Four Reasons the Charlotte Bobcats Will Improve Next Season
There is no point in denying it — as a Charlotte Bobcats fan, the 2011-2012 season was an embarrassment on basically every level. A season in which the team had two top-ten picks arrive, and a few pieces of established talent that most believed would at least be able to marginally contribute.
Four months and one shortened season later, and the Charlotte Bobcats were the worst team in the history of the NBA. They owned a 7-59 record, good for only a 10.6 winning percentage, the worst percentage in NBA history.
It was a complete organizational failure, and many articles have been written about what went wrong, so I'll spare you all the negativity and try to take a look at what we can to look forward to for next season.
A New Coach
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Paul Silas was not the man for the job in 2012.
He was not a bad coach, and anyone who blames him for the failures of the team this season needs to open their eyes and look at the state of the team he was given. Veterans like Boris Diaw coming to camp looking more like he spent more time playing NBA 2K11 on his couch than playing basketball on an actual court, Michael Jordan making some terrible personnel moves, and a slew of other problems gave Silas a poor team and little to work with.
Still, he just wasn't the right man for the job. His frustration on the court grew more and more evident as the season went on, and by the end of the year he looked aloof and just plain pitiful being left to coach this team.
The Bobcats are in need of a coach who can develop young players. Whoever takes the reigns for the Bobcats must understand that this is not a "win-now" team... it very likely isn't a "win-anytime-soon" team. The new coach for the Bobcats must understand he has a task in front of him to develop a young and inexperienced, but talented group of players into a team capable of winning.
One name that I've been thoroughly interested in is Nate McMillan, most recently the head coach for the Portland Trailblazers. McMillan developed Portland into a playoff team behind young talent, and he very likely could do the same thing in Charlotte. McMillan is a North Carolina native, and is already building a house in the Charlotte area (though this is unrelated to the coaching search).
Gerald Henderson's Continued Improvement
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Gerald Henderson has finally emerged as the weapon many thought he could be when he was drafted 12th overall in the 2009 NBA draft.
His first two years — whether it was due to the scarce playing time, the lack of development, or whatever else you want to blame, led many to believe that Henderson, like so many Charlotte draft picks before him, was a bust.
But he has finally begun to prove the doubters (myself included) wrong, and he developed more than any other Bobcat this season.
Many will look at his stat-line from 2011-2012 and be impressed right off the bat — 15.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 2.3 APG. Not superstar numbers by any means, but they all blew away his previous career bests, and by the end of the season, Henderson became the Bobcats go-to scorer. He had another career high in shooting percentage at 45.9 percent, which is still not high enough for a shoot first guard, but with the improvement we saw in Henderson this season, it's a reason to be optimistic.
The most exciting thing about Henderson is the fact that he is quite capable of putting together big games for his squad, such as his 32 point effort in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies... a game in which the rest of his teammates were only able to add 48 points.
Despite missing an entire month of a short season, Hendo was still able to put together 14 20+ point games, and his end of the season play seemed to get better while the rest of his team seemed to get worse.
Corey Maggette said he believed Henderson will be a future all-star in this league... he has the big play ability, he is becoming a legitimate offensive weapon, and with some help around him, the possibility doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Further Development of Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo
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There was a lot of hype going into this past season about Kemba Walker's arrival in Charlotte, and a lot of hype about the raw talent possessed by Bismack Biyombo, both of whom were Top 10 picks in the 2011 NBA draft.
With DJ Augustin approaching restricted free agency, and in most regards, not living up to his talents, Kemba was viewed as the point guard of the future for the Bobcats. His rookie season was a relative disappointment, as he was thrust into a much larger role than anyone had initially intended with injuries to DJ Augustin and Gerald Henderson, though Walker still put up decent numbers for an overworked rookie (12.1 PPG, 4.4 APG, 3.5 RPG).
Biyombo was a project pick from the beginning... a physical specimen the likes of which are impossible to overlook, and an already well-defined shot block ability (1.8 BPG in 23.1 MPG in 2011-12), Biyombo still had a ways to go on the offensive side of the ball, and after a shortened season in the NBA, still has quite a bit of work to do.
Walker has the drive, the work ethic, and the raw talent to be a strong, and possibly even a great point guard in the NBA. He must develop into a true point guard though, and create options for other players on the court instead of taking too many difficult shots or driving to the rim against superior interior defenses.
Biyombo will probably never be an elite scorer in the game, but his frame, wingspan, and all around athletic freakishness point towards him becoming a fierce postman in the game.
A recent B/R article here stated that Bismack could become what Serge Ibaka is to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Kemba can become the next Russell Westbrook. The Ibaka/Biyombo comparison is dead-on, and I believe that will eventually be the type of player we'll see out of Biyombo. I don't believe Walker will ever have the scoring prowess shown by Russell Westbrook however, and I think he must learn to be a pass first point guard, willing to create options for other scorers on the court, similar to Rajon Rondo.
A Deep Draft
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Anthony Davis was the prize of this draft class, and whether you believe the conspiracy theories or not, he's going to end up being a New Orleans Hornet.
Fortunately for the Bobcats, this is a deep draft full of future all-star talent. There are many schools of thought as to what direction the Bobcats should go with their second pick, from drafting Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, or any other high round possibility, and to put it quite frankly, the Bobcats need help in all areas of the court.
With a deep draft, and depending on if the Bobcats decide to keep the second pick or trade it for multiple picks, as well as the first pick in the second round, this is an excellent time for the Bobcats to get some help immediately, as well as young talent that will help in the future and add depth to a thin team.
Regardless of what the Bobcats do with their pick, the team will improve.
My personal opinion would be to draft Thomas Robinson with the second pick. Pairing him opposite Bismack Biyombo would be a solid pair of forwards with great rebounding abilities, Biyombo providing excellent defense, and Robinson being a consistent scorer. Robinson is as NBA-ready as any prospect in the draft and will likely see a lot of time in his rookie season.
The Bobcats will also have the top overall pick in the second round, and this class is full of talent, and there could be any number of players left at that point who could contribute greatly right off the bat. Players like John Jenkins of Vanderbilt, Draymond Green of Michigan State, and Will Barton of Memphis are all players projected to be late first-rounders to early second-rounders and could be great additions to the Bobcats.
What to Look Forward To?
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The Charlotte Bobcats will not be a good team next season, but they certainly have a young core that will get deeper in this year's draft to build toward a contender. After a 7-59 season, it's hard to look at positives, but with a lot of salary cap room coming their way soon, a developing core group of young players, a new coaching staff, and a possible revamped look, the Charlotte Bobcats are doing many things right to make this team competitive in the future.
Do not expect this team to win more than 25 or so games in 2012/13. Playoff contention is still a very distant dream, and this is a team that is still very much rebuilding. But we have some things to look forward to, and free agents soon may look at this young group of talent being created by Michael Jordan and want to come play for a team that can only get better after such a dismal year.