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Strengths: Kemba’s season was one long sigh of relief. Drafted in 2011 as one of the bedrocks of Charlotte’s rebuilding effort, his rookie year was a disappointment (in part for reasons beyond his control). The second year was much better.
A lot of that had to do with Walker’s improving efficiency (see Reasons for Optimism), but he also built on his strengths while taking on an expanded role:
— One of Kemba’s best attributes is his ballhandling, and that paid off in multiple ways. For one, he managed to keep his turnovers relatively low, especially given his role on the team, heavy minutes and a high usage rate. It also helped him put up points: According to MySynergySports.com, the pick-and-roll made up the largest percentage of his scoring plays, and his .87 points per possession was good for 32nd in the league. He also showed improvement in isolation, where Synergy rated him 85th among qualifying players. That gave the Bobcats a decently reliable one-on-one creator that it’s lacked in the past. It also led to some memorable moments.
— Walker still has a ways to go as a defender, but he has active hands and a good sense of timing. He was top-five in total steals, and top-10 in steal percentage among qualifying players. For a team that relied heavily on the fast break, Kemba’s ability to force turnovers came in handy.
— This is an underrated strength: Walker has proven to be very durable, and hasn’t missed a game in his two-year career. The streak continued this season despite a significant increase in playing time. Kemba saw 673 more minutes than his next-closest teammate, the equivalent of 14 48-minute games.
Kemba’s raw totals show off the impact increased playing time and consistent health can have. Walker played the 18th-most minutes in the league, which translated to the 15th-most points, 4th-most steals, 14th-most free throws made, and 19th-most assists. Looking at totals like that isn’t an especially accurate way of measuring a player’s impact on a game-by-game basis, but staying on the floor is its own talent. It also reflects just how heavy of a load Walker was carrying this year.
Weaknesses: Defense is Walker’s most glaring flaw; he’s always going to be undersized for the position, and he doesn’t have the strength to consistently fight through screens. As the team builds an identity on that end and improves their post defense, this will hopefully become less of an problem. A well-coached team can get by with subpar one-on-one defense from their point guard.
— This isn’t necessarily a “weakness,” but Walker has been an average passer so far. His assist percentage was 19th-best among qualifying players, comparable to point guards like Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson. He’s decent enough that his passing isn’t a liability, but he didn’t show much growth this year, either. One thing that could help is acquiring a few more spot-up shooters; it’s hard to drive and kick when there’s no one to kick to. Similarly, Kemba didn’t have a good player to run the pick-and-roll with until Josh McRoberts showed up. As the team improves, it’ll be interesting to see how Walker’s passing game evolves.
Reasons For Optimism: Here’s the big one: Kemba’s field-goal percentage rose from a depressing 36.6 percent to a solid 42.3 percent. That’s about league-average for point guards (43 percent, according to Hoopdata.com). He accomplished it in two ways:
First, Walker improved his FG% on mid-range attempts from 35.0 to 43.4 percent. Kemba relied heavily on that shot, so it was an important development if he’s going to become half-way efficient.
Second, Walker did a better job at getting to the rim. Everyone loves charts, right? Here’s Kemba’s shot distribution in 2011-12:
And here’s 2012-13:
Kemba shifted nearly 10 percent of his shots to within eight feet of the basket. In short, this year Walker took better attempts and improved at the ones he already relied on. That’s a formula for solid (and hopefully sustainable) growth.
— This could be less of a reason for optimism and more of a statistical quirk, but Kemba was much, much better at home than on the road. More charts:
This gist is that Kemba scored more, and much more efficiently, when he was in Charlotte.
For reference, the league averages 45.95 percent from the field at home and 44.60 percent away. That’s a difference of 1.35 percent; Walker shot 6.6 percent better at home. The biggest shift was his three-point shooting, where he went from terrible on the road (26.8 percent) to very good at home (37.8 percent).
Like I said, this could just be randomness in the numbers. But if Kemba can get over his road jitters and find a consistent, high-percentage three-point stroke, it’d go a long way towards making him a complete offensive player.
Reasons For Pessimism: Kemba’s biggest strength is his mid-range game, and he didn’t develop much as a long-range shooter. That ultimately limits his efficiency, and in the short term created some major spacing issues while playing next to Ramon Sessions, Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. If he can’t improve on his three-pointers, he’ll top out as a relatively inefficient volume scorer.
