Hornets 2015 Offseason Preview | Part Two

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The Lottery is over and we now know the Hornets will own (or at least temporarily own) the ninth overall selection in a very solid 2015 Draft. But before I jump into what the Hornets should do with that pick, we need to do a little free agent housekeeping.

Part II: The Free Agents – Will They Stay or Will They Go?

The Hornets have just about every type of free agent on the roster and each of these players will influence the team’s strategy heading into June’s Draft and beyond.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

These are the straight-forward, vanilla variety free agents. Guys who played for Charlotte last season and whose contracts runs out in July.

  • Mo Williams
  • Jason Maxiell

The big questions start with Mo Williams – professional NBA journeyman – who joined the Hornets midseason (his seventh team in fourteen eleven seasons) and kept them competitive once Kemba Walker went down with a knee injury. Even after Mo cooled off late in the season, Williams’ shooting and pick and roll/pop abilities were real assets on a team lacking both.

In many ways, Mo’s game represents Kemba Walker’s best case scenario long-term: an above average, volume scoring point with enough distribution skills to run a team alongside a point-forward. It’s no coincidence that Mo’s best season came playing next to Lebron on the ‘09 Cavs.

Williams has close ties to fellow Mississipian Al Jefferson and has gone on record saying that he’d love to be back – but will the Hornets bring him back? Money shouldn’t be an issue – Williams will be 33 next season and is far from a franchise cornerstone. Anything around $3m per is reasonable. There are a couple of issues however:

  1. Charlotte already has $2.8m committed to fellow backup PG Brian Roberts next season and
  2. may decide to move on from yet another head-down iso player.

In fairness to Mo, he’s the least ball “poundy” of the Lance/Gerald/Kemba/Big Al crew – but if the front office decides to go in another direction with their lead guards either in free agency, trades or the draft (Cameron Payne?) – Mo may be the odd man out. That said, my gut tells me Mo wears teal again next season; Roberts’ contract is easily movable and the Hornets will likely end up drafting a wing.
PREDICTION: STAY

As much as Coach Steve Clifford enjoyed Maxiell’s veteran presence last season as the rotation’s fourth big, there would be a guaranteed fan mutiny if Jason is brought back – simply because his mere presence would tempt Clifford to play him over Noah Vonleh. The front office, who’ve invested heavily in Noah, likely feels the same.
PREDICTION: GO – VONLEH UNCHAINED!

Potential Free Agents:

The Hornets have two veteran starters with player options for next season: opt-in and these guys play out their final contract year as Hornets, opt-out and they either re-sign new deals with the team or move on.

  • Al Jefferson
  • Gerald Henderson

How quickly things change. A year ago, Big Al Jefferson was a third team All-NBA center and a franchise building block who led Charlotte to its first winning season and Playoff birth in ages. But Al never fully recovered from the effects of the plantar fascia injury he suffered in last year’s sweep against the Heat. He arrived at camp out of shape and it all went downhill from there.

It wasn’t exclusively Big Al’s fault. Josh McRoberts’ departure created all kinds of spacing and post entry problems. Jefferson struggled to stay upright and effective all season and you could literally see it on his face. The guy was legitimately scowling and grimacing for 65 games – sometimes out of pain, sometimes at his own teammates. With little shooting or ball movement in the halfcourt, opposing defenses keyed in on Al knowing that he was Charlotte’s only legitimate weapon. It worked.

Jefferson has gone on record saying that he’ll opt-in and play the free agency game again when the cap skyrockets in 2016. That’s good news as it’ll be even more motivation for the 30 year old to drop some weight before November. If he does, we could see the return of the franchise cornerstone. If not, happy trails.
PREDICTION: STAY

Hendo had the quintessential Gerald Henderson season: he played hard on D, he hit lots of mid-range jumpers, he made great cuts and threw down some ridiculous dunks. He also showcased a much more frequent corner three (the release is slowish and he doesn’t take enough of them but it’s still great to see). He’s always been a professional. The team had him riding the pine behind Lance Stephenson for nearly two months and Hendo said nary a word. He’s a lunch pail two guard who is sorely under-appreciated by the local fanbase – mainly because his weaknesses (distance shooting, ball-handling, head-down iso drives/post-ups) have also been the team’s.

Gerald turns 28 next season and his game is HIGHLY dependent on his athleticism. While other types of players his age could choose to wait for a bigger pay day in 2016, Hendo may survey the scene, see a weak free agent class and say, “screw it.” Wes Matthews’ unfortunate injury literally cost him tens of millions of dollars this summer. Gerald has always been both smart and practical. I could see him opting out and signing a nice sized deal with the Clippers, Knicks or Lakers.

