Where the Bobcats can get better, and how « Queen City Hoops

Where the Bobcats can get better, and how

The nice part about following a team that’s terrible is that there are plenty of avenues for improvement. Pretty much no matter what happens this offseason, the Bobcats are going to start next year with a better team. (I realize I’m tempting fate here.) Let’s take a look at where they were the worst, and how they can get better through internal adjustments, the draft and free agency:

Three-point shooting:

First, some “good” news — the Bobcats weren’t the worst team in the league from long range. They ranked 27th in three-point percentage, beating out the Suns, Magic and Timberwolves. The team only had two above-average players from three: Ben Gordon and Jannero Pargo. (Tyrus Thomas’ 3-for-8 mark doesn’t count.) Ben Gordon is Ben Gordon, and it’s unlikely Pargo will return. At 34 percent, Jeff Taylor was the team’s next-best option.

Bummer.

Improving from within: The Bobcats can’t really adjust their rotation to address this, other than giving Ben Gordon more minutes (probably a bad idea). Instead, they’ll need to see growth from their young players, mostly Kemba Walker and Jeff Taylor. Taylor especially showed some promise, shooting reasonably well from the corners:

If the team can get him more looks at those spots, it’ll improve his efficiency. Likewise, better ball movement and fewer isolation plays will create more open looks and improve the shooting overall.

Improving through the draft: This one’s obvious; if Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore is available when the Bobcats pick, he’d be an ideal fit. His outside shooting and athleticism would make him a good complement to both Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, giving Charlotte a well-constructed backcourt to build around. If they end up trading down (or feel like giving their fanbase an aneurysm), Shabazz Muhammad could also be an option.

Improving in free agency: What happens with Gerald Henderson will determine a lot. Henderson is well-rounded and still young, but he seems best suited to a sixth-man role where he can play 20-25 minutes a game between the wing spots. I’d be afraid of overpaying him. The team seems to agree, since they reportedly shopped him for a first-round pick before the trade deadline.

If his contract demands creep up too high, that’s money that could be better put towards a player that can shoot, like J.J. Redick, O.J. Mayo or Kevin Martin. Henderson’s three-point shooting improved to 33 percent this year, but pairing him and MKG will likely always cause spacing issues. Even a short-term flier on a veteran like Kyle Korver might be better than giving a big-money deal to Hendo.

[Sidenote: Attracting free agents, even mid-tier players like those listed above, is going to be a challenge. Play along for now. A quiet offseason wouldn’t necessarily be a failure, though — it’s just one of the growing pains that comes with rebuilding a team from scratch. Better to save the money and live to spend another day than give out an inflated contract because you’re desperate.]

Post scoring:

A big part of the team’s offensive struggles was due to the complete void in the post; Charlotte shot a league-low 54.5 percent within five feet of the rim, and Byron Mullens was the only frontcourt player that averaged more than 10 points per game. (He had 10.6.) Teams could basically ignore the big men, especially Biyombo and Haywood, and focus on preventing the outside shot.

Improving from within: Keeping Josh McRoberts around would be a good start. With the Bobcats, McRoberts hit 62.7 percent of his shots less than eight feet from the basket, and showed some promise in the pick and roll. Ball movement was also noticeably better with him on the floor. His mediocre rebounding and defense mean he’s probably better suited for a bench role in the long term, but right now he’s a much better option than Mullens.

Improving through the draft: Many mock drafts have the Bobcats taking UNLV’s Anthony Bennett here, and he was a polished all-around scorer in college. I’ll be honest, though: he kind of terrifies me. Similarly versatile tweener forwards such as Derrick Williams, Thomas Robinson and Michael Beasley have struggled to adapt to the NBA in recent years, and Bennett could have trouble against taller and stronger athletes. I’m not saying he won’t find a place in the league, with similarly sized players like Carlos Boozer, Carl Landry, Dejuan Blair and Jared Sullinger finding varying levels of success, but the potential to bust feels high.

A player like Maryland’s Alex Len might be a safer pick. At 7’1, he obviously has the size for the pro game. A soft touch around the basket and good shotblocking make him an attractive choice, as well. From his college career, it seems unlikely he’ll ever be an explosive offensive player, but the team just needs someone competent and steady in the post at this point.

Cody Zeller might end up being the best big man scorer in the draft, but feels like a bit of a reach at No. 4. He’s a possibility if the team trades down.

Improving in free agency: If the team really wants to make a splash, they can make a play for a top free agent like Josh Smith, Paul Milsap, Carl Landry or Al Jefferson. All are in their prime, and they’ll all command big, long-term contracts. It’s been a long time since the Bobcats had even a league-average big man, so improving here would be very welcome.