It’s also unclear how Walker will play in a more structured offense. Dunlap’s system allowed him to dominate the ball for long stretches, and didn’t feature much ball movement. The year before was similarly chaotic. If the incoming coach installs an offense that requires Walker to be more of a spot-up shooter, he could see his production deflate.
I’m trying to end these recaps on a positive note, so here you go: even if Kemba doesn’t pan out to be a long-term starter, he seems like a legitimate NBA player. You can’t complain too much about a solid contributor with a few elite skills, good potential and a strong work ethic (though I’m sure some will try).
The Charlotte Hornets are on their way back, according to a report from CBS Sports. The news was later confirmed by Rick Bonnell at The Charlotte Observer.
There’s still a lot that’s up in the air. While the league hasn’t approved the change yet, that seems like it’ll be a formality. Incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver has previously said that he’s “fine with whatever the Bobcats decide.”
It’s likely there won’t be any change until the 2014-2015 season, but no timetable has been set. While the former New Orleans Hornets were able to fast-track a change to the Pelicans brand, it doesn’t appear that the league will be doing the same for Charlotte.
What form the new Hornets will take is also unclear. Bonnell’s source wouldn’t comment on whether the iconic teal-and-purple color scheme would also be returning, but it’s hard to believe ownership would go in a different direction.
The Bobcats name wasn’t liked by many, and some of that had to do with the mixed feelings people had about Robert Johnson’s run as owner. I’m happy to see the Hornets return, but I don’t see much point in spitting on the Bobcats’ grave. Despite a rough nine years (and counting), the team brought professional basketball back to Charlotte — and that means more than how little-loved the name might have been.
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Strengths: He can shoot. That’s about it. But that’s obviously still a valuable NBA skill, so a tip of the cap to The Scottish Terrier (my nickname for him for many years – you know he looks like one). Gordon led the team in 3P% at .387 (career .404), many of which kept the Bobcats in games when their offense was floundering in the half court. He can create his own shot off the dribble and is also a very good foul shooter (.843 this season). The end.
Weaknesses: Get ready. First off, Gordon is terrible at defense. I mean really bad. Some guys simply lack the foot speed and physical ability to be an average defender, but that is not the case here. His problem is instead rooted in lack of effort and adhering to principles of team defense. I could go on but everyone from Zach Lowe to Brett here at QCH has said enough already.
Next. He is not what you would call a connoisseur of fine shot selection. Granted, the 3-point shot is an efficient attempt for a skilled NBA shooter. However, many of his shots both inside and beyond the arc are what you could call “difficult”. At points this season it was as if the Bobcats had traded for a less-tatted J.R. Smith who had hit the preacher curl bar. But I digress. Gordon shot a career-low .408 from the field, which is tough to do when you shoot nearly the same clip from distance.
Lastly (I’ll limit the criticism to three points), Gordon gets loose with the ball way too often. He doesn’t have a bad handle per se, but he gets himself into trouble by forcing situations and attempting to make ill-suited passes in the paint. Part of the problem is that he’s always looking to get his shot, so at times he’ll get into the lane only to realize he’s now double teamed or facing an opponent’s big. He’s never considered passing the ball up to this point so the attempt to do so is hurried and often intercepted by the opposing team.
Reasons for Optimism: Gordon has only one year left on his deal after he (surprise!) picked up his option for the 2013-14 season. Gordon knows he’s an expiring contract so I wouldn’t be surprised if he came into camp ready to play and prove himself to the other 29 teams in the League. A pre trade deadline deal of Gordon to a contender who needs shooting (as was purported this season to the Nets) is rather likely, so get your fill of the Ol’ Terrier through the first 50 odd games of the season. Hopefully Gordon doesn’t cost them (or does cost them? Andrew Wiggins?) too many games before his departure.
Reasons for Pessimism: He could reside on the Bobcats roster for another 82 games. It’s not so much a risk to the on-court play of the team as it is to the locker room and culture of the organization. Gordon isn’t happy in Charlotte now and he certainly won’t be next year. Another long season of non-contending basketball could wear on him and in turn could lead to more discontent. However, I’m a optimistic guy so let’s go with the narrative above. Gordon comes to camp ready to prove himself, plays better, and gets traded before the deadline next season. Sounds wonderful.
