Season preview: Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats are lacking the All-Star-level talent needed to reach the playoffs
Coach Larry Brown will have a positive impact, but it will take some time
Michael Jordan's track record in the front office doesn't inspire much confidence
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
Bobcats at a glance
Last season: 32-50
Notable additions: Sean May and Adam Morrison (missed last season with knee injuries), D.J. Augustin (R), Alexis Ajinca (R)
Notable losses: Earl Boykins (signed with Italy's Virtus Bologna)
Coach: Larry Brown (first season with Bobcats; 1,010-800 overall in 23 NBA seasons)
Reasons for hope
1. Larry Brown. Forget Brown's disastrous one-year stint in New York; a cyber-coach with the skills of Red Auerbach, John Wooden and Pat Riley combined couldn't have succeeded there. Everywhere else Brown has gone, including stops in Detroit, Philadelphia and Indiana, his teams have been successful. The Bobcats are a work in progress, but Brown will figure out a way to maximize the talent.
2. The frontcourt is solid. Forward-center Emeka Okafor (re-signed to a six-year, $72 million contract) is a strong rebounder and shot-blocker, small forward Gerald Wallace is multidimensional scorer and and athletic defender, and center Nazr Mohammed brings a tough presence to the middle. It ain't Bird-Parish-McHale, but it's not bad. On top of that, May, who was productive in limited minutes his first two NBA seasons, is working his way back from microfracture knee surgery. He has been starting at power forward in the preseason alongside Wallace and Okafor.
3. More depth. Charlotte's reserves averaged a league-worst 24 points per game last season, a statistic that had as much to do with injuries as ineptitude. The return of Morrison and May, plus the addition of first-round pick Augustin, gives the Bobcats more depth to go with perimeter threat Matt Carroll and forward Jared Dudley.
Reasons for worry
1. Larry Brown. In the long run, as the Bobcats' many young players develop into veterans, Brown will have a positive impact. But Brown is notorious for having little patience for youth, so there will be some bumps along the way. Point guards Raymond Felton and Augustin are prime candidates to feel Brown's wrath, while May will probably start to feel like a yo-yo after the veteran coach shuffles him in and out of the lineup.
2. Not enough elite talent. Okafor and shooting guard Jason Richardson are paid like All-Stars and Wallace sometimes acts like one, but Charlotte is devoid of a dominant player. And the Bobcats are invested heavily in all three as their core: Okafor has that new six-year extension, Wallace signed a six-year, $57 million contract last offseason and Richardson has three years and $40 million left on his deal.
3. The front office is a potentially dangerous opponent. In two-plus years as the Bobcats' managing member of basketball operations, Michael Jordan has hired an inexperienced coach (Sam Vincent) and fired him a year later (though bringing in Brown was a good next move); given away the bulk of the Bobcats' cap flexibility, along with the No. 8 pick in the 2007 draft, in acquiring Richardson's bloated salary and one-dimensional game; and drafted Adam Morrison over Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay. Also, it remains to be seen whether the Bobcats will regret taking Augustin instead of Jerryd Bayless or Brook Lopez with the ninth pick in the 2008 draft and selecting the raw Ajinca 11 spots later.
Keep an eye on ...
Ajinca. Is the 7-foot-1, 220-pound French center another Frederic Weis, his countryman who famously was a first-round bust in 1999? Not much is known about the 20-year-old Ajinca except that he was a BMX racing star growing up and spent two undistinguished seasons playing professionally in France. The Bobcats say they don't expect him to be able to contribute until February -- "Right now, I think if he played in the NBA, he'd foul out in warm-ups," Brown said -- but judging by an abysmal summer league performance and a less than stellar training camp, it could be considerably longer. If at all.
The Bobcats and Hornets were the only teams to average fewer than 25 bench points a game last season.
The Bobcats would be thrilled with a .500 season after going 32-50 in 2007-08, but an improved Eastern Conference and a marginally talented roster should keep Charlotte in roughly the same position as last season. Brown should get the team playing the right way and begin the process of weeding out the questionable talent, but the franchise's first playoff appearance will have to wait.
Sports Illustrated's NBA preview issue will be on newsstands Wednesday, Oct. 22.