Following a year of significant personnel moves, the Bobcats have put together a solid starting lineup: Raymond Felton, Raja Bell, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, and Emeka Okafor. No superstars, but this unit was very effective against other starting units in the NBA.
Unfortunately, the starters were required to play significant minutes due to a lack of depth. Of the five, only Okafor averaged less than 35 minutes per game for the season (both Bell and Diaw averaged over 35 minutes per game after being traded to the Bobcats while their numbers with the Suns were lower).
At the conclusion of the season, only two other Bobcats averaged over 20 minutes per game: DJ Augustin and Vladimir Radmanovic. Radmanovic only played 20 games after being acquired via trade with the Lakers. No other current player averaged over 15.
For some perspective, the NBA Champion Lakers played only Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in excess of 35 minutes per game while four other players averaged 20+ minutes and four more averaged 15+.
There is no question that players are more efficient when better rested. On several occasions, the Bobcats gave away seemingly comfortable leads late in games. For example, on April 1, 2009, the Bobcats allowed the Boston Celtics to score the last eight points of regulation to force overtime. The Celtics would eventually win in double OT.
My explanation for this lapse is simply fatigue, both physical and mental. The Bobcats lost their edge in the final minutes of regulation to let the Celtics find a way back into the game.
That being said, the Bobcats have the 12th, 40th, and 54th picks in the 2009 NBA Draft on Thursday night to add some fresh talent to the roster.
With the first round pick, I expect the Bobcats to pick a wing player to contribute early, such as Gerald Henderson or Terrence Williams. The two second rounders are hard to guess, but both of these players will get a chance at playing in Charlotte.
However, there are several attractive targets for the Bobcats in free agency. Fitting with the team-oriented theme in Charlotte, I have put together a list of my favorite mid-level free agents who could potentially be acquired by the Bobcats without harming the salary cap status.
Ronald "Flip" Murray: Unrestricted Free Agent (last season 12.2 ppg, 36 3p%)
Murray knows how to score coming off the bench an attribute the Bobcats desperately need. Not as great without the ball in his hands, but once again a criticism of the Bobcats has been a lack of play-making ability.
Even as a bench player in Atlanta, he was involved in late game situations, and often triggered the offense. At 29 years old he can bring more experience to the Bobcats. He has also played some point guard in case of injuries to either Felton or Augustin.
Von Wafer: Unrestricted Free Agent (last season 9.7 ppg, 39 3p%)
Wafer is a dynamic player who brings an immediate spark off the bench, if he makes his first shot. If he doesn't make it, he's not going to be worth much. But the potential electricity is worth the risk in my opinion.
Another problem could be his poor shot selection, but he is still a young player with a lot to learn. Regardless, he knows how to score the ball and is not afraid of a challenge.
Reports out of Houston indicate that Wafer would prefer to stay with the Rockets, but they have other uncertainties such as Ron Artest's free agency and whether to trade away Tracy McGrady which could affect Wafer's status.
Zaza Pachulia: Unrestricted Free Agent (last season 6.2 ppg, 5.7 rbg)
The Georgian big man, though not a stat stuffer, established his reputation for battling underneath when he jawed off with Kevin Garnett in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. He could offer a better defensive backup to Okafor than Diop.
He is also less of a liability on offense at nearly 50 percent from the field and 71 percent from the line (Diop was 46 percent from the field and a horrific 27 percent from the line).
Marcin Gortat: Restricted Free Agent (last season 3.8 ppg, 4.5 rbg, 0.84 bpg, 12.6 mpg)
Gortat played very little only in relief of Dwight Howard, but I found his play to be very effective. He is not shy in a pick and roll game, perfect for the Bobcats, and finished efficiently at 57 percent from the field. Unfortunately, he is not a very good free throw shooter (58 percent), but he is certainly better than Diop.
Though Gortat is a restricted free agent, Orlando has expressed its willingness to let Gortat go in order to deal with other issues surrounding salary cap and attempts to keep Hedo Turkoglu.
Shannon Brown: Unrestricted Free Agent
I add Brown here as a wishful thought on my part. I was very excited when he started getting more minutes with the Bobcats after Wallace went down with a collapsed lung in January.
However, he was traded to the Lakers, and any NBA fan would have to be buried under a rock not to have heard the commentators mention him during the playoffs. Brown is a solid defender, a gifted athlete, and a young, but coachable player. He will be staying with the Lakers at all costs, after fighting for time in the backcourt and winning an NBA title.
Once again, I have tried to find legitimate targets for the Bobcats who could have a significant impact in bolstering the roster in the 2009-2010 season and help make a playoff push.