Over the last few weeks, isportsweb has broken down the offseason moves by the Charlotte Bobcats, and predicted how the season will play out by looking at their schedule. Now, with the regular season less than two days away, here is a look at how each position is lined up and a preview of how they might perform.
#15 Kemba Walker (3rd NBA season, all with Charlotte)
#7 Ramon Sessions (7th NBA season, 2nd with Charlotte)
#5 Jannero Pargo (10th NBA season, 2nd with Charlotte)
If there was one position of strength for the Bobcats, I would guess most people would agree that point guard would be that spot. Kemba Walker emerged as Charlotte’s best player last year, averaging over 17 points and almost six assists per game. Walker proved to be dynamic with the ball in his hands and truly seemed to take over the Bobcats as “his team.”
Not only was the best player on the team last year the starting point guard, but the best player on the bench for Charlotte was the backup point guard – Ramon Sessions. Sessions played close to 26 minutes per game in a reserve role, yet still averaged close to 12 points and five assists per game. There were times last year when both Sessions and Walker would play simultaneously and that also proved to be effective.
Jannero Pargo was signed midway through last season as the third string point guard purely for depth issues. Unless there is a major injury to either Walker or Sessions, don’t expect Pargo to be a huge factor for this year’s Bobcats.
Overall, there is reason to believe that the point guard position will again be a point of strength for Charlotte. One would have to assume both Walker and Sessions will put up very similar numbers from last year. However, I would expect Walker’s assist numbers to increase this year with an improved inside game due to the addition of center Al Jefferson and first round draft pick Cody Zeller.
#9 Gerald Henderson (5th NBA season, all with Charlotte)
#8 Ben Gordon (10th NBA season, 2nd with Charlotte)
Gerald Henderson signed a three year, $18 million contract in the offseason to stay in Charlotte and to man the starting shooting guard position for the third consecutive year. Over the last two seasons as the starting off-guard, Henderson has averaged 15 points per game.
However, he is still shooting just above 30 percent from beyond the three-point line, which is below average for a starting NBA shooting guard. What Henderson lacks in offensive punch he tends to make up for in defensive intensity, usually guarding the opposing team’s best backcourt player.
On the other hand, backup guard Ben Gordon has a role on the team because of his three-point shooting specialties. The 30-year old veteran has been a career 40 percent three-point shooter, which is a needed attribute on a team that lacks three-point shooting.
If everything works out as planned, Charlotte could have a dynamic 1-2 punch at shooting guard. Henderson provides defense and an ability to get to the basket on offense and Gordon is able to stretch opposing defense from beyond the arc.
Unfortunately, if last year is any indication, Gordon seems to be on the decline in his career, and Henderson has yet to break out as an above-average NBA two-guard. Early money is on the Charlotte Bobcats using their 2014 first-round draft pick on a insert quality shooting guard, if one is available, in order to upgrade the position.
#14 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2nd NBA season, all with Charlotte)
#44 Jeffrey Taylor (2nd NBA season, all with Charlotte)
#31 James Southerland (Rookie)
Almost two years ago, the 2012 NBA draft was all about solidifying the small forward position for the Charlotte Bobcats. They used the second overall pick on 18-year-old Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the first pick of the second round on Jeffrey Taylor. Both of the wingmen had up and down rookie seasons last year, leaving much to be desired.
Kidd-Gilchrist was great on the defensive-end during his first year in the NBA and looks to be a player that the Bobcats will always be able to count on to guard the opposing team’s best wing player, such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony. However, MKG struggled mightily with his jump shot and his offensive game in general. Averaging just nine points per game and making a mere two three-point field goals all season, it is going to take time for Kidd-Gilchrist to become a threat on the offensive end.
On the bright side, MKG just turned 20 years old and is one of the youngest players in the NBA with a high ceiling, as long as he is able to turn his jump shot into an average weapon.
