The Charlotte Bobcats are entering arguably the biggest offseason in team history. Next season’s results are important, not just for the impending Hornets name change in 2014, but the hope of getting the team back into the postseason.
In next week’s draft the Bobcats will make their eighth top-ten selection in nine seasons. They desperately need size, rebounding and scoring up front, which makes Alex Len, Nerlens Noel or Anthony Bennett a logical target. They could settle on backcourt help with Ben McLemore or Victor Oladipo. Regardless, they have to hit a home run and leave the draft with a keeper. The organization has been marred by too many past draft blunders.
The Bobcats could have more than $20 million in cap space to upgrade a 21-win roster. There isn’t enough wishful thinking that could land Dwight Howard or hometown star Chris Paul in Charlotte. Al Jefferson, Josh Smith or David West could be pursued, but it would take a wild overpay that will hinder future flexibility.
One alternative is trading for larger contracts, like last year’s acquisition of Ben Gordon. Rumors have already linked the Bobcats to DeMarcus Cousins and Chris Bosh, neither of which is likely to happen.
The Bobcats will have their own free agent decisions, now that Gana Diop’s contract has concluded. They would be wise to retain team captain Gerald Henderson for market value after his second-half surge last season. Depending on your view, he is either the first or second best player on the roster alongside Kemba Walker. Henderson turns 26 next season, which leaves further optimism for improvement.
Byron Mullens and Josh McRoberts will be free agents, though it’s possible neither could be brought back if the Bobcats take a big man in the draft.
The Bobcats need a leap from their young talent. Walker is still young enough to continue improving. He averaged averaged over 17 points last season and seemed to have his confidence and swagger back from his Connecticut days.
Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have to progress offensively as Walker and Henderson did. Both players are already sound defensively, but some nights appear as liabilities offensively. Biyombo needs to become a better finisher and free-throw shooter, and Kidd-Gilchrist has to attack the basket more and improve his jump shot.
There won’t be any bets that the Bobcats will make the postseason next season, but they can’t be any worse than the past few seasons. The hiring of Steve Clifford along with notable assistants Patrick Ewing and Mark Price provides a refreshing dynamic for the young players to learn from. For the first time under Jordan, the Bobcats have a coaching hire that looks encouraging on paper, but it’s still too early to sip the kool-aid. The Bobcats have enough resources and assets to make upgrades. Slowly, but surely though, the buzz is coming back to the Queen City.