For the first time since the team was created in 2004, the Charlotte Bobcats made the playoffs for the first time last season, finishing with a franchise-best 44-38 record and clinching the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. They were swept by the Orlando Magic, however, in the first round, 4-0.
The Bobcats’ core consisted of Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton, Tyrus Thomas, Boris Diaw, D.J. Augustin, Larry Hughes, Nazr Mohammed, Tyson Chandler and Theo Ratliff.
Felton, Chandler, Hughes and Ratliff are gone but the team has brought in seven new players to their roster. Erick Dampier, who is one of those new players, could be on the trading block with his completely non-guaranteed contract worth $13 million.
Along with Dampier, the Bobcats also brought back guard Matt Carroll in a trade, signed Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire, Eduardo Najera and Shaun Livingston, and drafted Sherron Collins. The Eastern Conference won’t be as easy as last season.
The Bobcats will have to see Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh four times next season when they play the Miami Heat in the Southeast Division. The Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic are also playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference’s toughest division.
The Bobcats could have competition at the seventh and eighth seeds. The Indiana Pacers have been on the outside looking in for two straight seasons, finishing in ninth place in the east in 2009 and tenth place last season.
With a star in the making in point guard Darren Collison, added with All-Star forward Danny Granger, the Pacers can contend for a playoff spot, although Troy Murphy, who averaged over 14 points and 10 rebounds per game last season, was traded to the New Jersey Nets. The Knicks added Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire and are also in the playoff conversation.
The Bobcats answered back with first-time All-Star forward in Wallace, an all-around swingman in Jackson, a good big man Mohammed and young talent in Augustin and Thomas. Wallace and Jackson were a dynamic duo, combining for over 39 points, 15 rebounds and three steals per game last season.
The one element that the Bobcats lack the most is a productive big man, one they had in Emeka Okafor before trading him for the now departed Tyson Chandler. Mohammed was solid, but he’s not the answer to Stoudemire, Bosh, Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer, Al Horford, Andrew Bogut and Kevin Garnett.
The Bobcats also have to deal with the absence of Felton. Augustin, a third-year point guard, will have to step up and play like he did his rookie season, averaging over 11 points and three assists in 26 minutes per game. He’ll have plenty of playing time as the best point on the team.
The Bobcats have some talented players, but if they can’t handle the changes the Eastern Conference made in the summer, their first playoff appearance could be a one-hit wonder. However, if Wallace and Jackson put another season like they did and Augustin can run the point well, the playoffs aren’t out of the question.Powered by Sidelines