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.
“Not only did they reach for a player, but they reached for a guy who could wind up being a block magnet. And he may not be considerably better, at least immediately — than Byron Mullens.”
— Matt Moore, CBS
“Zeller might have been underrated, but I don’t think he’s as good a prospect as Noel or McLemore. Once again I think the Bobcats have blown it.”
— Chad Ford, ESPN
“Booooooo boooo boooooo booooo booooo (HEY THAT’S A GOOD PICK) boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo”
— Bobcats fans
A lot of people did not like the Cody Zeller pick. I didn’t at the time. It gave me flashbacks to 2008, when Charlotte took a player that filled a team need (DJ Augustin) over a prospect widely considered the better choice (Brook Lopez).
Time has made that decision look bad, but gut feelings on draft day rarely mean much: just look at the instant reaction to the Adam Morrison pick, which was largely positive. We know how that turned out.
Besides, Zeller’s strong performance in Las Vegas this summer has me at least a little more confident. Summer League stats always come with an asterisk, but his ability to hit outside shots, run the floor and cover ground on defense gave a glimpse of his path to success in the NBA.
Zeller didn’t show his jumper much at Indiana, but it could be the key for his offense moving forward. According to Matt Kamalsky at Draft Express, Zeller shot a below-average 43 percent in the post last year, and it’s likely he’ll struggle against the more athletic and savvy pro players. He compensated for that by drawing a huge amount of fouls, earning free throws on 25.7 percent of his possessions. That’s probably also going to take a hit — again, he’ll be losing some of his athletic advantage, and NBA refs tend to give veterans the benefit of the doubt. On the plus side, he can rely on his quick step and skill in transition to at least get a few easy buckets a game.
Rebounding is a potential problem area. He pulled down a respectable 8.1 boards per game in his sophomore year, but looked lost in the forest at times during Summer League. He still averaged a nice 9.3 rebounds per game there, but clearly struggled against longer and bigger players. Fortunately, its an area where he won’t have to excel right away. When playing next to Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, he’ll have the protection of two strong rebounders, so he has a little room to learn.
It will probably take him a while to pick up the finer points of NBA defense, but Zeller seems to have the skills for it. His shorter wingspan means he’ll probably never be a shotblocker, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective defender. Zeller can cover a lot of ground with his quick feet, and seems to handle switches very well. Jefferson has size and Bismack Biyombo can alter shots, but due to his savvy and speed Zeller is probably already the best team defender in the Bobcats’ big-man rotation.
Like all of the Charlotte’s recent draft picks, Zeller comes off as a hard worker and a team player. A big investment in the coaching staff this offseason, along with the money spent in free agency, gives him a good chance to start his pro career off right. Here’s hoping he can change a few minds.
A recent and haunting legacy that has clinged with the Charlotte Bobcats has been their inability to find valuable assets in the NBA Draft despite their continued existence in the high lottery. From the teary eyed Adam Morrison to the increasingly depressing DJ Augustin, Charlotte has continued to struggle in the NBA Draft lottery despite the countless amount of differing General Managers. Rich Cho, Michael Jordan and the rest of Charlotte’s front-office are crossing their fingers as they hope for a change to their continued misfortunes. That hope will come by way of a 6’7 forward by the name of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who will be entering the upcoming season as a 20 year old sophomore.
The young and extremely athletic Kidd-Gilchrist shot up draft boards during the 2012 draft because of the combination of spectacular athleticism and defensive potential which is outstanding considering his below-average perimeter shooting ability. In a game that’s designed around the three-point shot, Kidd-Gilchrist was able to make Charlotte’s front-court brass ignore his extremely raw (to be kind) shooting touch because of the sheer potential that was going through his lean and athletic frame.
