With the fourth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft last night, the Charlotte Bobcats selected Indiana PF Cody Zeller to become the franchises' 4 man of the future. With highly touted freshmen Nerlens Noel of Kentucky and Ben Mclemore of Kansas still on board, many assumed that the Cats were in prime position to take one of these players who were once considered locks for the top spot but ended up sliding. Ultimately though, both were passed on by the team in a sign that the franchise plans to move on with both SG Gerald Henderson and C Bismack Biyombo as key components in the organization's plans for the future.
Henderson, who will be entering his fifth season in the league, appears now to be a lock to return after averaging 15.5 points per game, 2.6 assist, and 3.7 rebounds per game during the season. There were questions regarding if the team would be comfortable moving forward with Henderson after they failed to sign him to an extension before the season started, but those theories seem to be quieted now as the team this morning picked up his qualifying offer which at the least will give them the option to match any option he receives. With the cap hold in place, I anticipate the Bobcats to try to get a deal done in a hurry so that they may switch their free agent priorities elsewhere. Ben Mclemore or Victor Oladipo (who was not on the board) would have been looked at as potential replacements for him in this draft if Rich Cho and company were about to let him walk.
Biyombo is entering his third season in the league and averaged 4.8 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and was 10th in the league in block shots. The project center from the Congo has shown growth in the two years that he's been in the league but many around the organization were beginning to question whether he was improving at a quick enough rate for the franchise to continue to wait, but those questions seemed to be put to rest last night when the team passed on a player most mock drafts expected to be picked with the #1 overall pick. Noel's game, consisting of strong interior defense with an offensive game that leaves a lot to be desired, replicates a lot of strengths for Bismack and many felt it would be a sure sign the Bobcats were ready to move on from him had Noel been the selection.
With the team passing on Mclemore and Noel, they have shown faith in Henderson and Biyombo that they want them to be their starting shooting guard and center for at least the next year and possibly beyond.
Money Ball and Free Agency
Now that Zeller has been picked by the team, we'll probably be able to make a better determination of what we're going to do in free agency this year and it also gives us a clearer view on how Rich Cho plans to build this team through his money ball approach.
To me, it's simple at this point. Zeller was brought in because he instantly adds scoring to our weakest spot in the front court. The team seems to now be in the process where we are filling in holes rather than just drafting the so called best players. We now know that we will not be extending Byron Mullens his qualifying offer but will be doing so for Henderson which also gives us an idea of where we're going. Though I think it's possible, and am hopeful, we can retain Mullens for lower, it's unlikely. The team's recent moves also seem to signal the end of speculation of pursuit for Paul Milsap, Al Jefferson, or Nikola Pekovic, though there is still a remote possibility we could attempt to sign a free agent of their caliber. Below are a list of free agents I think will fit into the picture now that we know a little more about the teams direction.
Player Name : Why He Fits
Devin Harris: Harris is a long 6'3 point guard who has averaged 13 points and 5 assist over his career and would be an ideal backup to Walker as he is one of the better defending points in the league. At this point in his career, he should have no problem coming off the bench.
Shaun Livingston: I hated that we gave him away last time in the deal that sent Stephen Jackson to Milwaukee, but he's available again. The 6'7, lanky point guard can do an even better job at locking up guards than Harris and should be cheaper. He's also three years younger. Without his devastating injury, Livingston is still one of the best prospects to come out in a while.
Anthony Morrow: Morrow is from Charlotte, NC and is probably interested in returning home if the team ever shows interest. He can't do much other than shoot, but he's a career .42% three point shooter who has low turnover numbers. He could be the cheap option there to replace Ben Gordon if a trade is ever made.
Marco Belinelli: After his impressive playoff run with the Chicago Bulls in which he averaged 11 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists, Marco may be out of our price range. He still is a career .39% three point shooter who can also run point in spurts addressing perimeter shooting needs.
Wesley Johnson: Johnson gets a bad rap because he hasn't performed as well as expected as 4th overall pick, but he's played enough for us to know what he can and can't do. He's a good athlete who averaged 8 points a game last year with the Phoenix Suns and maintained his shooting percentages of .32 percent from the three point land. He duplicates Jeffrey Taylor a little, but could definitely get valuable minutes here in the QC.
Daequan Cook: Cook is a .36% three point shooter who could be had for dirt cheap on the market, probably even for the minimum. He's only 26 years old and could come in and earn valuable minutes with his stroke.
Antawn Jamison: It's been pretty much confirmed that the Charlotte native will not return to the L.A. Lakers and may be finally ready to come home and finish his career. A career 19 point, 8 rebound player, his best days are clearly behind him but he his still a good stretch four shooting 36% from three last year and still putting up 9 and 5. He could be a valuable and familiar face off the bench in spot minutes.
Al Jefferson : Yes, though I find it highly unlikely that we take someone of Jefferson's caliber this year, I think there is a chance. Why? Because if there is any position that we could use more out of, it's the center spot. I love Biz to death, but Al is a career 16 and 9 player. With he and Zeller added to a lineup of Walker, Henderson, and MKG, you're now talking about 5 players who can get buckets in various ways and can no longer be called a team lacking on offense. Plus, Jefferson is on record as saying he wouldn't mind playing for the Cats. Again, unlikely, but if we DO pick up a prime player in free agency, he is the one.
Mareese Speights: We may have to spend a little bit more to get Speights, but a power forward/center that can come in and drop 8 and 5 in only 16.5 minutes is one that's ready to explode when given more playing time. He'll fill valuable front court scoring and rebounding needs.
Ronny Turiaf: Ronny is starting to get a little long in the tooth, but still plays with fantastic energy and may want to be in a position where he's getting minutes again after being limited with the L.A. Clippers. At 6'10 250 pounds, even at 30, he has been known to excite teammates and crowds with his hustle play. Weeding out the roster of some of our players for hard workers like Ronny would be good.