutive year in which they’ve started the season with a new coach. Since their last (and only) playoff appearance in 2009-10, they’ve gone through Larry Brown (9-19), Paul Silas (32-88), Mike Dunlap (21-61) and now Steve Clifford (29-28).
It was just two seasons ago that the Bobcats posted the worst winning percentage (.106) in the NBA’s storied history. That was the 2011-12 season, when the Bobcats ranked dead last in the NBA in offensive rating (95.2) and defensive rating (110.4).
The 2012-13 season saw a small improvement, with the offensive rating of 101.5 getting the Bobcats to No. 28 in the NBA, with the defense actually getting worse, with a rating of 111.5, last in basketball.
This year has been a revelation. Sure, the offense is still a bit of a struggle, but they’re going in the right direction. The rating of 103.5 has the Bobcats up to No. 24 in the league and the tandem of Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker have the Charlotte faithful excited about the future.
The most stunning change has happened on the defensive end. Even if you’re more than a casual basketball fan, you might not have realized that the Bobcats are an elite defensive team. They allow just 97.2 points per game, which is No. 5 in the NBA. Their defensive rating is a 104, which makes them No. 6 in basketball.
To go from the league’s worst defense (by far) to an elite defense in one offseason is amazing. Credit Clifford and his staff for getting these guys on the same page by creating a successful scheme that everyone believes in.
If the playoffs started today, the Bobcats would draw the Indiana Pacers, which is no bargain. The Bobcats have played the Pacers tough this season, but have won just one of three meetings. The games have been close, with the average score being 95.0-92.3 in favor of Indiana.
This couldn’t come at a better time for the Bobcats, who are going to be re-branding back to the Charlotte Hornets, starting next season. Having the excitement of a playoff series (regardless of outcome) will generate a lot of…ahem…buzz…heading into the 2014-15 season.
Currently, the Bobcats are No. 25 in home attendance, averaging 15,423 fans per night, which represents 80.8 percent of capacity. If the Bobcats can make a good showing in this year’s playoffs and make good on the 2014 draft (they’ll have Portland’s pick and Detroit’s if they fall out of the top-8), the future will be bright in the Queen city.
Tags: Charlotte Bobcats