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Blogcat’s Season Preview, Part 2: The Wings

Okay, we’ve gotten the bigs out of the way, and now it’s time to tackle the wings—preferably with JJ Watt, because I’ve seen a more promising group of wings being peed on by a stray dog in a KFC parking lot. With the exception of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, there’s virtually no upside in our unfortunate mishmash of 3’s and 4’s. Even Jeffery Taylor, who’s only in his second year, is already 24, so I would advise you to lose the hope right away; it will make this go article go by a lot faster. Let’s start with the ugly and then work our way to the bad.

Kidd-Gilchrist is still just 20 years old and has three really desirable qualities. First, he rebounds like Miley Cyrus from bad press. Among SFs with at least 50 games played, MKG was third in total rebounding percentage (12.9%). Second, he really does seem to possess that mythical “ultimate team player” attribute that he became known for in his year at Kentucky. Perhaps his most heroic stat is the following: Charlotte was +5.6 points per 100 possessions better with Jesus Gilchrist on the court (2.5 points better offensively, 3.1 points better defensively) compared to when he was off. On a team that finished with just 21 wins, that is just sensational; I’m convinced that if you crushed MKG with a wrecking ball, he would burst into Elmer’s Glue...and then reform and draw an and-one. And that takes us to the third toe in his sloth of glory: Gilchrist excelled at getting to the FT line, drawing fouls on 30% of his attempts, which he made at a 75% clip. MKG has size, a decent handle, and transitional speed, all of which he made excellent use.

And all of which almost cover up for his mid-range game, which remains violently bad. Last year, MKG sported a 46% eFG% the way fat guys sport thong speedos. And although the team hired shooting guru Mark Price specifically to rehabilitate MKG this offseason, he’s still way off the wagon. I’m less concerned about the infamous hitch in his shooting motion than with the fact that the ball just doesn’t go in. MKG at least knows his limitations and only attempts 4.5 shots per game from beyond 9 feet. But this allows defenses to cheat and play off him; if MKG’s speed and effort are his Adrian Peterson, then his mid-range game is his Christian Ponder. Let’s hope Price can successfully exorcise MKG’s shot demons, otherwise I fear that his head’s going to spin 360-degrees after crashing into a backboard on one of his fearless drives.

MKG’s fellow sophomore small forward, Taylor, had a pretty bland rookie year, but it hinted at a promising future that some people are now going overboard talking themselves into. Taylor’s supposed strength coming out of Vanderbilt was his 3-point shooting, but so far it’s translated about as well as Sega’s Zero Wing. Taylor shot 42.3% from downtown his last year in school but just 34.4% as a rookie. Nonetheless, this was still enough to lead the team (not counting Jannero Pargo and the lifeless remains of Tyrus Thomas), giving Taylor some floor-spacing ability. That and some nice numbers during Summer League are what have caused some people to see his glass ¼ full. But all you have to do is remind me that Taylor narrowly beat out Bismack Biyombo with a 10.3 PER and you have just filled the remaining three-quarters of that glass with urine. Taylor didn’t drive to the hoop much last year, nor did he generate foul shots, nor did he rebound much. He has some great individual defensive ability, especially when switched on opposing two’s, whom he held to an 8.9 PER. But Taylor spent most of his time with the second unit, guarding other teams’ second units (Taylor started just 29 games), and again, he’s 24 already. He’s got “Great 8th Man” potential, especially if he can boost his 3-pt percentage back up to his SEC levels, but if you’re seeing anything beyond that then you’re a bionic psychic.

Next stop: free agent acquisition Anthony Tolliver, who is living proof that one cannot be a great basketball player through faith in Christ alone. Tolliver is extremely Jesus-loving, as evidenced by his roughly 10-15 Judeo-Christian tweets a day. For those of you who keep forgetting details about the throne of our gracious God, including how we should approach it, and what we will receive there, etc., just follow Tolliver on Twitter and he’ll keep you posted (the answers are “boldly” and “His mercy and grace,” respectively). But as far as basketball goes, Tolliver has wandered more than Moses. The Bobcats are Tolliver’s 6th team in 6 years (whoa, 6-6-...), and as a result he has almost zero identity. As a 6-8” tweener, he has some 3-point range (32.5% for his career), and he has a per-36 minute 7.2 RPG average. But he doesn’t take that many shots in general (even on a per-36 minute basis, he’s only averaged 9.1 attempts/game) and doesn’t get to the line, resulting in a pretty woeful lifetime .485 eFG%. Defensively, the numbers are much better. Tolliver was a net-positive for the Hawks, who were his most recent employers (duh, like I had to remind you), and he can guard both the 3- and the 4-spots effectively (he held opposing SF’s to a 15.6 PER and opposing PF’s to a 10.2—fortunately Jesus hasn’t made him too merciful). I guess if Tolliver were ever to stand out, this would be the team to do it with. Just don’t pair him too much with Biyombo on the second unit or our scoreboards are likely to go to screensaver mode from lack of activity.

The final wing I can bring myself to discuss is Jeff Adrien. Adrien’s contact, like my sanity, is not even guaranteed for this year, which is appropriate because he epitomizes scrap pulled from the heap. Only in his third season but already 27, Adrien is horrifyingly inefficient on offense: his .429 eFG% could frack an underground well. But he was technically the team’s best rebounder last year (15.7 TRB%, and yes, I realize we’re in “World’s Tallest Midget” and “Least Crazy Tea Party Representative” territory here), so he does have that going for him. He’s shown run-of-the-mill defensive ability, although it’s hard to judge one way or the other, because the Bobcats were an especially shittily-run mill last year. Plus, even though he’s just 6-7”, Adrien played an inordinate amount of time at the 4, so he was probably out of position the whole time, making him a nice metaphor for last season in general. Expect him to play 10 minutes per game this year, mostly serving as a human white flag while the Bobcats are getting blown out.

And those are our swingmen. As you can see, three-fourths of them are in a prime-less prime, so a lot hinges on MKG’s progression. We’ve at least removed the dead weight of Tyrus Thomas, so that’s addition by subtraction (more like factorial multiplication by subtraction, in Thomas’s case). Defensively they shouldn’t be cover-your-eyes awful, but offensively they’ll be flyover country between the guards and bigs.

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