Coming into the 2018-2019 NBA season, there was not much pressure surrounding big man Bismack Biyombo, After all, he was essentially a salary matcher in a move that sent Timofey Mozgov to the Orlando Magic back in that year’s offseason. A former Charlotte Bobcat, it seemed like the opportune time for Biyombo to show the Queen City why he was worthy of the seventh overall pick back in 2011.
First off, the reason why he was a salary matcher in that deal is because of his one playoff run. The one area of assurance that ultimately resulted in Biyombo signing his lucrative 4-year, $72 million dollar deal in 2016 was his rebounding numbers in the postseason. That previous season, he went on a tear in the playing with the Toronto Raptors. Up against that year’s eventual champion the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, Biyombo starred in his increased playing time. He was a true glass eater in game four of that series as he hauled in a franchise-best 26 rebounds to secure the Raptors the victory. His ability to body up against big man down low came was attractive to many teams in the association following that series.
That form is what the Hornets envisioned Biyombo to be when they acquired his services. They wanted him to log in as the team’s backup center spot behind Cody Zeller and secure a hefty amount of rebounds. He was to maintain a high level of intensity on the glass, helping patch the loss of Dwight Howard that offseason. Howard lead the team with 12.5 boards per game in 2017. This left a major hole that Biyombo should have filled, at least partially.
Unfortunately, that expectation was thrown out of the window and there was no such comeback story of Biz and the Queen City.
Biyombo was unexpectedly given the opportunity to become a major player in the Hornets game plan. When Zeller went down with an injury at the end of 2018, it left a major question mark regarding the center position. Out of the team’s three candidates, who would fit the mold to the greatest extent?
Well, Biyombo certainly had his fair share of chances to prove his impact on the team. Starting in 32 games the big man never played with the volume that is necessary to become a true factor night in and night out. Over the course of the game, there was never the same intensity through all four periods. At times, he looked lackadaisical, giving easy opportunities for open buckets. On the other hand, there were times, like the game against the Memphis Grizzlies, where Biyombo was locked in for the thunderous block during crunch time.
One area that Biyombo was consistent on was his one-on-one play. He provided steady defense against the best back-to-the-basket players in the NBA. From the LaMarcus Aldridge’s and Joel Embiid’s of the world, Biyombo was able to fend off their low-post presence with sturdy aggressiveness in the paint. The big man was able to maintain his composure near the basket and did an excellent job in stopping attempts close to the rim.
Offensively speaking, Biz did pose a single yet effective threat to defenses last season. That was the ability to roll to the rim with ease. Putting his 6’9”, 255 lb frame to work, he was able to smartly communicate with a multitude of Hornets ballhandlers in pick situations. Understanding where the defense was expecting to go, Biyombo did a great job finding the correct angle to lay the ball in to score. This accumulated for the majority of his points last season.
Unfortunately, Biyombo took a major step back in rebounding productivity in 2019. Even with the injured Cody Zeller, he was unable to produce the kind of numbers on the glass that we are accustomed to seeing from him. In 2019 Biz posted a career-low 3.1 defensive rebounds per contest. His 4.6 total boards per game were also the worst he has ever put up in eight seasons. This decreased step in output caused the Hornets rebounding to plummet in numbers. They went from being the third-best rebounding team in 2017 with 45.5 to a bleak 43.8 boards per game, sufficing to 23rd in the NBA.
This offseason, Biyombo opted into the final year of his contract. This will earn a lofty $17 million, which would account for the third-highest paid player on the team if Kemba Walker re-signs. But, there isn’t much sign of improvement coming from the 26-year-old.
There has been and will continue to be no sense of a jump shot from Biz by any stretch of the means. Sure, he did hit some surprising mid-range shot last season, but those came few and far between. With the NBA relying more on spacing it makes it difficult to find lineups that fit Biyombo’s mold.
In the end, the undersized center didn’t earn his stripes last season for the Hornets. After given the opportunity to command the frontcourt, undeveloped and degrading skills ultimately lead Biyombo to a disappointing campaign.