Season Preview: Charlotte Bobcats

My thoughts on the Bobcats’ attempts to pull themselves off the floor of the NBA are already documented here, so I’ll avoid rehashing all of that. Team building strategies aside, this squad should prove to be very interesting on the floor.

The team’s major free agent signing of the offseason, and the biggest talent acquisition since Michael Jordan took over the team, Al Jefferson looks to anchor the offense along with the improving Kemba Walker. Walker raised his shooting percentages from awful to mediocre, and in the process became an intriguing building block for a Charlotte team in desperate need of assets to build around. He still only shot 42.3% from the field and 32.2% from deep, but it’s fair to assume that the extra space provided by Jefferson will help free him for better looks. Neither is going to bring much to the table defensively, but that’s no change from last year’s team, which finished dead last on that end.

Surrounding these two will be an array of players who collectively have a lot left to prove. Rookie Cody Zeller went 4th overall in the draft, which many consider to have been a bit of a stretch. He will be attempting to make the transition from center to power forward, which may push him defensively into some tough matchups against smallball lineups and quicker 4’s. He has spent time expanding the range on his jumper as part of the transition, but it remains to be seen how smoothly he will be able to move into the NBA.

Last year’s top pick, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is also trying to expand the range on his jumper, but instead of trying to take a step or two back from his college range, MKG basically just needs to start from scratch to add one. Last season saw him shoot nine 3 pointers total, making two. This is ridiculous for a modern wing. MKG has shown some talent and is a solid finisher at the rim, but a low scoring rate and poor shooting are major roadblocks to his career. Even without an outside shot he can be a useful rotation piece, but the future-Hornets need more than that from their picks.

Both of these guys should benefit on offense from the presence of Big Al, and given that Bismack Biyombo could practically be left alone on that end last season the offense should be expected to make some solid strides. Second-half star Gerald Henderson will also be able to take advantage of the added space, and will be able to keep defenses honest when they inevitably double Jefferson in the post.

This is all well and good, and the offense could jump from 28th to something like 20th if things go well, but that defense will likely be as bad as ever. It’s enticing to say that replacing Biyombo with Jefferson might make the defense even worse than it was last season, but that’s ridiculous – these guys can’t possibly be any worse. Biyombo is an overrated defender due to his shot-blocking and lingering pre-draft hype, but he is essentially fighting for his career at this point. The team was just as bad with him on the court last season as when he was on the bench, and he is a massive liability on offense, making him a pretty solid example of how talent does not always equal production, but a bad example of a rotation player.

There is a lot of work to do for GM Rich Cho in continuing to pull Charlotte out of the cellar, but there are some interesting pieces in the mix already. Another lottery trip lurks in the team’s future, but the pieces are in place to make a playoff run in a year or two with a little much overdue luck.

Predicted Finish: 22-60 | 4th place in Southeast Division | 13th place in Eastern Conference