The biggest position question for the Bobcats this season once again lies at power forward, where Bismack Biyombo, Tyrus Thomas and Byron Mullens all saw time at last season. Biyombo had an acceptable rookie year for the Bobcats, but still has concerns about being a tweener. At power forward Biyombo gets pulled away from the basket by jumpshooting bigs, which negates his biggest strength in rim protection. That leaves Mullens at the rim, which isn’t the most preferrable result. Offensively, it’s usually a good thing if your power forward can hit the jumper with some consistency, which Biyombo can’t do. The Bobcats will have more success with Biyombo at center, but at 6’9, 245, Biyombo isn’t tailor made for the position.
Mullens, who came to the Bobcats last season from Oklahoma City in exchange for a future second round pick, spent some time at center last season. In a few seasons with the Thunder, Mullens had trouble getting on the floor. He played just 26 games and a little over 130 minutes, most of which came in blowouts. On a team with little offense up front, Mullens immediately saw a jump in playing time in Charlotte. He averaged about 24 mpg in his first month with the team, and though he was inconsistent with his jumper, he showed nice form and potential to be a pick/pop threat with more development.
Mullens should be the starting with Bismack Biyombo up front and they’ll be looking for him to make a jump on both sides of the ball, particularly on offense. Last season Mullens finished with a .473%TS, which is obviously awful for any starting big man. He’ll have to be more of a threat inside. 76% of Mullens offense came from jumpers, which explains why he only averaged 2.8 free throw attempts per 36. What’s even more disappointing is that Mullens made 82% of his free throw attempts last year. Of all frontcourt players who took at least 112 FTA’s last season, Mullens ranked 2nd in percentage behind only all-star forward Chris Bosh.
Behind Mullens the Bobcats have troubling seventh-year forward Tyrus Thomas. Thomas wowed Bobcats fans with his athleticism and explosiveness after coming over in a trade from the Chicago Bulls in 2010, and was an important part in the Bobcats first playoff birth in franchise history. At the time, Thomas was still just 23 years old and full of talent, making it no surprise why the Bobcats were interested in extending him that summer to a $40 million deal. The Bobcats hoped Thomas potential would pan out long-term and he would be on a steal of a contract from age 23-28.
Last season though was a failure for Thomas, who landed in the doghouse of Paul Silas, got pushed around defensively, and looked like a shell of a player many thought could be a game changer when he was first drafted. The Bobcats elected not to use their amnesty provision on the $26 million left on his contract through 2015, but that didn’t stop the team from reportedly shopping him to anyone who would listen. With no takers, the Bobcats seem to be hoping Thomas can have some type of positive contribution this season, but will it be enough to increase his trade value?
If internal options at power forward aren’t working, what’s next? Neither Brendan Haywood or DeSagana Diop should be playing at the 4, so a trade is likely. Entering the season, the trade market for power forwards isn’t clear. Players like Drew Gooden, Charlie Villanueva, and Channing Frye are probably available, but don’t seem to present the upside for good offensive production anymore. Then there are players like Kris Humphries, Andrea Bargnani, Carlos Boozer and David Lee with hefty contracts, who could be victims of cost-cutting should their teams not be performing well. The Utah Jazz also possess two potentially interesting trade candidates in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Both players are slated to hit free agency next summer when the Bobcats will be well under the cap salary cap, and at the deadline, depending on how the Jazz are doing, could be available.
Right now it’s clear the Bobcats are going to wait-and-see with what happens at power forward, and that’s probably the best strategy.
Photo Courtesy US Presswire