Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Charlotte Bobcats Player
The season's last installment of player power rankings for the Charlotte Bobcats is here and better than ever. Prior to this season, few thought this list would be diagramming the components of a legitimate playoff team, but that is exactly what happened for Michael Jordan's Bobcats.
Charlotte has assembled a somewhat random assortment of young up-and-comers, established veterans and castoffs, and it somehow turned itself into a playoff threat. Almost no one outside the Bobcats locker room believes the team can knock off the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, but the Cats wouldn't have it any other way.
Defying the odds all season, Steve Clifford has squeezed just about every ounce of talent out of every player he had at his disposal throughout his primordial coaching campaign.
In these rankings, we will take into account overall impact, value to the team and how well guys performed compared to their expectations. Let's begin.
Statistically, Jeffery Taylor was off to a bit of a slow start in 2013-14 but was becoming a vital member of the rotation.
Taylor gave the team a valuable defensive presence on the wing as well as a reliable scorer from time to time on offense, but unfortunately his sophomore campaign was cut short due to a ruptured Achilles tendon just 26 games in.
His grade is mostly unfulfilled after a year of wondering what might have been.
Jannero Pargo has been around the block a time or two. Now with his seventh NBA franchise, Pargo has managed to continue a long career as a backup point guard.
Pargo has been used sparingly this season—sometimes not at all. He contributed some crucial minutes during Kemba Walker's brief absence, but aside from that, he has been largely a non-factor outside of his occasional three-point shooting.
Little was expected of Pargo this season, and unsurprisingly he saw just eight minutes a night in 29 contests. Don't expect to see him make much of a contribution in the playoffs, if at all.
When the Bobcats landed Bismack Biyombo in the draft, many envisioned a Serge Ibaka-esque breakout a couple years in. After three seasons, Bobcats fans are still waiting on that potential to peek through.
Biyombo never quite cracked Clifford's rotation on a consistent basis. He averaged just 14 minutes, although his per-36-minute numbers were up.
The 21-year-old did almost nothing out of his comfort zone on offense, which was a slight bit disconcerting. He did shoot a great 61 percent from the floor, but he only attempted 144 shots all season, which amounted to 2.9 points per game.
Biyombo put up some nice games when he received bigger minutes, but inconsistency and lack of an offensive repertoire continue to plague him. He did provide a solid rebounding and defensive presence off the bench, but the potential is still there for more.
Luke Ridnour has actually done a pretty poor job since coming over in a trade from Milwaukee. It was somewhat understandable that he was underperforming on the worst team in basketball, but his production has gotten even worse with Charlotte.
Charlotte was in need of a little scoring punch off the bench as well as some calming veteran presence in the backcourt to combat the occasional erratic play of Kemba Walker. Ridnour actually has come around a little bit in the season's last couple of games, which will hopefully get him on the right track heading toward the postseason.
Just last season, Ridnour was an efficient scoring threat as an off-guard in Minnesota. Charlotte could use a little bit of that Ridnour in the playoffs instead of the one who was largely disappointing as a throw-in to complete the Gary Neal trade.
As far as exceeding expectations go, Anthony Tolliver did that and then some. He was arguably the biggest surprise on this team, and Charlotte might actually not be where it is right now without his subtle contributions.
Tolliver has always understood his status as a role player, but this year he added an entirely new element to his game. He hit 103 threes at 41 percent efficiency after never having made more than 50 in any given season.
Don't believe Charlotte has significantly benefited from his success? The Bobcats are 17-5 when Tolliver shoots at least 50 percent from deep in a game this season.
He may have turned into a bit of a one-trick pony, but he has perfected that trick. He gives this team exactly what it needs, and on a roster with such an absence of shooting, he provides a heavy dose of it.
After playing just six games over two years, Chris Douglas-Roberts resurfaced in a big way for the Bobcats this year.
He was summoned from the NBA D-League after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor went down just to provide another body on the perimeter. He proved to be more than that as he showed he still has some ability on both ends of the floor.
Douglas-Roberts quickly fit into Clifford's system. He too gave the team a jolt off the bench in the form of outside shooting, hitting 51 threes at 38.6 percent despite making just 32 in his career prior to this year.
He is certainly not the team's MVP, but he embodies everything this team has been about. Douglas-Roberts was counted out, and Clifford resurrected his career to give his Bobcats another athletic wing.
Cody Zeller was expected to compete for a prominent role alongside Al Jefferson this season as a rookie, but he fell far short of meeting that expectation early on.
The No. 4 pick fell on his face out of the gates, but he salvaged his season a bit by posting much stronger numbers toward the end. He shot 38 percent from the floor before the All-Star break and generally looked to be struggling against longer big men due to his short wingspan. Zeller's jumper was also non-existent, but he got things together in the second half by shooting just under 51 percent from the floor.
