Dunlap: Bobcats need big men, 3-point shooters
Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats tripled their win total this season, yet remain one of the worst teams in the NBA.
Although the Bobcats avoided the embarrassment of finishing with the worst record in the league for a second straight year - they handed that distinction of dreadfulness to the Orlando Magic - Charlotte still is a long way from being a playoff contender.
Their 7-59 record last season was the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history.
This year the Bobcats finished 21-61, which surely isn't good enough for owner like Jordan. He's a fierce competitor who won six championships with the Chicago Bulls.
''We had a better season than we did last year, but I thought we underachieved,'' said guard Gerald Henderson. ''But I still believe we're headed in the right direction.''
First-year coach Mike Dunlap also saw improvement, but isn't satisfied either.
''I want more wins,'' Dunlap said. ''I never thought that we were going to blink our eyes and have 35 wins. I thought it was always going to be a slog. We're slowly moving this thing around and again, what's perspective? The worst team in the history of the NBA (last season), all right, so how do you go from seven wins to, say, 40 wins? That's pretty tough to do.''
Dunlap was brought in to develop young players.
And some of them like Henderson, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo did improve as the season wore on.
But clearly pieces - a lot of them - still need to be added for the Bobcats to approach the level of playoff contender.
The Bobcats were outscored this season by 757 points, more than any team in the NBA.
Defensively, they allowed 102.6 points per game, the second-most in the league, and they were the worst shooting team in the league at 42.5 percent.
''We need some help in terms of our size, for sure,'' Dunlap said. ''Rebounding was an issue all year long. And we need shooters. We need to shoot the 3-ball better.''
Henderson couldn't agree more.
Henderson, the team's two-guard, was the Charlotte's best post-up player this season a testament to the team's huge need for a big man - perhaps a free agent like Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson - who can play effectively on the low block.
''To have a big be able post up and do that and have the guards be able to play on the perimeter would be a plus,'' Henderson said.
For the second straight year the Bobcats struggled from 3-point range, knocking down just 33.5 percent.
''With a lot of teams they have guys out there just to shoot 3s, especially good teams,'' Henderson said. ''They have a guy out there who will knock your head off with the 3-ball. We have good 3-point shooters but we don't have a cold shooter.''
The Bobcats have the means to upgrade at both positions this offseason.
They'll likely have a high lottery pick and up to $21 million to work with in free agency if they use the amnesty clause on seldom-used forward Tyrus Thomas, who is owed slightly more than $18 million over the next two seasons.
While the Bobcats would still have to pay Thomas, removing him from the roster immediately saves $8.7 million under this year's salary cap as part of the league's one-time bailout on bad contracts.
The Bobcats will still carry Ben Gordon's $13.2 million contract into next season - a deal they agreed to as part of acquiring a future first-round pick from the Detroit Pistons - but should be in better shape cap-wise in 2014.
Dunlap said he is excited about the Bobcats young backcourt with Walker and Henderson, both of whom showed progress in the final two months of the season and combined to average 33.2 points per game.
Henderson is a restricted free agent the Bobcats want to re-sign.
Charlotte also got surprisingly solid production from power forward Josh McRoberts, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent who started the final 19 games after being acquired from the Magic at the trade deadline and would like him back.
Biyombo needs to improve on offense, but Dunlap views rookie small forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor as part of the team's future plans, although both need to continue to develop.
The Bobcats started the season 7-5 and then were derailed by an 18-game losing streak.
They closed strong, particularly at home where they won eight of their last 10 games, including three straight to finish the season and overtake the Magic.
''I think we can compete with anyone in the league when we want to,'' Walker said. ''We just have to be more consistent.''
And they have to add some quality pieces to the roster.