Believe it or not, there's a team in the NBA playing worse than your Denver Nuggets right now and they'll be facing off against them in Charlotte tonight with an early Mountain Time tip off.
Denver: 27-24 (12-12 on the road)
Streak: Lost 1
Charlotte: 7-41 (4-19 at home)
Streak: Lost 5
Denver: Danilo Gallinari (fractured left thumb) is out. Andre Miller (separated right shoulder) is still plugging along.Charlotte: D.J. Augustin (right knee tendinitis) is day-to-day. Tyrus Thomas (right elbow bursitis) is day-to-day.
Season Series: 0-0
There's a term used in psychology called "downward social comparison", which essentially means comparing oneself to another who is worse off than we are. The Nuggets have been struggling mightily lately, (okay, I'll be more blunt: they're playing like dogshit.) but no NBA team is struggling this season quite like the always-lowly Charlotte Bobcats.
Since joining the Bobcats as a minority owner in 2005, NBA legend Michael Jordan has overseen one of the worst-run franchises in the NBA. Countless players have gone in and out of the NBA's second incarnation in the Queen City, the Bobcats have had four head coaches in just eight seasons of play, and they have just one playoff appearance to show for themselves.
In fact, the Bobcats have been the worst kind of bad: bad enough to miss the playoffs, but not bad enough to garner a top-two draft pick to rebuild from. Throw in an assortment of bad trades, bad draft picks and bad free agent signings, and despite their futility the Bobcats have missed out on drafting the likes of Kyrie Irving, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah - among others - in recent drafts going back just five years.
But even the Bobcats have never been this bad. On pace to win just 12 games if the NBA were to play 82 this season, the Bobcats rank dead last in points per game and field goal percentage, and are second-to-last in rebounding. At one point they lost 16 games in a row, and currently hold a five-game losing streak ... their fourth time carrying at least five losses in a row this season. Even worse, the Bobcats don't seem to have a star in the making on the roster, although rookie Kemba Walker is turning in a fine first-season performance.
None of this should prevent the Bobcats from beating our Nuggets, of course, who are playing dreadful basketball themselves. Losers of six of their last 10, the Nuggets appear to be in total disarray which culminated with Wednesday's embarrassing loss to the Toronto Raptors, a team that's not much better than Charlotte. And other than smoking the Bulls in Chicago on Monday, the Nuggets haven't played well since handily defeating the Hornets in Denver on March 9th.
A game against the Bobcats should never be considered a "must win." But I suspect tonight's outcome - win or lose - will define who these Nuggets are in the eyes of many fans and perhaps the team itself, and will be a bellwether of what's to come for the remainder of the season. Should the Nuggets lose at Charlotte - despite having had ample rest since Wednesday's debacle - my optimism for the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets making the playoffs will instantly disappear.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS
-Kemba Walker: The ninth overall pick, and former NCAA Champion, is shooting poorly but is also showing signs that he can compete in the NBA for years to come.
-Gerald Henderson: Now in his third season, Henderson is delivering to the tune of 14.5 ppg. Frighteningly, he's the Bobcats second-leading scorer.
-Corey Maggette: Not surprisingly, the talented Maggette is sleep walking through the lockout season by shooting a career low 37.4% from the field while collecting $10.2 million. I suspect he'll shoot better next season when he's in the final year of his lucrative contract!
-Tyrus Thomas: Can we call this guy a bust already? The fourth overall pick of the 2006 draft, Thomas (whom the Nuggets coveted a few years ago ... egads!) is shooting a career-low 35.2% from the field and his career totals show 8.1 ppg, 5.1 ppg and 44.3% shooting for an athletic big man who can jump out of the building. What a waste.
-Michael Jordan: Could the NBA's best-ever player also be its worst-ever executive?
Most unfortunately, the once promising 2011-12 season - the season during which the young, tall, deep, athletic, energetic Nuggets were supposed to take the NBA by storm - has been reduced to hoping to beat the Bobcats, one of the worst teams we've seen since the 1997-98 Denver Nuggets took the court.