Blazersedge contributor Chris Lucia will be writing team-by-team previews over the next month as we count down to the start of the 2013-14 season. All team previews can be found right here.
2012-2013 record: 21-61, No. 4 in Southeast Division, No. 14 in Eastern Conference
Roster additions: Al Jefferson, James Southerland, Anthony Tolliver, Cody Zeller (Rookie, No. 4 overall)
Roster subtractions: Matt Carroll, DeSagna Diop, Cory Higgins, Byron Mullens, Tyrus Thomas, Hakim Warrick, Reggie Williams
There seems to be a lot of hope in Charlotte for a team that won seven total games just two seasons ago and 21 games last year. Some analysts even think they can be one of the most improved teams in the East in 2014.
Well, uh....that just seems slightly unlikely.
Let's take a look at what the Bobcats did to improve on their 21-win campaign from a year ago. They added Al Jefferson, one of the best offensive low-post scorers in the game. He is a borderline All-Star center, and brings a 20/10 pedigree to a team that desperately needs scoring, particularly in the paint (actually, they need help anywhere they can get it). Charlotte also drafted seven-foot Indiana forward/center Cody Zeller No. 4 overall, a consistent scorer and rebounder at the college level, and brought in forward Anthony Tolliver, who averaged 4.1 points per game last year to go along with his 8.1 PER average.
So, yeah. There's your 2013 Charlotte Bobcats summer. Unless undersized center Bismack Biyombo, the No. 7 pick in 2011, and point guard Kemba Walker, the No. 9 pick in in the same draft, both had absurdly productive offseasons, don't expect this team to be better than enough other franchises in the East to sniff the playoffs. Even in a conference loaded with teams tanking for the 2014 draft, the Bobcats did not address enough of their true needs to get them anywhere near the postseason.
Charlotte has been downright abysmal on defense. Where to start? They were bottom-five in the league last season in over a dozen measurable defensive statistics, including dead-last in average scoring margin, opponents assists per game, opponents effective field goal percentage and opponents three-pointers made per game.
So how did the Bobcats address their defensive deficiencies? Of course! They gave a three-year, $41 million deal to Jefferson, a 6'10'' center who admits he is not a good defender. Maybe the Bobcats' brain trust thought Zeller would blossom into a low-post defensive presence. Ben Swanson, of SB Nation's Charlotte affiliate Rufus on Fire, explained in a post-draft article that Zeller lacks interior toughness, has a short wingspan, isn't a shot-blocking threat and avoids physicality. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Biyombo blocked almost 2 shots a game last year, but was pretty average on defense, otherwise.
Nothing really changed in the back court, either, so unless some of the returning guys do a 180-degree turnaround on defense and actually get some stops, Charlotte will most likely not improve much. Of course, the coaching staff, front office and fans have hope that there will be a natural progression for the defense, but that is certainly not guaranteed, especially for a team that's been terrible on that side of the ball for years.
This team does have some firepower on offense, and Jefferson's low block presence should help free some space for Charlotte's shooters. The only problem is that the Bobcats don't really have reliable shooters. Ben Gordon can hit the three-pointer, but Walker hasn't developed an outside shot yet and Ramon Sessions has been wildly inconsistent from outside in his six seasons. Gerald Henderson can't hit the deep ball and neither can Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Expect Jefferson to get his points in the paint, but until proven otherwise, the Bobcats lack the ability to consistently capitalize on any open looks they are afforded.
Jefferson, Walker and Henderson will get their points and Gordon and Sessions should be effective scorers off the bench. Still, there's no way that Charlotte's offense can offset the amount of points their defense will give up. They'll score, but they'll get scored on. A lot. The Bobcats are a few years from being a factor in the East, and should end up in the lottery for the fourth straight season. If Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Biyombo progressed at all this summer, Charlotte may see an uptick in winning percentage this year, but they lack proven shooters on offense and their defense may be just as bad as it was last season. Add them to the long list of teams squarely focused on obtaining as many ping pong balls as possible in the 2014 draft lottery.