Thursday, October 13, 2005

Offseason Overview: Charlotte Bobcats

And we finally finish our team writeups by looking at the NBA’s youngest team, the Bobcats. It was an uneventful offseason, as the Bobcats stayed out of the free agent fray and didn’t get the top draft choice they were hoping for, settling for a couple of undersized Tar Heels. Will they be able to break 20 wins this season? I say no.

The Stud: Emeka Okafor, FC
Okafor’s rookie season went about as well as could have been expected. People thought he might turn out to be a Ben Wallace-type player with more natural scoring ability, and that still seems like it could be the case. Folks expecting close to 3 bpg were probably disappointed that he managed just 1.7, but it’s not too surprising given rookie adjustments. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get that number slightly above 2 this year, and while that seems like just a small jump, that can mean a couple of points in the standings. He was a rebounding machine, averaging nearly 11 per contest and he even grabbed close to a steal per game. His percentages are awful – 45% from a center really hurts you, and 61% from the line is just bad – and he needs to at least improve the former. He’s a fine fourth rounder.

The Support: Gerald Wallace, GF
Wallace was an extremely popular sleeper pick last season, which made him someone to avoid. And he did indeed have a very rocky season, but quietly finished 87th on the player rater despite missing 12 games. “Failed” sleeper picks usually make good value picks the following season, and that looks like it might be the case with Wallace. He signed a three-year contract with the Bobcats, which means he is part of their plans, so his playing time should be relatively assured. Wallace has a similar skill set to Josh Smith, except he helps more in steals than blocks. In 30.7 mpg last season Wallace averaged 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks, very impressive numbers for someone you can plug in at SG or SF. He’s a terrible shooter and that’s unlikely to change, but if he’s on the court for 35 mpg, he’ll grab enough steals and blocks to warrant a spot in lineups.

The Supporting Support: Primoz Brezec, C
I was tempted to label him “the slacker,” but since he’s one of the few players who seems to be guaranteed PT on this team it didn’t seem fair. That said, I would not feel too comfortable with Brezec as one of my starting centers. Why? Two numbers – 7.4 and 0.8. Those were Brezec’s averages in rebounds and blocks last year, and that’s just not acceptable from a center. And it’s not like he was lacking PT. It’s hard to see him getting much more than the 31.6 mpg he received last year, just due to basic big man conditioning. His 51% is very welcome and he’s a solid free throw shooter for a big man, but he seems best suited to a late pick, utility player.

The Sleeper: Raymond Felton, G
I’m not really a fan of Felton, and he seems quite likely to start the season in a time-sharing situation with 2004-2005 fantasy revelation Brevin Knight. But he is a point guard with great playmaking skills who should be able to rack up steals. The main reason he qualifies as a sleeper is because there is no way Knight can match last year’s numbers and there’s a very good chance he will experience a drastic decline. If that’s the case, then the Bobcats will quite possibly hand the reigns to Felton to see if indeed he was worth the 5th overall pick. He improved his three-point shooting dramatically in his final season at UNC, but don’t expect that to carry over completely in his first season in the NBA. He seems like a T.J. Ford clone.

The Slacker: Brevin Knight, PG
I’ll admit that I’m a John Hollinger worshipper now. Have you seen his profiles of every single player in the league, up now on ESPN.com? Now that is some good reading. I was going to buy his book, but I can’t imagine it will be much more in depth than what’s up there now. Anyway, he seems rather sure that Knight’s season last year was a classic fluke and that he will come crashing back down to earth this season. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Felton will be a better player, but for a second-year team looking to the future, they’ll almost certainly give PT that’s up in the air to Felton as the season progresses. If he wins the starting job out of the preseason he should be worth using, but betting on solid production for the entire year is setting yourself up for disappointment.

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