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Blogcat’s Melancholic Season Preview, Part 1: The Forwards

Many of you have probably been asking yourselves, “What has Blogcat been doing all summer?”  Many more of you have probably not been asking yourselves that.  Or if you were, you were probably hoping the answer was, “Getting impregnated by a hideous alien and then watching in horror as the writhing monster fetus is extracted from his belly via a futuristic self-surgery chamber.”

And you wouldn’t be far off!  Because speaking of watching things in horror, what I’ve actually been doing is writing an e-book (entitled--what else?--The Breaks of the Wind) on the 2011-12 Bobcats.  Remember them?  Unless you are one of the lucky few whose health care covers lobotomies, of course you do!  Well, you can now purchase my e-book here for the low, low price of $1.99.  And I promise this isn’t some lame rip-off move in which I just compile a bunch of my old entries.  Nope, I’ve added dozens of curse words, recoils, cringes, dry-heaves, and shudders, all of which are befitting for the NBA season equivalent of a gory exorcism.  Enjoy!

Now it’s on to the next one!  I must admit I’m not optimistic about the Cats this year.  In fact, I’ve been putting off thinking about the 2012-13 season for as long as possible, hoping instead for some kind of divine intervention, such as a rogue planet entering our orbit and colliding with Earth, rendering the entire human race extinct, and leaving NBA commissioner David Stern with no choice but to lock out the players again.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s happening, and now I’ve got to accept that there will be a season.  Therefore, it’s time to do some previewing and predictions.

I’ve decided to break this up into a 3-parter—the forwards, the guards, and the centers.  And I’d like to get the more depressing one out of the way first, which would be…crap, that’s not an easy decision to make.  It’s like holding me at gunpoint and forcing me to choose which testicle I have to get amputated.  I guess I’ll go with the forwards first, followed by the centers, simply because they contain Tyrus Thomas and Gana Diop, who would be the starting PF and the C on anyone’s All-Amnesty Team (with Thomas being a perennial MVP candidate).  So here we go!

First of all, what happened to DJ White and Derrick Brown!?  Neither was a world-beater, but their combined cost was barely more than that of an amateurish e-book with a laughably crappy cover photo.  In fact, they were like cheap aviator shades that helped to block out the toxic ultraviolent radiation that emanated from the Tyrus Thomas Suck Sun.  Brown in particular was adept at getting to the line and playing defense during both Thomas’s and Corey Maggette’s excessive absenteeism—he held opposing 3’s to a 12.3 PER and 4’s to a 15.3 PER.  Oh, shock of shocks, I see the San Antonio Spurs signed him to a non-guaranteed contract.  I can already see it now: he’s going to give them 10 minutes of awesome play every night and then come up clutch in the playoffs, leading to a thousand “Once again, the Spurs find a hidden gem!”-style articles.  Oh well, I can always hold out hope for that rogue planet…

As far as what we do have: Michael Kidd-“Jesus”-Gilchrist now has the keys to this jalopy—take it away, Kidd!  I’ll skip over his intangibles because Tom Sorensen and Rick Bonnell have already killed more trees writing about them than a Once-ler who’s blood-doping.  Instead I’ll just stick with his performance on the floor.  On offense, MKJG can drive to the hoop and get to the line.  He averaged .59 FTA per shot in college, which would put him right near the very top of the league if he can maintain it!  Even better, he hits 75% of his freebies.  As he is quite clearly stepping into Corey Maggette’s shoes and headband, we’re not going to miss a beat.  In fact, considering that Maggette only played in 48% of our games last year and MKJG has the pain tolerance of Keith Richards, we should see a huge upgrade in production out of the 3-spot just by virtue of Michael showing up.  Maggette was also lousy on defense, while Kidd-Gilchrist apparently goes to sleep and has wet dreams about sliding to help, so all in all, the sky is the limit for our new small forward..well, more like 15 feet is the limit for our new small forward, because anything farther away from the rim than that and he can’t shoot it.  But that’s okay, because MKJG at least knows this—unlike Maggette, who was in a race with Tyrus Thomas to see who could miss the most 15-25-footers every game.  In summation, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should be everything Maggette was supposed to be, and more, and cheaper.  God, if only the forwards consisted of one person; then I could stop right here…

