By John Clemeno
The first major move under Brown was the selection of point guard D.J. Augustin with the ninth overall pick in the draft; surprising considering they already had Raymond Felton and a gaping need at center. Then the Bobcats re-signed Okafor long term and he’s on the record as saying he’s happy again and wants to be in Charlotte. Keeping Okafor is a wise move because he’s the team’s best defender.
Brown still has some work left. This team needs another big man to help out Okafor in the middle. Their second first-round selection, Alexis Ajinca, needs some development before he can do that. The club also needs to clamp down defensively. Defense is a Brown specialty, but aside from Okafor, he doesn’t have a lot of options right now. Depth could be a concern, too, as Sean May and Adam Morrison are coming off significant injuries.
At point guard, the starting position appears to be Raymond Felton’s. But for how long? The club drafted D.J. Augustin with its first pick in the 2008 draft and he’ll need minutes to develop his NBA game. Felton, who averaged over 37 minutes last season, will suffer a reduction in playing time to accommodate coach Brown’s need to get work for the rookie. Richardson will get the bulk of the shooting guard minutes with Matt Carroll providing scoring off the bench.
Wallace will play primarily small forward, leaving Adam Morrison and Jared Dudley to fight for the backup minutes there, depending on what Brown wants at that particular time of the game. Morrison essentially duplicates Carroll’s shooting game, while Dudley plays better defense and doesn’t need the ball to contribute. The Bobcats will use training camp to determine what they can expect from Morrison and May, giving us a clearer indication of Charlotte’s rotation.
Nazr Mohammed: Potentially, Mohammed could be this team’s starting center and earn himself 25-30 minutes a night, as he did when starting last season. He’s not very quick defensively, but gets in a good position to rebound and doesn’t stray too far from the basket on both ends of the court. If he were to play more consistently, coach Larry Brown will continue to give him playing time. Mohammed can be part of the solution to Charlotte’s thin front court.
Ryan Hollins: Charlotte’s thin front court got Hollins some consideration early on last year, but he quickly found his way to the end of the bench. Despite re-signing him in the offseason, Hollins was not featured during the summer league and you can see where his 2008-09 season is heading.
Alexis Ajinca: The 20-year-old Ajinca is very skilled with a long wingspan and runs the court, but his body is not ready to play center in the NBA. He suffered a couple of minor injuries during summer league play, but should be ready to start training camp. He’ll end up in the D-League this season, and quite possible the next one, too.
Sean May: May dropped some weight and has been working out regularly in preparation for a return to the lineup in 2008. He underwent microfracture surgery last October to correct a chronic bone problem, that’s limited him to just 58 games in three seasons. If healthy, he gives Charlotte a desperately needed big man in the front court rotation. He’s got a soft touch around the rim, is a good rebounder and has the same North Carolina basketball roots of coach Larry Brown. Monitor him in training camp for a possible late-round reserve flier.
Adam Morrison: Morrison returns after missing all of 2007-08 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He’s back and working out, but still has trouble with changing directions. Defensively, Morrison isn’t a whiz, so he’ll have to use his scoring ability from the perimeter to find minutes. And he’ll have to show better percentages than his rookie season (37.6% FG, 33.7% from three). Right now, knocking down shots is a skill better provided by shooting guard Matt Carroll, so let others bid for/select Morrison in fantasy auctions and drafts.
Jared Dudley: Dudley’s the type of player that can find a significant role in Brown’s rotation, using his high basketball acumen and penchant for team play at both ends of the floor. He’s not terribly quick, but uses positioning well on defense. He can pass a little, score a little, rebound a little, but will be fighting for limited backup minutes with Adam Morrison behind Gerald Wallace at small forward. He could be a nice reserve on fantasy teams if he’s getting 25 minutes a night, but will need an injury to get that kind of run.
Jermareo Davidson: Davidson could have used a season in the D-League, but the shorthanded Bobcats needed the depth last year. Even in the late season with Charlotte out of playoff contention, Davidson didn’t get a whole lot of action. He played well in the summer league, showing his experience on an NBA bench helped. If Sean May (knee) is healthy, he may get that year in the D-League this year.
Raymond Felton: New Charlotte coach Larry Brown expects a lot from his guards. Brown’s time in Philadelphia – though it included a trip to the Finals, was marked by near-constant butting of heads with Allen Iverson. In Detroit, Brown had the ultimate “play the right way” point in Chauncey Billups, and won his only NBA championship. So Felton already had his work cut out for him to maintain his role as the team’s starting point. And that was before Charlotte selected the guy most considered the second-best “pure” point in the draft, Texas guard D.J. Augustin. That probably tells you all you need to know about Felton’s future in Charlotte. Unfortunately for Felton, playing the two isn’t really an option either – not with Jason Richardson on hand. We expect Felton to open the season as the starter – rookie point guards as starters are exceedingly rare. But don’t be surprised if he winds up in a job share – or as trade bait – by mid-year.
D.J. Augustin: The Bobcats surprised a lot of people by using the ninth-overall pick on a point guard, just three years after using the fifth-overall pick on Raymond Felton. Apparently new Bobcats coach Larry Brown wanted another lead guard prospect; if Augustin plays well in the pre-season he has a decent chance to earn some minutes as a rookie. Augustin is a quick, athletic point guard with excellent passing skills and legit three-point range on his jumper. He's a good scorer who also finishes well in traffic and draws fouls, but at his size (about 5-10) he may not be big enough to do that in the NBA.
Matt Carroll: Carroll’s ability to score off the bench and drill three-pointers comes in handy. He’s a career 41-percent shooter from three-point range, so he will have a role despite not being very quick or a good defender. He and Adam Morrison bring the same skill-set and look to carve out minutes in coach Larry Brown’s rotation.
Shannon Brown: Brown’s looking at very limited minutes behind Jason Richardson and Matt
Carroll, but that could increase because he defends better than Carroll. Brown enters training camp as long shot to be part of the back court rotation, but could unlock some of his potential under new coach Larry Brown. He’s an athletic player who can create his own shot, but has size problems at the two. He needs to improve his ball handling to be considered a combo guard.
Article first appeared on 9/30/08