Doing so would free up around $6 million for the Hornets to play with. That by itself won’t buy much – but if the Hornets combine the number with, say, a strategic cut (COUGH*LANCE*COUGH) – they may have just enough cash to offer a proper “3&D” shooting guard real money on the open market.
PREDICTION: GO

Restricted Free Agents:

These are guys coming off the last year of their rookie deals. They are free to negotiate with any team and Charlotte has the right to match any offer.

  • Bismack Biyombo
  • Jeff Taylor

Let’s start with Taylor – and oh man, where do we start? JT is like a TV pro hoops character come to life. Meaning, he LOOKS like the prototypical NBA player but he’s not really all that good in real life. There’s lots of drama though. Tragedy in the form of his ill-timed achilles tear in 2014 and scandal in the form of his weird Detroit-based domestic violence incident that (thankfully) turned out to be more stupid than violent.

Aside from being a very solid on-ball defender, there’s really nothing to recommend here. Taylor was billed as a 3&D guy coming out of Vanderbilt but his shooting numbers (32% from 3PT, 41% from 2PT) are Kemba-like. JT turns 26 next month and we still have no idea how his game will transition post-achilles long term. His $1.2m qualifying offer is basically league minimum and I could see Charlotte picking it up to give him one last shot at putting everything together. I could also see the team moving on from a fringe rotation player who made national headlines for all the wrong reasons.
PREDICTION: GO

The real fun starts with Biz. Want to start an internet flame war? Get stat-geeks and casual fans talking about Biyombo’s merits as an NBA player. I understand both sides. The naked eye suggests that Biz should be nowhere near a professional basketball game. Four years into his career and he still has no idea what to do with the ball on offense unless it’s a dive to the rim for a dunk or an uncontested putback.

Biyombo will force moves in the post that will make you laugh/cry/laugh with regularity. These forced moves are universally proceeded by an offensive rebound because there’s no way in hell a teammate is going to feed Biz with a post look; thus beginning a viscious cycle (“this is my only chance to show people my stuff!!! I don’t care if Dwight Howard is standing right over me!!!”).

The real hoops smarties out there like Grantland’s Zach Lowe, At The Hive’s Frank Berndt/Bryan Mears and the Baseline’s own Bradford Coombs can paint Biz’s positives way better than I can. All I’ll say is that defensively, Biz is a legitimate game changer. He’s strong. He goes hard and he covers a ridiculous amount of territory for a center. Most importantly, he makes the paint a less friendly place for opponents. I don’t know if Biz will ever make the rotation of a legitimately good team but it could be possible in the right role.

Speaking of which, unless the Hornets draft another center (Frank Kaminsky, Myles Turner, Willy Trilly Cauliflower Wonka), I’m fairly confident that they aim to bring Biz back on a second deal. That could change if another team jumps in with a real offer. There will be teams with rim protection problems that lose out on DeAndre Jordan in free agency. And if Roy Hibbert stays in Indy, a metrics-savvy, ballsy exec may say “screw it” and hand Biz $25-30 million. To the casual fan, this sounds crazy – I know. But getting a guy who can make up for the Damian Lillards’ and the Monta Ellis’s of the world is a real thing nowadays. Biz may end up getting paid.
PREDICTION: STAY

State of the Roster

Making the proceeding free agent moves (and unloading Brian Roberts’ contract) would leave the Hornets with 11 filled roster spots minus any draft picks.

  • Point Guards: Kemba Walker, Mo Williams
  • Shooting Guards: Lance Stephenson, P.J. Hairston, Troy Daniels
  • Small Forwards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams
  • Power Forwards: Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh
  • Centers: Al Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo

There’s an obvious hole at the wings – which is why it’s the position the team is most likely to fill via June’s Draft and/or via run at shooter in free agency. More on those options coming up in Part III…

-ASChin
@BaselineBuzz

Baseline Observations: Three Games In

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A few quick notes on what we’ve liked and what we haven’t EARLY in the Hornets’ rebrand season:

    • THEY COULD BE 3-0. Change just a handful of late game possessions and Charlotte could be undefeated. The Memphis loss came down to some atrocious 36% shooting and a few key 4th quarter defensive lapses. The loss in New York could’ve been avoided with an impartial ref and a healthy MKG. Encouraging stuff for a team that hasn’t really figured each other out quite yet.
    • LANCE + KEMBA. Two guards who love dribbling. Lance is a good one-on-one player who is under the impression he is great; turnovers ensue (3TOPG – YIKES!). Kemba started the season 10-37 from the field. If Coach Clifford is going to play these guys together in crunch time, Kemba will need to become a better catch and shoot player while Lance refines his drive and dish game. It’s either that or one sits in favor of Brian Roberts or Gary Neal.
    • FREE BIZ! I get Clifford’s reasoning for going Maxiell over Biyombo at the backup center. Maxiell is (theoretically) a better all-around player. He knows where to be on both ends. He (theoretically) has better hands and is more of a threat to actually hit a mid-range jumper as a safety valve. He’s a banger and a veteran. The problem is that A.) Jason hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire with his shooting (3-7) or rebounding (1.7 per) and has already logged a 3 turnover game AND B.) the Hornets are giving up a way too much stuff at the rim (see Bradford’s tweet below). So if you’re going to play an offensive liability as Big Al’s backup, why not give Biz one more shot to prove himself? $100 says Charlotte trades for a two way backup center before the deadline.

