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Did former Jayhawk Devonte' Graham catch a break or a bad deal with Charlotte on Sunday?

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Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte Graham gestures after making a 3-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, in Charlotte, N.C. The Hornets won 125-100. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)

Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte Graham gestures after making a 3-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, in Charlotte, N.C. The Hornets won 125-100. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek) by Matt Tait

If you follow the NBA at all, whether for the superstars and sensational storylines or the former Jayhawks scattered throughout the league, you surely know by now that some pretty big things went down on Sunday evening.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn. Kemba Walker to Boston. Al Horford to Philadelphia. D’Angelo Russell to Golden State. Jimmy Butler to Miami. And a dozen or so more free agent commitments that figure to reshape the immediate future of the NBA as we know it.

While all of those names and moves made headlines because of their star power and potential impact on the 2020 NBA title, one of them had an impact on a former Jayhawk that should be pretty significant by the time the 2019-20 season rolls around.

Walker’s departure from Charlotte opens the door for former KU All-American Devonte’ Graham to step into a much bigger role with the Hornets during his second season in the league.

Graham, you probably recall, spent most of his rookie season bouncing back and forth between Charlotte and the Hornets’ G League affiliate, playing solid but spotty minutes with the big club while absolutely crushing the competition at the G League level every time he went down.

That experience surely helped Graham (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) develop his pro game and also likely boosted his confidence. It’s one thing to drop 30-point-game after 30-point-game in college. It’s something completely different to do that — and more — against professionals.

Graham’s path to big time minutes is not completely clear, however. In response to losing Walker to free agency, the Hornets signed former Boston point guard Terry Rozier to a 3-year, $58 million deal, presumably with the idea of handing Rozier the keys to the Charlotte offense for the 2019-20 season.

Interesting move to be sure. And one that Graham could both benefit from and be hindered by in the months ahead.

Rozier, you might not know, is a fourth-year NBA vet out of Louisville (2015 Draft, No. 16 overall pick) who, like Graham thus far, spent the early days of his professional career bouncing back and forth between the NBA and the G League with Boston.

Last season, as the primary backup to Irving with the Celtics, Rozier (6-1, 190) averaged 9 points, 2.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 22.7 minutes per game while making just over $3 million for the 2018-19 season.

Those numbers are noteworthy because they’re not all that different from what Graham gave the Hornets if you factor in the money.

Graham, who last season made $988,000 during the first of a three-year, $4 million contract with Charlotte, averaged 4.7 points, 2.6 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game over 46 games.

So here’s where the Hornets sit. Instead of handing the job to Graham after what amounts to less than half a season in the NBA, they went out and paid major money to a guy with more experience.

Right move? Wrong move?

It’s hard to know. And it’s hard to blame them for doing something other than just giving the job to Graham. There’s no doubt that the former Jayhawk has what it takes to play at that level. But to do it as the primary point guard for 82 games with half a season of experience is a big jump for any rookie to make.

At $1.4 million this year, Graham certainly seems like the better value option for the Hornets. But they had to sign someone to handle the job with him.

Maybe they overpaid for Rozier. Maybe Rozier’s a star in the making. Maybe Graham will win the job — eventually — and make Rozier’s monster contract even more of a head-scratcher than it already is.

Maybe.

But that’s too many maybes for an NBA team that’s trying to compete and build itself into a contender.

So don’t look at the Rozier signing as a slight to Graham. Look at Walker’s decision to move on as the break Graham needed.

His minutes should go up this season. And he should have a real chance to crack the rotation on a regular basis. What he does from there is up to him.

But if Rozier’s career path — and its similarities to Graham’s — are any indication of what’s possible, Graham should be completely content with the position he’s in and hungrier than ever.

In two or three more years, that type of contract could be his.

Comments

David Robinett 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The contract won't matter if Devonte outplays Rozier.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

"If you follow the NBA at all..."

No, I don't follow the NBA at all, for the following reasons:

1) No team in Kansas City. The Kings left for Sacramento before I was born. If the NBA doesn't care to have a franchise in my area, why should I care about the NBA?

2) Too many prima donnas and drama queens who get paid millions to play/coach a kids' game, and yet act like they're not getting enough money.

3) Too many left-wing, Trump-hating loonies who like to lecture us about how racist we are for supporting Republicans (LeBron James and Steve Kerr are the worst offenders).

Corey Shideler 2 months, 3 weeks ago

LOL at this guy calling people that can't stand the idiot that has taken a sledgehammer to our Constitution "loonies". Hey Bryce, you helped elect the biggest embarrassment in the history of our country. The NBA doesn't give a flip about you or your viewership. I avoid these comments because it reminds me that even my fellow KU fans can be narrow-minded twits that can make a story about the NBA political. Good god. People like you make me ashamed to be from Kansas. Glad I got the hell out

James Miller 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I hate that y'all got political, but since you did...Bryce is right. The NBA has made social justice more important than offending half of their viewership. I do agree with Corey that the NBA does not give a flip about us, but hey it's tough being the outlaws...not doing what the media, celebrities, tv, movies, music, academics and/or liberals say to do. I still love our players in the NBA, but l now only watch games they play in, and I avoid pre-game shows and halftime. l like my sports politics free. I use to be a basketball junkie, but social justice warriors have ruined it for me. (ditto for football) (baseball is still cool...Go Royals)

James Miller 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Corey,

I carry the Constitution in my pocket...maybe you should do the same. You obviously know little about it.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Don't let them bring you down James. Arguing politics at a sport cite dedicated to the fans of the SAME team is a waste of time.

