Predicting Charlotte Bobcats' Two-Deep at Every Position
With the NBA just releasing the season schedule for every team, I thought it was about time to take a look at my prediction for the "two-deeps" at every position on the court.
I watched every summer league game, and I've been following the Bobcats fairly religiously. I think the team made some significant improvements during the draft, and during the various rounds of free agency and trades. I also think the fruit of the front office's labor will pay off with a vastly improved team for the upcoming season.
Keep in mind, a lot can change. Dunlap might see something in a player that I haven't even listed on the two-deeps to start. It's all about team chemistry, and I'm basing a fair amount of this on past experience, how well they played in summer league, and what I think this team needs most.
That being said, I hope you enjoy.
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PG1: Ramon Sessions
This is one of two battles that is going to be extremely interesting to watch going into training camps and preseason games. Sessions is an experienced veteran who knows how to run the floor, and who has played with some of the best in the business. He's more of a true point guard than Kemba Walker: His passing is significantly more refined, and he knows how to create opportunities for others without taking outrageous shots.
Sessions also has a better perimeter game, and has learned how to guard other NBA players more effectively over the course of his years in the NBA. The battle to start between Sessions and Walker will be a close one. Ultimately, it will be Mike Dunlap who decides who will be a better fit in the system right off the bat, but I think that Sessions should start the season.
PG2: Kemba Walker
Again, this was a difficult decision. As the de facto starter at point guard last season, Walker showed he didn't quite have the full game under his fingers. He made some poor decisions as a starting point guard, and didn't make many of the too many shots that he took. Make no mistake, I still view him as the PG of the future in Charlotte. I just think he'd benefit to come off the bench of a more experienced veteran.
Walker showed signs of improvement in summer league, but still was prone to take shots instead of passing the ball to an open perimeter player. His attitude on and off the court can't be beat. He's still going to be a tremendously important piece of this machine.
Outlook: Dunlap will likely experiment quite a bit between these two. I doubt seriously that Sessions will start every game, and I doubt Walker will get less than 25 MPG in his second season. The Bobcats are deep at guard, and this battle shows that.
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SG1: Gerald Henderson
I wrote an article extensively covering the battle that will take place between Gerald Henderson and newly acquired Ben Gordon. Both have proven over the years that they can start, and both will be making their case to start with this team. Gordon was the sixth-man in Detroit, while Henderson was the best player on a very bad Bobcats team last season. The main reason I'm picking Henderson over Gordon is because of his continued improvement, and the fact that he is a more versatile player.
The only aspect of Henderson's game that really needs significant improvement is his perimeter shooting, which, coincidentally, is Gordon's forte. But other than that, Henderson can drive to the hoop, take short- to mid- range jumpers, and pass effectively. And he also is a capable rebounder for his position. At 6-foot-5, Henderson has good size at the position, and he seemed to be the only Bobcat on the team last year who had any idea what he was doing. I think it would be hard to bench the previous season's best player.
SG2: Ben Gordon
Ben Gordon, unlike Henderson, relies on his perimeter shooting to score points. He is only a few years removed from leading the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs with over 20 PPG. Every time he shoots a three-pointer, it appears to be going in. That is a valuable commodity the Bobcats did not have last season.
Unfortunately, Gordon doesn't do much of anything else quite as good as Henderson. Gordon should still average 25 MPG coming off the bench as a sixth-man or in three-point situations, and he'll get plenty of time to prove his worth to this team. I just think the starter should be the guy who can do it all for you, and Henderson is as close to that as we have on this team.
Outlook: As with the battle at point guard, Henderson and Gordon are going to get substantial time, and I doubt either one of them will start every game. I expect Henderson to average 30 MPG. Gordon should come off the bench as the sixth man, and situationally. Don't expect less than 25 MPG from him.
SF1: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
This is a surprise, right?
Just kidding, I think this is the least interesting battle on the court for the Bobcats right now. Kidd-Gilchrist was drafted second overall for a reason. He's only 18 years old, and still has a lot of work to do, in particular, trying to get that hitch out of his jump shot. Other than that, Kidd-Gilchrist is the complete package. He is an excellent (perhaps even an elite) rebounder for his position, can drive to the rim, and will likely become known as one of the most tenacious defenders in the game. In the summer league opener against the Sacramento Kings, Kidd-Gilchrist was responsible for several of the eight turnovers made by fellow rookie Thomas Robinson.
More importantly, Kidd-Gilchrist thrives in the system that head coach Mike Dunlap is trying to instill into this ball team. His motor is constantly going, he fights for every possession, and he brings a tenacity to this team that has not been seen in years. He's Gerald Wallace 2.0, but with a much higher upside. There should be no question that he starts.
SF2: Jeffery Taylor
Jeffery Taylor was the guy I was hoping and praying would fall to the Bobcats, but I didn't think it was possible. Surely, I thought, someone in the mid-20s should have seen this young man's athleticism, drive, and intelligence, before snatching him up. But I was wrong, and by the grace of some unknown Basketball God (perhaps as consolation on missing out on Anthony Davis), Taylor fell to 31st, and GM Rich Cho jumped all over that.
