The Charlotte Bobcats are entering the 10th season in franchise history; the last as the Bobcats. The team looks more talented than recent years and could stand to make another improvement in the win column. In honor of the 10th season, here are ten questions that should be answered in the upcoming season:
Is Bismack Biyombo apart of the team’s long-term plans?
Biyombo could be relegated to a reserve role after 106 starts in his first two seasons. Steve Clifford is adamant about the Bobcats need for size to defend sufficiently, and while Biyombo is the team’s best rim protector, he’s the most limited in skillset. He figures to lose minutes to Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller and potentially Josh McRoberts. Biyombo’s offense hasn’t noticeably progressed since coming into the league and his defense isn’t elite just yet. Assistant coach Patrick Ewing can only benefit Biyombo, whose third season should be viewed as a make or break year,
How big of an improvement should be expected from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?
By his standards, Kidd-Gilchrist had a disappointing rookie season. He was sound defensively and an above-average rebounder, but struggled to find any rhythm on offense. Kidd-Gilchrist’s biggest improvement must be his jump shot; he’s been working with assistant coach Mark Price to alter the mechanics. If he can become a more confident shooter and have a bigger role on offense, Kidd-Gilchrist stands to make a noticeable jump.
Where does Gerald Henderson go from here?
Henderson didn’t get the contract he was searching for in free agency after a career season. The Bobcats re-signed him to a two-year, $12 million contract with a player option for the 2015-16 season. Still only 25, Henderson can still improve, particularly with his perimeter shot. However, with future draft picks on the horizon and Jeffery Taylor’s improvement, Henderson could be the least secure spot of the starting lineup going forward. His short-term deal isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for his long-term future in Charlotte.
Will Jeffery Taylor have a significant role?
Taylor again projects to be the team’s backup forward. Last year’s second round pick showed some flashes of promise as a rookie. He’s able to defend multiple positions and can hit the three-point shot. The Bobcats were a much better defensive team with Taylor on the floor than any of the team’s other reserve wings. He showed some improvement during the offseason and could be a threat to take minutes from Henderson.
Was Steve Clifford the best hire?
Clifford has the tools to be a good head coach; specifically the experience and organization Sam Vincent and Mike Dunlap lacked. He won’t be facing any expectations of a playoff appearance, but progress must be made defensively and with the team’s young nucleus. In addition, Clifford has to appeal to the team’s veterans, which ultimately got Dunlap canned. The Bobcats will be in good shape if Clifford is anything like fellow Van Gundy disciple Tom Thibodeau.
Will the Bobcats improve defensively?
Clifford has been a very good defensive assistant in New York, Houston and Orlando. Logic suggests the Bobcats will make a great deal of improvement defensively, but it’s not a given. It takes a while for a head coach to get the right pieces to maximize his system. The Bobcats have been a miserable defensive team since the departure of Larry Brown and aren’t strong at rebounding. It’s unlikely for the Bobcats to show defensive improvements out the gate. Clifford will have a tough task of defusing bad habits and exposing the right lineups for his system.
Will Al Jefferson be a difference maker?
Jefferson is a premier low-post scorer with old-school footwork and a soft touch. He’s averaging 16.4 points and 9.0 rebounds for his career, but has only played in 11 playoff games in nine seasons. Jefferson hasn’t played on many good teams, which may or may not explain the skepticism behind his impact. Whichever it may be, the Bobcats are paying him $27 million over the next two years for noticeable improvement. Jefferson will have to be a leader on and off the court to benefit one of the league’s youngest rosters.
What is Kemba Walker worth?
The addition of Jefferson knocks him down a spot, but Walker remains the face of the Bobcats rebuilding project. Following a miserable rookie campaign, Walker averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals last season. Should he continue to blossom, negotiations for a contract extension could begin in the offseason. Walker could earn anywhere between Brandon Jennings’ $25 million and Tyreke Evans’ $44 million contracts.
Was Cody Zeller the right draft pick?
It’s impossible to judge a draft a year later, though typically teams get an early feel for who left with the best assets. Zeller was a surprising pick with more popular choices available (Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel), but the Bobcats believe his intangibles, size, and offensive potential were too much to pass on. Clifford wants to ease the rookie in, rather than give him 30 minutes off the bat. Zeller might not be a preseason favorite for Rookie of the Year, but he should be a positive contributor to win improvement.
Will the Bobcats be players at the trade deadline?
With first round picks from the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers in next year’s draft, in addition to $18 million in expiring contracts, the Bobcats could appeal to teams looking to unload salary for next summer’s lauded free agent class. If Jefferson’s contract is any indicator, the Bobcats are more willing to take on salary than past seasons. They entertained the idea of acquiring DeMarcus Cousins last season, but the boisterous center has since signed an extension with the Sacramento Kings.