Once the clock hit zero in Charlotte last night and the Heat completed their first-round sweep, the Bobcat days were officially over.
Although they'll be the only team to not win a game in this year’s playoffs, the Bobcats definitely have much to be proud of. It was just two years ago when they finished 7-59, with a rookie point guard in Kemba Walker and a roster that looked a lot like a D-League outfit. This year they finished 43-39, just one win shy of their best record ever, and were the unlucky recipient of the East's seventh seed and Miami Heat first round foe.
From the Present to the Future
Speaking of Kemba Walker - he has certainly come a long way for the Bobcats. Our nERD statistic had him rated as the worst player in the league during his rookie year in 2012 with a rating of -9.2. Last year he improved to a -3.4 score, and this year's version is almost up to the zero threshold at a -0.8.
This season, Walker averaged 17.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 2.3 turnovers per game. He also grabbed a career high 4.2 rebounds per game and played more minutes than he has the past two seasons. While there is still room for improvement - he still shot below .400 from the field and .333 from the three-point line - it's encouraging to have your young point guard on an upward trajectory.
One of the best things for Kemba’s development has been the addition of free agent big man, Al Jefferson. Big Al has been a force this year, and will get many votes for All-NBA across the league. When he got going in the post this season, he was borderline unstoppable, providing Kemba with a much-needed break from having to carry the offensive load. Get healthy and sleep well this offseason, Big Al.
Perhaps most importantly for the future of this franchise, the hire of head coach Steve Clifford was a fantastic one. He built a roster of players that have not been great defensively as individuals and crafted a scheme that boasted the fifth-best defense in the league this year as a whole.
The All-Time Bobcats
As a final goodbye, I thought it would be fun to look at a numbers-based (well, nERD-based, really) All-Bobcats team. You can find it below, with the caveat that only one player’s season could be included (Gerald Wallace would be here twice if I included his two best seasons):
I know, it's a bit of an ugly list, but there has definitely been some good players that have worn the Bobcats jersey over the years. Gerald Wallace was an All-Star in his time, and Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton are now starters for the New York Knicks, although that may not be anything to brag about. Regardless, the fans have gotten to watch some talent - most of it young and raw - and have gotten to cheer for two playoff teams in their decade of existence.
So here’s to the Bobcats. It hasn’t always been pretty, but there is much to look forward to as they transition back to the purple and teal of the revered Hornets. See you next year.