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Bobcats’ frontcourt is out front

By Rick Bonnell
rbonnell@charlotteobserver.com

For perhaps the first time in their decade-long history, the Charlotte Bobcats have assembled a deep and solid frontcourt rotation.

Thursday the Bobcats came to terms with former Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson. Friday the front office closed a deal to re-sign power forward Josh McRoberts, who started 19 of his 26 games with the Bobcats last season after a February trade.

McRoberts is getting a two-year contract with a total value of about $5.5 million, according to an NBA source. The second of those two seasons is at McRoberts’ option.

Last month the Bobcats used the fourth overall pick of the draft to select 7-footer Cody Zeller out of Indiana. The Bobcats still have center Bismack Biyombo under contract. Combining these four players gives the Bobcats their most depth ever at center and power forward.

Jefferson and McRoberts can’t be signed until after the NBA’s moratorium period ends July 10. Bobcats officials also are barred from discussing free agents with the media until then.

But general manager Rich Cho said with conviction at midseason the Bobcats would address their deficiencies in low-post scoring and rebounding, either through the draft or free-agency. Turns out the front office used both paths to shore up the frontcourt.

McRoberts, entering his seventh NBA season, was traded to the Bobcats last February from the Orlando Magic for Hakim Warrick. He won the starting job at power forward over Byron Mullens down the stretch of a 21-61 season,

McRoberts averaged 9.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists with the Bobcats. He was particularly helpful as a high-post passer, rotating the ball to either side of the lane in a more efficient way than the Bobcats had done previous to his arrival.

McRoberts, who played college ball at Duke, said at the season’s conclusion he was receptive to returning to the Bobcats, but that money would be a primary factor in his decision. McRoberts didn’t get big dollars in this deal but the second season being at his option gives him flexibility should he have a big 2013-14 season.

The day after drafting Zeller the Bobcats chose not to make a qualifying offer to Mullens, which would have restricted his free-agency. With McRoberts back, it seems unlikely Mullens will return.

The Bobcats have yet to make a deal with restricted free agent Gerald Henderson, their starting shooting guard the past two seasons.

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