    • WING ISSUES. Jeff Taylor really screwed the pooch. The team desperately needs another big wing who can guard oversized SFs and Taylor had the gig lined up until his Michigan Mishap. DV is no laughing matter so I’ll stick to discussing the incident’s impact on the court. Once MKG went down at the Garden, the Hornets had to rely on Lance as a Melo cover and it just didn’t work. Stephenson has the strength to guard big threes but lacks the length and has to save too much energy for the other end. Hendo gives up even more size. I’m not as high on Taylor’s upside as some but I’d love to have him for 10-15 minute spot duty against certain matchups.
    • THEY’LL GET BETTER. Let’s face it, these Hornets have no idea how to play together yet. But last year’s Bobcats started slow too. Once Clifford sorts out the Lance/Kemba dynamic and the team re-learns the defensive harmony that worked so well last season, the Hornets should take off. There is just too much talent for them not too.

-ASChin
@BaselineBuzz

Jump Shot Ratings

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With the draft come and gone, summer league concluded, free agency past its height, and training camps a couple weeks away, we are officially in the worst part of the NBA calendar. Seriously, you can only read so many player profiles, preseason rankings, and projections before they all just start to say the same thing. Zach Lowe already has the eccentric NBA rankings market cornered, this year tackling court designs. Finding a topic worth covering without feeling redundant is a challenge in September. So, as your stereotypical short, un-athletic white guy I decided to tackle an important topic: ranking Charlotte Hornets jump shooters. This is a purely subjective, aesthetically based ranking. Results are irrelevant. Hornets fans need to know who has the Mona Lisa of jump shots, and whose jump shot belongs in the garbage (I hate to pile it on, but we all know where this end of the spectrum is headed).

Rankings take into account mechanical soundness and the “Eff You” factor. The “Eff You” factor is a matter of stylistic flair that demoralizes an opponent as soon as the shot goes up. The kings of the jump shot “eff you” are Steph Curry and Damian Lillard. To rate highly by this metric, consistent results are required, but being a consistently great shooter doesn’t necessarily grade out in style. So, without further ado, your 2014-15 Charlotte Hornets Jump Shot Rankings, in reverse order.

14. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

This has been covered. Nobody knows what MKG’s shot is going to look like this upcoming year, but the photo evidence isn’t encouraging to me.

MKG reconstructed jump shot

MKG is my favorite Hornet. But someone might want to call a priest to exorcise the demon living in his right elbow.

13. Bismack Biyombo

I wanted to like Biz’s shot more than I do. I love the guy. Who doesn’t? He obviously finds so much joy in life that I can help but feel my spirits lifted. But the jumper just doesn’t have it. First of all, he suffers from gangly limb syndrome. His arms and legs are so long he can’t seem to figure out what to do with them. His feet are spread way too wide, feet all pigeon-toed, knees appearing to buckle. The ball comes from the left side of his body, shooting elbow flared out, off-hand way too involved… I will say this, he has a nice high release point that helps corral his arms a little bit, but there’s a lot of work to be done.

12. Gerald Henderson

This might be a personal preference thing and probably isn’t fair at all, but Hendo’s jumper is sneaky ugly for me. Let’s start with the feet. I hate the “one foot (way) forward approach.” A shooter’s strong-side foot should be a little forward, say 6 inches. But a full step? It completely throws off your alignment. You can see how it opens up everything else (hips, shoulders). The release is fine, but there’s a mechanical slowness to the entire shooting motion. He never looks comfortable shooting, and I’m never comfortable watching.
What bothers me most is that there’s no reason for any of these issues. Henderson doesn’t have abnormally long arms or large hands. He grew up in a basketball family. And if he had a reliable 3 point shot with a quick release, he would be a completely different player. Alas, it looks like he has one more year as a Hornet before he opts out and moves on to a new team.

11. Marvin Williams

I’m not actually sure how to refer to Marvin Williams. One name? Both names? Marvin seems too personal. Williams is too generic… I digress. He’s expected to be a stretch 4 for the Hornets. Hopefully it works out but when it comes to my personal rankings, Marv here commits a cardinal sin. The leg kick. I’ve spent the past 2 years trying to eliminate the leg kick from my son’s jump shot (he’s only 11, so it’s probably too soon). Other than that, everything looks good. Balanced, a nice quick release, good follow through. But those feet…

10. Al Jefferson
Should Al be higher than Marvin Williams and Gerald Henderson and maybe even Biz? Nope. Why is he? Let’s check the tape.

