Key Storylines from Charlotte Bobcats' Summer League Team

Raj Prashad@RajPrashadCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2013

Jeffery Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist look to get a head start on the 2013-14 regular season.
Jeffery Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist look to get a head start on the 2013-14 regular season.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For the Charlotte Bobcats, second-year players Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor, along with rookie Cody Zeller, are using the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League as a launching pad into relevancy.

Bobcats fans might have originally been underwhelmed by Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor's performances last season and even more nonplussed by the No. 4 rookie pick, Zeller. But now, halfway through the two-week tournament, the trio exhibits potential despite some flaws.

Assistant coach Mark Price has worked tirelessly to alter and polish Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot. His jumper won’t be fixed overnight, or in a short week of summer action. The progress that has been made, though, is encouraging.

The second-year pro’s release hasn’t been consistent, but there’s a noticeable confidence boost in his attempts. Kidd-Gilchrist has taken at least eight shots in each of Charlotte’s first three games, including two three-pointers in the team's loss to the San Antonio Spurs. For a guy who only took nine three’s all of last season, that’s the silver lining to his development thus far. His jumper is still flawed, but he’s taking what the defense is giving him.

Taylor, who split backup duties behind Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson last season, has been one of the more impressive players in Vegas. He’s displayed a shooter’s touch and aggressiveness that was unanticipated of the sometimes-tame 6'7" guard/forward. After averaging just 9.5 attempts per 36 minutes in 77 appearances last season, Taylor has taken 17, 13 and 14 shots, respectively.

He’s been all over the floor, providing a scoring punch to the offense, but Taylor’s foul trouble and lack of ball control in these second-tier games is slightly disconcerting. He’ll have to show that he can play with an attacking, but controlled, mentality in order to take over significant minutes.

Taylor displayed a versatile repertoire of shooting, attacking the hoop and playing stifling defense alongside MKG last season and this summer. 

While Charlotte is firmly dedicated to Kidd-Gilchrist at the three, the way Taylor is playing in Vegas, it would be fitting for him to slide into the starting shooting guard spot, assuming the Bobcats can’t reach an agreement with restricted free agent Gerald Henderson.

The only other players under contract for the 'Cats are Zeller and Bismack Biyombo, who are likely competing for a starting gig alongside newly signed center Al Jefferson.

Zeller has shown remarkable versatility for a 7-footer. With this year's first-round pick not quite strong enough to bang in the low post with NBA bigs, Charlotte intends to use Zeller in more face-up situations, which he’s thrived in throughout the games in Vegas.  

After struggling against the Spurs in their opening game, Zeller has shown high basketball I.Q. by adjusting to the floor spacing and attacking the glass or settling for spot-up jumpers. The forward/center seems unusually comfortable for a rookie when popping from picks to the high post and moving to the right spots without much direction from head coach Steve Clifford.

Zeller grabbed just five rebounds against the Spurs, an unacceptable number for a player his size. The rookie responded with at least 10 boards over the next two games, showing a nose for the ball while using his length and vertical to get above other guys his size.

Biyombo, on the other hand, hasn’t exactly impressed on the offensive end. He’s been unable to hold onto the basketball or develop any kind of rhythm in the paint despite his work with assistant coach Patrick Ewing. However, he’s still a very solid rebounder and has improved his defensive presence.

As it stands, Zeller is the most likely candidate to garner a starting position next to Jefferson, with Biyombo earning minutes off the bench.

Charlotte’s decision to pick Zeller and turn him into a face-up scorer looks brilliant in retrospect. Zeller’s ability to play all over the floor opens things up inside for Jefferson to work in the post and allows Kidd-Gilchrist to roam near the paint as well. Biyombo’s responsibility will still be to haul in boards and crash the paint, but with a more offensive-minded frontcourt, there will be less pressure on him to score.

If the Bobcats trotted out a trio of MKG, Biyombo and Jefferson, the spacing would be nonexistent with three guys who don’t take, or can’t make, jump shots. 

Clifford is playing his four future starters 25 minutes per contest in these summer games, but center Henry Sims, who was a D-League All-Star with the Erie Bayhawks last season, and undrafted rookie guard Troy Daniels have done what they can to distinguish themselves.

Standing at 6'10", Sims hasn’t done anything that really stands out, but he could warrant a camp invite purely based on his high basketball I.Q. and his strength on offense. He hasn’t had much of an opportunity, but Sims has potential to add depth as a third center.

There is also great potential with Daniels, who connected on a school-record 123 three-pointers his senior season at Virginia Commonwealth. Daniels has knocked down 37.5 percent of his attempts from behind the arc in three appearances for the Bobcats. For a team that was fourth-worst from long range last season, Daniels could provide a spark off the bench. 

With their four building blocks for the future meshing during Summer League, the Bobcats won two of their first three games. Charlotte will find out its next match on Wednesday, when the Vegas league turns into an elimination-style tournament format.