2012-2013 Charlotte Bobcats Season Preview
The bitter taste of last season’s record-breaking embarrassment is still fresh with the Charlotte Bobcats but this team is ready to shake off last season’s debacle. Armed with a multitude of fresh new faces, the Bobcats hope to put the rotten showing of last season firmly in the rear view mirror in preparation for a new day of basketball in Charlotte.
With hopes of escaping the lottery-bound cellar in the Eastern Conference, the Bobcats are hanging their hats on a youthful exuberance that could very well depose this team from being the worst in the NBA. There’s plenty of work to do as Charlotte was dead-last in the NBA in points per game and in the bottom three in nearly every defensive category last season. Moving, with a new coach and a few new pieces, the Bobcats are looking to rebound this season and begin to take the next steps to a brighter future for this team.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2012-2013 Charlotte Bobcats:
Five Guys Think…
By default better days are ahead for the Charlotte Bobcats; things couldn’t get much worse than they were last season. Second-overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fits in perfectly with the promising young core that the Bobcats have assembled. Getting fellow rookie forward Jeffrey Taylor in the second round was also a steal. Newly-acquired veterans Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, and Brendan Haywood have the difficult role of providing leadership while also having to sacrifice some of their playing time for the younger players. First-year head coach Mike Dunlap may be relatively unknown, but he looks to be exactly what the team needs. Their final record may not be impressive, but the Bobcats will take a solid step forward next season.
4th Place – Southeast Division
The Charlotte Bobcats were the worst team in the NBA last season, but don’t expect the same outcome in 2012-13. First of all, the Orlando Magic have blown up the team to the extent that it will be hard for them not to hold down the very bottom of the league. Second, however, the Bobcats have made some moves that make it unlikely that their efforts will be as futile this season. It’s clear new head coach Mike Dunlap is someone who understands how to develop young players, which will help. The additions of Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions will add veteran voices to the locker room, which will help almost as much as their scoring and distributing abilities. Finally, if Brendan Haywood is motivated, he is a huge upgrade over any centers the Bobcats have had on their roster in recent years. The Bobcats aren’t a playoff team, but they’re not the worst team in the NBA any more, either.
4th Place – Southeast Division
– Bill Ingram
The Charlotte Bobcats can’t wait to put last season’s dismal campaign behind them. After finishing with the worst winning percentage in league history (.106) last year, Charlotte take the next step in their rebuilding effort. The Bobcats hired first-time head coach Mike Dunlap to mold this young core into professionals. During the Las Vegas Summer League, Dunlap coached the Bobcats’ squad, which featured many players who will be significant contributors on his regular season roster including Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo, B.J. Mullens and Jeff Taylor. Last season, the Bobcats were statistically one of the worst teams in the league on both ends of the court. They struggled to put the ball in the basket and they couldn’t stop anyone, which is why they managed to win just seven games. Now, Dunlap is hoping to change the culture in Charlotte and get his young talent to realize their full potential. The Bobcats won’t be competing for a playoff spot anytime soon, but they can take a step in the right direction by developing their potential-laden core and improving on last year’s embarrassing record. There’s plenty of room for improvement and the Bobcats have nowhere to go but up.
5th Place – Southeast Division
– Alex Kennedy
It’s easy to be down on the Charlotte Bobcats because they set the record for the worst single-season winning percentage (or should we just go ahead and call it “losing percentage” in this case?) last year, but they really made a number of nice improvements over the summer that should dig them out of the league basement. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a great building block, and Ben Gordon has always been better when given consistently big minutes. Throw in a developing Bismack Biyombo and burgeoning point guard Ramon Sessions, and there are actually quite a few things to get excited about with this team for the first time in quite a while.
4th Place – Southeast Division
– Joel Brigham
After absolutely hitting rock bottom in 2012, there is no place for the Charlotte Bobcats to go but up. But make no mistake; this is still just the beginning of a very long rebuilding process in Charlotte. The 2013 edition of the Bobcats has significantly more talent and will be led by energetic new head coach Mike Dunlap who has drawn rave reviews early on. Scoring and rebounding were huge problems for Charlotte in 2012, but those areas were addressed this summer with the acquisition of Ben Gordon from Detroit and picking up veteran center Brendan Haywood, an amnesty casualty of the Dallas Mavericks. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2012 draft, will have an opportunity to start from day one and could flourish in Dunlap’s up tempo system. The losses will continue to mount, but things are turning in the right direction.
