STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Bobcats made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, finishing 44-38 and earning the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. While it was their first postseason appearance, they failed to earn their first playoff victory as the Orlando Magic swept them in the first round. While Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace return to try and take the team a step further this year, they will have to do so without long-time point guard Raymond Felton, who left for the Knicks this offseason after playing five seasons in Charlotte. The team acquired Shaun Livingston in the offseason to provide some competition for D.J. Augustin at the point guard position and also brought back forward Tyrus Thomas, who they signed to a five-year contract over the summer. While the Bobcats certainly have a lot of youth and athleticism, they lack the size and strength on the inside to match up with bigger teams in the East such as the Magic and Celtics. The big bodies they do have in the low post, such as Nazr Mohammed and DeSagana Diop, do not pose much of an offensive threat. The Bobcats have a chance to make the playoffs again this season, but they will probably have to acquire another big man or two if they hope to make some noise once they get there.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Expect Stephen Jackson to log heavy minutes again this season as the starting shooting guard, somewhere in the 35-40 minutes a game range. The majority of that time will be spent playing the two, but look for him to also see some time at the point, especially if D.J. Augustin and Shaun Livingston struggle. Augustin is a slight favorite to be the teamís starting point guard and would likely play 25-30 minutes a game if that was the case, but he could see spend some of that time at shooting guard when Jackson shifts to the point. Livingston would likely play 20-25 minutes a game in a backup point guard role. Gerald Henderson and Matt Carroll will likely play limited roles off of the bench at the two. Rookie point guard Sherron Collins could also earn himself at least a small role off of the bench if he can put together a solid preseason and/or Augustin or Livingston suffer an injury. Gerald Wallace should play around 35-40 minutes a game this season. He will be the starting small forward and should see about 30-35 minutes at that spot, while the other 5-10 minutes will be spent at power forward. Boris Diaw will be the teamís starting power forward and play 30-35 minutes a game, 5-10 minutes of which could be spent playing center in a small lineup. Tyrus Thomas will serve as the teamís sixth man more than likely and play a total of 20-25 minutes a game at small forward, power forward, and possibly even as a center when the team goes small. Dominic McGuire will likely see 5-10 minutes a game as backup forward and Eduardo Najera could also see similar minutes as a backup at both forward positions. Derrick Brown will play a limited role off of the bench as a forward. Nazr Mohammed will be the starting center and play around 20-25 minutes a game. DeSagana Diop will serve as the backup at center and play 15-20 minutes a game. Kwame Brown will serve a limited bench role, providing depth at the five.
Nazr Mohammed: While Mohammed has shown flashes of promise, he is not likely to have a major offensive impact on most nights. He wonít score double digits regularly and isnít an impact player on the glass either. He has the ability to block shots, but doesnít see enough minutes usually to have a huge impact in that department. It would be best to look elsewhere for a center on draft day.
DeSagana Diop: Diop will have a more prominent role with the team this year, but he still is not going to be an impact player. He is a very good shot blocker, but his offensive game is severely limited. There will be better options out there who can do more than just block shots, so it would be best to stay away from Diop in your fantasy league.
Kwame Brown: To say Brownís career has been a disappointment is an understatement. He wonít provide much more than size and six available fouls off of the bench for the Bobcats.
Gerald Wallace: Everything came together for Wallace last season when a string of good health allowed him to play in a career-high 76 games. He averaged 10.1 rebounds per game, easily surpassing his previous career-best of 7.8 rebounds per game from the year before. His defensive numbers were impressive again Ė 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game Ė and his offense wasnít anything to shake a stick at either. Wallace finished the season averaging 18.2 points per game. He is going to log heavy minutes again this season, health permitting of course. If he can indeed stay healthy again, he should have another very good season.
Boris Diaw: Diaw is a very versatile player who has played multiple positions as both a member of the Suns and the Bobcats. However, he took a step back offensively last season, averaging only 11.3 points per game. Diaw is a good passer and will be relied on more this year to help facilitate the offense now that Felton is gone. Diaw likely wonít be relied upon to score points again this season, but he will provide respectable numbers in several other categories.
Tyrus Thomas: The Bobcats acquired Thomas from the Bulls for a run at the playoffs last season and locked him up long-term during the offseason. He is a very athletic player who has the ability to jump with the best of them, resulting in a career average of 1.38 blocks per game. He is likely to start the season as the teamís sixth man, but could easily work his way into the starting lineup if Diaw struggles or is traded. Thomas is not going to provide a ton of offense, but his athleticism will get him some extra points around the rim and make his offensive production respectable. He seems to have the sleeper tag every season, but make sure not to draft him too early. Itís possible he isnít anything more than a good bench player in the NBA.
Dominic McGuire: Looking to add depth to their front line, the Bobcats brought in McGuire to fill a reserve role. He should only see limited minutes off of the bench.
Eduardo Najera: Najera is a journeymen player who the Bobcats will look to for leadership. He has bounced around in his career and served in a variety of roles from starter to last man on the bench. While Najera should be a valuable piece in the locker room for a young team like the Bobcats, he doesnít provide value for fantasy owners.
Derrick Brown: As a rookie last season, Brown saw very little playing time. He averaged less than 10 minutes a game and played in only 57 games total. Donít expect him to see any more playing time this season.
Stephen Jackson: Acquiring Jackson may have been one of the most significant moves in franchise history for the Bobcats. He is one of the main reasons Ė if not the main reason Ė that they were able to make it to the playoffs last season. While he shoots for a poor percentage and turns the ball over a lot, he has the ability to fill every column on the stat sheet on any given night. Look for the Bobcats to lean heavily on Jackson again this season, which will make him a top 15-to-20 fantasy guard.
D.J. Augustin: With the departure of Raymond Felton, Augustin has a chance to grab a starting spot on the team. He took a step back last year and may not be one of coach Larry Brownís favorite players, seeing his playing time decreased by eight minutes a game last season. Augustin will provide fantasy owners with a good source of threes, but he is not very good on the boards. He has plenty of athletic wings players to pass the ball to, so he should see his assists average per game increase this season with more playing time.
Shaun Livingston: If Augustin doesnít play well from the start, Livingston could very well force his way into the starting lineup. If it wasnít for injuries, his once promising career could have been very different up to this point. He is still only 25 years old and this could be the season he stays healthy and puts it all together.
Gerald Henderson: In his rookie season, Henderson saw very little playing time. He likely wonít see significant playing time again this season because of the heavy minutes that Jackson logs.
Matt Carroll: Carroll has been a bench player for the most part in his career and will provide the Bobcats with a reliable veteran shooter off of the bench. However, he wonít play enough to warrant fantasy consideration.
Sherron Collins: While the point guard position is largely up for grabs, Collins isnít going to figure into the starting mix. Unless someone gets injured, look for him to see limited minutes at best.
Shaun Livingston: If he can stay healthy this season, Livingston could easily be a steal considering how late he will go in fantasy drafts, if selected at all. He still has a ton of talent and showed last season with the Wizards that he can be a good source of assists, even in limited minutes. If Livingston can somehow get 25-30 minutes a game, he could put up similar numbers in points, rebounds, and assists that Felton did last year.
Gerald Wallace: Donít panic Ė Wallace is still going to have a good season Ė but itís unlikely he will be able to play as well as he did last year. He was able to stay healthy for the most part, something that he doesnít usually do. Wallace is going to be drafted too high for the numbers he is likely to put up this season, so donít pick him unless the timing is right.