Final Regular Season Grades for Each Charlotte Bobcats Player in 2013
Grading the efforts of talented players on a struggling, rebuilding Charlotte Bobcats team isn't easy.
There are a number of factors to contribute, but determining whether a guy's numbers are inflated or deflated due to the lack of talent surrounding him can be difficult.
There is also the fact that the players must be graded relative to their own talents. In other words, did the player show strides in his individual game? Did he improve despite residing on a Charlotte Bobcats team that won just 21 games?
The Bobcats were horrible again, on both ends of the court. The team ranked 28th in offensive efficiency and dead last (30th) in defensive efficiency.
There were few positives to be drawn from a season which was only better than the last because it would be difficult to be any worse.
'Cats fans are taking solace in the fact that the team avoided having the league's worst record once again.
Charlotte will have a high lottery pick since they have the second-best odds at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. But right now, let's give attention to how their current guys performed in an attempt to gain perspective on where Michael Jordan should go with this rebuilding effort.
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At this point, Kemba Walker is the Bobcats' franchise player.
An argument could be made for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but what would give Walker the nod is his scoring ability. The second-year guard from UConn made the transition this year to being a full-time point guard, and his progress for a sophomore season was solid.
Walker posted a 17.7-point-per-game, 5.7-assist season. The numbers likely would have been more inflated with better teammates. Walker's low assist figure could have easily been as high as eight per game with better teammates.
Often, Walker's playmaking ability went unnoticed. The Bobcats shot 42.5 percent from the floor as a team (comparatively, Bobcats opponents shot 47 percent).
Walker's talents were also shown on the defensive end where the guard averaged two steals per game. His ability to play passing lanes has made Walker effective at igniting fast breaks.
Kemba still has strides to make as an NBA player, but more than that, it is Michael Jordan's job to surround the dynamic guard with more talent. Once Walker has some scorers around him, chances are his efficiency will ramp up.
He was often forced into bailing out the Bobcats in late shot clock possessions. That's not going to result in a shooting percentage much better than the 42.3 percent he accomplished.
Walker shot over 40 percent from the left wing of the court, suggesting the guard must work on going right. He needs to finish at a higher percentage in the paint, where he converted just 48.5 percent of his shots. His 42.2 percent from mid-range twos isn't much better.
Again, the fact that a lot of these shots were forced due to poor offensive execution isn't Walker's fault, but we can't entirely let him off the hook either. Great players find a way to thrive on horrible teams, and Walker may never be great.
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Gerald Henderson is the best talent the Bobcats apparently don't realize they have. Michael Jordan declined to pick up Henderson's team option for the 2013-14 season. Jordan's reasoning may be that he figures he can find a better swingman in the draft this summer, making Henderson unnecessary.
Jordan may also feel he can get a better bargain on Henderson, though the 2-guard was paid just $3.1 million this season.
Given the fact that Henderson posted a PER of 16.4, above the league average, while receiving a sub-average salary is discordant with any rebuilding picture. Henderson is a bargain, and the Bobcats will make a mistake in letting the former Duke Blue Devil walk.
Henderson is a very good athlete, and his jumper has improved. He shot just 35.6 percent from the floor as a rookie in 2009-10, but this season hit nearly 45 percent. Henderson is merely posting average stats for a starting shooting guard, but he's doing it on a bad team, and on a reasonable contract.
Henderson's biggest improvement was hitting the three: Henderson had never shot higher than 23 percent from behind the arc, but this season hit 33 percent. Thirty-two percent is the mark for getting the green light on the triple.
So, Henderson added that facet. He also became a better ball distributor, and like Walker, he would have benefited from his teammates knocking down shots and finishing better at the rim.
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As a rookie on the Milwaukee Bucks, Ramon Sessions turned in an incredible string of games. He joined the Bucks as a 10-day contract on March 9 of 2008, and in the last five games of the 08-09 season, Sessions averaged 15 assists per game.
It also included a 20-point, 24-assist, eight-rebound effort against the Chicago Bulls.
It seemed Sessions had a future, not just as a good player, but a great one. The games were relatively meaningless ones for a Bucks team out of playoff contention, but his sheer dominance was too much to ignore.
Fast forward five seasons, and we simply have a pretty solid NBA starter. It's disappointing, but part of that whole "small sample size theater" phenomenon we see so often in professional sports.
Sessions posted 14.4 points per game and 3.8 assists in 61 games for the 'Cats this year. He shot just 40 percent from the floor, which is 4 percent below Sessions' career average.
