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Blogcat's Take, 5/3: Team MVP

I was originally going to make this article a recap of the Heat series, but really, what would be the point? The Bobcats were violently attacked by LeBron James, who seemingly lay in wait all year for this series to start and then easily penetrated the Charlotte’s flimsy security, leading to several nights of unspeakable horror. It was The Purge reimagined as a basketball series. The only interesting outcome is that in the discussion of post-season MVPs so far, I haven’t heard James’ name mentioned among guys like Aldridge, Lillard, and Griffin, which is really bizarre. LBJ has the 4th highest net-rating so far this post-season (once you filter on only players with 30+ MPG), the highest player impact rating (PIE, which is the NBA.com’s ACT to ESPN.com’s PER, also, please just S-H-O-O-T M-E), and an utterly insane 67.1 TS%, despite his also utterly insane 31.2% usage rate. I spent nearly all of last column babbling on like an utterly subway vagrant about how impossible it is for humans to crack the 30-60 club without the use of werewolf capabilities, and now LeBron has basically responded to the playoffs as if they were a full moon. I wish there were a word to describe a feeling of awe and admiration combined with intense pain (how about “pain-tasm”?), because that’s what it’s like watching your favorite team being put to the sword by LeBron in his prime.

So anyway, LeBron gets my vote for post-season MVP. But that leads me to the question of who was the Bobcats MVP this year? At first the answer seems obvious: Brendan Haywood. No, just kidding, Al Jefferson, of course. He’s the only Bobcat candidate for All-NBA honors, he won multiple NBA Player or the Month awards, and without him fully healthy, the Bobcats’ chances of success in the playoffs were lower than John McCain’s chances of successfully telling a funny joke. Jefferson also was the Bobcats’ leader in estimated wins added (EWA—he finished the season with 15.4, which was 13th place in the league). And not only did Big Al lead the team in PER with 22.6, but he also became the Bobcats all-time leader in PER (admittedly, this is akin to being the all-time greatest leader of Syria). Still, when I look back at the season, not nearly as many clutch plays come to mind for Jefferson as they do for Kemba Walker.

Interestingly, though, neither Walker nor Jefferson was the team’s clear clutch leader this year. In terms of net-rating, that would be Gerald Henderson, who, according to NBA.com, was our best in the clutch (“clutch” time being defined as within the final 5 minutes with the team ahead or behind by 5 points or less...and in the Bobcats case, with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the bench after having missed numerous shots in the paint and having committed numerous offensive fouls to put us in this position in the first place). “Best” in this case really means “least worst”, because Hendo’s net-rating was -1.9, ahead of Jefferson’s -2.1, and Walker’s -2.6). In terms of PIE, Jefferson dominated with 19.8%, which is actually 8th in the league if you isolate those who played at least 30 games under clutch conditions...and it’s solidly ahead of Walker’s 14.8% and WAY ahead of Henderson’s 9.3%. But when you think of “clutch,” you tend to think of shooting and scoring, and in that case Walker was our man, having shot a 49.6 TS%, ahead of Jefferson’s 46.6%. Even more impressive is the fact that Walker accounted for 38.7% of the Bobcats’ clutch-time points, which was 6th in the league and behind guys who are all identifiable by single names. Anecdotally, Walker was also the only one who had an actual game winner (the OT inbound buzzer-beater against the Raptors in December), and how about his OT excellence against the Nets when we beat them in March? Clutch stats are particularly valuable for the Bobcats this year, considering Charlotte was tied for 7th with 48 games of clutch-time this season. And based on his scoring, in this category I’d give Walker the nod.

More importantly, I’d also nod at Walker for his overall impact on team play, which you can also measure through net-rating. With Walker on the court, the Bobcats outscored the opposition 3.1 points per 100 possessions, a margin which led the team. Jefferson actually came in 4th place in this category at 1.2, because the team’s defense wasn’t quite as crisp with Big Al out there, basically incapable of jumping and demonstrating the lateral movement of an 85-year-old drunken ice fisherman. But here’s the real kicker, and it’s a Bruce Lee-kicker, once Walker LEFT the court, the Bobcats basically left it, too. They were a self-soiling -5.6 points/100 possessions with Walker on the bench, as opposed to -1.9 when Big Al was resting his bunions. Thus the difference in the team’s performance with Walker on and off the court was 8.7, compared to Big Al’s 3.1. That, my friends, is more telling than Donald Sterling being secretly taped.

You can drill down on that further by looking at Jefferson and Walker’s play in the absence of each other. Courtesy of NBAWowy.com, with Kemba Walker on the court and with Jefferson off it, the Bobcats scored 1.019 points per possession and allowed 1.009 to the opposition, meaning they narrowly broke even. Flip it around and the Bobcats scored 1.015 PPP with Jefferson on the court and Kemba off it, but they allowed 1.081 to the opposition (or maybe to Luke Ridnour turnovers, depending on how you look at it). In other words, if you put Walker in the lineup, the Bobcats are a .500 team—even without Jefferson. Take Walker out, though, and the Bobcats will lose, even with Jefferson throwing out enough low-post moves to create a Hip Hop Abs video. Ladies and gentlemen, as great as Jefferson was this year, Kemba Walker was our 2013-14 MVP.

(Reminder: Please don’t forget to check out my e-book at the following link


    As good as Kemba is and as much as he has meant to the Bobcats this season, this team's MVP for 2013-2014 HAS to be the guy with the old-school Kevin McHale post moves...


    Al Jefferson



    Haha, I guess the only thing left to do is go on Colin Cowherd and scream at each other.


    They were both awesome...easily our best PG/C combination since Brevin Knight/Primoz Brezec...


    ...And now I need a drink. 

    They might be Charlotte's best PG/ C combination ever. I'd put them ahead of Muggsy/ Zo (at least offensively). Baron and Vlade might have something to say about this, however...


    (and yeah, some will say that this was a different franchise)

    QC Thundercats
    May 04 2014 07:26 PM

    Yeah, but Higgins to Diop was our secret weapon to keep us within 40 point deficits.  Very underrated duo in that regard.


    I think Kemba and Al are a great 1-2 punch.  We just need to find a nasty uppercut to go with that combo.  And a hadouken thrown in there wouldn't hurt either.

    May 05 2014 02:38 PM

    I have to nominate MKG for Honorable Mention. When he was out with injury, the defense was terrible. When he came back it went back to being elite.


    Heck, you could see it in each game. When he would go the bench the other team would inevitably go on a big scoring run. Every single game like clockwork.

    I'm not going to argue that he was more valuable to the team's success than Kemba or Al, but he definitely brought a lot of value for the team. I like a big 3 of Kemba, MKG, and Big Al.