Taylor has been a pleasant surprise so far for Charlotte, and some people around the organization are beginning to believe he might be the best small forward on the roster this season. Taylor did not have a great rookie season, but all indications are he has taken his game to the next level over the offseason.
The Vanderbilt graduate was the best player on the Bobcats’ summer league team that included Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller – three players that were all higher draft picks than Taylor – and showed flashes of great potential on both the offensive and defensive ends during the preseason.
James Southerland is an undrafted rookie out of Syracuse, and was the last man to make the 15 man roster.
The position of small forward holds the greatest potential for the Bobcats this season and it will be interesting to see how the two second year players improve from their respective rookie season. Their development will have a direct correlation to the overall team improvement for the Bobcats.
#40 Cody Zeller (Rookie)
#11 Josh McRoberts (7th NBA season, 2nd with Charlotte)
#43 Anthony Tolliver (6th NBA season, 1st with Charlotte)
#4 Jeff Adrien (4th NBA season, 2nd with Charlotte)
Power forward is the biggest question mark for the Bobcats, but it does not mean there is not talent on the roster in this position. Charlotte used the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft on Cody Zeller, the All-American out of Indiana University.
The selection was a surprise to many, but the front office saw Zeller as the perfect power forward to complement the other big men on the roster. Despite the fact that Zeller is seven feet tall, he has a unique skill set and athleticism that most big men do not have. It will be interesting to see how his talents transition to the professional game.
Josh McRoberts has been an NBA journeyman for most of his career, but has seemed to settle down nicely in Charlotte after the trade deadline last season. There is a chance that head coach Steve Clifford goes with McRoberts to start the season at power forward to allow Zeller to ease his way into the NBA. McRoberts is not a typical power forward, using his passing ability to make others around him better.
As for Tolliver and Adrien, they will both be used sporadically off the bench – Tolliver for his shooting ability and Adrien for his tough-nosed rebounding and defense.
If Zeller and his attributes transition to the NBA as well as the Charlotte front office thinks they will, then Zeller will have a chance at winning Rookie of the Year and power forward could be a strength for the Bobcats. If the rookie struggles, then it could be another long season for the Bobcats down in the paint.
#25 Al Jefferson (10th NBA season, 1st with Charlotte)
#0 Bismack Biyombo (3rd NBA season, all with Charlotte)
#33 Brendan Haywood (13th NBA season, 2nd with Charlotte)
With the addition of Al Jefferson, the Charlotte Bobcats made their biggest free-agent acquisition in team history and the big man instantly became the best offensive big man the Bobcats have ever employed. Jefferson will add a scoring threat to Charlotte that they have desperately lacked for the last few seasons, and he should be able to open up the rest of the floor for his teammates as he demands double-teams at various points throughout the game.
Biyombo is the biggest conundrum on the Bobcats’ roster. After being drafted seventh overall in the 2011 NBA draft as an 18-year-old, he spent the majority of his rookie season simply learning how to catch the basketball properly.
In his second season the big man did show some improvement, but he still had to start the majority of the games for the Bobcats – a role he probably was not ready to fill at the time. Entering his third season, Biyombo will now be able to come off the bench behind Jefferson and will simply be asked to rebound and defend at a very high rate – the two things Biyombo does best.
Brendan Haywood will miss the first two or three months of the season due to offseason surgery on his left foot. Upon his return, Haywood will be expected to provide a veteran presence off the bench and fill in for any of the other big men are out due to injury.
After breaking down all the positions, it is very apparent the Bobcats have the depth necessary to be competitive on a nightly basis. Charlotte could afford to play 11 or 12 men every game and not see much of a drop-off. However, the only question will be if their depth is talented enough to make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference.
Charlotte opens regular season play in Houston against the Rockets on Wednesday, October 30th at 8pm. Their home opener is Friday, November 1st against the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7pm.
Read more Bobcats rumors, news and opinion on our Charlotte Bobcats page