Yes, it’s that time of year, time for the cliche, “Would the best college team beat the worst pro team?” argument. This is a trope that infuriates NBA fans, and for good reason. Great college players often come to the pros and get exposed. The level of NBA talent is so much higher, the men are so much more developed in terms of physique and skill.
And yet, I do believe that this year is unique. I believe that Kentucky could beat Charlotte (in this hypothetical scenario that will never happen). Before you recoil, before you dismiss this as ignorance born from not quite understanding just how talented NBA players are, just know: The Bobcats might be the worst team in NBA history.
Yes, this is about Charlotte more than Kentucky. I can certainly wax ecstatic about Anthony Davis, whom I believe to be a once-in-a-decade talent. I can certainly praise how Michael Kidd-Gilchrist slashes the court till it splinters and bleeds. But their college greatness is far outdone by Charlotte’s NBA awfulness.
Right now, the Bobcats have a -14.5 point differential. Nobody has been worse than negative double figures since the 99′-00′ Clippers (-10.7). Over the broad scope of NBA history, only the 92′-93′ Mavericks had a worse point differential at -15.2. So this is not a simple, “best college team vs. worst pro team,” debate. This may be a “best college team vs. worst pro team ever” debate.
If you don’t fear etching your corneas, look at this Bobcats roster. D.J. Augustin might be their best player, but he’s ranked No. 141 in PER. Rookie Kemba Walker has a slightly higher PER, but he’s shooting .367 on the season. If you favor a non-PER argument, Charlotte is the second-worst team in defensive efficiency. That they can be this bad and not be No. 30 speaks to just how terrible the offense is in totality. The offensive efficiency gap between Charlotte and the 29th worst offense (Washington), is wider than the gap between Washington and 18th ranked Milwaukee. Subjectively, in the abstract: Any player on this roster could be sent to the D-League and it would not shock me.
So this is not an NBA team, these Bobcats. This is a notional NBA team. It is an NBA team only because it is a collection of people who happen to be in a certain location at a certain time, dressed a certain way. In contrast, Kentucky has two players (Davis and MKG) who would probably be in the league were it not for an age limit restriction. Both Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist are up for a Wooden award and they could easily be picks 1-2 in the 2012 draft. Kentucky also boasts another player in Terrence Jones whom the lockout likely dissuaded from being a 2011 lottery pick. The Wildcats are a one-and-done fueled factory, a quasi pro team in the eyes of many. Perhaps both Cats’ teams are notional to their respective leagues, which is why Kentucky could win.