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Runnin' Fives: Charlotte Bobcats

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Welcome to the inaugural edition of the CelticsBlog NBA page's newest feature, Runnin' Fives.  Over the course of the next few months, we'll be picking a five-man all-time team for each of the Association's thirty currently active franchises.  The rules are simple: The goal is to put together the best possible standard five-man line-up (two guards, two forwards, one center, with some room for finagling if need be) for each team based on the performance of the players while with said team.  For instance, it's hard to imagine Michael Jordan making the Washington squad or Karl Malone or Gary Payton challenging for spots in Los Angeles (or Mark Blount making any team, anywhere).  We'll be progressing from youngest franchise to oldest at the rate of one to two teams per week, pursuant to the workings of the NBA's news cycle and availability of sources as we'll be checking in with bloggers, beat writers, fans and anybody else we can get a hold of for insight on their teams.  And of course, we're always looking for your input, and we invite all readers to submit their own line-ups, honorable mentions, dishonorable mentions and everything in between in the comments section below.  We eagerly look forward to hearing from you!

cha.gifWe kick off Runnin' Fives with the Charlotte Bobcats, who are coming off the completion of their fourth season in this league.  Sure, as Charlotte Observer writer Rick Bonnell points out, it's a tad absurd to be naming an all-time team already. But with that said, not only did we not want to leave anybody out, but selecting the 'Cats team turned out to be far more challenging than initially expectedSo without further ado, let's run fives with the 'Cats:

Gulp.  Any way you cut it, it's apparently difficult to build a title-contending starting line-up with the personnel of a team that has won 109 games in four seasons.  So here come the flaws.

Point Guard: Brevin Knight - Knight gets the nod here because of the leadership and steadiness he provided at the point in the franchise's infancy.  It's easy to forget that for as much as he seemed to be an aging veteran for those of us outsiders looking back on his Charlotte days, Knight was only 29 in the team's first season, and he gave the 'Cats two and a half seasons of very good service.  The guy scored in double figures and put up 9.0 and 8.8 assists per game respectively over his first two seasons with the 'Cats.  He was this team's first true veteran presence, and as Bonnell says, "His toughness and leadership got them through the first two seasons."

Knight wasn't the most efficient shooter at the point (that he never had a true shooting as high as 50 percent as a 'Cat isn't a wonderful endorsement of his scoring efficacy), but the same can be said of his only true competition for the spot, Raymond Felton.  Knight was the better assist man and only a shade short in per-minute scoring production, and he provides the older presence that Felton doesn't.  Further, for much of their time together on the roster (when it was clear that Felton was expected to be the franchise point guard in the long term), as Ziggy from Bobcats Planet reminds us, "Raymond couldn't beat [Knight] out for the starting job.  We as fans griped and complained about it, but regardless of that, Brevin got the bulk of the minutes at the point."

Dishonorable mention: Jeff McInnis - This comes purely courtesy of Brett Hainline of Queens City Hoops, but I couldn't resist the urge to post the comment:  "By employing him (and playing him heavy minutes), the Bobcats cost themselves being in the race for the eighth playoff spot each of the last two seasons (though Adam Morrison deserves some credit for two years ago)."  Great times in Charlotte. 

Read More..All of Steve's daily posts can be found in the CelticsBlog: NBA blog.  Check him out!

Shooting Guard: Jason Richardson - As Brett kindly reminds us, the Bobcats have had exactly one 20-point-per-game scorer in their history.  Richardson wins this spot in a walk as the best inside-outside scoring threat the team has had to date.  He shot a studly 40.6 percent from three-point land in his first season with the team and continued to go to the basket with his standard fearlessness.  Richardson rebounds well at the two (5.4 per game last year) and plays hard, aggressive basketball on both ends of the floor. Further, the 'Cats acquired him just as he was coming into the prime of his career at age 27.  Brett and Ziggy have both suggested a possible All-Star appearance for Richardson in 2008-09.  He's a shoo-in for this team.

Honorable mention: Matt Carroll - Carroll got some love in the polling (which is purely informal, by the way) from both Brett and Rick as someone who missed the cut by just a hair.  The jury (read: me) likes Carroll's game in that he plays hard and has shot better than 41 percent from deep for his career and has a true shooting mark of 55.5 percent as well (in addition to being a surprisingly adept cutter).  But Carroll has only started a total of 71 games in three seasons as a Bobcat, and the thought here is that he is best suited as a reserve, especially with Jason Richardson in front of him.  Too bad this all-time team features no sixth man.  Carroll's instant offense from the perimeter would be a nice fit.