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Strengths: MKG’s most immediate and obvious strength this year was his rebounding. On a team that desperately needed help there, he pulled down a very solid 8.1 rebounds per 36 minutes. Those don’t appear to be empty numbers, either: When he was on the floor, Charlotte’s total rebound percentage improved from an average of 47.8 percent to 49.7 percent. That bump might look modest, but it’s the difference between being the second-worst rebounding team in the NBA and one that’s almost exactly league-average. The improvement on the boards helped spark the offense, as well, as the team had significantly more second-chance points with Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor.
His defense was also a plus. Just using the eye test, MKG did a good job of sticking with his man and providing help where he could. While MySynergySports.com grades him out as an average defender overall, there were certain areas where he shined. In isolation, MKG gave up .67 points per possession, good for a top-50 ranking. He was similarly talented at defending the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations and in post-ups, showing his versatility. For a player that could potentially bounce back and forth between the forward positions, holding his own in the post is a very promising sign. As he gains an improved feel for team defense (and the team’s defense improves in general), he has a good chance at blossoming into the elite defender Charlotte hoped it was getting.
Weaknesses: Kidd-Gilchrist’s biggest flaw is pretty glaring: his jumpshot is painful to watch. It’s not very effective, either. On mid-range shots, MKG only converted 29.6 percent of his attempts. For forwards with at least 100 attempts from mid-range, the average was 40 percent — Kidd-Gilchrist was only better than four of the 75 players that qualified. (Weird statistical footnote: MKG was actually marginally better than fellow rookies Anthony Davis [!] and Harrison Barnes [!?!]. Don’t read too much into that, though.) It’s a significant limitation, and how much it improves over the next few years will determine how high his ceiling really is.
MKG could also stand to tighten up his handle. Too often, he’d get the ball in the high post with room to operate, then defer and pass off to a teammate. Other times, he’d begin a drive only to lose control and cough up the ball. According to Synergy, in situations where MKG was the ball handler in the pick-and-roll, he turned it over 22 percent of the time. I’d rather see a confident and aggressive Kidd-Gilchrist, but he’ll need to work on limiting those giveaways.
Reasons for Optimism: Here’s what Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote about Kidd-Gilchrist on Jan. 3, just 30 games into the season:
Damian Lillard has earned front-runner status [for Rookie of the Year], but Kidd-Gilchrist deserves real consideration. Given their three-year age gap, it’s not surprising there are some folks around the league who would prefer to build around MKG for the long haul.
Good to hear! But a lot changed after that article was published, with MKG slumping in January and suffering a terrifying concussion to start February. He didn’t miss many games following the injury, but his play continued to slide: After shooting 51 percent in the first two months of the season, Kidd-Gilchrist only made 31 percent of his attempts in February’s 10 games. Though he refused to make excuses for the poor stretch, he admitted that he was still recovering in early March. He bounced back in March and April, shooting a relatively efficient 47 percent through the final 24 games of the year.
If you want to be optimistic about Kidd-Gilchrist, you’d probably look to the first chunk of the year as your justification. What changed as the season went on?
Digging into the numbers shows part of the reason why Kidd-Gilchrist’s efficiency took a dip. Here’s his shot selection through 30 games, when he was shooting 51 percent:
A very high percentage of shots came within eight feet of the basket, where he was shooting 62 percent. Much fewer came from mid-range, where he didn’t have much confidence.
Here’s the rest of the year, where he shot 42 percent overall:
While it was still his bread and butter, we see fewer attempts near the rim and an increased emphasis on jump shots. Even though it helped make him a less efficient scorer, it was an important step: MKG can’t camp the lane forever, and if he wants to grow as a player he’ll need to step outside his comfort zone (figuratively and literally).
So, how did that go? Here’s the chart for Kidd-Gilchrist’s shooting performance in the first 30 games of the season:
It’s about what you’d expect: Good near the basket, bad everywhere else (in admittedly limited attempts). Over that stretch, MKG hit only 24.6 percent of his 65 mid-range attempts.
Here’s the final 30 games:
Is that some yellow outside the paint? And a green spot! To close the season, MKG made 36 percent of his final 91 mid-range attempts. It’s not quite average for his position, but it’s a hell of a lot better than 24.6 percent. (His form is still hideous, though.)