Tracey Graham 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The President of the United States is a sexist, a racist and a homophobe who clearly doesn't give a damn about people's basic human rights, but you are offended by a handful of athletes?

Eric TheCapn 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The reason for me is that most of them don't try... like at all... especially on D... until the fourth quarter... of the first round of the playoffs.

College ball is all effort all day and therefore way more entertaining.

Lance Iamnot 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Trying to get as much money as possible, and getting paid a fortune for your skills is the epitome of capitalism. The NBA is pure ultra strength capitalism. It is all about the money.

Bryce, are you a socialist?

Jeff Coffman 2 months, 3 weeks ago

A salary cap says otherwise, if we are getting technical.

Al Martin 2 months, 3 weeks ago

So, just to be clear, you politicized this basketball story to criticize the NBA for politicizing basketball, right? Moron.

Kyle Neuer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

If you Republicans are going to stand with people that wave nazi and confederate flags and welcome their support, expect to get called out for it. There's no excuse for standing with people that revere two nations that had to be crushed into unconditional surrender by the US.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Kyle, the majority of posters stay out of politics. I care about Graham landing on his feet next year but I and others couldn't care less about which Party you belong to.

James Miller 2 months, 2 weeks ago

White supremacists are as much of the right as Muslim extremists, Antifa and socialists/communists are the left.

So you can go hang with your commie, infanticide loving, milkshake throwing, snowflakes.

Have a blessed day.

Trace Stark 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Were you an Obama hating right wing loony Landon? My bets on yes.

Dale Rogers 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I realize none of them will play 48 minutes every game but if you extrapolate the numbers out to 48 minutes, Graham's and Rozier's numbers are pretty close to the same. Graham does significantly better in assists, Rozier a couple of points better on points scored, and Rozier does significantly better rebounding (about 8 to 5). Intangibles? No idea.

David Howell 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I watch very little NBA basketball .......... Unless I catch a former KU player or a token playoff game.

Where they recently lost me is with OWNERSHIP. Apparently today's players are refusing to address the Owner as the "Owner". Commissioner Silver has taken their side and decided they should be called "Governors". What a bunch of BS .............

Lance Iamnot 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Even without your interest the NBA is booming now like never in the history of the NBA. Pro basketball is being played all over the world. Pro baseball, on the other hand...

Jeff Coffman 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Recheck your figures. There have been two $320MM contracts signed for baseball this past year. There are $100MM contracts all the time. Baseball operates without a salary cap and therefore players are afforded even larger contracts.

Sports in general are doing well more because of the need for "Live" entertainment. Baseball sells 162153 hours each year. Basketball sells 82152 hours each year. Yes basketball might sell more per hour, but they just don't have enough hours. This is the same dilemma Football has 1638 hours. Even with 73 of the top 100 live events the NFL suffers from not enough hours to sell. Baseball has quantity with enough per hour sold that really puts it in an avenue ahead of many others.

What I'm not saying is MLB is king, what I am saying is that they have a high quality product that is sought after at the local market sell rate. NBA is promoting more of a National sells portfolio and the NFL tries to make every hour count.

Also with the NFL you are paying 57 players (3 practice), MLB 25 (with call ups at 40), and NBA you are only paying I think the number is 12.

James Miller 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Social justice issues moved football down to #2. Basketball keeps it off camera which is cool. Players can where pregame t-shirts that are controversial, for instance, but mostly they do their political talk off the court, which is ok with me.

For instance, LBJ talks a gang of crap about our Commander in Chief, but he does it on his personal time. Cool. I disagree with him, but I ain't mad at him. Just keep it off the court, so I can enjoy a great game.

Basketball also has had a resurgence of talent. Baseball will always be America's favorite past time!!!!

Jim Stauffer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

And the reason the NBA is so successful? Of course, it is the very talented kids who came through college who are making the league somewhat watchable again. We get to see them at the original level. I prefer that. NBA players show us what these college kids can become when they are allowed unlimited practice. What makes it a bit boring is the lack of mistakes they make. And when they make one it is because they are moving at a pace we can hardly keep up with visually. They are very very good at basketball. Yeah, there are other issues that detract. Egotisim and greed, but those guys are good. Watch them hit those threes when they aren't even open.

Tracey Graham 2 months, 2 weeks ago

What's BS about that? I wouldn't want the person who bought the company that I work for be called my owner.

