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Improvements to look for this season from the Bobcats young players

The Bobcats added a bunch of depth and experience to their team in this offseason, but they still also have a ton of young talent. In what ways can these young cats develop further this year, especially with the new roster in mind?


You could make an argument against it, but it's hard to say this has not been the most eventful offseason for the Bobcats in their short history. In case you forgot or missed anything, here's a quick rundown:

  • Hired Steve Clifford as head coach and a new coaching staff
  • Drafted Cody Zeller fourth overall
  • Signed a big name, big contract, big man in Al Jefferson
  • Signed Anthony Tolliver
  • Amnestied Tyrus Thomas
  • Re-signed Gerald Henderson
  • Re-signed Josh McRoberts
  • Re-signed Jannero Pargo

PLAYERS IN: Jefferson, Zeller, Tolliver
PLAYERS OUT: DeSagana Diop, Byron Mullens, Tyrus Thomas, Reggie Williams

It's clear that the Bobcats instantly have a better frontcourt on the offensive end. Improving that was paramount to balancing the offense and helping out the backcourt. With all this in mind, I think it's pretty safe to say we'll see a much better team than the one we saw in the past couple years. So what improvements will we be looking for?

Kemba Walker

From rookie to sophomore season, we saw Kemba take a mighty leap as a scorer. He became a much more consistent shooter and finished at the rim better. But it doesn't take a shrewd scout to notice that Walker often struggled because he tried to do too much. He wasn't a Chris Paul type distributor and instead took it upon himself to make the offense produce. That said, he was also working with starting frontcourts that included, at various times, Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens, Josh McRoberts, Brendan Haywood, Hakim Warrick, Jeff Adrien, Tyrus Thomas and DeSagana Diop. Without a single effective and consistent finished to at least work with him on the pick and roll and with a dysfunctional offense, Walker often had little choice other than to take the brunt of the scoring load.

But now all that context means little, considering the help Walker has in the frontcourt after this offseason spending spree. With a new coach, hopefully the Bobcats develop an offensive system that helps create space, defensive confusion for opponents and as a result, passing lanes. Zeller and Jefferson have terrific size to set screens and each should be adept pick and roll players. Henderson and Kidd-Gilchrist are great at cutting, as is much of the bench. The development of Walker's game should enter a realm more focused on facilitating ball movement now that he actually has efficient players to whom he can move the ball.

Gerald Henderson

Assuredly the frontcourt additions will help Henderson as well. He may not have gotten much recognition outside of Bobcats-centric sites for this, but Henderson did well not only as a scorer but as a passer this past season. He had a career high in Basketball-Reference's assist percentage ("An estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor") at 15.6 percent. It's also worth noting that Henderson's assist percentage after the All-Star break was above his season average with 17.6 percent. His versatility has improved with each season, but he has room to grow still.

The main thing this Bobcats team's missing on paper on the offensive end is shooting. Kemba's got a solid long ball, but other than that prospects are slim. Kidd-Gilchrist might as well be shooting while wearing oven mitts from behind the arc, Zeller has yet to show he can consistently hit midrange jump shots despite decent form, and Al Jefferson is an OK midrange shooter. None of these players are the sharpshooting threat Charlotte needs.

Henderson would drastically improve his value if he could fill that role at a very basic level. We're not talking Ray Allen here. Last year Henderson improved his dismal three-point shooting to 33 percent, but he took only 100 attempts in the season. There should be plenty of space for him to work in the offense. Further, with the additions in the frontcourt, Henderson can help increase ball movement with his passing ability and basketball IQ. And since he won't have to take as much of the offense on his shoulders to create anything, he can have more energy on defense. Henderson's role in the past few seasons has shifted to that of the team's major scoring threat, which is a big shift from being the young guy coming off the bench for energy and defense.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Judging by the shots I saw in Summer League games, I don't think Mark Price has magically gifted his shooting stroke to MKG. Kidd-Gilchrist is quite talented, but that shooting stroke is still a, uh, work in progress, to put it nicely. An improving midrange shot is one thing I would like to see, though.

But Kidd-Gilchrist is not devoid of all offensive talent. On the contrary, he's a pretty solid ballhandler for his size. The Bobcats try plays that work Kidd-Gilchrist in as a ballhandler in the high post a la HORNS or in the pick and roll, even. He has a knack for getting into the paint and has a good grasp of the game. Those ideas aren't necessarily things I think should be big parts of his game, but rather just occasional options to get Walker spot-up looks off screens or other offensive options that keep the defense guessing or open up Charlotte's offense to more scoring options.

Jeffery Taylor

Taylor could certainly improve his play in a lot of ways, but rather than expanding his repertoire, I think he could do very well narrowing it. The 'Three-And-D' player has gained a lot of notice and Taylor could help fill that role for Charlotte. But Taylor's going to have to become more consistent on offense. His defense is OK, but would benefit from sticking to his man more, which was often a symptom of collapsing interior defense, however. Anyway, Taylor would be a better rotation player if he became a more consistent three-point shooter of spot-up and screen plays. He's already a good threat off cuts and in transition.