Last year, the Charlotte Bobcats just missed earning their first playoff berth in the five year history of the franchise. In the upcoming NBA Draft, to be held on June 25, they will most likely look for depth and a new starter at power forward.
The leader of the young team was five-year center Emeka Okafor, a double-double machine. Okafor finished in the NBA's top ten in field goal percentage and was one of only a handful to average more than ten points and rebounds per game. Okafor played in all 82 games last season and started in all but one.
At the center position, Okafor is backed up by DeSagana Diop and Nazr Mohammed, who are capable players, but neither averages 3 points per game or 4 rebounds per game.
Head coach Larry Brown and the front office may look for a more competent second-string center with one of their two second-round picks.
The small forward position is filled by Gerald Wallace, who led the team in points per game with 16.6. Wallace also proved to be valuable on the defensive end of the ball by averaging 7.8 rebounds per game and .94 blocks per game, both statistics good for second on the team behind Okafor. He also led the team in steals per game with 1.7.
With both Wallace and Okafor on the floor, the opposition will find it harder to score and grab rebounds. However, neither of them can play the entire game, and their reserves are not as talented on the boards or the scoring end.
Wallace's backups are Vladimir Radmanovic and Cartier Martin. Radmanovic is a solid player, but is purely an offensive specialist. His 6-10 frame puts up 8.8 points per game in an average of 21.1 minutes, but only sucks in 3.3 rebounds a game. Martin is not a very talented player, but he is not used or needed often, playing in only 33 games last year.
The need for a team to have a superstar to succeed is becoming more obvious, as all of the remaining teams in the NBA playoffs have a superstar, and Wallace and Okafor are the two closest things Charlotte has to superstars. The Bobcats may not need for them to become players with the statistics of LeBron James or Dwight Howard assuming two young players still looking to prove themselves can pick up some of the slack for next year.
Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin are two young guards that displayed flashes of brilliance towards the end of the season. Felton, the starting point guard, averaged 14.2 points and 6.7 assists per game. Augustin, his rookie backup, averaged only 11.8 and 3.5, but scored in double digits in seven straight games coming off the bench in late October and averaged 13.3 points per game in eight games in April.
The starting shooting guard is Raja Bell, a consistent eight-year veteran. Bell averaged 13 points per game last year and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.66.
Bell's backup is former UVA star Sean Singletary, who only plays 7.5 minutes a game and is not very useful.
The power forward, a position where Charlotte needs a lot of help, is Boris Diaw. Diaw averaged 15.1 points per game, but is a very weak defensive player. He only snatched 5.9 rebounds a game last year, and only 4.3 a game came on the defensive end. Diaw also turned the ball over 3 times a game, which was highest on the team.
Diaw is backed up by Juwan Howard and Sean May. Howard, a 14-year veteran, averaged only 4.4 points and 1.8 rebounds a game. May, a former lottery pick, averaged 3.9 and 2.9 of the same statistics.
The power forward vacancies would be best helped if the Bobcats select Austin Daye in the first round. Assuming Daye, a junior from Gonzaga, remains in the draft pool, his long frame and athletic body would fill all the voids that Diaw left on the floor.
In the second round, smart picks would be a physical backup center and and a well-shooting small forward. DaJuan Blair from Pittsburgh and Luke Harangody from Notre Dame are good candidates for a center. A strong candidate for the small forward is Chase Budinger for Arizona. Budinger is a very good shooter who will be able to score some points off the bench for the Bobcats.
If the draft is able to play out well for Charlotte, we may see them be a strong contender for the NBA playoffs, and potentially even win their first round series.
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