Charlotte Bobcats

Last year's No. 2 pick, Okafor, was named got milk? Rookie of the Year.
Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images
No. 5, No. 13 (from Cleveland via Phoenix)
Cory Alexander (unrestricted)
Malik Allen (unrestricted)
Keith Bogans (restricted)
Matt Carroll (restricted)
Jason Kapono (restricted)
Brevin Knight (unrestricted)
Kareem Rush (unrestricted)
Tamar Slay (team option)
Theron Smith (restricted)
Gerald Wallace (restricted)
2004: 2. Emeka Okafor, Conn.
45. Bernard Robinson, Michigan
By Bill Evans

When the 2004-05 season began: Some thought the NBA’s futility record was in jeopardy; that the young roster assembled by Bernie Bickerstaff might struggle to reach the 9-73 mark put up by the 76ers in 1972-73.

What happened? The expansion Bobcats had their ninth win before the end of January, and won nine more for good measure. The 18-64 record wasn’t spectacular, but by no means was it the worst recorded by an expansion team.

Emeka Okafor quickly established himself as a worthy ambassador of Charlotte basketball, winning over the Queen City with his winning smile, his hustle and his penchant for double-doubles.

Okafor averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game and was named the NBA’s got milk? Rookie of the Year. The former UConn star had 47 double-doubles, including 19 consecutive, the longest streak by a rookie since Elvin Hayes registered 60 straight in 1968-69.

Among Okafor’s supporting cast, Primoz Brezec (13.0 ppg and 7.4 rpg), Brevin Knight (10.1 ppg and 9.0 apg) and the athletic Gerald Wallace (11.1 ppg) excelled, establishing a foundation upon which Bickerstaff and company can build in 2005-06.

What now? The Bobcats will own the fifth pick in the Draft, and also acquired Cleveland’s No. 13 pick from Phoenix. Could they entice Milwaukee or Atlanta into a 2-for-1 swap and land another ‘franchise’ player?

Assuming no, the “best player available” cliché will be alive and well as the Bobcats try to ramp up the talent level to match the rest of the NBA. The team could benefit from a draft deep in point guards; Knight, a journeyman, is not the long-term answer.

The Bobcats will also have a chance to upgrade via the free agent market. Last year, the NBA limited Charlotte’s salary cap to $29.25 million, $14.62 million less than the rest of the league. That number is expected to jump this season, so the opportunity to acquire some veteran talent is there.