When I initially got this assignment to write about the Bobcats' needs headed into free agency, I thought to myself that it would be so much easier if they had a coach already in place. In fact, Ben left a note to make sure to mention that as well. Yet, no more than a few hours later would the news break that the Bobcats hired Lakers assistant Steve Clifford, who worked with defensive guru Stan Van Gundy in Orlando. The reason this is a good thing is that it narrows the scope of what we should be looking for as they head into the draft and free agency. Of course, this makes my job that much easier and anything that accomplishes that, I'm all for.
Before we can figure out who the Bobcats should be targeting, let's figure out the Bobcats' needs. I mean specific needs, not just "LOL TALENT." Let's see, they ranked 30th in FG% and 27th in 3FG%, so they need shooters. They also finished 27th in total rebounds, so they could use some rebounders. Considering that only four Bobcats averaged more than two assists per game last season (Kemba, McRoberts, Henderson and Sessions) and they finished 29th in team assists per game, they could use some distributors at every position. And they were dead last in team Defensive Rating and Opponent eFG%, so they need a few more defenders.
So now we've seen that the Bobcats need help in practically every area and every position. Which really isn't telling you anything you didn't already know, I suppose. Still, there are a couple things to keep in mind. As far as the draft, a 21 win team should worry about drafting the best player available and not for need since they clearly need talent and the fit can be figured out later. With regards to free agency, you don't want to add veterans that are short term fixes that will only steal minutes from your prospects.
One of the biggest issues the Bobcats will look to address is balancing out the scoring between their backcourt and frontcourt. I mean, their four top scorers were all guards and their most efficient big man, Josh McRoberts, isn't exactly a go-to scorer type of player. A popular name is Utah Jazz free agent Paul Millsap, but he would likely take up a large amount of their cap space going forward to re-sign guys like Kemba and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and at 6'8 doesn't help their other concern, size. Production-wise he could absolutely help, but the Bobcats aren't the situation he's looking for right now, either. The same also goes for guys like David West and Al Jefferson.
More than likely, the Bobcats will be stuck targeting players on the level of the Spurs' Tiago Splitter, the Hawks' Zaza Pachulia, and I'll stop there because it gets pretty gross from there on. But if they can make Brendan Haywood a backup next season, they will have upgraded.
If nothing else, I would love to see Gerald Henderson brought back at the right price to fortify the backcourt since he is a capable shooter and defender. And if that means taking a sixth-man role to provide depth if they draft a young wing, then I'm fine with that too.
They could look to the draft for answers, but may not be blown away by their options available. Anthony Bennett is a power forward who can score the ball but his defense currently needs a lot of work, and he stands just 6'7 too. It would be a reach but Maryland's Alex would provide the size the Bobcats need at 7 feet 1 inch tall, but he would join Biyombo as another of the team's young and raw frontcourt prospects. Other than that there's...er...um...yeah. They could also take a look at Indiana's Victor Oladipo, but he's fairly limited on offense and probably a work in progress on that end of the floor.
The Bobcats already filled one of their biggest needs -- head coach -- but they will look to build off their improvement last season through free agency in the draft. They may not be in the hunt for Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, and they may have missed out on the Nerlens Noel sweepstakes, but there are still options out there for them to improve without stunting their current young players' growth and sacrifice their ability to sign those players long-term. In some ways it's a blessing to have as many needs as the Bobcats because then you know that almost everyone helps.