The four year University of Kansas product, Devonte’ Graham, arrived in Charlotte last offseason by way of the 34th overall pick in the NBA draft. This pick was originally held by Atlanta, but Charlotte acquired it for a couple second round picks, to select their backup point guard of the future.
In the NBA, many guys drafted in the second round tend to quickly become after thoughts and sometimes just look like they will never be consistent at an NBA level, but for the second season (Dwayne Bacon in 2017) in a row, it seems the Hornets have hit on a second round pick.
Devonte Graham fulfilled –and exceeded– most expectations you would’ve had for a guy that started the season as the 3rd string PG, he was practically considered the 4th string PG at one point with Malik Monk getting PG minutes early on and then Shelvin Mack being added to roster late in the season. Graham was assigned to the Greensboro Swarm 10 separate times in order to further his development.
Graham gave the Hornets just about everything you’d expect out of a 4-year college point guard. High basketball IQ, stays under control, great passing, all of it. This isn’t to say things came easy to him right away, of course, the improvements he made throughout the season from his time in the G-League cannot be understated.
In 13 games with the Swarm, Graham averaged 23.3PPG / 4.7 RPG / 4.6 APG / 1.6 SPG on 44% from the field and 38% from 3. Some people may say “Well shouldn’t an NBA Player be dominating in the G-League?”, and they would be correct, but anyone that watched the Hornets knows Devonte’ looked like a different player before and after all of his G-League trips.
Before and during his trips to Greensboro, Graham had logged 33 NBA Games under his belt. In those he averaged 4.5 PPG, 2.2 APG, and 0.7 TOPG while having a +/- of -3.5. In his 15 games after he had played his last game for the Swarm, he averaged 5.4 PPG, 3.8 APG, 0.6 TOPG while having a +/- of 1.2.
As you can see, certain areas like his passing and overall positive impact improved while others were just marginally better, but it’s beyond just those stats where Graham showed his growth.
He was playing consistent, meaningful, minutes on a team desperately fighting for a playoff berth. He wasn’t just playing because the Hornets were up a lot or down a lot, or because another guard was injured. He was being trusted to play during critical moments down the stretch of the season.
Tony Parker went through a stretch of either being inactive or just DNP’s throughout the last month of the season. Some of those he probably had a minor injury, but for the most part you got the feeling that the team didn’t feel a sense of urgency to get TP out there in a backup role because they could trust Devonte’.
What Was Most Impressive
The most impressive thing, to me, from Graham this season was his incredible assist to turnover ratio. He finished the season with 121 assists and 30 turnovers, putting it at 4.03. Of all players with at least 100 assists on the season, this put him at 5th in the league.
Of rookies in NBA history to have had as many assists as he did in his first season, nobody else did so while committing as few turnovers as he did.
What Needs to Be Improved On The Most
It was his first season and at times he played sparingly without being able to always get in a rhythm so it may not become a big issue, but Graham’s shooting numbers need to improve. He’s shown flashes of being a quality shooter but his 34.3% from the field and 28.1% from 3 are well below average.
His role throughout his career in the NBA will never see him cast as the primary scorer of a unit so he doesn’t need to become a scoring juggernaut, but if he can add a consistent shot from beyond the arc at the NBA level that’ll keep defenders from just assuming he’s only a facilitator I see no reason he won’t be rotation player for the foreseeable future.
And as I said, it was just his first season, so while he needs to improve at scoring the ball it shouldn’t be an issue unless it doesn’t improve through the end of his rookie deal.
Overall Grade: B – I feel comfortable speaking for all Hornets fans when I say Devonte’ has helped provide us with a lot more hope for the future from our young core than we had expected at the beginning of the season.