We’re just a few games into the season but one of the biggest storylines with the Charlotte Hornets has been Devonte’ Graham’s shaky start. His shooting struggles have been evident in nearly every game the team has played and it means that the Hornets’ offense is struggling right alongside him. Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier are picking up the slack in a big way, but the offensive success of Charlotte depends greatly on Graham.
What’s going on with Devonte' Graham atm scoring wise?— RD (@OladipShow) January 5, 2021
28% 3 PT
75% FT pic.twitter.com/p5A2H4arvD
Outside of Rozier and Hayward the team doesn’t have any real knockdown shooters on the roster, so how long can the Hornets last with Graham’s efficiency being this low? Maybe it’s time to switch things up a bit. Here are the various categories of Graham’s season shooting-wise, and why a switch into a different role could be just what the third-year guard needs.
If you’ve watched any Hornets game so far this season, it’s plain to see that Graham is having issues scoring the ball. Everyone had such high expectations for him coming into the year, but in reality they were mainly based off of the hype he generated last season. His shooting splits this year are worse than last year, and even last year they weren’t amazing.
This season Graham is shooting 27.1% from the field and 32.1% from deep - both horrible statlines for any player. Just last year he finished the season shooting 38.2% from the field and 37.3% from deep. None of these percentages are particularly great, but at least last season he was shooting much better from the field. What’s most intriguing about these percentages is that his shot from three seems to be more consistent than his shot from anywhere else on the floor, when for most NBA players that is anything but the case.
Good to see Devonte Graham shooting that 3 without hesitation. I’ve noticed a lot less pump faking this game, it obviously was affecting his rhythm— James Plowright (@British_Buzz) January 5, 2021
As mentioned, Graham is shooting 32.1% from deep this season, but how exactly is he getting into these spots? Out of the 7.6 threes Graham is attempting per game, 5.1 of them come in catch-and-shoot situations. On those 5.1 attempts he is shooting 38.9%, a whopping 6.8% better than his overall percentage. In addition to this, 2.4 of Graham’s three-point attempts are isolation scenarios (not sure how that math adds up), and in those attempts he is shooting only 17.6%.
Per game, Graham is driving to the rack 6.7 times a game on average - the fourth most on the team behind Hayward, Rozier, and LaMelo Ball. On these 6.7 drives, he is attempting 2.4 field goals a game and shooting only 17.6% (which is odd since it matches his pull-up three percentage). This means that when driving to the basket, Graham is scoring roughly one out of every six times he tries to score. Whether or not he’s forcing these shots up is a different debate, but the plain fact of the matter is that he’s not converting well.
When looking at shot zones on NBA.com/stats, they break it up into six different areas - restricted area, in the paint (non-RA), mid-range, left corner three, right corner three, and above the break three. Looking over Graham’s percentages in each of these areas, there is a clear role that he performs best in.
Starting with his percentages in the paint, Graham takes 1.9 shots in the restricted area per game and 1.4 in the paint (non-RA) per game, shooting 30.8% and 0.0% respectively in each of these areas. Moving on to the mid-range, Graham shoots 22.2% on 1.3 attempts a game. Then, looking at the above the break three, this is where he attempts the large majority of his shots, taking 6.7 a game from this zone and shooting 27.7%. All of these numbers are well below league average in terms of efficiency.
However, that leaves two zones that haven’t been discussed - the left and right corner threes. He shoots so little from these areas that it is easier to look at his totals on the season. Graham has taken two shots from the right corner three, shooting 1-2, and four shots from the left corner three, shooting 3-4. This means that on corner threes this season Graham is shooting 4-6 (66.6%), which is by far the best out of all his numbers despite that lack of volume.
So with all these numbers in mind, one thing that is clear is that Graham is not very good in isolation. Whenever he’s trying to create his own shot it ends up in either a poor shot, or he simply just misses. Meanwhile, when he is put in catch-and-shoot situations he’s knocking down at least an average number of his shots. With that being said, at what point is it time to transition Graham into an almost exclusively off-ball roll? Obviously his playmaking is solid for the Hornets, but he can play-make while also playing off-ball as long as he keeps the ball moving. Could this be a key to turning around Charlotte’s offense?