The optimist would say the Charlotte Bobcats have already matched last seasons victory total in a quarter of the current NBA season. The pessimist would ask how a 7-5 start has become a 7-16 record.
The Bobcats will start their first West Coast trip Tuesday night, visiting the Los Angeles Lakers. Theyve had a kind first-quarter schedule, with 15 of their first 23 games at home.
Now they will play four games in five nights out West, while slogging along in an 11-game losing streak. Theyve lost those 11 by an average margin of nearly 14 points.
Theyre better than when they went 7-59 in a lockout-shortened season. Theyre also a long way from competing for a playoff spot.
The NBAs statistical rankings show the Bobcats relative strengths and weaknesses through the first quarter of the season. Consider these six areas:
To the good The Bobcats generally value the ball. They have the eighth-fewest turnovers in the league at 14.5 per game and their collective opponent averages the third-fewest steals at 6.86 per game.
The Bobcats primary ball-handlers Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions dont make a lot of silly errors off the dribble or the pass. Some of the big men Gana Diop, Brendan Haywood and Bismack Biyombo arent so great handling the ball, but thats acceptable.
If the Bobcats have any turnover-related problem, its how often they commit shot-clock violations, which count as team turnovers. Thats not an official statistic, but the Bobcats might commit the most 24-second violations in the league.
To the bad ... The Bobcats give up the most assisted baskets in the NBA. Charlottes collective opponent this season averages 25.4 assists. Granted, it technically doesnt matter whether a basket is assisted or not, but this illustrates the Bobcats defensive limitations.
All those assists suggest two things:
1. The Bobcats dont take away opponents preferred offensive choices very well.
2. As coach Mike Dunlap noted Saturday, his teams defensive rotations are slow. Slow rotations reward teams that move the ball with passes. Hence, abundant assisted baskets.
To the good The Bobcats are 11th in the NBA in free-throw percentage at 76.7 percent. Theyve traditionally not been a good foul-shooting team, so Dunlap has focused a lot of practice time on that area.
Since they average about two more free throw attempts per game than their opponents, exploiting that advantage could be key to winning close games. And lets face it the Bobcats dont win by blowout.
To the bad ... The Bobcats have the worst defensive-rebound percentage in the NBA. They retrieve just 69.7 percent of opponent misses this season. How will you ever be a superior defensive team if you cant limit opposing teams second-chance opportunities?
Charlottes big men often seem out of position to block out under the boards. The Bobcats have played some zone defense this season to address opponent post scoring. Zones can impede big men in blocking out.
To the good The Bobcats block a lot of shots, ranking sixth in the NBA in blocks at 6.64 per game. This has always been Biyombos thing (1.65 per game) and rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is particularly impressive from the small-forward position (1.32 per game). Tyrus Thomas return from a calf injury will provide yet another shot-blocker/rim protector.
To the bad Astoundingly, the Bobcats still have a wide block deficit for the season. Charlottes collective opponent is third in the league in blocks at 8.14 per game. All the way back to their inaugural season in 2004-05, the Bobcats have gotten an inordinate number of shots rejected. That never seems to change.