Steve Clifford will have his work cut out in his first year with Charlotte.
Throughout the 2013 offseason, the Bobcats have transformed what was once a struggling, rebuilding team using a complementary mix of young and veteran players.
Charlotte solidified their front line by selecting power forward Cody Zeller in the first round and signing center Al Jefferson through free agency. They also added veterans Jannero Pargo and Anthony Tolliver, bringing experience to a youthful locker room.
Moves made through the draft and free agency have helped, but challenges still exist for the Bobcats as they approach the NBA regular season.
Lack of a two-way center
One of the biggest challenges for last year's Bobcats was scoring near and around the rim.
Charlotte, in turn, inked Jefferson to a three-year deal this summer, paying big money for a center who's a solid low-post player. From Hoopdata.com, Jefferson knocked down a whopping 73.7 percent of his shots at the rim and 46.8 from three to nine feet last season.
Jefferson will absolutely make a difference on the offensive end, drawing double teams on the block and opening the floor for Charlotte's shooters. While he's a stout offensive player, Jefferson isn't exactly defensively efficient.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Jefferson's defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) has never been under 103 for a season. He's struggled mightily on that end of the court and he'll be vulnerable to physical post players this season playing next to Zeller, who is sure to struggle with toughness against other NBA bigs as he did in college.
The Bobcats will need to put Jefferson in positions where he can succeed by playing stifling defense on the perimeter and bringing help against post matchups.
Bismack Biyombo is the complete opposite for the Bobcats. Known as a defender and rebounder, Biyombo has struggled to create any sort of offensive rhythm over his two seasons in the league. From Basketball-Reference.com, Biyombo shot just 46 and 45 percent over his first two seasons as a pro, respectively.
While he is just 20 years old, the center must show progress in the upcoming season or risk fizzling out as another bust lottery pick under the Michael Jordan regime. Biyombo must continue working on his ability to get the ball up high on the block and put it in the hoop. He can't be relied upon as the main scoring threat, but should be seen as an occasional contributor.
Where does Jeffery Taylor fit?
In Jeffery Taylor's first season, he was complacent and didn't take advantage of opportunities on the floor. Taylor wasn't aggressive at the rim and never seemed comfortable with the ball in his hands. Taylor made spot starts in 29 games, and played in 77, while averaging 11.3 points per 36 minutes on 43 percent shooting last season, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Taylor's progress during Charlotte's stint in the Las Vegas Summer League was unexpected, making it difficult to pinpoint where he fits.
The Bobcats re-signed Gerald Henderson this summer, assuring their starting shooting guard would be under contract for the upcoming season. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was picked early in the first round to be the small forward of the future. That leaves Taylor playing cleanup duty for potentially both positions.
He'll most likely be inserted behind Kidd-Gilchrist at the forward position, with Ben Gordon playing behind Henderson. The Bobcats will require Taylor to play like he did during summer league, providing a scoring punch and attacking with an aggressive mentality.
Can Mark Price fix Michael-Kidd Gilchrist's shot?
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a second-year, do-it-all player who has with a broken shot. After struggling shooting the ball in his first year, he'll have the opportunity to develop under the tutelage of more-than-qualified shooting coach Mark Price.
As Scott Howard-Cooper from NBA.com notes, Price is optimistic from the early work Kidd-Gilchrist has put in that his shot can be corrected if the player believes in himself and in Price's system.
“I think confidence,” Price said. “Everybody knows that’s what he needs to work on. He knows that. Everybody else knows that. I think just getting it to a confidence level to help him. Believe it or not, I have seen some improvement there already. I think he believes in what we’re trying to do. Everybody would like it to happen quicker, but stuff like that doesn’t happen overnight.”
Kidd-Gilchrist's confidence, or shot, won't be fixed in just one season. Yet, he can turn some heads this season if he starts with an aggressive mindset and if he starts knocking down shots.
Jefferson's offensive game should open the floor for Kidd-Gilchrist to work, while Taylor could bring another dimension to the Bobcats offense. While MKG will rely on Jefferson to help his offensive game, Charlotte's defensive pressure will begin on the perimeter with Kidd-Gilchrist leading the charge.
Charlotte finished with 21 wins last season, ahead of their seven wins notched in 2011-12. The Bobcats can continue building for the future with a strong output this season. The best way for them to move forward is though development at the center position, Taylor's energy off the bench and MKG's shot re-creation.