Preface: The team has not released an official roster, and likely won’t until after a few preseason games, when training camp roster cuts begin to show up. This is what I believe the roster will look like to start the season, and does not include every camp invitee.
By the book
This is an unconventional Charlotte Bobcats team for two reasons: For one, they might actually be pretty decent, and secondly, the depth of this team is legitimate. With the offseason additions of Anthony Tolliver, Al Jefferson, and the decisions to bring back Gerald Henderson, Josh McRoberts, and Jannero Pargo, there is a lot of talent spread out along this training camp roster.
With a team that many people say could put up fight in the weak Eastern Conference, and with so many new faces arriving and so many leaving (thankfully), it makes sense to give each player a brief scouting report. This isn’t going to be a DraftExpress scouting undertaking… just a quick paragraph or two of what each player does well, and what they either need to do better, or just can’t do. Alphabetically, that starts us with a guy fighting for a roster spot, and a guy I happen to love.
Jeff Adrien: Called up from the D-League last season, Adrien proved to be an effective banger and a solid rebounder when he’s on the court. He’s also apparently loved by Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and team chemistry is as important as statistical output for fringe-roster players.
Adrien is 6’7″, and can be slotted in at the small forward position, but plays better as an undersized power forward. His muscle and determination make him an asset in the rebounding department, and he’s one of the few players on this team that will fight tooth and nail for every board. Adrien isn’t going to score much, but he’s reliable enough for a few quick pick and roll plays or simple passes down low. Adrien also managed to exceed expectations as a passer. He’s not going to be prolific on this team, and he probably won’t get many minutes. But he’s a high character, versatile, hard-working big man, and he should be in line to make the Bobcats outright to start the season.
Bismack Biyombo: Another banger, Biyombo is much different than Adrien in that we know what we’re getting with Adrien, With Biz, he’s still a project of a player, and he’s still very young and has tremendous upside. He has a massive 7’6″ wingspan that basically dares a guard to try to score at the rim, but his defensive skills, while present, are also a work in progress. He needs to work on positioning to grab rebounds, and as he’s been doing so far this offseason, he needs to work with Al Jefferson and Patrick Ewing every single second he can to learn how to score in the low block.
Biz will never be a prolific scorer, but his potential still gives hope that he can be a major energy guy off the bench, and, if he gets his post game working, perhaps scoring around 8 points and grabbing as many rebounds, while swatting away shots even more effectively.
Ben Gordon: Probably the most polarizing player on the roster, we all know what Gordon does… he shoots. A lot. When he’s on his game, he very well may be the best three-point shooter in the game, but he hasn’t been a major factor for a team since his days with the Chicago Bulls, and he’s certainly not worth the $15 million contract he opted into this season. He’s not a bad passer, and he’s quick enough to come off the bench as a combo guard for 20 or so minutes per game, but his worth doesn’t extend much beyond his value beyond the arch. If he’s not making shots, he won’t be on the floor, because he doesn’t do anything else exceptionally well to get minutes in what has become a crowded backcourt.
Brendan Haywood: As a cheap pick-up last season after being amnestied by the Dallas Mavericks, Haywood was a fairly effective rebounder when he played last season. He was also, during his prime, one of the better defenders in the NBA. Haywood is far past his prime now, however, and injuries are catching up to the big man. Haywood is still valuable to this team as a leader, and as a player-teacher to Biyombo, and even Jefferson, who could use some advice from Haywood on defense. He won’t get many minutes as the third string center, but when he’s on the floor and healthy, he’ll rebound, contest shots, and make what few shots he takes. That, along with his value as a character-guy and a good teacher make him as valuable of a third string center as you could ask for.
Gerald Henderson: The first starter on the list alphabetically, Henderson was thankfully re-signed by the Bobcats at a remarkably reasonable three-year, $18 million dollar deal, with the third year being a player option. Still, at least two more years of having Henderson is a very good thing for this team. Henderson has improved ever year in the NBA, ostensibly honing in on certain areas of his game to make him more effective. Last season was his highest scoring year in the NBA (15.5 PPG), and improved his three-pointer to a decent 33 percent… a full ten percent better than his previous season. He’s athletic and makes his money by getting to the bucket and finishing, and by hitting a sweet spot from about 16 feet away.
Henderson is also a stout defender, though he tends to over-help on D, which can lead to his man being left alone. Still, a prototypical 6’5″ shooting guard, his defensive skills and ability to post-up allow him to be slotted in at the SF on occasion. Hendo still needs to work on his three-pointer, and he needs to be a better rebounder for the team, something Clifford is saying of everyone, but Henderson actually saw a drop from 4.1 RPG to 3.7 between his previous two seasons. As a player who guards the wing and thrives on getting to the basket, there’s no excuse to average less than 4 RPG with the minutes he gets.
