While I can certainly acknowledge that the Charlotte Bobcats had a historically awful season last year, the Bobcats are a secretly entertaining team that I'm pretty excited to watch this year. The most interesting thing to me is that the Bobcats are being summarily dismissed entering this season, generally predicted to once again be the worst team in the NBA. While the Bobcats will certainly still be bad, I think it's absurd to think they'll be the worst. Whereas last year's squad almost entirely lacked NBA talent, the Bobcats now have legitimate if unspectacular players filling out their roster.
But let's back up for a moment and visit the draft, because that's where this all begins for the Bobcats. Despite being the worst team in the league, Charlotte was denied the luck of the lotto gods, missing out of the first overall pick. Charlotte landed second, which history has shown us is actually somewhat fortunate. Certainly better than sliding to fourth. The problem was that this year's draft held one "franchise-changing" talent, and then a second tier of excellent prospects who weren't considered franchise cornerstones for a variety of reasons. While Michael Kidd-Gilchrest was widely considered the second best prospect in the draft, most assumed Charlotte wouldn't take him. He wasn't a "star" player that Charlotte could build around, according to common logic. Thomas Robinson and Bradley Beal were both rumored to be in play, both having skill sets that most considered a better fit for a team desperately in need of a leader both in the locker room and in the box score.
Although it was a surprise when Charlotte took Kidd-Gilchrist, it was generally regarded as a surprise that they didn't overthink the decision, and probably picked the best option available.Kidd-Gilchrist will man the small forward spot for Charlotte for the foreseeable future. He's an excellent defender, a hard worker, and a locker room leader. While he may not be the most prolific scorer, I'd argue that a scorer wasn't what Charlotte was missing last season. Charlotte's biggest issue was the way players were misused. Kemba Walker should become the scorer Charlotte needs, but spent last season sharing a backcourt with D.J. Augustin, or battling Augustin for minutes. Neither Augustin or Walker are shooting guards. Walker should improve in his second season, where he plays only as a scoring point guard. Gerald Henderson was also misused, being asked to play small forward last year. While not a great scorer, he can create offense and get to the rim. He's also a solid defender.
The Bobcats acquired a couple of additional legitimate NBA players to shore up their roster. The biggest name was Ben Gordon, acquired from Detroit along with a first round pick in exchange for Corey Maggette. While Gordon is horribly overpaid, perhaps he can regain the form he had in Chicago, as a streaky scoring sixth man. The Bobcats also added Ramon Sessions. Sessions was a disappoinment with the Lakers last season, but is still a valuable back-up. My only criticism with acquiring Sessions is that, in order to offer Sessions a contract, the Bobcats rescinded their qualifying offer for Augustin, allowing a young, valuable point guard to leave for nothing. Even if Augustin was no longer part of the team's future, you can't allow a piece like that to leave for nothing. The other notable name Charlotte added was Brendan Haywood. While Haywood is nowhere near his prime, he's still a big body that can play some worthwhile minutes. If nothing else, he could give Charlotte the size to play Bismack Biyombo at his more natural four spot.
The final move of the offseason was hiring new head coach Mike Dunlap. It's easy to laugh at the Bobcats, hiring a collegiate assistant as an NBA head coach, but Dunlap has spent several years as an assistant in the NBA as well. We criticize teams for always hiring the same old retreads, but then we also mock the teams that dare take a chance on a young coach. Dunlap is expected to emphasize defense, and he certainly has personnel that can play that style, particularly guys like Kidd-Gilchrist, Henderson, and Biyombo. The Bobcats still have a long way to go, but I'll be shocked if they are the worst team in the East this season.