So here is my take on the pre-season and how it impacts going forward. I think Cole Anthony had a really good pre-season considering 1) he hasn't played since March, and 2) none of the rookies had much of a camp. I think he immediately slides into the backup PG role, and helps bring the energy that they have sometimes lacked. His offensive ability and mindset should take some of the pressure off of TRoss, hopefully allowing him to become more efficient and effective - possibly also allowing TRoss to expend a little more effort on the defensive end as well. Hopefully, the return of Ennis will move Bacon back to the second unit and that should also contribute to the offensive punch of that second unit. I expect Bacon to be better against backups than he was starting. I do still have some hope for Bamba, and I think playing with Anthony and a more up-tempo second unit will either make or break him. Hopefully it will force him to get in the shape necessary to keep up, and play with the energy he frequently lacks. Anthony is the type of push-the-pace guard that will get Bamba easy transition buckets and good position/mis-matches if he steps up. I truly hope he does, otherwise I think he will be off this team next year.
I find it interesting that what should be a position of strength for us (PF) is currently probably our weakest spot due to injuries. With Isaac out for the year, Aminu still in recovery mode (and not very good last year before the injury), Clark being really inconsistent as a bench player, and Okeke being a rookie/coming off an injury/not having played in a year and a half, it is the position of concern in the short-term. I did see some positives from Okeke, and I think he will be given time to recover/grow into the backup PF role, and maybe even some backup SF. I think we will see the same conservative, low-pressure approach for him that we saw them take with Fultz. I wouldn't even be surprised to see him spend a little time with Lakeland to get him more court time with less pressure. I know we haven't really seen it yet, but if Birch did add a three-point shot he may grab some of the backup PF minutes. I don't like the Vuc/Birch front court, but Clifford seems to. So here is where I see our rotation going once we get some guys healthy:
I think we see a lot of 3-guard lineups for the second unit with Anthony/MCW/Bacon/TRoss all getting regular minutes. I think Clark may start out getting most of the PF backup minutes to start the season, but dropping to the end of the bench as Okeke gets into shape/the swing of the season and whenever Aminu comes back. I don't expect to see Isaac this season at all. Once we get to the trade deadline, I think we may see some guys gone for whatever we can get.
Fournier might be of interest for a contending team as a 3rd/4th option or even as a 6th man/scorer from the bench. With his expiring contract I wouldn't expect us to get much back, but who knows. A contending team might pay more, but I wouldn't expect much more than a mid-first, or a young guy and a late-first to be offered. I think Aminu or Clark will probably be headed out at the deadline as well. I think that will greatly depend on Okeke's development and AG's health whether either or both remains with the team.
Frankly, I don't think Ennis and Clark both would have been re-signed if Aminu and/or Okeke had been closer to playing, and if Isaac and AG hadn't gone down. I think Clark got a contract strictly based on his play in the bubble, and the number of front-court injuries. I think we might have brought Ennis back, but I think Clark would have been gone - he is a cheap insurance/fill in while guys are recovering.
This front-office does seem to be giving us a clear indication that they are going to try to improve via internal growth, and/or "reclamation" projects. We have a lot of guys on our team who it can be argued have "under-performed" in their careers/in the draft so far due to injury.
Both Okeke and Anthony were projected to be top-10 (top-5?), but fell in the draft. Fultz, Isaac, and Bamba have all had sub-par careers to date. All five of these have had injury issues. Bacon had a pretty good first year in Charlotte, but fell off in the second year; and MCW was a former rookie of the year who was completely out of the league at one point. Ennis only cost us a second-round pick, and Clark was a waiver-wire pick up. Again, four more guys other teams had given up on.
That is nine guys out of the fifteen on the regular roster. That is a lot of "reclamation" projects on one team, and yet we have still managed to make the playoffs the last two years with this strategy. I'm not sure whether to be impressed or appalled at the fact 60% of our current team consists of this category of player. Having guys who have something to prove/a chip on their shoulders seems to be a point of emphasis for them. We'll see how it works out. It could be a very interesting season.