When the Charlotte Bobcats first announced that James Southerland had accepted an invitation to training camp, I somewhat dismissed the news and Southerland as a potential NBA player. However, the Bobcats proved me wrong as they have now officially signed Southerland to be a part of their roster for training camp and likely beyond.
In my previous dismissal of Southerland, one of the reasons I was low on him was his lack of proficiency at the Las Vegas Summer League, where he played as a part of the Golden State Warriors. In seven games at Summer League, Southerland averaged only four points and 1.7 rebounds per game in just 11.6 minutes per game while shooting only 34.6 and 33.3 percent from the floor and from three, respectively. However, Southerland did have his most impressive game of Summer League against the Bobcats in the semi-finals as he put up 11 points and five boards in 17 minutes on 3-3 shooting from long-range.
Upon further examination, though, Southerland making the Bobcats roster may not be the only thing I was wrong about. Looking at what he brings to the table for Charlotte, Southerland may not just be on the roster for Charlotte, but he may have a chance to break into their rotation.
Last season the Bobcats ranked just 27th in three-point percentage as a team, converting on only 33.5 percent of their attempts from long-distance. Looking at that and the fact that Charlotte may be looking to phase out aging veteran Ben Gordon, their three-point specialist last season, because of overall ineffectiveness, there’s a niche on this team that Southerland could fill.
Though he struggled slightly at Summer League, Southerland proved in college that he can shoot the ball well. Over his career he shot 37 percent from three, including shooting 39.8 percent in his final year at Syracuse. More than that, Southerland also proved to be a solid defender, even if it was while largely playing zone defense. If he can provide both solid long-range shooting and solid perimeter defense, then Southerland could be a potential upgrade on the wing for Charlotte.
If Southerland could push Gordon out of the rotation, that could be big for the Bobcats in a number of ways. Not only would it give them contributions in more areas than just three-point shooting from their reserve wings, but it would also likely allow the emerging Jeffery Taylor to slide in as their reserve two-guard, his more natural position.
There’s no telling what the Bobcats will actually do when the season begins. They could still trot out Gordon and Taylor at the two and three off of the bench, but there’s also a chance that Southerland could prove himself and crack the rotation. As Charlotte continues to try and improve moving forward, it will be interesting to see what they decide to do with Southerland in this situation.
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