While MKG definitely showed off that superb athleticism during his rookie campaign, those continued struggles from the perimeter was broadcasted at center stage because of the Bobcats inability to shoot from the perimeter (finished 27th in the league in team 3 point percentage). With an extremely awkward and unnatural shooting form, Kidd-Gilchrist always struggled to even get a solid shot attempt off which could improve in the upcoming season after spending the summer with Mark Price. As recently mentioned in a piece on the Washington Post, Price continually emphasises about how long and strenuous this process will be for Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot. While it isn’t exactly the best message to tell the young player, it is necessary for his jumper to progressively improve over the 2013-14 season if the likes of Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller want to reach their full offensive potential with Charlotte. It’s highly unlikely for MKG to turn into Ray Allen, but it’s not out of the question for him to follow the same path of Spurs forward Kawahi Leonard and develop a solid corner three-point jumper. Just that simple ability could turn into an incredible asset for Charlotte because Jefferson will have an open weapon that he can kick it out to when he’s being double- teamed.
Three-point shooting aside, Kidd-Gilchrist’s main offensive asset is still his ability to push the ball up the court in transition. His aforementioned athleticism allows him to break out into the open court and finish near the rim. Nearly 20% of Gilchrist’s offensive possessions came in transition which shouldn’t really change that much in the upcoming season. As apparent from the shot chart below, near the rim was one of the only areas in which Gilchrist was mildly efficient which shouldn’t be a big surprise because of how quick and athletic he is.
While it’s pretty much a guarantee for Kidd-Gilchrist to continue to improve as he continues to develop as a player, that developmental process could be sped up because of the increased level of talent that was brought to Charlotte. As previously mentioned, the addition of Jefferson should create some more openings for Kidd-Gilchrist but the drafting of offensive-minded forward Cody Zeller with the continued improvement of Kemba Walker could pay dividends for the young forward. Those offensive assets will put less pressure off of Kidd-Gilchrist which will allow him to continue working on his jumper while using his athleticism as an off-ball player.
Moving on to Kidd-Gilchrist’s bread and butter, his ability on the defensive side of the ball was one of the only things that kept Charlotte from being one of the biggest defensive laughing stocks in the NBA. While he shows those type of flaws that you would expect from someone that’s so young, the combination of tenacity and athleticism makes Kidd-Gilchrist into one of the more lethal defensive forwards in the NBA. That ability will have to continue to be solid because of how flawed Zeller and Jefferson are defensively which will force MKG to hold his opponent near the perimeter.
Hope is an uncommon word in the minds of Bobcats fans but that thought might be slowly returning in their minds which is could be directed around the progression of MKG. Could he turn into the team’s first All-Star since Gerald Wallace? That’s pretty far-fetched, but it’s still going to be an interesting rid for Bobcats for the next couple of seasons.
Kemba Walker has a lot of improving to do. He’s not an effective three-point shooter. Defensively, we saw him struggle to compete with the League’s elite point guards. His passing abilities still leave plenty to be desired. But yet, he is already the Bobcats best player and really their only valuable asset moving forward (pending the development of MKG and Zeller).
Why is he so valuable? First of all, his contract. Kemba is on the books for another two years at a below market rate of roughly $2.6 million this season and $3.3 million for the next. Technically the fourth year is a team option but unless they’re using the Denver Bronco’s fax machine that will be picked up in a heartbeat. The opposite can be said for the fifth year of the contract, a qualifying offer that calls for Mr. Walker to earn just north of $4.4 million. Assuming a deal is not worked out prior (which would be smart), he will kindly say no thank you and hit the open – though restricted – market. However, two more years at an economical rate is very valuable.
He can get to the rim. He needs to do a better job of finishing when he gets there (only Mike Conley and his teammate Ramon Sessions recorded a lower FG% at the rim last year among PG’s in the top ten of attempts/game), though he did make a dramatic improvement from his rookie season (.567 vs. .494). Most of the top PG’s in the game get to the rim incessantly unless they are knock down shooters who can compensate for playing primarily on the perimeter (think Deron Williams) or sport uncanny midrange games (Chris Paul). Getting into the paint not only creates high percentage shots for Kemba, it leads to quality attempts for his teammates – assuming he passes them the ball (more on this later).