Taylor fills the same position as Kidd-Gilchrist, but he does it in a different fashion. This pair was ranked as the two highest wing defenders in the draft, so both are going to prevent teams from scoring. Taylor has a smoother, well-developed jumpshot, and can hit the outside three-pointer. Kidd-Gilchrist, for all of his strengths, still can't match Taylor's perimeter game. This might lead to Taylor eventually playing some shooting guard, just to get the two players on the court at once, as they seem to have a solid chemistry between themselves. Expect Taylor to manage 15 to 20 MPG.
Outlook: This is really the only clear-cut battle. Kidd-Gilchrist is going to start. He was drafted second overall for a reason, and brings a lot more to the court than just his raw abilities. He's a motivator who will get the best out of everyone. Taylor will get valuable minutes, and will certainly be a three-point threat. Taylor is also fairly versatile and could play shooting guard, too, which may help him pick up more time on the court.
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PF1: Byron Mullens
Okay, okay. I know what you're thinking. Mullens is a seven-foot center. But if any of you watched the Bobcats summer league games (of which I have seen every one multiple times), you'll know that Mullens is not a true center and doesn't particularly belong in the paint. Mullens has shown signs of bulking up this offseason, but at the end of the day, he'll still get pushed around in the paint, and the weakest part of his offensive game is his post game. Slotting him over to power forward would address the fact that he's not a great defender in the paint, and he doesn't really get much offensive production in the paint. Mullens is a mid-long range shooter, and he's surprisingly good at it.
As far as defense goes, he's made some serious strides. The biggest issue with the Bobcats last year was interior defense, and having Mullens at the four gives two big men capable of clogging up the lanes. Mullens is a vastly underrated player, and was one of the pleasant surprises for this Charlotte team last year. He had a strong summer league campaign, and I think he may get the nod in a position that is thin for the Bobcats.
PF2: Tyrus Thomas
The Tyrus Thomas experiment will continue to unfold here in Charlotte, as the Bobcats decided to keep him and his obtuse contract around for one more year. Thomas has shown signs of brilliance, has the athletic gifts, but not the drive to be a good PF in this game. Hopefully with some older guys coming in, some extremely talented youth, and what appears to be a more cohesive team, Thomas will be able to reach the potential so many thought he had just a couple of years ago.
Don't be surprised if Thomas performs well and becomes the starter. The Bobcats are in an interesting position where they have a center playing PF, and a PF playing center (we'll get there in a minute), so there is plenty of flexibility at this point. Power forward is easily the Bobcats weakest area, so it may be a carousel in and out of the rotation. Here's to hoping Thomas can finally come back and be the player we all need him to be. He might just start if that happens.
Outlook: This is the weakest position for the Bobcats. There are still talks of perhaps landing Carl Landry, but if that falls through, the Bobcats are fairly thin here. I'm sincerely hoping that Tyrus Thomas has a bounce back campaign, because we need him more than ever now. Mullens will do well at the four, and it will bring an interesting dynamic to the other team, having to guard a seven-foot long range shooter. Could open up the lanes for players like Hendo and MKG to drive to the hoop.
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C1: Brendan Haywood
Another guy the Bobcats managed to get this offseason is the 7-foot-0 monster of a man, Brendan Haywood. Haywood was waived by the Dallas Mavericks, not because of his lack of talent, but because of the outrageousness of his contract. Haywood did a serviceable job as the big man in Dallas, not getting many points, but he is certainly a defensive force in the middle, capable of blocking shots and stopping drives to the hoop. He'll likely average as many rebounds as points, but that's not a big deal as long as he's playing opposite Byron Mullens, who will take as many shots as he can.
Haywood probably won't get many more minutes than he did in Dallas, especially with the crop of big men on the roster, but expect him to average 25 MPG, grabbing good rebounds and being a defensive force down low.
C2: Bismack Biyombo
A lot of fans are expecting Bismack to start this season, but from what I saw in summer league, he's just not ready. He'll come in behind Brendon Haywood at center, and he will also likely see playing time at power forward, but I think it's a stretch to believe he'll start right off the bat.
Bismack is a defensive monster. He has the potential to be the type of player that Serge Ibaka has evolved into, but as of right now his two biggest problems are very apparent—he still can't shoot, and still gets into foul trouble. He's not even 20 yet, so he still has some time to work on those things. I also think he's exactly the type of player that Mike Dunlap wants on the floor. With a similar player in Brendon Haywood playing in front of him, look for Bismack to make some strides this season, and eventually challenge for a starting spot at the four or five.
Bismack was a project pick when the Bobcats acquired him in last year's draft, but he is making strides to become a good player in this league. He just needs a little more time.
Outlook: Haywood was one of the savviest pick-ups the Bobcats made during the off-season. Without him, Bismack or Mullens would have been starting at center, and neither one are as instinctually good at that position. Mullens is jump shot happy, and Bismack is still too raw to play 30-plus MPG. It also means that Gana Diop will likely never play this season, which should give us at least three extra wins.