Charlotte Hornets: Rookies surrounded by the right players?

Charlotte Hornets 2017 NBA Draft (Photo by Ashlee Espinal/NBAE via Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets 2017 NBA Draft (Photo by Ashlee Espinal/NBAE via Getty Images) /

For the Charlotte Hornets, are their veterans the right players to help their rookies grow and develop going forward?

Awaiting their first official NBA action, rookies Miles Bridges and Devonte Graham have already shown why the team selected them in the 2018 NBA season. Their ability to command attention, create their own shots, as well as multiple other skills, have fans eagerly waiting to see how their individual talents transfer on the NBA level. But however skilled they may be, do the Charlotte Hornets have the right pieces surrounding the rookies to maximize their potential? Let’s explore, first Devonte Graham…

For Graham, the Raleigh native, the Hornets stand as an interesting fit. Slotted behind current and former All-Stars Kemba Walker and Tony Parker, Graham is in a good position to learn behind two great guards. Though both players are primarily offensive guards, they can both further develop and expand on Graham’s offensive talents. With a combined 24 years of experience, learning from the two vets will surely add to Devonte’s offensive wheelhouse.

Defensively though, the University of Kentucky graduate already has potential on the defensive end and can’t exactly count on learning much from the two senior guards. Where Kemba isn’t more than an adequate defender, Parker is a far worse defender than the other two, but his position on the team can be seen more as a teacher/mentor for the future of Graham (who the organization and fans are high on) than as a long or short-term solution to backup Kemba.

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My guess would be that after honing his offensive skills to include tools from both vets, Graham will potentially see more and more playing time until he possibly overtakes Parker on the depth chart. I for one would love to see a younger player with Kemba’s step back and shooting coupled with Parker’s IQ and slasher ability. Add in his own underrated defense and the Hornets have a player who could eventually be a focal point and foundation of this team for years to come.

For Bridges, the expectation is already high. As a lottery pick, he is expected to be somewhat as a gamechanger at a position in which some of the most athletic players inhabit. With veterans Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, maybe even Dwayne Bacon, Bridges has a wide variety of skills that he can potentially learn. But to me, it appears Bridges is the player with the better potential and ceiling than the rest of the bunch. And realistically, Batum has only Kidd-Gilchrist and Batum to learn from.

In Batum, Bridges has an above average international teammate who specializes in distributing the ball and getting teammates in rhythm while also having the ability to guard a team’s second or third best player. He also has the ability to shoot, though, lately, injuries have limited his shooting percentages and points (42 FG%, 34 3P%, and 11.6 PPG in the 17-18 NBA season). When healthy, Batum has been able to take over games at times, something Bridges has also shown the ability to do.

In Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bridges has a defensive specialist capable of guarding the 1-4 positions on a nightly basis. Beyond that, Kidd-Gilchrist has a high motor, outstanding rebounding skills, and talent to drive the lane. However, that is the extent of MKG’s skill set since he has ZERO shooting ability beyond perhaps 10-feet.

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While Bridges already possesses the ability to consistently score at all three levels and is another underrated defender, if he could potentially learn how to distribute at half of Batum’s level or defend similarly to MKG then Bridges could be unstoppable.

But truthfully, with all the skills that already possesses, if he can just continue to develop his defense to an NBA level, he’ll already be a player that the Hornets can utilize since he’s arguably already the third best player on the team (behind Kemba and perhaps Malik Monk).


Arnoldas Kulboka is a 6’10” developing Lithuanian player who has shown the ability to shoot as well as make good decisions passing the ball. After being selected late in the second round, he doesn’t come with high expectations. A thin player who at times has questionable shot selection, the 20-year-old Kulboka has to continue to add muscle to his frail frame while improving his shot selection, something that perhaps only Marvin Williams could potentially help with. Williams, a 13-year veteran is probably the only Hornet player who could help the young forward other than maybe Batum.

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Though Kulboka plays at the small forward position, his height could potentially move him to the power forward position where I believe he could be better suited. Built in the same mold as Frank Kaminsky, Kulboka has potential to be a Ryan Anderson type of player (a player whose role is to only provide an offensive spark with their shooting ability). And if he can improve on his shot selection and maybe develop his facilitation, then he may become an adequate NBA role player.