Hornets’ PG Graham Opening Eyes With Early Season Play

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Hornets play-by-play announcer Eric Collins has described guard Devontè Graham as a “revelation” through four games this season.  Given Graham’s torrid start to the 2019-2020 season, I’d say Martin was spot on with his characterization of the young floor general.

Yes, I know the lottery-bound Hornets are 1-3 so far this season, but the team has played better than most people outside of their locker room expected.

Dictionary.com defines a revelation as a surprising and previously unknown fact, especially one that is made known in a dramatic way.

Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham, right, looks to pass while defended by Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen during Charlotte’s 126-125 season-opening home win. (Nell Redmond / AP Photo)

Graham’s ability to shoot from distance was fairly unknown to most.  Otherwise, he probably would not have made it to the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft, where the Hornets selected him with the 34th pick.

As for being dramatic, Graham connected on six of seven three point attempts and calmly sank two clutch free throws to put the Hornets up by three points with 11.3 seconds to play in a 126-125 victory over the Bulls on opening night at the Hive, finishing with 23 points off the bench in that contest.

Graham was only slightly overshadowed by Rookie P.J. Washington, who set the record for most three-pointers made in a career debut, with seven on his way to a team high 27 points in the opener.

Charlotte Hornets forward PJ Washington, right, drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

The North Carolina native then put forth another solid performance, against the Minnesota Timberwolves, in which he scored 23 points, off the bench, on 8-15 shooting overall and 6-9 from three point range.

A four-year player at Kansas, Graham is already 24-years-old, which is ancient for a second-year player in the current one-and-done era.  However, his age is not a detriment and his maturity is evident when he is at the helm of the offense.  Graham never seems out of control and, even as a rookie, he played with the pace of a veteran and displayed excellent court vision.

Graham has always been considered a pass first point guard in the mold of a Chris Paul rather than a scoring point guard like Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, or former Hornet Kemba Walker.  That’s not to say Chris Paul can’t score, but guards like Paul are considered old-school and generally look to orchestrate the offense or get other player’s involved before looking to score themselves.

Kemba Walker

The ability to facilitate for others and limit turnovers, as well as score for himself, gives Graham the potential to be an above average point guard in the NBA. Graham’s offensive explosion to begin this season could make fans, opposing teams, and Hornets’ management change their perception of Buzz City’s current leading scorer.

While Terry Rozier attempts to find his rhythm in a new system with new teammates, it is Devonte Graham who has been the steady hand leading the Hornets through a tough opening stretch of games.

Hornets Head Coach James Borrego(L) and guard Terry Rozier (R)

Hornets Head Coach James Borrego has already said that wins and losses will not be the measure of success for this team, which is understandable given the roster’s limitations and the organizations desire to obtain a high lottery pick.  Borrego has also emphasized his belief in player development, which was an important part of the culture with the San Antonio Spurs, where Borrego was previously an assistant.

The young players, including Graham, look promising in their expanded roles and it is exciting to watch their chemistry grow.

Through four games, Graham is averaging 17.5 points per game and 7.3 assists per game.  He’s shooting a blistering 53.6% from three-point range.  On a team devoid of superstars, it is not irrational to think Graham could approximate those averages for an entire season, if given the opportunity.

As a senior at Kansas, Graham averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 assists per game while shooting 40% from deep, on his way to being selected as the Big 12 Player of the Year.  So, maybe Graham’s play shouldn’t be considered a revelation, but rather a continuation.