A year ago, the Charlotte Bobcats were about as far from methodical on offense as possible. Almost every player that touched the floor played with a shoot-first mentality, which led to a multitude of contested or poor shots. This type of offense resulted in a record of 7-59, good for a .106 winning percentage, the lowest in NBA history.
However, with the arrival of new Charlotte head coach Mike Dunlap, that changed. The Bobcats seemed to lose their free-shooting mentality over the offseason and began setting screens, making the extra pass and looking for quality shots. It appears as if they are no longer playing like individuals in the same-colored jerseys jacking up any and every shot possible. Instead, they are playing as a unit.
If there’s one player for Charlotte who hasn’t bought into this newfound unity on the Bobcats, it’s center Byron Mullens. Mullens hasn’t turned into a full-blown renegade by any means, but he has been somewhat of a black-hole on the offensive end of the floor.
Watching Mullens play, it’s as if he can’t shake the lessons he learned last year on the offensive end. If the ball ends up in his hands on any given possession, my automatic assumption is that he is going to shoot. His eyes look directly at the rim when he gets the ball, not around him for open teammates.
His assist numbers back up what I’ve been seeing, averaging only 1.3 assists per game. Granted, he is a center who’s not expected to put up gaudy assist numbers. But when you consider the energetic and slashing guards on his team like Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Ramon Sessions, you would think that his assist numbers shouldn’t hover around the one-per-game mark.
More important than Mullens’ lack of passing, though, is his shot selection. After only 17 games, he has already attempted 85 three-pointers, the 28th most in the league. That would be fine if he had a reputation as a long-range shooter, but he doesn’t. Mullens has made only 24 of those attempts, giving him a 28.2 three-point shooting percentage on the season. With such a low success rate, it’s curious why he continues to have the green-light to shoot from downtown, especially considering how much of an affect his performance has on the Bobcats.
It’s been noted that Charlotte has played a plethora of close games this season, with 14 of their games being decided by 10 points or fewer. In those games, Mullens is 19-67 from three-point range. Had he looked for a better shot or for someone to pass to on possessions that ended with him shooting a three-point field goal, it’s not hard to imagine the Bobcats scoring a more and managing a few extra victories.
Mullens is stifling the Bobcats progress at the moment. He is interrupting the offense by shooting shots that he converts on with a low-success rate. He isn’t looking to move the ball and run Dunlap’s offensive sets. He’s just playing with a gunner-mindset and it’s holding this team back.
With Mullens continuing to jack up low-percentage shots, it’s time for Dunlap and his staff to reign in their center. The coaches need to strip, or at least limit, Mullens’ green light to shoot, especially from three-point range. Doing this will lower the number of empty-possessions for the Bobcats and potentially allow them to score at a higher rate because of the quality of shots they’ll be getting in place of Mullens’ three-balls.
Mullens isn’t the only issue plaguing Charlotte right now, but fixing the issues he’s creating on offense would be a good place to start getting better and more efficient for the Bobcats.