I wouldn’t list this as a setback, but Bobcats fans are going to have to play the waiting game to see if Al Jefferson debuts in the opener Wednesday night or not.
Jefferson did reportedly practice today, but the extent of how much activity he was able to do is unknown. He was riding the bike as practice was opened up to the media, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
“He did some contact, some 5-on-5, but not everything,” Steve Clifford said after practice.
One thing is clear here: Jefferson is taking the ankle very serious and handling the situation with precaution. One week ago it sounded like a no-brainer that he’d play against the Rockets in the opener, but it doesn’t seem like the tone around him is quite as optimistic now. The fact that the opener dishes out Dwight Howard, James Harden and the upstart Rockets could certainly have something to do with this — Charlotte will face a ton of pick-and-rolls on Wednesday night and the team may not be very confident running Jefferson and his glass ankle out in coverage of the PnR. I’m just throwing darts here, but it’s worth considering. Worst case, we’ll see Jefferson on Friday night at home against Cleveland.
The Bobcats made slight work of Cleveland in their last preseason game at home with a 105-92 win. Charlotte improves to 4-3 on the preseason and have sported one of the best defenses in the NBA during this stretch – last night’s game was actually the first game all preseason that the Bobcats allowed their opponent to score 90+ points.
In the win, Jeff Taylor carried the torch for Charlotte and quite possibly put the SG rotation debate to bed. Taylor finished the game with 20 points on 7-11 (3-6 3FG) shooting from the floor. After Ben Gordon’s 22 point performance on Oct. 17th that featured a 7-9 (4-4 3FG) shooting performance from the floor, many thought, including myself, that this might be the turning point in which Gordon solidified himself in the lineup – maybe even the first SG off the bench behind Hendo. The need for a true ‘shooting’ guard in the rotation (and really in the starting lineup) is well documented and obvious, but if Jeff Taylor can hover anywhere around 38-42% 3P% then go ahead and pencil him in as the first SG off the bench. What Taylor brings on the defensive end contrary to Gordon is as clear as day, but few players in the NBA still holster the shot Gordon does + the ability to simply not miss through stretches.
Clifford and management will have to use Gordon on the floor wisely — he’s the kind of player that most teams in contention will lineup for when the trade deadline comes around. A pure shooter that can space the floor and be what I’d call a ‘momentum sealer’.
Gerald Henderson had a strong performance last night with 19 points (7-13 FG), 5 assists and 3 rebounds. A much needed outing for Hendo.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left the second half of last night’s game with a strained right hamstring. MKG left the game with 6 points and 3 rebounds. Although there hasn’t been an official statement with just how serious the injury is, we do have this gem.
The Bobcats will wrap up preseason play on Friday night in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.
A quick note: Sorry for any frustrations you may have experienced trying to comment recently. Everything was being marked as spam and nothing was getting reviewed for approval by the moderators. This should now be resolved – if you continue to see issues, comments aren’t the way to get that seen and resolved: Email me (Brett) please at qchoops(at)gmail(dot)com.
On to the links. First up, we have a couple from Hardwood Paroxysm – starting with a roundtable on sophomore obsessions and then a bit more on the Bobcats’ own MKG more specifically.
Brett’s note: responding to prompt of who is your favorite sophomore:
Derek: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I get to watch a lot of him for Rufus on Fire, and a lot of the focus gets placed on his jumpshot, but he was the league’s youngest player last season and still does several things really well. He even rebounded from hitting his rookie wall to finish the season strongly, which I thought was important to see from him. Favorite to me here probably means favorite to root for, but Kidd-Glichrist is also a talented player.
Hardwood Paroxysm’s Sophomore Crushes – roundtable
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the latest young player whose reputation has suffered from recycled, pre-conceived notions constructed from draft hype that ignores context altogether. Fortunately, Kidd-Gilchrist’s basketball fabric – tireless worker, relentless competitor – is the kind that won’t unravel from such careless, snapshot evaluation. Combined with his burgeoning physical profile, it’s that very attitude why MKG’s future still shines so bright even after a rookie season most deemed disappointing.
My Sophomore Crush: MKG – Jack Winter at Hardwood Paroxysm
Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons are ranking the watchability of all NBA teams – and the Cats weren’t last. Though Zach had them there:
Zach: I had them dead last in my own rankings, which surprised me. I think it’s residual malaise from the last two seasons, and the fact that their court design contains an orange shade that distracts me with images of Creamsicles.
