The Charlotte Bobcats are going to conclude the 2012-13 season with no more than 21 wins, which actually isn't too bad considering the team won just seven of 66 games in the 2011-12 campaign.
The team is one with few strengths and many weaknesses, and also a team that has yet to establish any true franchise cornerstones.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker are the team's two most highly-prized players, yet neither is regarded as much more than a potential role player on a contending team. MKG has drawn a lot of rave reviews due to his all-around play, but the Bobcats also realize that the former Kentucky Wildcat is unlikely to ever be a premier scorer.
While that same statement may not apply to Walker, his diminutive stature combined with limited playmaking abilities limit his ultimate upside. He's adjusted well to learning to play the point; however, if the Cats were able to upgrade at point guard via the draft or free agency, it would be as viable an option as any of the other five positions.
Where does this leave Bobcats GM and owner Michael Jordan as he tries to construct this team into a winner?
He'll have some decisions to make, but will find himself trapped with several bad contracts. Jordan still does have the amnesty clause to exercise and will consider using it on a 2-guard no one seems all that interested in anyway.
Meet the Main Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo
The Bobcats really are a team with no franchise talents. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was taken No. 2 overall, but is at the best a very good player. He's not going to change a franchise's fortune single-handedly, or do anything even close to that. The same statement applies to Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, though their impacts as players are far different than MKG's.
MKG compares most favorably to Scottie Pippen, a gifted and long small forward who can be an elite defender with some work and a serviceable No. 2 or No. 3 option offensively, with third option being the most preferable. He's rebounded the ball well for a swingman (8.1 rebounds per 36), and he's also been a game-changer on defense (one-plus steal, one-plus block per 36).
Kidd-Gilchrist has been everything the Bobcats had hoped he would be, but the Cats still struck out on the other franchise talent in the draft, and are among the four teams kicking themselves for passing on No. 6 overall selection Damian Lillard (New Orleans is probably pleased with No. 1 overall Anthony Davis, and he was a consensus pick).
It's those kinds of decisions that can quickly change a franchise's fate, and for all MKG has been and could be, Lillard would have got Charlotte walking at a far quicker pace in the right direction.
Walker does have the potential to at least be a very valuable scorer in this league. It's hard to imagine him starting on most of the contending teams in the league, but his ability to score in bunches off the bench, in addition to being on a rookie contract, makes him a valuable cog in Jordan's blueprint.
Biyombo is a defensive stopper. Essentially, the Bobcats are hoping the Congo native is able to assume a similar career path to Ben Wallace. Bismack has to put a lot of time in the weight room to ever achieve Big Ben's stature, but at 6'9" with a long frame and great timing, the ability to block shots and make lightning quick defensive rotations is there.
Biyombo averaged 1.8 blocks per game this season. Nevertheless, he has shown little to no progress offensively and his field goal percentage has gone down from his rookie season (46.4 percent last year to 44.5), while he's also scoring nearly two points less per 36, which is a pretty big fall when a guy is just over eight points to begin with.
While MKG, Walker and Biyombo could all be fine players in time, there aren't GMs banging down Jordan's door asking for their services. All three are on rookie contracts.
With Which Contracts Is Michael Jordan Stuck?
Michael Jordan has three guys on this roster he'd prefer to amnesty if he could use the clause three times over this summer: Brendan Haywood, Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas. Gordon and Thomas are the worst offenders, owed $13.2 million and $8.6 million, respectively, next season.
But Haywood is pretty useless at this point in his career, too, and it's not as though any of these three guys is ever going to help the Bobcats get anywhere other than less than the 25 percent win mark they're currently situated with. Haywood's last good season was in 2009-10 with the Dallas Mavericks, and this season he's shot 43.1 percent from the floor while posting a ghastly Player Efficiency Rating of 8.7.
Because Gordon has just one year left on his contract, and it's a player option, Jordan may seek to bite the final bullet there and swallow his contract, but when Gordon was shopped at the trade deadline in February, little interest was shown league-wide in a guy who gets paid a double-figure contract yet is basically a specialist.
Tyrus Thomas is a guy whose upside ticker has now run out. Coming out of LSU, Thomas' athleticism was supposed to help him translate to be a strong athletic 4-man who could give matchup problems to both small and power forwards.
Instead, he followed in the path of the LSU big man before him, Stromile Swift, and never reached even a fraction of the high potential he was billed as having. Thomas has appeared in just 348 minutes of game time this season, and he's shot 40.8 percent from the floor while posting a PER of 8.9.
Jordan will also have Ramon Sessions and Jeffery Taylor on the books, but Sessions is a decent guy to have around and still has a decent amount of upside as a bigger point guard who can distribute the ball.
Taylor is on a min-contract. He has started 29 games this season for the Bobcats and averaged nearly 20 minutes per game over 75 games this season. While his numbers are humble, the Vandy alum is a good bargain value to be a rotation player on a team going nowhere any time real soon.
Four of these five guys at least have to be back, and at this point the fact that the Bobcats are in no position to contend soon should ease MJ's mind. It's not as though he's saddling bad contracts on a team that is one or two pieces away from completion.
Will the Bobcats Re-Sign Gerald Henderson and B.J. Mullens?
The Bobcats chose not to extend the qualifying offers to Gerald Henderson and B.J. Mullens. They will instead wait until this summer to see if they can get them cheaper.
For Henderson it seems pretty plausible, but Mullens is a guy in whom some team around the league may end up showing interest. He's an awkward stretch-4, and like most guys on this team, it's difficult to say what kind of numbers he would put up if surrounded by normal levels of talent on a far better team.
Mullens shoots a pathetically low 38.5 percent from the floor, but the one-and-done talent from Ohio State still shows flashes at times. Seven-footers who can stretch the court are always coveted at a bit of a premium, but the Bobcats clearly felt $3.2 million was too much to just extend to Mullens on the basis of a 10-point, six-rebound season.
Henderson is in his fourth season in the league, and he's gotten better every year. He's the second-best scorer in Charlotte, averaging 15.3 points per game. He's athletic but not a lights-out shooter, and he posts about the league average PER of 14.
It's difficult to tell if a lot of the Bobcats' stats are inflated or deflated due to the lack of talent, but Henderson could be at least a good bench scorer on a good team. On Charlotte, he's one of the best things going, which is what made it perplexing that Jordan didn't extend the $4.2 million offer to the Duke product.
The Bobcats likely won't more than double their win total next season and go from a cellar dweller to a playoff team. There aren't any of those kinds of franchise-changing talents available in this year's NBA draft, and the Bobcats aren't waiting on any high profile European prospects to come save their franchise either.
However, rebuilding does take time, and the Bobcats will try to encourage their fanbase on the hopes that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker can provide some excitement (and a few wins, maybe?) until the team can land a true franchise savior in the 2014 draft, a crop which is said to be one of the richest draft classes in NBA history.