The New Era of the Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats have continued the purge. They’ve continued stripping away pieces of their old regime and added two new ones through the draft. Captain Jack is on his way to Milwaukee, complete with his on-court reputation of being a malcontent and his off-court reputation of being the best teammate anyone could have.

The Bobcats have been in rebuild mode for over a year. They let Raymond Felton walk, traded Tyson Chandler for what amounted to nothing and sent Gerald Wallace to Portland for two draft picks. They’ve completely dismantled a team that was building chemistry and was “playing the right way”.

We saw that continuation this week with the selections of Bismack Biyombo, a shot-blocking and rebounding machine, and Kemba Walker, a clutch-shooting, playmaking floor general.

“When you look at our team, yeah, you can say we’re a young team,” VP of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins said in the team’s post draft press conference. “But I don’t think you can go into that locker room when we have that team together and say that we’re rebuilding. If you say to one of our players, like Gerald Henderson or D.J. Augustin, those young vets or Tyrus Thomas, they feel that they’re capable of competing every night. I think for you guys, you’ll put the questions to us and you’ll question if we’re ready to compete at a playoff level. That’s what happens when you have young assets. We made the Wallace trade so we could get these young assets to get in the position to, as Rich would always say, try to sustain success over a long period of time. That success is hopefully not far away.”

“Far away” is subjective. The Bobcats, barring any significant moves, probably won’t be contending for a playoff spot next season, and it’s likely that they won’t be contending for a few more seasons until Biyombo, their new crown jewel, is acclimated to the NBA game.

“His upside is still tremendous,” Higgins said of Biyombo. “The attributes that this young man has are right in your face, with his athleticism, ability to block shots, ability to change ends of the court and I think his offensive game is obviously untapped. I’m sure our coaching staff is looking forward to working with him.

“He’s just a wonderful person. We see a lot of upside in his game. He’s got a wingspan of 7’7” and a reach of 9’3”. He’s got a great work ethic. All the background work and research we did was positive and we’re just really excited to have him.”

With the drafting of Kemba Walker, the Bobcats have gotten themselves the on-court leader they’ve been looking for. Walker is a high-character, hard working point guard that can score as well as distribute and defend.

It’s a little puzzling that the Bobcats would choose to replace Augustin so quickly after just a year of mediocre results, however. Augustin seemed to really have progressed under Paul Silas. Still, you don’t make a move like drafting Kemba Walker if you are happy with your starting PG. Make no mistake about it, Augustin is on the outs, and Kemba Walker will not only start sooner rather than later, but will be the team’s new heart and soul on the court.

The team lost a lot when they traded Gerald Wallace. Getting Kemba Walker fills that void.

“I’ve been playing point guard my whole life,” Walker said at his first Bobcats press conference. “Now people question whether I can get guys involved or not, but I’ve been getting guys involved a lot my whole career. Like I said, I had to score out of necessity for my team. Coach Calhoun told me to work on scoring baskets because I was going to need a lot of points. That’s what I did. It’s just a plus for me now. Now I’m able to score. Depending on how games go, whether it’s getting guys involved or I’m scoring, both of those things can open things up for me. So, it’s just a plus for me.”

It would seem that in drafting Walker, the Bobcats have taken a step back already by replacing a piece that’s still here.

“I wouldn’t necessarily view it as a step back,” new GM Rich Cho said. “We got two top-ten picks, a guy that won the National Championship last year, a proven winner; Bismack is a really young up-and-coming player. When I was with Oklahoma City and we drafted Serge Ibaka, nobody knew who he was. Bismack’s got a long way to go before he’s the player Serge is, but he’s got a lot of physical tools and one thing you’re going to find is he’s going to be one of the first guys in the gym and one of the last guys out. And guys like that have a tendency to improve.”

We’ll see. Last year’s motto was “Win as One”. Next year’s might be “Win One.”