Rather than splurging on an aging semi-star, though, it might make more sense for the team to focus on some of the younger players available. J.J. Hickson, Brandan Wright (remember him?), and the previously mentioned Dejuan Blair are all coming off their rookie deals and seem like a better fit with the developing Bobcats. That they’ll be cheaper is just an added bonus. If they take off, that’s terrific. If they wind up coming off the bench, that’s fine — the overall talent level in Charlotte is so poor that the team needs to be building depth, too. They can always go big next year.

Rebounding/Post Defense:

These are separate but related issues. Rebounding is easier to quantify: Charlotte was 29th in DRB% last year, and were outrebounded by an average of around four boards per game. Letting opponents have that many second-chance opportunities doesn’t help a defense, especially one that was already struggling.

Teams didn’t have much trouble getting to the rim, either, with the Bobcats giving up the third-most attempts in the restricted area. As the defense collapsed on the open man inside, it often led to uncontested jump shots — a big part of why Charlotte ranked 29th in three-point defense.

Improving from within: The first step is an easy one: give MKG full starter’s minutes. The team was significantly better at rebounding on both ends when he played, and his often-sketchy offense shouldn’t be enough of a drag to keep him off the floor. He was also a solid post defender in limited attempts, according to MySynergySports.com, and the team’s defense was better in general when he played.

Most of the improvement will probably come from changes to rotations and coaching. The small-ball lineups, usually featuring Walker next to Sessions and/or Gordon, were crushed on the boards and didn’t see enough of an uptick in offense to justify the experiment.

I think we’ll see Steve Clifford shift Sessions to more of a back-up role and stick with a more traditional lineup. It’s also possible Ramon could be traded; he’s practically the only desirable piece on the Bobcats at the moment, and his $5 million expiring contract would be easy to move. The front office has made major deals in each of the past two offseasons, so we’ll see if that streak continues.

Improving through the draft: Nerlens Noel is the ideal choice here, but it’s doubtful he’ll still be available when the Bobcats are picking. The previously mentioned Alex Len would be a plus, too.

He’s not a big man, but Victor Oladipo would likely help to some extent. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, he’s an excellent rebounder for a wing and would bring tenacious man defense. I think he’s a little too similar to MKG to be a realistic option, but he’d be a good value and could probably replace Henderson’s minutes without too much of a dropoff.

Improving through free agency: This big man crop is heavy on scorers but doesn’t have too many elite defenders. Dwight Howard is out there, but I think even the most optimistic Bobcats fan isn’t holding out much hope for him.

One option is chasing a post defender in restricted free agency: Minnesota’ Nikola Pekovich is available and is a solid defensive presence, though the Timberwolves will likely match any offer for him. While he isn’t a standout on his own, San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter has shown he’s able to play his role well as part of an elite defense.

22 comments to Where the Bobcats can get better, and how

  • Spencer/SDS

    this most optimistic Bobcat fan would hate to see Howard here…1 thats a lot of a money for an aging, crippled, over his head, cry baby, terrible offensive player, relied souly on his athleticism and height of which isn’t as great as some want to believe, is lazy getting back on defense(not bynum lazy but lazy) awful pick and roll defender anywhere near a Charlotte uniform…seriously if it were the 90s or if he ever had to go 1 on 1 against a Shaq or Wilt Chamberlain (true monsters athletically) he would be DESTROYED, he is probably the worst best center to roam this league in history…

  • charlottean

    i don’t get the love for len. I just don’t get it. dude is coming off ANKLE surgery. taking him 4th is the equivalent of giving bynum a max contract risk wise. difference is…….bynum has proven he can play. len hasn’t. i do NOT get the love for him at the top of the draft.

    he stat stuffed against a SMALL acc this year and still only came out with mediocre numbers at best. as a sophomore. the comparison to zeller is soooooooooooooo one sided yet everybody goes with len draft wise. there’s 1 knock on zeller – short arms. and nobody is saying it because of how stupid it looks when you add in his vert and quickness. more than makes up for it. I want to see some sport science numbers comparisons between zeller and len because I will be blown away if len covers more cubic feet defensively and rebound wise than zeller.

    i hate talking down on len so much because i like him as a pick from 8 or 9 and going back but 4? I just don’t see that. how is zeller the reach between he and len?

