Byron Mullens isn’t so much a big man as he is a shooter. Josh McRoberts isn’t so much a big man as he is a passer.
Wednesday in the second half against the Toronto Raptors, the Charlotte Bobcats embraced the unorthodox. Mullens and McRoberts paired as the primary frontcourt and that was good for a win. Mullens came off the bench for 25 points. McRoberts finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
“(Defenses) can’t pack us in because both guys can hit shots,” coach Mike Dunlap said of playing McRoberts and Mullens together.
With the season dwindling down to 14 games, Dunlap’s options are narrowing. Center Brendan Haywood is out the rest of the way after a magnetic resonance imaging revealed a stress reaction in Haywood’s left foot. Young center Bismack Biyombo figures to keep starting, but pairing McRoberts and Mullens shows some promise.
They’re certainly unconventional together. Mullens can spot up along the 3-point line, as he did when he made three of four 3s against the Raptors. McRoberts is most effective as a high-post passer. The Bobcats had 53 assists in their past two games, and that’s not incidental to McRoberts swinging the ball.
“It’s a big key,” Dunlap said of McRoberts’ ballhandling. “He turns the ball to the other side of the floor.”
After starting most of the season, Mullens wasn’t playing much of late. He went seven games without playing 20 minutes in any of them. Then he got back in the swing against Washington and Toronto, totaling 60 minutes, 37 points and 10 rebounds.
“I knew what I had to do – I didn’t need to hear it from (Dunlap),” Mullens said of his game slipping. “My rebounding was down and I was 2-for-21. It was a slump and everyone has those.”
Dunlap and Mullens have a funny relationship. Mullens’ special skill is his jump-shooting, but he’s often reminded if he doesn’t rebound or post-up enough, he won’t play.
It came up again Wednesday when Dunlap joked post-game: “We told him he wouldn’t get his per diem if he didn’t play in the paint.”