Updated: Oct. 26, 2005, 11:46 PM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Cats climb into Year 2

Bobcats

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Charlotte Bobcats finish in the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference? Get 12 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST DIV CONF COMMENT
Marc Stein ESPN.com
5
14
The Bobcats exceeded expectations by winning 18 games and Emeka Okafor did, too, by averaging 15 and 11. I'm not overly optimistic about how much overachieving the expansionists can do for an encore.
Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
4
14
Bob's Cats move into a new building, and they'll be judged this season by how many seats they can fill in a market the NBA felt was worth saving after the Hornets left.

Will Perdue ESPN Insider
5
15
Charlotte works hard and is getting better. Don't sleep on this team because they will make you pay. Just how good is Raymond Felton?

Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
5
15
Bernie Bickerstaff is building this franchise piece by piece. The Bobcats are very young but opponents will not take them lightly, which is a compliment to the job the coaching staff did a year ago.
Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2

5
14

They're most definitely Okafor's team: Their effort will impress, it just won't be enough to win many games.

Tim Legler ESPN Insider
4
14

See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Charlotte Bobcats.


Scoop Jackson ESPN
Page 2

5
15

Will win some big games, but defense will let them down many nights.


John Hollinger ESPN Insider
5
15
The plan is going swimmingly in Year 2, but don't expect it to translate into more victories just yet. Watching UNC combo of Felton and Sean May will have to suffice for now.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
5
15
The Bobcats are staying the course, but it won't be pretty this season. The goal is to keep losing, develop their young players, pray they win the draft lottery, and then spend all of that free agency money next summer.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
5
15
Charlotte may not win many games (18 last year) but they are doing the next-best thing. They are acquiring a lot of young talent through the draft, including Sean May and Raymond Felton off UNC's title team.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
5
15
They will not be the worst team in the league -- again. By winning twice as many games (18) last year as I thought they would, they proved modest talent that sticks together is better than superior talent with agendas. Some nights, anyway.
Chris Broussard ESPN Insider
5
15

Talent, youth and character bodes well for future, but not for present.




Hey rook!
Felton
Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
Roy Williams pupils meet: Bobcats rookie point guard Raymond Felton gets a lesson in pressure defense from Jacque Vaughn.


Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Bobcats roster:

PLAYER ANALYSIS RATING
Starters: Let's see, how to put this? Oh, yeah: Experience Wanted.
PF
Emeka
Okafor
Spent summer getting tutored by Olajuwon. That's a teacher.
7
SF
Gerald
Wallace
First-time starter gave good production: 11.1 ppg and 5.5 rpg.
7
C
Primoz
Brezec
Started strong, sputtered late. Must prove he's the real deal.
6
SG
Kareem
Rush
11.5 per for Bobcats, and that's just the beginning.
6
PG
Brevin
Knight
Vet's 9 apg was second in the league. Call him resurgent.
7
Bench: May and Felton and, um, give us a minute & wait & um, hold on & got it right here & hey, did we mention May and Felton?
4

TOTAL SCORE

37

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hit newsstands Wednesday.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Emeka Okafor
Player Efficiency Rating
16.35
vs. NBA Avg.: +1.35

Emeka Okafor's rookie season was something of a mixed bag. On one hand, it's hard to argue with 17 points and 12 boards per 40 minutes, especially since the Bobcats weren't sure how far along he was offensively. On the other hand, he was significantly less athletic than he appeared at Connecticut, particularly in shot-blocking. Okafor seemed to be a Mourning-esque dominator in college, but he barely blocked more shots per minute as a rookie than Gerald Wallace.

Offensively, Okafor shot a low percentage because he was forced to be the Bobcats' primary option and faced frequent double-teaming. He has a nice jump hook in the post and also has a reliable turnaround jumper. However, he took too many mid-range jumpers that seemed to be a step beyond his range, and he doesn't have the explosion of some other high draft picks when he finishes around the basket. He's also a poor free-throw shooter.

On a team like this, however, Okafor's biggest weakness was his inability to find the open man. Considering all the attention he received from opposing defenses, Okafor should have had ample opportunity to locate open teammates, but he averaged a measly one assist per 40 minutes. Okafor's assist ratio was the fourth-worst among power forwards, a situation that must improve in coming seasons.

The big question for Charlotte fans is how much better Okafor can get. The Bobcats' big weakness right now is a lack of star talent, and Okafor is the one player on the roster who potentially could become a star. He'll need to further refine his post game and develop as a passer in order to get there.

-- Bobcats player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.

Workout wonder
Okafor
AP/Sara D. Davis
Emeka Okafor carries the weight of a young Bobcats team in his hands.


SportsNation Speaks
Which Tar Heel will make the bigger splash?
73.1% Raymond Felton
26.9% Sean May

Vote: Bobcats in 2005-06 | Results



Tim's Time
Sean May

Legs on Bobcats: At least we know this much about the 'Cats in 2004-05: They played awfully hard. This year they will be playing that hard with additional talent, although it's awfully young talent.

Fellow Tar Heels and first rounders Raymond Felton and Sean May will join Emeka Okafor and give the Bobcats additional fire power to complement that stingy defense.

They aren't there yet, but they are headed in the right direction.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider



Coach's Corner
Bernie Bickerstaff
Experience: 11 years
Reg. season record: 355-407
Playoff record: 12-21
Coach's profile

Bernie Bickerstaff did a very solid job with his first-year Bobcats. He is smartly building the Charlotte franchise piece by piece and their long-term potential is intriguing.

The Bobcats are very young but the rest of the league will not take Bickerstaff's team lightly, which is a compliment to what he is putting together.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider



Hollinger's Q & A
Did they scout any out-of-state college teams?

The Bobcats raised eyebrows on draft day when they used their two first-round picks on point guard Raymond Felton and power forward Sean May -- both of whom attended the University of North Carolina. Both players were selected earlier than many had projected, leading some cynics to conclude it was an attempt by the Bobcats to sell tickets after having recorded disappointing attendance figures in their first season.

Although that might have been a motivating factor, it's also true that both players established their worth with stellar college seasons. Felton plays like a bigger version of Knight -- a weak jump shooter who can push the ball up the floor, break down defenses and find the open man. May had knee surgery in the offseason and might miss some games at the start of the season. But once he returns to action, he'll be a vacuum cleaner on the glass and should provide offense off the bench with his steady post moves.

However, expect Bobcats fans to keep a close eye on Portland's Martell Webster and Boston's Gerald Green as well. The two high schoolers were the players Charlotte bypassed to take Felton and May, and either could have filled the team's glaring need at shooting guard.

More Hollinger Bobcats analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Wallace
Wallace

Sleeper: Gerald Wallace surprised a lot of people last season. He started 68 games and ended up ninth in the league in steals. Not bad for a guy always overlooked, including this season. Wallace will remain a starter and a hidden source for rebounds, blocks and steals. You can get him after the first 10 rounds and feel good about it.

Bust: Primoz Brezec did come from relative obscurity to finish second on the team in scoring and rebounding, but that was last year. The Bobcats aren't contenders, and younger options Emeka Okafor, Sean May, Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace will do the bulk of the scoring. Look for Brezec to struggle to reach 13 points per game.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index

 

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