CHARLOTTE BOBCATS PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Fans of the Bobcats should have patience when following their team this season, and possibly for the next couple years. Last season management decided that the best strategy going forward would be to part ways with their two best veteran players – Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace - and attempt to rebuild through the draft. The Bobcats have high hopes for the two rookies they drafted in this year’s lottery, Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker, but a contract issue will keep Biyombo in Spain for one more season. Another addition – wing Reggie Williams – will be sidelined for the first 6-8 weeks of the year due to a knee injury, which leaves veteran Corey Maggette as the Bobcats’ primary scoring threat. Boris Diaw, at 6-8, will likely start the season as the center; DeSagana Diop is the only true center on the roster, but he is still recovering from an Achilles injury. You will see plenty of running up and down the court this season, as this Bobcats team does not seem well-suited to defense or likely to out-rebound opponents. The 2011-12 season does not look promising if the expectations are wins and a playoff berth. It will be a battle for the Bobcats to stay out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
The Bobcats’ backcourt should primarily be a three-player rotation. Depending on the health of Gerald Henderson’s surgically-repaired hip, he should inherit the starting shooting guard position, but Williams could push him for minutes there when he’s able to play. He will likely see between 35-40 minutes per game with the minimal depth the Bobcats have at guard. Augustin will again start at point guard and play just under 40 minutes, while Walker will be the third guard in the rotation and should see about 25 minutes at both point and shooting guard in his rookie season. Maggette could slide down into the shooting guard position a handful of minutes each game, but he is likely to see close to 35 minutes as the starting small forward for the Bobcats. The forward positions should be another three-man rotation. Diaw was likely to be the starting power forward, but now it seems that he will start the season at center. Once Diop is ready to play, he should see at least 20 minutes per game as the only true center on the roster. It is likely that the Bobcats are going to run a smaller line up this season and Diaw will get close to 40 minutes a game at both center and power forward. Thomas could start at power forward to begin the season and will surely maintain close to 30 minutes a game for the entire season. Derrick Brown and D.J. White will likely get around 10-15 minutes a game each off the bench. Brown could get minutes at both guard and small forward, while White will mostly see time at power forward. Matt Carroll is a back up guard with decent size and an excellent outside shot. It is unlikely to see him average more than the 10 minutes per game he averaged last season unless there are injuries.
Boris Diaw: Diaw is the most versatile player on the Bobcats roster, and that versatility will be crucial this season as the Bobcats try to overcome several injuries. He is currently 25 pounds over his normal playing weight and could maintain that size if he is to play the center position for an extended period of time. Last season Diaw was very inconsistent, but his play will be a key to how well the Bobcats play overall this season.
DeSagana Diop: Diop is the only true center on the Bobcats roster and likely would have been their opening-night starter, but he’s still recovering from last January’s ruptured Achilles and it’s not clear when he’ll be able to return to action. When he does, he will likely see plenty of playing time even before his is fully healthy. He is a high-energy player with most of his value being on the defensive side of the court. Look for some decent rebounding and block numbers out of him this year.
Corey Maggette: What does Maggette have left in the tank? The Bobcats took on the remaining two years of his contract ($21 million) in hopes he could be a source of leadership and scoring for a younger Bobcats team. He will be asked to be the primary scorer this season and rebound after a disappointing season in Milwaukee. Hopefully he can return close to his former 20 plus points per game average if the Bobcats want to have any chance of being a decent team in 2011-12.
Tyrus Thomas: Thomas should benefit the most of the shallow Bobcats front court. He could end up being the starting power forward through the entire season if the Bobcats do not acquire another center for their roster. Thomas averaged 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in 41 games off the bench last season. As a starter we could potentially see him average slightly beyond last year’s numbers for a Bobcats team that is desperate for size.
Bismack Biyombo: Biyombo is an athletic young rebounder and shot-blocker who was drafted with the seventh overall pick in the draft by Sacramento, but eventually traded to Charlotte on draft day. Biyombo has been playing professional basketball overseas since 2009 and is currently under contract with a Spanish team, Fuenlabrada. At this point, he has been unable to secure a release from his Spanish team, making it unlikely that he’ll play in the NBA this season.
Derrick Brown: Brown is coming back to the Bobcats after being waived last season at the trade deadline. He spent his first one and a half seasons with the Bobcats and he has some comfort with the team. As of now it appears as if he is going to be Maggette’s backup at small forward. He is a high flier that can get to the rim, but needs to work on his jump shot.
D.J. White: White is going into his third season, but has only played in 19 career games. With the number of frontcourt players that the Bobcats have, White could more than tripe his number of career games played in one shortened season. He should see minutes at the power forward position, but we don’t expect him to hold much fantasy relevancy.
D.J. Augustin: Augustin is once again the starting point guard for the Bobcats. He had sixth-best assist to turnover ratio among point guards who played 30 or more minutes per game in 40 or more games last year. Although he has been a score-first point guard in the past, Augustin is going to have to focus on pushing the ball up the court, running a fast break offense and distributing the ball for an undersized Bobcat team.
Gerald Henderson: Henderson had a breakout second half of last season. He underwent hip surgery to relieve pain in his knee that he had all last year and he came into camp saying he is 100 percent. Although he still has plenty to work on, he has also shown plenty of potential. Look for Henderson to be the number two scoring option on the Bobcats this season.
Kemba Walker: Walker is another score-first point guard that Charlotte added to the roster in the 2011 draft. Walker should see plenty of time in a rotation that could mainly revolve around Augustin, Henderson and himself. There is not much scoring punch on the Bobcats this year so Walker could be asked to just put the ball in the net whenever he can. It would not be surprising to see Walker average double-digit points per game by the end of the season.
Reggie Williams: The Warriors let Williams go to make space for a run at restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan, and the Bobcats quickly signed him to a two-year, $5 million contract. He’ll give Charlotte a much-needed long-range shooting threat, but he’ll miss the first 6-8 weeks of the 2011-12 season due to a knee injury.
Matt Carroll: Carroll is a savvy veteran with an excellent jump shot. He is a career back up guard who is mainly in the game to shoot the ball from the outside. Look for him to come in and give the other guards rest and to give a decent scoring spurt when needed.
Gerald Henderson: Henderson still needs to refine his offensive game a little but showed glimpses of being a big time scorer last season. He said that he spent most of the offseason working on both his ball handling and outside shooting. Hopefully his work pays off because he is going to have to shoulder most of the scoring load with Maggette this season. If he is as healthy as he says he is from hip surgery, we could easily see him averaging well beyond double-digits in points per game. He has some size so also could add decent numbers in other fantasy relevant categories like rebounds and steals.
Boris Diaw: This season may be the season that Diaw has the most influence on any team he has played for in a season. He is going to have to take up many roles on this Bobcats team, but that could also end up hurting his personal statistics in the end. He is coming into the season heavier than his normal playing weight, and should attempt to maintain that weight in order to be the starting center for the beginning of the year. Diaw could see most of his effort used up attempting to defend the paint against bigger centers and this could see his numbers suffer. Last season Diaw was inconsistent and he saw both a decline in minutes played and averages from previous seasons. Even though his minutes are likely to increase this season, we don’t see his fantasy relevant numbers with corresponding increases.