  • Greg

    It’s definitely possible Zeller ends up the best big man in the draft, but the argument goes that Len has an opportunity to become a very good two-way player, while Zeller lacks the strength and length to be an elite defender. Draft Express has a good write-up here, but here’s the relevant part:

    “Despite the high skill-level and tremendous versatility Zeller displays, his offensive game is not a cinch to translate seamlessly to the NBA, unless he makes some stark improvement in certain areas. For one, Zeller didn’t add all that much weight to his frame between his freshman and sophomore seasons, or at least he didn’t maintain the bulk he did put on, as he still gets pushed around quite a bit inside by more physical opponents. Does he have the lower body strength needed to establish position inside the paint and score in the low-post the way he did in college? Opposing teams seemingly recognized that he doesn’t love contact and tried to rough him up quite a bit as the year moved on, which he didn’t really respond to in the best way, especially in Indiana’s biggest games.

    His short wingspan and seemingly small hands appeared to be a major factor when looking at his ability to finish over length at the collegiate level, as he has a low release point on many of his shots around the rim, and gets his shot blocked a lot more than you’d hope. With his frail frame, average explosiveness off two feet, and short arms, there are plenty of concerns about whether he’ll be able to finish consistently in traffic at the NBA level.

    Many of the same concerns apply when attempting to evaluate what type of rebounder and defender he might be in the NBA as well. His short wingspan, underdeveloped frame and average toughness could make it difficult for him to be a major factor on the glass or as a weakside presence, as he struggles to stop more physical opponents from posting him up inside, and was not a prolific rebounder or shot-blocker at the college level. As a power forward, there are some question marks about whether he has the ability to consistently stay in front of more perimeter oriented players, as he isn’t overly physical putting a body on opponents or containing penetration, and thus got scored on a fair amount at the college level in one on one situations.”

    From DraftExpress.com http://www.draftexpress.com#ixzz2VHkFCmjD

    I think those are legitimate concerns. Len has his own flaws too, most of which you pointed out. But he has the tools and drive to be a complete player, and seems like a safer bet overall.

    As far as his health goes, I’m not a doctor. If Charlotte’s medical staff clears him, that’s good enough for me.

  • charlottean

    didn’t they clear sean may?

    I recognize the length to be a problem, but his vert is like 8-10 inches higher than almost every other center which makes up for the lack of length. He will outrebound brook lopez. that I’m sure of.

    I look at tyler having a decent rookie season and think “this is after 4 years of college instead of 2 and he’s nowhere near as good as cody”

  • Dieng

    Dieng best big in draft. Most upside highest iq
    Great defender huge wing span good passer vastly improved offensively. Quickest learner pitino has ever had

  • MullensMafia

    Great article. Really well done. Like how you covered the weaknesses and then sought out the three ways we can improve them.

    McLemore / Noel / Bennett / Oladipo / Len / Zeller would all be fine with me. Looks like we have a great chance of ending up with one of these guys.

    Thoughts on T-Rob?

  • Kevin

    The short version of my opinion to fix all of these problems this summer:
    1.) Draft Ben McLemore!!!! I think this guy has the potential to be a star in a draft that has a ridiculous amount of high risk players. He can stretch the court with his shooting ability and also has the chance to change games with his freak athletic ability.
    2.) Sign O.J. Mayo. This allows the Bobcats/Hornets to fix their three-point shooting problem right now in case it takes a year or two for McLemore to develop. Mayo is a proven scorer and paired with Kemba can make for a dangerously fast back court.
    3.) Tiago Splitter. It’s going to be tough to pry him away from San Antonio but, this guy can rebound the basketball. Improvement in this area may be, in my opinion, the biggest area of need for the Bobcats. Obviously they need scoring options but, offensive rebounds can lead to that even if you don’t have the best scoring threats. Look at what Indiana did this year. Paul George aside, no one on their roster scares anyone from a scoring aspect, but they rebound excellently which can lead to second chance opportunities. Splitter can definitely do that.

    This would leave the Bobcats room to resign Hendo and McRoberts if they wanted to(I wouldn’t resign Hendo just because hes probably going to end up getting overpaid). Making the roster rotation look something like this:
    PG- Kemba Walker
    SG- O.J. Mayo
    SF- Michael Kidd Gilchrist
    PF- Josh McRoberts
    C- Thiago Splitter

    Bench-
    PG- Ramon Sessions
    SG-Ben McLemore
    SF- Jeff Taylor
    PF- Tyrus Thomas
    C-Bismack Biyombo

    Not your World Champions roster but much improved and in the East, probably a playoff team in the 7th or 8th seed.

