By Kyle Fisher
RotoWire Staff Writer
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Injuries to 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year Emeka Okafor and 2005 first-round pick Sean May severely limited the Bobcats in their second season. However, all was not doom and gloom in Charlotte. The team did win eight more games than in their inaugural season and found two potential superstars in SG/SF Gerald Wallace and PG Raymond Felton. Wallace was the only player in the NBA to average more than two blocks and steals per game. He also averaged 15.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, while shooting 54% from the field. Felton, after a slow start, averaged 16.7 ppg and 7.6 apg after the All-Star break. For the Bobcats to take the next step and be a playoff contender, two areas must improve. The Bobcats were last in the NBA in field goal percentage at 43.2%. To complicate matters, they were out rebounded by an average of 4.23 rpg. Only the Trailblazers had a bigger discrepancy.
To address these deficiencies, the Bobcats drafted high scoring Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison with the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. Morrison demonstrated his skills in the summer league averaging 24.6 ppg, though he did shoot less than 40%. The return of Okafor and May should bolster the team's rebounding. Okafor has averaged 10.7 rpg in his two year career with the Bobcats. In May's first season he averaged 4.7 rpg in just 17.3 mpg. Gone from last year's squad are Jumaine Jones, Kareem Rush and Lonny Baxter all of whom the team felt were replaceable. In addition to Morrison the team drafted Ryan Hollins, who should provide size and athleticism, and acquired veterans Othella Harrington and Jake Voskuhl. The team recently signed Argentinean forward Walter Herrmann, who may see playing time once he gets accustomed to the NBA. If the young nucleus of Felton, Wallace, Okafor, Morrison and May can stay healthy, look for the Bobcats to be one of the surprise teams in the NBA this year.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Primoz Brezec will start at center and should see 25-30 minutes with the rest of the time split between Othella Harrington, Jake Voskuhl and rookie Ryan Hollins. At times, Emeka Okafor could play center if the Bobcats want to go small. Okafor will start at power forward and should get 30-35 minutes per game with the rest of the time going to Sean May and Melvin Ely. If Okafor logs time at center, then May appears to be the beneficiary and could see as many as 20-25 minutes a night while Ely should get 15 total minutes. Adam Morrison is expected to start at small forward and get about 30 minutes a night so long as he is not too much of a defensive liability. The multi-talented Gerald Wallace will also get minutes at the position. Alan Anderson should get about 10 minutes a night while Bernard Robinson Jr. and Walter Herrmann will see limited action. As the season progresses, don't be surprised if Herrmann gets more time as he is a very experienced international player. Wallace will start at shooting guard and get 35+ minutes a night. Brevin Knight could see some action at shooting guard when he and Raymond Felton play together. Matt Carroll and Kevin Burleson will get the few remaining minutes with Carroll looking to be more of a 3-point specialist. Felton will start at point guard and get 30-35 minutes a night with Knight getting the rest of the minutes. Knight should total around 25 minutes a night.
Primoz Brezec: Brezec can shoot the rock, averaging over 51 percent in two seasons in Carolina. He doesn't go off too many nights, but is a consistent 12/6 guy at center. At 7-1, we'd like to see more rebounds, but we're not going to be too picky. He averaged 1.8 rebounds less per game last year - and that was with Emeka Okafor missing 56 games. Still, his 12.4 ppg was fourth among true centers and 11th when you add in the forward/centers. He's not a bad option if you've been shut out of the top centers.
Othella Harrington: Harrington is a player whose best days are behind him. He will be able to provide toughness and depth, but limited fantasy value.
Jake Voskuhl: Voskuhl is a big body who is a serviceable backup. He is a decent rebounder but will not log enough minutes to have fantasy value.
Ryan Hollins: Hollins is a raw athlete who has some shot blocking ability. His primary role this season will be to learn from the veterans as he is not expected to get much playing time.
Emeka Okafor: After an ankle injury limited him to only 26 games last year, the key to Okafor's outlook for this season is staying healthy. Okafor is a solid 6-10, 255-pound big man that plays primarily on the inside with his back to the basket. He's not overly skilled on offense, but defensively is an excellent rebounder and shot blocker that also kicks in almost a steal per game. After averaging 15.1 ppg on 45% FG shooting as a rookie, Okafor's numbers were down to 13.2 ppg and 42% shooting last year before he went down with the injury, due in part to the lack of other options on the Bobcats. But Charlotte drafted NCAA scoring champ Adam Morrison last summer, and Morrison, combined with the emergence of Ray Felton and Gerald Wallace after Okafor got hurt, should solve that problem.
