If next season for the Charlotte Hornets can’t be about wins, it at least must be about answers.
Answers to questions like, “Is there a long-term solution at shooting guard?”
Once the Hornets complete the acquisition of Terry Rozier on July 6, they will have a replacement for Kemba Walker at point guard. That makes shooting guard their most unresolved position. Jeremy Lamb is signing with the Indiana Pacers after being the Hornets’ second-leading scorer last season (15.3 points per game).
That leaves Dwayne Bacon and Malik Monk as the young guys at the shooting-guard position. Bacon chose to participate on the Hornets’ summer league roster. So far, Monk has not. Unless coach James Borrego opts for veteran Nic Batum, Bacon or Monk figures to be a starter opening night in October on a rebuilding team.
Bacon might be a second-round pick from 2017, but he made major strides the end of last season. He says he’s ready for a big jump in responsibility.
“We lost so many guys. Right now, I could be one of the main pieces. I’ve been here all summer (working out in Charlotte), and I don’t plan to leave anytime soon,” said Bacon.
The Hornets always have recognized Bacon’s potential: Then-coach Steve Clifford said during Bacon’s rookie season that the Florida State product could eventually be a starter because he has the strong build (6-7 and 221 pounds) and athleticism to be a top defender as well as a scorer.
When Borrego went to a younger rotation late last season, he made Bacon a starter. Over the last 18 games, Bacon averaged 11.4 points and shot 45 percent from the field.
The Hornets drafted Monk 11th overall in 2017. Though Monk has a slim build for an NBA shooting guard (6-3 and 200 pounds), he was viewed as a gifted enough scorer to have impact. But in his first two seasons, to a large degree due to shaky defense, Monk has been in and out of the rotation.
Monk wasn’t on the summer league roster the Hornets released, and he wasn’t at practice Monday or Tuesday. Hornets assistant Ron Nored, who is coaching the summer team that starts play in Las Vegas Friday, said he hopes Monk will be there, whether or not he chooses to play.
Bacon said he’s also encouraged Monk to participate. He said Monk has been part of the off-season program, lifting weights and working out with the coaches. Monk said in April his summer priority was to add strength and bulk.
It’s the norm for NBA players to stop participating in summer league after their second seasons. However, considering how underwhelming Monk has been so far for the Hornets — and the playing time available with Lamb’s departure — it sends an odd signal that he’s not involved to Bacon’s degree.
Bacon was drafted 40th overall two years ago. The Hornets have had a crowd at shooting guard and small forward both of his NBA seasons. Bacon said he’s always been patient about his development, and his actions reflect that.
Last season he embraced assignments to the G-League Greensboro Swarm. Sometimes he’d ask to be sent to the Swarm before general manager Mitch Kupchak would suggest it. Bacon says he’d always prefer playing to sitting, whether that means the Hornets or the Swarm.
In 17 games with the Swarm, he averaged 22.3 points, seven rebounds and 32 minutes per game. The Hornets told him to use Swarm games to experiment with skills he might be reluctant to try in a Hornets game. Specifically, instead of relying mainly on mid-range jump shots, he launched a bunch of 3-pointers.
Last season, Bacon made 38 of 87 3-point attempts with the Hornets, a 44 percent average. As a rookie, he was 11 of 43, for 26 percent. It’s essential Bacon is a 3-point threat to succeed at shooting guard.
Nored said his goal with Bacon in summer league will be to place him with the ball in more pick-and-roll situations, to see how Bacon creates offense for himself and others. That features Bacon in a role he hasn’t played in the NBA before.
Sounds significant. Particularly if it’s sustainable. This team sure needs a shooting guard.
Hornets Summer League Roster
No., Player, Pos., College/Country, Yrs Pro
10, Francis Alonso, G, UNC-Greensboro/Spain, R
7, Dwayne Bacon, F, Florida State, 2
0, Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State, 1
31, Joe Chealey, G, College of Charleston, 1
22, Torin Dorn, G, N.C. State, R
23, Robert Franks, F, Washington State, R
4, Devonte Graham, G, Kansas, 1
24, Isaiah Hicks, C, North Carolina, 2
18, Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Betaland Capo d’Orlando (Italy)/ Lithuania, R
55, J.P. Macura, G, Xavier, 1
21, Greg Malinowski, G, Georgetown, R
11, Cody Martin, G, Nevada, R
6, Jalen McDaniels, F, San Diego State, R
33, Kennedy Meeks, C, North Carolina, R
43, Josh Perkins, G, Gonzaga, R
12, Kerwin Roach, G, Texas, R
28, Elijah Thomas, C, Clemson, R
25, PJ Washington Jr., F, Kentucky, R
Hornets Summer League Schedule
At Las Vegas
July 5: Golden State Warriors, 9 p.m., NBATV
July 7: San Antonio Spurs, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
July 8: China, 11 p.m., ESPNU
July 10: Chicago Bulls, 5 p.m., NBATV
Game 5: TBD