Coming into the season, Bismack Biyombo seemed destined to be an afterthought. He’s on a big, expiring contract, and didn’t seem to fit into the team’s long term plans. Cody Zeller was going to start at center, and Willy Hernangomez seemed like the guy penciled in for most of the backup center minutes.
None of that has come to fruition this season. Biyombo has been given a solid helping of minutes, and he looks like a totally different player from his first eight seasons. That speaks to a couple of things—Biyombo is still working hard to get better, and this coaching staff knows how to draw improvement out of its players.
I’m sure Biyombo has worked hard every offseason since he came into the league. His work ethic has always been praised by anyone that talks about him. But this season is different. He’s still the interior presence he’s always been defensively, and he’s added to that. He’s been asked to show more on the perimeter, and he’s more than held his own. We’ve seen him make plays like this a couple times this season.
In all the years I’ve watched Bismack Biyombo play basketball, I’ve never seen him make a play like that. He’s done it multiple times this season.
Biyombo’s improvement is even more apparent on offense. In years prior, Biyombo’s hands were a red light warning the ball handler not to throw him the ball. This season, his teammates are feeding him all sorts of bounce passes and no look dishes in traffic, and Biz is handling them all.
Not only is he cleaner on the catch, he’s also been much better at transitioning from the catch to his shot. In years past, he’d hunch over after the catch and take an extra second to gather for his shot attempt. It led to a lot of his shots getting blocked and guards ripping the ball away from him. This year, he’s been catching and going straight into his next move.
Biyombo is averaging a career high 17.0 points per 36 minutes (his previous best was 11.3). He’s doing that while shooting 58.1% from the field, the second best mark of his career, with by far his highest usage rate. He has the highest assist rate of his career and the lowest turnover rate of his career, both numbers significantly better than his previous career bests. He’s doing more offensively than he’s ever done, and his efficiency hasn’t suffered a bit.
Biyombo deserves a ton of credit for putting a ton of work into his game heading into this season. Improvement like this doesn’t come from nothing. The Hornets coaching staff should get a lot of credit too. This is Biyombo’s ninth season. It’s probably not a coincidence that he’s made such a significant jump in his first full offseason with this coaching staff after toiling as virtually the same player from years three through eight. We’ve seen rapid development from some of the Hornets young players this season, and it seems that development isn’t exclusive to the youngsters. This coaching staff has preached player development since they’ve been here, and they seem to know what they’re doing. That bodes well for a franchise that’s going to be reliant on player growth to establish itself as consistent playoff team.