If you had to choose from the smorgasbord of misery that the Bobcats fed their fans last season, a lack of adequate inside play would be the pièce de résistance. With no discernible post presence—sorry, Byron Mullens—Charlotte averaged just 38.6 points in the paint, 24th in the league. The Bobcats overhauled their frontcourt in the off-season, signing All-Star center Al Jefferson and drafting 7-foot power forward Cody Zeller. New coach Steve Clifford has implemented an offensive system similar to the one in Orlando (where he was an assistant from 2007--08 to '11--12), which featured four shooters around Dwight Howard. Jefferson will play the role of Howard, with the hope that his diverse skill set—a deft touch on a jump hook in either direction coupled with the strength to make a power move—will force teams to double him.
Concerns about Zeller's perimeter shooting last season caused his stock to slip, but he has showcased a good-looking J in the preseason, and his athleticism—at the combine Zeller exhibited a 35½-inch standing vertical and ran the three-quarter-court sprint in 3.15 seconds, best of any big man—will make him a weapon in the open floor. Charlotte will also need consistent perimeter shooting from the backcourt of Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson to keep defenses from packing the paint. But hey, for a team that has made the playoffs just once in its nine seasons, one problem at a time.
COACH STEVE CLIFFORD (1ST SEASON WITH BOBCATS)
2012--13 RECORD 21--61 (4TH IN SOUTHEAST)
WHAT'S NEW Another rookie coach, plus a pricey free-agent signing (three years, $41 million) in Al Jefferson.
PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)
PG KEMBA WALKER