Phoenix Suns fans looking forward to the franchise trading off all assets in hopes of losing the maximum amount of games to get a premium pick in the upcoming draft need look no further than the Charlotte Bobcats to see what the resulting team would be. The Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA by most measures, sitting at 3-20. The average score of their games is 87.3-101.3.
If the regular Bobcats squad wasn't beatable enough, the Suns have the added advantage of their opponents missing their top three scorers, Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin and Corey Maggette for tonight's game at US Airways Center in Phoenix.
Of course, the Suns have plenty of problems of their own. This will be the second night of a back to back after being pulverized by the Rockets in Houston last night. In their last five games, the Suns have suffered losses of 38, 23 and 18 points, and Seth thinks the grim reaper is lurking. It's hard to look at any opponent right now and say, "the Suns should beat these guys." But really, the Suns should beat these guys.
Point guard Kemba Walker is the Bobcats leading scorer with the top three others out, and the #9 overall pick of the 2011 draft out of UConn figures to be the most intriguing Bobcats player to watch tonight. On the surface, the 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game look respectable, but it's taking a lot of usage for Walker to get those numbers. He's shooting only 36% from the field and his assist to turnover ratio is less than 2 to 1. In fact, advanced stats aren't kind to any of the Bobcats.
League average of win shares/48 minutes is approximately .100, meaning the Bobcats have no regular rotation players who are even average, let alone above average. Our old friend Boris Diaw sits at .000, which seems amusingly appropriate. Wasn't that Bluto's grade point average in Animal House?
Still, last year's edition of the Bobcats beat the Suns twice and The Big Croissant scored 26 in the first game and 18 in the second. Could a meeting with his former team motivate Diaw for a strong performance? That's certainly a possibility.
The Suns will also get their first look at freakishly athletic, raw as nigiri rookie Bismack Biyombo. He has yet to be a factor, averaging 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game.
Marcin Gortat continues his double-double producing ways and is playing like a near all-star, but he is the only consistent Suns player. Steve Nash is playing through a bruised thigh. At least last night's blowout at the hands of the Rockets allowed Nash to play only 25 minutes in the game. We'll have to wait and see how fresh his legs are tonight.
Ben Swanson of Bobcats' blog Rufus on Fire answered five questions about the Bobcats for us as they navigate a rough season but have their eyes on the future.
Ray: This is the Bobcats 8th season as an NBA franchise, without much success so far. North Carolina is known for its rabid college basketball fans. How are the Bobcats catching on? Have they built a solid fanbase?
Ben: The Bobcats are catching on slightly, I'd say. They had built up a somewhat strong fanbase during the playoff year, but fell off hard last season, especially after trading or not re-signing most of the pieces that were involved in that season.
Ray: Before last year's trade deadline, the Bobcats traded Gerald Wallace for Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, Joel Przybilla, cash, a 2011 1st round draft pick (Tobias Harris) and a 2013 1st round draft pick. Wallace was the heart and soul of the team, and was dumped for cap space and a couple of non-premium draft picks. How hard was that trade for Bobcats fans to deal with?
Ben: It's a lot harder to deal with in hindsight. People often forget how much Wallace was struggling that season before he was traded. I, and others, wondered if age was catching up to him. It seemed like opposing defense had figured out how to stop him completely. He was called for more charges than I had ever seen. And when a player's style is so dependent on athleticism and has such a history of concussions and injuries, you have to wonder if Wallace had reached his apex the previous season. It wasn't a great return then, but I don't know if there was a better deal out there.
Ray: The Bobcats appear to have gone with the "blow the team up completely and start from scratch" method of rebuilding. How's the long-term prognosis there? What do you think of the Suns alternate method to attempt to re-tool while holding on to Steve Nash and hoping to add pieces around him?
Ben: I'm definitely all for the 'blow it up' rebuilding mode for the Bobcats. It's painful for fans, but this team is on track for a top-four pick in a draft that's regarded as one of the most talented in years. As for the Suns and Steve Nash, I wonder if it's too late. Nash is still a great point guard, but he's nearing 40 (which is amazing) and injuries are catching up. The return on a trade involving him might not be as franchise-altering as even just a year or two ago. I think the way they're just adding pieces around him limits their future.
Ray: From an outsider's view, Michael Jordan looks overmatched as a team owner. Do you think he's capable of being an effective NBA executive?
Ben: I think he can be if he doesn't get too involved. Some input is fine, but he needs guys in that organization that are willing to contradict him if they have differing opinions. That is why I and many others were encouraged by the Rich Cho hiring. And though very few have heard of him, Bobcats Vice Chairman Curtis Polk has an important role in the organization as one of the few guys who Jordan will listen to as a dissenter. Jordan is not the GM (though many like to act like he is) but he needs to take a more hands-off approach when it comes to personnel.
Ray: Gotta ask about former Sun Boris Diaw. His career arc in Phoenix was one spectacular season followed by a fat contract, followed by him getting fat. Oh, and a lot of passes out to the perimeter when he had an open look right next to the basket. What have you seen from him in Charlotte?
Ben: Wow. That pretty much sums it up. He came on strong immediately after the trade but fell apart the following season, especially after the Stephen Jackson trade. His play is marked by immense inconsistency. It's maddening not only to fans, but to coach Paul Silas, who benched Diaw from the starting lineup last month for the first time in years. Diaw has so much talent but can never seem to put it together. He always prefers to just pass, when he needs to take shots and be aggressive to keep defenses guessing when he has the ball. It's a shame, really.
Thanks for the knowledge, Ben! For more insight and humor from Ben, AKA Cardboard Gerald, he's on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/CardboardGerald and his game preview can be found here:
Charlotte Bobcats at Phoenix Suns preview -- Game 24
@ Phoenix Suns
Saturday, Feb 4, 2012, 7:00 PM MST
US Airways Center
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