Updated: October 25, 2007, 7:10 PM ET

Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Charlotte's 77 wins in its first three seasons have not reminded anyone of Michael Jordan's Bulls. But if the Bobcats continue their steady progression in Year 4, they might finally look as good as their boss.

Expert Picks
J.A. Adande
SOUTHEAST: 5 | EAST: 14  They added Jason Richardson, but they still don't have a go-to guy they can count on every night. Speaking of every night, how about a full 82 for Emeka Okafor?
Greg Anthony
SOUTHEAST: 4 | EAST: 10  Jason Richardson could pay big dividends paired with Gerald Wallace. Losing Sean May doesn't help, but a healthy Emeka Okafor could offset that.

SOUTHEAST: 4 | EAST: 13  A team in need of that go-to guy, and it looks like Jason Richardson is that guy. Gerald Wallace can't single-handedly win games, though he's excellent in so many areas. Some good young talent here.

SOUTHEAST: 5 | EAST: 12  Love the addition of Jason Richardson, and Gerald Wallace is one of the league's best energetic, jack-of-all-trades types. If Okafor can stay healthy and continue to improve, Bobcats could fight for a playoff spot.

SOUTHEAST: 5 | EAST: 15  A rookie coach and a basketball IQ-challenged roster don't make for major jumps in the standings. JRich and Gerald Wallace are a wildly athletic swing combo, but Raymond Felton has to prove he's a legit starting point guard to harness it. .

SOUTHEAST: 5 | EAST: 14  Richardson is a good player and Golden State is going to miss him. But unless he and Gerald Wallace have career years, Emeka Okafor plays 82 games and Raymond Felton steps it up a notch, I don't think the Bobcats have the talent to get it done.

SOUTHEAST: 5 | EAST: 13  The Bobcats have a nice, young roster. Jason Richardson was a nice get, but re-signing undervalued Gerald Wallace was even better. Adam Morrison won't be able to redeem himself this season, unfortunately.

SOUTHEAST: 4 | EAST: 12  Looked like a playoff sleeper until Sean May's unfortunate microfracture surgery, dealing them a huge blow at a spot where they were already painfully thin. Talent is building, but wait 'til next year for these Cats to pounce.

SOUTHEAST: 2 | EAST: 9  While Bob Johnson didn't exactly open his wallet Wyc Grousbeck-style, by acquiring Richardson he came through on his promise to spend after Year 3. Now they need to address is the front line, where the season-ending injury to Sean May has produced a need for another big body.
SOUTHEAST: 4 | EAST: 12  They're getting deeper and closer. But the Bobs, even before the May and Morrison injuries, were still not big enough or experienced enough to convince me this will be their breakthrough season playoff-wise.
TOTAL             SOUTHEAST: 4.3 | Standings             EAST: 12.4 | Standings
Hollinger Analysis

Team Strength: Starting Five

If everyone's healthy -- and I grant, that's a big if -- Charlotte's first five can hang with anybody. Raymond Felton is a rising force who should benefit from being asked to score less and pass more this season, as finishing is the one area that gives him trouble.

Jason Richardson is the type of athletic scorer this team has needed on the perimeter since inception, and allows Matt Carroll to transition into a more suitable bench role.

Gerald Wallace, of course is a human highlight film who should make the All-Star team one of these years, while Emeka Okafor is one of the game's elite defenders.

The starting five would have been even more imposing had Sean May not checked out for microfracture knee surgery, but don't sleep on Walter Herrmann. Though undersized, he and Wallace are capable of sharing the two forward spots -- much as they did during the Bobcats' impressive late-season run a year ago.

John Hollinger's complete Bobcats forecast Insider
Lineup Breakdown

Raymond Felton
Point Guard
6-1 | 198
… but Ray, there's more to this game than alley-oops.
Jason Richardson
Shooting Guard
6-6 | 225
Posttrade pouts fading with each Felton feed …
Gerald Wallace
Small Forward
6-7 | 215
Crowd-pleasing drives offset by crowd-queasying floor crashes.
Emeka Okafor
Power Forward
6-10 | 252
Finally had as many wins in NBA season as he did as UConn junior
Ryan Hollins
7-0 | 230
Quick on break but too thin to cut it in half-court.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 24.

Player Spotlight
Matt Carroll
Player efficiency rating
projection: 13.96
vs. NBA avg.: -1.04
Charlotte profiles

Scouting report: Carroll shoots a high-arcing push shot off his right shoulder and is very accurate with it in catch-and-shoot situations, particularly from the corners. He's also very effective at using the threat of the shot to set up driving lanes, and when he goes to the basket he often finds his way to the line.

Defensively, Carroll is a liability, and that's likely to limit his role in coming seasons as expectations increase in Charlotte. While he's attentive and keeps up with the team concept, he doesn't have the size or leaping ability to affect opponents' shots, and his lateral quickness is poor.

2007-08 outlook: Carroll is a journeyman no longer -- he signed a six-year, $27 million deal with the Bobcats over the summer. From Charlotte's perspective, that was rather excessive on the years but values him fairly for his production in the short term.

However, it's not all roses for Carroll. His role is likely to decrease quite a bit this year thanks to the arrivals of Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley, returning him the bench-scoring role he filled in his first two years as a Bobcat. Don't expect his per-minute numbers to change much, but his per-game output will take a big dip.


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TrueHoop Wants To Know …
If you got some quality time with your team's GM (like those lucky dudes from 3 Shades of Blue), what would you ask?

Brett, queencityhoops.com:

What I would ask Rod Higgins:

With Sean May and Adam Morrison done, most fans (and prognosticators) say the season is over before it even starts, with the Bobcats having almost no shot at the playoffs. The question is: Why?

Did the team really expect 60 games out of May (heck, even 40)?

Was Morrison going to turn the season around?

I never thought I'd say it, but I miss Jake Voskuhl. With our current big options being Brezec, Hollins, and Davidson, Voskuhl looks like Ben Wallace (when he was still good).

Also, do the Bobcats really need three players who do nothing but shoot? Adam Morrison, Matt Carroll and Walter Herrmann … who is getting traded?

TrueHoop, ESPN's NBA blog

Multimedia Zone

Charlotte Bobcats: Best case/worst case
Photo Synthesis

Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Bobcats fans are hoping J-Rich brought some of that Golden State mojo with him.

Coach's Corner
Sam Vincent Experience: 1st year
Record: 0-0
Playoffs: 0-0
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

I'm sure Sam Vincent is thrilled to be an NBA head coach for the first time, and he'll stay that way right up to opening night, when the pressure will suddenly intensify. How he handles that pressure is as important as anything else he does this season.

He needs to exhibit leadership and professionalism, which sounds easy for a gentleman like Vincent, but ends up being more difficult once the NBA pressure cooker gets going -- especially in light of the increased expectations from the media and fans.

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.

Fantasy Focus
Sleeper: Walter Herrmann
In nine April starts last season, Herrmann averaged almost 20 points and three 3-pointers on 57 percent shooting from the field. Of course he won't do that over a full season, but even if given 25 minutes a night, he should be able to provide 10-12 points, strong shooting percentages and 3-point production. He's a solid late-round pick.

Bust: Gerald Wallace
Wallace is a top-15 talent when healthy. And therein lies the rub -- Wallace is never healthy. He's become one of those players owners look to draft just for the benefit of looking well-informed. Don't pull the trigger until the early third round.

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