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I had some questions for a Charlotte Bobcats blogger. So I asked them. Here they are.
Queen City Hoops: Both of these teams like to play as fast as possible and are bottom-5 in most statistical categories. Cleveland has a slight advantage on the glass, as they've been respectable in Rebounding Rate (49.3; 19th) -- Charlotte, not so much (47.9; 27th). Will the team that wins the battle on the boards have the edge tonight?
Fear the Sword: Uh, maybe. Some of those numbers are slightly skewed for Cleveland because they used to have Anderson Varejao, the NBA's leading rebounder when he was playing. But now, they do not have Anderson Varejao. While Tristan Thompson has stepped up admirably in Andy's absence, it was really the combination of Andy and Tristan that made the Cavaliers solid on the boards. Now that it's just Tristan carrying the load (and not getting much help from Tyler Zeller), the Cavs aren't quite as good. All of that said, I think Tristan gives the Cavaliers a nice advantage on the offensive boards. If the Cavs can get lots of second chance opportunities, that just means more Kyrie Irving. If Tristan can get some help from Zeller, as well as from Marreese Speights, the Cavs should be in good shape.
Queen City Hoops It's so apparent to me every time I get to watch Kyrie Irving that's he's the next big thing in this league -- What a fun and unique talent he is. Conrad: What have you seen teams try to do against him defensively to limit him and what's been most successful?
Fear the Sword: I've seen teams try to make Kyrie drive to the left. That doesn't work. I've seen teams try to make Kyrie drive to the right. That doesn't work either. I've seen teams sag off and go under screens and he just shoots open jumpers. I've seen teams try to switch and end up with a big trying to guard him. That REALLY doesn't work (ask Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins).
The truth is that Kyrie Irving really doesn't have any apparent flaws on the offensive end. He shoots the ball extremely well and drives to the basket at will. Sometimes try to trap him and bring double teams, but it's awfully hard to get him to give up his dribble since he has arguably the best handle in the league. I'm being serious when I say that I truly have no idea what you would do to stop him. It appears that if he wants to score, he's going to at least get a good look at the basket. The only real advice I can give is not to let him get into isolation. According to Synergy, his 1.08 PPP on isolation plays is good for 3rd in the NBA. Nobody is stopping him one-on-one. It takes good rotations and timely double-teams to try to get the ball out of his hands.
Queen City Hoops: Charlotte has been very competitive in the last two games -- holding 4th quarter leads against a playoff bound Rockets team and the defending champ Heat. Cleveland got a huge win at home against Oklahoma City in their last outing. Who wins tonight and why?
Fear the Sword: I'm picking the Cavaliers in a fairly easy one. They've been off since Saturday and are at home. The new members of the bench unit (Speights, Wayne Ellington, Shaun Livingston) have been a huge boost. Last time out, the Cavs looked like they were going to blow out the Bobcats but then let them get back into the game. It seems as though the new infusion of veterans into the Cavs' lineup prevents such blatant and inexcusable letdowns. Cavs win 105-90.
Fear the Sword: How much do you love Ramon Sessions? I kind of miss him in Cleveland but I'm glad that he's able to get some more playing time than he would here. What about his game do you think helps the Bobcats the most?
Queen City Hoops: Well, he's the best free agent signing that Charlotte has ever had, so that being said -- yeah, I like him just a little bit. Ramon is currently top-25 in the league in Usage Rate at 24.8% and is also getting to the foul line at a ridiculous rate -- Sessions is 10th in the league in FTA/game and the names ahead of him include Harden, Durant, D12, Love, Carmelo, Kobe, Westbrook, Lebron and Wade. Sessions averages 27.5 MPG and of the names above, non average less than 34 MPG. Pretty awesome.
Fear the Sword: What's the most significant development that you've seen in the Bobcats from the beginning of the year? Are you generally encouraged by the progress of the team?
Queen City Hoops: Since the beginning of the year it's been tough to watch, considering this is a team that started 7-5. Obviously, this resembles much more of an actual NBA roster this season than last and the team is competing pretty consistently. Taking into account how young this roster is and how often they were blown out last season, there is definitely reasons to believe that positive development is taking place. Kemba Walker is a great example -- his shooting numbers and averages are up in just about every single category and he's clearly beginning to learn how to score in this league. There was never a doubt that he was a natural at scoring the basketball, but it's now evident that he's adapting those abilities to fit in this league. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor have also added a defensive presence and sense of toughness to this team that I haven't seen in years. Charlotte is definitely an improving franchise in my opinion -- the next step is to find front court help and with a weak draft approaching it seems as if that help will have to come via free agency. That's the next big step for the front office now. Can't give out a big time contract to a big man who ends up to be a bust.
Fear the Sword: Talk about Jeff Taylor. I loved him at the time of the draft and thought Charlotte got a steal when they picked him. What does he bring to the team as a rookie?
Queen City Hoops: Jeff Taylor is a defensive minded, aggressive, athletic wing. He's got some ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc (36.2% 3FG) and Mike Dunlap seems to be encouraging him to pull the trigger more often as of late. There are two things that I love about Taylor -- 1) he can potentially become a lock down wing defender in this league, and 2) he's always going to make the correct/simply play- rarely turns the ball over. Not a great ball handler, but again, is strong with the ball and doesn't turn it over. Taylor reminds me a lot of Thabo Sefolosha.