9. Cody Zeller

Cody’s shot is exactly what you would expect out of an Indiana boy. Fundamentally and mechanically sound, balanced, elbow tight, full extension, follow-through… it’s also epically boring. I could fall asleep watching Cody Zeller jump shots. On a side note, Eric Gordon may have the most boringly effective jump shot in the league. Imagine that. Another Indiana guy.

8. Noah Vonleh

Vonleh is an interesting shooter. There’s not a lot of tape for his shooting, even if I had the patience to dig through college highlights. Another guy to play at Indiana, another mechanically sound shot. He beats out Cody with a little more “eff you” (love the extended follow-through) and his ability to maintain solid form despite having long arms that could get in the way and huge hands. The future is bright with this guy.

7. Jeff Taylor

I’ve covered Taylor’s shooting (here) extensively so I’ll keep it simple. Points for form and a little bit of style. Negative points for a snail-like release.

6. Kemba Walker

I like Kemba’s 3-point shot for the most part. He’s got solid balance, a nice compact release, good follow-through. I don’t love how he doesn’t fully extend his legs, but I love how quickly he gets his shot off. I think he’ll improve as a 3 point shooter over time. Things fall apart a little bit in the mid-range, something he loves a little too much. While he has an uncanny ability to find his balance using jump-stops, he doesn’t consistently follow through with his legs and arms once he gets inside the arc. As a fellow mid-range short-armer, it bothers me more than it probably should. Extra points for flair though. All of the flair. Putting Kemba above Jeff Taylor speaks to my soft spot for quick releases, high arc, and swaggy jumpers.

5. Lance Stephenson

Now we’re cooking. Quick release, no hesitation, consistent form, deep range with no effort… The results aren’t quite there, knocking him down a peg. But I see it getting better as his career progresses. I don’t need to say anything about the swag factor. Born Ready indeed.

4. Jannero Pargo

Pargo is the ultimate street ball gunner. When he gets the ball, shots are going up from anywhere and everywhere on the court. I love it. I have to dock him for doing it in garbage time. It’s one thing to drop 3’s against the Blazers when you’re already down 30 points (that game still hurts). It’s another to do it when it matters.

3. Brian Roberts

Roberts is a lot like Pargo, except he did it in games where it actually mattered. A quick trigger with an equally quick release and deep range. Charlotte has been lacking in overly aggressive shooters and Roberts is a member of the newest platoon of long range assassins, along with the next 2 guys. We need more pull-up 3’s in transition.

2. PJ Hairston

Not a lot of video here, so we’ll just roll with the NBA.com highlights (while giving my weak video editing skills a break). The D-League stuff isn’t high quality and I refuse to include anything in my posts involving that hideous shade of blue. The mechanics aren’t perfect, but this time I don’t care. It’s so fun to watch PJ jack shots up from all over the court. Quick and confident, unlimited range… Hopefully Coach Clifford can clean up the rough edges and turn him into a 3-and-D monster.

1. Gary Neal

Gary Neal was the inspiration for this list. I was recently watching clips for something else I was working on and I realized I had never recognized how great his shot looks. I’ll let the video do most of the talking. Just look forward to the constant movement, flying around screens and along the baseline, popping out for gorgeous 3’s. The form isn’t necessarily perfect. But it’s quick, it’s balanced, it’s consistent, and it has a flair about it that lets the defense know they’re in trouble. Lance, Brian Roberts (he needs a nickname that’s NOT B-Rob. Let’s be better guys), PJ Be Shooting, and Gary Neal are going to bring something this team desperately needed.

-Bradford Coombs
@bradford_NBA

Bobcats Mid-January Recap

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It’s been a little while since we’ve posted any recaps on Bobcats Baseline. Sure, plenty of excuses could be made for this. Really, it all comes down to a downturn in enthusiasm. It might be impossible to accuse any Bobcats blogger of being a fair weather fan, but this team sure does make it tough. December  was a pretty dark month, as the Cats only one 1 of their 20 games. So, the new year will be my time to re-energize or spirits and express some loose thoughts on the current state of the Charlotte-based club that we wish wasn’t so terrible at professional basketball.

Let’s Look at the Positives

Um, there are some positives right?

Gordon for Three!

We can celebrate the fact that the Cats have 2 more wins than all of last season! How about that for improvement. Actually, let’s be grateful that we no longer have to see Corey Maggette on the court. His ability to make basketball unwatchable has perfectly suited all of the teams that have paid him so much money. Now, we get Ben Gordon – gettin’ hot and doin’ Ben Gordon thangs. Oh, and we should be happy that none of the important guys have suffered any serious injuries so far this year, either. Don’t try to tell me that Byron Mullens’ counts as important.

