Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Bobcats
2012-13 Record: 21-61
Coach: Steve Clifford (first season with Bobcats)
New coach Steve Clifford is going to be really defensive-minded. He will give them no leeway when they make mistakes. He has credibility from working under both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy, though he won't be as abrasive as they can be on the sideline. Last season's coach, Mike Dunlap, tried to change the game by pressing, and he lost a lot of guys right away with his personality. Clifford is more about the basics: protect the basket, don't allow easy shots. His message will be simple but consistent.
The Bobcats will be better this season after the additions of Al Jefferson and No. 4 pick Cody Zeller. They can play inside out, and that's important for Clifford. That's how the Magic played when Clifford was there and they had Dwight Howard. The Bobcats are running some plays for Jefferson that Orlando ran for Howard.
Jefferson is a consistent low-post threat. They didn't have anything close to that last year. Jefferson can give you 20 points and eight rebounds almost every night. You have to double-team him, which will make everyone's life easier. He loves to play from that left block, but he can also step out and make shots from 16-18 feet. He has deficiencies on defense. He's fine playing one-on-one defense in the post. As a team defender, though, he's awful, and he can't guard a pick-and-pop guy.
They have two big guys, Zeller and Josh McRoberts, who are good ball movers. Both can shoot. Both can catch, pass and drive, and that gives a team matchup trouble. Zeller is an unbelievable athlete for his size. He is already dunking hard on guys, and he runs the floor really well. He's a great fit with Jefferson on offense. Once he stretches his range an extra four feet, he will be tough to guard.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's shot is the same, which is to say it sucks. Last year he had a couple of hitches. This year he is down to one hitch, so I guess that's an improvement. He dips it as he is shooting. The guy he is going up against gets the night off because as long as you keep him out of the paint, he can't hurt you. But he gives good effort defensively and he can rebound.
Playmaking is not Kemba Walker's strong suit. As time goes on, he may be able to get there. But he has had three different coaches with three different philosophies to juggle in such a short career. At UConn, they gave him the ball and said, "Win the game for us." You start every game giving him the jumper until he makes one or two.
Gerald Henderson is a decent slasher. He plays hard. He is best suited to be a complementary guy, not a top scoring option like he's been in Charlotte. With Henderson, Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist in the starting lineup, the Bobcats lack a proven three-point shooter. Jefferson can create more open looks by forcing double teams, but someone has to knock them down. Jeff Taylor showed some potential as shooter off the bench during his rookie year last season.
Ben Gordon was their best three-point shooter last season. He doesn't have as many hot nights anymore, but that doesn't stop him from shooting just about whenever he touches it. You have to run plays for him to keep him engaged. If he's not making shots, he's not helping because he has no value defensively.
Ramon Sessions is an excellent backup point guard, but he's another guy who isn't a perimeter shooter. He can score and pressures a defense with his penetration. He's capable of getting 20 on certain nights.
Brendan Haywood is a good backup big man, but he's out for a couple of months with a foot injury. That means the Bobcats need Bismack Biyombo to give them quality minutes behind Jefferson. He is an energetic, athletic player who can rebound and block shots, but his offense hasn't developed much in two seasons. He has a lot of trouble finishing around the basket, and he has to get better at screening and rolling. He was drafted too high [No. 7 in 2011] for what he is.