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John Schuhmann

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Raymond Felton (left) and D.J. Augustin will have to up their scoring in 2009-10.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Finding go-to scorer next step in Bobcats' growth

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Sep 9 2009 9:46AM

The Charlotte Bobcats are halfway there.

In their first season with coach Larry Brown, the Bobcats went from the 23rd-best defensive team in the league, allowing 106.8 points per 100 possessions in 2007-08, to the seventh best, allowing 103.2 in 2008-09. Only two teams (Cleveland and Milwaukee) improved more defensively last season.

The turnaround started with Brown's insistence on defensive accountability and continued with trades that brought in Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and DeSagana Diop.

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Date Team
Aug. 23 New Jersey Nets
Aug. 24 Toronto Raptors
Aug. 25 Oklahoma City Thunder
Aug. 26 Phoenix Suns
Aug. 27 Charlotte Bobcats
Aug. 28 Minnesota Timberwolves
Aug. 31 Memphis Grizzlies
Sept. 1 Washington Wizards
Sept. 2 Sacramento Kings
Sept. 3 Golden State Warriors
Sept. 4 New York Knicks
Sept. 7 L.A. Clippers
Sept. 8 Indiana Pacers
Sept. 9 Milwaukee Bucks

"After we made a couple of trades, our core started to mold together," Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins told NBA.com. "That's when we became better. Guys held each other accountable and guys started buying in."

A 15-9 stretch from early February to late March helped the Bobcats challenge the Bulls and Pistons for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They fizzled at the end, winning just one of their eight games in April, but have built a defensive foundation to help them keep moving forward.

The Bobcats need to find a way to get better offensively, as they ranked 27th last season, scoring just 101.8 points per 100 possessions. It'll be a tall order, though, considering Charlotte lacks a go-to scorer.

The easiest way to generate offense in the NBA is to have a guy that can draw double teams, either in the low post or on the perimeter. But Charlotte's best scorer is Gerald Wallace, a slasher who averaged just 16.6 points per game last season (42nd in the league) and isn't adept at creating shots for himself or others.

In some ways, Allen Iverson would be a great fit. He's a guy who can get into the paint, draw defenders and score in his sleep. Brown helped Iverson achieve his greatest level of team success in the NBA when both individuals were in Philly. Brown has also given his former player an endorsement this summer, but the Bobcats haven't made Iverson a contract offer (something the Grizzlies reportedly did this week).

"We maintain an eye on the situation," Higgins said, "but the last thing you want to do is embarrass a player with an offer, not only financially, but from a playing time aspect."

The Bobcats do not want to stunt the growth of second-year point guard D.J. Augustin or rookie shooting guard Gerald Henderson. They've also got Bell, their best perimeter defender, and unsigned restricted free agent Raymond Felton in the backcourt. So while Iverson could help, he's not someone Charlotte wants playing major minutes.

Without a primary scorer, the Bobcats will hope that they can become more efficient offensively through chemistry and balance. Brown has won big in the past without a big-time scorer -- his Pistons teams earlier this decade didn't have a player averaging more than 19 points per game.

"I think you get better when guys come in, are familiar with one another, know the offense and know what coach is going to expect from them," Higgins said. "Familiarity is going to breed some continuity."

Unlike those Pistons teams, though, the Bobcats lack big men like Rasheed Wallace, Mehmet Okur and Antonio McDyess who could hit jumpers consistently. In order to make up for their lack of shooting, Charlotte will need to get more offense in transition.

For as much as Charlotte improved on defense (they were fifth in forcing turnovers), they were not able to turn those turnovers into transition hoops, ranking just 22nd in fast break points per possession. That's something Higgins thinks will change now that shotblocker Tyson Chandler is in town.

"We envision that [Chandler] will transition well for us, going from offense to defense and defense to offense, which is important to coach's style of play," Higgins said, also noting that Chandler could play alongside Diop or Nazr Mohammed on the frontline. That could help the Bobcats improve on the defensive boards (they ranked 17th last season with a defensive rebounding rate of 73.0 percent).

The Chandler trade and the selections of Henderson and forward Derrick Brown are the only moves the Bobcats have made this summer. Owner Bob Johnson has reportedly been trying to sell the team, which has struggled financially the last few years.

Finally, Charlotte has yet to come to an agreement with Felton.

"We've always maintained an interest in getting something done with Raymond," Higgins said. "That's never changed."

Perhaps the most appropriate grade for the Bobcats' offseason may be "incomplete." Given their ability to defend (and their inability to score), that may also be the best way to describe Charlotte, too.

If you have a question or comment for NBA.com's John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail. You can also follow him on twitter.

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