5th Place – Southeast Division
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Even with the addition of a proven scorer in Ben Gordon, fourth-year swingman Gerald Henderson is expected to continue to grow next season and will likely be the top option offensively. The Bobcats’ leading scorer this past season, Henderson averaged just over 15 points per game – up from 9.6 per the year before. Charlotte’s offense as a whole last season was abysmal to say the least but Henderson was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal showing. Henderson, who’s 15.1 points per contest last year was also a career best, has continued to evolve and will be expected to lead the charge for the young Bobcats in the upcoming season.
Top Defensive Player: Although still young and extremely raw, second-year player Bismack Biyombo possesses all the tools to be an elite defender in the NBA. Playing in a relatively thin frontcourt his rookie season with Charlotte, Biyombo led the team in both rebounds and blocks. Most impressively, Biyombo’s 1.8 blocks per contest ranked him eighth overall in the NBA in that category and his blocks per 48 minutes (3.79) was the fifth best in the league. Considering the inherent aggressiveness of shot blockers, it’s also apt to point out that Biyombo only committed an average of 2.3 fouls per contest this past season.
Top Playmaker: With his ability to get to the basket at will and create open opportunities for others, newcomer Ramon Sessions might be the Bobcats best option at the point to open up the season. In 19 starts to close out the 2012 regular season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Sessions averaged nearly 13 points and over six assists per running the show in LA. In talking with Lakers’ shooting guard Kobe Bryant late last season, the five-time NBA Champ couldn’t help but praise the 26-year old Sessions for how much pressure he took off Bryant last year. Even though he struggled in the 2012 playoffs, Sessions has proven that he has the ability to be a solid floor general and will continue to do so in Charlotte. And, let’s be honest, he won’t have to worry about any postseason expectations with this Bobcats squad.
Top Clutch Player: With Corey Maggette out of the picture, having been sent to the Detroit Pistons, the Bobcats leading scorer in 2012 – Gerald Henderson – should be the man with the ball in his hands with the clock winding down. Veteran Ben Gordon could also get some consideration here but it’s time for Henderson to put this team on his back. Henderson’s already taken the first step in leading the Bobcats in scoring, if he wants to take it to the next level he’s got to be able demand the ball in crunch time.
The Unheralded Player: With a team like the Bobcats, it’s difficult to be any more unheralded than you already are but we’ll try here. While he needs to put in plenty of work on the defensive end, 23-year old center Byron Mullins came on strong last season for the Bobcats. After seeing action in a total of 26 games over his first two NBA seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Mullins played in 65 this past season with the Bobcats. Starting the first 25 games of his career, Mullins led the Bobcats with six double-doubles last season. This included a two out of three game stretch in April where he broke out with a 20 point, 14 rebound effort against the Toronto Raptors and a 31 point,14 rebound showing against the Milwaukee Bucks. He may not be the answer long-term at center for the Bobcats but Mullins showed promise last season in his first real taste of consistent NBA action.
Best New Addition: With the second overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Bobcats selected forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and he’ll be expected to play a large role right off the bat in Charlotte. Right out of college, Kidd-Gilchrist is going to have his fair share of expectations heading into his rookie season. Luckily for Kidd-Gilchrist, he has all the tools to make an impact as a probable season-long starter in Charlotte this season. Where he can most help the Bobcats is on the defense end where this squad ranked in the bottom of the NBA in virtually every statistical category. He’ll likely be thrown into fire right out of the gate this season but the safe bet is that Kidd-Gilchrist will come out looking like gold when the dust is settled.
– Derek Page
Who We Like
1. Gerald Henderson: By all accounts, Henderson took a step forward last season and will be expected to continue that trend through 2012-2013. Not only did Henderson lead the team in scoring in 2012 but the 24-year old out of Duke also displayed a more well-rounded game than in previous seasons. Even though he’s grown leaps and bounds since being put in former coach Larry Brown’s doghouse his sophomore season, Charlotte needs Henderson to take it to the next level this year. Given what we’ve seen from Henderson so far, especially with the progress made last season in his first full year as a starter, that seems like a distinct possibility.
