Dec 13, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks small forward Josh Smith (5) goes to the basket during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 113-90. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Hawks vs Bobcats: Game Preview

Dec 13, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Charlotte Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 113-90. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

In a lockout shortened 2011-12 campaign, the Bobcats managed only 7 wins in 66 games for a .106 winning percentage, the worst in NBA history, including dropping their final 23 games. In the offseason, the Bobcats let 32 year NBA head coach and former player Paul Silas go and brought in a younger but still experienced Mike Dunlap to help communicate to the young players and wash the hands of the dreadful past. They came out of the gates this season on fire, winning 7 of their first 12 games. However, ever since I wrote nice words like this,

It’s easy to see the improvement the ‘Cats have made since last year. Kemba Walker has taken a huge step forward in leading this young roster. Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood have been timely pickups in the offseason and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor look to be impressive rookies. [H]at tip goes to [the] General Manager and Coach Mike Dunlap for turning around a franchise headed toward perennial laughingstock territory…[T]hey have already made strides in rebuilding the entire organization into more than just a collection of basketball players.

The Bobcats have failed to keep up their winning ways. Since the 7-5 start, they have gone 3-26, resembling their non-competitive team they fielded last season.

The first 12 games was a classic case in small sample size and the past 29 games have been a lesson in natural regression to the mean. It’s easy to understand why the Bobcats have performed so poorly. In short, there is a lack of enough decent talent. They are the only team in the bottom three in offensive and defensive efficiency and own the league’s worst efficiency differential. They have been outscored by over 8 points a match, easily the worst in the league and will most likely find another top 5 pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

The ‘Cats main guards, Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions, both are largely shoot first types. The Bobcats are last in assists per game and assist rate, despite not having very many playmakers. Ben Gordon is still a very capable long range shooter, as the Hawks came to understand in a November 28 matchup, when he dropped 7 three pointers in 10 tries, including 5 for 7 and 20 points in the fourth quarter alone. He will be a handful for whoever draws him, probably John Jenkins or Devin Harris.

Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia have been declared out for the matchup in Time Warner Arena. The Bobcats will be without their top rebounder, Byron Mullens so both teams may have to go small ball due to injuries. In his place will be Bismack Biyombo and Brendan Haywood, who both boast PER below 10 and will be liabilities on offense.

In short, this is a very bad basketball team that masqueraded as decent early in the season. Despite the numerous injuries, the Hawks should have an advantage at all positions save possibly point guard. Ivan Johnson and even Johan Petro will be expected to step up and fill the places of Horford and Pachulia on the boards. Devin Harris and Jannero Pargo should be able to take advantage of a poor defense and provide scoring. Add it all up and it equals a likely Hawks win, but Atlanta has been known to play down to their opponents. Will Larry Drew be able to rally the troops after a big win over the Timberwolves? Tune in tonight.

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