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November 13, 2012

Bismack Biyombo's inconsistent play explains his inconsistent minutes

    I get asked a lot why second-year Charlotte Bobcats big man Bismack Biyombo is getting inconsistent minutes this season.

                Sometimes the simple answer is also the most accurate one: Inconsistent performance causes inconsistent minutes.

                Biyombo played well in as a fill-in starter Friday, totaling 13 rebounds and three shots blocked against the New Orleans Hornets. After that game coach Mike Dunlap said Biyombo earned a bigger “bite of the apple’’ in terms of minutes.

                So Saturday, with veteran center Brendan Haywood back from a family emergency, Biyombo played 10 minutes off the bench in the first half against the Dallas Mavericks. He contributed one rebound, one block and no points. Dunlap didn’t play him in the second half.

                I can’t fault Dunlap for that decision. The positive signals Biyombo sent in New Orleans were negated by the negative ones he sent versus the Mavs. And that’s OK: Yes, he was the No. 7 pick in 2011. But he’s 20 years old and arrived in the NBA from Africa, by way of the Spanish league, with minimal basketball background.

                You know who understands that? Biyombo. I spoke with him at Tuesday-morning shootaround about his minutes and role. Last season he was a starter as a rookie. This season he’s a reserve. Rather than complain, he takes this as a challenge.

    “I’ve got to get my game to the level it’s supposed to be,’’ Biyombo said.

    What must improve?

    “Everything – try to help the team as much as I can in the time coach is giving me,’’ Biyombo replied. “What I do is rebound and block shots. We’re trying to add little things.’’

                Biyombo arrived in Charlotte with so little offensive game that then-assistant coach Rob Werdann literally taught him how to correctly catch the ball. He’s a bit more polished now, with the occasional jump hook or five-foot jump shot. But Hakeem Olajuwon, he’s not.

                So Biyombo has to have big impact at the defensive end to be a factor. Byron Mullens told me Dunlap’s defensive system is different from predecessor Paul Silas’ in that power forwards have to switch a lot more, taking brief stints guarding perimeter players outside the lane. Under Silas, there wasn’t as much difference between how a center defended and how a power forward did.

                That works for Mullens, who has really good footwork for a 7-footer. It’s more difficult for Biyombo, whose comfort zone is close to the basket. So it seems wise to keep him at center, rather than dabble at power forward.

    “It is a little bit different,’’ Biyombo said of Dunlap’s approach versus that of Silas. “Not different as far as looking at the game, but you do have to adjust. We’re always asked to switch in some kind of situation, especially at the end of a game. So far I think we’re doing good.’’

    Biyombo isn’t a bust. He also isn’t under-utilized. He’s a work-in-progress.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 13, 2012 at 01:20 PM | Permalink


Imagine a world where Cam Newton showed as much fortitude as Bismack. The Panthers would be relevant.

Posted by: Rubberburner | Nov 13, 2012 1:43:43 PM

Maybe not a bust but certainly a major reach for the #7 overall pick.

Posted by: buckshot jenkins | Nov 13, 2012 2:11:56 PM

"Yes, he was the No. 7 pick in 2011. But he’s 20 years old and arrived in the NBA from Africa, by way of the Spanish league, with minimal basketball background."

THIS says everything about Bismack. It says that the pick was foolish, a giant reach by Cho, who committed the greatest sin a personnel manager can do; reaching for a complete unknown within the lottery. He also made it worse by trading a future pick to get the 7th pick used on the unknown. Biz is a great guy, who works hard, is very athletic and is very young. He is also devoid of basketball IQ, has few skills beyond blocking shots, is not improving at a fast rate, and will always be an undersized center (you cannot teach someone how to shoot at the NBA level when they have no foundation or experience). Rick says he is not a bust. I suppose that must await a passage of time, just as we had to wait long enough to see Alexis Ajinca, another reach on an unknown with limited experience and skill, depart the roster. Biz can become a contributor, but it will forever be off the bench, and never worthy of trading a 1st to get him with a lottery pick.

Posted by: Bassman | Nov 13, 2012 2:24:27 PM

"He also made it worse by trading a future pick to get the 7th pick used on the unknown."

I think we got that pick for trading S.Jax to Milwaukee for Maggette.

Posted by: Morningwood | Nov 13, 2012 2:52:29 PM

It's hard not to like Biz. I just wish he was showing more improvement at this stage.

Posted by: apauldds | Nov 13, 2012 3:17:53 PM

At 7? In the words of the great Charles Barkley: "That's turrible"! We should have just given the pick away to someone who knew how to use it. Unproven choice at 7 makes as much sense as getting horrible to get better. Biyombo is a guy you pick up from the NBDL (which is where he belongs right now). And we just picked up his option in the preseason! Management on this team is a joke! Drafting miniature point guards and big contracts for people named Diop and Diaw...brilliant! I wonder if Adam Morrison is available for a comeback? I think my screen name says it all....