-NBA League Pass Annual Rankings – Zach and Bill at Grantland
Some season preview pieces from around the web:
I leafed through an NBA preview magazine at the grocery store the other day and saw they had estimated the Bobcats to win fewer games than last season. How the fart do you lose more games without Byron Mullens and Tyrus Thomas playing significant minutes? I just don’t see that happening. They’ll probably still be in the lottery, but the new roster should help the development of the young core while not maxing out too soon in a win now mode.
-Charlotte Bobcats 2013-14 preview – Ben Swanson at RufusOnFire
Kidd-Gilchrist is still just 20 years old and has three really desirable qualities. First, he rebounds like Miley Cyrus from bad press. Among SFs with at least 50 games played, MKG was third in total rebounding percentage (12.9%). Second, he really does seem to possess that mythical “ultimate team player” attribute that he became known for in his year at Kentucky.
-Previewing the Bobcats’ Bigs – Blogcat over at BobcatsPlanet takes on the bigs
Previewing the wings – Blogcat at BobcatsPlanet again
The frontcourt has added Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson and Anthony Tolliver. Charlotte also resigned Josh McRoberts, but it’s still time for Biz to turn a corner and prove that he’s at least a player that deserves to be in a rotation in this league.
Charlotte has until the end of the month to decide whether or not they’ll pick up the team option on Biz’ rookie deal worth roughly $3.8 million — it’s highly probable that the option will be picked up by the Bobcats, but the fact that the question is even being asked by some is slightly bothersome. And should be. Biz still has value in this league — part because he has a 7’5 wingspan and has the potential to be an elite rim defender in this league. Also, Biz just turned 21 years old in August — plenty of time left to blossom. This somewhat segway’s into my next point: If nothing else, Charlotte will keep persisting through the Biz experiment for another season due to the fact that he certainly still has trade value. Not sure this is a guy who will ever justify being the 7th overall selection, but he still has respectable stock in this league. That being said, I trust that Cho will be smart on capitalizing on his value somehow, whether or not that means Biz playing in Charlotte through his entire rookie deal.
Well, the obvious. The guy is offensively handicapped. In fact, when Biz tries to catch the ball around the block, many times it resembles what me catching a medicine ball would look like. This is fascinating too, considering how solid he makes his hand-eye coordination look when blocking shots on the defensive end.
To me, Biz plays like a guy who still hasn’t adjusted to the speed of the game in the NBA — offensively, at least. He’s very timid with the ball and is a deer in headlights at the sight of the ball being thrown to him. One shooting stat that sums up a lot with just how stunted his growth is on the offensive end — Among qualified bigs that attempted at least 100 layups last season (via Tom Haberstroh — ESPN Insider), Biz was 2nd worst in the league with a 44.2% mark. Only Roy Hibbert was worse at 43.6%.
– Tom Haberstroh — ESPN Insider
Another important note: Among the hundreds of players in NBA history who played at least 2,000 minutes in their sophomore season, Biyombo had the third-lowest scoring rate per 36 minutes (6.4 points). That says as much about the situation in Charlotte as it does Biyombo’s development, but it’s still not a good sign that Biyombo still can’t buy a bucket. The Bobcats can’t afford to have a top-10 pick turn into a better-rebounding Joel Anthony.
Last season, Biz was a mediocre rebounder at best — his 15.2 rebounding rate was good for 56th in the league among qualified players. He’s not significantly stronger on the offensive or defensive glass either — both need immense improvement.
The most alarming statistic for Biz, to me, is his turnover ratio of 15.6 — this ranked 78th out of 80 qualified power forwards in the league last season. Oh, and to shove your face further in the dirt, consider this — Biz was dead last (80th) in the NBA in usage rate among Power Forwards at 9.2, but he had the 3rd highest turnover ratio. Folks, that defines a player that really shouldn’t be touching the ball. Like, at all.
Two words — Rim Protector. If nothing else in this kids career, he’s always going to have to be way above average in this category. What makes Biz so successful at blocking shots? Two things: 1) He’s got a 7’5 wingspan, and 2) Biz contests shots with both of his hands most of the time, giving the offensive player no angle to adjust and mimicking a motion similar to a standing high jump.