Al Jefferson: The biggest free agent signing in Bobcat history instantly becomes arguably the best offensive player on the team, with the possible exception of an ever-improving Kemba Walker. Still, Jefferson’s post skills are legendary, and it’s not even remotely a stretch to say he’s the best post scorer in basketball. He’s also a good defensive rebounder. He has a legitimate chance to average 20/10, which would be a first for the Bobcats.
But with the shining offensive side of the coin comes the weathered, grimy defensive end of it. Big Al is not a good defender under is own admission, especially when it comes to guarding the pick and roll. He has good length and solid shot blocking skills, but that’s when he’s taking a player straight up. If you run a play at Jefferson, he either loses a step or just fails to catch on at all. Ewing and Haywood should both at least make him slightly better on defense, where any improvement would be welcome to one of the best offensive big men in the NBA.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: I’ll come out and say that I’m a big fan of MKG, but I don’t think I’m biased. He’s regularly noted as one of the hardest workers on the team, and watching him last season, even despite the disappointing offensive play, it was easy to see why he’s so highly regarded as a prospect. I recently wrote that MKG is poised for a massive breakout season thanks to the offseason additions on the floor and in the coaching staff, where legendary shooter Mark Price has been trying to shape MKG’s jumper into something of a semi-reliable weapon.
If he gets a half-decent jumper, he will become the Andre Iguodala glue-guy that every team needs. He’ll score at the basket, hustle every single play, go hard for every rebound, and play tight defense. MKG is good at all of that, and the only dent in his armor is his jumper, so watch out when he starts hitting it. At 20 years old, MKG might end up being one of the most explosive players in the league very soon.
Josh McRoberts: Josh “Don’t Call Me McBob” McRoberts was perceived as a minor trade-deadline deal that have little impact on the team as a whole. Anyone who thought that (AKA, everyone) was quite wrong. McRoberts ended up becoming the starting PF for the Bobcats, and had a solid statistical stretch with the Bobcats, in which he scored, rebounded, and passed the ball all very well. His jumper isn’t great past 16 feet, but he does have a jumper in his arsenal, which is important. The most vital part of McRoberts’ game is his court-vision for a big man. Not many 6’10” power forward/centers can see and pass the ball as well as he can in game situtions.
McRoberts will likely come off the bench this season, but it’s a role he has already embraced. By admission of Cody Zeller, McRoberts’ competition to start at PF, McRob has been the most welcoming to the rookie. McRoberts does a little bit of everything good, but nothing great. He’s a good big man to come off the bench, and he will spread the floor with his passing abilities. He revealed that he is a much better player than anyone thought when put in the proper situation.
Jannero Pargo: Another late-season acquisition by the Bobcats to cover the back-up PG position after Ramon Sessions’ season ending injury, Pargo, just like McRoberts, exceded all expectations. Statistically, he’s not going to be that great, though he does have a solid three-point shot and is a better-than-average playmaker for a fringe-roster player.
Pargo will serve as the third PG on this team, meaning he’ll ride pine most of the time. That’s not a bad thing for the veteran, who should just be happy he has a job and a home in the NBA. He won’t make a significant impact on this team, but he will bring solid minutes to the floor if needed, especially if he has his long-ball touch. The biggest problem with Pargo is that, while he is a decent third-string PG, he just doesn’t excel at anything. He’s just about as average as average gets. But that’s fine when we’re talking about a third stringer.
Ramon Sessions: Sessions, the victim of a season-ending injury that ruined what was a very solid sixth-man of the year candidacy. Sessions came off the bench behind Kemba, and was put in the SG slot along with Kemba in small-ball line-ups.
Sessions is, similarly to Kemba, reliant on dribble penetration to make plays and score the ball. His jumper is erratic at very best, but he can certainly drive past defenders with his speed and either finish at the rim, or dump the ball down low for a quick assist. He’s not the best play runner, and he isn’t great as a pick-and-roll ball handler (which was a problem when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers), but he is explosive, and an extremely capable back-up guard who can score at the rim, and at times, get hot from long range. His biggest knock is that he is nothing more than an average passer, and while his dribble penetration playmaking skills work well, they become predictable, making Sessions an ideal bench player, so other teams won’t get used to his brand of basketball.
James Southerland: Don’t ask why I’m including Southerland to the regular season roster, and don’t ask me who gets bumped if he does make it. But of all of the non-NBA experienced invitees on this squad, Southerland has the best chance, as he could be viewed as the Bobcats’ second round draft pick, since Southerland went undrafted, and the Bobcats didn’t get a second rounder this offseason.
Southerland should have been drafted. I have absolutely no qualms saying that with certainty. A combination of age and size (he’s a forward tweener) kept Southerland out of the draft. But, 29 teams loss is the Bobcats’ gain.
Southerland is a subliminal three-point specialist, and at 6’8″, that skill is very valuable for his size. He’s consistently solid with his three-ball, and if he makes the roster, he will almost always be set up in catch-and-shoot plays. He’s a great athlete as well, but his bread and butter, and his ticket to making this team, is hitting the three.
