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2020-2021 Hornets season preview: Grant Riller

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The Hornets landed a first-round talent with the 56th pick

Charlotte Hornets Draft Picks Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Grant Riller was pegged as an early-to-mid second round pick heading into the 2020 NBA Draft, but the Hornets were lucky enough to select him in the second round with the 56th overall pick. He put himself on the map after four highly-productive seasons with the College of Charleston Cougars, posting career averages of 23.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 steals per-40 minutes while shooting 51.9 percent on field goals, 35.6 percent on threes and 79.6 percent from the line.

Riller left Ocoee High School in Ocoee, Fla. deemed a two-star recruit by 247Sports, though he was unranked by other recruiting services despite putting up 29.1 points per game as a senior. Passing on offers from Cleveland State, Florida International and Hofstra, he decided to team up with former Hornet Joe Chealey at Charleston. After suffering a pre-season knee injury, Riller redshirted for his freshman season, which explains why he’s a year older than most four-year college players at 23.

Few college players can match the production that Riller sustained for four consecutive years. He’s a career-59.3 percent shooter from inside the arc on a 29.0 percent usage rate, an absolutely absurd number for a 6’ 3” guard. Last season, he hit 70.4 percent of shots at the rim (!!!!) while being assisted on just 13.4 percent of those shots. His true shooting percentage has never dipped below 59.1 percent with a career-.310 3-point attempt rate and a career-.391 free-throw attempt rate. The dude just breaks down defenders with his in-between game and can finish over, around, or through anybody at an efficient rate.

With Devonte’ Graham, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Malik Monk all ahead of him on the depth chart, Riller doesn’t have the easiest path to playing time as a rookie. His rookie-scale deal was converted to a Two-Way contract last night, but he’s more than capable of producing with the big club, too. Some will cringe at the level of competition that Riller faced in the CAA, but it’s still Division I basketball and Riller thoroughly dominated every defender that stepped in front of him for four years. Players don’t have to go to a power-five school to be good at sports, especially in today’s day and age where game film, advanced stats and highlights are so accessible.

What to expect from Riller in the upcoming season is more difficult to pin down than it is for most players on the roster. He’s proven himself to be talented enough to get a shot in the league right away, but the Hornets are suddenly deep at the guard spot, playing time is a higher priority for LaMelo, Devonte’ and Malik than it is for Riller at the moment, and his playing style is similar to Malik’s. It’s also unclear what the G-League season will look like this year, so the amount of time Riller spends with the Hornets and/or Swarm is completely up in the air at this point.

Regardless, it’ll be exciting to watch Riller start off torching the G-League and hopefully work his way into being a microwave scorer off of the Hornets bench; he has very little development and adjustments to make before he’s ready to contribute in the NBA. Even if Riller had been taken with the 32nd pick, it would’ve been zero complaints on my end.