Adam Morrison: Morrison put up all-world numbers at Gonzaga, averaging 28.1 pts, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 threes a game while leading the Zags to a 29-4 record. At 6-8, he has the size to get his shot whenever he wants to, and he should see plenty of playing time with the hapless Bobcats. He could come off the bench backing up Gerald Wallace or could start at small forward if the Bobcats opt to play Wallace at shooting guard. Either way, on a team devoid of pure shooters, Morrison should get plenty of opportunities to score and could be a decent source for points and threes.
Sean May: May is expected to be the first big man off the Bobcat bench. He is a good rebounder, but must increase his range to be an effective scorer. Questions remain about his health as he had two knee surgeries last season. May was very effective in the summer league averaging 18.6 ppg on 60.5% shooting. If his knees can hold up, and he can continue to make perimeter shots, look for May to be a solid contributor for the Bobcats.
Melvin Ely: Ely recently re-signed with the Bobcats. He is a good low-post scorer but will have to fight for quality minutes with the return of Okafor and May. Do not expect the same production that he provided last season.
Alan Anderson: Anderson did a good job last season when called upon (5.8 ppg in 15.7 mpg). However, now that Adam Morrison is with the team, expect Anderson's minutes to dwindle even to the point that he may not play in some games.
Walter Herrmann: Herrmann signed a one-year deal in September after playing for Argentina in the World Championships. He averaged 9.8 ppg and shot 47% from 3-point range in the World Championships. Expect his minutes to be limited early as he gets adjusted to the NBA.
Gerald Wallace: Wallace burst into the fantasy elite from nowhere last season to challenge Andrei Kirilenko for the title of "most likely to get a quadruple-double" in the NBA. Wallace used his excellent quickness, length (6-7, with long arms), and leaping ability to become a defensive menace and lead the league in steals (2.5 spg) while also finishing in the top-10 in blocks (2.1 bpg). Wallace also set new career-highs in points (15.2 ppg), rebounds (7.5 rpg), and field goal percentage (53.8%). With the return of injured big men Emeka Okafor and Sean May, the further development of point guard Raymond Felton, and the addition of rookie sharpshooter Adam Morrison, the Bobcats offense should be stronger this season and allow Wallace both to get more easy looks from the floor and also focus even more energy on defense. The major knock on Wallace is his health, as he missed 27 games last season and has only played in more than 54 games one other time in his career (70 games). This injury concern in conjunction with the fact that Wallace does not have the celebrity status of many other fantasy superstars may cause Wallace to slide a bit in many drafts, but when he's healthy there aren't very many players that are more valuable to the roto standings.
Raymond Felton: Felton came on strong at the end of last season, effectively cementing his role as the starter going into 2006-07. With starter Brevin Knight out due to injury, Felton posted an impressive double-double in points (16.3 ppg) and assists (11.5) over Charlotte's last six games of the year. Yes, it's a small sample, but those are Steve Nash-type numbers. Charlotte management was so impressed with Felton's rookie season, they've exercised his third-year contract option - a full year before most teams lock up their rookies - and they considered dealing Knight. (At press time, it appears that Knight will back, in a bench role behind Felton.) Clearly, this is now Felton's team. He might not put up the numbers of the truly elite points, but look for him to be one of the top players in the second tier, and possibly a much better value than some of the bigger names on this list.
Brevin Knight: With the emergence of Raymond Felton late last year, it appears that Knight's run of surprisingly high assist totals are in jeopardy. It was nice while it lasted. Knight is expected to serve as a backup to Felton this season, and as such probably won't have the opportunity to accumulate the same sort of numbers that he has in his first two years in Charlotte. But he still has the potential for excellent production should Felton get off to a slow start, or if Knight is moved at the trade deadline to a contender that needs help at the point.
Matt Carroll: Carroll may be the team's best 3-point shooter and with the depth on this club, that will be his primary role.
Kevin Burleson: Burleson won't see much time other than in a mop-up role.
Bernard Robinson Jr.: Robinson is an athletic slasher who could get playing time if an injury occurs. However, the time should not be great enough to warrant fantasy consideration.
Raymond Felton: Felton might have been the best rookie in the NBA after February 1. He averaged 16.6 ppg, 7.4 apg, and 1.44 spg in those 34 games. Felton improved every year at North Carolina, and we expect he will do the same in the NBA. If Felton can improve his field-goal percentage, as he did in the second half of last season, look for Felton to end the season among the top 7-8 point guards in the league.
Adam Morrison: Morrison should be able to score and shoot a high free-throw percentage but does not project to stand out in any other fantasy category. He is not a great rebounder, shot blocker, or passer, and his exuberance to score may affect his field-goal percentage. With all the versatility in the league at the small forward position, Morrison will be better served on someone else's roster.
Article first appeared on 10/9/06