LAS VEGAS — New Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford doesnt want to get caught shorthanded next season at point guard or among the big men.
He can live with fewer choices at shooting guard and small forward.
Thats Cliffords general philosophy in building an NBA roster. With the Bobcats signing free-agent center Al Jefferson and re-signing power forward Josh McRoberts, the roster has been firmed up. The last major step will be resolving whether shooting guard Gerald Henderson is back, either through a multi-year extension or on the one-year qualifying offer.
Clifford sees signing a third point guard and retaining another big man as priorities.
You have to have a third point guard. If your teams not organized in this league, you have no chance to play well, Clifford said at summer-league practice Wednesday.
I think you have to have six bigs, he added, referring to centers and power forwards.
We have some flexibility in that (small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) will play some power forward. But if you dont have enough bodies up front and you go to Memphis and one of them has the flu, that means somebody (undersized) has to guard Zach Randolph.
The Bobcats stay in Las Vegas for summer league is winding down. Seeded fifth in what now is an elimination tournament, theyll play the Memphis Grizzlies, who beat the Washington Wizards to advance.
If the Bobcats lose Thursday, they will play a consolation game Saturday. If they win, they will keep playing until they either lose or win the tournament Monday.
Assuming the Bobcats re-sign Henderson, they will be roughly at the NBAs salary cap next season -- $58.7 million. So any other needs most likely would be addressed with veteran-minimum contracts. That would be the avenue for players like point guard Jannero Pargo and power forward Jeff Adrien to return.
Heres a look at where the Bobcats stand at each of the five positions:
Point guard: Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions under contract.
Comment: Theyre as solid here as any position. Walker improved dramatically between his rookie and second seasons, as reflected in his invitation to the Team USA minicamp this month in Las Vegas. Sessions was a strong free-agent signing a year ago; he attacks well off the dribble and can defend some shooting guards enough to allow Clifford to play both point guards together. Clifford wants a third point; Pargo was solid over the final 18 games last season, and adds some 3-point shooting.
Shooting guard: Ben Gordon and Jeff Taylor under contract. Henderson is a restricted free agent.
Comment: The team wants to sign Henderson, the 12th overall pick in 2009. The question is agreeing on a salary number. If Henderson doesnt sign for multiple years, he could play next season under a qualifying offer (in excess of $4.2 million) to become unrestricted next summer. Gordon is in the final year of his contract at a team-high salary of $13.2 million. Taylors play in Las Vegas reinforced the idea he can play shooting guard and small forward.
Small forward: Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor under contract.
Comment: Kidd-Gilchrist is a strong defender who Clifford believes can guard shooting guards, small forwards and some power forwards. Taylor also has defensive versatility and shot 48 percent from the field and 38percent from 3-point range during three summer-league games.
Power forward: Cody Zeller, McRoberts and Adrien under contract. (Adrien unguaranteed).
Comment: Zeller, the fourth overall pick last month, and McRoberts figure to spend lots of time in the high post, since theyre both strong passers and ballhandlers. Adrien should get a look at camp, since he still is attached to the team on an unguaranteed deal.
Center: Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo and Brendan Haywood under contract.
Comment: Jefferson is the most expensive free-agent acquisition in franchise history, addressing a chronic need for post scoring. Biyombo is a defender who is quite limited offensively. Haywood has two seasons left, costing the Bobcats $2 million each season. It is conceivable summer-leaguer Henry Sims is invited to camp.