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Talking Bobcats with Ben Swanson of Rufus on Fire

Ben Swanson, managing editor of our sister blog Rufus on Fire, stopped by to chat about the team he covers ahead of tonight's game.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Our friend Ben Swanson over at Rufus on Fire was kind enough to take some time out of his day off to answer some burning Bobcats questions for us. Read on below to find out how injuries have changed what Charlotte's done this season, Ben's thoughts on playoffs and the team's future and who he might poach off the Mavs if given the chance. Thanks so much Ben!

And be sure to head over to Rufus on Fire for more gameday coverage and to check out my answers to Ben's Mavericks questions!

Last time the Mavs played the Bobcats (December 3), MKG got hurt. How has he played since returning from injury?

His impact has been fairly big, though mostly that's defensively. The Bobcats' defense started to break down a bit towards the end of his absence but his return has added back the missing defensive talent and discipline that make Charlotte's defense one of the best in the league. His offense still isn't reliable, but it comes and goes and isn't relied upon to do much anyway. The Bobcats are best when their defense is squeezing opponents like ice cream push-ups out of the paint. His versatility being able to cover opponents inside and out helps the Bobcats force challenging shots. And that's where it's really mattered.

On a somewhat related note, the Bobcats are much improved from last season and that improved play seems tohave continued. They're the 8th seed in the East right now! Look into your crystal ball for they make the playoffs? Do you see them improving even more next season?

The Pistons are just a half-game behind Charlotte and the Knicks are a couple games back too, so it's hard to say. I haven't taken a look at the Pistons or Knicks' remaining schedules, but the Bobcats' isn't a cakewalk. The team's getting its best play out of Al Jefferson right now and Kemba's return from an ankle sprain should help, but the team will need to click a bit more offensively to hold on to its playoff spot, I think. I've been sidestepping a prediction so far, so let me go ahead and say Yes, I think they'll eke into the playoffs. Detroit just fired their head coach. The Knicks are still a bad defensive team. The chance is certainly there for them to fall but perhaps they won't. It is the East, after all.

I do think they'll improve even more next year. This is just Clifford's first year and he's already installed the foundation to his defense and should have more room to build next year. This should help the offensive cohesiveness with the main players, which has room for improvement. Further, the team could have a couple first round picks and some cap space with Ben Gordon's expiring contract. They can use these assets to add shooting and depth, which they desperately need.

Has Jeff Taylor's torn Achilles forced the team to change what it was doing before that injury?

A bit. We had such high hopes for him after a promising offseason in FIBA and in Summer League, and the team really needed as much shooting they could get. His injury forced the Bobcats to play Anthony Tolliver and to add Chris Douglas-Roberts. They've done decently, but it would have been interesting to see Taylor's game develop some more because of his shooting, defense and athleticism.

If you could have any player from the Mavs (other than Dirk) for the Bobcats, who would you want and why?

I can't lie; I haven't watched the Mavs much this year so I'm not really confident in my answer. But I'd probably say DeJuan Blair. They could really use some help in the frontcourt when Al Jefferson takes some rest and on the offensive boards. Jose Calderon is also a good pick. His shooting and passing could really help the offensive spacing and flow off the bench.

Dallas is fun and Dirk is great and all, but I've never been to Charlotte. Where does one apply to be a "Hornets" blogger for next season? That seems like a cool job.

Well, I guess they could send me an email, hah. The future is hard to predict but at least there will be really cool colors and better basketball than recent years!