…Instead, I have to talk about Tyrus Thomas, who will be our starter at the 4 and is going to need to log a lot of minutes, because apparently the Charlotte Bobcats couldn’t come up with a more enticing offer for DJ White than that of the Shanghai Sharks.  Thomas was so terrible last year that you could write a book about it.  In fact, I just did.  And at this point I am literally out of adjectives for how bad he was.  I’m spent.  I’m like Mac still pulling the trigger on his machine gun in Predator after his ammo is gone.  So let’s try this from another angle: Thomas’s career PER headed into last year was 16.1, and then he dropped his drawers and shat a 9 for the season.  His rebounding rate fell, his TS% fell further (due to those long-range shots I mentioned before, will mention again, and will ask someone to mention at my funeral), and his weight fell even further than that.  And so the angle I’m going to take is that last year was just a horrifying one-off, a la the London Whale or t.A.t.u.

It’s hard to say that with any conviction, though, because in a recent Charlotte Observer article, Thomas’s explanation for his performance last season was “life.”  At least he revealed that stomach ulcers were behind the weight loss, which is much better than my hypothesis (i.e., the Bobcats were paying him in cocaine).  I assume the stomach ulcers are healed up at this point, but I’m speculating that he’s still suffering from “life,” so I don’t know if he’s going to be better this season.  I haven’t seen him in action yet, but he’s apparently added the proverbial 20 pounds of muscle.  He’s also got a new coach, too; one whose teaching strategy presumably doesn’t involve stuffing pupils into lockers.  Coach Dunlap is a textbook drill sergeant, so I suppose Thomas’s performance will hinge on whether he responds to Dunlap like Pat Tillman or Riddick Bowe.  The historical evidence is mixed here, too, because Thomas played well before under a similar taskmaster—Scott Skiles—but also left the Bulls at least in part because they butted heads.  Whatever the case may be, Thomas needs to play like any year except the last one, because we don’t really have a viable alternative at the 4.

Instead, we have Bismack Biyombo.  I’m sure Biyombo will see time at center, too, when Dunlap chooses to go small, but we don’t have anybody else to back up Thomas whenever we’re in a conventional set.  This sets my heart a-gallopin’ for all sorts of reasons.  First and foremost, Biyombo’s offense is more limited than pre-game handshakes.  Biyombo’s PER was 11.9 as a center and a subterranean 9 as a PF.  I guess if I want to look at things on the bright side, his 9 wasn’t any worse than Thomas’s was last year (although is that even looking at it on the bright side?).  But beyond the lack of offensive skills, Bismack was brutal on the foul line and sadomasochistic in picking up fouls (4.2 per 48 min as a SF).  His rebounding was below average (12.6 as a PF, which puts him in Samardo Samuels territory).  And his individual defense at both positions was secretly appalling (if you want to know how opponents did against him, take those PERs I just mentioned that he scored and add about 10 to each.  Yeah, it’s bad.).  I say “secretly” because he did happen to be one of the best shot-blockers in the league, so he earned a misplaced rep as a good defender (people make the same error in judgment with certain guards who are considered good defenders just because they have a lot of steals).  Biyombo is young and hopefully improving, but I’m predicting the 4-spot to be the biggest source of my sports-related fear (unseating Thomas Davis’s knees).

Backing up MKJG at the 3 will be rookie Jeffery Taylor (in case you’re wondering what order I’m doing this in, the answer is: none).  Offensively, he should complement Kidd-Gilchrist nicely, because he has more of a mid-range game and can’t really put it on the floor at all (I think if he, Biyombo, and Diop ever led a 3-on-1 fast break the shot clock would actually start counting up).  Plus the drop-off on defense shouldn’t be too severe when Taylor spells Kidd-Gilchrist.  But that's about as far up the optimistic flagpole I'm willing to travel with Jeffery.  Taylor was the 31st pick in the draft, he’s already 23, and while he was solid in Summer League play, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire, so I’m not seeing a bunch of upside with him.  Again, I’m not sure why we couldn’t have just kept Derrick Brown—who is apparently willing to play for supper—and filled one of our many other gaping holes with this pick, but maybe Coach Dunlap will unlock some secret portal of excellence with this kid.

All right, that does it for the forwards.  I’ll be back in a few days with the centers.  It’s a genuine relief to get that Tyrus Thomas preview behind me.  Once I’ve checked off Diop I can rest easy.