5 Free-agent guards the Hornets should have chosen over Frank Ntilikina

Frank Ntilikina, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Frank Ntilikina, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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On Friday, August 4, the Charlotte Hornets signed Frank Ntilikina to a one-year, partially-guaranteed deal. After losing Dennis Smith Jr. to the Brooklyn Nets in the early stages of free agency, the Hornets’ front office likely sees Ntilikina as a potential replacement who can also provide competition for Nick Smith Jr, who Charlotte recently drafted with the 27th pick.

However, Ntilikina doesn’t project as a player that can help solve some of the Hornets’ problems with their second unit. Last season, Charlotte struggled on both sides of the floor, yet it was their offense that proved to be the bigger stumbling block. In fairness, LaMelo Ball’s ankle injury and Miles Bridges’ suspension certainly played a part in those offensive struggles. Yet, the presence of Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier is supposed to offset any significant drop-offs in production when injuries occur.

Ntilikina is not a player you sign when you need to improve your team’s offense. The former lottery pick has struggled when shooting the ball for his entire tenure in the NBA. Sure, Ntilikina will provide stern perimeter defense and will hustle when chasing ball-handlers over screens or rotating over to provide help defense, but the lack of an offensive game will hurt the spacing Charlotte will likely want to implement.

As such, we’re more likely to see Nick Smith Jr. comprise the role of ‘first guard off the bench’ in the upcoming season – assuming that Rozier continues to partner LaMelo in the starting unit, with Ntilikina plugging gaps where necessary. Given the mid-bench role that Ntilikina projects to play, there’s a very real argument to be made that there were available guards in free agency who better fit what the Hornets needed.

Here are five players the Hornets should have chosen over Ntilikina.

1. Kendrick Nunn

Kendrick Nunn would have been the ideal addition for the Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Kendrick Nunn would have been the ideal addition for the Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

When you’re a rebuilding team, you can afford to take a flyer on a player with a high upside that has found himself struggling due to injuries and poor roster fits. Enter Kendrick Nunn. The 28-year-old spent last season with the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards after missing the entire 2021-22 season due to a knee injury.

In his first year back on the court, Nunn averaged 7.1 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists, shooting 35.4% from 3-Point range and 42.4% from the field. While those numbers were a far cry from Nunns’ averages during his first two years with the Miami Heat, there’s no reason to believe he can’t get back to a similar level if given the time and opportunity. Bouncing back from a season-long absence isn’t easy, especially when the role you’re coming back to isn’t the one you had before getting hurt.

Nunn is currently an unrestricted free agent and likely would have jumped at the chance to rebuild his value around the NBA with the Hornets – in a similar way to what Smith Jr. did last season.

Unlike most other guards on this list, Nunn’s addition would have ensured a tough rookie year for Smith Jr., yet the upside of adding a genuine 12-15 points per game scorer, who can create for himself and for others, could have helped push the Hornets forward in the short-term while giving Smith Jr. an opportunity to develop his game behind closed doors.

Unfortunately, the Hornets chose to go in a different direction, and Nunn remains a free agent as he looks for a team that can provide him with a role that will allow him to showcase his offensive talent and work toward earning a new long-term contract.