Five things, pertaining to the backups, I think are crucial to the Charlotte Bobcats maxing out their potential this season:
Tap into Ben Gordon: The Bobcats made a huge investment in low-post scorer Al Jefferson. Part of the return on that investment will be how the defensive attention Jefferson draws can open perimeter shots.
Gordon is a 40-percent career shooting from 3-point range. He is as well-suited as any Bobcat to make spot-up jumpers. You might not want him dribbling all around the court, but you want him shooting the J.
The Bobcats made the deal for Gordon knowing the Detroit Pistons would owe them a future first-round pick. But Gordon still has skills this team needs. And the better he plays early, the better the chance some team might want to absorb his $13.2million expiring salary at the trade deadline.
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Figure how to use Ramon Sessions: New coach Steve Clifford is no fan of “going small,’’ so the Walker-Sessions backcourt of last season probably won’t be seen much this season.
Sessions might play fewer minutes, exclusively as the backup point guard. He has great speed off the dribble and a knack for getting to the foul line. This could be a less-is-more situation where Sessions is playing in five-minute stints, but making more explosive plays.
Don’t lose track of Bismack Biyombo: Biyombo probably isn’t a starter anymore with Jefferson the featured center. But he offers a defensive presence in the middle that no other Bobcat provides.
Clifford has told Biyombo to lean on what he does best – blocking shots, rebounding – and not worry too much about his weaknesses for now. That’s a recurring theme for Clifford, who says players should spend as much time refining their strengths as addressing their weaknesses.
Biyombo was the seventh overall pick in 2011. It’s hard to say whether he’ll end up justifying such a high pick, but it’s too early to give up on him. As soon as you trade away a big, it seems another one gets hurt. It’s a lot harder finding another center than another guard.
Whatever got into Jeff Taylor, milk it: It seems the only thing Jeff Taylor lacked his rookie season was self-confidence. He’s quick, he’s strong and he’s smart. He can make 3s and guard a variety of mid-size players. He just had to believe he was that good.
Something changed, and it was apparent at Las Vegas summer league and Eurobasket, where Taylor represented his native Sweden. Taylor was aggressive and assertive. He was making his shot, constantly stealing passes and doing windmill dunks at the other end.
That’s the guy who can impact the Bobcats’ rotation all over the court.
Make power forwards chase Anthony Tolliver: The Bobcats signed Tolliver because he can play power forward and make 3-pointers. They hope that forces opposing power forwards to the perimeter to guard him, which could help open the lane more for Jefferson.
Tolliver won’t be a big part of this rotation but he was brought in for that specific skill. Poor as the Bobcats’ spacing has been past seasons, he can hopefully put defenders in places they don’t want to be.