Wow...a big name Free Agent landing in Small Market Charlotte...and he's tickled to death to be here. Gotta love it!
As we all know by now, the Bobcats have been making some moves lately. Signing Al Jefferson and Josh McRoberts, drafting Cody Zeller, extending an offer to Gerald Henderson, not offering a contract to Byron Mullens, and finally amnestying Tyrus Thomas. With all these moves being made, the Cats are going to be pretty different next year. On top of all these moves, I didn't even mention the new star-studded coaching staff with the Big Red Dog Steve Clifford as head coach, former New York Knick great Patrick Ewing, former shooting star Mark Price, and the far iliac Stephen Silas, our bench is going to be looking brand new next year as well.
So, what does all of this mean? Some people are thinking, "Who cares about the new faces, they're still the same old crappy Bobcats" others are excited about the team, and are thinking that we can potentially push for an 8 seed in the playoffs. However, with all that said, the main question is what will our starting line up look like? Here are a few lineups that I think we could run out there opening night.
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Gerald Henderson
PF: Cody Zeller
C: Al Jefferson
This lineup is the one that feels the most likely for me. It's going to be a potent offensive unit, and the constant threat of Jefferson in the post is going to open up looks for everybody else. He demands a double team on the left block, which he prefers, and according to HoopData.com, Jefferson shot 73.7% at the rim last year, and 47% from 3-8 feet where most of his looks are going to come from. With him being such a big problem in the post and at the elbow, it will open up off ball cuts for MKG (who shot 65.1% at the rim last year, his highest percentage on the court) and create open looks for shooters on the perimeter. Another offensive set that this will open up is the pick and roll with Kemba. Kemba shot 52% at the rim last year, and 42% from midrange, and while those numbers aren't the most impressive, they will improve drastically now that he has a legitimate big man rolling to the paint who will draw attention from him. Finally, Cody Zeller will also draw attention from Big Al in the post because of his dangerous midrange jumper, and he also has potential to be one of the elite fast break big men in the league, as he scored many of his points in college by running the floor and creating space on the fast break well.
However, as potent as this lineup may be offensively, (I didn't even mention the evolution of Gerald Henderson's 3 point shot which improved throughout last year as he shot his highest % in his career) it has potential to be a train wreck defensively. Kemba is undersized at the point, and no matter how much heart he has, it's hard for him to fight through screens every night and get bullied by bigger point guards. Also, Cody Zeller was absolutely destroyed on defense by some of the bigger players in the Big10, and defense was one of his major weaknesses coming into the NBA. Finally, Al Jefferson is a notoriously bad defender. He's always been marked by being very slow to react, and always a step behind on pick and roll defense, which is the bread and butter play of almost every NBA offense. There were many times in Utah that he left his help defense out to dry because he wasn't quick enough to step out to the point guards turning the corner on the pick, or being able to retreat fast enough to cut off opposing point guards before they got close to the basket. You may be thinking that MKG and Gerald Henderson are plus defensive players, and can offset the other 3 players on the court, but it will be very hard to stop anybody without anybody who can really protect the rim in this starting lineup.
The other potential starting lineup wouldn't be too different, but could possibly look like
PF: Bismack Biyombo
C: Big Al
This lineup would produce near the same offensive output, except Biyombo is a huge offensive liability. As I said earlier, Zeller has the potential to be a deadly midrange shooter, and he could potentially become an elite stretch 4 in the league, and with the new "small ball " craze, this could be a valuable commodity in today's NBA. But with Biyombo, there's no threat of stretching the floor. He shoots 26.4% from 3-9 feet, and 33% from 9-15 feet. When Biyombo steps out, his defender steps away from him and gives him the shot knowing that it most likely won’t fall. However, with his offensive shortcomings, he can be a valuable defender. Biyombo averages 1.8 blocks per game last year, which was good for 8th in the league, and his Defense Efficiency Rating was a 20.9, whereas the league average was a 14.3.
So, as you can see, both lineups have their ups and downs, and many question marks. Can Coach Ewing teach Bismack how to play offense and become a serviceable 2-way player? Can Al Jefferson learn how to play defense? Can Mark Price make Gillie the Kidd's jump shot into a threat instead of a weakness? We still have a few months to ponder and eventually learn the answers to these questions, but what we already know is that the Cats/Hornets are on the rise, and both of these potential lineups will be vastly improved, and will put a scare into opposing teams with the versatility of our team. October can't get here soon enough.
I think the answer to both problems is to start McBob. Call me crazy, but I think he's going to start. Biz and Zeller will get some development time under Ewing and the starting 5 will benefit from McBob's versatility and more reliable defense. They won't be as athletic but they'll have Kemba, Hendo (hopefully) and MKG to run.