Charlotte Bobcats roster 2013: Al Jefferson signing signals attempt at relevancy

USA TODAY Sports

Jefferson and rookie Cody Zeller are part of a new-look Bobcats frontcourt that will try to bring the team closer to legitimacy.

The Charlotte Bobcats followed up their disastrous 7-59 season in 2011-12 with marginal improvement last season, winning just 21 games and earning the No. 4 pick in the draft. The Bobcats turned that pick into Cody Zeller, and they made another big addition to their frontcourt by signing Al Jefferson to a three-year deal worth $40.5 million.

The decision to throw money at Jefferson clearly showed the Bobcats were intent on making some type of splash this offseason, and it will likely help them win a few more games this year. But the acquisition almost certainly won't be enough to make the Bobcats truly relevant in the Eastern Conference, and with the stacked 2014 draft class on the horizon, it's debatable whether making that splash will be worth it.

Projected starters 

Kemba Walker - Walker enjoyed a solid second season in the league, averaging 17.7 points and 5.7 assists to lead the Bobcats in both categories. Walker did battle some inconsistency, as evident by his 42.3 percent field goal percentage and 32.2 percent mark from long range. However, both of those numbers were a significant improvement over Walker's rookie season despite being on a higher volume of shots. Walker's PER of 18.86 was eighth-best in the NBA for point guards, and if he continues to improve upon his efficiency, he could possibly establish himself as a top 10 player at that position.

Gerald Henderson - It took a while for Henderson and the Bobcats to reach an agreement on a new contract, but the two sides finally came to terms on a three-year deal worth $18 million. It's a very fair deal for Henderson, who had the best season of his career in 2012-13. While Henderson's shooting percentage dipped slightly from previous years, his three-point percentage jumped by nearly 10 percent. This allowed Henderson to post a career-high 15.5 points per game despite playing two less minutes per game.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft, had a somewhat nondescript rookie season, averaging nine points and 5.8 rebounds in 26 minutes per game. Kidd-Gilchrist was named to the All-Rookie Second Team, but a bit more is often expected out of the second pick in the draft. But while Kidd-Gilchrist's numbers were nothing special, the Bobcats were quite a bit better on both ends when he was on the court, per NBA.com. That's a promising sign, and a significant leap forward will be expected for the 6'7 forward in year two.

Cody Zeller - Many thought Zeller's stock dropped because of his rather poor performance in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but that didn't stop the Bobcats from taking him fourth overall. Thus far, Zeller has made the decision look very good. The 7'0 big man was excellent in Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 52 percent. Zeller is extremely skilled and boasts great athleticism for a player with his size, but he has been knocked for a lack of toughness. If Zeller can prove he can handle the pounding down low, he has the chance to be a good player for a long time.

Al Jefferson - Jefferson has always been a productive player, and things were no different in his last season with the Utah Jazz. Jefferson averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds while shooting 49.4 percent from the field. That's remarkably consistent with what Jefferson has put up over the course of the past few years. But while the offensive production is solid, there's a huge problem when it comes to Jefferson: defense. The Jazz were a whopping 9.2 points per 100 possessions worse with Jefferson on the court last season according to NBA.com, and per Synergy Sports Technology, he was ranked 279th in points per play allowed. So while Jefferson should be able to help a Bobcats scoring attack that was anemic last season, his issues on the other end could erase that.

Key reserves 

Ramon Sessions - Sessions was a key member off the Bobcats' bench last season, averaging 14.4 points and 3.8 assists as the backup point guard. The 27-year-old should play a similar role this year.

Ben Gordon - Gordon feuded with old coach Mike Dunlap, which led to inconsistent playing time. Gordon still showed some flashes of his offensive ability, scoring 34 points in a game in November and averaging 11.2 points on the year.

Bismack Biyombo - Biyombo started 65 games last season, but with Jefferson and Zeller around, his role will shrink. The 21-year-old is still extremely raw, showing little offensive improvement and not having as big of a defensive impact as expected.

Josh McRoberts - After joining the Bobcats in February, McRoberts played major minutes and was rather productive. McRoberts likely won't have as big a role this year, although he could challenge Zeller for a starting spot.

Jeffery Taylor - Taylor played nearly 20 minutes per game as a rookie, and he showed some flashes of offensive competency, reaching double figures in scoring five games in a row in November.

Deep on the bench 

Brendan Haywood - Haywood will be pushed back on the depth chart with the new frontcourt additions, but the 33-year-old did average 4.8 rebounds in under 20 minutes per game last year.

Anthony Tolliver - Tolliver hopes to see some minutes as a stretch 4 after struggling mightily with the Atlanta Hawks last season.

Jannero Pargo - Pargo found a consistent role off the bench with the Bobcats the last month of 2012-13, although he's unlikely to play as much this year.

Jeff Adrien - Adrien played in 52 games last season for the Bobcats, averaging 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Head coach

Steve Clifford - Clifford takes over for Dunlap after spending last season as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers. Before that, Clifford worked under both Van Gundy brothers. Clifford first became an assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy with the New York Knicks, and the two also worked together with the Houston Rockets. Clifford then moved on to work with Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic. Clifford is known as a defensive coach, and he'll be tasked with turning around a Bobcats defense that has ranked last in the NBA in defensive rating the past two seasons. That will be no easy task with Jefferson manning the middle, but at least some improvement should be expected.

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