Those aren’t the largest samples to draw from, so I wouldn’t make any definitive conclusions about MKG’s jumper — we’ll have to wait until next year to see if an offseason of reps can improve his consistency. But it’s still encouraging, and it’s at least a hint at growth from a young, developing player. As a defender and all-around contributor, Kidd-Gilchrist already seems relatively well-formed. If he can continue to improve on both ends, he could be special.
Reasons for Pessimism: If he doesn’t continue to improve on both ends, he’ll wind up as a role player. That’s fine (the world needs role players), but it’s obviously not what you’d like from your second overall pick.
Even if MKG becomes a competent shooter from mid-range, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be great from distance. That will probably be a problem moving forward: the league in general is taking more three-pointers than ever, and efficient offenses tend to focus on the restricted area and shots from beyond the arc. Kidd-Gilchrist has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to become a complete player; it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up.
I’d rather not end this report card on a down note, though, so here’s Kidd-Gilchrist dunking Greg Monroe’s face off.
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Strengths: Getting to the rim in transition and in the half court is Sessions’ specialty — there are few players in the league who I’ve seen blitz the rim on a dead sprint like Sessions does. It ends in a lot of trips to the foul line — he was 11th in the league in FTA/game at 5.7. At 14.4 PPG, 33.2% of Sessions points throughout the season came from the foul line, so it’s clear how much he depended on getting whistles from night-to-night. He’s great at elevating and drawing contact towards the rim — At 6’3, Ramon can finish at the rim much more effectively than many point guards and he understands that, because 50.1% of Sessions FGA came from 5-feet or less this season. Surprisingly (or not) enough, he shot only 48.1% from this distance — that’s due to the fact the he’s worried as much about drawing contact and getting to the line as he is at actually making the shot. Getting to the foul line is simply in Sessions offensive DNA, and he’s good at it.
As fast as Kemba is in transition, Sessions is just as effective because of the way that he attacks the rim in straight line sprint. Ramon isn’t looking to create for others in transition very much, but he sprints at the rim like it’s home base and it makes it extremely difficult for defenders to make him change directions/cross his path.
Weaknesses: For starters, Sessions isn’t a good defender and doesn’t make it much of a priority. Although, his numbers would suggest that he’s not awful — Sessions allowed his opponents to average a PER of 15.00, which is exactly the league average. He’s capable of using his length against smaller guards and being difficult to shoot over, but he struggles to stay in front of smaller, quicker guards. The team and Sessions both benefit defensively when he’s in the game as a SG, therefore guarding other SG’s — with Ramon guarding PG’s, the team had a defensive rating of 107.9, but when he was defending SG’s, the number was drastically better at 103.1 (Per 82games.com). This is further evidence that he doesn’t have good lateral quickness at all, but can be a competent enough defender to force players near the same athletic ability as him into tough shots.
As good as Sessions is at getting to the foul line, he is a very one-dimensional player offensive and struggles to make adjustments. Before the all-star break, he was averaging 5.8 FTA/game and converting 85.5% of those. Post all-star break, teams began to adjust their defenses to keeping him away from the rim and Sessions only averaged 4.8 FTA/game — this clearly affected his overall offensive mindset as he converted just 72.1% of his FT’s and his 3FG% dropped to 26.7%.
That brings us to Sessions next weakness — outside shooting. He was 30.8% from 3-point range this season + isn’t comfortable taking the shot. The right and left foul line extended areas were the only mediocre areas for Sessions and his 3-point shooting — left foul line extended area: 10-25 (40%). Right foul line extended area: 12-36 (33.3%).
Reasons for Optimism: Well, he’ll be in Charlotte next season for the last year of his 2-year, $10mil deal — a great contract for the Bobcats to have during this rebuilding stretch. The likelihood of Sessions busting his tail this off-season and giving maximum effort on the court next season is very high due to the fact that this is a contract year coming up for him and at 27 years old he’s still in the category where a gaggle of teams would bid to overpay him — that’s assuming he has an impressive ’13-’14 season.
Dunlap reverted to Kemba/Sessions on the floor at the same time tons before Sessions was injured because they relied so much on the two for offense. We’ll have to see what happens with Hendo this summer, but it can be presumed that Sessions will have tons of pressure to score next season again, and will likely have to establish himself as more of a SG to find more time on the floor in Charlotte.
In short, at Sessions age and approaching a contract year, this could very well be the meat of his prime coming next season write the story on what his next step in the NBA will be.
