2013-2014 NBA Preview: Southeast Division

5 of 5

Oct 11, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Charlotte Bobcats small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) looks to pass against Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers (15) in the first half at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets (23-59)

Hey! The Hornets are back… oh, wait, not ’til 2014-2015… but they’re coming back!

It’s never a good sign when one of the more positive things about your team is a name change, but that’s where we are with the Bobcats. Charlotte was in the bottom 3 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in route to winning only 21 games last season, and for the most part, it’s the same group of players this year.

We’ll begin with the positives, though, as the team did bring in two high-profile frontcourt options. Al Jefferson was overpaid to come to town, but he does bring with him a real, live offensive game in the post. “Big Al” is one of the few guys in the league that can absolutely go to work on the block, and he averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season in Utah. He’s one of the few remaining “20-10” players in the NBA today, and shots will be flying around for him on a depleted Charlotte roster.

Of course, there is a slight issue with Jefferson (hence his signing with the Bobcats over other, less lucrative offers), and that is on the defensive end. He’s a far below-average defender (to be kind) who doesn’t protect the rim at all from the center spot and he is generally in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only positive on that side of the court is that he’s able to stay on the court due to a lack of fouling (hurray!), but that’s about it.

The backcourt isn’t miserable for the Bobcats, as the pairing of Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson should produce value. Walker was leaps and bounds better during his 2nd season where he averaged 17.7 points and 5.7 assists, and now that he has some offensive help in Jefferson, his efficiency should increase. There is still some concern (from me, at least) about his ability to distribute as a passing point guard, but he’s got a nose for the rim that can’t be taught. As for Henderson, I begged and pleaded for the Hawks to make a run at him in the off-season, and there are several reasons why. First, he signed a fairly cheap contract, but more importantly, he’s super-athletic on both ends of the court, providing value without the benefit of a reliable jumper. He’ll get to the line often to create offense, and he’s a good pairing with Walker in an underrated backcourt.

On the side of youth, Charlotte has back-to-back lottery picks to fill out their starting lineup. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a guy that I absolutely loved coming out of Kentucky, but his shooting wasn’t passable last season (28.4% from 10+ feet) and that caused his stock to tumble. I haven’t bailed on him yet, though, as MKG provides a ton of value with his defense and motor, and he’s able to get points in transition due to athleticism. He can’t possibly be this bad with the jumper in year two, so that should help. The 2013 lottery pick was former Indiana big man Cody Zeller, and he’s about as NBA-ready as it comes from this draft. He’s extremely athletic for his size (which no one reports), and that should help him in pick-and-roll defense while providing a little bit of “spring” next to the low-to-the-ground Jefferson. However, he’s not going to protect the rim, either, and that will be a major issue for Charlotte.

The bench looked to be semi-reasonable before camp began, but injuries have knocked them down a few pegs. I really like former Vanderbilt wing Jeff Taylor as a shooting option that they desperately need to counteract Kidd-Gilchrist’s issues, and they also brought in Ben Gordon (despite the fact that he can’t guard anyone) to provide more offensive punch. However, the big man rotation took a major hit thanks to a stress fracture that will sideline Brendan Haywood for months, and Charlotte will be relying on the duo of Josh McRoberts (who I like) and the ultra-raw Bismack Biyombo for minutes behind Zeller and Jefferson.

In Charlotte’s defense, they aren’t outright tanking (like Orlando, Philly, or Phoenix) as evidenced by the Jefferson signing, but he’s not good enough to keep them out of the lottery. There is discernible talent on board (for the first time in a while), but they are a go-to-guy and a year or two away from competing, even in depth-challenged East.


That concludes are in-depth look at each division. In part 7 (yes, seven) of our NBA preview, we’ll wrap things up with award and playoff predictions. Stay tuned!