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What to look for this season from the young defense-centric big man, Bismack Biyombo
Every touted rookie is brought into the league with fans and analysts on pins and needles, wistfully wondering, "Who knows what to expect from this kid! He could come into the season breaking into the league with a force! Or he could fall flat on his face!"
But a lot of times the expectations don't stray too far from the outcome in that rookie season. Bismack Biyombo's rookie season definitely falls within these parameters. We knew the Bobcats were getting an athletic specimen with absurd leaping ability and arms that can make Mr. Fantastic jealous. We knew Biyombo was young with a penchant for defense and a weakness on offense. To his credit, he delivered. He was 8th-best in blocks per game, 5th overall among qualified players in blocks per 48 minutes, and 7th in blocks per foul. Clearly he was the best rookie in these categories as well. Not too shabby for a rookie season, I'd say.
Further, his offense wasn't as bad as advertised, which would have led you to believe Biyombo had been born without nerve endings in his hands. While not the case, I assure you, his offense still was lacking but not to the point of reaching the underwhelming expectations going into the season. Did you know Biyombo made a higher percentage of his shots than Tristan Thompson? Now you know, and knowing is half the battle (of young tweener big men with underwhelming offenses, I guess?).
All that said, Biyombo's room for improvement is plentiful.
But you just cited all those stats and stuff about how awesome Biyombo is on defense!
Yeah, but he's still got a ways to go in some regards. He's great on help defense and there are probably few better in the league at it right now, but there's more to individual and team defense than converging at the rim and covering your teammates' butts.
When looking at MySynergySports' breakdown of opponents' plays against Biyombo, you see he's an exceptional talent defensively. To rank in the top 35 percent in total defense and in the top 34 percent defending in the post as a rookie, well, it can't be easy. Biyombo ranks very well in defending the pick and roll (96th percentile) and against the spot-up shooter (94th percentile). His stride and reactions make for covering ground easily and his wingspan disrupts passing lanes, all of which play well in pick and roll and spot-up defenses. Unfortunately, those types of plays only made up 33.8 percent of plays that Biyombo faced.
Meanwhile, isolation and post plays combined for 60.7 percent of the plays that came at him. As mentioned above, he wasn't even average at these types of plays, but I think it's not a stretch to say Bobcats fans would like to see him make strides to being elite at defending the staple of offense in the paint. This includes the more intricate parts of that are more difficult to defend, especially those that combine multiple elements of post offense: pivot, drop steps, and head & ball fakes. Biyombo had trouble with these last season, but possibly with no one more than Al Jefferson who has a great arsenal of tools in the post.
But frankly, it's hard to be too concerned about defense with a guy like Biyombo who held opponents under 40 percent FG shooting last year, right?
Let's remember not to try to outkick the coverage here. Biyombo will probably not evolve significantly better touch in the post with better footwork in one season or two. Some players have it and others don't. Biyombo does not have those offensive instincts. He runs the court well in transition and can finish at the rim more often than not -- which is a nice way of saying he's slightly below average making shots at the rim (Biyombo: 61.7% // NBA center average: 64.1% via HoopData).
But what can we expect or hope for from Biyombo in these aspects of offense? Not a whole lot, I'm afraid. Biyombo roughly attempted 22 percent of his plays in the post and hit a weak 29.4 percent of his shots there. By all means, I think we should look to see him get about the same amount of touches in the post to continue to make him more comfortable there, but he's more valuable offensively on cuts and pick and rolls (albeit just slightly so in the PnR). So mostly I think we'd just like to see Biyombo continue to stay active in cutting in a movement-heavy offense and finishing quick plays that wouldn't require Biyombo to try to create his own shots, as he's not a good ballhandler nor a particularly adept passer.
Sporting a mediocre 5.8 rebounds per game (in 23 minutes per game, mind you), Biyombo gathered most of his rebounds on defense. That's great. I don't want to portray defensive rebounds as unimportant. Tim Duncan has long gotten a much-higher percentage of his rebounds on defense than offense. But offensive rebounds can be a vital advantage because they create second-chance scoring opportunities. Biyombo grabbed 8.6 percent of available offensive rebounds in his rookie season. In comparison, Emeka Okafor recorded an ORB% of 11.5 percent in his rookie season and Brook Lopez had one of 10.6 percent (though Bropez's has steadily decreased since). Biyombo's rebounding numbers should at least continue to improve as he solidifies denying position to opponents in boxing out.
All in all, Biyombo has shown plenty of what Bobcats fans were hoping for last year. This coming season, I think we can expect about the same and probably some slight improvements in rebounding.