Reasons for Pessimism: The shooting %, rebounding and assist numbers all dropped this season for Sessions. 11.1 FGA/game was a career high for him, but he’s been 44.1% from the field for his career and last season was quite a drop to 40.8%. It’s not something to be overly concerned about, because he did average a career high in PPG at 14.4 — that being said, there certainly wasn’t a direct correlation in how many points Sessions was scoring this season and how efficient he was doing it.
If the Bobcats re-sign Henderson, then that’s clearly stating that he’s the SG for the forseeable future in Charlotte — that demotes Sessions to strictly being the backup PG, presumably. If the team doesn’t bring Hendo back, which I believe will be the case, then I believe that Sessions will be used in many different fashions next season. He’s a 6’3 combo guard type of player that can wear many different masks on the floor, and will be asked to do that regardless of the personnel next season.
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Strengths: For Byron, we might be better off calling this “Areas of Improvement” rather than “Strengths.” This year saw a fundamental change in the way Mullens was played; instead of relying on the long midrange jumper, he drastically increased his three-point attempts (5.2 per 36 vs. 1.3 last year). It’s a good idea in theory, since the three-pointer is a more efficient shot and it gave Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Ramon Sessions more room to operate in the paint. (For the reality, see Weaknesses.)
Even though Mullens was a below-average rebounder overall, he made significant strides on his defensive rebounding. He grabbed 22 percent of the available defensive boards when he was on the floor, the highest mark on the team and a good rate overall for a power forward. The Bobcats were one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league, so there are caveats there, but he still showed an improved aggressiveness on that end.
Mullens also made minor gains in other areas. His rebounding percentage overall got a slight bump (13.5 percent TRB, up from 12.8 percent TRB last year), and he showed some growth in his passing. As a result of his additional three-point attempts, he also saw a very minor increase in his eFG% (43.5 percent last year vs. 44.4 percent this year, which is still really bad).
Weaknesses: Woof. Where to start?
The three-point experiment was a mixed bag, at best — even with the shift in his shot selection, Mullens was a very inefficient player. As mentioned above, his eFG% of 44.4 percent was dismal, ranking 146th out of 191 forwards this year.
Part of the issue was Byron’s sometimes passive play. He’s actually decent at finishing around the basket, converting 62 percent of his shots in the restricted area over the past two years, but he spent a little too much time lounging outside the arc instead of fighting for shots inside. Some of that is the offensive scheme and falls on coaching, but we know that Dunlap was at least trying to get Mullens in the post more often. If three-point shots are replacing mid-range attempts, that’s ultimately good for a player’s efficiency. But only 29 percent of Mullens’ attempts came in the paint this year, compared to 38 percent last year. That’s a trend in the wrong direction.
Mullens’ rebounding and defense were also issues. Part of that, again, is the way he’s used: his poor offensive rebounding drags down his overall numbers, but it’s hard for him to get those boards when he plays away from the basket.
He doesn’t have much of an excuse for his defense, however. The team was substantially worse on that end when Mullens played, with their defensive rating dropping from an average of 108.9 to 113 when he was on the court. The frontcourt combo of Mullens and Biyombo seems athletic enough to play solid team defense, but the fundamentals just don’t seem to be there for either at this point.
(Random side note: In the 470 minutes that Mullens and Ben Gordon played together, the team’s defensive rating was an eyepopping 125.8. They should maybe limit how often those two are on the court at the same time.)
Reasons for Optimism: The stretch power forward is becoming more and more common in the NBA, especially as teams have shifted to smallball lineups and increased their share of three-point shots. Still, it’s relatively rare for a seven-footer to hit even 30 percent of his three-pointers, so Mullens does have some value.
If he returns next year, a reduced role and better shot selection could help Mullens improve his efficiency. His defensive issues and inconsistency would be a lot easier to hide in 15 minutes a game, as well.
Reasons for Pessimism: In a team context, Mullens just does not look very good. Overall offensive and defensive ratings declined when he was on the court, as did team rebounding and true shooting. Part of the appeal of a big man that shoots threes is the way it opens up looks inside for other players; that just didn’t materialize with Byron. Given how he’s struggled to defend, he’ll need to grow into an impact player on offense to justify a future with the team.
Depending on how the draft and free agency work out, I do think it’s likely Charlotte will sign Mullens to a qualifying offer. As flawed as he is, he’s still a young player with potential, and it will only cost the Bobcats $3.2 million to bring him back. That’s more than he’s worth at this point, but cap space shouldn’t be an issue this offseason. All that said, unless we see a significant jump from him, I’d bet next season is his last.