Posted by: St. John's assistant coach? Seriously? | Nov 13, 2012 3:46:42 PM

Rick, what you write makes sense. It also lends credence to what I suspect - that Biz isn't going to work out in Dunlap's system. Given time, he could be a solid contributor to a Silas system. I don't think he's going to work out under Dunlap. Doesn't make him a bust, wasted pick, or horrible human being. Just means he's a square peg in Dunlap's round hole system.

@ St. John's - Much of your rant doesn't apply, because those moves (Diop, Diaw, Morrison) were made before Cho got here, and in the case of Biz, was under a different coach and system. Dunlap is doing very well. If Silas were here, not only would we be 0-5, we would have lost every game by 30. There's still a long way to go; we only have about half a roster of legit NBA players. But I think we're going to win 25-28 games - a nice improvement from the worst season in history.

Posted by: J | Nov 13, 2012 4:12:13 PM

The Bobcats have acquired forward Hakim Warrick from New Orleans in exchange for Matt Carroll. Get on this story Observer.

Posted by: Yep | Nov 13, 2012 4:12:40 PM

Bismack was drafted where he was because of a few performances against elite high school talent. He broke the record for blocks in the Nike Hoop Summit game where he had like 13 or something. He is 20 years old and been in the league for a not even a full season and has a new coach, give the guy a chance to develop before labeling him anything.

Posted by: Jones | Nov 13, 2012 4:19:21 PM

Warrick move is Chotasctic! Play Biz at center where he belongs for now.

Posted by: James | Nov 13, 2012 4:33:09 PM

^^^ you don't watch much ball do you? diop and diaw were both deals made PRIOR to cho being hired, and they should never be mentioned in the same sentence. one is going to be out of the league after this year, the other might be playing in June. morrison again drafted prior to cho, was fine pre injury and never given a chance post injury. he played well in euro league last year and lit up summer league in vegas.

I don't like the idea of judging a guy based on a 10 minute sample. sessions made some awkward passes to the guy offensively that made him look bad and he made a HUGE gaff defensively allowing brand to have an open layup. but he also had a great block.

you don't call biz a bust. kemba is 22 and he JUST started looking like an nba starter. mullens was GIVEN away and now he looks like a legit starter at age 23. the scary part is guys like diop who showed the same kind of promise as a youngster and never developed. but then there are guys that blossomed after a slow start.

aminu for new orleans looked like a complete waste of a pick for 2 years and now looks like he's definitely an nba starter....maybe even a budding star.

luc mbah a moute went to UCLA first, and has seen a consistent role as a backup 4, not at all the shot blocker or athlete that biyombo is. ibaka is 23 and just now coming into his own between last year and this.

was biyombo a reach at 7? not if you look at strictly center prospects and said you had to take him at 7 if you wanted a center. if you look at pure talent regardless of position, he no doubt got drafted early. if you look at what we gave up for him though.....it's not bad. we essentially gave up stephen jackson, tobias harris (or the 20th pick) and shaun livingston and got back biyombo, ben gordon and a future 1st from detroit.

you have to be patient with biz. it's frustrating right now, but the kid was top 10 in blocks last year in limited playing time as the youngest guy in the league. that's something you can build off of if you stop worrying about his draft position. they drafted him to block shots and rebound......check. offense will come with time. okafor didn't shoot solid %'s until he was 24.

and you have to let his body mature too. he'll add weight as he gets older. he can't bang with 30 year olds right now, but in 4 years he'll be fine. patience.

Posted by: charlottean | Nov 13, 2012 4:37:02 PM

you need a player like Biz on your team, no one else on this roster can be the enforcer.

Posted by: 336nda704 | Nov 13, 2012 4:45:56 PM

You do not have to be patient if Biz has a less than average baketball iq ,poor footwork, poor lateral footwork, terribble hands , poor coordination, little if any hand eye coordination and zero underlying fundamental skills to build on. That's why you see little progress from last yr to now.

You could keep President Obama in the gym for yrs just like Biz and he would not improve. The same w Biz. Comparing him to other centers or power forwards w some basic skills is stupid. There's a difference between patience and futility. By the way Kenneth Faried , the guy that should have been taken 7 th, was player of the week . How management missed his lack of skills is shocking. The 7 th pick must be nba ready to lead , start and play well. Markies Morris is much better too. He's a nice guy but when you have no underlying skills its not premature to call him a bust ... Now.

