Mark Dolejs-US PRESSWIRE
The season is nearly upon us and Bobcats fans have more than enough to watch for this season, but here are five things I'm particularly interested in.
1. Has Kemba Walker's shooting improved?
Last year Mr. Walker had a season rather full of ups and downs, showing some exciting flashes of what he can bring to the table. But more often, he showed poor shooting finishing the year with a rough 36.6 percent FG%. Heaping offensive struggles weighed down everyone's production on the team, and Walker was no exception. On a team limited by injuries and with extremely lacking in scoring threats, the rookie point guard had to shoulder some of that responsibility. This season the Bobcats have filled some holes in the roster, adding a bit more offensive firepower. Still, it seemed much of Walker's problems shooting were fixable and on his own accord. He has fine balance and form, just needs to get the repetition down a bit more. If he can improve this, he becomes much more of a threat in creating space in the midcourt with his jump shot. This can put the screws on defenders when running the pick and roll as well, since last year often times they went under screens, not seeing his range as much to worry about as defending the penetration. Forcing defenses to guess could make Walker much more difficult to defend and simultaneously open up passing lanes as defenses require help to guard him.
2. Can Mike Dunlap make the Bobcats defend somewhat cohesively?
Talking about defensive principles is all well and good, but come game time it could very well be a different story. The Bobcats made strides in becoming better defenders on the perimeter but the preseason didn't exactly quell my concerns. The Bobcats defense at times looked more like last season's than the pressure-filled swarming that we saw more of in Summer League. But that was Summer League. The Bobcats showed particular weakness in some familiar areas, like defending the paint. As we head into the first game, the Bobcats must defend as a unit, as Dunlap knows. Pressure defense and trapping to create turnovers relies on understanding the angles and how to cover multiple players at once. This doesn't have to be Larry Brown levels of perfection here, but there does must be some fluidity. The Bobcats need to be more cohesive and more attentive than last season. And as always, there's the danger of mental breakdown once deficits balloon.
3. How much of an impact can Jeffery Taylor make?
Taylor has a very intriguing skill set, bringing sticky defense and a gunner's stroke from behind the arc. His athleticism and quick feet makes him a strong defender capable of staying in front of most players. But he's struggled in competitive play during the preseason and just seemed pretty overwhelmed. I think he'll adjust as the season goes on, and I think it will be interesting to see how much his three-point shot will work its way into the Bobcats' wheelhouse.
4. Will Ben Gordon get back to being the player he once was?
Very steadily, Ben Gordon fell from being a perennial 6th Man of the Year candidate (and winner as a rookie) to an overpaid drag on the Pistons' rebuilding hopes. His turnover rate gradually increased to its career high last season, and his shots per game more or less plummeted from his averages as a member of the Chicago Bulls. He didn't draw fouls as much either. The Bobcats will need to give the ball to Gordon, whom I expect to become one of the most efficient scorers on the team, mostly because he's one of the best shooters on the team already. With an increased role over what he had in Detroit, Gordon can pull up from the trough that he experienced in the past three season.
5. Which Tyrus Thomas will we see?
Tyrus Thomas' time is limited in Charlotte, unless something drastic changes. Patience has wore thin for the Bobcats and their fans concerning the once-promising energetic forward. It's a shame he had stomach ulcers last season, but what happened is water under the bridge. Thomas needs to recognize the sand slipping through his fingers and push his inner gas medal to the floor. Mike Dunlap looks to be a coach who connects well with players in teaching them and getting a lot out of them on both sides of the ball. But if Thomas doesn't commit himself to the team in earnest, it may be curtains.