Secondary honorable mention: Bonnell reminds us, "This unfortunately leaves off Derek Anderson, who is a brilliant basketball mind, but his body wasn't there every night the two seasons he played here."

Confusing mention: Felton - Yes, leaving him off the team was tough as he was drafted back in 2005 to be the point guard of the future and hasn't been terrible, all things considered.  But Felton has been less productive than Knight at the point, hasn't developed to the extent that some thought he would and doesn't make sense at the two.  He's a poor outside shooter, and while having him on this team would be a nice idea in principle, it shouldn't come at the cost of moving top scorer Richardson out of position.  Felton misses the cut. 

Small Forward: Gerald Wallace - He has undoubtedly earned his nickname of Crash with his guts-out play night after night as well as the injuries (including multiple concussions) that he has sustained through his willingness to sacrifice his body for the good of the team with regularity.  We've written about him before in this space, but we're happy to keep singing G-Force's praises: His explosiveness around the rim is truly excellent, and with each passing year, he only becomes a more dangerously potent slasher.  In four years in Charlotte, his scoring average has gone from 11.1 points per game to 15.2 to 18.1 to 19.4, and he has continued to rebound the ball very well for a small forward (7.5 and 7.2 per game in 2005-06 and 2006-07 respectively) while doing his best to use his length and quickness to pitch in defensively as well.

Trivia time: Mr. Hainline informs us that Gerald Wallace is one of three players in league history to average at least two blocks and two steals per game for a full season.  Can you name the other two?  Thanks, Brett; I'm a trivia fiend.

Power Forward: Emeka Okafor - Another no-contest, especially with Wallace out of the way at the three.  Okafor isn't overly explosive, and he isn't flashy, but the man they call Mek has been a rock since the moment he entered the league in 2004 after graduating from UConn in three years.  The guy is a natural leader and has a reputation as one of the classiest guys in the league.  As far as the on-court activities are concerned, consistency is the name of his game.  He has put up 13-15 points and 10-11.5 rebounds in each of his four seasons in the league.  Okafor is a big-time shot-blocker who is quickly turning into one of the league's best interior defenders.  While his lack of speed may cause him trouble at the power forward spot, it seems less of a concern than the alternative, which is moving the undersized Wallace (6-foot-7, 215 pounds) to the four and sliding Okafor to the five (which Ziggy maintains is his natural position).  Nobody said this team was going to be perfect.

Center: Nazr Mohammed - A tough call, particularly since the man has only played 61 games as a Bobcat, starting 29 of them.  But this team needed a competent big man, because starting Wallace and Okafor at the four-five spots would have meant having to move Richardson out of his natural position at the two.  The 30-year-old Mohammed provided a solid presence in the paint for Charlotte after being acquired from the Pistons early in the 2007-08 campaign.  He put up 9.3 points and 6.9 boards on 52 percent shooting in just 23.3 minutes per game (which equates to 14.4 points and 10.7 boards per 36 minutes), made smart decisions on both ends of the floor, played good defensive basketball and generally wasn't a liability for the 'Cats.  For a team still growing out of its expansion days, 'generally not a liability' often becomes high praise.

Dishonorable mention: Primoz Brezec - This was the unquestioned highlight of the comments from our panel of Bobcats experts, courtesy of Ziggy: "To put it politely, Primoz is the worst NBA center in the long and storied history of NBA centers. I would like to put Emeka at both power forward and center, but I suspect that may be against the rules. :-)  In his half a season with the Cats, [Nazr Mohammed] has been decent, and decent is something that Primoz could only dream of becoming."  And to think, I occasionally admired Primoz's ability to hit the mid-range J.  Thanks for setting the record straight, Ziggy.

With Mohammed rounding out the line-up, these Bobcats will hold an interesting mix of age, athleticism, scoring and defense.  Mohammed and Okafor should provide strong interior defense with Richardson and Wallace X-factors in that department at the swing spots.  Both of the swingmen can score the ball effectively and should only be able to do that with greater ease with Brevin Knight distributing the ball to them.  There's no doubt that this team isn't blowing anybody's doors off, but that's the thing about all-time teams for four-year-old franchises and blowing folks' doors off: They rarely do.  But we concede that reality, and this is the five we're running with so far as Charlotte is concerned.

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Special thanks once more to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Ziggy of Bobcats Planet and Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops.  All three writers were kind enough to donate some time to share some tremendously insightful and often entertaining commentary, and their efforts are much appreciated.

And so the wheel turns to you, the reader.  Which five Bobcats would run for you?

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UPDATE: Brett has named a team of his own over at Queen City Hoops.  Definitely worth a read when you have a chance. 

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