SAVE US, MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST - Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE
It's nearly time for the 2012-13 regular season to begin, so let's preview the Charlotte Bobcats who have taken further steps to rebuild towards the goal of playoff contention.
Team Name: Charlotte Bobcats
Last Year's Record: 7-59
Key Losses: D.J. Augustin, Corey Maggette, Derrick Brown, D.J. White, Eduardo Najera, Paul Silas, Jamario Moon (lol)
Key Additions: Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeffery Taylor, Brendan Haywood, Mike Dunlap, Not Jamario Moon
1. What significant moves were made in the offseason?
I think I can sum this up nicely by saying this: The Bobcats improved across the board at nearly every position. Granted, they were one of the worst teams of all-time, but my point remains.
It begins with the hiring of Mike Dunlap, who has a clear vision to craft a fast and furious team that pressures offenses all over the court to create turnovers and get their offense going in transition. He wants hard work and demands nothing less. Dunlap is like a Larry Brown coach, but is not distrusting of the efficiency of getting three-point looks and youth.
From there, we can look at the Bobcats backcourt, which lost D.J. Augustin and their whole gaggle of small forwards. Augustin was a talented shooter and passer with a weakness on defense, yet who also struggled with shooting in recent years. But the Bobcats added Ramon Sessions, an arguably similar talent as a passer and a more efficient scorer, though not as good a deep shooter. Neither are good defenders, but Sessions is a better player, I'd say. Charlotte also traded Maggette for Gordon and a future first round pick. Maggette had a penchant for driving to the lane and drawing contact, which the Bobcats desperately needed -- but he could never stay healthy for long. Gordon is undersized for a shooting guard, but he's as talented a shooter as the Bobcats have and he's an efficient scorer. He will play an important role for the team as possibly their best scoring threat, even if coming off the bench. The talent differences from starter to backup at each position are minimal, so I doubt there will be a clear cut team MVP of sorts.
At the wings, oft-injured Maggette is now in Detroit, Derrick Brown is in San Antonio and Jamario Moon is, I don't know, maybe on the moon. To fill these holes, the Bobcats drafted all-around talent Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor in this year's draft. Kidd-Gilchrist can just about do it all -- he rebounds, he defends, he runs the lanes well in transition, he can get to the rim and he can finish there. The main thing he can't do is shoot a basketball, but they're trying to work on that. He may not be flashy enough to garner widespread appreciation and awards, but I think it's safe to say he will fill up stat sheets most game nights. Taylor is somewhat similar, in that he is extremely athletic and has a nose for defense. But that's just about where the similarities end as he has a love for the deep ball.
The Bobcats' frontcourt saw little change. Boris Diaw was dropped midway through last season, Eduardo Najera retired and D.J. White was not re-signed. Tyrus Thomas is still around and will hopefully improve upon last year's mess of a season plagued by stomach ulcers. Bismack Biyombo has an offseason under his belt and a full training camp for once, so we look forward to seeing how he will continue his development. Byron Mullens has seemingly been re-energized by Dunlap, who is working to make Mullens more conscious on the defensive side of the game. And Rich Cho signed Brendan Haywood, who adds a much-needed veteran presence to the team and size and interior defense as well.
So yeah, a fairly busy offseason.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
The Bobcats don't have the roster to effectively compete with teams on the conventional level of playing traditional halfcourt basketball. Their strengths are in youth and transition. From point guard to center, nearly everyone on the roster gets up and down the court well in transition.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Shooting and defense. The team still does not have a strong cast of players that can hurt opponents from three point land. Ben Gordon was a strong addition in this regard and Ramon Sessions had an unusual uptick in his deep shooting last year, but Byron Mullens is the only other player who we have any real reason to believe will make a significant contribution to the team's shooting behind the arc. Surely Kemba will shoot and Taylor also, but Taylor's shooting might take a while as he adapts to the NBA and Walker did not prove to be a great shooter last season.
The Bobcats were horrid in defending the paint last year, which stems both from a lack of adequate big men defenders outside of Bismack Biyombo and poor outside defense. So it's not just a singular problem, but if Dunlap's defensive innovations ring true with the players, maybe they make strides away from the back of the pack. It would require great cohesiveness in rotations, though, and I'm not convinced they have that.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Basically this: Don't be worse than last year and improve the young building blocks of the team. That's it. The Bobcats have about as little pressure that a team can have. And maybe win some games while they're at it.
5. What are the best and worst case scenarios for this team?
Best case - they win around 30-35 or so games on the year, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist unleashes great offensive potency that we didn't know he was capable of, Kemba Walker's jump shot and passing improve, Byron Mullens becomes a better all-around player and the Bobcats show incredible potential for the future while still having good position to draft well and make a better team in the future.
Worst case - everyone gets polio