One glaring sign that your team is cursed: They’re all but guaranteed to have a losing record this season, yet somehow, the biggest question surrounding them is, “Are the 2013-14 Charlotte Bobcats too good?”
Having gone through three coaches in as many years and just two seasons removed from recording the worst winning percentage in NBA history, heading into the summer the Bobcats and owner Michael Jordan looked to be in good shape for the 2014 draft (if not the 2013-14 season). One more write-off of a season, leading to yet another high lottery pick (there’s a certain Canadian kid basketball fans in Charlotte are very familiar with) and Charlotte could have set itself up with a dynamic young core.
But Jordan & Co. got impatient, signing forward/centre Al Jefferson to a long-term contract this off-season. With Jefferson on board the soon-to-be-Hornets might not be completely brutal and by not being brutal, they may have just shot themselves in the foot.
Additions: Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, Anthony Tolliver, Jannero Pargo
Departures: Tyrus Thomas, Byron Mullins, Reggie Williams
Thomas, the former fouth-overall pick, never panned out in Charlotte after an up-and-down run in Chicago, and the team cut their losses and amnestied him this summer. They also cut ties with Mullins and Williams, who were both presentable offensive players on horrific teams. No big losses there.
Jefferson is clearly the best player to join the Bobcats organization this summer (probably ever, for that matter), but the Cody Zeller draft pick stands out as another notable improvement to the roster (particularly since it remains to be seen if Bismack Biyombo will become the post presence Bobcats’ brass had hoped for). Years from now we’ll look back and know with certainty whether the ‘Cats decision to pass on Nerlens Noel in favour of Zeller was the right one, but for now, with Noel out for the foreseeable future, the unpopular decision is looking like the best one.
- Pulling the trigger. As mentioned, it may have been too early to make a big splash and spend on a guy like Jefferson, one of the few reliable, high-volume, low-post scorers in the NBA. It’s hard to fault a team for bringing in an All-Star level talent, but the timing does seem odd. Why not bottom out, take your chances in the Wiggins lottery, allow your young nucleus to develop and move forward with a trawler-worth of trade bait and plenty of cap space to boot? Then again, Jefferson has only played a big role on one winning team (the 2011-12 Jazz), so maybe it’s a brilliant move after all.
- Anytime now, Kemba. When he led UConn to a national title in 2011, Kemba Walker’s credentials as a speedy crossover maestro and bona fide floor general seemed ironclad. But as a rookie in 2011-12, Walker struggled mightly, shooting just 36 percent from the floor, to go with 4.4 assists and nearly two turnovers per game. Last year, he made a big jump forward, averaging 17.7 points and 5.7 assists per game (though his turnovers rose to 2.4) in 35 minutes a night. If Walker has another level to reach this season, he’ll help regain the reputation he had coming into the 2011 draft and will be the player Charlotte’s front office can point to with confidence as the guy who can help turn the franchise around.
- Who is MKG? If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t improve his shooting beyond three feet from the hoop, his ceiling will be limited. Granted, that ceiling is still sky-high, thanks to his high motor, defensive desire and ability to finish at the rim. But you get the feeling the Bobcats want more than that from their starting small forward.
Breakout Player: Gerald Henderson. Though he managed 68 games last season, a left foot sprain gave the former Duke product problems throughout the season. Henderson isn’t shy about shooting (14.4 FGA per game in 2012-13), which is a good thing on a Bobcats team desperate for perimeter production. If he can stay on the court this season, he’ll establish himself as a top-10 shooting guard.
Scale of Decency: Indecent. There are fun parts, and Jefferson is a nightly clinic in low-post scoring, but there will be plenty of ugly losses during the year and it will take some time for all the pieces to come together.
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