Head coach Steve Clifford and the Charlotte Bobcats wrapped up their first week of camp with high expectations for the season.
With hopes of being the first coach to lead the team for multiple seasons since Larry Brown, Clifford has instilled confidence in his team after putting together a group of complementary rotational players and developing solid relationships with his guys.
Ahead are five takeaways from the first week of Charlotte's training camp.
The most notable gap in the 28-year-old Al Jefferson's game is his defensive presence.
He's slow on rotations and isn't a great pick-and-roll defender, but Jefferson hopes to change that by working with one of the best big-man coaches in the league, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
I knew about what Patrick Ewing did for Dwight Howard – a major impact. I knew that working with him was my chance to bring my defensive game to another level.
Jefferson will be a focal point of the Bobcats offense, but if he follows through on his goal of becoming a stout defender, Charlotte's investment of $40 million in the center could change the franchise's fortunes.
As the 'Cats hit the floor for the first time early in the 2013-14 season, one aspect of the Charlotte locker room that has changed drastically is their head coach's focus on his individual players.
Highlighted by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer is Clifford's focus to put each player in a position to be successful.
In order for them to play as well as they can play, it’s about a confidence level. They’re going to feel most confident doing what they do best.
So our communication has to be that: If I see things I think they’d do well with, I’ll throw it out. But the one thing I don’t want to do is put them in things they aren’t comfortable with.
How exactly can Clifford concentrate on each individual without sacrificing one player's strongest area? Reserve guard Ramon Sessions offered a simple answer to that.
Each player has a play just for their optimum performance. Not just a play that gets them the ball, but puts them in the spots they most want to be to score.
Attention to detail appears to be the most vital aspect of Clifford's preparation process. If he can utilize that type of work ethic for the upcoming season, it's hard to see him not succeeding as a long-term option for the Charlotte.
The fifth-most used lineup for the Bobcats last season involved Kemba Walker at point guard and Ramon Sessions at shooting guard, per 82games.com, boasting their "small lineup."
During the first week of camp, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer noted that Clifford doesn't like small lineups, therefore likely moving Sessions "almost exclusively" to a backup position behind Walker.
If Clifford doesn't like the 6'3" Sessions at shooting guard with Walker, he likely won't want Ben Gordon (6'3") out there either. This could open up a bolstered role for Jeffery Taylor (6"7') behind Gerald Henderson as a guard-forward transitional player instead of playing him exclusively at small forward.
Taylor was an early second-round selection for Charlotte in last year's draft, and he's expected to take another step forward in his sophomore campaign. He's coming off an outstanding offseason in which he developed an aggressive offensive game in summer league and during his stint in Sweden.
As a guy who can knock down the three and take the ball to the hoop, Taylor could be a serious impact player for years to come.
As one of the biggest free agent acquisitions in franchise history, Jefferson won't only draw attention to his offense from defenders, but he's getting it from his teammates as well.
“When I’m out there I’ll be aggressive, take my opportunities when I get them and play off guys like Al (Jefferson),” Jeffery Taylor said to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
“Not having to work so hard to create a shot, that’s going to really open my game up,” Ben Gordon noted when discussing his game with Bonnell and the Charlotte Observer. “I’m looking forward to being a recipient of the (defensive) attention Al (Jefferson) receives. He’s a very willing passer.”
Charlotte made just 33.5 percent of its three-point shots in 2012-13, according to Basketball-Reference.com, good for No. 27 in the NBA last year. The Bobcats will have to prove they can knock down the open jumper when defenses focus on Jefferson in the post, as expected.