Let’s give Mike Dunlap some credit. He worked hard to install a defensive attitude to this team all throughout training camp. While that’s not actually shown any on-court results for the Bobcats, he has a fine excuse for the team playing offense like a YMCA pick up game. Well, maybe they could use at least one player that could score in the half-court offense. But, that’s a whole other story for another day. Realistically, Dunlap gets credit for the way the team has kept up their effort. They might not look or play like winners, but they’ve fought and hustled through nearly every game this year. No one is hanging their heads despite their collectively horrible record.

Bright Spots

So, it’s been awesome to watch Ramon Sessions step on the floor and perform like a professional at every opportunity. He seems to do all that’s within his ability to give the team what it needs when he’s on the floor. Teams like the Spurs have 7 or 8 guys like this. The Bobcats have about 1.5.

Byron being ineffective

Remember when Byron Mullens was often the focal point of the Bobcats’ offense? Ugh. I know some folks like the unconventional, and seeing a 7-footer hitting long range shots sure was appealing. But Byron was failing at nearly every other aspect of the game. He’s no Dirk, and his teammates were punished for just about every minute he was on the court.

Now, we’ve got this weird platoon of Tyrus Thomas, Hakim Warrick, and Jeff Adrien. Where do you start with this squad. If we throw Byron in this pile, we still get one of the weakest performing collections of power forwards that the league will see for a long time. But I’ve got to admit that it’s fun to watch Jeff Adrien. His game is so old-school, and it’s great to see a D-League guy perform when he gets the chance. This might be one of his only seasons in the NBA, so let’s enjoy his stable, predictable style of ball. His game is so much more palatable than the 2013 Tyrus Thomas Jumpshot Clinic & Dribbling Exhibition.

Hmmm

What’s up with Gerald Henderson? He comes off the bench and seems pretty quiet these days. Somehow he always ends up in double digit scoring, and finds a way to never take it to the rack. I remember when jumping was one of the easiest things for him, and his shooting was shaky. By starting Jeff Taylor, I get the feeling that the Bobcats are feeling out what life without Henderson is like. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded or heading elsewhere this summer. Personally, I like his game a lot, but he might have a better role on another club.

One-half of Thunder & Lightning

Wasn’t Bismack Biyombo supposed to get better? Out of all of the discouraging comments that the Utah Jazz broadcast crew spouted during their game, there was one that stuck with me. Continually, they stated their opinion that the Bobcats were loaded with athletes that weren’t actually basketball players. You could probably say this most accurately describes two of the Cats – Tyrus Thomas and Bismack Biyombo. Potential and “development” were the themes we heard when Bismack was drafted. Right now, it’s starting to seem a little unrealistic to expect much from the kid. Let’s hope that he maintains his work ethic and the team provides him with everything he needs to grow and understand basketball at a pro level. Maybe they can keep Tyrus around as a cautionary example for him. “Hey, Bis – you don’t want to end up like that guy.”

As I mentioned, I caught the Jazz-Bobcats game on NBA League Pass last night and it was quite a treat to hear the Utah broadcast team’s opinions on Charlotte’s team. Most times, I enjoy hearing an alternative to Charlotte’s homer duo of Steve Martin and Dell Curry. Usually, the other teams have a very balanced and straightforward play-by-play guy and some awfully unintelligible color commentator that provides a good deal of exclamatory oohs and ahhs. The worst of these might be Dominique Wilkins. Check out an ATL game sometime and you’ll enjoy listening to how bad he is at his job. Last night, the Jazz team had a pair of absolutely sober guys that continually bashed the Bobcats performance, roster, and organization. To add insult to injury while the Jazz piled on a barrage of unanswered points during the 3rd, the color commentary dude just went on an unprompted and disconnected tangent about how he “didn’t know what this club can do” and mentioned how Charlotte was such an exciting place for basketball back when “there was the Hornets and Alonzo Mourning…”  Ouch.

Let’s hope Charlotte can start to turn this thing around. We can’t let Mike Dunlap get the Paul Silas Blues. Things look to change over the next couple of years – David Stern will step down, the Hornets could be back, Gana Diop will retire, Tyrus Thomas should be gone, and Kemba might be good enough to threaten to take his talents to South Beach.

Go Cats!

-Mike 


POLL : Should Charlotte Trade Gerald Henderson?

  • Absolutely (43%, 30 Votes)
  • Only for a Great Return (51%, 36 Votes)
  • No Way (6%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 70

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Bobcats Baseline Season 9 | Week 4 Recap

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Well, the word for the week is regression, as in regression to the mean.  The Bobcats started the week at a remarkable 7-5, having equalled last seasons’ win total in just 22 days.  But the impressive start was on a shaky foundation for a couple of important reasons.  One, the Cats had consistently been the beneficiaries on good fortune (OK, luck) in close games.  And two, the Bobcats had played the weakest schedule in the league.  Both luck in close games and strength of schedule tend to even out as the games pile up; hence the Cats were due to see their record come back down to earth.

