Through three games, the Charlotte Bobcats are undefeated.
3-0. That's nearly half of their win total from last season, and two of those games are without second overall pick and star-to-be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The Charlotte Bobcats are almost without a doubt not making the playoffs this year, but they're not going to be blown out of the water like they were last year.
Mullens proved last year that he is a talent worth watching, posting some valuable minutes for the talent-thirsty Bobcats. He posted a respectable 9.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 0.8 BPG in 22.5 MPG. Not bad for a guy who had played in only 139 minutes combined in his previous two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
What looked like more big-man dead weight on a Charlotte Bobcats team pretty full in that department ended up being one of the season's pleasant surprises, and in a 7-59 season, that's saying something.
Charlotte has decided to bring Byron Mullens to summer league, and it's paid off so far. His talent was on full-display against the Timberwolves when he dropped 33 points and collected 8 rebounds to go along with a big blocked shot.
Yes, it's summer league. Yes, Byron Mullens is a veteran playing with a bunch of rookies. Yes, it was just an exhibition. I know this.
But if you watched Mullens play, you know why I'm excited. You got to see all of the best that he has to offer, and you got to see how versatile of a player Mullens is capable of being.
Mullens is a towering, albeit lanky 7'0" known for being a finesse-oriented big man. Mullens tends to fall in love with the mid-long range jumper (including tonight, going 3-5 from three-point land) and has been pointed out as something of a liability in the paint. A seven-footer who is not extremely physical, not particularly good at defending in the paint or playing the post, but definitely a capable scorer.
It was evident towards the end of last season when all hope was lost with the Bobcats that Mullens was trying to change the type of player he had become, and it yielded mixed results. His stat-line decreased fairly dramatically in the last half of the season, the Bobcats ended the season on a 23 game losing streak, and they became the laughing stock of the NBA.
But Mullens, through it all, became a better player.
Mullens showed tonight that he does not have to be limited to outside scoring or playing in the paint. He is proving that there is a middle ground to be met for big guys in the NBA.
He has the skills of a shooting guard with the body of a center, and on Tuesday night against the Wolves he showed just how effective he can be, especially with a guy like the generously listed 6'0" Kemba Walker drawing people into the paint as he drives to the rim, and dishing it out to someone with a seven-foot frame for a 15-foot jumper.
Don't pay much attention to summer league stats. I'll go ahead and tell you that Mullens is not a superstar, or at least he isn't yet. He's still fairly raw, and he still has a lot of work to do defensively.
Still, Mullens is flashing signs of true potential, even in the regular season when he dazzled in a losing effort against the Milwaukee Bucks scoring 31 points and collecting 14 rebounds. It was arguably the single best performance by an individual for the Bobcats in the woeful season.
He sparkled again tonight, and I'm looking past his stats. I'm looking at how he played and the confidence he played with.
The addition of 7'0" center Brendan Haywood this offseason will give Mullens competition to earn minutes, though I think it's clear that Mullens has significantly more upside than the aging Haywood. Mullens could also be used as a power forward, a position the Bobcats are quite thin at.
This article is my love letter to Byron Mullens. With the negativity surrounding this team, why shouldn't we focus on some of the upside? The Bobcats made significant improvements this offseason by adding Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood. This young team also has another summer to build charisma and learn how to play together. New head coach Mike Dunlap has installed a heavy pressure zone defense, to go along with a bruisingly-fast paced offense.
A lot of attention will be paid to the Bobcats this season—not out of negativity like last season, but out of potential and upside.
Byron Mullens embodies both of those things, and he truly showed it tonight.
It's going to be a fun season.
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