The State of the Charlotte Hornets’ Guardsby Patrick Champion December 25, 2020 1 comment
Through one game, the Hornets have a big problem: they have 3 starting guards and 2 guard spots.
To be clear, it is not as if Charlotte has some of the top tier guards in the league that could all be the top options on another team. They do, however, have three players that make a great case to start.
With Rozier being the oldest guard (26), he should have less need for development then the other two. This, combined with his naturally competitive nature, means that he is generally more careful with the ball and gets more shooting opportunities as well. Wednesday night against the Cavaliers, Rozier used these opportunities and a great shooting night (15/23 FG, 10/16 3PT) along with huge minutes (38) to put together a great stat line. Rozier dropped 42 points, collected three rebounds, adding two assists and a pair of steals.
Of course, shooting 65 percent from the field and 62 percent from three-point range is unsustainable. In fact, it is possible that he may not even come close to this production the rest of the season. Unless his production dips, Rozier obviously deserves a spot in the starting five. So who else is challenging him?
One of last year’s most improved players, Graham went from averaging less than 5 points per game in 2018-19 to being the leading scorer on the team with 18.2 points last year. Clearly, there was significant development. Even with this sharp increase in production, there is no reason to assume he cannot improve again. His double-double on Wednesday night, even with his poor shooting performance (10 PTS, 10 AST on 4/13 shooting) means that he is able to create opportunities for himself and his teammates. Obviously, this warrants at least a 6th man spot, if not a starting position. These increased minutes would benefit him, and if his assists keep up, should help his teammates as well.
Ironically, Ball is probably the most well-known Hornet despite playing just one game for the team. When the Hornets drafted Ball in this year’s edition of the NBA Draft, the general consensus was this: Ball is a boom-or-bust prospect with great passing, fluctuating shooting, and suspect defense. Unfortunately, when your team gives up 121 points to a Cavaliers team that is expected to be bottom-10 in the league, suspect defense is not what you need. Neither is fluctuating shooting. Ball only played 15 minutes in the loss, and shot 0-for-5 while missing three triples.
A good way to describe Ball is “raw”. While he should mature with in-game experience, the problem with giving him more minutes means that Hornets coach James Borrego will have to take minutes away from players that are better right now—that is, Rozier and Graham.
Essentially, the Hornets have to make a choice. Do you contend for a play-in spot just to get the privilege of being bounced by the best team in the East come playoff time? Or do you sacrifice wins for development, hopefully leading to more wins in the coming years? Not only that, but GM Mitch Kupchak could trade one of the three (more likely Rozier or Graham), freeing up minutes at the guard spots.
While there are certainly more dramatic storylines in the NBA, this is still a big point of interest in Charlotte.