So regress they did, dropping all three games this week against three likely playoff teams to fall to 7-8.  After getting blown out in Oklahoma City on Monday night, the Cats rebounded with better efforts in Atlanta and at home against the 76ers.  They hung around in the fourth quarter in both games, but didn’t get any of the breaks that had been going their way in the first few weeks of the season.

Three Thoughts on the Week

#1 – Finally Got To See Ben Gordon Do Ben Gordon Stuff

Gordon has had a choppy start to the season.  After a 34-point outburst against New Orleans early on, he missed a couple of games.  Then, since coming back he had a couple really quiet games.  But the past two have been pretty great.  Against Atlanta Wednesday night Gordon caught fire with 20 points on 5-7 3pt in the fourth quarter and almost singlehandedly kept the Bobcats within striking distance.  He had a similar, though less impressive, stint in the second quarter Friday night against the 76ers, with 11 points on 3-3 3pt.

Gordon’s on the downside of his career, so spurts like this will happen less frequently than we would like on this otherwise offensively limited Bobcats squad, but when he does catch fire it’s fun to watch.

#2 – Again, We Are Loving Jeff Taylor

Sorry for the repetition, as ASChin covered this in last week’s recap, but holy moly Jeff Taylor is looking like a steal.  His on-ball defense is as advertised, featuring an impressive combination of size, strength and quickness.  He’s fouling quite a bit, but I would expect that to improve over time as he goes around the league a few times, learning the tendencies of his opponents and the officials.

And his offense has been a nice bonus.  We knew he had a stellar senior year shooting the three at Vanderbilt, but there was concern that it may have been a little flukey, and whether it would translate out to the NBA line.  No worries, as Taylor’s hitting threes at a 40% clip, good for top 50 in the league overall and the second best among rookies (behind Kyle Singler).

Having someone on a second-round contract that can be a legitimate part of your rotation is a huge plus for any team, and something that hasn’t happened for the Bobcats until now (Bernard Robinson, Kyle Weaver anyone?).

TV play-by-play man Steve Martin referenced a moment from the little documentary on the Bobcats 2012 draft that has been showing that I’ve also recalled when watching Taylor.  In the Bobcats war room on draft day, they show Rich Cho taking a call from from another GM proposing a trade for the #31 pick.  You don’t quite get to hear all of the details, but what you do hear is Cho quickly reject the idea.  He’s polite enough, but there’s definitely a bit of “don’t be ridiculous” in his tone.  Cho knew he could get a player there, and he did.

# 3 – Signs Of Growth From Biz?

We all knew that Bismack Biyombo was a major project, particularly on the offensive end.  But there were times last season when he had such trouble doing basic things like catching and finishing in traffic that it became fair to wonder if he’d ever be able to play in crunch time in the league.  Fast forward to this year and I’m much less concerned.

Don’t get me wrong, Biyombo still has the occasional cringeworthy possession, but there have been more nice moments mixed in.  Plays that make you think “OK, he can do this.”  In the Philadelphia game in particular, the 76ers were religiously, almost embarrassingly, helping off of Biyombo.  (This can make you unplayable in crunch time.)  But credit to the Bobcats and Biyombo; they realized it and made the 76ers pay en route to a season high 14 points on 5-6 FG.

On one play a driving Gordon drew Biyombo’s man in addition to his own.  Biyombo slid to the perfect spot and Gordon whipped a pass to him.  This was the kind of pass that Biyombo routinely fumbles away, but this time he caught it and went straight up for the dunk.

In another moment from the same game, Evan Turner was mismatched on Biyombo in the post.  Yeah, Turner’s a wing, but he’s 6’7″ 220lb.  What’s important is that Biz confidently, purposefully, fluidly, and easily scored with a simple spin into a lefty lay-in.

The project appears to be coming along just fine.

–Dr. E 

 

 

Bobcats Baseline Season 9 | Week 3 Recap

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Charlotte’s luck of catching injury-riddled teams finally ran out. Week 3 saw an elite Grizzlies squad, two probable Playoff teams (Milwaukee/Atlanta) and a desperate one (Toronto) trying to turn their season around – all at full strength.

The good news is that Coach Dunlap was able to keep his team playing hard even when things went bad. The Memphis game (84-97) never reached blowout status despite the Grizz’s massive talent advantage and the Cats had multiple chances to get back in it. Wins against the Bucks (102-98) and the Raps (98-97) came despite Charlotte being down late in the fourth quarter. Even last night’s home loss to the Hawks was (91-101) winnable late – until a rash of mental errors finally caught up to them.

