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The curious case of Bismack Biyombo

By electing not to tender him via qualifying offer, the Charlotte Hornets and Bismack Biyombo are almost certainly parting ways, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports! Biyombo, who turns 23 later this summer, spent four seasons in Charlotte after being selected No. 7 overall in the 2011 NBA draft. Calling Biyombo’s four-year stint an abject failure would be inaccurate, but it obviously wasn’t up-to-par, otherwise the team wouldn’t be letting him walk away for nothing.

What’s the market for a guy like Biyombo? Well, considering Charlotte’s qualifying offer would have been for $4.05 million — one can safely assume Biyombo will fetch no more than $4 million annually. However — and because federal law requires every basketball blogger to state this — the salary cap is set to skyrocket in the near future. Thus, cheap deals on an ordinary market could become extraordinary steals on the new frontier of  forthcoming TV money.

A 23-year-old center with a 7-foot-6 wingspan and four years of NBA experience hitting the open market seems too good to be true. By comparison, Jerian Grant — the freshly minted rookie point guard of the New York Knicks — will turn 23 before opening night. Biyombo is years away from hitting his prime and is a year away from outlasting the length of the average NBA career. That much is enticing.

March 3, 2015 - Charlotte, NC, USA - The Los Angeles Lakers' Jeremy Lin (17) passes in the lane as the Charlotte Hornets' Bismack Biyombo (8) defends during the first half at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Is Biyombo’s defense worth the risk of his underwhelming offense?

But, again, it’s worth asking: why would Biyombo even be on the market if he were such a bargain waiting to happen? And why would his former employer — a team who could stand to use the services of a defensive-minded frontcourt player — be willing to let him go for nothing? That alone ought to be two sizable red flags.

In 1,243 minutes with Biyombo on the floor this season, Charlotte’s team defensive rating per 100 possessions (98.7) would’ve been good for second-best in the regular season. He’s a really good shot blocker who also provides excellent rim protection, which are enviable qualities separated from one another, nonetheless merged.

Biyombo’s defensive prowess is of starter quality. And encouragingly, if you were to ask Charlotte fans, they’d tell you that Biyombo got better throughout the season. He finally showed some consistent progression.

But of course, defense is but half the battle. Because while Biyombo’s defense is at an advanced level given his age, his offense is that of a college-level player — if not that of a skilled high schooler. The source of Biyombo’s scoring is almost entirely dependent on dunks. Seriously, 42.5 percent of Biyombo’s made field goals in the 2014-15 season were dunks, and 37.3 percent of his career field goals are dunks. Or in other words: over 1/3 of Biyombo’s career baskets have come by way dunking.

And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a rim-running big man who’s deadly in pick-and-roll. The obvious example of that is DeAndre Jordan. However, Jordan’s been paired with perhaps the best pick-and-roll point guard of all time — Chris Paul — which has allowed Jordan to survive without having any post moves.

Biyombo, on the other hand, hasn’t played with the likes of a Chris Paul, which makes the complete lack of any scoring ability alternative to dunking pretty alarming. From 3-feet and out, Biyombo is worthless. He can’t and doesn’t shoot. He’s a horrible passer. Worthless.

March 28, 2015 - Charlotte, NC, USA - The Charlotte Hornets' Bismack Biyombo throws down a two-handed dunk against the Atlanta Hawks at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, March 28, 2015. The Hornets won, 115-100

Amazingly, Biyombo’s compiled a combined 24 assists in 2,315 minutes played over the past two seasons. And to make matters worse, he’s finished with a higher turnover percentage than he has usage rate in each of his four NBA seasons. So, to put it more simplistic terms: he won’t pass despite being a low usage player, which is fine, but then coupled with fact he turns the ball over too much and, uh, yeah — that’s bad.

In Biyombo, you’re getting an above replacement level defense player and a below replacement level offensive player. Which, of course, evens out to around a replacement level player. And that makes sense because at this stage in his career, Biyombo is certainly no more than a backup.

Is he an attractive backup, though? Given his age, one would think he’d still be viewed as a project. And although defense-first big men are always in-demand, can a team vying for a playoff spot or a championship spare the time to invest in a guy like Biyombo?

Unfortunately, I’m not really sure what the market looks like for Biyombo or who his takers might be. He’s one of those players who probably gets more respect from basketball nerds because he’s gone under-the-radar while in Charlotte, but probably isn’t as sought after by teams around the league.

Simply put: Biyombo is a one-dimensional player whose never really had things click for him. He’s still searching to refine that rawness and potential which made him a lottery pick in the first place. By all accounts, he’s a good guy off the court, so maybe teams would be more inclined to take a flier on him. A true low risk, high reward type.

Rim protection will always have value, and with the league downsizing, Biyombo’s combination of length and quickness is appealing. It’s just a matter of the team signing Biyombo needing to understand that he must still be further developed. And that’s the thing, because you get the sense that if the right teams comes along, then Biyombo could flourish.

But there’s also the possibility of Biyombo never becoming more than what he already is: at best, a third or fourth big on the depth chart. So, we’ll see what happens to Biz. If I had to throw out some uneducated guesses as to a landing spot — welp, here it goes: Boston, Milwaukee and Phoenix.

Of course, it all remains to be seen. All it takes is one team to love Biz, and that much I can see happening.

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