Record through four: 2-2, 8th in eastern conference
Last time we took a look at the Hornets G League team, the Greensboro Swarm, things were looking bleak and unappealing. The squad lost five games in a row and didn’t show any signs of improvement from their young core. It was a stretch of disappointment on both offense and defense, as the team looked mentally not as locked in as earlier in the season. Luckily, things have started to at turn around for the better.
Much of this is in large part to the amount of scoring on the offensive load. We are seeing more players stepping up their role on the team and contributing at a high-level in scoring. It’s not only just Chinanu Onuaku and Roscoe Smith mandating the offense anymore. There have been other players, primarily on the wings, that have made strong commitments to the team’s overall output on the floor. The Swarm look more fluid on both ends of the court. Credit to new head coach Joe Wolfe for reshaping the game plan. This stretch of games is hopefully a step in the right direction for the team after an unappealing slue of outings.
That said, here are the notable plus, minuses, and themes that have been learned over the Swarm’s past four games.
On my last Swarm piece, I reiterated the lack of impact that wing player J.P. Macura was making for the team. Coming out of Xavier, he was an offensive juggernaut, leading his team in points and becoming the program’s all-time three-point specialist. But, this impact in college hasn’t quite proven to be that player since he reached the pros this season.
As these past four games have shown though, it finally looks like Macura is ready to be an impact player in the association. He has steadily increased his activity on the boards, becoming a reliable option for the team’s ability to stop extra possessions. This will to attack the glass is rarely seen for a player in his skill set, put Macura still thrives on doing the little things to help his team win.
Scoring has also been an impressive output for Macura recently. Although his signature three-point shot has become a severe on-off figure, he has still been able to consistently find ways to put the ball in the basket. Through attacking the paint as well as displaying a bit of a mid-range game, Macura has been able to survive despite the inconsistent play in his most detrimental area on the court.
Another player who has risen his play his Roscoe Smith. Smith, a former teammate of Hornets guard Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb on the historic UConn team, was acquired by the Swarm in the Archie Goodwin trade last season. The 2019 season has proven to be a success for him as of late as he has quietly built his career back up to a level of respectability this season.
A prototypical three-and-D power forward, Smith has been an excellent contributor on both ends of the floor for the team. He, like Macura, has been a key factor in why the Swarm has been so impactful on the boards as of late. He is currently second on the team in rebounds per game, which is a big reason why the team is able to run a fast-paced style of play. With him along with Onuaku controlling the glass, there are more and more opportunities for the team to run out in transition for the easy basket.
Three-point efficiency has also been a strong part of his game this season. Although he only shoots 1.5 threes per eighteen minutes, he has shot a well-rounded 37.5 percent from beyond-the-arc. This has allowed the Swarm to space out their offensive sets, allowing for more opportunities of Onuaku to do his thing in the paint. Smith’s minutes have steadily increased eight minutes a night over the past four, and he has certainly earned those.
With the increase of production from many of the Swarm’s players, it’s hard to spot out one as a sign of weakness. After all, scoring hasn’t been an issue as of late.
If we were to spot out one weakness though, it would be the power forward slot. The team simply doesn’t have the players at a natural four position to carry out points on a consistent basis. The silver lining is that this isn’t that drastic of a concern as the team’s guards have taken a massive load on their shoulders offensively and have been the ones who have kept the team in games. But, there has to be a time where you have to signify a weakness in a roster in order to make it for the better.
Isaiah Wilkins has been a true disappointment for the Swarm not just over the last four, but overall. Wilkins, a four-year player on a highly-respected Virginia Cavaliers team has been a black sheep on the Hornets organization. The team decided to take a chance on the undrafted forward in the offseason, signing him to a training camp deal only to be released and eventually signed on the Swarm.
And I get it, Wilkins was never a score-first player at the collegiate level, but something has to give. The Swarm has given him chance after chance this year, giving him 20+ minutes every night. But, he doesn’t have the willingness to become an impact scorer at the small-ball four. Sure, the defense has been his calling-card but especially in the developmental stage that is the G League, there needs to be more of an aggression coming from him in the scoring column.
This is a large part why Roscoe Smith has been a rising star as of late. The team has called on him to become a scorer at that spot, and he has so far proven to be effective for them.
What can be learned:
One of the more underlying story lines developing among the Hornets organization is the power forward position. Starter Marvin Williams has yet to prove his true identity since his large payday a couple of years back, and the emergence of Miles Bridges puts into question his longevity at the starting role.
That’s where I can see Roscoe Smith being at least a talked about candidate at that power forward slot. His 6-9 frame makes him an ideal candidate at that position. With the ability to be efficient on both ends of the floor while also being able to crash the glass, there is a real case for him to earn some minutes for the Hornets if the team needs more consistency at the four.
He could also be a great complimentary piece to both Bridges and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor. By playing these two or three on the court together, the Hornets can run a trio of switching, mobile guards who have the physical tools to be an effective player on switching the defensive end. By making the Hornets more versatile, a whole new area of opportunities can arise.
Let’s see how the Hornets respond to his recent play.