Send him to the D league if you have any respect for him. When he's put in a pick and roll , both defenders trap his teammate. What good he does at shot blocking is all given back by walking, traveling, fumbling the ball missing defensive rotations and failing to stay in front of his man be it a center or Pf.
The Cats are not being fair to the fans by not getn a Pf that can score w his back to the basket. They're not being fair to the players or coaching staff. And Mj claims he's all in. He knows damn well as a player, he would demand more. Mullens, TT and Biz are pitiful at power forward and it's wrong ... Dead wrong...

Posted by: Ironman | Nov 13, 2012 5:15:21 PM

What Charlottean said.

Also Morningwood is correct; we swapped Jax/Livingston/19th for the 7th/Maggette which was a stellar trade, esp. considering that in turn got us ANOTHER 1st which should be very good as well as a player we can actually use.

A 20 year old with an insane work ethic is "Never going to improve"? Seriously? LOL! Do you even read what you type?

Picking a project with high upside 7th in a very weak draft is exactly what you do. You can get role players any year.

Posted by: spectre | Nov 13, 2012 5:53:46 PM

president obama doesn't have a 9 foot 3 standing reach. i don't know what biz' vertical is because he wasn't measured for it at the combine but i would imagine it's pretty decent given what we see from him. you can't teach those things. everything else IS teachable.

brendan haywood is the best guy to look at. go watch tape of him at carolina when he was biz's age.

somebody please show me the center prospect that we missed out on in that draft class. jeremy tyler? because he's the only other prospect from that draft in the league and he was a 2nd round pick we gave away (and shouldn't have).

Posted by: charlottean | Nov 13, 2012 6:27:17 PM

He's got a ways to go but its much too early to assume how this young man will turn out. He's not complaining and has accepted that he needs to get better and is willing to put in the work in order to do so. There'll be more nights of double-figure rebounds and a few blocks for him this season

Posted by: Mel Ton | Nov 13, 2012 10:07:23 PM

Some iof you guys , the ones that support Biz , flat out do not know basketball. Kenneth Faried and Markie Morris are light yrs better than Biz.

Dunlap wants nothing to do w him. He sucks . His play in the 2 nd half was worse than the first half and the Wizards came back. By mid yr he will be reduced to Diop minutes and the same role whc will be a total bench warmer. I bet you idiots played only high school ball as it shows in your posts. Save it . He's a bust and a bum. And walks like he has the gout.

Posted by: Ironman | Nov 13, 2012 10:14:17 PM

wow, the life of the nba not easy.

well bismack will be just fine the way i see it. i grew up with this guy and played with him for years. everything he does he's learned recently i remember in 2006 he couldn't even do a proper lay-up so to be where he is today is a blessing. This boy is not a bust. He'll do good.

Posted by: Mike | Nov 14, 2012 2:09:45 AM

Do not know basketball? LOL @ the arrogance! Not knowing basketball is judging a prospect after every game.

We were hearing the same tired diatribe from you about Kemba but since that hasn't been working out for you I guess you've decided to move on to Biz. It doesn't matter if any of those guys are better NOW because it's not about NOW. Project dude...PROJECT.

Posted by: spectre | Nov 14, 2012 5:23:33 AM

Wrong about Kemba? I said he was a terrible pt gd. Never that he was a bust. He jacked shots and constantly missed temmates, both of whc he's improved upon. So save it. I'm done. Dunlap will show you what he thinks of your project. You don't take projects at 7 . Period. Last time... Kenneth Faried was the pick . They blew it. Had they to do it over, They wouldn't touch your project w a ten foot pole and you know it . That's why your false claims of project is a joke. I apologize for using the term idiot .

Posted by: Ironman | Nov 14, 2012 7:30:20 AM

Ok go look at past 20 drafts and tell me how many #7 picks were stars??
After top 3 it is all luck in picking it seems.
Biz has great attitude and is totally raw. he may never pan out but it won't be from lack of trying. And he already has career highs that dwarf Diop as an aside.
Now next contract round if he doesn't show much than look at what you can get for him or cheap renewal but he will take another 2-4 years in my mind to show what he may have for talent.
Oh and who really thought when we got Biz and Kemba that both would pan out. If one of them does it's a win and looks like Kemba really will!!!
Oh and Faried. Monday morning quarterbacks I am sure you all had him going in top 5 right before season started. Really.

Posted by: Season Ticket holder for now | Nov 14, 2012 11:08:33 AM

So you ARE admitting that Kemba is improving! Didn't you throw out that "he will never improve" line on him in another blog awhile back like you did in this one with Biz?

Doesn't matter though...glad you're "done" with that.

In the weak 2011 draft 7th was a great place to take a project. Drummond...who many considered a project with high bust potential because of his suspect motor was taken 9th this past draft which was considered MUCH stronger.

