The Charlotte Bobcats made significant strides throughout the offseason with one eye on the present season and another firmly focused on the future.
Charlotte inked Al Jefferson to a four-year deal during the summer, making one of the biggest free agent signings in franchise history. The Bobcats kept their core of blossoming players together, re-signing Gerald Henderson to pair with Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. They drafted Cody Zeller fourth overall as a complimentary big man to Jefferson.
They've got the pieces in place to develop and, if everything falls into place, could make a run in the next few years toward the postseason.
With that said, ahead is a power ranking of the 2013-14 Bobcats based on stats from past years and estimated production for this current season.
*All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.
15. James Southerland, SF
Southerland, who Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer noted as a prolific three-point threat in his time at Syracuse, seems to be facing an uphill climb for what is assumed to be the last roster spot.
14. Jeff Adrien, SF
Adrien has played on three different teams in just three years in the NBA. He spent 52 games with the 'Cats last year and was productive despite limited minutes. In just under 14 minutes per night, Adrien scored four points and grabbed three rebounds per game.
He'll likely be an end-of-the-bench type player.
13. Jannero Pargo, PG
Pargo was a late-season addition in his eighth season in the NBA. He took over point guard duties for the injured Ramon Sessions and is being brought back for another season in a reserve role yet again.
Occasionally Pargo will shoot his team back into a game, like he did October 12 against the Milwaukee Bucks, where he racked up 24 points in 23 minutes on 4-of-4 shooting from long range.
12. Brendan Haywood, C
Haywood was the recipient of a significant injury during the preseason, suffering a stress fracture that would require surgery. According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Haywood will miss time due to the surgery.
Initially he was slated to compete for the primary reserve position behind Jefferson, but his foot injury opens the door for Biyombo to impress head coach Steve Clifford and the coaching staff.
11. Anthony Tolliver, PF
Signed during the offseason for his ability to knock down the three-ball, Tolliver's presence on the boards has been a pleasant surprise for the Bobcats.
As his minutes have decreased, Gordon's production has done the same.
A veteran on a young team, Gordon has helped players like Henderson and Jeffery Taylor develop and should maintain that leadership role for the upcoming season. Henderson can however still knock down the three-point shot, an area that Bobcats have struggled in over recent years, thus pushing Clifford to rely on Gordon more than he might want to.
According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Clifford opted to sit Taylor in the Bobcats' October 12 win over the Bucks in order to test out a Henderson-Gordon lineup. The duo combined for just 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting, including 0-of-6 from distance. It's just preseason, but that only pushes the reasoning that Taylor should be first off the bench over Gordon further.
McRoberts' early injury struggles with turf toe have hampered his production thus far.
His overall numbers during the preseason haven't jumped off the page and compared to first-round pick Cody Zeller's, they're quite similar. Unfortunately for McRoberts, if his numbers are even close to Zeller's, the starting gig is likely going to the rookie.
It seemed Biyombo had shifted himself into sparse playing time and an uncertain future with limited offensive production and his only real upside being on defense.
With injuries to both Haywood and Jefferson, though, Biyombo was forced back into the starting lineup in Charlotte's October 12 matchup with Milwaukee. He responded with a whopping nine points and 21 rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting. It was a solid night for the former first-round selection despite turning the ball over five times.
He could see his stock increase if he can somehow duplicate that kind of overall production.
In just his second season, Taylor's supporters have incredibly high expectations for the Swedish-born guard.
Despite scoring just six points over 19 minutes per game in his rookie season, Taylor is an early candidate to become Charlotte's sixth man. He's shown throughout the summer, from summer league to playing for Sweden, a different aggression and focus than he did in his debut season. If the sharpshooting guard can develop confidence in his game he could become a key piece in the Bobcats rotation.
Sessions is coming off a career year in which he scored 14 points per game, but nearly recorded a career-low with 3.8 assists per contest.
It's doubtful he plays much shooting guard at just 6'3", but Sessions has a firm grasp over the reserve point guard role behind Walker. He fits nicely into Clifford's schemes and is focusing more on distributing the ball during the preseason than he did much of last season.
All summer long the Bobcats discussed Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's shot and his renewed confidence. According to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com, it seemed MKG had at least developed the confidence to take open jumpers when defenses play off.
“I’m trying to shoot it now,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “That’s a big step.”
Because he was always trying to not shoot it before.
“Yeah,” he said. “I think it’s a big step for me to shoot the 3. My mid-range, too. I’ll shoot the mid-range a lot, too.”
In his first two games, MKG shot just 2-of-10 for the field. Against Milwaukee in his third game, the forward shot 2-of-10, alone. He's still a fantastic all-around player who is proving his worth on both ends of the court, but he has to take open shots, especially now.
Zeller has faced a very up-and-down preseason so far.
He was stout in the summer league and had a great debut, recording a stat line worthy of the No. 4 overall pick. Zeller was solid against Miami, but really struggled without Jefferson on the floor with him, recording an 0-for-5 night for zero points.
If Jefferson's return date is pushed back any further, Charlotte will really need Zeller to step up in his place.
Henderson returns back to Charlotte after signing a three-year deal as a restricted free agent.
His production over the past two seasons shows that he can be a solid shooter, but with the addition of Jefferson, the perimeter and mid-range should really open up for the fifth-year pro. He hasn't been great during the preseason, but Charlotte should have faith in Henderson getting back to near 15 points per game this season.
Jefferson, despite suffering an ankle injury that puts his regular season debut in doubt, remains the prize free-agent acquisition in Bobcats franchise history.
He's been relatively healthy and is one of the better offensively-minded bigs in the game. He's not a great defender, but according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, he expects assistant coach Patrick Ewing to help him develop that aspect of his game.
Walker remains the heart and soul of the Bobcats. Drafted as the franchise point guard, Walker has grown in each of his two seasons with the 'Cats.
In his third season, Walker must continue developing his game in order for his team to take another step toward the postseason. Walker's point per game average saw a massive uptick (from 12.1 to 17.7 per game) from his rookie year to sophomore. Despite his effort, Walker's assists increased marginally and he's still not a great rebounder.
Both of those categories should see increased production in his first season with Jefferson, as Walker's pick-and-roll game should receive a significant upgrade, assuming the former stays healthy.