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Strengths: Well, his strength. Literally, Adrien is very strong and can body up with most players in this league around the basket. He moves very well, is fairly quick for his size and has good lateral quickness — combine that to go with his powerful frame and it makes for an above average defensive PF in this league. In fact, Adrien may have been the closest to a defensive anchor as the Bobcats had in the paint this season — Charlotte finished the season with a 108.9 Defensive Rating, but with Adrien on the floor the team had a rating of 106.4 — to go along with Adrien’s physical attributes, he’s a very smart team defense player, usually in the correct position on the floor. Adrien also is a great PnR defender — his quickness & strength allow him to hedge hard and recover, but also sag under and contest a shot quickly if needed.
43.4% of Adrien’s FGA came ‘Around the Basket’ (less than 5-feet) — he was 47.9% from this area, which isn’t great — a lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s only 6’7 and drastically undersized for his position. The positive here, though, is that Adrien is committed to attacking the rim to find the majority of his offense. 28.5% of his FGA came from ‘Mid-Range’ (15-19 feet), where he converted on only 35.4% — this certainly shouldn’t be categorized as a strength, but the fact that he’s not shy about taking this mid-range jumper is a plus. That being said, if he wants defenders to respect him and, in turn, make himself a much more versatile offensive player, he’s got to improve the mid-range jump shot.
Weaknesses: This would require me basically to pick up where I just left off. Adrien doesn’t have a good offensive game, but it doesn’t appear to be because he’s incompetent. 42.9% from the field for a player that lives around the basket is not awesome, to say the least, but Adrien is undersized — which limits him around the rim. On top of that, he doesn’t have a consistent jump shot to pull defenders away from the basket and hang his hat on. Adrien’s jumper has a bit of a hitch in it and it’s apparent that he’s still not overly comfortable taking the shot. If he’s able to find his stroke and consistently knock down a 10-20 foot jumper, his game will begin to flourish — that remains to be seen.
Adrien is also a below average free throw shooter, although he did make a vast improvement on those numbers this season. In his first two seasons in the league he shot a respective 57.9% & 58.3%, but last season Adrien improved to 65% on about 0.4 more attempts/game.
Reasons for Optimism: I think they’re a ton of them — he’s the type of rugged, physical and drag out scrapper that every NBA team could use. Those qualities will all but likely (barring injury) keep this guy in the league well into his 30′s (27 currently). On top of that, if Adrien can make some progress on the offensive end and sharpen the blade on some go-to moves around the basket, he’s got the ability to be a solid rotation player in this league — consistently. If I were Adrien, I’d be studying tape on guys like David West and Carl Landry constantly.
I really hope that the Bobcats decide to keep Adrien around for ’13-’14. He’s technically on the books for about $915,000 next season on a league minimum deal, but the contract is fully unguaranteed, so we’ll have to see what the team decides.
Reasons for Pessimism: I really like Adrien as a player and the role that he can play for many teams for years to come. Let’s not take it out of context, I don’t think Jeff Adrien is Lebron James, but I really like his game and believe he’s got a higher probability to get better than worse from this point.
The other pessimistic thought would be that the front office wouldn’t bring him back for what would be no hair off their back financially. Considering how Rod Higgins has made all my dreams come true over the years, well, you get the drift.
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Strengths: Taylor showed the ability to hit the NBA three at a decent clip (.344 on 154 attempts) and at times demonstrated the skills that at some point in the (hopefully near) future may enable him to be a plus perimeter defender in the League. He isn’t there yet though. Taylor knows his role and doesn’t attempt to do too much that falls outside of his skill set and what the coach (RIP Coach Dunlap) asks him to do. This is evidenced by his Usage Rate of 14.75, the lowest of any Bobcats wing player. Although he’s not very assertive on the offensive end at this point in his career, he did display his athleticism on a bevy alley-oop finishes. His length and athleticism are two natural strengths which in time could translate into greater basketball skills.