Jeffery Taylor: Ah, one of my favorite players in this report. Taylor proved during his rookie season (in which he astoundingly made it to the first pick in the second round) that he does have solid scoring talents. He has dunk-contest style finishing abilities, and a strong touch from three-point land.
Last season, the reason Taylor didn’t particularly excel could be contributed to inconsistent minutes, lack of confidence, and a slow uptake on grasping the NBA game.
Well, if that was the case last year, he made a statement this summer, both in Summer League, and in Eurobasket, where be was among the leading scorers in both circuits. He put on about 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, and he now shows that he has a killer instinct to score. Taylor won’t get you too many peripheral stats. Not many rebounds or assists, but when he’s on the floor this year, both at the two and the three, he will be scoring, and he’ll also be defending pretty well. His inability to record additional stats will limit his playing time, but he should see plenty of minutes as a vastly improved player.
Anthony Tolliver: Basically brought in as a character guy to keep guys happy in the locker room, and to drop the occasional three-pointer when the team has the third string on the floor. Tolliver is not a bad player, but like many role players in this league, he just doesn’t do anything great. He does everything… okay. He’ll be a mentor to help the other bigs with shooting problems, and he will absolutely keep the locker room loose, but similarly to Brandon Southerland, his role is well-defined as an extremely positive attitude, low-minute three-and-D player to bring in during blowouts or in the event of an injury. A solid addition, but his impact will be felt more in morale than on the court.
Kemba Walker: Walker was one of the most improved players between his rookie and sophomore seasons, where he saw statistical improvements in nearly every category, became the unquestioned leader, and leading scorer on the team, and increased his court-vision. Walker is small, but he utilizes his size to his benefit, as he is able to speed past defenders with incredible ball handling, and he can use his quick hands to pick the pockets and grab steals. He broke the Charlotte Bobcats’ single season record in steals last season.
Despite his ability to collect steals, he still isn’t a great defender. Despite his speed, he still lets his man get a foot on him to drive past him, and his size certainly does hurt him in defense, where contesting shots is a problem. He has the lateral quickness to be a good on-the-ball defender, he just needs the right players to help him out. Expect a better defensive Kemba Walker in 2013-14.
Kemba has a decent mid-range shot, but the vast majority of his nearly 18 PPG last season came from finishing at the rim or in fast break situations. He has stated, and is thankfully working on developing a more consistent three-pointer.
And finally, playmaking and court vision. Both improved last season, but like Ramon Sessions, almost all of Walker’s assist numbers come from dribble penetration, where he dishes to an open player after he draws the defense in, or he dumps the ball off to a low post scorer for an easy dunk. To be considered a top-notch PG along the lines of John Wall, Kemba will need to improve his assist total. This shouldn’t be a problem this year with both Big Al and Zeller running pick and roll and pick and pop plays for him to dish to.
Kemba improved greatly in 2012-13, and he is the best player on this team (with the possible exception being Al Jefferson). He still has room to improve, which is a good thing. Expect a more efficient, better passing Kemba Walker in 2013-14.
Cody Zeller: A, and finally, Z. Cody Zeller was the fourth pick in this year’s draft, and despite the initial chagrin many fans felt, Zeller’s athletic numbers were off the charts during the Chicago combine and during individual workouts. His low post scoring ability, as well as his mid-range jumper, which he never got to show off at Indiana, were on fantastic display in Vegas, where he averaged almost 16.3 PPG, and pulled in an impressive 9.3 RPG. Zeller will score in transition, in the post, and he’ll stretch the floor, and be a good target for P&R and P&P situations.
He’s also better on defense than many give him credit for. This is largely due to his ability as an athlete. He won’t record more than a blocked shot per game, but he will stay with his man and contest every shot. He will not be a liability on the defensive end.
Scouting wise, it’s hard to see the areas of weakness in Zeller’s game at this point. Strength is always mentioned, but as a stretch-four, he won’t be banging around nearly as much as he did in Indiana. He’s also put in work in the weight room, and proved at the Chicago combine that he is significantly stronger than most thought, or still believe. Rebounding will be a challenge, as he will often be working away from the paint, but his 8+ RPG performance in SL was a good sign. He also rebounded well at Indiana, even despite the knocks on his strength.
Zeller has the potential to be the Rookie of the Year. He has virtually no flaws in his game, and with the strong crop of bigs around him, he will improve what is already an incredibly polished game. Spending the fourth pick on Zeller might have been one of the best moves this organization has ever made, and I absolutely can’t wait to see what the hyper-athletic seven-footer does in the NBA.
Tags: Al Jefferson Ben Gordon Bismack Biyombo Brendan Haywood Cody Zeller Gerald Henderson Jannero Pargo Jeff Adrien Jeffery Taylor Josh McRoberts Kemba Walker Michael Kidd-gilchrist NBA Ramon Sessions Scouting Report