In 2011-12, the Bobcats set an NBA record for futility with their 7-59 mark over the lockout-shortened season. However, this season began with surprising success. Led by the greatly improved play of second-year point guard Kemba Walker, the Bobcats opened by winning seven of their first 12 games.
Once again though, that eighth win is elusive. Since a double-overtime victory over the Washington Wizards on Nov. 24, the Bobcats have lost 13 straight to fall to 7-18. Some of the numbers associated with this streak are pretty ugly -- unless of course you're a fantasy owner. For us, the Bobcats' struggles have and continue to provide opportunities.
Consider that over the past month, the Bobcats have plummeted to the bottom of the NBA on a per-game basis in points allowed (104.4), assists against (25.4) and blocks against (8.1). In the latter two categories, no other team approaches this level of yielding. Charlotte gives up almost two dimes per game more than the 29th-ranked Denver Nuggets, and is 0.7 blocks up on the team with the second-most shots rejected, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And then there's 3-pointers. Oh man, the 3-pointers. During their 13-game losing streak, Bobcats opponents are averaging 11.2 triples a game. This is an astounding number, as is Charlotte's mark of 9.5 treys allowed for the season thus far. Since 2005-06, the highest per-game average of 3-pointers allowed for an entire season is 8.7 -- by the Nuggets in 2011-12.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer says there's a simple explanation for all of the damage Bobcats opponents are doing from downtown.
"The Bobcats were maybe the worst team in the league last season at giving up baskets at the rim," Bonnell writes. "The things they've done to address that (zone or emphatic double-teams) now make them susceptible to spot-up shooters all along the 3-point line. It must be on every NBA scouting report that the 3 will be open."
Likewise, fantasy owners have a simple takeaway from all of this: When your players -- particularly your point guards, 3-point threats and shot-blockers -- have Charlotte on their schedules, get them active, even if they're players you wouldn't normally start. The Bobcats are by far the most favorable fantasy matchup at the moment.
Week 9 at a Glance
"R" matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their opponents' numbers in those categories, and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the right lists the team's total number of games scheduled ("G") as well as home games ("H"), and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule ("R").
NBA teams are, naturally, working through the holidays. However, they're not working as much. With no games on Christmas Eve, this is a six-day week. Thus, the majority of your players are looking at three games in the week ahead. Twenty-two NBA teams play three times, while two others -- the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves -- have only two games.
Those six teams that do have four games -- the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and the Nuggets -- have lots of talent, but of course the bulk of it is already rostered in fantasy. However, for leagues of at least 12 teams, I'm mildly intrigued by Corey Brewer, who's averaging 14.6 points, 1.3 3s and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 51.3 percent in December. The Nuggets have a reasonably tough schedule -- four games in five nights in four different cities -- but that only works in the favor of a key reserve like Brewer. Otherwise, if you saw the Clippers' sweet schedule and decided to fill in with the likes of Matt Barnes or Eric Bledsoe this week, you had might as well ride with them again in Week 9.
Players to Watch
Alan Anderson, SF, Toronto Raptors (@SA, @NO, @ORL): Josh Whitling has a good write-up on Anderson, so I'll keep this short: Despite averaging 19.3 points and 3.8 3s over his past three games, Anderson is only a passing consideration in leagues of more than 12 teams. Even with his recent success, the 30-year-old journeyman is shooting just 34.5 percent for the season. Still, keep an open mind. The Raptors desperately need scoring, and they've had a void at small forward practically from day one. The opportunity is there if Anderson can keep producing. And New Orleans Hornets opponents rank second in 3s -- though Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs opponents rank 24th and 25th, respectively, in that regard.
Shannon Brown, SG, Phoenix Suns (NY, @IND, @MIN): Brown put up 26 points and five treys on Dec. 19 ... against the Bobcats. To be fair, Brown is shooting a scintillating 69.0 percent (20 of 29) over his past two games, having also gone 10 of 13 against the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 17. So perhaps he's getting it together, and perhaps this set of games will help Brown maintain the momentum, since New York Knicks opponents rank sixth in 3s. The Timberwolves could provide another positive matchup; while Wolves opponents rank only 23rd from downtown, they've totaled 42 triples over their past five games.
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks (BKN, MIA, @DET): After missing six games with a knee injury, Dunleavy returned with 17 points, six rebounds and three 3s against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 18. Though he managed just seven points the next night against the Grizzlies, a healthy Dunleavy should contribute most of the time off the Bucks' bench. Miami Heat opponents rank fourth in 3s, while Nets opponents rank sixth in shooting. Dunleavy is available in about 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Spencer Hawes, PF/C, Philadelphia 76ers (@MEM, @GS, @POR): Hawes has re-emerged with a struggling Sixers team, having scored in double figures in six straight games. However, this looks like a tough schedule. Grizzlies opponents rank last in total rebounds and fifth in rebound differential. And if you're curious about coach Mark Jackson's impact with the Golden State Warriors, get this: Warriors opponents rank third in rebound differential.
Jodie Meeks. SG, Los Angeles Lakers (NY, @DEN, POR): Meeks put up 17 points and five treys on Dec. 18 ... against the Bobcats. I guess I've made that point. The point I should make here is that despite his history of doing little beyond providing points and 3s, Meeks is actually averaging 1.4 steals per game in December, along with 2.4 triples per contest. Unfortunately, he's also shooting just 39.8 percent from the field this month. Still, in leagues of at least 12 teams, he could work as a fill-in. As noted, Heat and Knicks opponents rank fourth and sixth, respectively, in 3s.
Andrew Nicholson, PF, Orlando Magic (NO, @WSH, TOR): Glen Davis' shoulder injury apparently could have been worse, but the Magic could still be without their second-leading scorer for multiple weeks. So the team may now give serious minutes to Nicholson, an impressive rookie who John Hollinger (in his old job) compared to David West. Nicholson recently had a solid four-game stretch in which he averaged 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds, but overall he's playing just 15 minutes per game. The team could well decide Nicholson isn't quite ready for a starting role -- Gustavo Ayon and/or Josh McRoberts are also available to fill-in -- but you'll definitely want to scan the Magic box scores this weekend. If Nicholson plays, he should do fine with this schedule; Wizards opponents rank second in total rebounds, Raptors opponents rank fifth in rebound differential and Hornets opponents rank fourth in shooting.
Opponent Performance, Past 10 games
All statistics are for teams' past 10 games played, and are defensive numbers. PPGA: Points per game allowed. FG%A: Field goal percentage allowed. 3PT%A: Three-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.