Weaknesses: Taylor has yet to develop much of an offensive game off the dribble, therefore relying on his teammates to set him up for open looks (76.5% of his field goals were via assist). His catch and shoot nature is illustrated even more starkly by the fact that all 53 of his three-pointers were set up by an assist. You can live with a player like that if he provides value to the team by way of defense, but if he’s going to make his hay as a 3-point shooter/stopper a la Shane Battier he’s going to need to up his efficiency from beyond the arc. My hope would for him is that he adds to his slashing ability and post-up game to possibly resemble someone like Tony Allen. This would also allow him to get to the line more often and in turn improve his offensive efficiency.
Reasons for Optimism: Taylor is long, athletic, and from all accounts works hard and has good character. Let’s also keep in mind that he was a second round pick. Second round NBA picks don’t often make a material impact on a team. That being said, if Taylor can continue to develop his 3-point shot while also refining his on-the-ball defense and can contribute 15-20 MPG, the Bobcats have made out well for a second round pick.
Reasons for Pessimism: Taylor is a limited offensive player who for his size struggles to rebound the ball at a decent clip (3.6 rebounds per 36 minutes). As I stated above, he’s probably destined to become a defensive/3-point specialist, but that’s realistically also his ceiling. Therefore, he could end up as a guy who’s simply an average shooter who doesn’t offer enough else to compensate for that fact on the offensive end. Taking that into account, if he doesn’t develop into a plus defender then he’ll be a limited contributor on a competitive team. BUT, he was a second round pick so expectations for him should be tempered. Going forward, if he offers anything valuable to the team as they (again, hopefully) transition into a respectable franchise the pick brought a nice return on investment.
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Strengths: The one outlying strength for Biyombo at this point in his young career is his shot blocking ability. Bismack averaged 1.8 BPG this season, which was the same as last season. So, there wasn’t any vast improvement in that area, but it’s still far above average and remains the one category he can hang his hat on.
I would like to say that Biyombo really improved on the glass this season, but that wouldn’t be extremely accurate. He did average +1.5 RPG from ’11-’12, but the improvement is nothing to do back flips over when you dig into the data. In 27.1 MPG this year, Biz pulled down 7.3 RPG — his overall Rebounding Rate was 15.2%, which was best for 56th in the league amongst qualified players. Not that awesome, but nonetheless, it’s improvement.
Another strength I noticed Biz excel in more-and-more as the season wore on was in his ability to run the floor to both ends. He’s definitely a high energy player and did a good job this season in using that to get easy buckets by running the floor in transition every chance that he got.
Weaknesses: Unfortunately, there is a lot we could focus on here. For starters, Bismack has really bad hands and below average hand-eye coordination. If he could catch the ball off the rim with more finesse and ferocity, getting the ball to his chin quicker then I truly believe that Biz could yank down 10 RPG. The biggest problem lies in his inability to ever get balanced — when Biyombo leaves his feet to go after a rebound or go up for a shot, he always seems to somehow get off balance, which in turn affects the way he brings the ball into his body, or releases the shot — neither of which is the most efficient. So, one aspect that Biz must get much better with is establishing his center of gravity on just about every basketball play he’s involved in.
Offensively, there ain’t a whole lot to smile about. 86.4% of Bismack’s shot attempts came from 5-feet or less (‘Around the Rim’) and he shot 48.5% from this area — that’s -8% from the league average. Not awesome. I would like to say that Biz needs to find a go-to move around the basket, but first I think he’s going to have to develop some form of competency offensively.
Reasons for Optimism: Bismack is 20 years old and will be in Charlotte until ’14-’15 when the front office has a team option on his contract (highly likely to be picked up). His youth is clearly the biggest reason for optimism, because Bismack didn’t make any significant leaps on the court this season. Although this season certainly wasn’t the leap forward many had hoped for Biz, let’s try to focus on the fact that he is one of the youngest players in the league and has as good of an attitude/work ethic you’re going to find.
+ In Biyombo’s last 15 games of the season he averaged 6.9 PPG (49.4% FG) & 9.1 RPG.
+ Although he got to the foul line less this season, he did improve his FT% to 52.1% (+3.8%). So, there’s that as well.
Reasons for Pessimism: FG% came down -.013% this season and an improvement on the offensive end is what people wanted to see the most — well, as I said, signs of competency at least. I think it’s safe to say that didn’t happen — at least not on any kind of consistent pattern. Without going off on too much of a rant here, but also focusing on the fact that this is the pessimism section — I’m starting to become concerned that Biz will become nothing more than a defensive reserve specialist in this league and someone who’s job is to play extremely physical/protect the rim. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that — Reggie Evans is living proof that this is an extremely valuable commodity in this league. On that same thought, though, I think it’s time to throw the Serge Ibaka comparisons out the door — for right now, at least.
