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Devonte’ Graham has started the season in beast mode

The second-year guard has made an incredible leap that few people saw coming

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Devonte’ Graham is having a breakout season. Through the Charlotte Hornets first 11 games the second-year guard is averaging an impressive 18.0 points and 7.3 assists in just over 31 minutes per game. Just to put those numbers in perspective, only six players in the NBA were averaging at least 18 points and 7.3 assists through Wednesday’s games, per Basketball Reference - LeBron James, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Malcolm Brogdon, and our very own Devonte’ Graham.

That’s right, when looking at just points and assists Graham is on the same list as two former MVPs (LeBron and Harden), two former Rookies of the Year (Doncic and Brogdon), and Trae Young who finished second in last year’s ROY voting and will likely be an All-Star this year. Also note, among this group Graham has the third highest effective field goal percentage at 52.4 percent, trailing only Doncic (55.6 percent) and Young (55.6 percent).

Graham has also been a flamethrower from beyond the arc. He’s currently averaging 3.2 three-pointers per game on a blistering 42.2 percent shooting. Through Wednesday only four other players in the league were averaging at least 3.0 three-pointers per game with 42 percent accuracy, per Basketball Reference - Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, J.J. Redick, and Davis Bertans. Again, that’s good company to keep.

Few people expected Devonte’ to make such a dramatic leap this year. First off, he’s a second round pick. Players who can carve out meaningful roles in the NBA rarely fall to the No. 34 pick where Graham was selected last year. Then again, the Hornets front office saw enough potential in him to trade up for the former Kansas Jayhawk, sacrificing second round picks in 2019 and 2023 in the process.

Last season was a learning experience for Graham. As a rookie he shuttled between the Greensboro Swarm and the Hornets roster. He appeared in 43 games for the Hornets and averaged a ho-hum 4.7 points and 2.6 assists in 14.7 minutes per game. He shot just 34 percent from the field including a brutal 28 percent from the three-point line. Most of the preseason buzz surrounding the Hornets young core coming into the 2019-2020 season focused on Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Malik Monk, and Dwayne Bacon. Graham was on the radar, for sure, but he was viewed more as a second tier prospect.

But this season Graham has not only established himself as key piece in Charlotte’s rebuilding plans, he has arguably been the Hornets best player. Through the first 11 games he leads the team in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) at 0.4. and is second in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) at 19.2, trailing only Cody Zeller’s 20.3.

Only time will tell if Graham’s 11-game hot streak is sustainable or not, but so far he’s proven he has the skills to make meaningful contributions while on the court. Expectations for the 2019-2020 Charlotte Hornets were largely tied to player development among the young core. So far Devonte’ Graham is delightfully exceeding those expectations.