Tony Bandle 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Any appearance of NBA basketball to Doc Naismith's basketball is strictly a coincidence. I look at NBA ball being equivalent to World Wrestling on a wood floor. The NBA commits the greatest entertainment sin of all.......IT'S BORING!!

I must confess that once a college student graduates and goes pro, Jayhawk or not, they cease to exist in my world. And that is a bloody shame.

Tim Orel 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I mostly agree, Tony, but I do miss the "Jayhawks in the NBA" column that would list all the Jayhawks and their major stats from the night before.

Dane Pratt 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Totally agree. I don't know how they managed to do it but the NBA is BOOOOOOOOOORING. However, I do care about Jayhawks after they leave Lawrence and that is the only I interest I have in the NBA. I want to see them succeed.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't think that the NBA game is boring, I just think that it's too diluted. There are too many games. The 82 game season means that too many of the games don't matter. But the rivalry games are generally taken very seriously, even in the regular season. The intensity level that teams play with in the playoffs is actually pretty incredible though... however, the playoffs still is a long game because of the best of 7 format. It's just so different from the college game, where every loss in nonconference matters to tourney seeding, where the conference championship matters, the conference tournaments matter, the single elimination style raises the stakes.

If you have a favorite team the NBA is can be very exciting. Because you know the players and the storylines and the most hated rivals. But it can be very hard to watch a regular season game even when it's one of my favorite teams, if they are playing against a team that is of no concern of mine.

Tracey Graham 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The NBA may reduce the number of regular season games in the near future. That's one of the proposals the Commissioner has floated out this summer, along with the idea of play-in games for the postseason and midseason tournament. The latter idea makes no sense to me -- who cares who is ahead in the standing midway through the season? But reducing the number of games (say, to 75) could be a good idea. Especially now that "load management" has become a thing

Mark Wooden 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Devonte is a tweener. A G league star and bench player in the NBA

Mark Wooden 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Also NBA is about the contract. Just ask Milt Newton how that worked out for him.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Milt wasn't ready for the NBA but became the Assistant Director of USA Basketball.

Newton joined the NBA front office and was instrumental in launching the NBA Development League, joined Washington Wizards as their Vice President of player personnel in 2003. In September 2013, he was hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves as their general manager and has been mentioned for several open decisions.

Maybe Milt knew what he was doing.

Chad Smith 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I think one of the biggest reasons the college game is still way more interesting is that their is a big onus on the coaching and the coaches of the game.

In the NBA, players dictate so much of what happens off the court and these unions of all-world players on one squad just creates the wrong kind of parody and power shift. Nothing is more boring than essentially knowing before the playoffs start which teams are going to be there at the end (barring Injury). You knew the warriors were going to be in the Finals. When Durant and Klay went down, you knew that the raptors were probably going to win.

It was refreshing to see a team like the Bucks rise up this season. But now with Davis and Lebron Joining forces and KD and Kyrie joining forces, when KD gets healthy, it's going to be Nets-Lakers in the finals for multiple years. I don't ever remember players in the 80s and 90s campaigning for other players to join their teams.

Dane Pratt 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I suppose it comes down to personal preference but I find college sports inherently more exciting. In my experience there is something about the level of enthusiasm at a professional game that feels fabricated where the college game feels more organic. Might be alcohol consumption, might be that college audiences are typically younger. Preference aside, I care way more about KU football and basketball than the Royals or Chiefs.

Dale Stringer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

It always seems to me that the NBA and WWE are comparable. Both seem scripted to make it enjoyable as long as possible and suspenseful, but still have the fan favorite win in the end.

Tracey Graham 2 months, 2 weeks ago

If that's the case, then how did the Toronto Raptors just win the NBA title? They weren't the "fan favorite". In fact, the "fan favorite" (LeBron & the Lakers) didn't even make the playoffs.

James Miller 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Making the Lakers the World Champs this last year, would be like making No Way Jose the Universal Champion.

Tracey Graham 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I watch a ton of NBA basketball. Devonte' struggled badly with his shooting last season (34.3% overall, 28.1% from 3-point range) and he was poor on defense. He did do a solid job as a ballhandler, though.

Terry Rozier had a breakout performance in the 2017-18 playoffs. If the Celtics hadn'tt decided to chase Walkeer after Irving made it clear he wasn't sticking around, Rozier would have been Boston's starting PG this coming season. Instesd, he will be Charlotte's, There won't be an open competition for the position. Devonte' should get more playing time this season and he likely won't be bouncing back and forth to the G-League like he was last season. But a realistic prediction would be him getting around 18 MPG as the Hornets' backup PG.

However, there is also a thought among Hornets' fans that Malik Monk could be the primary backup PG. So Devonte' better shoot the ball a LOT better and improve his defense if he wants to be in the rotation.

(I can say the same thing about Frank Mason, by the way. Only difference is, Devonte' is under contract while the Kings may not pick up Mason's 3rd yr option)

Shannon Gustafson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Tony Parker (last year's backup) retiring likely has a bigger impact on Graham's minutes than swapping startup PG's.

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