With the season just two months away, there’s a little excitement in Charlotte … about the Bobcats, no less.
With a foundation of Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, Jeffrey Taylor and Bismack Biyombo, it finally seems as though the team can build upon what they have. The next two drafts will be crucial for a Charlotte franchise that has only seen one playoff berth since their first season, but if the ping pong balls fall into place, the ‘Cats could become relevant in the next few years.
Offense shouldn’t be as much of a problem for Charlotte, as Al Jefferson gives them a back-to-the-basket scorer who can anchor an offense. Add in Walker’s penetration, Henderson’s shooting and overall scoring ability and the progression of MKG and there’s finally something there. This coming season will be a trial run for the group, but if four things all go in their favor, the future will start to look brighter for one of the NBA’s most downtrodden franchises.
Al Jefferson takes on the role of leader, brings a winning mentality to the youngsters
Al Jefferson has been a career loser, but hey, so was Zach Randolph. Big Al can give them 20 and 10 a night, which is something they haven’t had in their franchise’s history. Even in the year that they made the playoffs, they had kind of a weird bunch and none of them were ready to take hold of the team. Pretty much, Gerald Wallace was their best player and he has proven to be an enigmatic scorer and a borderline shooter. Jefferson is a premier post scorer and will help them on the boards in big ways. If Jefferson is all-in for this franchise (and he should be after getting paid like he did)), then he could bring a stabilizing force for this offense and this locker room. If he doesn’t, then the ‘Cats have wasted their money. I have faith in Jefferson’s professionalism and I think he’s tired of losing. Hopefully, he can carry a positive message to this young bunch.
Gerald Henderson asserts himself as one of the top 10 to 15 shooting guards in the league
That’s not all that much to ask, right? The guy averaged 15.5 points per game last season, gives effort on defense, but isn’t extraordinary in any way. Henderson can definitely be called solid and as a fourth-year player, he might be ready to take his game to the next level. Having Jefferson inside will provide a lot more space on offense and Henderson is the kind of guy who can take advantage of that space. There aren’t exactly a handful of elite shooting guards right now anyway, so a two-way player like Henderson shouldn’t really have a problem breaking into the top 15 as long as he has improved just a little over the summer. Henderson’s role won’t be as a major facilitator, but if he can add a consistent 18 points a night, the ‘Cats will feel a difference.
Kemba Walker emerges as a bulldog, Kyle Lowry-type
I’ve always followed the Houston Rockets and two years ago, before the Rockets had James Harden or Dwight Howard, when Chandler Parsons was a rookie, Kyle Lowry had an amazing first half of the season. He wasn’t ultra-talented and he wasn’t that consistent of a shooter, but he was a bulldog. I want to see that kind of mentality from Walker. Walker brought a winning culture to Charlotte, but so far it hasn’t translated from the college to pro levels. Last season, Walker’s numbers made a major rise, but the team didn’t really jump in the standings. Hopefully, his production increases with Jefferson taking the first-scorer role and he starts to look like the floor general that was willing his team to victories at UConn. He has enough offensive pieces around him to play more of a traditional point guard role this year and his approach should be to use his scoring as a way of setting up his passing; just like Kyle Lowry did for the 2011-12 Rockets (before he got hurt and lost his job to Goran Dragic).
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist starts to evolve as a scorer
Last week, I wrote that MKG’s offensive identity would become more clear next season, but I wasn’t sure what he was going to turn into. The guy has a great motor and he’s a great defender already, but offensively he’s completely raw. He doesn’t shoot well from mid-range or from 3-point range and hopefully that is something he can sure up at least a little. His best chance is to become a slasher, which is what he was in Kentucky. He doesn’t have to be an explosive scorer by any means, but if he can give the team 14 or 15 points a night, then he’s producing some kind of productive offense. If MKG, Henderson and Walker can start to crank out around 50 points a night (let’s say they’re all playing 35 minutes a game, too), then the team won’t suffer through those long offensive lags they’ve lived with over the last few years.[slider_pro id="4"]