The Charlotte Bobcats, from The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell, will no longer be enlisting the services of center Byron Mullens. The team elected to not extend Mullens a $4 million qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. This move likely comes as a response to the team selecting Cody Zeller with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
The 24-year-old Mullens appeared in 53 games for the Bobcats last season, starting in 41 of those contests. The 29 games he missed were mostly because of ankle and knee injuries, though he has been relatively healthy throughout his career.
Mullens was traded to Charlotte in 2011 for a second round draft pick in the draft that just passed. The move was largely looked at as the Bobcats taking a flyer on a young center with decipherable skills and a huge amount of upside.
In the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 regular season, the infamous 9-57 season for Charlotte, Mullens averaged 9.3 points, five rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game on 42.5 percent shooting. The Bobcats were hoping that he would continue to grow and improve coming into this past season.
For the 2012-2013 season, Mullens averaged 10.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, but he shot a poor 38.5 percent and shot only 31.7 percent from three-point range. His stats improved as his minutes increased from 22.5 per game the year before to 26.9 per game this season, but his efficiency suffered a great deal.
Starting with Mullens on defense, it’s first worth noting that the Bobcats were one of the worst defensive teams in the entire league last season, which makes even good defenders have paltry defensive stats. Having said that, Mullens is not a good defender in the least bit.
Last season, Mullens ranked 393rd in the league in terms of points per possession allowed when plays were run at him, allowing 0.96 points per possession. He didn’t handle isolation plays run at him, allowing 0.85 points per possession. He wasn’t terrible in pick-and-roll sets where he covered the screener, but he wasn’t effective either, allowing 1.17 points per possession
However, it was when he was being posted up that his real flaws showed. In 73 plays where he was posted up, Mullens allowed one point per possession. Considering that he’s a legitimate seven-footer with solid length, his inability to stop post-ups shows that his defensive skills really aren’t great at all.
There’s no denying the talent and versatility of Mullens as an offensive player. For a guy his size, he has a nice combination of skill, quickness and strength that could make him an effective player on that end of the floor. The problem really boils down to his decision-making.
Mullens posted up on 25.2 percent of the possessions where he finished the play and got the ball in the pick-and-roll 12 percent of the time, which are the plays he needs to be running. He wasn’t exactly effective in those sets, shooting 37 percent in post-up situations and 36.1 percent in the pick-and-roll, but that seemed to be when he was at his best.
The biggest negative about Mullens, though, was his tendency to float out of the post and take spot-up jumpers, which he also would do out of the pick-and-roll at times. Mullens shot just 29.7 percent in spot-up situations. He also fell in love with the three-ball, taking 208 three-point attempts last season, an average of 3.9 per game.
Not only did Mullens’ decision to float out decrease his effectiveness and efficiency, but it also made him less effective on the offensive boards, an area where Charlotte really struggled last season. With Mullens’ length and athleticism, it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t have helped had he stayed on the block more often.
Mullens is still a young player with developing skills, but it feels like the Bobcats made the right decision to seemingly move forward without him. He is the type of player that needs to be with the right team, situation and coach, and so far, that place hasn’t been Charlotte. He may have been better with Steve Clifford, but it’s really not worth the risk to see at this point.