The NBA season is upon us... or at least it would be if this lockout were not going on. Nobody is quite certain when the NBA season will start. But if the collective bargaining agreement gets figured out soon, we will see a flurry of moves to make up for our lost offseason. So, with that in mind, it is time to begin opening the book on the 2011-12 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store -- especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year's NBA Blog Preview (don't worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks).
Last Year: 34-48
Last Year vs. Magic: Lost 91-88 in Charlotte; Lost 100-86 in Orlando; Lost 89-77 in Orlando; Lost 111-102 in Charlotte.
This Year vs. Magic: Dec. 30 in Charlotte; Jan. 17 in Orlando; March 6 in Charlotte; April 25 in Orlando
Magic Connection: Corey Maggette (Player, 1999-2000)
The Previews: Ben Swanson/Rufus on Fire
Who are the Charlotte Bobcats right now? That seems to be the question as the Bobcats have dismantled the team that made the franchise's first Playoff appearance in a matter of two years.
Franchise face Gerald Wallace was traded midsesaon to Portland. Budding point guard Raymond Felton left in free agency before the season. And on draft night, fan favorite Stephen Jackson (aka Captain Jack) was sent packing to Milwaukee.
So, again, who are the Bobcats? Michael Jordan seems to have some vision of remaking this team, but what that vision is is not that clear.
Larry Brown did a great job establishing the Bobcats as a tenacious and tough defensive team. Charlotte gave up 97.3 points per game and 45.5 percent field goal shooting. The Bobcats strong defensive numbers might be something of a red herring as their incredibly slow pace under Brown and Paul Silas hid their 17th ranked 107.8 defensive rating.
This team has some major identity questions as it resets itself for whatever season comes next.
D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson are very nice players. They had great seasons last year for the bottom-feeding Bobcats. Draft pick Bismack Biyombo figures to add some defensive muscle -- although he has a lot of development to do. Charlotte's other first round pick, Kemba Walker, could add some offensive punch. But nobody is sure if he is Allen Iverson or Rodney Stuckey or worse yet.
There is a lot of youth on this Charlotte team. But no set identity like it had the last few years. 2011-12 is going to be a rebuilding time for the Bobcats.
Charlotte has work to do in free agency. Even with Jackson and Wallace, this was a team that struggled to score. Corey Maggette is not a first option offensively. But right now, he is Charlotte's most potent offensive weapon. This team is going to struggle to score the way the roster is presently constructed. And with so much uncertainty around Biyombo, nobody is quite sure if this team is as stout defensively as it has been in years past.
I don't want to abandon all hope for Charlotte, but 30 wins would be a really good season for this bunch. That will not sit well with a perfectionist like Michael Jordan. He is going to want more from his team.
The Bobcats seem to be in cash-shedding mode. And that is not winning mode right now for this team. In fact, it is the exact opposite. It is going to be a long season in the Queen City.
How the Bobcats Will Beat the Magic: There is not going to be a lot of hope for Charlotte against Orlando. The Magic swept them last year with three relatively easy victories and a Rashard Lewis throwback performance in the first matchup. Still the Bobcats can be pesky because they are so good defensively. With that identity very much up in the air, the question is can the Bobcats remain a pesky team? Augustin is a solid player and figures to improve now that he has been given complete control over the offense. You still have to ask, who will step up and score against Orlando's defense? I suppose Biyombo could be the defensive ace everyone projects him to be (and his play in the showcase games suggest he would) and he neutralizes Howard to keep the score low. This team could play decently defensively. But scoring is an issue. And one nice Magic run, along with their disciplined defense, should be enought.
How the Magic Will Beat the Bobcats: They really have to stick to their gameplan of patient, ball-moving offense and a healthy dose of Dwight Howard. Howard, provided he stays out of foul trouble which is no guarantee against Charlotte... at least the pre-Wallace trade Charlotte, is going to be able to do a lot defensively to keep Charlotte on the perimeter. The Bobcats are not a great jump shooting team. And that plays into the Magic's hands, obviously. There really is no reason the way these two rosters are presently constructed that Orlando should lose to Charlotte in any game. The Magic just cannot get frustrated when the Bobcats frustrate them as they tend to do.
Photos via DayLife.com.