Bobcats much improved, gunning for postseason

Charlotte has already matched last year's win total
Nov. 27, 2012 @ 06:31 PM

Despite a 45-point defeat loss at Oklahoma City on Monday, the Charlotte Bobcats are riding on a North-bound train.
After losing 89.4 percent of their games last year (7-59), which set an NBA record for futility, the Bobcats are off to their best start in franchise history.
Even with Monday’s loss, the Bobcats have still won six of their last nine. The Bobcats are 7-6 heading into tonight’s game at Atlanta, and if the playoffs started today, they would be in as the eighth seed in the East.
It looks like the Bobcats might be able to challenge for a playoff spot immediately under first-year coach Mike Dunlap, who has instilled confidence and toughness.
Here’s three reasons why the Bobcats are much improved in 2012-13:

Free agent pickups
The addition of Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon have worked out great thus far.
Sessions, who started at point guard for the L.A. Lakers last season, is backing up Kemba Walker, and his play off the bench has been vital.
Sessions is second on the team in scoring (16.4 ppg) and has dropped 20 or more five times.
Like Sessions, Gordon provides the Bobcats with a big scoring threat off the bench.
An eight-year veteran, Gordon is averaging 12.4 points and is shooting 37 percent (17-of-46) from 3-point range. He scored a season-high 34 in a loss to New Orleans on Nov. 9.

Mullens’ improvement
Byron Mullens, a 6-11 forward who arrived in Charlotte in 2011, rarely saw the floor at Oklahoma City during his first two seasons in the league.
But Mullens has developed into a solid NBA starter with the Bobcats.
After averaging 9.3 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, Mullens is up to 13.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in 2012-13.
Mullens stretches the floor as a face-up power forward. He’s made 21 triples in 13 games, including a career-high six in a loss to Phoenix on Nov. 7.
Mullens, 23, has shown a lot of progress, and could be a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.

Rookie contribution
The Bobcats drafted two players out of the SEC in the 2012 draft, and both are making an impact.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6-7, 230-pounder out of Kentucky, has provided a burst of energy to Charlotte after being drafted No. 2 overall.
Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals this season as the team’s starting small forward.
Kidd-Gilchrist, just 19 years old, is already considered one of the team’s best defenders. He had an eye-popping block against OKC center Kendrick Perkins on Monday.
Perkins (6-11, 260) drove down the lane for a dunk, but Kidd-Gilchrist denied him at the rim. Plays like that are what’s helping the Bobcats toughen up and turn into a playoff contender.
Jeffery Taylor, a 6-7, 225-pounder out of Vanderbilt, has proven valuable after being drafted at the top of the second round.
Taylor is currently starting at shooting guard while Gerald Henderson is recovering from a sprained left foot. He’s averaging 7.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
Like Kidd-Gilchrist, Taylor has the potential to be a top-shelf defender, and is also a threat behind the 3-point line.