Charlie Villanueva- Season: 13.2pts 6.5rbs. Best game: 27pts 13rbs 12-17fgs
The Good: - Dont call him Charlie Hustle just yet, but Villenueva has certainly shown himself to be a lot more proactive then he was during his days at UCONN. Charlie has shown no difficulties adjusting to the NBA 3 point line as he is shooting nearly 38% from behind the arc. But, Charlie is still attacking the basket with abandon as his 48% shooting percentage and 2.8 offensive rebounds per game will attest.
The Bad: Fouls and free throws are the order of the day for Charlie to take full advantage of his massive potential. Villanueva hasnt shot a ton from the line, so Ill assume he can do a little better than the paltry 31% hes shooting now. The fouls are a bigger issue because its keeping him off the floor, even though its great to see him finally putting an effort in on the defensive end. Villanueva makes a great tandem frontline with Chris Bosh, but after he comes out of the game there is a precipitous drop off in production, so it is imperative that he remain on the court. Not every team has the luxury of playing rookies unlimited minutes, so Charlie must take full advantage of the opportunity.
Outlook: Villanueva has positioned himself to be an impact player for a young and talented Raptors team. With tons of playing time available and the ability to play through his mistakes, Charlie has a tremendous chance to harness his vast potential and become an impact player. The only risk I see with Villanueva is that he may grow complacent with his situation. As the losing continues and without the pressure to perform coming from another hungry bench player, Charlie could see some slippage in his game. The key for Villanueva is the same as its always been-if he stays aggressive then he can be a fantastic player.
Joey Graham- Season: 6.6pts 2.2rbs. Best game: 13pts 2rbs 100% 3-3fg, 6-6ft
The Good: Good news for Joey is that there are plenty of developmental minutes available to him on a struggling Raptors team and there should be even more playing time as soon as Jalen Rose is moved. Grahams minutes have been on the rise and even in limited opportunities he has shown a solid shooting stroke from the field and from the line. Defensively, Graham has given a strong showing, and unlike his NCAA days fouls havent been too much of a problem despite his aggressive nature.
The Bad: - Graham has the speed to play shooting guard and the size and strength to be a small forward which makes him an excellent compliment to the young Raptors frontcourt tandem of Bosh and Villanueva. But, Graham hasnt shown great rebounding ability yet, and his strength and athleticism should allow him to dominate his opponent with even the slightest amount of positioning and instinct. This early in the season its too soon to call this an issue, but it would be nice to get a multi-faceted level of production out of a swing player of his caliber.
Outlook: Graham appears to be the latest in a long and successful line of Oklahoma State swingmen who have made the transition to the NBA. I expect Joey to have similar success as his predecessors. As with Charlie V, the playing time that Graham will get this season should help to develop his game immensely. As the season progresses and Grahams playing time increases I expect him to increase his aggressiveness and start to test the limits of his ability. Eddie Sutton rules OK State with an iron fist, and the sooner Graham gets that limiting notion out of his head the quicker he will become an effective player.
Sean May- Season: 10.4pts 5.6rbs. Best game: 15pts 10rbs
The Good: - May has improved in every statistical category as the season has progressed. Whatever minor hesitance the off-season surgery caused May is gone now. Seans outside stroke really opens up the court for him and his court savvy allows him to make the proper play when his own offense isnt there. May uses good instincts to position himself on the glass and gets a solid amount of his rebounds on the offensive end due mostly to his movement when the defensive attention is on the Okafor.
The Bad: - Mays conditioning is still less than ideal and its limiting his minutes to some degree. As the game goes on May becomes less of a full court threat and more of a positional rebounder and low post player, not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly not indicative of his full ability.
Outlook: May is in a perfect position to become a really good player in this league. Playing for Charlotte has given May the ability to remain close to his college roots and the fan base embraces him and teammate Raymond Felton as if they are long time vets, which they are in a way for them. Charlotte also has a good system and excellent management who have executed each organizational move with purpose. May will get plenty of playing time and has a chance to contribute to an underrated and very competitive Bobcats team. What May needs to do now is continue to work relentlessly on his strength and conditioning. While his size is one of his greatest attributes, he must convert the rest of that baby fat into toned muscle. If May can maximize his bodys physical potential he should excel as a frontcourt partner with Emeka Okafor.
Raymond Felton- Season: 8.2pts 4asts 1.4stls. Best game: 18pts 5rbs 10asts 5stls
The Good: Fearless and aggressive play has been the hallmark of Feltons season so far. Like his long time teammate Sean May, Felton has benefited greatly from the support structure that staying in North Carolina has afforded him. Felton is penetrating at will and getting rewarded with free throws. Feltons assist to turnover ratio is over 3 to 1 and hes proven to be a pesky defender when it comes to stealing the ball.
The Bad: - The aggression that Felton has shown offensively has also manifested itself into a number of nights worth of poor shot selection. To date, Felton has shot substantially better from 3 point territory than he has from anywhere else on the floor. Felton hasnt shown a great understanding of how to use his speed to his advantage in the half court game and has gotten himself into trouble a number of times with forced shots, the result of his over-exuberance.
Outlook: Despite the poor field goal percentage, Felton is really starting to play well. The decision making is a work in progress, but his early playmaking ability has been above expectations so far. The real problem is in his own shot selection as he is running into traffic and taking off balance shots far too often. When Raymond sets his feet he has a smooth delivery and gets good results, as he is shooting nearly 43% from behind the arc. But, Feltons not turning the ball over much and his energy and speed get the team out in transition which really helps the Bobcats attack.
Spotlight Match-up of the Week: Charlie Villanueva vs. Chris Webber
1st Half: Villanueva was too much for Webber to handle in the first half and the Sixers had to use a number of more versatile players to try and keep up with him. Charlie drew defensive match ups against Webber, Hunter, and Lee Nailon during the first half and had no problem with any of them. Charlie was very active on the offensive glass and ran around Webber and the Sixers frontcourt for a number of easy tip-ins that got him going early on.
2nd Half: Villanueva kept up his torrid pace and picked up his game in extended 2nd half minutes. Although Webbers stat line was slightly better than Villanuevas, Webber spent most of his time matched up against Chris Bosh because he couldnt defend Villanueva that far from the paint. Charlie took his game to the outside in the second half and utilized the 3 point threat to help soften the Philadelphia defense and get his team back in the game.
Play of the Game: Just seconds after fouling Webber in the act of shooting, Charlie positioned himself behind Webber on Jalen Roses missed jump shot the following possession. Webber turned his head away from Villanueva and got caught ball-watching while Charlie slid to the right to free up a lane to the basket. When the ball caromed off the rim, Webber turned around for the rebound just in time to see Villanueva fly in front of him for a monster two handed jam. This dunk inspired a small duel between the two players for the remainder of the game.