Charlotte Hornets: What if the young players live up to their potential?

NEW YORK, USA - JUNE 22: NBA commissioner Adam Silver (L) and Charlotte Hornets' pick Malik Monk (R) during Draft 2017 in Barclays Center in Brooklyn borough of New York, United States on June 22, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - JUNE 22: NBA commissioner Adam Silver (L) and Charlotte Hornets' pick Malik Monk (R) during Draft 2017 in Barclays Center in Brooklyn borough of New York, United States on June 22, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) /

With a newfound focus on player development, will the Charlotte Hornets’ prospects blossom and reach their full potential?

What if Malik Monk becomes a threat to drop 30 points on any given night for the Charlotte Hornets? What if Miles Bridges turns into one of the best two-way players in the game and is an all-star caliber player? What if Dwayne Bacon becomes an annual 6th Man of the Year candidate? What if Devonte Graham ends up being one of the best backup point guards in the NBA?

All it takes is one. That’s the saying, at least. But what if it was more than one? What if the guys that Michael Jordan trusted with Charlotte’s future lived up to or even exceeded expectations? I know what you’re thinking. The Hornets haven’t had a successful draft pick since Kemba Walker back in 2011. But maybe this time is different.

Malik Monk

For Malik Monk, his rookie season was a roller coaster. At the beginning of the season, Monk was one of the first players off of the bench, but struggled to consistently make shots and had too many turnovers. Eventually, he fell out of the rotation. Monk’s rookie season seemed almost like a waste to many, that is, up until the end of the season. Monk showed the flashes we all knew he was capable of. From throwing down a nasty double-clutch dunk in Chicago to breaking rookie three-point records. Monk was pouring in 20 points per game over the last few games of the season. We all forget that Malik is still a teenager.

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Let’s imagine this: In the next couple years, Monk is the starting shooting guard, playing alongside Kemba Walker to form one of the NBA’s most lethal backcourt duos. We all know what Kemba is capable of, but now he has a running mate who does many of those same things. Monk is in the three-point contest and is in the all-star conversation for many years during the prime of his career.

Dwayne Bacon

Dwayne Bacon followed a similar path as Malik Monk over the course of his rookie season. Bacon, a second-round pick with relatively low expectations, received rotational minutes at the beginning of the season, and he even started when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was out.

However, like Monk, Bacon found himself out of the rotation during the middle part of the regular season. For Hornets fans, Bacon showed tons of promise. He is a very polished scorer who can shoot from the outside, drive to the basket, and pull up from mid-range. It’s hard to not see a little bit of Joe Johnson while watching Dwayne Bacon. “Iso Joe” is most well known for his ability to torch defenders who attempt to guard him one-on-one by using his combination of ball-handling, quickness, and the ability to take and make tough shots at a moments notice.

For the last two seasons, Charlotte has suffered from an incredibly weak bench. Imagine how much it would help this team if Dwayne Bacon turned himself into anything reminiscent of Jamal Crawford. Crawford is always in the 6th Man of the Year conversation and is a huge asset to whatever team he is on. Dwayne Bacon has the talent and potential to be that for Charlotte.

Miles Bridges

Unlike Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon, there isn’t any NBA experience we can use to judge Miles Bridges. However, what we do know is that Bridges is a strong forward who can score from all three levels. Bridges is also capable of being a very good defender due to his incredible athleticism.

In his sophomore season at Michigan State, Bridges posted 17 points and 7 rebounds per game. These are very impressive numbers, but Miles has the potential to improve them at the NBA level. What if in 4 years, Bridges was an all-star who was scoring around 20 points per game and guarding one of the opponent’s best players. That would be a luxury that the vast majority of NBA teams can’t say they have. Am I suggesting that he is going to be the next LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard?

No. But I am saying that he has the potential to do many of the things that makes those guys the great players that they are. For years, Charlotte fans have been enamored with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s defensive ability, but seconds later cringe as he bricks a jump shot on the other end. Imagine Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with an offensive repertoire that allows him to score 17-20 points per game. That is what Miles Bridges could be one day.

Devonte Graham

Devonte Graham is undersized for a point guard and is not exceptionally athletic, but with that said, the kid knows how to play basketball. The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year is already 23 years of age and is coming off a season in which he led Kansas to the Final Four. Graham is one of those players with in-the-gym range. He is quietly one of the best shooters in the 2018 draft class.

The Hornets have been in desperate need of a backup point guard ever since Jeremy Lin left for Brooklyn in the 2016 offseason. Ramon Sessions was unable to fill that void the following season, and lord knows Michael Carter-Williams didn’t fill it. Devonte Graham may not be ready immediately, but if he is able to bring instant offense off of the bench, that would bring a whole new dynamic to Charlotte’s second unit.

Next: What's next for Charlotte after trading Howard?

Obviously, this article consisted of a lot of optimism (something that I wouldn’t advise trying too often for Hornets fans), but each of these young guys is loaded with potential. If Michael Jordan and Mitch Kupchak‘s views pay off, we could be looking at a brighter future than many of us would have imagined.