Zeller was able to carve out some more minutes for himself, and it was evident that Clifford put more faith into him as the year unfolded. He slowly grew up before everyone's eyes, although there is still a lot of work to be done for the youngster.
He had a bigger impact over the second half and became more of a factor on defense, but the late burst doesn't save his entire season.
Gary Neal's early-season spat with Larry Sanders while still with Milwaukee spoke to the type of player Neal is. He thrives on the pressure of a playoff run, and he has reaffirmed that since coming over to Charlotte.
Neal has given the Bobcats everything they had intended to get from Ben Gordon. Neal has been a stone-cold veteran assassin off the bench, posting the best numbers of his career since joining the club.
Charlotte is 18-9 since acquiring Neal. He has been everything they could have asked for and has rediscovered his once-lost shot by hitting his customary 40 percent from three as well as converting 49 of 51 free throws as a Bobcat.
No one could have asked for more out of Neal. He has been the spark this team has needed off the bench and then some.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took a step back in many ways this season. His numbers across the board were down, and he failed to improve upon a decent rookie season.
Fans must remember that Kidd-Gilchrist still is unbelievably young, with a good five months until he turns 21. That being said, it would have been a welcome sight to see him add to his offensive repertoire.
Kidd-Gilchrist still embraces his role as a defensive enforcer, a title that also has been a little less warranted this year. Granted, Clifford has this bunch playing defense as a team instead of last year when MKG was really the only threat.
On offense, he has been very timid and shied away from looking for his own shot. Jefferson's presence takes up a bigger chunk of the production, but the attention he draws should in theory open up spots on the floor for MKG to contribute. He has largely been a non-factor and has taken just 5.7 shots a night.
MKG is still a vital part of the Bobcats and will be relied upon heavily in the postseason to shut down some big names, but he is better than what he showed this year.
Josh McRoberts has been a pleasant surprise this season for Steve Clifford. He has been exactly the kind of unheralded player who helps playoff teams get to where they are.
For most of his career, McBob was mostly good for some rebounding and the occasional thunderous dunk. Not until this year was he a legitimate all-around basketball player.
McRoberts added two crucial elements to his game this season: shooting and passing. He hit 105 threes after making just 58 in his first six seasons, and he also averaged a career-high 4.3 assists to just 1.1 turnovers, nearly a 4-1 ratio.
There is no telling where this season would have ended up for Charlotte without these contributions. McRoberts was Clifford's jack of all trades and the one true constant from start to finish.
Gerald Henderson has been a model of consistency for Charlotte for a good four years now. His statistical numbers are largely the same, but his impact is slightly bigger.
The former Blue Devil has relinquished a bit of his scoring to Al Jefferson, but he has found a way to continue to eat by improving from three-point range. He has bought into Clifford's schemes and been a valuable contributor on defense as well.
There is not much more to say about Henderson other than he has just been as reliable as can be for a number of years. He does not knock anyone's socks off, but he is crucial to the team's success.
Charlotte ponied up some heavy cash to keep him in the fold this offseason, and now he is going to get the pleasure of suiting up for playoff games after gutting out that 7-59 season.
Kemba Walker matured this season and became the young leader this team needed. His shot has had its ups and downs, but he has delivered time and again down the stretch.
His field-goal percentage has plummeted to a paltry 35.7 percent after the All-Star break, but he has subsequently gotten his teammates involved at a higher clip with 7.7 assists. In order for this team to make another leap, he must put it all together and score efficiently while also getting his teammates involved.
The improvements he has made have been more apparent to the naked eye. Walker has done a great job orchestrating the offense and quarterbacking this team on both ends. Clifford has unwavering faith in him, and it has paid off with 43 wins just two years after Walker led a team to seven victories.
Walker still has to fine-tune his game, but he is Charlotte's heart and soul. In order to make a run against the Heat, he will need to channel his inner Final Four version of himself.
Many cringed at the massive deal Charlotte gave to Al Jefferson this past offseason. It was believed it needed to continue tanking to try to land Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.
Michael Jordan proved that a centerpiece can be lured to a small market on the free-agent market. Jefferson has likely been Jordan's wisest move to date. Pitching a continued rebuild was not going to cut it for another year because at some point there needs to be some drastic changes.
Al Jefferson will probably garner some MVP votes. He has unquestionably been that good.
Jefferson started the season slow after pushing it to come back a little too soon from injury, but once he got it going, he never stopped. He dialed his game back to his Minnesota days and then some by leading this team the way a true superstar does.
Once the calendar turned to 2014, Jefferson kicked it into high gear and averaged 24 points for a team that consistently struggles to put up points. The main difference between Jefferson now and the guy who posted similar numbers with the Timberwolves is that now he can recognize double-teams and pass out of them. He turns the ball over much less and is a great rim protector instead of just selling out to block shots.
Charlotte has gotten every penny's worth of its free-agency signing. Jefferson has this team riding high, and Miami will have its hands full in Round 1 trying to stop him.