Defensively, Biz hasn’t shown the ability to be an anchor inside. The Bobcats ended the season with a 108.9 Defensive Rating – With Biz on the floor the team was 109.0 — not really worse, but certainly not better.
At some point, reaction to plays in this league have to be natural and Biz simply reacts to the majority of plays noticeably late. Will that change? It certainly could, and I’m certainly not knocking his potential — the guy has a wider wingspan and longer standing reach than Anthony Davis. The physical gifts/tools are there, but does he have the natural coordination and reaction ability to be an elite player for any frontcourt in this league? The jury is still out and I’m beginning to lean towards ‘No’.
||PER Against (Net)
Strengths: Hendo’s biggest strength continues to be his ability to create his own shot — especially his own jump shot. The majority of his shot attempts continue to be from ‘mid-range’ — this season Hendo attempted 47.9% of his shots from 10-20 feet. Traditionally, he’s been great at coming off curls in offensive sets, but teams have keyed in on this strength over the years and it’s been more difficult for Hendo to come off screens and make clean catches with space — the adjustment has come with Hendo having to improve in ISO situations. 54.2% of Hendo’s FGM were assisted on this season while 45.8% came off ISO, or unassisted situations — so it’s fairly clear that he can score coming off screens (catch-and-shoot situations) and in ISO situations, having to find his own shot.
Henderson figured out something else this season that is vital to his scoring ability moving forward — getting to the foul line. He averaged 4.6 FTA/game this season, a +0.9/game improvement from last season — averaging 82.4% from the stripe this season as well, which is a +6.4% improvement from last season. 33.7% of Hendo’s points this season came from ‘Mid-Range’, while 24.5% came from the free throw line. The charity stripe is the most efficient place to score from on the floor (uncontested shots), so this is quite encouraging.
Henderson is a talented offensive player and can score in many different ways inside the arc — improving from 3 (33% 3FG this season). Defensively, he’s also an above average player — can keep ball handlers in front of him, is consistently in the correct position on the floor and can make defensive plays around the rim. Defense is going to have to continually be a priority for Hendo as it will give the Bobcats more flexibility moving forward, especially if they decide to favor more small ball.
Weaknesses: The glaring offensive weakness is the outside shooting, but it did improve drastically this season. It’s still quite clear that Hendo is uncomfortable taking the 3, but he at least faced the fact that the shot had to be added to his offensive toolbox. He took an average of 1.5 3PA/game (56 more 3PA than ’11-’12) this season, shot 33% from behind the arc and 97% of his 3PM were assisted on — so yeah, Hendo’s not a threat to hurt any defender with the 3 on an ISO set. He’s not there yet, but this season was a huge step in the right direction for Henderson’s improving outside shot.
Ball handling has always been somewhat of an issue — Hendo is good in catch-and-face situations where he can use the power dribble/use his body to get to the rim, but he’s weak at breaking down defenders with the dribble on an island. At 6’5 and a natural SG, Hendo needs to continue to develop his ball handling + come up with ways to break down defenders with the dribble — this will only make him more dangerous offensively and increase the level of attention team defenses must put on him.
Reasons for Optimism: We saw improvement in a lot of areas this season, but the overall numbers don’t jump off the page at you compared to ’11-’12. The biggest reason to have hope for Hendo moving forward is focusing on his numbers after the all-star break and believing this is the caliber of player he’s capable of being, consistently — 30 games, 35.9 MPG, 46.2% FG, 18.9 PPG, 4 RPG, 3.4 APG.
Reasons for Pessimism: I think it goes without saying that the biggest reason for pessimism coming up is considering Hendo could very well end up with a new team this summer. He’s due a $4.3 million qualifying offer from the Bobcats, but will likely get a better offer than that on the open market. The question will be how much the Bobcats will be willing to stretch in order to match. I’ve heard many put Hendo into the same category as DeMar Derozan, who just signed a contract extension worth $9.5 million/year last summer — I don’t think that Hendo is getting that kind of money, but with his performance towards the end of the season it’s definitely fair to assume that there’s a team out there that’s willing to bid for the right to overpay Henderson. The Bobcats would be smart to cap their bidding war number at about $6.5-7 million, annually.