The Charlotte Hornets won a battle against the Sacramento Kings last night, 124-123. Cody Martin played hero, Miles Bridges looked great, and Gordon Hayward chipped in with a solid performance as well. However, this game wasn’t about any of those three. This game was the coming-out party for Charlotte’s top draft pick in the 2021 NBA Draft - James Bouknight.
After being drafted 11th overall, the young guard received very little playing time to start the year. However, instead of letting it affect him, he bided his time in the G-League. Then, just when the team needed him most, he stepped up in a huge way. (It sounds a bit like a superhero story when you put it like that.)
The UCONN product put up 24 points and six rebounds while shooting 9-for-14 from the field and 6-for-8 from deep. This shooting performance made him only the fifth Hornets rookie ever to record a game with six made threes - LaMelo Ball, PJ Washington, DJ Augustin, Walter Hermann, and Bouknight.
It wasn’t just his scoring that was impressive, though, it was his confidence and poise. No matter how late in the game it was or how big of a moment he was thrown into, Bouknight stayed cool, calm, and collected. The rookie spoke about what the moment meant to him after the game:
“The feeling is kind of surreal. I knew I was capable of this & I knew my coaches knew I was capable of this. This is just a testament to our chemistry as a team... Miles [Bridges] has been telling me all year my time was going to come & today it came.”
Ever since the Hornets’ COVID saga began, Bouknight has been spending time with the main roster, rather than being stuck in the G-League. He played over 22 minutes in the first game against the Philadelphia 76ers, but only 11:31 in the next one. However, Bouknight notched just under 26 minutes against the Kings, and head coach James Borrego even left him in for the final play of the game.
Borrego keeps his rotations pretty tight (when not dealing with a metric ton of injuries), so for Bouknight to earn trust this quickly means a lot. It’s going to be very hard to keep him out of the rotation after the game he had.
Obviously, his role will be greatly decreased once Charlotte returns to full strength, but he showed the world just how much potential he has last night. Watch out, because if he continues to play like this, the Hornets just got a whole lot more dangerous.