Charlotte Hornets: Devonte Graham Still Adjusting To New Role On Team
|Photo Credit: Jason E Miczek/AP Photo|
The Charlotte Hornets saw enough in Devonte Graham to trade two second round draft picks to acquire him from the Atlanta Hawks before he had ever stepped onto a NBA court.
After a rather quiet rookie season, Graham took a huge step forward in year two, leading the Hornets in scoring and assists - feats that helped the former Big 12 player of the year finish fifth in the Most Improved Player Award.
It was also a season good enough that it forced big time free agent acquisition Terry Rozier III to an off-ball role by the end of the season.
Entering this season, the Hornets made a big splash in the draft, selecting LaMelo Ball as well as signing Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $128 million contract in free agency that was panned by many at the time.
It created an interesting situation. Ball himself was touted as one of the better playmakers in the draft, and Hayward is no stranger to having the ball in his hand creating for not just him, but for the rest of the lineup.
It was something that was quickly addressed by Head Coach James Borrejo heading into the season. “Last year he carried the weight on his shoulders for a tremendous amount... This year is going to look different for him. For us to be the best team, I want multiple guys making plays. Multiple ball handlers. Not just living with the ball in his hands or Terry (Rozier’s) hands. We want to spread the wealth out... So Devonte’s usage will go down and that’s ok.”
While adding Hayward and Ball has certainly made the Hornets a tougher team to defend, it has come at a cost for Graham, who has struggled to adjust to not having the ball in his hand as much as he did last year.
Graham’s overall effectiveness has gone down, and that has been reflected in his points-per-game output slipping from 18.5 last season, down to 12.5 this year.
It hasn’t been hard to determine what the difference has been, Borrejo warned about it going into the season.
The former Kansas Jayhawk is seeing the ball in his hand less and less this season, and is having a hard time adjusting to producing as an off-ball player.
Graham’s usage rate dropped from 24.3% last year down to 18.8% through 14 games this season.
What’s the difference? Without the ball in his hand as often as it was last year, Graham is seeing an increase in his Catch-and-Shoot opportunities, as opposed to pulling-up and being the main handler in the Pick-and-Roll.
*Stats curtesy of NBA.com
A major part of any consistent ball-handler is how he operates in the pick-and-roll. As you can see here, Graham’s opportunities in the two-man game has been effectively cut in half, going from nearly nine possessions per game to just over four.
His shot attempts has also suffered, and that has impacted his effective field goal percentage (eFG%), allowing it to plummet to just 23.9%.
Something that Graham has been forced to do more with the likes of Ball and Hayward starting to take up more of the ball-handling is shooting more spot-up shots. His usage in those situations has doubled, but that hasn’t led to an increase in PPP or his eFG%. His percentile rank has actually crashed nearly 20-points.
More of a look at how his usage has changed so far this season in different situations. Graham did wonders last year with the ball in his hand, but with the increase of playmakers on the team this season and you can see just the impact it has had on him.
He took a very positive step Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors, scoring a season high 20-points, while shooting 7-of-15 from the field, including 4-of-9 from three point range, but there is more to be done.
Is there a way to fix his struggles? He is obviously more comfortable with the ball in his hand, but that isn’t something that they are going to be able to do, especially now that the Hornets are starting to push Ball out there with Rozier and Graham all at the same time.
The Hornets have been an entertaining team to watch at time, despite their 6-8 record, also in spite of having the 21st ranked Offensive Rating in the league (107.5). They will have to find some more consistency shooting the ball if they are going to remain in the playoff race (they currently in eighth place as of Sunday).
Graham is one of those players that will need to improve, as he continues to adjust to his new role to the team.
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