It's hard to imagine what owner Michael Jordan was thinking as he watched his team lose more games last season than he did in his final three years with the Bulls—and set an NBA record for worst winning percentage (.106). Realizing a change was necessary, Jordan has pledged a hands-off policy on personnel decisions, handing the reins to G.M. Rich Cho, who brought in talent by trade (Ben Gordon), free agency (Ramon Sessions), amnesty (Brendan Haywood) and the draft (No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky).
Those moves should make the Bobcats better, but if they want to avoid setting another record for the longest losing streak—they dropped their final 23 games, three shy of the Cavs' mark—they'll need drastic improvement on defense. New coach Mike Dunlap will stress a pesky, ball hawking D, which he was known for in his 14 years as a college coach. Charlotte is headed back to the lottery, but if Dunlap can send them there with a semblance of competitiveness, he will have done his job.
COACH: Mike Dunlap (1st season with Bobcats)
2011--12 RECORD: 7--59 (5th in Southeast)
OFFENSE: 87.0 ppg (30th)
DEFENSE: 100.9 ppg (27th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 19.1 ppg (26th)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
New acquisition (R) Rookie, college stats
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE BOBCATS
I see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as more Jeff Green than Kevin Durant. I don't know what his go-to offensive move is—he's not a low-post player, he's not a jump shooter, he's not a pick-and-roll guy.... They got a keeper in Bismack Biyombo, who showed he can be an impact defender—especially around the rim. He's raw, but he has great feet and great balance. There are a lot of guys who are athletic; what sets Biyombo apart is a willingness to be a great defender.... They needed scoring in the worst way, so Ben Gordon can get all the shots that he needs, although he doesn't do much else.... I don't think anyone outside of Charlotte is convinced Kemba Walker is a point guard. To be fair, he did not play point exclusively at UConn, so that was a transition. On top of that, he was being called upon to score. He was stretched. It showed in his play.... Gerald Henderson's ability to knock down mid-range shots has developed to the point where defenses don't just play him to drive. There's a confidence there that borders on being chippy. The team has to be encouraged that they at least hit on a rotation player if not a solid NBA starter.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a star, Biyombo dominates on D and.... Oh, who are we kidding? A successful year would be 25 wins.
Dunlap can't connect with his young team, and MJ reinserts himself in personnel moves, undermining his front office.
Charlotte's average point differential last season, far and away the worst in the NBA in more than a decade. The last team with even a double-digit deficit was the 1999--2000 Clippers (-11.5).
GREG NELSON (KIDD-GILCHRIST)
ISSAC BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (BIYOMBO)