  • AJ

    We need a big man more than anything. If cousins is available and we can get him for a 1st definitely do it. Even if we have to throw Biz OR MKG in we should do it. We can get another SF easier than we get can get a good big man

  • charlottean

    cousins isn’t available. no effing way you trade MKG for cousins. No effing way.
    splitter isn’t available (dude is definitely staying in san antonio with duncan soon retiring).
    odds are against mclemore being there at 4 but if he is there at 4, we should definitely take him.
    no reason to sign OJ Mayo AND draft mclemore.
    not a whole lot of difference in net gains between mayo and henderson.

    indiana got plenty of offense from george hill and david west. stephenson was the wild card. hibbert was the defensive one although his offense has improved (still mediocre).

    we DEFINITELY need to get better rebounding. part of those stats come from poor shooting and allowing good shooting, but even the more level measures still have us towards last in the league. biz needs to step that up this year and he needs a PnC.

    • AJ

      Why wouldn’t you trade mkg for cousins? If cosuins was in the draft he would go 1st. A center is a lot harder to get than a SF.

  • charlottean

    If MKG was in the draft, he would go 1st also. MKG isn’t the head case cousins is, he’s PROBABLY an equal talent player or close just younger. you have more years on rookie scale with MKG. I agree, much harder to find a 4/5 guy who plays the post at the level cousins does, but he’s a wildcard at this point. His teams haven’t won anything thus far because of it. Biyombo……sure, although I prefer biz to cousins attitude wise. You’ll win more games with guys like MKG and Biz than you will with cousins. Tech’s and complaining to refs hurt your team in big games. Guys like latrell spreewell, stephen jackson, rashad mccants, etc. etc. etc. ooooooooooooze talent but they hurt you when it matters.

    have any of you guys seen the documentary about MKG’s senior year high school team? that’s a guy a want on my team. way more than cousins.

  • Justin

    I would def trade MKG for Cousins. I like what MKG brings to the table and he was held back somewhat by Dunlap this year but if you can get Cousins, then you HAVE to do it. I agree he can be a pain sometimes but look at the Kings organization in general, it’s a headache. You get him in here under the right coaching and he would be a beast. He averaged almost 18 and 10 this year and that was a “down year. He may not be a first class guy like MKG but this is the NBA, the first class guys aren’t always the ones you want to play for your team. You take the risk with Cousins and hope that they can straighten him out. Although we could go out and sign Bynum, but he is even more immature than Cousins can be sometimes plus his knees are terrible. I also agree that if we do trade down, then Zeller or Len would be the best fit. DO NOT PAY HENDO, he had his good games but he isn’t going to be worth the money.

  • John

    I would only trade MKG if it were absolutely neccesary. Can prolly get away with a 1st and Biz with the trouble that DC had in Sacramento. I would honestly rather throw in one of the picks from next year along with than MKG. Only so amny rookies you need on a team, no matter the depth of the draft. Charlotte as crazy as it sounds would be a MUCH better fit for Cousins. Espeacially if Ewing decides to come to town. Clifford seems like a no non sense kinda guy as well. And DC is miles ahead talent wise than any big in this draft so, yeah. You do everything you can to bring him to Charlotte. I do think we need Hendo back though. Whole heartedly agree about Bynum. Really hope we stay away from him. Nothing crazy as far as salary goes. But 4-5, maybe 6 mill a year should be ok. More than anything he brings leadership and experience to the young guys. And with the coaching carousel that we’ve had recently, there needs to be a familiar face in the locker room. If we can get Thomas Robinson from Houston, our frontline would be shored up for the future. If we don’t get him, I think we need to go get JJ Hickson.

  • John

    Had a little scatter brain, put my little 2cents in on Bynum right in the middle of talking about Hendo. oops!

  • charlottean

    I don’t think hendo will command more than 6 a year and he’s worth every penny of it. anything above that gives me pause but here’s the reality: if we don’t spend it on henderson, we’re probably spending it on someone who doesn’t deserve it. at least with henderson you know he’s going to earn it.

    and people are downplaying just how good he played last year. his numbers went up and his minutes went down. he has really turned himself into a viable #2 option on a good to great team. he is absolutely worth every penny of a 5 year deal for 30 million. if you let him walk, that means you have to replace him by signing somebody else (drafting his replacement basically means you’re wasting another franchise draft pick). we got away with it with the sessions/augustin swap last year, but i don’t think you get henderson’s value at the same price point to come to charlotte. not right now. we would be overpaying for the same guy or a lesser guy or an older guy. it’s way more valuable to keep the guy. continuity is insanely undervalued. indiana is doing what it’s doing because their core was all drafted there and then they signed david west 2 years ago and traded for george hill 2 years ago and kept everyone together for several years. hansbrough, hibbert, george, granger, stephenson, pendergraph, etc. all draft picks they’ve developed. hill was a draft pick they traded. we have that type of core and the moment will come to sign our David west. it’s not now.

    henderson at 6 million a year equates to mike miller getting his 30 whatever million from miami when he was already damaged goods and a lot older. think about it. there’s no reason NOT to keep henderson unless he gets a 40 million dollar offer which is insanely unlikely.

