(The NBA lockout isn't going away soon, and it'll be a while before teams get a chance to upgrade their rosters. Still, it gives us plenty of time to familiarize ourselves with the players we'll want to target before (or if) the lockout ends. Some of these players may be on different teams by the time the season starts, but hey, that's the risk that comes with any prediction article. Today, we look at the Charlotte Bobcats.)
No, the Charlotte Bobcats probably won't be the worst team in the NBA. (The Timberwolves have that distinction on lockdown.) But that doesn't mean they won't look like the worst team in the league. Sans Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, the once promising 'Cats have maybe the most depleted, terrible lineup in all of basketball. They're the garbage dump of the league. They're loaded with retreads like Kwame Brown, DeSagana Diop, Matt Carroll, Dante Cunningham, Joel Pryzbilla, Garrett Temple, Eduardo Najera and D.J. White. If the league went back to 29 teams, I doubt a third of their roster would still be in the NBA. It's that bad. But even the tallest mountains of crap can have diamonds in the rough. Thankfully, in the cold world of fantasy where numbers alone mean everything, the Bobcats still have a few players capable of being relevant. The stats they put up may be empty, baseless, skewed stats that never translate to the win column, but they're stats nonetheless, and that's all that matters.
- D.J. Augustin -- Believe it or not, the Bobcats' soon-to-be-24-year-old point guard may be the closest thing there is to Stephen Curry. No, his percentages aren't as good as Curry's, nor are his rebounding numbers or his scoring average. But Augustin is no slouch. He shot an excellent 90.6% from the line last season, his 6.1 assists per game were a little higher than Curry's, and his 14.4 points per game weren't bad for a first year starter. Bringing in Kemba Walker means Augustin might not dominate the minutes like he did in 2011, but still, there's so little on this team that you have to like his chances to match or better his performance from a year ago. He may be a Stephen Curry knock-off, but there's certainly a market for that.
- Corey Maggette -- After a year of irrelevancy with the Milwaukee Bucks, Maggette was traded to the Bobcats in the offseason, which once again makes him a must-own player. Unlike Augustin, Maggette has the initiative needed to step up as the team's leading scorer. He's poised to be the team's starting small forward, meaning you should expect close to 20 points and 5 rebounds per game from him. He's a foul magnet and a solid foul-shooter, making him a terrific cog for anyone looking to win the free-throw percentage category. He probably won't shoot 51.6% from the field like he did in his last starting gig with the Warriors, way back in 2009. But hey, you can't go wrong with a guy who does nothing but score on a team in desperate need of scoring. Need I say more?
- Boris Diaw -- The point-guard-turned-power-forward is one of the most unique players in the league. On the one hand, his 5 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game are a little underwhelming for a power forward. However, he also collected a fantastic 4.1 assists per game last year, while nearly averaging a steal and a three-pointer per contest. He's one of the few players capable of producing in every single category, and though he won't wow you in any category but assists, he's someone every fantasy owner should like to have.
- Gerald Henderson -- It's with some reluctance that I put Henderson in this category. He was useless for all but the final two months of the 2011 season, when the team traded away Gerald Wallace. And he went under the knife for hip surgery in May, which doesn't exactly help his explosiveness. But he did average 16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in April, and if there's any benefit to the lockout, it's that it gives players like Henderson plenty of time to heal in time for the season. He should see a massive amount of minutes as the team's starting shooting guard, which bodes will for his fantasy stock. But don't be surprised if Maggette eats into his scoring average, as Henderson isn't much of an outside shooter and Maggette's forte is slashing to the basket.
- Tyrus Thomas -- If you don't know who Tyrus Thomas is, then you're obviously new to fantasy basketball. Thomas is the girl at the end of the bar who flirts with you, gets you to buy her a beer, and then forgets about you the second she has it. He's the girl who promises to go on a date with you, but then never shows up because she was really, really busy. Thomas has excellent Per-36 numbers, enough that people invest in him year after year, without fail. Unfortunately, the man plays behind Boris Diaw, and he can't exactly play beside him because he's too small (6-9, 215). He's a shot-blocking machine when he gets the minutes, but his offensive game is extremely limited, to the point that he's merely a jump-shooter. Add him if AND ONLY IF he inexplicably gets the nod over Diaw, or if Diaw gets hurt, otherwise you'll just be falling prey to the fantasy basketball succubus.
- Kemba Walker -- The 6-1, shoot-first guard could have a problem adjusting to the NBA. Some have compared his potential to Ben Gordon, a fellow UConn shooting guard who managed to be successful despite his diminutive size. The difference is that Gordon is 6-3 and weighs 200 pounds. At 6-1 and 175, Walker is tiny, which is never a good thing to be in the tallest sport in the world. What he has going for him is a lousy set of teammates to compete with for playing time. Even if he can't beat out Augustin at point guard, coach Paul Silas has already intimated that Walker and Augustin could be on the court at the same time. He was the best player in last year's NCAA tournament and deserves to be monitored very closely. But it's unlikely he'll immediately be worth owning.
- Bismack Biyombo -- A 6-9, 245-pound 18-year-old from Congo, Bismack Biyombo is nothing if not intriguing. At a 2011 Nike Hoops Summit, Biyombo wowed everyone by recording a triple-double of 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks. He was selected seventh overall in the latest draft, so it's not like he lacked pursuers. The problem is that from all overseas accounts, he has no offensive game whatsoever, which automatically hurts his chances of being a fantasy option. And the person who drafted him was team owner Michael Jordan, whose draft day resume doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Still, Biyombo is incredibly raw. He has an absurd 7-7 wingspan, making it a distinct possibility that he'll one day be the next Marcus Camby or Serge Ibaka. For now he can be safely ignored, as an 18-year-old with no offensive skills is bound to have some growing pains in the NBA.
The Forgettables: Kwamie Brown, Matt Carroll, Dante Cunningham, Joel Pryzbilla, Dominic McGuire.