A big surprise fell into the Charlotte Hornets‘ lap on draft night this offseason. Projected to be a top 10 pick, James Bouknight slipped just a little bit to fall to the Hornets at the 11th pick. Advertised as one of the best scorers in the draft class, Bouknight’s skill set could be useful to Charlotte right off the bat.
James Bouknight’s ability as a scorer should see him get a lot of opportunities for the Charlotte Hornets in his rookie season.
Bouknight was asked to do a lot during his time in Connecticut. A not-so-talented team forced him to operate as the go-to scorer and primary playmaker. Hornets fans saw shades of this during the NBA Summer League.
Depending on how you view Grant Riller and DJ Carton, the Hornets Summer League team didn’t have a good point guard (or many good players), forcing Bouknight to once again be out of his comfort zone as the primary creator.
While one can tell that this isn’t his desired role, he’s not too bad at it. He can be hesitant to make decisions at times, but once he gets rolling, there is no stopping him.
Fast forward to the preseason.
We have seen three games now where Bouknight has scored in double figures. 20 points against Oklahoma City, 17 against Memphis, and 14 against Miami. Granted, he’s getting the opportunity to do so, which is a great sign for him going into the season.
Bouknight has been a part of the regular rotation and is playing deep into the fourth quarter with the other young players on the team. Allowing him to get a feel with both the starters and to build some confidence against other team’s bench players.
Rewind to free agency.
Charlotte lost Devonte’ Graham and Malik Monk this year to the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers respectively. The scoring that those two could bring on any given night will surely be missed, and it wasn’t replaced in free agency. There will be nights when the main unit is struggling to find buckets, and head coach James Borrego will look down his bench, and the best answer on the roster right now to address this problem will be Bouknight.
Like all rookies, patience will be needed with Bouknight. His scoring should keep him hanging around the Hornets this season but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him with the Greensboro Swarm for a few games. He still needs to bulk up and work on different aspects of his game but at the moment I’m confident in saying he’s a good bench piece right now.
With the extension of Terry Rozier this offseason, the Hornets don’t need to rush Bouknight’s development. If Rozier can continue to prove to be a starting-caliber player alongside LaMelo Ball, then Bouknight can continue to improve his game until he’s ready to enter the starting lineup.
This isn’t to say that Bouknight won’t be starting until Rozier departs Charlotte, anything can happen, he could end up starting by the end of this season. He’s that talented.
However, the Hornets have time and options. That’s a great thing.