Mar 19, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; A basketball rest on the court during a stoppage in play between the Brooklyn Nets and the Charlotte Bobcats at the Barclays Center. The Nets won 104-99. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Number 5: Emeka Okafor
Pick: 1st Round, 2nd Pick
Speaking of Okafor, the 2004 National Champion from UConn was the very first pick of the reborn Charlotte franchise, the Bobcats. He had made his reputation in college as a tenacious shot blocker and smart economics student. He was supposed to be the face of the franchise and set the tone for the blue color defense Bernie Bickerstaff teams.
Okafor was so well considered that some observers wondered how the Orlando Magic could pass on him to select high schooler Dwight Howard instead. An Okafor/Howard rivalry was a story line whenever the Magic and Bobcats played. Okafor ended up winning the Rookie of the Year award instead of Howard by averaging a double-double that season. Howard evidently took offense. Now it is obvious that the Magic made the right call, but it was not so clear in 2004-5.
Okafor was the first player face of the Bobcats. He was on the roster when there was barely a team. He was still on the roster when the team was on the cusp of the playoffs. However by then Okafor’s limits were better understood. Brown traded him for the length of Tyson Chandler to get the team over the top. Given the limited amount of time Chandler was around, that decision was debatable.
In five seasons in Charlotte, Okafor averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds a game. He never became a star, but he was a good player for the Bobcats. He is awesome in NBA Street Vol 3 for those who remember that Xbox classic.