There are more attributes that make Kemba the most valuable Bobcat (hopefully sooner than later that won’t be an eye-roller), but there are just as many that need improving if he hopes to someday lead this franchise to the playoffs and beyond.
At this point in his career Kemba is clearly a score-first PG. Of the PG’s in the top fifteen of PER last season (Kemba finished 9th!), only Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, and Tyreke Evans had an assist rate equal to or lower than Kemba Walker’s. One is an all-universe athlete, another is a ball-handling and off-the-dribble savant, and the other should not be a PG. Kemba must learn how to more effectively set up his teammates as too many of his possessions have ended up wasted on inefficient midrange attempts (4.9 per game at just over 41% from the field last season).
He has to improve defensively. As Zach Lowe (one of my favorites) often points out, the majority of PG’s struggle on the defensive end of the floor. They’re often outsized (particularly in situations that call for a switch) and burdened with a heavy workload on the offensive end. However, it doesn’t mean Kemba can’t improve, especially when it comes to team defense.
He also must improve from behind the arc. The Bobcats are already challenged from deep (see Henderson, Gerald and Kidd-Gilchrist, Michael) so it will be difficult for the Bobcats to compete if none of them improve in this area. Kemba will more than likely never be able to come off the dribble on the pick and roll a la Steve Nash and hit a three-pointer, but he can improve his ability to catch and shoot as well as his positioning on the floor (find the corner, Kemba) when his teammates are isolated and looking to drive and kick.
Will Kemba improve upon what are already his strengths and make strides in the way of his weaknesses? Probably not all of them this season. But if he finds a way to do so in at least a few of the areas mentioned above the team will see the difference on the court and the Bobcats front office will be looking to lock him up for the foreseeable future. When it comes down to it, that’s my projection for Kemba this year.
It should be clear by now that the Bobcats have had a gaping hole in the depth of their roster for three seasons now – especially in the frontcourt. Until the arrival of Josh McRoberts at the trade deadline last season, it’s probably safe to say that you would’ve had to debate between Bismack Biyombo & Byron Mullens to decide who’s been the most effective big man in Charlotte for the past three seasons. Now, in steps Al Jefferson to fix a front court that has been trying to travel long distances on spare tires for far too long.
There’s the obvious improvement that Jefferson will bring to Charlotte – an actual threat to score the ball when thrown in to him around the block, something the Bobcats haven’t had since basically Emeka Okafor. So, we can go ahead and presume that Jefferson is the best center to ever play in a Bobcats uniform, and will go down as the best ever since the team will be transitioning back to the Hornets after this season.
Let me point out some of the pessimistic thoughts I’ve had about Jefferson in Charlotte, but then end positively, and give you the reasons for real optimism moving forward.
So, other than being a very crafty player around the basket offensively, what else can Jefferson bring to the court? Well, a ton if he’s able to steer away from the habits of being a bit of spider web when the ball is thrown to him – as to say he hasn’t traditionally been a great passer out of the post. Jefferson’s career high average in assist was the 2011-12 season at 2.2 per game – not great. Big Al had an Assist Ratio of 10.2 last season – that was good for 23rd among centers in the league. Considering the fact that every team’s scouting report before playing the Bobcats this coming season will be centrally focused on Jefferson, it’s going to be vital that he shares the basketball and makes the defensive double teams pay – this not only opens up the floor for his teammates, but it will also give him more high percentage chances to score if the defense feels like Big Al can beat them with the pass as well.
Jefferson’s Usage Ratio last season was 23.4 (6th among Centers) – if that stays about the same, or climbs this season then he’s going to have to become a more willing passer. There was simply more offensive talent in Utah than their will be on his new team, so you can rest assured that defenses are bringing double teams until Charlotte proves they can beat you with other players on the floor.