Sessions did not start a single game this season, and his per-minute production was pretty solid. Per-36, his 19.1 points per game are above average for a guard, and Sessions' PER was over 17 for the second consecutive year. In fact, the Nevada product has only had one season under 16.
At this point the Bobcats have a pretty nice bargain at $5 million next season. But Sessions' role in the big rebuilding picture is unclear. He's not an elite guard who is going to start, but a solid rotation player.
Charlotte is more concerned with top-end talent right now, which it only appeared Sessions would be...some five years ago, anyway. Instead, Sessions has posted a win share on the level of Luke Ridnour, J.R. Smith and Carlos Delfino. He's a useful role player on the right team, in other words.
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Ben Gordon is another one of those guys who we look at and wonder how they left their prime so soon. Gordon has now been in the league eight full seasons, and it's difficult to see where he's improved. That's mainly because he hasn't, and he's regressed, if anything.
The UConn product saw less minutes this season on a rebuilding Charlotte team than he saw as a rookie in 2004-05. Also, for the first time in his career, the sharpshooter shot under 40 percent from three. He tied his career low for scoring average, all the while posting a PER of just 12.7.
Jordan tried to shop Gordon at the trade deadline, but he found interest was low. That should be no surprise since Gordon has a $13.2 million player option for next season.
No team is going to want to shell out any more than a few million for a guy whose talents are best served in a fringe role as a punch scorer off the bench. That's about the most it seems Gordon is capable of providing.
The fact that Gordon has already been relegated to a spot-up shooter while in the midst of what should have been his prime is just flat out disappointing.
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Byron Mullens is an example of the worst this new era can produce.
He's a seven-footer stretch-4 who essentially is just a very poor man's Channing Frye. Since Frye is already not that good, it's easy to get an idea of what Mullens represents. To fantasy pundits, it may come as a surprise that one of the top ranked players at his position is such a horrible player in "real life."
Being able to knock down a few threes is ostensibly pretty useful in fantasy, but this isn't fantasy. And instead, the Bobcats have a seven-footer who averaged 1.7 rebounds per game and shot an unsightly 40 percent from the floor.
Mullens actually hit a higher clip from beyond the arc, which tells you just how ineffective he was where he actually should have been—near the basket.
Mullens shot 56.1 percent in the paint, but just 32 percent from two-point range outside of the paint (66-of-206). He shot under 30 percent from mid range on the baseline (stats via Vorped).
Since Mullens is only effective either near the basket or beyond the arc (and that's not even an impressive mark), it limits his effectiveness and it's a hallmark of today's big men.
Andrea Bargnani became a first overall pick on a similar game and now gets paid big money to do nothing on another (not coincidentally) horrible NBA team. That is Mullens' high upside. No thanks.
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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist appears to have a future as the consummate glue guy. That's not a great return on a No. 2 overall pick, and it's hard to see how such a talent can accurately project itself in a first season.
Still, MKG showed he has a lot of Scottie Pippen in him: He's long, a very good defender and a super athlete. All of this could eventually make the former Kentucky Wildcat a very good NBA player.
But, much like Kemba Walker, there's no guarantee that any of this will translate into being an elite NBA player. MKG seems more like a fringe All-Star type than a perennial selection for the event, but there's more to having a good career than just making All-Star teams.
Walker posted about an average PER of 14.0 as a rookie, and MKG shot 45.8 percent from the floor.
Per-36, he posted 12.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and over a steal and block. In a few season's time, Kidd-Gilchrist could become a more featured player in the Bobcats' offense.
Nevertheless, Kidd-Gilchrist did average under 12 points per game in the NCAA in 2011-12, so to actually improve his scoring average from college is a nice improvement—and he is just 19 years of age.
The upside is there, but how much of it will we see on a team whose talents are too poor to complement Kidd-Gilchrist and allow him to flourish to the best of his abilities.
MKG was actually my pick for Rookie of the Year, and while he was nowhere close to winning the award, he still could potentially be the third-best talent from his draft class behind Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard.
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Jeff Taylor started 29 games for the Bobcats this season. Taylor is not a starting-caliber player, no matter how one tries to spin it. The Vanderbilt four-year starter was a decent scorer in the SEC, but the NBA isn't the SEC.
The biggest problem with Taylor is that he doesn't do anything especially well, and it's translated to a PER of just 10.3. He averaged just 11.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per-36, while hitting mediocre percentages from the floor (43.1 percent field goal, 34.4 percent threes).
There's not much to get excited over with Taylor, but he is also under contract for less than a million through 2014-15. So, I guess bargain-basement contracts produce about that result. Then again, the Rockets have Chandler Parsons.
