On a purely visual level, the Bobcats-Hornets play a disgusting form of basketball. Based on their talent level, they have to take a lot of jumpers and have enough defense to force other teams to do the same. Until the league office makes rules against contesting jumpers, a lot of those shots will not go in.
Up to their game against the Mavericks last week, Charlotte's style choices could keep them floating around .500, but only if they stayed healthy. They missed Al Jefferson early, but had a schedule built to withstand an injury. Charlotte played a bevy of poor teams with some tough games sprinkled in and, other than a Pacers blowout in a foul-filled contest, they stayed competitive at all times.
The current rough patch punctuated what this team wanted to find out about themselves. Finding out a team can compete may not make headline news on ESPN, but it does mean a lot to people buying tickets or watching the team on a regular basis.
This team, when healthy, has played better than league average defense due in large part to being more skilled at two different positions than they have been in years. They've gotten altogether better at power forward by committee, which helps, but the development of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been one of the best and most watchable parts of this team during their initial 9-11 run.
Charlotte has a wing stopper, something the league desperately craves, and it makes them semi-relevant in the playoff hunt. The East, loaded with talent on the wing, has no long-term reason to fear Charlotte, but in a game-by-game microcosm, they have to work harder than ever before to get their wins. New York, Miami and Boston come to mind immediately as teams that saw their respective wing players score below their average while dealing with MKG. Miami won anyway, but needed Chris Bosh to save them.
Obviously not the only reason for Charlotte's relevance, MKG amazes me on a nightly basis with his ability to identify/refuse to fall for fakes coupled with his consistently astounding footwork on the baseline. While that won't easily diminish great players, it takes league average forwards completely out of games and allows the Bobcats-Hornets to play less-skilled defenders against less-skilled offensive players.
Now Charlotte loses all of that for at least a month. They may see a small spike in offensive productivity (up from last to next-to-last in league-wide offensive efficiency! BOOM!), but their defense, as it did against Dallas once MKG left the game, will suffer mightily. Right now, the starting lineup will likely be Josh McRoberts, who I spoke at liberty about in my last column, Jefferson, a not-so-great defender, Walker, Gerald Henderson, who will see the bulk of MKGs minutes against opponents' best wings, and the player of Steve Clifford's choice off the bench.
Whomever Clifford chooses, they cannot be as good as MKG on defense.
The NBA provides enough problems for mediocre teams. Without MKG, mediocrity just got a whole lot harder to cultivate.