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Treveon Graham is rising to the occasion

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Treveon Graham is getting consistent minutes rotation, and the Hornets are benefiting.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Minnesota Timberwolves Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the season, I wrote about Treveon Graham deserved more minutes than Dwayne Bacon for the Charlotte Hornets. Luckily, I got my wish and now Graham is a consistent rotation player, averaging 17 minutes per game. Graham has played well enough that the Hornets rewarded him by guaranteeing his contract for the rest of the season.

Charlotte is starting to play its best basketball of the season, and I was curious how much of factor Graham is in that. Now that Graham is a consistent part of the rotation it’s time to check in on him. What are his strengths and weaknesses? Does he deserve more or fewer minutes? If someone is traded (because someone certainly will be) could he handle a more significant role or even a starting role? Let’s dive into the numbers and investigate.

Okay, one question at a time. Graham started the season in the rotation than lost a spot for a bit and regained it on December 6th in a home loss to the Golden State Warriors. He has played double-digit minutes ever since, despite five games where he was injured.

That is 16 games that he has had steady minutes. In those games, the Hornets are 8-8, as Graham averaged 6.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. He shot 76 percent from the free throw line, 48 percent from the field and 54 percent from 3. All good marks, especially the 3-point shooting, but it should be noted that he only 1.7 threes per game. It is a small sample size, but an encouraging one. Graham only takes 4.1 field goals per game and one free throw per game. With how often he is hitting them, he should shoot more.

What this means is Graham only shoots when he is open, and if he is not shooting he is moving the ball. This has made Graham efficient in limited minutes, and it’s why he is third on the team in points per shot attempt according to Cleaningtheglass.com. Meaning he doesn’t shoot a lot, but when he does it’s a good shot, and it usually goes in. With how often he is hitting them, he should shoot more. Recently he has been cutting a little more instead of just standing behind the three-point line; it is something he should do more.

Graham times this cut perfectly. As soon as Dwight gets double teamed he darts right to the lane and finishes. This is a part of his game that should be more utilized. Then again it would be helpful if teams doubled Dwight more.

A reason why he doesn’t shoot more is he is one of the more willing passers on the team. Charlotte struggles with ball movement as the Hornets are 28th in the league in assists per game. Graham is fifth on the team in assist percentage at 9.3 percent. If you combine that with the fact that Graham is third on the team in true shooting percentage; you have a pretty efficient player. This comes from good shot selection as I mentioned earlier. 70 percent of his shots either come at the rim or from the 3-point line.

Going forward, he should take fewer mid-range shots because, well, he isn’t good at them yet. Graham only makes 31 percent of his mid-range shots. I would like him to attack the rim a little more instead on closeouts. Graham is strong a solid 220 pounds in his 6’5 frame. He is average at finishing at the rim, but he is good at drawing fouls. Graham gets fouled on 11.4 percent of all shot attempts, which is in the 76th percentile of all shooting guards. He should look to drive more in the halfcourt.

Graham has also been one of the Hornets better transition players. Charlotte plays faster than people think, mainly because they stink in the half court. Right now the Hornets are 10th in pace. Since Graham has played more, he has helped the Hornets transition game. According to Synergy Sports, Graham is in transition 13 percent of the time that he is on the court and ranks in the 94th percentile overall in transition thanks to his excellent 66 percent score frequency.

Look at the nice And-1 in semi-transition against Andre Iguodala. Two dribbles and a step through and Graham finishes through contact More Please!

He is a solid athlete, who is strong and can finish. Combine that with his passing ability, and Graham is a terrific transition player. It is something he should look to do even more going forward.

Let’s switch to defense. Despite being in just second season, Graham has held his own on defense but there is room for improvement. That said, his individual defense has been above average. According to Synergy Sports, Graham ranks in the 60th percentile overall on defense. His most significant weakness is pick and roll defense where he ranks in the 13th percentile.

Graham is much better-defending post-ups, isolations, dribble handoffs, and defending action off screens. Against spot up, in which he defends most of the time he is a little below average. What does this mean? Well, his individual defense is good, but his team defense is still lacking. Pick-and-roll defense requires a lot of nuances that Graham has yet to master. Quicker players also give him trouble; he is more strong than he is quick.

His defensive RPM is 26th among all shooting guards at 0.0. For a player so young that is a good number. However, Graham is 8th in defensive rating on the Hornets, a stat that proves Graham still struggles with team defense. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, Graham doesn’t get a lot of blocks or steals. He only blocks 0.1 of his opponents shots, a terrible mark, and his steal percentage is 1.2 percent a below average.

Also, there is his fouling problem. Graham has a 4.6 percent foul percentage; second highest on the team only behind everyone’s favorite player Michael Carter-Williams. Charlotte prides themselves on not fouling, so this a problem. It is common for young players to foul a lot and I expect this will improve with more minutes.

Then there is his rebounding. Graham only rebounds 10.4 percent of the opponents misses, which is well below average. These numbers seemed surprisingly low, so I dug further.

Simply put, Graham spends a lot of time boxing out, or too far away from the rim to get rebounds. NBA.com measures rebound chances. Graham is seecond to last on the team in rebound chances only ahead of Kemba Walker. This means he often only has shots at long rebounds that average 7.4 feet away from the basket. So this is a more than meets the eyes situation. Graham does need to improve his rebounding, but it’s not as bad as it looks.

Finally, the last weakness for Graham is his turnover percentage. Graham is fifth on the team in turnover ratio at 9.6 and his turnover percentage 12.4 a below average mark. This is concerning the amount he has the ball. From the eye test, I think it’s because Graham can be unselfish to a fault. Sometimes he tries to make a pass that isn’t there instead of shooting it. Again a common problem among young players.

Bottom line is Graham is a good young player, who will continue to get better. He is probably ready for more minutes, but not prepared to start. There are still holes in his game that need to be filled before he is ready to start. If the Hornets do trade MKG, Batum or Marvin hopefully they get a starter back in return, so Graham can remain on the bench and progress without getting too much thrown at him. In a year or two time, he should be ready to be a full-time starter. Charlotte should be thrilled with that.