Through the first 27 games of the NBA season, the Charlotte Hornets’ Devonte’ Graham has been one of the best guards in the league.
27 games into the 2019-2020 campaign, Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham has established himself as one of the best young guards in the game. He’s been so good that he currently ranks third in both scoring and assists per game among second-year players. The only two players above him in either category are Trae Young and Luka Doncic–both of whom will likely become first-time All-Stars in February.
When the Hornets decided not to resign Kemba Walker this past summer, Terry Rozier was acquired from Boston in hopes of replacing Walker’s production. While Rozier has been solid in his first year in Charlotte, it’s been Graham who has been the driving force of the Hornets’ offense. Graham currently leads the Hornets in points and assists per game, while also posting the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team. Among all NBA guards, Graham ranks in 19th in points per game, and fifth in assists per game. Not bad for an overlooked second-round pick.
A strong candidate for Most Improved Player, Graham has seen a drastic uptick in every major statistical category.
So far this season, Graham has firmly established himself as one of the favorites–if not the favorite–for the MIP award. After spending a large portion of last season bouncing back and forth between the Hornets and their G-League affiliate the Greensboro Swarm, Graham played in just 46 games last year, while playing less than 15 minutes per contest. During that brief amount of court time, he averaged just 4.7 points and 2.6 assists per game.
Perhaps a bigger concern than his low averages was his low shooting percentage. In his 46 games last year, Graham shot just 34% from the field, and just over 28% from three–not at all a good shooting clip. Even prior to the start of this season, there was uncertainty of what role he would have in Charlotte. Certainly no one expected him to break out in the way he has. After 27 games, including 17 starts, Graham is averaging 20.0 points, 7.6 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game–all of which are drastic increases from a season ago. It’s also worth noting that his field-goal percentages have skyrocketed as well. He’s currently shooting 43% from three and 42% from the field.
Graham currently ranks second in the NBA in three-pointers made, and sits fourth in total assists.
In the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game in Brooklyn, Graham became just the third player to ever make 100 threes during his team’s first 27 games of a season. The other two players? James Harden and Steph Curry, both of whom are former MVPs and are regulars in the All-Star Game. Overall, Graham’s 103 made three-pointers rank second in the league, behind only Harden’s 117. Graham’s success becomes even more impressive when considering that Harden has attempted 95 more three-point shots. Aside from Graham and Harden, no other player has more than 94 threes this season.
Graham’s shot-making ability is unquestioned at this point, however, he has proved that he’s much more than just a scorer. As mentioned earlier, he is averaging 7.6 assists per game on the year, which is among the best in the NBA. All total, he has 205 dimes this season, good enough for fourth in the league. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that he is assisting on 37% of Charlotte’s field goals when he is on the floor. Even in college Graham was an elite passer, as he finished in the top six in the Big 12 in assists in three of his four years at the collegiate level. In his senior season at Kansas, he was second in the nation in total assists. Fortunately for the Hornets, that success has translated well to the NBA.
So far this season, Graham’s per-game stats are better than several of last season’s All-Star guards.
While Graham and the Hornets have played just 27 games this season, the second-year guard’s numbers are becoming more and more All-Star worthy. In fact, Graham currently has a stat line comparable to several of last year’s All-Stars including Klay Thompson, D’Angelo Russell, and Kyle Lowry. His numbers aren’t actually even that far off from those of Walker last season. Of those four names mentioned, they have combined for 14 All-Star selections and four NBA championships. So not only is Graham putting up stats rivaling former MVPs, but also annual All-Stars and former champions. It appears as though the Hornets truly have found a special player. Let’s just hope they don’t let this one slip away.