When the Charlotte Hornets begin the regular season in a few days, they will be doing so without the services of veteran guard Frank Ntilikina. Ntilikina suffered what has been reported as a non-displaced fracture of his left tibia. There is not currently a timeline for his return, according to a press release from the Horents.
There appeared to be a case for Ntilikina to make the roster, considering the lack of depth behind LaMelo Ball. Having someone with a few years of experience under his belt could come in handy for the overall youth of the Hornets’ roster.
Even with the clear need for a guard to back Ball, Ntilikina did not necessarily put together an inspiring preseason. The former New York Knicks’ draft selection averaged 3.0 points, 2.8 assists, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in his limited action. Ntilikina’s scoring contributions came on a 20% conversion rate from all field goal attempts and 15.4 % from deep. The lack of consistent success while shooting could have made it a bit easier to part ways with the veteran guard should the team have chosen to do so.
With Ntilikina expected to miss a considerable amount of time, it does provide an opening for a few other players to be Ball’s primary backup. Edmond Sumner, Nick Smith Jr., and Theo Maledon could get a shot at some point to see extended playing time off the bench. Smith may be a longshot, considering head coach Steve Clifford’s tendency to go with veterans over young players/rookies. That would point toward Sumner being a logical choice for Clifford as they look to construct their roster and minute distribution beyond their starting lineup.
Expect plenty of change and multiple options being explored, with the backup group being shuffled early and often until someone can stake their claim to being the primary backup.