Tuesday October 19, 2010 5:45 p.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
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Fresh off a franchise best 44-win campaign and the team's first ever playoff appearance, the Charlotte Bobcats hope to build on what they started a season ago despite not making any major off season moves. In fact, the team lost starting point guard Raymond Felton via free agency to New York and will have to rely on veteran swingman Stephen Jackson and all star forward Gerald Wallace for leadership and scoring.
Wallace made his first all star game putting up 18 points and 10 rebounds a game last season while the always feisty Jackson scored 21 points a game after coming over in a trade from Golden State. Without Felton to get them the ball, Charlotte will rely on D.J. Augustin to step up after playing backup point guard his first two years in the league. After Augustin averaged 11 points and 3 assists his rookie season, he fell off last year, averaging just 6 points and 3 assists.
In one of the few moves the team made, Charlotte did opt to re-sign forward Tyrus Thomas to a multi-year deal. The absurdly athletic forward has shown flashes of brilliance but his play through four pro seasons has been very inconsistent averaging just 8 points and 5 rebounds a game. Thomas can be a presence around the rim with his shot blocking ability and can finish well on the break, but can he bring it every game?
Same can be said of forward Boris Diaw. The lumbering forward returns for his third year in Charlotte where he averaged 11 points and 5 rebounds and 4 assists last season. But I think the 29 year-old will have to score more this season and become a legitimate third scoring threat for the Bobcats.
Swing-man Gerald Henderson Jr. proved to be no threat at all and was a major disappointment in his rookie campaign. The first round pick out of Duke was invisible last season averaging just 2.6 points and was not even on the roster for the opening playoff series loss to Orlando. If the Bobcats can somehow get his confidence and production up for his second NBA season, that would certainly be an added bonus.
Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown is back for another year, and he will continue to emphasize a defensive approach that held opponents to a league low 93.8 points per game. The Bobcats are at their best when holding teams to that total not to mention, Charlotte went 31-10 at home.
Bobcats owner, chairman and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan made news with his signing of Kwame Brown in the off season. We all know that when Jordan was the Wizards team president, he took Brown with 1 pick in the NBA draft in 2001 and so far Brown is right up there with the greatest busts of all time. Hard to believe, but Brown is now entering his 10th season and if he can just bang the boards and hustle there could be a spot for him in Charlotte but Brown's work ethic and attitude is still in question.
A couple of other former Wizards will try to provide a spark off the bench as forward Dominic McGuire and guard Shaun Livingston will try to find a spot in Larry Brown's rotation.
If Augustin can emerge as an NBA starting point guard and Wallace and Jackson provide the scoring and Charlotte can defend like it did last year, the Bobcats should get back to the playoffs anywhere from a 6-8 seed in the Eastern conference.