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Bobcats Defense: Not As Bad You Think (Well, Depending on What You Think)

After the Bobcats fumbled away losses in Brooklyn and against the Miami Heat scabs, I got curious as to how historically bad their defense was. This became particularly pressing after the Heat game, in which Charlotte gave up 26 points to Mike Miller. Mike Miller is so decrepit right now that he looks like he can’t dribble more than five feet without needing a liver transplant. And I don’t think that’s a mouth guard he’s constantly fiddling with, I think they’re ill-fitting dentures. Basically all he can do is stand there and shoot 3’s, and if you’re defending him, you should just keep a guy on him at all times. The Bobcats flamed out in this task like Maverick and Goose’s F-14 (Miller shot 7-11 from distance), as they’ve done in nearly all other defensive tasks this year.

The Bobcats are giving up 1.078 points-per-possession this year, which is worst in the league. And it’s worse than last year’s team, which was the...hold on...oh yeah, also the Bobcats (1.065 ppp). But the good news is, in all previous years, the worst defenses get seriously bad. The immortal 2009-10 and 2010-11 Toronto Raptors (1.100 and 1.091 ppp, respectively), for instance, actually put a tax on defense to help fund an oil pipeline in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan.

But the real leaders of the worst defense clubhouse were the 2008-9 Sacramento Kings. As if I needed to remind you, this was the team that started out the season under the guidance of Reggie Theus, a man whom many feared might have been suffering from brain damage brought on by years of inhaling the fumes of his own jheri curls. Theus was replaced by Kenny Natt in December, the team finished with 17 wins, and Natt was literally outsourced to India, where he now coaches their national team. Perusing some of their box scores from that year is highly amusing, especially the 143-141 OT loss to Golden State on April 1st. This was a game that prominently featured Kevin Martin, Monta Ellis, Beno Udrich, and Jamal Crawford: if you’re interested in building an all-time worst defending gunner team, I think I’ve just found your backcourt.

So okay, the Bobcats aren’t the worst defensive team ever. Wonderful. Still, this Bobcats team is troubling because coach Mike Dunlap—in so far as he had one at all—had a reputation as a defensive specialist when he took this job. He created a very impressive Word document on his defensive philosophy that looks like an outline for Being and Nothingness, and he released a DVD called Mike Dunlap: 1-1-3 Man Zone Defense, which not only has a catchy title but also received an average of 3.71 out of 5 stars by reviewers (it’s apparently part of a trilogy of videos, the others of which were Encyclopedia of the 1-1-3 Match-up Zone Defense and Mike Dunlap: Transition Offense – The First 6 Seconds; judging by the reviews, Encyclopedia was the critical favorite, while Transition Offense was the Return of the Jedi of the group). So despite all of this scholarly output from the coach, the team still can’t seem to guard anyone without the use swords.

That’s because the defense he preaches allows for 3-pointers, and in this era and with this team, that’s a total misappropriation. It’s like delivering a sermon in church while holding a voodoo doll. Even with good players, zones are always going to be vulnerable to perimeter shots, and combined with Dunlap’s paranoia for packing the paint, opponents have had more free looks than internet porn. According to Synergysports.com, the Bobcats allow 40% shooting on spot-up 3’s, which is borderline grotesque. And it’s not even really been worth the trouble, as the Bobcats are still 18th at defending the pick-and-roll (both when the ball handler keeps it and when he dishes it off), and they’re 30th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage.

Bottom-line: we’ve seen them collapse on the paint ineffectively, give up wide open 3’s, and fail to rebound the ball on the rare occasions when the shots miss. They’re slower on their rotations than most planets. It’s like watching a hockey team that’s constantly in a penalty kill, and coach Dunlap needs to fix it, or else his next DVD is going to be titled Slumdog Champions: Mike Dunlap’s Tips for Asian Sub-Continental Success, with an introduction by assistant coach Kenny Natt.

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