With the NBA playoffs almost among us, each of the 16 teams who will eventually make up the postseason will have dreams of going all the way and be crowned the NBA champions. Of course for some this is still merely a pipe dream, while for others it is the absolute end goal, with any other result deemed a failure. With that in mind we take a quick and lighthearted look at how each team can potentially do once the playoffs start.
Why They Can Win It All
If you haven’t being paying attention, things are starting to come together for the Charlotte Bobcats. The beginning of the process began a few years back, but really it bumped up a level with the capture of Al Jefferson last summer. It might seem hard to believe, but this All-Star snub actually isn’t having a career year in a major statistical category. He is still putting up big numbers though, averaging 21.9 points and 10.7 rebounds. Still, though, he has had years where he has played more minutes elsewhere, shot better from the field and gotten to the free throw line more. But what Jefferson is doing is more important than that, he is changing the attitude and belief within the franchise. His old school smash mouth brand of basketball is refreshing to watch as well. Jefferson is no nonsense and all business down there on the block, damaging teams inside with his bruising style of play.
Now around Jefferson players like Kemba Walker and become more important. Walker has had talent all along, but now he has that anchor and fellow potential star to play around. Think Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. A third-year player, Walker is having a breakout year of sorts, posting career highs in points (17.8), assists (6.1) and rebounds (4.2). Shooting .839 from the free throw line is not only a great number, that too is a career high. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has dropped off a little this year we productivity, but he is still just 20 years old. Time is most certainly on his side. There is now some depth to this team as well with sharpshooter Gary Neal in tow, as well as the likes of veterans Luke Ridnour (when healthy) and Gerald Henderson. Rookie Cody Zeller is a prospect as well, his 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in just over 17 minutes a nice bonus. As a team, their big strengths lie in taking care of the ball. The Bobcats produce the fewest turnovers per game with 12.4 and if the other team doesn’t have the ball then it can do no damage to Charlotte.
Why They Might Exit Early
This is still a team that is growing, and there is only so much pounding inside a team can do before being found out. Double teams have started coming Jefferson’s way, and other than Walker and Neal other players struggle to consistently create offense when they have an extra man on a play. Charlotte is only getting 17 minutes out of their bench on a nightly basis as well, meaning the starters are doing a lot of the heavy lifting often. The Bobcats also rank 29th in steals per game, showing a lack of alertness on the defensive end from time to time. Couple that with their middle of the road rebounding (17th in the league with 42.5) and this team can be found out if you attack them hard.
This is also a young team, with next to no playoff experience between them. While little is expected of them and the pressure is off them in that respect, it remains to be seen how these youngsters cope with a slower paced and more deliberate game during the playoffs. The Bobcats have only won seventeen games on the road all season as well, and given how they will not have home court advantage, that will be a problem. Melting pots such as Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana are tough atmospheres to play in, and with this team struggling to win on the road in the regular season, pulling out an away win in the playoffs will prove difficult.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. As mentioned, he has had a pretty quiet year, so there is no better time than the playoffs to turn his play up a notch. Opponents won’t spend too much time planning ways in which to shut him down, and so he must take this opportunity. There is absolutely room for improvement in his 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds. Even taking it upon himself to step up on the defensive end and stay locked in while he is on the floor will be enough to see him help his team in a positive way once the intense games begin. Depending on the Bobcats first round matchup, the 6’7″ forward could have some joy depending on who his opponent is. Like the Bobcats the kid has got nothing to lose, and it is about playing freely and building towards next year.
How They’ll Do
This team is unlikely to throw any major curve balls, and a first-round exit is on the cards here. Their most likely opponents, the Miami Heat, will have too much talent for this team. The Bobcats may have some joy inside against Miami, and Al Jefferson could give the Heat fits, but over a seven-game series they will get the better of him and this team. A series against the Toronto Raptors would have been interesting and perhaps they could have won that. Playing the Chicago Bulls would have been an industrious affair too. As it is though it’ll be one and done for the Bobcats, although they won’t be swept, and it is then onto the summer and adding some extra pieces to have another go next year.