3 For 358: The Bobcats Biggest Dilemma
The Bobcats have won just 28 games in the last two seasons, but after signing Al Jefferson drafting Cody Zeller and re-signing Josh McRoberts to bolster an anemic offensive front court this year is supposed to be different. This is to be the year that patient fans are rewarded and a clear direction for the future becomes clear. The team should be able to contend for the 8th spot in the eastern conference. Through five preseason games, however, an Achilles heel that may short circuit all of that has reared its ugly head.
In giving Al Jefferson a twelve million dollar per year deal, the Bobcats expect the big man not only to put up his own numbers, but also to create easier opportunities for his teammates. Al’s successfully filled this role before, passing out of double teams and creating open shots for the shooters on his team. The problem for the Cats, who is that shooter? This dilemma isn’t a one way street either. If teams don’t respect the Cats perimeter players, they will double team Big Al far more aggressively, which will hurt his production. Even if the backcourt players step in closer, it’s a losing proposition. The defense has less distance to recover from the rotation and long 2′s are the worst shot in basketball. Teams need to be fearful of a 3-point shooter on the court to maximize what Big Al can provide.
Through five preseason games, the projected backcourt starters, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have combined to make just three 3-pointers in a combined 358 minutes. To put it another way, Kemba Walker has hit three 3-pointers this preseason, while Henderson and Kidd-Gilchrist have combined to make zero. 358 minutes is the nearly the equivalent of 10 full quarters of minutes for those three starting positions and making only 1.2 3-pointers per game will not cut it.
Last year, the Memphis Grizzlies averaged just 4.7 threes per game en route to a 56 win season and the 5th seed in the western conference. That team, however, allowed just 89.3 points per game (best in the league), while the Bobcats allowed 102.7 points per game (second worst in the league). With due respect to new additions Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller, they’re not going to turn the Bobcats into an east coast version of the Grizzlies.
So what options does Coach Clifford have? The easy solution on the offensive end is Ben Gordon, by far the team’s most consistent 3-point shooter. Gordon, however, has not started regularly since the 08-09 season and a defensive backcourt of Walker and Gordon, without a shot eraser behind them is begging for trouble. Beyond Gordon, Jeff Taylor will be a popular suggestion, but he’s struggled with his shot in the preseason and has yet to shown to be a consistent offensive threat. Starting Taylor would also mean the second unit would have Biz and MKG on the floor together, arguably the two worst offensive players in the team’s regular rotation. Any other possible answer on the roster feels like a short term patch.
The Bobcats made a financial investment in Al Jefferson this off-season, but in order for it to pay off, they have to find someone to consistently knock down the outside shot. As of today, its not clear that answer is on the roster.
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