5 Promising Signs for a Bright Charlotte Bobcats Future
One of the main headlines of this exciting start to the 2012-13 NBA season is the emergence of the Charlotte Bobcats as a difficult challenge for opposing squads, which obviously bodes well for the franchise considering they're in the middle of a massive rebuilding movement.
While it's too early to declare this organization a favorite for a playoff spot, let alone a contender in the improving Eastern Conference, it is fair to say that this team has come a long way from their historically awful campaign just last year.
The crazy part is that the team didn't make many significant moves in the offseason. Other than drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second overall pick in this year's draft, acquiring Ramon Sessions via free agency and trading Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons for Ben Gordon, this roster is essentially composed of the same players that struggled so mightily in their last season together.
So, how did this team, who have won seven of their first 13 games, already match last season's entire win total.
Granted, the lockout did shorten the 2012-2013 season substantially, but the improvement is obvious regardless.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Is the Real Deal
At the start of his collegiate career at the University of Kentucky, Michael Kidd-GIlcrhist flew relatively under the radar. Not only was this one-and-done prospect playing alongside fellow star freshman Anthony Davis and Marquis Teague, but MKG was still very raw. Simply put, nobody expected this small forward to become the second overall pick in the draft.
However, the 19-year-old did just that, and now he is playing fantastic in his rookie campaign for the Charlotte Bobcats. Not only has he firmly entrenched himself in the starting lineup, but he has quickly become the franchise' best perimeter defender.
The 6'9" swingman is averaging 1.33 steals and a team-high 1.50 blocks per contest. His presence has also been felt on the offensive side of the court, as Kidd-Gilchrist is scoring nearly 12 points per night on an efficient 47 percent shooting from the field.
This kid looks like a potential star in the Association.
Kemba Walker Is a Legitimate Point Guard
Much like forward tweeners or foreign swingmen, draft experts are usually not too kind to shoot-first, pass-second point guards. Of course, Kemba Walker falls under this category, which led to the UCONN star to fall to the ninth overall selection of the 2011 NBA draft.
In my opinion, Walker was a top-five pick, as he could facilitate effectively, score at will and showed the leadership qualities that made NBA champions during his collegiate tenure.
Nevertheless, his play style, coupled with his small 6'1" stature, led to a major drop in his stock.
Now, Walker is making franchises pay for overlooking him in the draft just one year ago. The point guard, who will always specialize in scoring, is averaging exactly 18 points per contest while dishing out six dimes per game.
That is a huge improvement over last year's rather disappointing season, but his best contributions don't even show up on the stat sheet. Walker is undoubtedly the leader on this overachieving squad and the Bobcats need to be happy that this guard has taken the team under his wing.
After all, Walker is a proven winner.
A Multitude of Talented Guards
Just a decade ago, size was one of the key determinants if a team was going to be successful or not. Between Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing, big men stars were considered the keys to having a successful franchise.
This led to many organizations drafting busts with hopes of adding a franchise cornerstone center or power forward. From Kwame Brown to Greg Oden, teams were scrambling to find a dominant post player.
The last few years, though, small ball has become a popular theme among game plans. Thanks to the recent success of the Miami Heat, many teams are moving away from utilizing cumbersome seven footers to focusing on the production of their electric guards.
The Charlotte Bobcats are no exception.
Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson have all proven to be effective in the rotation. Walker and Sessions, who comes off the bench, have been the most impressive.
Walker looks like a legitimate candidate for the Most Improved Player of the Year award, while Sessions is averaging 17 points and four assists off the pine. With James Harden starting for the Rockets, it looks as if Sessions is the downright frontrunner for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Ben Gordon has seen his role diminish to just being a sharpshooter off the bench. Nevertheless, Gordon is averaging nearly 13 points per contest.
Henderson, on the other hand, has been unable to play due to a left foot sprain, only seeing action in two games. Once Henderson returns, though, Charlotte's guard rotation is going to be one of the most dangerous in the entire league.
Competitive against Top Teams
One would generally assume that the Charlotte Bobcats had an easy start to their schedule if they heard that the team possessed a 7-5 record. However, the franchise has actually had quite a challenging run to begin their year.
Charlotte's season becomes even more challenging starting this week, but this team has shown that they can handle difficult circumstances.
Byron Mullens Is More Than a Deep Threat
When Byron Mullens entered the league, it looked as if the 7'1" center out of Ohio State was allergic to defense and rebounding. In his short stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder to start off his professional career, Mullens saw little court action, as the team decided to play defensive minded big men Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins.
Once he arrived in Charlotte last year, Mullens started seeing major playing time, but defense and rebounding were still major holes in his game.
This year, the British big man is grabbing nearly nine boards per contest while doing a much better job on defense. He's still hurting opposing defenses from behind the arc, averaging one three-pointer and 14 points per contest, but his game has become much more well-rounded.
With solid perimeter play already, the Bobcats already have one piece to begin forming a big man core to couple with their guard production.