The Charlotte Bobcats are the NBA’s youngest franchise, an expansion team that was granted to Charlotte shortly after the Charlotte Hornets left for New Orleans in 2002. In December 2002, a group led by Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson was awarded the franchise. Johnson was a significant choice because he became the first African American majority owner of a team in one of the major North American sports.
The team was named the Bobcats after a name the team contest picked a different name, the Charlotte Flight. There was always speculation that the name “Bobcats” was favored by Johnson because it included a shortened form of his first name.
In any event, the Bobcats will become extinct—at least in terms of Charlotte basketball—at the end of the 2013-14 season. The team has already announced plans to reclaim the Hornets name after it was abandoned by the New Orleans franchise—now known as the Pelicans—at the end of 2012-13.
On the court, the Bobcats in their first nine seasons have the worst winning percentage of any active NBA team at .346 and in 2011-12 set an NBA record for futility by posting a .106 winning percentage in the lockout-shortened season, going just 7-59.
That came just two seasons after the team made the postseason for the only time in franchise history under coach Larry Brown. In 2009-10, the Bobcats were 44-38—the only winning record to date—and were swept in the first round.
The team began play in 2004-05 under coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff. The team’s expansion draft in June 2005 yielded little in terms of long-term contributors, with one notable exception, the selection of forward Gerald Wallace from the Sacramento Kings. In 2010, Wallace became the first Bobcat—and still the only one—selected for an All-Star Game. Center Primoz Brezec spent a little more than three seasons in Charlotte after he was chosen from the Indiana Pacers. No one else from the expansion draft played more than a year with the Bobcats.
The first draft choice in franchise history was Connecticut center Emeka Okafor, taken second overall.
So who are the best players by position in the history of the Charlotte Bobcats?
NOTE: Players must have appeared in 250 regular-season games with the franchise to be considered for this list.
Small Forward: Gerald Wallace (2004-11)
Gerald Wallace had been a spare part for his three seasons with the Sacramento Kings, averaging less than 10 minutes a game and starting just nine times and he was left unprotected in the NBA expansion draft in June 2004.
What Charlotte got in Wallace was the best player in the albeit brief history of the franchise. Wallace was an All-Star in 2010 and was named to the All-Defensive first team that season. He led the NBA in steals per game and steal percentage in 2005-06, as well.
In parts of seven seasons with Charlotte, Wallace averaged 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocked shots per game.
He is the Bobcats’ career leader with 7,437 points, 827 steals and 454 games and is also second with 3,398 rebounds and 531 blocked shots and fifth with 1,110 assists and 267 3-pointers. His 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 36.8 minutes per game are all second on the franchise’s all-time list and he is also fourth with 1.2 blocks per game, fifth with a 47.7 field-goal percentage and seventh with 2.4 assists per game. In advanced metrics, Wallace’s 17.9 player efficiency rating and 103 defensive rating are the best in franchise history.
He holds single-season records with 2.5 steals per game and a 21.3 PER in 2005-06 and 41 minutes per game and a 99.7 defensive rating in 2009-10.
Here are some of Wallace’s highlights with the Bobcats:
At the February trade deadline in 2011, Wallace was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers for Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, Joel Przybilla, cash and first-round picks in 2011 and 2014. He has since played for the New Jersey and Brooklyn Nets and in July was part of a major trade that sent him to the Boston Celtics.
Apologies to: No one, since Wallace is the only SF to meet the 250-game requirement.
Power Forward: Boris Diaw (2008-12)
Boris Diaw came to Charlotte in December 2008 along with Raja Bell and Sean Singletary from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson and a 2010 second-round pick. What the Frenchman brought to the Bobcats was experience and the ability to play a stretch-4 role.
In parts of four seasons for Charlotte, Diaw averaged 11.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game and shot 34.6 percent from long distance.