Three Thoughts on the Week

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Byron Mullens Creates Bi-Polar People

We hated him. Then he started posting up and driving and we liked him. Then he went back to hoisting threes and fadeaways and we hated him again.
Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote a great feature on NBA Gunners earlier in the week which breaks down the importance of the high-volume/low efficiency scorer brilliantly (yes, BJ makes the list). See, the reason Mullens keeps chucking up shots is because, well, there’s really no one else on the team who can. The Cats desperately need a centerpiece to run their halfcourt offense through and “oh lord, it’s Byron” is the only man on the roster currently up for the job. Unfortunately, until the front office can find a suitable replacement, Mullens will continue to shoot like there’s no tomorrow.

We So Excited About Jeff Taylor

His three looks like its starting to fall regularly (5-8 over the last two games) and his on-ball defense is a thing of absolute beauty. Taylor hounded Demar Derozan all Wednesday night – so much that Demar “got up in his face” for a double-technical psueda-spat. I’d be frustrated too, Taylor hasn’t even learned to keep his hands up regularly yet still wreaks havoc against his covers. Offensively, he’s slowly but surely figuring it out. His release is still extremely slow (Mike Dunleavy, Jr. of all people swatted one of his jumpers); this makes him hesitant around the rim and on fast breaks where he hasn’t yet developed a feel for NBA-level shotblockers. Ultimately, I think he’ll figure this part out and when he does, the Bobcats are going to have a major question on their hands: There’s only 96 wing position minutes to go around per night. Taylor and MKG should play 65-70 of those. Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordon won’t be happy dividing up the rest and that’s before some of those SG minutes get eaten up by a Kemba/Sessions dual PG lineup. With Henderson in line for a big contract extension come July, don’t be surprised if Taylor’s excellent play translates into a Henderson trade between now and February’s deadline.

“We Need to be Bad” Nurtures a Culture of Losing

I keep hearing the old doctrine rehashed on Twitter, “we need to be bad – we can’t be this good this fast, we need more lottery picks! We trade for someone like Carlos Boozer and we’re mediocre again!!!”
Everybody, relax. Seriously.
1. If Lottery Picks equaled winning, the Sacramento Kings would have more banners than any organization in sports. Even better, the Bobcats themselves have had more lottery picks than nearly everyone else over the past decade. What did that buy them? A seven win season. Compare the number of Charlotte lottery picks over that time to San Antonio’s (10-1) or the Lakers (10-0). Just because one contending team in the past 25 years have built themselves entirely through the Lottery (OKC) doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it.
2. “But free agents are overpaid and expensive!!!” Well, I have great news for you ladies & gents, there are other ways to acquire talent in the NBA! Also, not all free agents are overpaid. OJ Mayo is making $4 million this season and is in the top 5 in League Scoring. Carl Landry has been Golden State’s most consistent offensive threat on an identical contract. Our own Ramon Sessions has become the stabilizing force behind the team’s 6 victories yet is paid just $5 million over two seasons. Brook Lopez signed a max contract with the Nets over the summer but has been playing lights out and very well may be the best offensive center in all of basketball.
Also, ask Memphis fans how they acquired Zach Randolph. Or Marc Gasol. Or Mareese Speights. All via well calculated trades. And need I even mention all of the mid to late round draft picks who are/have been dominating the league: Ginobli, Parker, Ibaka, Kobe, Steve Nash, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, Varejao, Ellis, Ty Lawson, et all. Then there’s Euro talent like Pekovic, AK47 and Shved that can be found every year. Fact is, there is MORE talent outside the lottery than in it – it’s just a little harder to find.
3. Finally, keep in mind that Charlotte still has high draft picks from Portland and Detroit owed to them. The Detroit pick in particular will likely be a top 10. Packaging one of these with their own to move up in the lottery is always a possiblity if worthy talent is there. In the meantime, the Bobcats need to build a culture of winning – with Kemba, MKG and Sessions, they may as well do it now, winning a Top 5 pick in a weak 2013 Draft isn’t much of a consolation.

-ASChin

So You’re Going to Draft Andre Drummond

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Baseline 2012 Draft + Roster Breakdown – Part III

We’ve projected how next season’s Bobcats roster could look if they draft Thomas Robinson or Bradley Beal. Next, we’ll take a peek at how things could shape up should Higgins, Cho and company choose a riskier path.

Grab a Lottery Ticket

This time last year the 2012 NBA Draft was deemed the best draft class since 2003—a crazy deep draft featuring LeBron, Melo, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh. We’re less than a week out from selection day and that doesn’t appear to be the case. Anthony Davis may end up having a similar impact to those four players but after him there isn’t another surefire superstar. Instead, the Cats will have their choice of five equally-warted but promising players.

