The Charlotte Bobcats have struggled the fast few NBA seasons and have been the butt of many jokes across the league. After all, it was only a few seasons ago where the Bobcats set an NBA record for lowest win percentage, with seven regular season wins in a lockout shortened season. This season the Bobcats have become a different animal, and are staring down their first playoff berth since the 2009-2010 season.
In their final season before they change the team name back to the Charlotte Hornets, the Bobcats have given their fan base something to cheer about. Following a victory over their fellow Eastern Conference playoff pupil Washington Wizards, the Bobcats now sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 36-38.
Despite not being over .500, Charlotte holds a 3.5 game lead over eighth place Atlanta, so apart from a historic collapse, the Bobcats appear to be headed to the playoffs in their final year under that name. One of the main reasons the Bobcats have rebounded from a 21-61 record last season, has been the signing of Al Jefferson.
In his first season with the Cats, Jefferson has helped turned the franchise around and has even stirred up some discussion for MVP. Jefferson is averaging a double double on the season with 21.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He ranks twelfth in the league in scoring, and ninth in the league in rebounding, all while shooting 50.6 percent from the field.
The Bobcats are a young team consisting of high first round draft picks. The savvy veteran leadership that Jefferson brings to this team has proven to be invaluable this season. It looks as though the Bobcats will be headed to the playoffs for just the second time in their 10-year existence.
Player to Watch in the Playoffs
While the play of Big Al Jefferson is one of the main reasons Charlotte is in the playoff hunt, it will be their young guns that will need to step up in the playoffs. Starting point guard, and second leading scorer Kemba Walker is no stranger to pressure, and playing in big games.
Walker guided the University of Connecticut to an NCAA title in 2011, and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. While he may not have any experience playing in the NBA playoffs, he knows what it is like to play in big games.
On the season Walker is averaging 18.0 points per game to go along with a team high 5.9 assists. If the Bobcats are to have any chance at an upset in the first round, Kemba Walker will have to play a huge part for them.
How Will Their Season End
As of today, the Bobcats would take on the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Despite Indiana being heavy favorites to get to the Eastern Conference finals, they have struggled as of late. If the Bobcats are able to feed big Al the ball in the post and force Roy Hibbert into foul trouble, they have a legitimate shot at upsetting the number two seed.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has developed into one of the elite perimeter defenders in the league, and may be able to at the very least slow down Paul George. Kemba Walker would be able to create his own shot as well as facilitate for his teammates with George Hill guarding him, and much like Indiana, the Bobcats are one of the better defensive teams in the NBA.
Well they may not make it past the second round, the Bobcats certainly have a shot at winning their first playoff series since the franchise changed their name. So before everyone pencils in Miami and Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals, look out for the first round, because there are some determined Bobcats lurking in the forest of upsets.
NBA Daily is a daily series providing commentary, predictions, and analysis of events surrounding the NBA.
Commentary By Eric Kummel