Last season, the Bobcats finished 29th in the league in Rebounding Ratio – 47.8. The arrival of Big Al may not help Charlotte as much in this category as some may be thinking. Since tearing his ACL in February of the 2008-09 season, Jefferson went from averaging around 11 RPG to never getting past 9.7 in a season since. The injury clearly affected his overall explosiveness as a player, but for someone who lacked athleticism in the first place, this clearly has kept Big Al glued to the hardwood since. Last season, Jefferson had a Rebounding Ratio of 16.3 – good for 19th in the league among Centers. He’s a top-10 rebounder on the defensive glass with a ratio of 25.9, but ghostly on the offensive glass at 7.0 (barely top-50).
Lastly, he’s got to become a more willing defender. Although Jefferson struggles in getting beat down the floor due to his frame, a large portion of that is also contributed to effort, or lack thereof. The Jazz were a pathetic 9.2 points worse defensively last season when Jefferson was on the court – that has to change in order for the offensive efficiency that Jefferson adds to not be compromised by his defense.
Again, likely the best frontcourt player that the city of Charlotte has seen since Alonzo Morning in the mid-90′s, Jefferson has a chance to change the script for Charlotte basketball – much the same way that Mourning did when he was drafted by Charlotte 2nd overall in 1992. One has to question just how motivated a player that’s 28 years old and going into their 10th year in league will be when coming to a bottom feeder such as the Bobcats, but Big Al stated back in the summer that the decision to come to Charlotte was “A no-brainer”.
At the end of last season, the Bobcats starting frontcourt of Bismack Biyombo & Josh McRoberts were averaging 14.1 PPG, combined. Now, with Jefferson, Charlotte will get a player who’s averaged 18.2 PPG for the past four seasons in Utah. The improvement is obvious – what makes his numbers even more impressive is considering that fact that Big Al is quite limited when it comes to athleticism. He’s got an old-school game that features a myriad of head and ball fakes to make defenders look silly in many cases. Jefferson was 49.4% from the field last season — he likes to operate in the mid-range area (15-19 feet) and last season he attempted 28.4% of his total FGA from this range – Big Al was 42.7% on 351 attempts. For the sake of comparison, LaMarcus Aldridge was 42.4% from 15-19 ft. in 389 attempts. Point being, Jefferson is quite respectable from the mid-range area.
There are few statistical categories of basketball that Charlotte was consistently respectable in last season, but Turnover Ratio was one of the rare positives – 13.2% of the Bobcats possessions last season ended in a turnover – good for 7th in the league. Al Jefferson led the entire NBA among Centers last season in Turnover Ratio at 6.6, and was 7th in the league among all players. So, Charlotte was already pretty solid at protecting the ball and should only improve this coming season. This is an important stat to every coach in basketball for the obvious reason – you don’t shoot yourself in the foot and give the opposition extra possessions.
If the Bobcats have improved in offensive efficiency by adding Jefferson and also got better at limiting turnovers / valuing the basketball, then we could all certainly presume that the overall improvement could be accelerated – two very important categories.
Al Jefferson is without question the biggest free agent signing of this franchises history, but predicting how much better it makes this team immediately is hard to predict. The one positive factor that consistently runs through my mind is how much Jefferson can help the youth on this team improve – that was exactly the thought process of management leading up to approaching Big Al with an offer sheet. Charlotte is entering a season that is as important as any in recent memory as far as player development is concerned – Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo have to make strides in the correct direction this season. In some cases, very large strides. The hope is that Jefferson can aid in that development by becoming an expensive pressure release, in a sense, opening up the floor.
Quick: Name things from the 2012-13 season that were fun to watch…and related to the Bobcats. Topping my list would be MKG (I still have the .gif of his dunk against the Pistons readily available on my phone, just as a quick reminder of reasons for optimism). Kemba, with his crossover and stepback, takes the second spot. Could another former University of Connecticut guard be the third best reason on that list? I could make that argument – as long as we are only talking about the nights when Ben Gordon would overcome the odds, and often horrendous shot-selection, and make jumper after jumper to keep the Cats in games.
