New Orleans swans They struck their first free agency signing Monday night, sending a first-round pick to the Charlotte Hornets in a signature and trade-guard deal. Devont Graham. The deal is for four years and is valued at $47 million.
Graham is entering his fourth year in the league after picking Charlotte for the second round in 2018 after his collegiate career at the University of Kansas.
He struggled as a rookie, splitting time between the Hornets and their branch in the G League, Greensboro Storm. In his second season, Graham made the leap, starting 53 games in the shortened COVID season. He increased his scoring output by 14 points per game while also shooting an impressive 37% from outside the arc.
Last season, Graham couldn’t reach the same heights, in large part because he had to share minutes with talented guards LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. The Hornets had an embarrassment of riches at the guard post, which made Graham the odd man out.
How does Graham Defonte affect the New Orleans Pelicans?
The Pelicans struggled in floorspace last season, finishing 25th in the NBA with a 3-point shot. Graham helps give an immediate injection to this problem, which boasted a 37 percent mark of downtown this past season. In attempts to snap and shoot, that percentage swells to 42 percent, one of the best marks in the NBA.
Although Graham shows great ingenuity as an outside shooter, he has problems with efficiency. He has 37.6 percent field goals, which is bad. Graham struggles even with the open look, making 40 percent of shots over four feet.
Although Stan Van Gundy did not use this aspect of his game, Lonzo Pool Maestro was with basketball and gave the Pelicans a unique item that few teams had. Graham is considered the best in the modern day combo guard, focusing more on scoring himself rather than managing the attack.
Graham is a good player but a clear fallback from Lonzo Ball, regardless of the contract teams. The scoring potential is exciting, but the Pelicans still lack a consistent third-scoring option.
Overall score: C +
If Graham is a key player next season, I’m concerned about the trajectory of this team. It’s best used off the bench but seems to hinder the development of young goalkeepers Kyra Lewis Jr. and Nickel Alexander Walker. The deal provides more questions than answers.