Why Marcus Paige is the best option for the Charlotte Hornets

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 9: Marcus Paige
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 9: Marcus Paige /

The former UNC point guard is looking to land on an NBA roster this year. That lucky team could, and should, be the Charlotte Hornets.

With the recent release of guard Briante Weber, the Charlotte Hornets have confirmed the need for depth at the guard position.

Charlotte has recently been working out eight different players in hopes of finding an emergency backup point guard. In addition to Paige, they’ve brought in a mix of veterans, unproven youngsters, and undrafted free agents.

Among that group are Norris Cole and Isaiah Canaan, NBA journeymen trying to prolong their NBA careers. There are also overseas prospects Jared Cunningham, Donald Sloan, and Nick Johnson, along with undrafted rookie J.J. Frazier, and Paige’s former ACC conference foe, Demetrius Jackson.

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Competition appears stiff, but several factors point to Paige as the top option.

Signing a proven veteran could be a safe choice. The Hornets would be more likely to know exactly what to expect from someone with several years of league experience under their belts. However, there are some red flags amongst this group.

Cole, a 28-year-old guard last seen playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, made a case for being the worst player in the NBA just two seasons ago. Similarly, the term “unplayable” has been used to describe Canaan, even during his best years in Philadelphia. Neither player shot above 36% from the field last year either.

Cunningham, Sloan, and Johnson were all excellent collegiate players. However, all three would struggle to find a niche in the NBA. Cunningham has already suited up for six different teams in four seasons. Sloan and Johnson are shooting guards in point guard bodies.

Frazier had an outstanding career at Georgia but went undrafted in June. A case can and has been made for Jackson, but the second year guard recently signed with the Houston Rockets.

That would leave 2016 second round draft pick, Paige. The former North Carolina Tar Heel is, first and foremost, an outstanding shooter. He averaged a respectable 35% from three point range last year as a member of the G-League Salt Lake City Stars. He then went on to lead his NBA Summer League team in scoring at 12.4 points per game. His jumper is no fluke, as he is the all time leader in career three pointers made in UNC basketball history.

Charlotte could certainly use Paige’s marksmanship. They ranked 18th in the NBA in three point percentage last year. This is despite being 11th in three point attempts. Paige’s shooting ability allows him to even play off the ball in spurts.

The 6’2″ 164-pound guard is not the most physically imposing prospect. However, he is sneaky athletic and a willing defender.  He also showed a flair for the dramatic at UNC. These should be welcome qualities for the Hornets and coach Steve Clifford, who is on the record pointing out that the team could stand to improve in clutch time.

Paige, at 23, is very young and still improving. He found himself in a tough situation with the Utah Jazz last year. The team already had proven veteran point guards George Hill and Shelvin Mack on the roster, as well as prized 2014 draft pick, Dante Exum.

In Charlotte, he could provide meaningful minutes off the bench. He would also be a perfect complement to the (sometimes) offensively challenged Michael Carter-Williams. He’d also be an instant fan favorite, as the city has a strong UNC fan presence.

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Hornets fans should hope that general manager Rich Cho sees the potential in Paige. Team owner Michael Jordan has not hesitated to pull the trigger on signing players from his alma mater in the past, let’s hope the trend continues here.