Mullens held back by shot selection
While new personnel (Head coach Mike Dunlap, Ramon Sessions, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, et al) has been been the primary reason the Bobcats are 4-4, the improvement of holdovers Kemba Walker and Byron Mullens has also played an important role.
With an offensive arsenal very similar to that of the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka — a solid jumper shooter with range to the 3-point line and strong right-hand driver in isolations — Mullens has been counted on at times to provide some shot creation for a team still desperately lacking consistent offensive options. In combination with poor discipline from Mullens, this need has led to a dizzying array of bad shots that kill any chance whatsoever of the talented 7-footer producing an efficient stat line. From off-balance 3’s to twisting fadeaways in isolations, many of Mullens shots would have a low probability of success even if attempted by Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony, two players much more fluid and skilled than the 275 pound center.
If the Bobcats are going to ask Mullens to routinely create offense, they must help prepare him for such a role. By giving him a true game plan in isolations such as where to attack (the middle of the floor) with a few simplified attacking moves (shot-fakes into one or two dribble jump hooks with baseline spin counters) the team could not only eliminate the wild shots currently plaguing Mullens, but help the talented power forward take the next step in his career.
Eric Bledsoe will be a max player
Despite averaging only 18.2 minutes per game behind Chris Paul, it’s becoming increasingly clear that “mini-Lebron” is well on his way to becoming an elite talent. Agains the Bulls on Saturday night, Bledsoe not only efficiently carved up Tom Thibodeau’s scheme (4 of 6 FGs, 4 assists without a turnover) but completely dismantled the Bulls offense.
Though there are still concerns about his outside shooting and ability to run a team full time, his defensive value is through the roof. Against Chicago, he produced deflections or forced turnovers on multiple handoff attempts — an extreme rarity on that type of action — and essentially blew up any opportunity for the Bulls to use the player he was guarding in a two man game. Add in the devastating impact he has as an on-ball defender and 22-year old Bledsoe could still earn a monster payday in the near future even if his offensive game fails to do anything other than marginally improve.
Timberwolves could have another star in the making
Earlier in the week I tweeted out that despite some horrid shooting numbers, Minnesota’s Alexey Shved was still able to provide solid production for injury-plagued squad. The scary part — for both the team and the league — is that the young Russian import is doing just that without a real notion of how to play at this level. Shved merely reacts to things happening on the court right now rather than anticipating them, which should come as no surprise given he’s never played at anywhere near this level of competition on a consistent basis before this season.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that simply gaining more experience is the only thing holding Shved back. This type of growth can’t just be taken for granted as some players sometimes stay maddeningly incapable of understanding the finer nuances of the game. But if Shved is willing to put in the time to learn craft, his upside as a scorer and playmaker is through the roof.