Last season, Biz averaged 2.4 blocks/36 min — best for 24th in the league. Would expect that ranking to be a little bit better, but none the less solid.
Pick-and-roll defense certainly isn’t one of Biz’ strengths, but since I’m in the category of optimism I’ll point out how he can really improve here. For starters, he’s simply got to react quicker to getting out to hedge on the PnR — that’s as simple as recognizing when the action is coming + communication between teammates (which has been awful as a team). Secondly, use your 7’5 wingspan! What a tool his lengthy arms should be in PnR coverage — covering wider area in not allowing ball handler to get around him + taking away air space/passing lanes for with long arms in recovery.
So, unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of extremely positives factors in Biz’ development to this point, but hope is still there. Very young, freaky physical specimen + a great work ethic make for a guy who could still certainly develop into something nice, but there’s a long road ahead.
Late in the 2012-13 season, the Charlotte Bobcats surprisingly used their 15th and final roster spot on journeyman guard Jannero Pargo to help solidify their otherwise solid backcourt rotation. Similar to another low-profile player who seemed to be a minor addition towards the end of last season,(ie. Josh McRoberts) Pargo was brought back on board after a relatively solid stretch with the team.
Thanks to his pristine shooting touch from the perimeter, Pargo was able to lead and elevate an otherwise stagnant core of Bobcats reserves. While his “heat checks” were occasionally on center stage, he was a relatively mediocre to below-average offensive player when he wasn’t stationed from the three-point line.
As detectable from the following shot-chart, our subject actually became worse when he moved closer to the paint which is pretty confusing. As I’ve previously mentioned in a majority of my pieces on QCH, recently acquired Al Jefferson will be his most efficient when he’s able to work with players who can score from the perimeter. With the resigning of Pargo, Jefferson could occasionally have that player on an 15-20 minute per game basis.
His perimeter ability may be the main focal point of Pargo’s overall game but that shouldn’t take away from his underrated ability as a man-to-man defender. Before his trip around the Eastern Conference last season, Pargo had a little niche with the Atlanta Hawks because of the aforementioned perimeter ability but also because of his stellar play on the defensive end. Per Synergy Sports, opponents averaged a diminutive .79 PPP when they were matched up against Pargo. The most impressive thing about that would probably how he’s maintained that level of defensive fortitude as he enters the twilight of his career. One of the main reasons for that would probably lean towards that relative balance between aggression and being cerebral. That aggressive nature is showcased by how Pargo can stick to his opponent like Velcro but he’s also intelligent enough to be able to ease his way past off-ball screens or move with a penetrating opponent without drawing a foul.
While it’s relatively depressing for Pargo to just be a back-up guard who will be mainly stationed from the perimeter, that niche has kept him in the league for the past eleven seasons. In the past season, Charlotte finished 27th in 3 point field goal percentage so Pargo will be that necessary piece for a team who’s desperate to become a more balanced and efficient team from the perimeter. His role may be limited as he sits behind the likes of Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordon but Pargo will still be pretty valuable because of his gift with the three-point shot.
As optimistic as the mood has been among the Bobcats faithful since the summer, it all came tumbling down to earth when Al Jefferson sprained his right ankle contesting a Chris Bosh shot on Friday night in Kansas City.
Jefferson was having a solid night with 11 points and 7 rebounds in just 23 minutes before the injury occurred — now Charlotte is holding their breath that Big Al will be available for the team when they open the regular season October 30th in Houston.
“I’m going to do my best to be back for opening night. I’m going to take it one day at a time and go through the process. I’ve sprained my ankle so many times, I just know how it goes,” stated Jefferson when he spoke with the Milwaukee media before the Bobcats played the Bucks Saturday night.
When the injury occurred, there were numerous reports that suggested that Jefferson had injured his right knee – the same one that he suffered a torn ACL to back in 2008. Thankfully, that ended up not being the case, but Jefferson was in serious pain and had to be carried to the locker room by his teammates. The x-ray in the arena Friday night was negative, but noting that Jefferson has sprained his ankle numerous times in the past + this time seemed to be quite serious means that it’s going to be very difficult to determine a timetable for his return – sprained ankles can take on a life of their own.
