(Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon)The Miami HEAT get right back to it tonight against the Charlotte Bobcats. The HEAT return from their latest road trip with a record of 30-14, tops in the Eastern Conference. The Bobcats are 11-35. Tip off is set for 7:30 PM; coverage on Sun Sports begins at 7 PM.1: If Charlotte doesn’t have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (concussion) tonight, how does that affect their team?
Couper Moorhead: It takes away their best defensive player and their best antidote for LeBron James, which is about as big a blow as you can strike for most teams but considering that the Bobcats are currently ranked last in the league in defensive efficiency, they were going to need an exceptional offensive game anyways. Kidd-Gilchrist is a very, very good cutter, but this game will hinge on how well Charlotte shoots, particularly in guarded, spot-up situations.
Danny Martinez: Without Kidd-Gilchrist, the other Bobcats’ defensive jobs get a little bit tougher. It’s a good bet that he would have defended LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at times. Nobody can really stop those two, but Kidd-Gilchrist could probably slow them down more than anyone on his team. And in general, the Bobcats will miss Kidd-Gilchrist’s activity. He flies around the court at maximum speed, grabbing offensive rebounds and causing havoc in general. It’s tough to replace that.2: Bismack Biyombo was touted as a possible Serge Ibaka when he was drafted. Is here anywhere close to that?
Couper: Biyombo is actually only five spots behind Ibaka – and 7th overall – in the league rankings for block percentage, but he’s far behind Ibaka in terms of positional defense, an area in which Ibaka himself has had to improve in dramatically this season. The offense has a ways to go, as Ibaka has become a better floor spacer than most people could have imagined when he was drafted, but Biyombo has quite a bit to live up to in that area. Of course, Ibaka has had the luxury of playing on strong offensive teams for most of his career, so we’ll have to wait a few years to see how Biyombo develops as Charlotte comes along.
Danny: Not really, though that’s not really his fault. Ibaka has become an excellent mid-range shooter and has started shooting some corner threes. I don’t think we’ll see that from Biyombo any time soon. Defensively though, Biyombo has a chance to become Ibaka. He blocks shots at a high rate already and there’s little doubt he’ll learn some of the subtler nuances that are requird to become an elite overall defender. Ibaka’s gotten better and better defensively each year and he presents a nice model for Biyombo. It’s tough to predict if he’ll get there, but with the Bobcats’ developmental staff, I think there’s a good chance he does.3: Could Kemba Walker be a Top-10 point guard in a year or two?
Couper: After last season it would have been tough to say this, but this is very possible for Walker, who has a strong assist rate despite playing on a team that struggles to make shots, he doesn’t turn the ball over very often and his efficiency has improved dramatically despite using over a quarter of Charlotte’s offensive possessions. As with Biyombo, it’s tough to project for Walker without knowing where exactly Charlotte is headed, but he’s shown he has upper tier, though maybe note elite, talent to work with going forward.
Danny: I don’t see why not. This season, Walker has made huge strides in his game. He currently ranks 8th amongst point guards in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which while imperfect, does indicate that Walker has a lot of value. He’s become a better three-point shooter, which is key for someone who’s a little undersized. The next big hurdle for Walker is shooting at the rim, where he’s still slightly below average. If he can improve on that, or offset it with getting to the line more, Walker will certainly be in the top-10 point guard discussion.