After covering the Greensboro Swarm for the past few seasons, I’ve never been more excited to see what the future holds with this team.
Management has created a successful hub for Hornets’ development just four years after the Swarm’s founding. Playing time in Greensboro was instrumental in how Devonte’ Graham and Dwayne Bacon have risen from second-round picks to players who can make a serious impact in Charlotte.
The 2018 Greensboro team has been gutted out in its entirety. Only three guys from last year remain on a nearly fifteen-player deep roster. There was a call for change orchestrated by Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak and other basketball executives this offseason. So far, Swarm GM Cam Twiss has done an excellent job in surrounding the team with players who fit both organizations’ identities.
Although the team is posted a bleak 4-8 record, the players are showing promise of what they can be in the future.
As far as who’s making these new contributions to the team, it’s best to split it off into groups.
The Two-Way Contract Players
Those who follow the Hornets more casually should become familiar with the names Kobi Simmons and Robert Franks.
These two are signed Charlotte’s roster via two-way contracts. This agreement allows a player to have playing time both as part of the G-League and their parent organization. The biggest catch is players are restricted to a maximum of 45 days in the NBA, which includes practices and days off.
Simmons, a 22-year-old guard from Arizona has done excellent work through twelve games played. In 30 minutes on the floor, he’s averaging 17.3 points and close to four rebounds and six assists respectively. Versatility has been his calling card coming into college, and it’s great to see that play transition to the next level.
At 6’5”, he has sensational height at the one spot. Simmon’s playmaking is a great sight to see as he was never known as much of a passer. Averaging only two dishes per game in college, it looks like Simmons is ready to take on a more defined offensive role.
As for Franks, he’s continuing to light it up from downtown. He’s shown what he can do from beyond-the-arc in college, as he scored a Washington State-record ten threes two years ago against California. Currently, he’s leading Swarm with 19 points per contest while hoisting up a confident seven threes per game. Although he’s making these at a respectable 33 percent clip, this lower consistency is attributed to the sheer volume of which he’s shooting from.
Standing at 6’7”, 225 lbs with a seven-foot wingspan, he has gotten the opportunity to play at the five this season. This is a great development for the Hornets as they continue to strategize and fix their third-string center problems.
The Martin Twins
Just like the Hornets moved around rotational pieces Julyan Stone and Aaron Harrison from Greensboro to Charlotte in years past, the team is still implementing that same strategy to a new group of players. This time, it’s Cody and Caleb Martin who are subject to the everlasting revolving door from assignment job back to the NBA.
Caleb has seen significantly more playing time with the Swarm than his twin brother, in large part due to Cody’s defensive purposes being called upon late in Hornets’ games. Nonetheless, Caleb is performing at a high level in the G-League, averaging 17.2 points, nearly four assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. Like Franks, he is hoisting up shots from three, attempting six per game and scoring on 28 percent of those shots. Consistency from deep has been Caleb’s advantage over his defensive-minded brother. As the season progresses, keep an eye on how his well he shoots from that area.
In just five starts, Cody is second on the Swarm in terms of scoring, averaging 18.4 a game. He remains sound on the defensive end, coming away from two steals and seven defensive rebounds per night. Out of all the players listed, Cody is the one who needs the least amount of development. He’s proven to be a fantastic stopper for the Hornets. The biggest example was in the closing seconds against the Golden State Warriors a month back.
Other Impactful Players
Outside of the four mentioned above, there haven’t been many jumps in performance from the rest of the roster.
Joe Chealey, a two-year member of the Hornets Summer League and Swarm squad, continues to post medium-floor, low-ceiling type numbers from the point guard position. He’s shooting an outstanding 38 percent from three and remains a floor general with consistent assist/turnover numbers. But he’s never shown the ability to take over a game, solidifying his role offensively. Luckily, he still has a purpose for the Hornets organization. He can be a great emergency backup point if the Hornets are in such a situation.
But, consistent Swarm assignee Jalen McDaniels has, as I predicted, done a great job in solidifying his presence at the next level. The Hornets 2019 second-round draft selection was signed to a minimum contract close to the start of this season.
McDaniels is averaging 17.3 points and close to eight rebounds per game. Shooting wise, he’s exceeded well-beyond expectations, making 90 percent of his free throws at 2.6 attempts and 40 percent from three off three shots a contest. Although the sample size is small, his consistency from these areas has dramatically increased since college. His shot from downtown has increased by ten percent as well as seeing a fifteen-percentage boost from the foul line.
Defensively, he’s slowly becoming more adept at that area. Leading the team with 2.4 steals a night, McDaniels has been plugged in at many different positions on the floor this season. For the first time, he’s received sufficient experience at the center spot, which helps cope with his lack of athleticism for a small forward. Although battling on the interior is still a major flag in his game, you have to be impressed with the way he’s handling himself offensively.
That same feeling has to go for a lot of the Greensboro Swarm players this season. The Hornets are going through a complete change from top to bottom. We are seeing it at the top, with players like Devonte’ Graham and rookie PJ Washington cementing serious roles on the team.
This effect is being demonstrated below at the G-League level. Swarm head coach Joe Wolfe has done an excellent job in reshaping the scope of this team in a small number of games played.
For the first time in years, the developmental area has become a highly-successful trait of the Charlotte Hornets organization.
*All stats accurate as of December 9, 2019.