Why bringing scoring guard off the bench gives Hornets massive boost

Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Since joining the Charlotte Hornets in 2019, Terry Rozier has been part of the starting lineup for all of his 268 regular-season games. However, the combo guard has been unable to help his team reach the post-season during his tenure.

This summer, the Hornets have received an influx of fresh young talent, headlined by second-overall draft pick Brandon Miller. At 6’9”, Miller is seen as a small forward, yet his ball-handling and scoring ability could also allow him to slide down and play the two-guard position with relative ease.

According to Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz, Miller’s size, skillset, and potential fit next to LaMelo Ball could mean that head coach Steve Clifford demotes Rozier to a bench role in the upcoming season, allowing Charlotte to utilize a big yet versatile rotation.

"“Coming off a 27-win season, the Hornets should be prioritizing youth as well,” Swartz wrote. “Trying 6’9″ Brandon Miller at shooting guard would give the Hornets a supersized backcourt and allow Rozier to serve as sixth man and the team’s backup point guard after Dennis Smith Jr. left in free agency for the Brooklyn Nets. The Ball-Rozier backcourt pairing just hasn’t been successful enough to continue, although the 29-year-old could thrive as a leading playmaker in non-Ball minutes off the bench instead.”"

A potential starting five of LaMelo, Miller, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, and Mark Williams would provide Charlotte with genuine size across the board, along with a healthy dose of perimeter scoring, rim pressure, and perimeter defense. Unfortunately for Rozier, it would mean taking a step back in role in an attempt to finally return to the postseason for the first time since he left the Boston Celtics.

Terry Rozier could thrive as the Hornets sixth man

Coming off the bench would allow Rozier to lead Charlotte’s second unit. Clifford could utilize the veteran combo-guard as a two-guard alongside rookie Nick Smith Jr. or as the lead ball-handler and a featured member of the offense.

Positioning Rozier as the first guard off the bench would remove his remit of taking a high volume of perimeter shots and allow him to penetrate off the dribble before making the right read – a role he excelled in under Brad Stevens during his earlier years. Rozier would likely be facing lesser defenders, too, as he would be going against the opposing team’s second units for the most part.

Considering how admirably Rozier has filled in for LaMelo in recent years, being demoted may be a shot to his pride. However, last season, no lineup featuring both LaMelo and Rozier for more than 100 possessions ended with a positive plus/minus, per Cleaning The Glass.

Things were slightly better in the 2021-22 season, where there were a few positive rotations, including LaMelo and Rozier, but none of them were good enough to position the roster among playoff contenders.

As such, it makes sense to make a change. Adding additional size, along with lower-usage offense, will allow LaMelo to continue growing as a floor general while also providing him an opportunity to start developing a two-man game with Miller.

Moving Rozier to the bench could help provide the Hornets with more balance to their rotation while also providing Miller with the playing time he needs to begin his development at the NBA level. Furthermore, it could be the move that finally sees Charlotte return to the playoffs, and if that means ruffling Rozier’s feathers, then so be it.

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