With the flurry of assets coming to Charlotte this offseason, a large topic of debate will be who deserves to be in the starting lineup. The clear choices are LaMelo Ball, the newly appointed cornerstone of the franchise, Gordon Hayward, the veteran making $30 million a year, and PJ Washington, the rookie standout who was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. After that, however, there are a variety of different combinations that James Borrego could go with.
how do the hornets plan on playing Rozier, Graham, and Lamelo at once? They all want to start...... https://t.co/z3ObPwHYMM— nick sitto (@nsitto2) November 20, 2020
While the starting center position will most likely go to Cody Zeller, the real focus should be on who starts at the shooting guard position. The obvious choice may seem like Most Improved Player candidate Devonte’ Graham, but would that really be the best fit next to Ball?
Obviously one could make the argument that Graham is the better player right now. In fact, he probably is the better player. However, in terms of fit, Graham may be better suited as a sixth man. Assuming Ball gets the start, which is almost a given at this point, Rozier fits better in the starting lineup for two key reasons - defense and efficiency.
Ball is a great playmaker, a solid scorer, and the future of the Hornets’ franchise. Despite all of this, however, he still struggles on the defensive side of the ball. If Charlotte wants to be as competitive as possible, pairing a defensive-minded guard next to Ball will be crucial.
Terry Rozier with some of the most insane pick-and roll defense I’ve ever seen. Gets shoved in the back by Sabonis and just backpedals at full speed to stay in front of Joseph and shut the play down before Tatum got lost on the screen to lose Matthews. pic.twitter.com/2xwdxn40tJ— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) April 20, 2019
Now while Rozier isn’t the best defender in the world, he’s very clearly better than Graham. While they both averaged the same amount of steals, that never tells the whole story defensively. On three-point attempts last season, opponents shot 40.1% on Graham while he was within three feet of them. While Rozier was in that same distance of opponents, they shot only 34.7%.
Aside from simply defending the three-point line, Rozier is also much better at rotating and hustling on defense, showing flashes of the days he spent playing in Brad Stevens’ defense-oriented system. As much as both of these guys try on the defensive end, Rozier’s grittiness from his days in Boston shine through much brighter than anything Graham does defensively. While Graham may not be a complete liability, Rozier is the better, more experienced defender overall.
Starting to think Rozier is going to be a beautiful fit on the court with Lamelo. Terry had one of the highest catch and shoot 3% in the league last year, and will be doing even more running off ball with a ball handler like Melo around. Keep him around. I’m excited to see it.— Owen Watterson (@theqccollective) November 21, 2020
As for efficiency, Rozier takes the cake by a wide margin. Graham shot 38.2% from the field and 37.3% from deep last season, while Rozier shot 42.3% from the field and 40.7% from deep. Whoever gets the starting spot next to Ball will be playing mainly off the ball, too, meaning catch and shoot field goal percentage should be accounted for. In catch and shoot three situations, Graham shot 42.2% and Rozier shot 45.9%. Ball is the point guard of the future in Charlotte and he’ll need a guy that will be able to knock down shots when passed to. Graham isn’t bad in catch and shoot situations by any means, but Rozier is just better.
In terms of picking a guard to pair with Ball right now, Rozier seems to be the guy. He has more experience in the league, he’s the better defender, and he’s more efficient in catch and shoot situations. If the Hornets want to win games and put Ball in the best possible citation to succeed, Rozier should be the starting shooting guard.
Who should start next to LaMelo Ball?
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