The Charlotte Bobcats are off to another surprising start at 6-6. Despite one less win, this year’s team has a different vibe than last season’s 7-5 Bobcats.
WHAT’S TO LIKE
- 3rd in opponent points in the paint
- 3rd in opponent fastbreak points
- 3rd in opponent fourth quarter points
- 4th in points allowed at 92.8
- 4th in defensive rebounding percentage
- 4th in free throws attempted
- 4th in turnover percentage
- 6th in defensive rating
- 7th in free throws made
- 9th in opponent field goal percentage at 43.8
- 9th in opponent turnover percentage
- 12th in offensive rebounding percentage
The Bobcats are one of the league’s most improved defenses. They’re getting turnovers, defending the paint, forcing low percentage shots and closing out possessions with a committee of rebounders. The Bobcats haven’t been top 10 in opponent points in the paint since 2010-11.
The players have bought into Steve Clifford’s defensive system and have developed a new sense of composure and urgency under him. While Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo are respectable defenders, none of them are elite. The Bobcats are succeeding with team defense and no visible anchor. Players communicate, trust each other and make the right rotations.
The only downside of the Bobcats’ defense so far is opponent 3-point shooting—24th in the league.
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE
- 0-4 against teams with a record of .500 or better
- 2nd easiest schedule in the league so far; played eight teams below .500
- -3.2 point differential
- 24th in opponent 3-point percentage
- 27th in offensive rating
- 28th in 3-point field goals
- 28th in free throw percentage at 69.7 percent
- 30th in scoring
- 30th in field goal percentage 40.2 percent
- 30th in fourth quarter scoring
The Bobcats early season schedule has been soft, but not by design. Five of Charlotte’s 12 games have been against three projected playoff teams in the Eastern Conference—New York, Brooklyn, and Cleveland. The Bobcats are 4-1 against those teams, who have a 10-24 combined record. It’s unlikely each of those teams continue to play at the pace of a lottery team. The Bobcats soft schedule is a twist of fortune more than anything.
Four of the Bobcats six losses have come against teams with a .500 record or better—Houston, Atlanta, Miami and Chicago. Charlotte has a -11.25 point differential in those games while only allowing 95.5 points. Charlotte’s defense is keeping games within reach, but the offense is negating any stops. The Bobcats have a -2.3 point differential in the fourth quarter.
As optimistic as the team’s defensive start is, the offense doesn’t seem to have as much upside. Al Jefferson has missed nine games, which is a major factor in getting his rhythm back. If Jefferson returns to form and Kemba Walker gets going, the Bobcats offense will improve, but is likely to remain mediocre overall. The team’s lack of perimeter threats is limiting how good the offense can be this season. The Bobcats can get by without as much offense against bad teams, but will flounder against more-talented squads.
Despite a 6-6 start, the Bobcats are very much a mystery. The Eastern Conference’s bad start has vaulted Charlotte into the sixth seed, but only three games separate them from last place. The Bobcats are doing a lot of things well, but it remains too early to jump the gun on anything.