Think about it: The early season game against the Hawks where Ben made 7 three pointers in a close loss. Or a few days later when he made 8 threes in a OT loss to the Blazers. Or a late season game against the Nets, when Ben scored 27 points with 6 threes. Exciting times, right? Lots of three pointers, typically coming under pressure and not necessarily the best shots – it just adds to the drama.
Oh, right, drama. Like the kind involving Ben Gordon and the Bobcats last coach du jour. A reason to be a little less enthused about the Bobcats’ long-ball threat. A new coach and an expiring contract for Ben Gordon don’t necessarily seem like a great match. Maybe the Bobcats look to find another place for Gordon to earn his next contract, with Ramon Sessions and Jeffrey Taylor available to backup the Bobcats’ starters in the backcourt.
The other primary concern with Ben Gordon: He gives up as many points as he gets – and then some. Undersized at the two spot, Ben’s build would allow him to play physically with other guards if he wanted to. But more often than not last season, a common sight was for Ben to sag off his man on the perimeter and offer a half-hearted recovery on the ensuing open shot. With Ben on the bench, Bobcats’ opponents shot 37.6% on threes -but when he was on the court, that went up to 40.6%. For comparison, the Bobcats tied the Suns for league worst defense on threes, at 38.8% allowed on the season. Here’s a fun post from last season looking at this issue: Giving up threes.
So, what to expect of the coming season? Well, Ben Gordon can still shoot. He showed that last year, making about 38% of his threes, which, again, were often tough shots, with the Bobcats not having a post presence to draw a double team. So, with Al Jefferson coming in, Ben Gordon could benefit from kickouts (Jefferson is saying he’s improved on being a black hole – but it remains to be seen how he does in Charlotte with this roster). But defense will remain an issue, due to size and inclinations. With the payoff for taking Ben Gordon’s contract on from Pistons likely coming in the next draft, just remember: An extra first rounder is on the way, no matter how many bad shots Ben Gordon takes or threes he gives up.
Gerald Henderson is maybe the definition of a “good” NBA player. He’s solid on offense, and puts in effort on defense. He’s athletic, protects the ball and is a willing passer. Off the court, he never publicly complained as the losses piled up, treats the fanbase as well as anyone and gets kudos for his charity work. There’s a reason that “Gerald Henderson would be a fantastic role player for a contender” is a mini-meme you see pop up occasionally.
“Role player” is the key phrase there, though. It’s still unclear whether Henderson will be able to make the jump from good to great, and that uncertainty made the team nervous enough to explore a trade earlier this year.
The three-year, $18 million contract Hendo signed this offseason kills at least some of that anxiety. It’s a much smaller commitment than the four years and $40 million Toronto gave to the comparable DeMar DeRozan, and it accurately pegs Henderson as a promising supporting piece instead of a budding young star. At the same time, the deal’s shorter length and player option in the third year gives him a clear incentive to improve and expand his game.
The easiest way to do that is by working on his three-point shooting, which has already been a focus. Henderson’s accuracy from long range improved to 33 percent last year, up from his previous best of 23 percent in 2011-12.
Digging into the numbers shows he still has room to grow there. Henderson hit a promising 31 of 66 (47 percent) three-pointers on spot-up attempts and in transition, but went only two of 20 in isolation and in the pick and roll. The addition of free agent center Al Jefferson and rookie Cody Zeller will likely get him more of those high-percentage looks, but it does show some of his limitations right now as an offensive creator.
Henderson will also need a return to form around the rim. Last season, he shot 54.5 percent in the restricted area after averaging 64.2 percent in his previous two years. On the plus side, that got better as the year went along — he improved to 58.3 percent post-All-Star break after shooting a rough 49.5 percent in the first half of the season. It’s likely that his early-season foot injury played a part in that drop, so hopefully staying healthy and less offensive dysfunction in general will help him there.
