Family is important for many of us, and it certainly is for Julyan Stone. After winning the Italian league with Umana Reyer, Stone asked for a release so the Charlotte Hornets could sign him to a multi-year contract this offseason.
But the move to Charlotte was about more than returning to the NBA. Stone’s father nearly died this summer, so to provide better care and be closer to him, Stone wanted to return and play in the United States. Doing so wasn’t easy; without a release clause in his contract his club team weren’t obligated to let him go. After negotiations between the club and his agent, they allowed him to leave and sign for the Hornets.
Brought in to be the team’s third point guard, Stone could see playing time to start the season. Reserve guard Michael Carter-Williams remains out following a procedure done on both knees, and with doubts as to whether he will be ready for the season opener, Stone could be filling in.
So what can be expected of the 28 year-old point guard? At 6’6, Stone offers size at the position; something the Hornets clearly sought this offseason with his addition along with MCW’s. His size and length means he can guard both guard positions, which should help with matchup issues, particularly when playing next to 6’3 Malik Monk, or the even shorter Kemba Walker.
Defending well is key if Stone wants to succeed, and especially so given his limited shooting ability. Stone averaged just 3.5 points per game last season for Reyer, shooting 36.6 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from the 3-point line. In 47 career NBA games (spread throughout small stints for various teams) he has a field goal percentage of 44 percent and a 3-point percentage of 21.1.
His best statistical season came with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA G-League in 2016-17, where he averaged 7.9 points, 8.6 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per game, starting 31 of 33 games.
It’s likely too much to ask anything substantial or efficient of Stone from a shooting stand point. Where he shines is as a passer. Playing with a pass first mentality, he loves dishing out the flashy assist, often finding teammates with a strong one-handed bounce pass:
Stone shows ability to dribble past defenders as well, and rewards players for cutting off the ball.
The way Stone finds players off ball means players like Cody Zeller and Dwight Howard could get easy buckets from him should they ever get the chance to play together.
This might trigger unwanted memories, but his dribble motion and no-look passing tendencies are reminiscent of Lance Stephenson. And while the Year of Lance was mostly disastrous, he provided a few highlights and solid performances, particularly when he moved the ball and didn’t hog it. Whether Stone shares more of the good or bad tendencies of Stephenson, his role will be far smaller assuming MCW recovers. In other words, it may not matter.
But Stone will certainly look to make the most of any opportunity if presented. He won’t be able to contribute as a scorer, but his passing ability could create scoring opportunities for the likes of Monk, Jeremy Lamb or other members of the second unit, and his size means Steve Clifford can shuffle him around the lineup a bit. If anything, he gives the Hornets a bit more versatility at the third point guard spot than they had last season.