Scouts Takes: Bobcats among East's best

Al Jefferson and the Bobcats are within a game of .500 and moving up the East standings. Howard Smith/-USA TODAY Sports

An Eastern Conference scout on the Bobcats’ surge to within a game of .500:

“They’re no joke. [First-year coach] Steve Clifford has obviously brought them a strong defensive concept and they’re defending at a high level. He deserves a lot of credit for what they’ve got going when you remember where they were and where they’ve been.

“He’s in the [Tom] Thibodeau mold. It’s a grinding style where he gets them very compacted, nothing [allowed] in transition, everyone gets back. It’s a 'you’re not going to score in our paint' mentality and the guys have bought into it.

“They also have players fitting their roles very well and they’ve got two guys they can go to when their offense gets stuck: Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. And now they’ve added some shooting with the trade [for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour], which I thought was a great trade.

“They’re the fourth-best team in the East to me. Chicago is the third-best team; everybody knows they have problems scoring but I promise you no one wants to play the Bulls in the playoffs. Then I like Charlotte.

“The Nets are going to have problems playing defense in the playoffs consistently. They rely a lot on experience and that’s not something you can rely on all the time. And I just think Toronto is a little soft inside. Their defense isn’t good enough to sustain for four [wins] in a series, and if you really get after DeMar [DeRozan] or Kyle Lowry, they’re going to struggle to score. I like Charlotte better than both of those teams.”