Charlotte Bobcats: Rough stretch has ‘Cats reeling

Charlotte Bobcats

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) will return to the Charlotte Bobcats’ lineup on Tuesday, January 14th after missing over a month with a fractured left hand. (Photo Credit: Robert Lasher/Charlotte Observer)

On Christmas morning, the Charlotte Bobcats had a 14-15 record and were coming off a stretch where they won four of their last five games. Since Christmas however, it has gone downhill quickly for Charlotte, as they have lost eight of their last nine games and have fallen out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Before Christmas, the Bobcats were easily one of the five best defensive teams in the NBA and all of their statistics backed that up. Unfortunately, in their nine games since the holiday, the Bobcats have let up over 100 points in a game six different times. Charlotte had surrendered more than 100 points seven times only the first 29 games.

For the season, the Bobcats still have the statistics to rank them in the top-10 defenses in the NBA; however, when the team also boasts one of the worst offenses in the league, the defense needs to be as stout as possible for the ‘Cats to succeed.

Of course, the Bobcats have been without their top two small forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is their best overall defensive player, and Jeffery Taylor, who will miss the remainder of the season with an Achilles injury. The absence of these two players has put an obvious hole in Charlotte’s perimeter defense. Good news is on the way though, as MKG is expected to return Tuesday night when the Bobcats take on the New York Knicks.

With the return of Kidd-Gilchrist, the defense should improve, and it must if the Bobcats are going to claw their way back into a playoff spot. But the bottom line remains, if Charlotte wants to be a playoff team, their defense must be elite because their offense is downright putrid at times.

Another piece of good news is that the Bobcats schedule does ease up over the next few weeks. Seven of their next 11 opponents have records below .500, meaning Charlotte could climb their way back closer to an even record by the time February rolls around.

Follow @isportsweb on Twitter

Bobcats’ fans also need to remember that all is not lost if Charlotte cannot turn their record around during the remainder of this season and does miss the playoffs for a third consecutive year. If the Bobcats finish with one of the ten worst records in the NBA (right now they have the 10th worst record), they get to keep their own first round draft pick this year. If they finish outside of the “worst-10”, then their pick will head over to the Chicago Bulls in the upcoming 2014 NBA draft.

Also, if the Detroit Pistons finish outside of the “worst-8”, then Charlotte would get their first-round pick. As of right now, the Pistons would own the 16th overall pick in the upcoming draft and as a result, that pick would be granted to Charlotte.

Barring any epic collapse by the Portland Trail Blazers, the Bobcats will also obtain their first-round pick this season. Right now that would be the 27th overall pick. To recap, if the season ended today, the Bobcats would own the 10th, 16th, and 27th overall picks. Not bad for a team that is still probably a year or two away from seriously contending in the Eastern Conference.

If you think it is too early to already be talking about the 2014 NBA draft, you are probably right. The Bobcats are only ½ game out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Not to mention, it probably (hopefully?) took the Bobcats’ worst nine-game stretch of the season to put them just outside of a playoff spot.

However, if you choose to be an optimist like me, then you will look at the remaining 44 games of the season like this: If the Bobcats win, great. That is one win closer to the playoffs and much-needed playoff experience for Charlotte’s young core. If the Bobcats lose, fine. That is one loss closer to another top-10 overall pick, in addition to probably two other first round picks.

Read more news, rumors, and opinions on our Charlotte Bobcats team page.