NBA Picks: Bobcats Trying to Become Competitive
by Aaron Smith - 8/14/2013
Not all NBA teams have the same goal at the beginning of every season. For a team like the Charlotte Bobcats, no doubt the goal is to simply be competitive this year. While the players and management might say their goals are set to reach the playoffs, deep down they know that first they have to take baby steps and become competitive.
Remember, this is a team that went 7-59 two seasons ago. They weren’t much better last season. The Bobcats went 21-61 last year, which was the second-worst record in the league. A team that has combined to win a grand total of 28 games in two seasons has to start with becoming competitive. Are the Bobcats making progress toward the goal of becoming competitive? Let’s take a look this offseason at the Charlotte Bobcats.
Steve Clifford - New Head Coach
The Charlotte Bobcats hired Steve Clifford to be their new head coach after the end of last season. Clifford has been an assistant coach for 13 years in the NBA, and he was widely considered one of the most sought-after assistants in the league. Clifford is viewed as a guy who can relate to the players very well. He is a defensive-minded coach, and he expects to turn Charlotte into one of the top defenses in the league.
Clifford’s goal is to come to Charlotte and change the culture right away. He believes in never taking short cuts and always preparing to the fullest extent. Clifford has said in the offseason that he wants Charlotte to play at a much quicker tempo in the upcoming season.
New Big Men in Frontcourt
The Charlotte Bobcats had quite a bit of cap space in the offseason, so they decided to step up and sign Al Jefferson to a three-year deal worth $40.5 million. Jefferson has turned into one of the better low-post scorers in the NBA over the last few years. Jefferson averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last year for the Utah Jazz. He clearly becomes the Bobcats best frontcourt player instantly.
The knock on Jefferson throughout his career has been that he doesn’t play any defense. Surprisingly enough, he readily admits himself that he isn’t good on this end of the floor. In a recent interview Jefferson said, “It ain’t no secret around the league that I struggle with my defense.” He went on to say that his weakness is his pick-and-roll defense. Charlotte is trying to build a defensive team, and Jefferson is going to have to step up his game on the defensive end.
The other new big man in the frontcourt is 2013 NBA Draft pick Cody Zeller. Zeller was very successful in college at Indiana, and the team hopes he can turn into a perennial all-star. Zeller’s biggest strengths are his ability to run the floor very well for a big man and his soft touch in the paint. He is also a good shot blocker because of his length and athleticism. The knock on Zeller has been that he is too soft, and he’ll have to bulk up a little to be able to hold his ground in the post. Zeller was terrific at the Las Vegas Summer League. He averaged 16.3 points per game and was named to the all-tournament team at the league.
Kemba Walker turned into a very good scorer last year. Walker averaged 17.7 points per game during the 2012-13 season. He shot only 42.3 percent from the floor, but that was much better than his rookie season in which he shot 36.6 percent. To be fair, Walker took more bad shots than he normally would basically because no one else on the team could consistently score.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the team’s first pick in last year’s draft, and he definitely showed the potential to be a star in his rookie season. Kidd-Gilchrist has a lot of room for growth, but he is a good defender who can also take the ball to the basket with authority. The additions of Jefferson and Zeller should take a lot of pressure off him. Kidd-Gilchrist should have more driving lanes with two solid big men in the paint.
NBA Picks: Charlotte Bobcats Futures
Bovada lists the Charlotte Bobcats at 500/1 to win the 2014 NBA Championship. Charlotte is listed at +30,000 to win the Eastern Conference, according to odds from BetOnline. You don’t need me to tell you that the Bobcats aren’t going to contend in the 2013-2014 season. A team that has gone 28-120 in the last two seasons doesn’t just instantly becoming an NBA Championship contender.
Will the Bobcats be improved? I do like the hiring of Clifford, and I think the Bobcats will be better prepared this season. Zeller and Jefferson are the big keys to the team. Those two must be very good in the paint for this team to improve in any big way. In the end, the Bobcats will likely be back at the NBA Draft Lottery next year.
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