Bismack Biyombo has probably lost his starting job—and he should.
In one offseason the Charlotte Bobcats have revamped the league’s worst frontcourt of last season. Al Jefferson could be the franchise’s best offseason acquisition and Cody Zeller is a high draft pick with strong support from general manager Rich Cho. Josh McRoberts has agreed to return to Charlotte, after a strong second half in 2013.
As much as the Bobcats believe in his potential, Biyombo hasn’t resembled a starting center to this point. He has only 12 double doubles in 143 games. He’s averaged 5.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in two seasons.
A steep learning curve was expected; as Biyombo lacks the experience most lottery picks have prior to the draft. He hasn’t had great coaching either with Paul Silas and Mike Dunlap at the helm in consecutive seasons. Biyombo works hard and competes, but doesn’t have a great feel for the game yet.
Steve Clifford and Patrick Ewing could be the best things to ever happen to Biyombo. They’ve worked with Yao Ming and Dwight Howard as assistants during stops in Houston and Orlando. He doesn’t possess the offensive talent of the two, but has tremendous defensive upside.
Biyombo has drawn mild comparisons to Ben Wallace because of his strength, shot-blocking and elite athleticism for an undersized center. The hope is that Biyombo can overcome the same offensive downfalls Wallace did and become one of the league’s premier defenders.
He isn’t ready for big minutes—at least not yet. The Bobcats now possess the superior alternatives they lacked in recent years to ease Biyombo’s development. If Jefferson matches career averages and Zeller plays like a Byron Mullens upgrade, the Bobcats will be in a lot more games.
McRoberts and Biyombo, the frontcourt that closed out last season, could now be playing off the bench. It’s day and night from relying on Jeff Adrien and Brendan Haywood. Clifford doesn’t need double-doubles from McRoberts or Biyombo, but he wouldn’t object. Biyombo can have more defensive impact in fewer minutes, while his offensive flaws have less time to be a nuisance.
This season’s frontcourt could actually be a threat. If it’s merely average, that’s still much better than what they were weeks ago.
If the Bobcats decide to move Biyombo, there will be a market. He’ll be 22 when he can become a restricted free agent following the 2015 season. If he improves, the Bobcats can retain him and look to move other pieces. The arrivals of Jefferson and Zeller haven’t diminished the importance of Biyombo’s development, but potentially can make him excel.