Tough to tell exactly how the Bobcats will approach this situation — the good news is that there are no fractures, so structurally Jefferson’s foot is okay. That being said, if he were to sprain it again early in the season, it could certainly sideline Jefferson for an extended period of time.
Steve Clifford did admit that the team would experiment with Cody Zeller at center more due to this injury.
There were many hopes that the Bobcats would be a much improved team offensive this season, but so far the preseason tells us that very well may not be the case. As a team, Charlotte has been 83-227 (36.5%) from the floor in 3 games. Not good. To rub salt in the wound — Kemba, Henderson and MKG are a combined 21-69 (30.4%) from the floor in 3 games.
The Bobcats have been nothing short of a dumpster fire, offensively, so far this preseason. Ah, but there in lies the hope — it is only preseason. I think that we all realize there’s no reason overreacting to preseason results, but these offensive numbers + the injury to Jefferson forces us all to remember the movie we’ve seen with this franchise far too often.
Tomorrow night Charlotte will play Cleveland in their 4th preseason game — the game will be play in Canton, OH.
The team announced today that center Brendan Haywood will need surgery on his left foot due to a stress fracture. Haywood will have two screws placed in the left foot to stabilize the navicular bone next week.
When you glance at the depth chart this doesn’t appear to be a huge blow for Charlotte, as Haywood was slotted third among centers behind Jefferson and Biyombo. Don’t let that fool you, though. For starters, Haywood is the tallest player on this roster and if either Jefferson or Biyombo come down with an injury then the Bobcats have real problems in the frontcourt.
The front office will now have to evaluate the depth they have in the frontcourt and decide whether or not it would be worth it to add another big man. The team does currently have free agent center Patrick O’Bryant on the preseason roster, but he did not play on Tuesday night and it’s uncertain as to what the team believes they have in him – O’Bryant was drafted in the first round by Golden State in 2010. He played college basketball at Bradley University.
“I think they’ll keep options open. If somebody became available, who Rich and Rod thought could help, I’m sure we have the flexibility to add somebody to the roster,” Clifford said when questioned whether or not he thought the team would add another center.
The Bobcats have 12 guaranteed contracts (Pargo’s contract isn’t guaranteed, but we expect the team to keep him) on the roster currently and 16 total players. The maximum an NBA roster can hold going into the regular season is 15, so the Bobcats do have some flexibility with the roster if they choose to use it.
When Clifford was asked how O’Bryant had been in training camp so far, he responded with — “He’s been fine. For somebody like him it’s doubly hard. He’s coming in and learning something totally new. In another situation there’d be more of an opportunity to learn from the other guys.”
I’ll let you make of that what you will, but certainly doesn’t sound like Clifford is going to bend over backwards in an attempt to keep O’Bryant on the roster for the regular season.
Ramon Sessions is already one of the NBA’s best-traveled journeymen, playing for five teams in six seasons. After one year in Charlotte, he could be the odd man out once again — but it’s not due to his level of play.
Sessions joined the Bobcats in 2012, signing as insurance in case Kemba Walker didn’t grow into a starting-quality point guard. When it became clear that Walker had made a significant leap, however, Sessions’ role became a little fuzzier. His consistent scoring made him invaluable on the second unit, but a crowded backcourt of Walker, Gerald Henderson, Ben Gordon and Jeff Taylor meant then-coach Mike Dunlap was forced into playing awkward small-ball lineups.
Sessions held his own at shooting guard, and lineups featuring Kemba and Ramon performed marginally better than the team’s average on both offense and defense. But the two are still an imperfect fit — neither are particularly good long-range shooters, and both need the ball in their hands to play their best. New coach Steve Clifford has hinted that small ball is on its way out, so it seems likely Sessions will move to a pure backup role.
That’s unfortunate, as he was one of the Bobcats’ most consistent players last year. Though his shooting efficiency wasn’t great, Sessions was terrific at drawing fouls and converting those opportunities. Among guards that played at least 15 minutes a game, Sessions ranked second in free throws per field goal attempted. The rest of the top five included James Harden, Ricky Rubio, John Wall and Kobe Bryant.