  • charlottean

    i like j.j. hickson…..he was a blue chip talent coming out and slipped in the draft because of his immaturity. he’s still not there 100% but he’s way better than cousins or blatche or something. his year in portland did a lot for him. getting traded and waived a few times helped too. he’ll get a BIG contract this offseason, i’m not sure it would be the right move for us. i think biz can develop into something of a more defensive version of hickson. lot of dunking and little post hooks, not a lot else. i think we want someone that brings a little bit more than that to the table. a good ball handling/passing big man. we saw what mcroberts brought, imagine if we had a young diaw who played as hard as an MKG. that would be ideal.

  • ricky

    if they keep the pick they need to draft bennett hes athlectic len is a overhyped byron mullens im not sold henderson played well and hes young i would keep him i definetly would try to get cousins headache are not he fits what they need we need froncourt help anybody that says we dont dont know the game!

  • Spencer/SDS

    Bennet is a Milsapp, and should be a very efficient scorer and decent rebounder but his lack of length will cause issues when matched with Bismack as a backcourt….

  • charlottean

    i would rather have cousins than a lot of guys, but I wouldn’t trade MKG for him.

    mullens has the talent, he doesn’t have the balls to be great. or even good for that matter. I’m off the bandwagon completely. flashes of brilliance mixed with mediocrity.

    I like bennett as a prospect, don’t think he’s a good fit. would much rather have derrick williams AND the 9 versus just bennett. and would definitely rather have thomas robinson. but he’s a good backup plan if noel-mclemore-oladipo go 1-2-3 and we’re still holding 4 and don’t trade it. it’s gotta be him, len, or zeller and I don’t think anyone is smart enough to take zeller.

    this is where trading with minnesota seems like such an obvious deal for us. the best possible match with biyombo (outside of noel) has got to be zeller or len. i prefer zeller, most prefer len, but either way…both are better fits for the team than other picks. 1 of them will probably be available at 9. so why not pick up derrick williams in the process. you wait to do the deal in case noel or mclemore have an unlikely slip to 4. I don’t think it’s possible washington takes oladipo 3rd.

    and i still say best deal available is to purchase dallas’ pick and put together a package to move from 4 to 1 and get noel. could still go and get thomas robinson too. too many talented guys available not to make the big move.

  • Spencer/SDS

    at 4 I would look at Porter as well for sure….dude can play the 2 relatively easy in my opinion, was a good spot up shooter and has very good handles…I ( a KU fanatic) would take him over McLemore at this point…he is a more complete player, plus at the 2 he can cause mismatches with his height

    Zeller would be nice, Cousins would be nicer^^, but Zeller isn’t half bad, I could see him being like a Garnett offensively eventually, although defensively he won’t have as large of an impact obviously…but he is a similar skill set just downgraded

    But realistically if i were Cleveland I would draft Zeller 1st or trade back, there biggest issue is scoring opposite Irving (something their pick last yr was supposed to do but hasn’t really), then Orlando “should” pick Mclemore, Washington gets Noel, we see who we get, at least thats how I see it playing out, so Zeller for me^^

  • Spencer/SDS

    ha i’m an idiot, “but realistically if i were Cleveland I would draft Zeller) -meant Porter there^^,

  • charlottean

    if orlando and cleveland are both listening to offers, minnesota wants our pick, dallas is selling their pick, thomas robinson is wide open available, and we already have up to 3 picks in next year’s draft………HOW CAN WE GO WRONG HERE?!

    I would love to make the deal with cleveland or orlando to get either mclemore or noel AND turn around and get thomas robinson.

    if they eff this up…..they have nobody to blame. we are one of the most well positioned teams this year with cap room, high draft pick, no looming max extension (as far as we can see), veteran trade chips, young talent, new coaching staff, new brand change, etc. etc.

    you could easily go mclemore/robinson/bynum (assuming health) in about a 2 week span and be like WTF JUST HAPPENED TO THE BOBCATS?! and be talking 6-8 seed next year while still holding lottery picks. seriously…..if cho doesn’t pull something big off, he’s not doing his job.