Hello…Is this thing on? Calling all Bobcats fans, welcome back to another season of Bobcats Basketball! This will be the final season that we can use puns like "Fightin' Felines" "Tame Tabbies", or any other kitty cat references. At the start of the 2014 season, we'll be known as the fan favorite, Charotte Hornets. While not a whole lot is know yet in terms of colors, logo, etc., it is known that the name is doing what it was expected to do. Tons of the fans of old are coming out of the woodwork, boosting ticket sales to some of the best numbers this Trade Street Team has ever seen. To make matters better, we have also had one of the best off seasons in team history. Adding Cody Zeller via the NBA Draft and Al Jefferson via free agency, this last season as Bobcats should prove to be one you will not want to miss. I'm going to turn this article over to Matt Alquiza, however, to cover a bit more detail on just what went down this offseason, and how things are going to start looking up…down on Trade Street.
The Bobcats have been the laughing stock of the league for most of their existence, did they do enough this offseason to pull them out of mediocrity, or did they add enough talent to make a playoff push this upcoming season? I’m going to go one by one to analyze each player who returned to the team on a free agent deal, we signed to a new deal, or picked up in the draft. Let’s get started!
Al Jefferson: (2012-13 stats: 33.1 Minutes, 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1 steal, 20.9 PER) Charlotte signed Big Al to a 3 year, $41 million contract, with an opt out option after his second year with the team. Jefferson brings something to Charlotte that the Bobcats have never had in their existence…a low post presence that on most nights demands a double team. Last season, Jefferson shot 59% in the paint, which is tremendous for somebody who plays mostly with their back to the basket. His comfort zone is on the left block, and Jefferson converted on 67.7% of his attempts from that side of the basket last season. Another weapon that Jefferson brings to Charlotte is his offensive pick and roll/pop proficiency. I already detailed his efficiency at the rim, but Jefferson also shoots 40% from the midrange area, which gives the Bobcats an option that they have never had.
Cody Zeller: (2013 summer league stats: 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.2 steals) The Bobcats picked Zeller 4th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, and they immediately were blasted because of it. With players such as Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, and Alex Len on the board, both analysts and talking heads questioned the Bobcats decision-making and their front office. However, under all this scrutiny, Zeller came out and looked like a man amongst boys during the Las Vegas Summer League by making the all-league First Team. Zeller showed range out to 18 feet, he ran the floor well, and was a willing passer. Draft analysts knew that Zeller could do all of these things, but it was his pick and roll defense that stuck out the most during Summer League. He showed good quickness, and the ability to snuff out a pick and roll before it even started. His performance of the Summer League gave the Bobcats hope that they picked a potential starting caliber player to play next to Jefferson in the frontcourt.
Gerald Henderson: (2012-13 stats: 15.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.0 steal, 16.48 PER) After a long wait, Henderson signed a 3-year, $18 million contract with Charlotte. Last year, Henderson was one of the most consistent players on the Bobcats roster from night to night. Henderson is an extraordinary athlete and a consistent mid-range shooter (43.4%), but through his first three years in the league he was never a good 3-point shooter (21%). However, last year Henderson had his best 3-point shooting year of his career, and his form looked much better than it has in years past (33%). Henderson is only 24 years old, and with more weapons around him, he should be able to get better looks on offense, and increase his shooting/3 point percentage even more.
Josh McRoberts/Anthony Tolliver/Jannero Pargo: These three players won’t be seeing much playing time for the ‘Cats this year unless some serious injuries happen, but they’ll bring veteran leadership that Charlotte hasn’t seen in a few years. Out of the three, McRoberts should see the most minutes due to his ability to stretch the floor and his athleticism, but all three players are going to be great presences in the locker room for the younger guys to feed off of, and learn from.
2013-14 is going to be a big year for this Bobcats team. With the inevitable growth of our young players like Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor, and Bismack Biyombo, and some solid veteran depth on the roster (Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, Brendan Haywood), Charlotte is going to be a feisty team all year, but not good enough to reach the playoffs in my eyes. But with 3 potential first round draft picks, a good amount of cap-space, and a new head coach in Steve Clifford that has drawn praise from the likes of Jeff and Stan Van Gundy and Tom Thibodeau, the future is bright in Charlotte, and it won’t be long until the Hornets are bringing the sting again.