After a promising 7-5 start, during which they briefly became the talk of the league, the Charlotte Bobcats went on an epic losing skid, dropping 17 in a row. This made it clear than any thought of a scrappy Bobcats team squeaking into the playoffs was pure fantasy as the Bobcats quickly fell into the lower ranks of the Eastern Conference.
But while the Bobcats won’t finish with an especially strong record this year, their future is very bright. They have a fair amount of young talent in guys like Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Bismack Biyombo. Even the oft-overlooked Gerald Henderson is better than people realize, as he can score at both the shooting guard and small forward spots.
This team is still developing, but it wouldn’t be a huge shocker if they made a legitimate playoff push sooner than you think.
If you don’t believe me, consider the rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder. In their first year after leaving Seattle, they got off to an abysmal start, dropping 29 of their first 32 games. They were a little better in the second half, but they still could only manage a miserable record of 23-59.
At that point, the talent was there, it just needed to develop. Kevin Durant was already an elite scorer, but he wasn’t the first rate leader that he is today. Russell Westbrook was a rookie and he was still figuring out how to manage his considerable athletic gifts. In time, these two would get better and better until they became one of the most fearsome duos in the league.
It’s not a huge stretch to think the Charlotte’s young guys could make leaps and bounds of their own.
First off, let’s consider Walker. Even though he scored at a decent clip as a rookie, most people focused on his dreadful shooting. He was one of the worst point guards in the league in terms of shooting.
This caused people to forget what a great leader Walker was at Connecticut and question if he had the skills to make it as a starter in the NBA. In year two, he’s already proved a lot of his doubters wrong. His shooting percentage has gone from .366 to .427, and he’s putting up just shy of 18 points a game. He’s right up there with Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard on the list of young point guards who have enormous potential.
As for Kidd-Gilchrist, he’s having far more success as a rookie. His shooting percentage is an impressive ,491, while he’s racking up an eye-popping 8.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. Going into the draft, the big knock on Kidd-Gilchrist was that he wasn’t a particularly good shooter, and he’d struggle to hit shots in the NBA. So far, he’s deflected those accusations by picking his spots and becoming one of the Bobcats’ most efficient players.
Admittedly, part of his efficiency comes from the fact that he doesn’t take a particularly high amount of shots and as his role in the offense increases, his shooting percentage is likely to decrease. Still, it’s obvious that Kidd-Gilchrist has a ton of talent and as he gets older and develops his skills, he has the potential to become a perennial all-star.
Second-year center Bismack Biyombo is still developing his fundamentals, but he’s a great athlete and he’s already an impressive rebounder, racking up 10.2 boards per 36 minutes. Biyombo’s tough play in the post makes him a stark contrast to Byron Mullens, who is one of the few stretch fives in the league. It’d be interesting to see these two play together more, so that Biyombo could do his work in the paint, while Mullens stretches the floor. If Biyombo is able to improve his offense, they could prove to be a very scary tandem.
The Bobcats are at least a year away from being a good team, but they are going to get there. They have a lot of very talented young players who will be leading them for years to come. Additionally, in the rather weak Easter Conference, all it will take is a little more player development and cohesion to launch them into the top 8. Will Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist become dominant on the level of Durant and Westbrook?
It’s too early to tell, but they are going to get a lot better than are now, and when they do, the Bobcats will be a force to contend with.
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