Kemba went down with a nasty ankle sprain in a L against the Heat last night. He will probably be out a minimum of 2 weeks. Here’s what those 2 weeks look like:
A surging Toronto, LAC, @ New York, Chicago, @ Denver, @ LAL, @ Phoenix, and @ Golden State.
And the hits don’t stop there, check out the strength of schedule from where we stand currently to the rest of the season:
Notice how our schedule goes from the 2nd easiest to significantly harder? This is practically foreshadowing. I’ve been leading the tank all season and now the Fates are hopefully convincing Bobcats’ management to hop on board. While there have been reports that the Bobcats were rumored to be buyers in an attempt to make the playoffs, realistically what players can they acquire that would be dynamic enough to drastically improve a team missing its best player in Walker and has Josh McRoberts and Ramon Sessions as marquee players? Are they going to trade MKG, arguably our best defensive player whose absence due to injury torpedoed the Bobcats’ record recently? Keep in mind, the Cats have invested in MKG also by hiring Mark Price to fix his shooting and signing his boyhood idol Chris Douglas-Roberts to the team. How about Ben Gordon’s 13 million dollar expiring? Odds are slim that a team is going to give a good player up solely for salary relief. What other assets do the Cats have? A terribly performing rookie big in Zeller? An iso-loving, non 3pt shooting Henderson? A sparsely paid McRoberts? Really, the only assets of any value to other teams are the 1st round picks of Detroit and Portland and Charlotte would be stupid to let those go for anything short of an All Star.
There is no shame in tanking out the rest of the season. Hey, you gave it a shot, you successfully took a step from laughingstock to competitive team but let us not get delusional here, Charlotte was never going to be particularly good, even if they fell into the playoffs. So let us optimize that pick we owe Chicago and put Jefferson on the shelf for the rest of the year. He’s already stated that he’s going to need surgery to clean up his ankle, go ahead and get it over with so you’ll be 100% next year. Biyombo can get some meaningful minutes that he deserves. His rebounding, field goal percentage, free throw shooting, and scoring are all markedly improved in the sporadic time he’s gotten. My favorite stat is his opponent’s FG % at the rim (basically rim protection) which is a stellar 39.1%. Roy Hibbert’s by comparison? 40.9% (albeit in 30 mpg). Al Jefferson’s? 57%.
Play Cody Zeller some more for development. Sure, he’s shooting a dismal 37% or so (that’s bad for guards let alone big men) but let’s run some plays for him and get him some touches. Obviously he doesn’t fit as a stretch 4 beside Al Jefferson and we don’t know if he ever will unless he drastically improves his shooting and dribble over the offseason but how about his more natural position as a back to the basket post, with a rim protecting Bismack beside him? McRoberts is deservedly the starter but he’s getting ran into the ground guarding 2 defenders every play thanks to Al and being a major piece of the offense. So let’s find out if Zeller is even an NBA player at this point.
Find a taker for Henderson. Let him go on a tear as the man with no Kemba or Al to take away touches. If he puts up numbers similar to his end of the season last year, some team will surely give up something for him. Losing Gerald would be addition by subtraction at this point, his game does not fit the roster at all and he should be easily replaced via the draft or free agency with a SG that can actually, you know, shoot threes and stuff.
Spoon feed MKG touches. He’s a former 2nd overall pick and has been working diligently on his shot, let’s see if the hard work is paying off. Make him part of the offense and see how he performs with the green light. He’s got to develop too if Charlotte is going to take that next step forward into becoming a legitimate playoff team.
Most importantly, find an identity. It is painfully obvious that Charlotte is at best a middle of the road team relying on Kemba and Al to carry them. The lack of shooters around these two and more importantly Al’s inability to outscore teams more than he gives up make it abundantly clear that best case scenario is a middle of the road team (aka treadmill). By playing Biyombo, MKG, and Zeller more over sieves like Jefferson and a burned out McRoberts, Charlotte has a chance to be elite on one side of the ball: Defense. Studies have shown that to be successful in professional sports, you have to be good at either offense or defense, preferably both (Read Ch. 5 of Scorecasting by Moskowitz and Wertheim). No line up showcasing Jefferson is going to be good at defense and the rest of the roster is better suited for a fast paced, defensive squad full of young athletes. Keep Jefferson if you have to, but bring him in at timely intervals to exploit mismatches like a knuckleballer. Once the knuckleball gets figured out, it’s time to send him back to the bench.
So come on, Charlotte. Read the tea leaves correctly for once and bow out of the season gracefully. Add some talented rookies and a free agent, maybe swing a trade to get rid of the ill-fitting Henderson (or Jefferson) and be a force to be reckoned with next year as the new Hornets. You have gone this far with a rebuild, why not to take it to its logical conclusion?