Diaw is third on the Bobcats’ career list with 1,381 rebounds and is also fourth with 1,107 assists, fifth with 3,010 points and 166 blocked shots, sixth with 260 games and seventh with 237 3-pointers and 204 steals. His 48.1 field-goal percentage and 34.3 minutes per game are fourth on the franchise’s all-time list and he is also fifth with 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, sixth with 11.6 points per game, eighth with 0.8 steals per game and ninth with 0.6 blocks per game. His 52.7 effective field-goal percentage is the highest in franchise history.
Here are some of Diaw’s highlights:
Diaw, who also played for the Atlanta Hawks prior to coming to Charlotte, was waived in March 2012 and was signed by the San Antonio Spurs just two days later. He is signed with the Spurs for the coming season.
Apologies to: No one, since Diaw is the only PF to meet the 250-game requirement.
Center: Emeka Okafor (2004-09)
Emeka Okafor was the first player ever drafted by the Bobcats after completing a three-year career at the University of Connecticut that included first-team All-America honors and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award after leading the Huskies to a national title.
Okafor went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors in 2004-05 and was a solid contributor with the Bobcats.
In five seasons in Charlotte, Okafor averaged 14 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game while shooting 50.6 percent from the floor.
Okafor is the leading rebounder and shot blocker in team history with 3,516 boards and 621 blocks and is also third with 4,630 points and fourth with 251 steals and 330 games. His 10.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game are franchise career records and he is also second with a 50.6 field-goal percentage, fourth with 14 points per game, fifth with 34 minutes per game and ninth with 0.8 steals per game. He is also the franchise record-holder for total rebound percentage (18.3) and defensive rebound percentage (25.3).
Here are some of Okafor’s highlights:
In July 2009, the Bobcats traded Okafor to the New Orleans Hornets for Tyson Chandler. Okafor is currently with the Washington Wizards.
Apologies to: No one, since Okafor is the only C to meet the 250-game requirement.
Shooting Guard: Matt Carroll (2005-09, 2010-12)
Matt Carroll was an NBA nomad having been signed and released by the New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs prior to landing with the Bobcats as a free agent in February 2005. An undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, Carroll emerged as a valuable bench player prior to being traded to the Dallas Mavericks in January 2009, enough so that they brought him back in a trade with the Mavericks in July 2010.
In parts of eight seasons in Charlotte, Carroll averaged 7.4 points and shot 39 percent from 3-point range.
Carroll is third in franchise history with 338 3-pointers and 397 games and is also sixth with 2,923 points and 214 steals and eighth with 831 rebounds. He is second with an 84 percent mark from the free-throw line and fifth with a 39 percent mark from 3-point range.
Carroll’s signature play was this 3-pointer against the Washington Wizards in 2010:
Carroll was traded to the New Orleans Hornets for Hakim Warrick in November 2012 and waived by the Hornets a week later. He does not yet have a deal in place for this season.
Apologies to: No one, since Carroll is the only SG to meet the 250-game requirement.
Point Guard: Raymond Felton (2005-10)
Raymond Felton was the fifth overall pick by the Bobcats in the 2005 NBA Draft, shortly after he helped lead North Carolina to a national championship.
Felton seized the reins at point guard rather quickly, taking over as the starter early in his rookie year and helping Charlotte to its lone playoff berth in 2010.
In five years with the Bobcats, Felton averaged 13.3 points, 6.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Felton is the franchise’s career leader with 2,573 assists and 375 3-pointers and is also second with 5,311 points, 565 steals and 399 games and fourth with 1,366 rebounds. He is second on the franchise’s list with 6.4 assists per game and is also third with 34.9 minutes per game, fifth with 13.3 points and 1.4 steals per game and eighth with a 78.2 free-throw percentage.
Here are some of Felton’s highlights:
In July 2010, Felton left as a free agent to sign with the New York Knicks and has also played for the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers before returning to the Knicks as part of a July 2012 trade.
Apologies to: D.J. Augustin.