Everybody Loves Terry Rozier

Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

The career arc of Terry Rozier has been an interesting one to follow. He has gone from being a young piece of four straight playoff teams with the Boston Celtics, to being the Charlotte Hornets‘ return in the Kemba Walker sign-and-trade, to being the Hornets’ total points leader during his time in Charlotte.

Let’s take a look at the path that got him here, the role he will play this season, and what his NBA future may hold.

Rozier broke out in the 2018 postseason after stepping in for the injured Kyrie Irving. He first garnered attention from fans across the league outplaying Eric Bledsoe in their intense first-round duel.

Rozier registered a series-high 6.7 assists per game to go along with 17.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals over 36 minutes. Going beyond the numbers, “Scary Terry” also embarrassed Bledsoe with plays like this:

He also called the veteran point guard “Drew Bledsoe”, a reference to the former New England Patriots quarterback.

Rozier got the better of Bledsoe in the series, both individually and collectively as the Celtics won in seven games. He continued to taunt Bledsoe afterwards, showing up with a vintage No. 11 Drew Bledsoe jersey to the first game against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.

The pettiness continued, but so did Rozier’s outstanding play. He would go on to average 16.5 points, 5.7 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game for the remainder of the playoff on the way to an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

Expectations were high for the Celtics entering the following season. After all, they had just come one game away from the NBA Finals without their two best players in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving.

On paper, one could even make the argument that Boston had the most talented roster in the entire league.

Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris — looking back, it’s truly amazing how deep that roster was.

However, a 10-10 record to open the 2018-19 season left a lot to be desired. The writing was always on the wall for a premature playoff exit, as there were too many mouths to feed and too many egos to balance.

After failing to meet expectations with a second-round exit, there were a lot of fingers pointed. Rozier’s lack of maturity and overall play got some critique, but as we all know, Irving and his antics took most of the blame.

To be fair, no one sacrificed for that team more than Rozier. He even admitted as much. After all, he had earned a starting spot with his postseason heroics.

His minutes, usage rate, and field goal attempts all went down to integrate Irving and Hayward into the fold, and naturally his stats were rather unimpressive, with averages of 9.0 points, 2.9 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game.

Charlotte still saw potential in Rozier, however. In a sign-and-trade deal that sent Kemba Walker to Boston, Rozier was on his way to Charlotte. The three-year, $56.7 million contract given to Rozier was met with much skepticism and was pointed to as an example of how the Hornets’ front office was behind the curve.

Nonetheless, Rozier’s name was eventually announced on the jumbotron, his unofficial first welcome to the Queen City. Some booed, some cheered. Either way, Rozier promptly silenced all doubters by carrying the Hornets throughout the 2019-20 season.

In his first season in Charlotte, he managed to average 18.0 points, 4.1 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game with career marks in every major shooting category — 42.3% from the field, 40.7% from three, and 87.4% from the free-throw line. He was the team’s second-leading scorer and second-leading assist man.

Alongside Devonte’ Graham, Rozier made the 2019-2020 season a fun and electrifying one for Hornets fans. It’s easy to look back and evaluate whether the Hornets were a good team or not. They objectively weren’t, and that’s why they were able to land LaMelo Ball in the following draft. In the moment, though, it wasn’t about analytics or X’s and O’s.

Coming off a season that saw major bumps in his numbers and scoring efficiency, the consensus was that Rozier was a finished product entering his sixth NBA season and his second with the Hornets. However, that consensus was wrong. He remained on the upward trend, scoring even more efficiently and utilizing his playmaking at a much higher level than previous seasons.

Rozier officially became a 20-point per game scorer for the first time in his career (20.4) and had a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Trae Young and LeBron James. Put his numbers under a microscope, and you will see that his advanced stats were absurd for an undersized two-guard.

Rozier was one of only three players to shoot 50% or better on four or more catch and shoot three-pointers per game. He also ranked in the 88th percentile for eFG% in pull-up shooting (54.8%). His eFG% on such shots was 44.3% in the previous season, landing him in the 44th percentile.

His mid-range shooting was also exceptional at 51%, by far the best of his career and good for 98th percentile among wings. In fact, he had never shot 40% or better from that range, and those career-high percentages extend to all three levels (58% at the rim—still below average positionally, but a career-high at the time nonetheless).

What’s more, among players with 100 or more field goal attempts in the 4th quarter and overtime that season, Rozier ranked first in eFG% at 64%.

Because of this production, the Hornets threw every dollar they could at Rozier in that offseason — four additional seasons, worth over $97 million. Once again, the deal raised a lot of eyebrows and made Rozier the example of many “overpaid” lists.

The reality is that Rozier earned every penny of his deal and locking him down was a smart move by management.

This past season was another great one for Rozier. He put up solid averages of 19.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game on 33.7 minutes per game. The minutes were a low-water mark for his time in Charlotte, as he dealt with an ankle injury early on.

Rozier is also one of Charlotte’s locker room leaders and seems to get along perfectly with everyone on the team — especially LaMelo Ball, to whom Rozier referred as “his little brother” during his exit interview.

During the 2021 offseason, alongside trainer Anthony Wells, Rozier organized a “mini training-camp” in Miami for everyone to get ready for the season and to boost team chemistry. Rozier has shown willingness to take on a leadership role.

As we inch closer to the start of a new season, Hornets fans should expect more of the same for Rozier — good for 20 points, four rebounds, and four assists while flirting with 40% 3-point shooting on high volume.

Charlotte Hornets fans should expect another “Scary Terry” season in 2022-23

Charlotte took a gamble on Rozier, and it paid off. His new contract locked him up through the 2025-26 season, so he likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Moreover, and an underrated aspect of his contract, the last year of the deal comes in the season where Charlotte can extend James Bouknight so that could make for a smooth transition.