2020-21 Player Preview: Devonte’ Graham

Devonte’ Graham, 6’1, 195 pounds, G

After a slow start as rookie, Devonte’ Graham had an excellent sophomore season and finished fifth in Most Improved voting. Te’ improved in nearly every category across the board this past year:

The big driver of Graham’s impact was his improved three point shooting. Te’ was a great shooter at Kansas so I expected him to be better than the 28.1% that he shot in his rookie year but I really didn’t see him bombing over nine threes a game. He’s a special shooter:

Te’ in transition. Cash.

Stepback Te’. Cash.

Te’ off a handoff. Cash.

Don’t go under on Te’ in pick and roll. Cash.

Every time the ball left his hands, I thought it was going in. Only three players played in at least thirty games, shot over nine threes a game, and made at least 37% of them: Damian Lillard, Buddy Hield, and our own Devonte’ Graham. That’s a special class to be in.

Te’ is also a special passer. He has great vision and has all of the passes in his bag. He excels at the pocket pass and for my money is one of the ten best guys in the league at it. He developed a good connection with PJ Washington on it which bodes well for our future:

As you can see, Te’ is a pretty special shooter outside the arc. Inside the arc, not so much. Te’ shot just under 40% on two pointers this past year. Only 13.2% of his shot attempts come at the rim and he only shot 54.3% there. In the floater range (3-10 feet), he only shot 27.4% from the field. He struggled a lot when teams sold out on his three point shooting and forced him to go inside.

In addition, even as the primary scorer for the Hornets, Graham shot under four free throw attempts a game. These are the areas that Devonte’ has to improve in to take the next step as an offensive player. The biggest area out of those that I can see him improving on is his shooting from floater range. Graham isn’t the biggest guy out there so I don’t see him improving too much at the rim or getting fouled a lot. You have to be a healthy Isaiah Thomas level athlete at that size for you to be really good there. However, a lot of good small guards have that floater in their bag. With his shooting ability, Te’ should be able to easily get into the paint as teams sell out on his shooting. That will allow him to get into floater range pretty frequently. He has to be able to hit those and take advantage.

The other thing I’m looking for is how Te’ works off ball this year with added ball-handlers in LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward. I hope to see his shooting leveraged a lot. He should be able to be really good as a spot-up guy and hopefully, we can even see him take advantage of his shooting gravity off-movement. Te’ was a pretty special player offensively last year and ranked in the top 15 in offensive PIPM per bball index. We can’t trust all in one metrics without context but I think it does give a good gauge of how good offensively he was last year. All of this value came with the ball in his hands though so it’ll be interesting to see how this shifts this year. It’ll be important to watch as we look at the Hornets long term outlook.

Overall though, I expect that Devonte’ will have another good year. Gordon Hayward should make it a lot easier for Te’ and will take a lot of pressure off. The other question in the room is that Devonte’ is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He is restricted so the Hornets will be able to match anything but look for them to get an extension done before it comes to that. He deserves it.

2020-21 Player Preview: Malik Monk

Malik Monk, 6’3, 200 pounds, G

Malik Monk showed some signs of life last year and improved his scoring from below the arc. He shot a career high on 2s last year (54.2%) which was up from 46.1% the year before. Monk was really good this past year at finishing at the rim and shooting from midrange. From zero to three feet, Monk shot a career high 67.1%. He also was getting there more last year with 28.7% of his shots coming in that range. He was truly incredible at the rim despite his size:

Monk was said to have added strength last year and while he doesn’t look particularly bigger to the eye, he was able to use this added strength to finish against bigs like the play above.

Here Monk showcases his burst and body control, blowing by the defender and shifting in the air to make the sweet finish.

Monk uses the stop and start dribble to get to the rim and finish.

Monk always had the athleticism to make plays like this. He’s a good cutter and has some utility as a vertical spacer with plays like these.

Monk’s blend of burst, jumping ability, and body control allows him to be a really good finisher at the rim for his size. In addition, he was able to shoot over 40% from shots in the midrange and showed his scoring prowess. Monk projected as a three level scorer in the league and he seems to have the first two levels down. However, the three point shot has failed him so far in the league.