Though he’s still young at 25, Henderson enters this season as the longest-tenured Bobcat and one of the team’s clear leaders. Even if he doesn’t make the leap everyone hopes for, he’s already a very competent player that will be an important part of the team’s growth for the next two years (at least). That’s more than enough.
For more on Henderson, check out his 2012 Season Report Card by QCH’s Spencer Perry. And make sure to read Dakota Schmidt’s take on Jeff Taylor that kicked off our player previews.
Note: With the season fast approaching, the crew at Queen City Hoops have voluntarily taken on the task of previewing the future roles that all 15 Bobcats players will have on the team in the upcoming season. To start things out, new QCH contributor Dakota Schmidt will break down 2nd year guard Jeffrey Taylor who is hoping to get more run in the rotation with new head coach Steve Clifford at the helm.
Let’s hop in Doc Brown’s DeLorean and go back to the distant time that was July 2013. The weather was a little warmer and the news was firing into the basketball blogosphere a little hotter. While the offseason news was flaming through the basketball world, the hottest (literally) show in town was located in Vegas as the future of the NBA showed off their skills during Summer League. While the world was transfixed on some of the newly minted rookies (i.e Ben McLemore, CJ McCollum and Cody Zeller), a 2nd year forward out of Vanderbilt was making waves with his electric offensive and defensive abilities.
Just like most former Summer League hopefuls, Jefferey Taylor will have to prove that he can take that electric ability from Vegas to Charlotte as he tries to put him imprint on this team. To make that imprint, Taylor will have to try to find his place in Steve Clifford’s rotation behind the likes of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson who will be transfixed in the team’s starting lineup when the season starts in November. With that said, he’ll still be able to find his way to be a fixture in that backcourt rotation because of the team’s lack of depth in that area.
As previously mentioned, Taylor wowed the Vegas audience because of his ability to be extremely solid on both sides of the ball. While he wasn’t really that great during his rookie season, Taylor showed off some flashes with his ability to hit the corner jumper or showcasing his athleticism in the open-court. Besides that corner three from the left side, Taylor was an extremely inconsistent shooter from around the rest of the court which is a clear area of concern as he enters his 2nd season. One of my own personal gripes with Taylor would be his lack of aggression in terms of penetrating to the basket. When you look at the tape from his days in Vanderbuilt or even Charlotte, you can tell that he has a quick first step while being able to work off of the dribble. Perhaps he can better utilize those skills now that Charlotte has a core of solid offensive bigs (i.e McRoberts, Zeller and Jefferson) that will allow for Taylor to create the necessary angles or openings that are needed for him to penetrate his way to the rim.
While his overall offensive game is still a work in progress, Taylor’s ability on the defensive side of the game will continue to be stout in his sophomore season. Per Synergy Sports Technology, Taylor’s opposition averaged an above average 0.96 PPP (Points Per Possession). A great majority of those plays came via spot-up opportunities which usually wouldn’t be the best way to judge Taylor’s defensive ability but he did have plenty of mental lapses where it came to leaving his opponent wide open because he was caught watching the ball. With that said, Taylor has a veteran like ability to work through off-ball screens or pick and rolls to get to his designated opponent. As his role with the Bobcats continues to grow, that ability will be crucial for his future in the league as he will have to defend some of the best shooters or athletes in the game.
Besides the likes of Kemba, MKG, Zeller and maybe Al Jefferson, Jeff Taylor will be one of the more interesting Bobcats players to watch as we enter the season. Because of his pure athletic ability and potential as a perimeter target, Taylor will have the opportunity this season to prove himself as a promising fixture in Charlotte’s rotation. With the addition of Jefferson, there’s a need for a player who can work his way to the edge of the court to either hit that open corner three or penetrate to the paint which is an ability that Taylor clearly possesses. While a majority of his role with the team hinges on the likes of MKG and Henderson, Taylor will still have a golden opportunity to continue to showcase his skills.