Charlotte has only two positive indicators in its favor. First, the Cats finished strongly last year, with their remodeled roster playing essentially .500 ball after the slow start. Second, Charlotte granted an inordinate number of minutes last year to players who contributed sub-replacement-level production, a feat that would be almost impossible to repeat. Even if they replace those minutes with players who are merely "poor" instead of "terrible," they'll come out ahead on the bargain.
Another bright spot is the schedule -- the wildly unbalanced home-road split of the past two years has been replaced with something far more even, which should make it easier for the Bobcats to dig out of the early hole that Brown's teams habitually dig for themselves.
Despite those positives, it's tough to be optimistic about the team's prospects for this season. The Chandler trade was a downgrade, and it was the worst kind for them because it exchanged a halfway decent scorer for a subpar one. The Bobcats were already desperate for offense, so this move just puts more pressure on the likes of Diaw and Wallace to create opportunities.
Wallace is one of the league's most underrated players, an electrifying forward who might be an All-Star on a more prominent team, but he's more of an all-around force than a go-to scorer. Diaw has similar limitations, and with two infrequent scorers around them in Chandler and Bell, turnovers are the probable result, just like a year ago. Murray will help with his firepower off the bench, but he may not play heavy minutes given the crowded backcourt; at any rate, expecting a repeat of last season seems unrealistic.
In fact, Charlotte may very well finish dead last in offensive efficiency this season. Only two players -- Wallace and Augustin -- project to post PERs above the league average. And if injuries hit, forget it -- the tight financial fists and poor drafts have left the Bobcats with so little depth that their second-round draft pick will almost certainly be a rotation player.
As a result, the Bobcats will have to be extraordinary on defense just to smell .500. I suspect they'll be good at that end, because Brown's teams always are, but I doubt they'll be good enough to offset the offense.
Prediction: 29-53, 5th in Southeast Division, 12th in Eastern Conference