Thomas Robinson doesn’t have the highest ceiling. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a broken jump shot. Bradley Beal is undersized. Harrison Barnes had a disappointing sophomore year. Andre Drummond has motor issues. With all due respect to Beal (and I’m a huge fan of him), only one of those five has the potential to become a true superstar—one of the three best players at his position. In a season in which the Bobcats can’t get any worse, why not take a chance on Andre Drummond?

Drummond is one of the tougher players to grade in the draft because he has so much talent but didn’t leave a spectacular impression after one year at UConn—not to mention how volatile young big men can be in the draft. He could be the next Andrew Bynum or even Dwight Howard, but a more realistic projection might be former Bobcat Tyson Chandler. Then again, he could fizzle out like the man who went directly before Chandler in the 2001 NBA Draft: Jordan’s nemesis Kwame Brown. The Bobcats had two main problems last year: they couldn’t stop teams from scoring at the basket at will, and they didn’t have a star. Drummond can fix both problems.

RESULT: Charlotte Selects Andre Drummond, C Connecticut

Biding Time

Points: D.J. Augustin is a restricted free agent and I can’t see him returning to Charlotte. When he wasn’t hurt last year, Augustin looked disengaged and the team clearly sees Kemba Walker as the future. Charlotte won’t be able to trade him in time to pick up an extra draft pick this year, so I expect them to deal him later in the offseason to a contending team for a mid-to-late first-round pick (think Dallas, Memphis, or the Lakers). In D.J.’s absence, Cho will then need to add another point guard or two, so I expect him to pick up a big, veteran guard (perhaps Royal Ivey or Keyon Dooling) and a Shannon Brown-esque reclamation project (maybe Jonny Flynn).

Wings: Charlotte still needs offense from somewhere, and the perimeter would be a good start. I have a feeling some quality wing players will be on the board for the #31 draft pick. Maybe that’s John Jenkins, Will Barton, Quincy Miller, or Jeff Taylor (who Chad Ford’s latest mock draft has slated to go 31st). Additionally, the Bobcats still need more three-point shooters, so Cho could take flyer on another young guard: James Anderson. He never got much playing time in San Antonio but the 23-year old lit up the Big 12, averaging 17.9 ppg on 37.5% shooting from beyond the arch over his three-year stretch at Oklahoma State. Brandon Roy would be a fantastic addition (and would help cast away demons from the ‘06 draft), but he’d likely prefer to go to a contending team like Miami or Boston.

Bigs: Bismack Biyombo, Andre Drummond, and their combined 14’11” wingspan will immediately alleviate Charlotte’s interior defense problem. There won’t be much offense immediately, but they should grow to emulate OKC’s defensive frontcourt of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Byron Mullens and D.J. White can bring short spurts of instant offense, and anything Tyrus Thomas brings will be gravy. It’s not a fantastic group, but there’s a lot of potential down low, and they won’t give up nearly as many easy buckets as last year.

RESULT: Charlotte signs James Anderson and Jonny Flynn to 2-year $5 million deals and Royal Ivey to a 1-year $1.25 million deal, drafts Jeff Taylor, sign-and-trades D.J. Augustin for a future 1st round pick, and extends a qualifying offer to D.J. White.

Bottom Out

  • PG: Walker/Flynn/Ivey
  • SG: Henderson/Anderson/Williams/Carroll
  • SF: Maggette/Taylor
  • PF: Biyombo/Thomas/White
  • C: Drummond/Mullens/Diop

If Rich Cho is trying to follow the Oklahoma City rebuilding plan—which, by the way, I fully support—the Bobcats need to stay bad for now. OKC picked up their stars because they were bad enough to get the 2nd pick to get Kevin Durant. Then Durant played off-position at shooting guard and the team was bad enough to get Russell Westbrook. Then Westbrook had his rookie struggles and the team was bad enough to land James Harden. (Editor’s Note: I’m sensing a pattern here)

The bottom line that winning 15 games and winning 25 games isn’t much different—neither team makes the playoffs. But the 15-win team gets a better draft pick. This Bobcats team is better than the dreadful 2011/12 Bobcats team, but then again, you could multiply last years win total by two and a half and still have the worst record in the league.

Charlotte probably won’t find their Kevin Durant in this draft. That ship sailed when Adam Silver announced those fatal words: “The second pick will be made by… the Charlotte Bobcats.” But their Kevin Durant may come around in the next draft in the form of Shabazz Muhammad—or even two years in the future in the form of Jabari Parker.

The worst thing the Bobcats could do is eat up their precious salary cap space with a terrible contract while they’re not competitive. Michael Jordan needs to bide his time until his Kevin Durant comes along. And until then, I think they should roll the dice on a potential superstar (Drummond) and some potential role players (Taylor, Flynn, and Anderson).

Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)