Treveon Graham, T.J. Williams, and Isaiah Hicks have a huge month ahead of them. Each is on a non-guaranteed contract and chances are only one of them will make the team.
And the time of judgment is near—we’re a week away from training camp, two weeks from preseason, and one month from the regular season.
Watching the bottom of the Hornets’ bench has been an interesting exercise the last few years and this year is no different. Whereas in years past the Hornets—or Bobcats—would’ve stuck a couple of vets and engaged in some light nepotism, these days they’re routinely rounding out the roster with a handful of unproven youngsters.
Now, I’m an absolute sucker for young players. I will shamelessly champion the ball boy if he clumsily chucks the rock to a ref between plays. So with Graham, Williams, and Hicks having to compete for a single roster spot I’m going to be upset no matter who gets cut.
This is hard for me.
Graham, 23, has been with the Hornets for a year already. He coaxed Hornets head coach Steve Clifford into giving him a whopping 189 minutes last season and even started a game with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out. Unfortunately, he didn’t do a whole lot with those minutes.
That isn’t to say he was bad. Statistically speaking he was excellent—he shot well from the floor and got after it on defense in isolation scenarios—but the team as a whole noticeably took a hit when the VCU star took the floor.
He’s good at what he does, but he’s limited. Clifford has gone as far as to say that he’d be comfortable with playing Graham with the game on the line.
Graham did, however, have an excellent showing at the Orlando Summer League back in July. He showed an improved handle going left and the level of confidence you’d expect from a guy with a year of big league experience under his belt playing against rookies and flyers. Shot well, dominated the boards, exploited poor passing. Dude did it all.
Unfortunately for Graham, the Hornets drafted Dwayne Bacon over the summer and Bacon plays the same position as he does and has a guaranteed contract. Since Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeremy Lamb will eat up the bulk of the minutes at small forward, it’s unclear what Graham’s role is going forward.
Of course, things are equally unclear for T.J. Williams. The Northeastern University point guard already has Kemba Walker, Michael Carter-Williams, and Julyan Stone ahead of him in the rotation.
Unless the Hornets are so impressed by him over the next few weeks that they decide to flip one of Carter-Williams or Stone—something they can’t do until December 15 thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement anyway—it seems likely that Williams, 22, will not make the team.
That’s a shame, because he was an excellent scorer in his four years at Northeastern and showed a very well-rounded game toward the end of his collegiate career.
You might be thinking that it’ll be Hicks whom makes the team, then. But once again it’s difficult to say.
Unfortunately the three other players at his position—Marvin Williams, Frank Kaminsky, and Johnny O’Bryant III—each have guaranteed contracts. I’m not sure the Hornets are married to O’Bryant, though, so I suppose it’s possible they waive him in favor of Hicks. In fact, the same thing could well happen with T.J. Williams and Stone.
If I had to place money on who makes the team, I’d burn my money and curl into a ball in my closet. I like each of Graham, Williams, and Hicks.
Now, if I put myself into the Hornets’ shoes and also assume that each player is equally good in preseason, my guess is we see Graham on the roster on opening night. And that’s solely by virtue of his experience and familiarity with the Hornets’ system.
But that’s a guess. A huge, fat, uninformed guess.
The truth is we really won’t know until after training camp and preseason as we need all of the information and data we can get to ensure we make the best decision possible for our franchise.
That’s been a trend in recent years, and I like it. A lot.