I’m just going to get right to the point and declare Devonte’ Graham’s 2019-20 season an A+.
That shouldn’t be surprising or controversial given the monster leap the Hornets point guard made in his second NBA season. Graham’s rise from obscurity as a second round rookie last season to an impact starter this year who averaged 18.2 points, 7.5 assists, and 3.5 three-pointers per game is the single greatest development of the Hornets season. Nobody saw this coming and we couldn’t be happier that it did.
Just look at the jump from his rookie year:
Devonte’ Graham stastics
It’s simply astounding. To put Graham’s combination of points and assists in context, only seven players were averaging at least 18 points and seven assists per game when the NBA suspended its season - James Harden, LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, Trae Young, Kyle Lowry, and our very own Devonte’ Graham. That’s great company to keep.
When the NBA suspended the season Devonte’ ranked third in the league in three-point attempts (585), fifth in three-point makes (218), and fourth in assists (471). His assists are especially impressive given the Hornets play with the NBA’s slowest pace at 96.2 and he isn’t exactly surrounded by elite scorers. Defying all expectations, Devonte’ Graham has suddenly become one of the better creators in the game.
Nearly every NBA media outlet has him in the running for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. The Ringer glowingly says Devonte’ went “from fringe piece to centerpiece seemingly overnight.” NBA.com highlights how unexpectedly and quickly he “turned into an All-Star caliber talent.” CBS Sports has him among the five players receiving votes for the Most Improved Player. He may not end up winning the award given his low profile nationally and the Hornets losing record, but nobody can dispute he’s made one of the biggest year-over-year improvements in the league.
Just to be objective, however, there’s still room for improvement. For example, his 39.7 percent shooting on two-point attempts needs to get better. When drilling down into his shot chart he hit just 27.4 percent of his attempts between three and nine feet from the rim which is problematic. Graham’s over-reliance on three-point shots, which made up 585 of his 963 field goal attempts, runs the risk of turning him into a one-trick pony where good defensive schemes could marginalize him.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds Graham can also improve on the defensive end. Per Basketball Reference, Devonte’ had the worst Defensive Rating (116) on the team along with the team’s lowest Defensive Box Plus/Minus score (-2.1). That said, despite the heavy offensive load he carries Devonte’ does give consistent effort on defense. He’s not a great defender, but he’s also not a complete liability. (Trae Young, I’m looking in your general direction.)
But let’s forget about where Graham can improve and just revel in what he has become. As the Hornets continue to rebuild they suddenly have a former second rounder playing like a lottery pick. He dropped 40 points on just 21 shots in a win over the Brooklyn Nets. He went 10-of-16 from the three-point line in a victory over the Golden State Warriors. He dished out 15 assists to lead the Hornets past the Detroit Pistons. In two different games he had 10 assists with zero turnovers. Just amazing.
Devonte’ Graham’s metamorphosis from an ineffective second round rookie backup in 2018-19 into a solid NBA point guard in 2019-20 has been remarkable to watch and joyous to behold. Give that man the grade he deserves.
Final Grade: A+
What grade would you give Devonte’ Graham for his 2019-20 season?
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C or lower (Note: Please re-read this article and consult with several knowledgeable NBA fans before selecting this option.)