Charlotte Hornets: Analyzing The Vital Backup Center Role

Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Hornets, NBA
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Bismack Biyombo

2015-16 was the last season that he was an effective NBA player. In fact, that season Biyombo was one of the best defensive centers in the league. He played 82 games for Toronto in ’15-16 and finished with a defensive real plus-minus rating of 3.02 – good for 9th among centers.

His strong postseason play in ’15-16 is really what secured the aforementioned lucrative contract from Orlando. Biyombo logged 25.3 minutes per game in the playoffs that season with the Raptors, averaging 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He was a force at the rim.

Biyombo has only missed one game in the past three seasons with Toronto and Orlando, which is very likely one of the main reasons Charlotte swallowed hard and traded for the extra year on his awful contract. The Cody Zeller injury history is well documented. Hernangomez enters his third season, so there’s unknown with how he’ll hold up if tasked with a 30 minute workload over a stretch of games. Biyombo presents a veteran presence at the end of the depth chart who can be counted on to stay healthy.

Orlando was a much different story for Biyombo. The already crowded frontcourt for the Magic made the signing quite puzzling.

Toronto exclusively used him as a center off the bench, but according to Basketball-Reference, Orlando experimented with Biyombo at power-forward at least 15 percent of the time in his two seasons there. That’s way too much. At this stage, we know Biyombo has an extremely limited skill-set offensively and presents rim-protection on the other end. He’s a utility player who’s situational use and role should be clearly defined as we head into year eight of his career.

Biyombo has come a long way on the defensive end since his original Charlotte days. He entered the league in 2011 with a defensive reputation and that manifested into Biyombo attempting to block everything. I can confidently say that I don’t recall him not going for a ball-fake during his rookie season with the Bobcats.

Timing has become Biyombo’s best friend as a shot blocker. The speed of the game simply slowing down for him has helped improve the efficiency of the greatest asset he has as a player. Biyombo is an exceptional vertical leaper, but he’s also a great athlete who moves well laterally.

He has little issue tracking more agile centers, such as Willie Cauley-Stein in the clip below, and meeting them at the rim. Not to be overlooked, using his off-hand for the swat.

Biyombo has shown the ability to be an effective pick-and-roll defender. He’s agile enough to cover ground from the three-point line back to the rim when tasked with trapping the ball-handler. Biyombo is also capable of containing the ball while also staying within arms length of the rolling big man, remaining aware of the rim.

This is a great example of doing more than one job as the back line of the defense. Great stance, wide arms and quick feet allow Biyombo to be a step ahead of the offense in this sequence.

There’s not much to write home about when it comes to Biyombo on the offensive end of the floor. He’s an effective roller that can catch lobs and finish emphatically with highlight dunks. Per Basketball Reference, Biyombo finished 71.3 percent of his field goal attempts at the rim last season. Anywhere outside of the restricted area is basically a lost cause and that’s been a constant for basically his entire career. 44.2 percent of Biyombo’s field goal makes were dunks last season, so that gives you a good idea for what type of offensive player he is.

The most troubling aspect of Biyombo’s last two years with Orlando was the astounding decline with his defensive impact. In ’16-17, he posted a defensive real plus-minus rating of 0.77, which ranked 42nd of 67 qualified centers. Last season, Biyombo plummeted to a -0.68 rating, ranking 73rd of 79 qualified centers. Some of this can certainly be attributed to the poor system he was in with the Magic, but this is disturbing nonetheless. If you’re a subscriber of the real plus-minus stat then this deems Biyombo as one of the worst rotational centers in the NBA over the past two seasons.

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