2. Kemba Walker: The second-year guard out of the University of Connecticut will be expected to take that vital next step in his second season after a hit-or-miss rookie campaign. At times, Walker displayed the basketball acumen and skill that netted him as the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft – as evidenced by the solid all around numbers of his rookie season. However, inconsistency reared its ugly head more often than not and Walker’s 36.7 percent shooting from the field last season was the lowest among the Bobcats top 11 scorers. With visions of starting at point guard already on his mind, Walker’s confidence must translate on the floor or he’ll be on the bench behind Sessions all season long.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: At 19-years old, the rookie out of Kentucky is penciled in as the starter as small forward for the Bobcats heading into the season. Charlotte’s number one goal has been and will be to try to find a legitimate superstar through the draft by accumulating lottery picks in youth-centric seasons. As the top pick for Charlotte since the team’s inception in 2004, Kidd-Gilchrist will be thrown into the fire quickly next season. The hope is that Kidd-Gilchrist will quickly demonstrate the athletic ability and defensive prowess that made him the second player chosen in the 2012 NBA draft.
4. Bismack Biyombo: The athletic but unseasoned Biyombo has all the skills to become a force defensively on the NBA interior and the obligation will be on the 20-year old to continue to improve this season. Charlotte’s decision to move Biyombo over to power forward is key in that development as he was a bit undersized to man the starting center position. With unspectacular but serviceable center Brendan Haywood (or Mullins if he can win the job) flanking him, Biyombo could be in line for a huge jump in his second season. After a solid rookie campaign, everything is setting up for the young and talented Biyombo to break out in his second year. Now it’s time for him to put it all together.
5. Rich Cho: Over the span of about a year and a half as the acting General Manager for the Bobcats, Cho has done his best to try to put this team heading in a better direction moving forward. With three top-10 first round picks over the last two offseasons, Charlotte is continuing to try to "get lucky" as former coach Paul Silas characterized it last season. The key is making good use of those early selections and it appears as though the Bobcats have done a good job of that since Cho arrived. The jury is still out on players like Biyombo, Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist but it’s apparent that these young talents possess strengths that generally translate on the NBA level.
– Derek Page
Young talent and athleticism will be on display night-in, night-out this season in Charlotte. With a couple of key veterans sprinkled in, simple mistakes and lapses in judgment will likely become less frequent and the Bobcats could win some games they’re not supposed to this season.
There’s no shortage of talent on this roster. The problem is that these 18-24-year olds have not fully developed that talent into ability.
Until the bevy of young and inexperienced players on this roster get some seasoning, it’s going to be rough go of it in Charlotte.
– Derek Page
Even with the addition of some veterans in Brendan Haywood and Ben Gordon, youth is still the Bobcats biggest gift and curse heading into this season. There are going to be considerable growing pains next season, there’s little doubt of that fact.
With a team featuring a rookie head coach and a roster whose average age (24.8 years old) wouldn’t be able to cost effectively rent a car; 2012-2013 is going to be an uphill struggle.
That being said, figuring out who is worth building around out of this bunch is going to be the main priority. The Bobcats front office must prove they are not asleep at the wheel during this process in order for this team to finally move forward.
– Derek Page
What Needs To Be Said On Opening Day….
We are looking to build a winning culture. Effort and attention to detail will be our calling card from the very first day. For those of you around last year, that experience stays in the past. This is a new season and we are going to develop a “grind” mentality that starts in training camp. We will set the tone the defensive end of the floor. For us to have success, we need to be aggressive and active every single possession every single night. We will win games with relentless pressure that forces our opponents into bad decisions. Our defense will lead to our best offense. Play with purpose, bring energy and let’s start building a championship organization.
– Brett Koremenos & Anthony Macri
The Burning Question
Wins and losses aside, are the Bobcats heading in the right direction?
After the way last season turned out, the onus for this team is to gain cohesion and figure out which parts work in the grand scheme of things moving forward. While not having the worst winning percentage of all time for a second consecutive season is certainly a goal, figuring out the pieces who are worth building around for the future will be the main objective. A playoff berth is certainly not on the horizon but expect a much more well-rounded and exciting Bobcats team that won’t break any records for futility in 2013. With the talent in place and a few more top-5 picks likely in the cards, the pieces are starting to come together for this to be a successful team in two to three years.
– Derek Page