As I talked about in last year’s player preview, the three point shot is the big factor for him. Monk was an excellent shooter at Kentucky so it seemed like a sure bet that it would translate. It still hasn’t. It got even worse last year as he shot a career low 28.4% from three. The three point shooting is the money maker for Monk. Defenses still treat him like a shooter which is good but at some point, he has to start cashing in. It’s year four. If Monk can get to being an above average three point shooter, he can be a true three level scorer and wreak havoc on bench units.

With added three point shooting, Monk’s improved playmaking will shine more and he can become the complete offensive player that we expected him to be. Monk’s feel on defense is pretty good but he’s too small to be a positive on that end aside from a steal or block every now and then. He has to be a big positive on the offensive end to be good in this league and he is almost there. The outline of a good offensive player is there. With good three point shooting, Monk will be able to be a good spot up threat and also leverage his athleticism by attacking closeouts. Because the Hornets have a lot of good playmakers, Monk should have many opportunities to attack closeouts and generate highlights. The three point shot just has to come around. Monk has good ball skills as well and better three point shooting shooting should open up his pick and roll game. Monk still has the potential to be a devastating on and off ball scorer.

Monk is in a contract year so I am sure he will get a lot of run in the second unit so that the Hornets can see what they have in him. Personally, I think we should probably check the trade market to see what we can get for him, especially if he excels early. Depending on the development of LaMelo Ball and his fit with Devonte’ Graham, we could see Te’ transition to more of a sixth man role that he would really excel at (his ideal role in his prime in my opinion). That leaves Monk kind of out of it. With so many guards on the roster, I expect to see a lot of trade rumors around Monk this year. Who knows if he actually gets traded but here’s to hoping that he can continue to improve as a shooter.

2020-21 Player Preview: Grant Riller

Grant Riller, 6’3, 190 pounds, G

Grant Riller was drafted by the Hornets with the 56th overall pick in the draft. This was a major fall as most reputable NBA draft sites had him going higher. Some draft boards even had Riller as a potential lottery talent. It seems like the Hornets got a potential steal. Let’s dive into his game and see how he fits with the Hornets today and in the future.

Grant Riller was one of the best scorers in college basketball last year, averaging 21.9 points a game on 61% true shooting. Riller can score the ball in a variety ways because of his blend of burst, strength, balance, and ball-handling ability. Riller was at his best as pick and roll scorer, ranking in the 97th percentile as a P&R ball-handler per synergy. Riller also did damage in isolation (84th percentile) and as a spot up shooter (96th percentile).

Riller really shines with his ability to put pressure at the rim. In the half court, Riller put up 71 shots at the rim this year and converted on 41 of them (63.4%) which ranks in the 88th percentile. Especially at his size, this is incredible. The numbers make sense when you see plays like these:

Riller shows his pick and roll craft here. He gives the defender a tough in and out dribble and is able to use his strength to finish over the big.

Beautiful work here from Riller on with the euro step finish around the big.

Another terrific in and out dribble from Riller here and he accelerates to the rim for a beautiful finish.

The guy is a special scorer off the dribble. His bag is deep. Passing isn’t his strong suit but he is able to make basic reads and because of his scoring, those reads are easier with the attention he draws. His defense wasn’t great in college but the hope is that it can be salvageable as his usage goes down in the NBA.

For the Hornets, Grant Riller brings rim attacking that they desperately need. Malik Monk was the only player on that roster capable of putting pressure on the rim this past year. Riller’s spot up shooting is also a good sign for him as this will allow him to play with the multiple ball-handlers that the Hornets currently employ.

It would be interesting to see a LaMelo Ball-Riller backcourt (at least offensively) because Ball’s elite passing ability can cover up for Riller’s shortcomings as a passer and Riller’s rim pressure should help Ball as he currently isn’t adept at it. Because of the current guard rotation though, I don’t see many minutes for Riller at least this year. Ball, Devonte’ Graham, and Terry Rozier’s spots in the rotation are pretty solidified. Cody Martin plays at the two in some lineups. Monk is in a contract year so I’m sure the Hornets will give him a lot of run to see if they want to offer a second contract to him. Riller most likely won’t play a lot this year but if he does, get ready to see a guy who can really fill it up.