While LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward deserve a ton of credit for the fifth place Charlotte Hornets’ success this season, Terry Rozier has played a vital role as well and is deserving of some serious recognition.
In the midst of his best season as a pro, Rozier, so for, has been a consistent option for the Hornets and one of the bigger surprises this season, both in Charlotte and in the NBA as a whole. Lately, he’s been even better; in their last five games, Rozier has averaged 29.8 points per game. He’s scored at least 33 in three straight, including a 41-point outburst against the Minnesota Timberwolves, his second 40-point game of the season
Rozier’s 20.1 points per game on the season is a bit less glamourous than that aforementioned stretch, but it would still represent a career-high for the sixth-year guard. Still, more than his scoring, what’s truly been so impressive from Rozier this season has been his efficiency.
In fact, it isn’t hyperbole to say that Rozier has been one of the best, most efficient scorers this season. Of the 40 players currently averaging at least 20 points per game, Rozier is 12th in true shooting percentage at 62.5 percent, per NBA.com. That mark, so far, would place him ahead of Bradley Beal, Luka Doncic, Kawhi Leonard, Devin Booker and LeBron James
But how has he been so efficient? Well, it starts beyond the three-point line, where Rozier has been elite this season. Currently, Rozier is 16th in three-point attempts per game (7.7) and eighth in made threes per game (3.4), good for a 44.5 percent field goal percentage.
Rozier has also spent a lot more time off-ball this season, while he has flourished on catch-and-shoot opportunities. Rozier has made 50.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers, per NBA.com. Surrounded by so many playmakers, Charlotte’s offense has enabled Rozier to just play his game, shoot the lights out of the ball and open up the floor for guys like Ball and Hayward.
Another improvement for Rozier has come in the turnover department. While this can be partially attributed to the fact that Ball and Hayward often serve as the primary ball handlers, Rozier has just been far more careful with the ball than in seasons past as he’s averaged just 1.7 turnovers per game.
More recently, the game has opened up even further for Rozier as the Hornets have shifted to a three-guard of himself, Ball and Devonte’ Graham. The three-man group has averaged 121 points per 100 possessions and a plus-21 overall.
When Charlotte first acquired Rozier in a sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics, many figured the $56 million they gave him was an overpay. The fact that longtime-Hornet Kemba Walker was sent back to Boston in the deal didn’t endear Rozier to many fans, either.
That said, his play this season has silenced the critics. Now, an essential part of this Charlotte roster, Rozier deserves a ton of credit for how he’s been able to improve his game and play to the level of his contract.
Going forward, it’ll be interesting to see how Rozier’s contract affects the Hornets’ free agent plans, specifically in regards to Graham who is set to be a restricted free agent after the season. Rozier is guaranteed $19 million next season. Prior to the season and with Ball in tow, the team might have tried to move Rozier’s deal to make way for Graham or another piece.
But, with the way he’s played, could they even consider that now? It may be too soon to speculate, but Rozier’s ascension might just force the Hornets to alter their plan going forward.
The Hornets, for the first time in a long time, look like a playoff team. And, while the rookie phenom Ball and the major free agent acquisition Hayward deserve their fair share of the credit, Rozier has played an integral role in the team’s turnaround.
If he can continue to play at an elite level, it’ll no longer be a question if Charlotte can make the postseason, but rather just how high could they finish amongst the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.
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