As the season approaches, I remained unconvinced Dwayne Bacon is real. The Charlotte Hornets don’t keep second round draft picks. They last time they did, people were convinced the world was ending based on a 2009 movie starring John Cusack where the world ended.
Keeping a second round pick just isn’t part of the Hornets brand. It’s all about cash considerations, an annual tradition where the Hornets sell the pick and stash the money in an underground bunker.
And yet, there he is, the small forward from Florida State, accidentally being called Dwyane Wade by Rich Cho. And then a week or so later, he’s on the court in Orlando, averaging 15.4 points per game. Then this past Monday night he’s on the court in Boston, scoring the first unofficial points of his career.
It’s unfathomable, impossible even. It’s...okay, maybe I’m being overly dramatic.
I’m happy the Hornets finally kept their second round draft pick. Technically, they drafted Frank Jackson 31st and traded him to the New Orleans Pelicans for Dwayne Bacon (and cash), but the important part is they actually kept him. And from what we’ve seen so far, Bacon could turn out to be a solid player in the NBA. Whether we see much of him this season will depend on a few things, some of which are outside his control.
For one, Steve Clifford isn’t going to play Bacon over the team’s more seasoned small forwards. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist remains the starter, and Jeremy Lamb his backup. We could even throw Treveon Graham into the mix. The point is, Clifford will likely give these three a chance before turning to the rookie. This isn’t a knock against Clifford not playing rookies, but rather the right thing to do. Clifford knows for the most part what to expect from those three. That isn’t quite the case with Bacon, who has one preseason game under him. Unless one or more of these three stinks it up or gets hurt, they’re going to play over him. Of course, Bacon could outplay one or more of these guys in practice and force Clifford’s hand. Do I expect that to happen in the near future? Probably not.
But if injuries pile up in the second unit, Bacon should get an opportunity. Because of his size, he can play both forward positions. Depending on the kind of lineup used, Bacon could see a few minutes as a stretch-four. If that’s the case, he’ll have to shoot better from the 3-point line. He made just 20 percent during Summer League, and wasn’t known for it in college. His best fit will be at small forward, with Lamb at shooting guard and Michael Carter-Williams or Malik Monk at point. A trio of MCW, Lamb, and Bacon would offer some length on defense (but very little perimeter scoring).
If/when he does get on the court, what can we expect? Based on what we know and have seen, Bacon is a solid offensive player who uses strength rather than speed to create space. The Joe Johnson label gets thrown around, but as a way to compare playing styles. Johnson isn’t known for his quick first step, but he can bully his way to the hoop. Bacon operates in a similar way. While he isn’t a perimeter shooter, he has a nice mid-range game and can get to the hoop. He has a solid shooting stroke, so hopefully that will make it easier to extend his range with more practice.
In all likelihood, we’ll end up seeing Bacon play more with Greensboro Swarm than with the Hornets. It should be good for his development, but it will be a shame that Eric Collins won’t get to use one of the dozens of Bacon puns he’s likely come up with since draft night. Guess we’ll have to wait before he sizzles us with them.