But let's get to your inside line with Coach Dunlap...you saying that you "know" (or are at least heavily implying) that Dunlap doesn't want to play Biz. From everything I've seen Dunlap is on the very same page that Rich Cho is on...and we know from the video of when we were debating our pick for this year he ruled out Drummond. Why? Because of Biz!

So yeah, I'm not buying your supposed direct line to the coach's inner thoughts. Cho knew what he was getting when we drafted Biz and I feel pretty confident that he's not given up on him because Morris is better than him right now.

We're all about the future. That should be pretty apparent to everyone by now.

Posted by: spectre | Nov 14, 2012 11:25:30 AM

Biyombo is a project, not a bust.

But 1. it has to be admitted that there were several better players picked after him in that Draft, and 2. even as a project he has his limitations.

Positives first: he's an above average shot blocker, he's all right as a rebounder, he's a tough low post defender. He's also working hard on improving his offense, and occasionally, in some possessions, you can see results.

But, for all his length, he's still an undersized center, and in defense he's overwhelmed when matched up against bigger centers; that's why Brendan was brought in, because we need a legit, full size, center (and Diop doesn't perform as LB hoped he will).

And, while he's working on slowly improving his offensive skills, it's not clear how long this process might take (because he's far behind NBA big men who have the college, or foreign pro, experience he's lacking), and even more important, there's no guarantee that he'll ever become an effective offensive player.

That's why, even though it makes sense to expect him to improve, I don't expect him to become a starting center in this league, much less a PF; a decent back-up center at NBA level, that he can become. Using the 7th pick overall on him - just because they were so excited about his potential, based mainly on length, athleticism and proven shot blocking talent - in the 2011 Draft, with such players available at that time (Kenneth Faried is just one very good example), was too much.

Posted by: Sandy | Nov 14, 2012 1:17:09 PM

"it has to be admitted that there were several better players picked after him in that Draft"

Right now? Sure...I don't think anyone has denied that. The iron dude keeps bringing up Faried who went 22nd overall...which of course shows most GMs didn't think he'd do as well as he has. I don't see how that's justification for having to admit anything. If he went within a couple picks of Biz then yeah...but that didn't happen.

Of those picked after Biz excluding Faried, almost everyone is struggling early with the exception of Marcus Morris, Leonard & Harris...and none of those guys were projected at the time to be can't miss/breakout players. We swung for the fences hoping Biz would eventually be better than what they are because his potential is higher. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't. It's hard to win if you don't gamble.

I disagree with him being undersized. He has the body to add bulk and he has the length/reach/athleticism to be more than adequate. He will never be a Haywood type C but he certainly has the ability to be a Howard type.

You did catch the ORL games where he frustrated Dwight to no end right? If he can play well against him then I don't see a problem.

Posted by: spectre | Nov 14, 2012 2:07:15 PM

Nice post, Spectre. But, I disagree.

Besides Faried, players I liked back in 2011 (over Biyombo): Klay Thompson (talented shooter), the Morris twins (I was praising Marcus for what he showed in college, but Markieff is indeed better suited for the NBA; between these two, it's the one with the better physical attributes over the more skilled one, at the pro level) and especially Kawhi Leonard (oh yeah, the Spurs always make very smart player personnel decisions).

With Biyombo, we pushed drafting for potential to its extremes. Again, I see his positives, I don't think he's a bust, but also, it wasn't the right use of the 7th overall pick as far as I can see. About size (despite his length): I saw our Bismack so badly overcome in defense by full size centers, in many games, that I can't see this as an issue that will go away with more experience.

I understand you believe he might still justify that pick. I maintain my opinion on this.
Time will tell.

Posted by: Sandy | Nov 14, 2012 2:44:13 PM

We are going off opinions here so I want to say I do appreciate yours (always have actually). I can't "prove" you wrong and the only reason I went into this particular blog was to argue against this definitive "bust" narrative, not whether Biz would actually pan out. Sure I have faith, but that and 2 bucks will get me a warm drink at the local gas station.

One thing of note: the cost to us for that 7th pick. You can have the position that a pick that high isn't worth a gamble...but what about the 19th? That (and Livingston, but we're talking limited role player here) was pretty much the only value we gave up in that trade.

So was the 19th overall worth gambling with? Since that was such a stellar trade I'd think the guy who pulled it off should have the latitude to roll the dice with it.

Posted by: spectre | Nov 14, 2012 3:46:33 PM

You know, that's a bit like the cow that fills a bucket of milk, then kicks it with the hind legs... I say "a bit like", because it's really not that bad. I just wish we had a better draft in 2011.

Having said that, I really liked the player personnel moves the management made in 2012: the Draft, the trades, the signings. That's how we have a competitive team this season, and a good basis towards building a playoffs team for next season.

Posted by: Sandy | Nov 14, 2012 6:49:08 PM

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