Hornets rookie named as player who could surprise this season

Nick Smith Jr., Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Nick Smith Jr., Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Could the Charlotte Hornets get unexpected production from a rookie on their roster? That answer appears to be yes in the eyes of Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley. Buckley determined that a rookie in Charlotte could be someone capable of putting together a surprising season for the Hornets, and it is not second overall pick Brandon Miller. The player in question? Nick Smith Jr.

It was Smith Jr., named by Buckley as the Hornets’ entry in his recently published Every NBA Team’s 1 Player Who Can Surprise Us Most article. Buckley notes that Smith Jr. was a higher-ranked recruit than Miller before last season, while also mentioning his combo guard skillset. But it is how the Hornets should approach this season that draws some attention. Allowing a player like Smith to develop properly would be best for all parties involved in Charlotte and could even result in taking over the starting spot of a veteran.

"“If Charlotte treats this campaign as the developmental season that it should be, then Smith has a non-zero chance of bumping Terry Rozier out of the lineup and auditioning as the long-term backcourt partner for Ball. Scoring might be Smith’s greatest strength, but he also keeps the pedal floored on defense.”"

The bumping of Terry Rozier is way down the line, but it is not something that should be dismissed entirely. It is about understanding the competitive timeline and the age of Rozier. Rozier is still a very good player at the age of 29, but it is going to take a little bit of time for this Hornets team to become truly competitive. Things are not aligned quite right at the current moment, and it may be better for the long-term future of the franchise to see Smith Jr. share the backcourt with LaMelo Ball to develop on-court chemistry in a high volume of minutes together.

There is one more thing to highlight from Buckley, the mention of his defensive ability. The deficiencies of the Ball’s defense have been well documented, and Charlotte needs to find a way to make up for what he lacks in that area. If Smith Jr.’s defensive abilities translate to the next level, it could be a major boost for this young Hornets squad.