That meant a lot of ugly basketball, but it also provided a steady steam of points for a team that desperately needed them. Combined with his skilled ball-handling, good passing and passable defense, Sessions was a positive veteran presence for Charlotte last year — and with one year and $5 million left on his contract, he’s been a good contributor at a great price.
That value and his possibly diminishing role means he could find himself on the trade block, however. Despite being several years into their rebuild, Charlotte still has some gaping holes (shooting shooting shooting), and first-round picks are always welcome. It seems unlikely that Sessions will remain in town past this year, in any case, and he’s one of the few veteran Bobcats with much trade value. If they get an offer that isn’t insulting, they should at least consider it.
Until then, though, they can count on Sessions as a bench anchor and a steadying influence for a young squad that needs one.
Anthony Tolliver is/will be a 28 year old journeyman small forward, backing up MKG at the 3 for the Bobcats. He is an inefficient scorer, decent rebounder, and not much else. He does give the Bobcats a bit more size to play at the 3, standing 6-8, which will be a welcome change from Gerald Henderson and Jeff Taylor sliding down to the 3, as frequently happened last season.
In backup roles the past two seasons with Minnesota and then Atlanta, Tolliver has not managed to crack 40% shooting from the field. The good news – that’s in part because of a heavy reliance on 3-point attempts, so he’s at least taking the high-value shot. The bad news is that he is not great from long range, shooting just 34% last season from deep, and at 32.5% for his career. Over half of his field goal attempts last season were from long range, so the Bobcats will certainly be seeing a change in style when MKG heads to the bench.
Rebounding is an area of relative strength for A-Toll (get it? Because the Bobcats have to pay him. Fine – you top it). Tolliver averaged about 6 rebounds per 36 minutes in his last two seasons – so, solid, not spectacular for the position. Another nice thing to mention: Relatively strong with the basketball, averaging just 1.3 turnovers per 36 minutes. Granted, he didn’t have the ball in his hands a lot but it is acknowledged.
A-Toll provides the Bobcats with a viable backup at the 3 spot for the coming season, something they lacked in 2012-13. However, I would expect to continue to see plenty of small-ball lineups for the Cats in the year ahead, as Tolliver is not such an upgrade as to negate the Bobcats 3-guard lineup as a potential source of offense.
That’s it – as I told the rest of the crew at QCH, I felt like Wayne and Garth trying to pitch Deleware (Wayne’s World for those who do not get the reference – yes, my pop culture references are 20 years old. Deal with it).
Basketball is back and it’s a brand new season! Unfortunately, what we saw tonight from the Bobcats reminded mostly of what we’re used to seeing from this team.
Charlotte shot just 36.8% from the floor tonight and dropped their preseason opener to Atlanta 87-85. Jannero Pargo got a decent look from the top of the key to win the game at the buzzer, but the shot fell just short front rim.
Ramon Sessions led the Cats with 17 points + 6 assists. He was only 4-11 from the field, but did what Ramon does and got to the foul line 12 times. Yep, 12 times.
As a team, the Bobcats certainly didn’t jump off at the page at you offensively — the team looked confused at times and resorted to late PnR’s and dribble handoffs far too often tonight. It was clear that the priority is to get Jefferson touches around the basket, but Atlanta was sending extra defenders as soon as the pass was thrown + front Big Al to make Charlotte work hard. Jefferson ended the game with just 7 points on 3-6 from the field in 25 minutes. Big Al did lead the team in rebounds with 9.
Kemba, Hendo and MKG were extremely pedestrian tonight, going 7-24 (29%) from the floor combined + committing 5 turnovers between them. Kemba ended the game with only 1 assist.
The rookie, Cody Zeller, had his moments. He ended the game with 9 points on 4-7 shooting, added 5 rebounds, yet committed 4 turnovers. Defensively, Zeller really struggled against Paul Millsap. As great as his footwork is on the offensive end on the court, it needs some real work on the defensive end. Cody also shows clear signs of floating defensively, as to say he watches the ball too much + forgets where he is on the floor.
Charlotte did a few things very nicely tonight — 1) 23 fast break points. Getting out and running will once again be a priority for these young legs and tonight was a positive sign for that. 2) 20 forced turnovers turned into 21 points. 3) 10 offensive rebounds that turned into 13 second chance points.
The Bobcats will be back in preseason action Friday night in Miami at 8:30 against the defending champs.