Report: Hornets boost perimeter defense with signing of former lottery pick

Frank Ntilikina, Charlotte Hornets. License Agreement. (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)
Frank Ntilikina, Charlotte Hornets. License Agreement. (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images) /

According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Charlotte Hornets have acquired point guard Frank Ntilikina to fill their 15th roster spot. Ntilikina, 25, has a reputation for being a robust perimeter defender who is also a reliable playmaker off the bench.

Charlotte recently acquired Nick Smith Jr. via the 2023 NBA draft, with some sections of the fanbase expecting the rookie to fill the void left behind by Dennis Smith Jr., who left the Hornets to join the Brooklyn Nets during the early days of free agency. However, it would now appear Mitch Kupchak and the Hornets’ front office wanted to add an experienced head into their bench rotation as they bid to improve their porous defense from last season.

Ntilikina has spent his last two seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, playing in a total of 105 regular-season games, averaging 3.6 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.2 assists while shooting 30.9% from 3-Point range and 38.6% from the field. Unfortunately, Ntilikina has never reached the heights that many had hoped for from the former 8th overall pick in the 2017 draft.

While Ntilikina won’t help improve the Hornets’ offense, there will be hope that he can slot into the bench rotation and operate as a connector on both sides of the floor. Last season, Charlotte ranked dead-last in offensive rating and 20th in defensive rating, as Steve Clifford had to navigate a string of injuries and Miles Bridges’ suspension.

Now that Charlotte’s roster is whole again and buoyed by their recent draft addition of Brandon Miller, the Hornets will be hoping for a much better showing next season. Ntilikina won’t prove to be a difference maker on a nightly basis, but his ability and willingness to plug gaps within the rotation and his defensive intensity will both help raise the bar of Charlotte’s second unit while also providing stern competition for Smith Jr.

Charlotte could still look to make more moves. Kobi Simmons and JT Thor are both on non-guaranteed contracts and could be waived before their guarantee dates if the Hornets believe there is an upgrade that would further strengthen their team. For now, though, Charlotte’s roster looks set as they get ready to head into training camp.

Next. Hornets believe they have talent to be competitive this season. dark