Michael Jordan has yet to make his first big hit with a second-round pick, and the fact that Taylor was the first pick of the second round should have given him the best chance at being that. No dice.
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Bismack Biyombo is not a gifted offensive player, and he likely never will be. But that isn't why the Bobcats drafted him, and all indications so far are that he may develop into the defensive game-changer Charlotte hoped he would be when they took the Congo native seventh overall in 2011.
The question is: Will he be more like Ben Wallace or more like his teammate DeSagana Diop?
Will Biyombo develop?
So far, that is unclear.
The comparison between Wallace and Biyombo still renders valid, but Bismack's opportunity has been far better than Big Ben's early in their respective careers.
Wallace dwelled in obscurity his first few seasons in the league before being traded in the Grant Hill sign and trade, initiating his path of success with the Pistons.
Biyombo has been afforded all the gifts of a lottery pick: attention, playing time and money. The fact that he average just 4.8 points per game in over 27 minutes a night shouldn't be overwhelmingly alarming.
But Biyombo's value comes from his shot-changing and shot-blocking. Biyombo averaged 1.8 blocks per game both this year and in his rookie season. He also averages nearly 10 boards per-36.
The improvement, sadly, still must come from the end of the court Biyombo is less adept on. He must develop some kind of short/mid-range jumper because teams are not hesitating to leave him open.
Biyombo shot about 50 percent at the rim, but even moving out past four or five feet saw his percentages plummet to under 25 percent (via Vorped).
B.B. was hesitant to take much outside the paint, and shot just 36 shots outside the paint the entire season. That has to change if the Cats are to be a decent offensive team, and when they're rendered playing 4-on-5 due to Biyombo's offensive liabilities, it's going to result in bottom-three offensive efficiency ratings.
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Jeff Adrien played 20 minutes or more on 11 occasions. The Bobcats won two of those. Adrien may have played his best game of the season in a game I live-blogged for B/R when he scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a New Year's Eve victory over the Chicago Bulls.
While his 3-of-5 free-throw shooting down the stretch could have been better, the Bulls had been forced into fouling Charlotte in a late-game effort to come back. The game was marked by great Bobcats hustle, and it ended an 18-game Bobcat losing streak.
The 'Cats looked great defensively, and Adrien was not a liability. That couldn't be said on most nights, and the 6'7" swingman from UConn spent time in the D-League this year.
In the D-League, he posted 18.3 points per game and 11.4 rebounds, but a nice 27-game stint in the D-League means very little when Adrien is posting a below-average PER of 13.4 and hitting an effective field-goal percentage of 42.9 percent. He also can't shoot threes and doesn't really even try to.
Adrien has now spent the first three seasons of his NBA career with three different teams. Until he adds a more refined offensive game, there's likely not a home in the league for Adrien. He wasn't really an explosive scorer in the NCAA (12.1 points per game over four seasons), and at this point, he's a min-contract guy to fill out a bad roster.
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DeSagana Diop, Tyrus Thomas, Reggie Williams, Josh McRoberts, Brendan Haywood, Corey Higgins, Matt Carroll and Jannero Pargo encompass a list of eight Bobcats who don't really factor into the picture.
Haywood played 61 games and started 17, but Matt Carroll's 32 games were the next-most by this group of scrubs.
Haywood, at one point, was a decent seven-footer capable of blocking some shots and pulling down boards, but at this point he's just one of many Bobcats who really don't belong in the league. DeSagana Diop is in the same category.
The 'Cats took on Josh McRoberts at the trade deadline. He started 19 games and played rather well, but his nine points and seven rebounds per game aren't going to change the culture in Charlotte. It's hard to fathom that McRoberts at one point was being recruited over Greg Oden (notwithstanding what Oden's career has become).
Tyrus Thomas is one of the biggest disappointments of the last decade and is an example of a guy whose athleticism never translated to much at all, proving the game of basketball is a lot more cerebral than many non-players may think it is.
Reggie Williams, Matt Carroll, Corey Higgins and Jannero Pargo are not rotation players on good teams. Williams had a nice rookie season in Golden State, but anyone can put up numbers on the Warriors. Since then, he hasn't done much.
The fact that the Bobcats have eight players on their team that no other team in the Association would likely want is why they finished with 21 wins. Improvement will continue to come.
But the 'Cats aren't banking on their 2013 draft pick doing that. Teams are more focused on the 2014 draft, and the Bobcats are hoping they snag a franchise talent that will erase the misery of having guys like this on their club.
All statistics accurate as the conclusion of the 2012-13 NBA season, and are sourced from Basketball-Reference.com and Vorped.