Just two-and-a-half weeks into the new season and there are already a handful of surprises.
The Suns and the Magic are at or near the top of the standings in their respective conferences, while the Mavericks and the Raptors are near the bottom. Sexland is taking the league by storm in Cleveland and Tobias Harris looks to be living up to that hefty contract.
But the biggest surprise may be coming from a guard in Charlotte, who seems to be bouncing back from a less than stellar year last season.
Terry Rozier burst onto the scene in Boston three years ago, where he posted career highs in almost every statistical category coming off the bench for the Celtics. There were hopes that he and Kyrie Irving would be the point guards of the future and help lead Boston back to the finals for years to come.
However, dysfunction surrounded the Celtics the following year, as the young bucks who led them all the way to the Conference Finals had trouble meshing with the veterans who had missed significant time because of injury the previous season.
With the 2019 free agency looming and the Hornets unwilling to front the bill of a supermax for Kemba Walker, the Celtics parted ways with Rozier in a sign-and-trade with the Hornets which swapped guards and gave Charlotte its new point guard of the future, albeit at a hefty price.
While his numbers improved in a starting role with the Hornets (averaging 18 points a night along with just over four assists), he was outshined by Devonte Graham who finished fourth in Most Improved Player voting last year behind Brandon Ingram, Bam Adebayo and Luka Dončić.
This year though, Rozier seems to be making his case for the MIP award. In three fewer minutes a night compared to last year, while his assist numbers have dipped, Rozier’s scoring average has gone up five points with his shooting averages increasing by seven percent from the field and nearly five percent from three.
But where are these improvements coming?
Rozier has moved to more of an off ball role this season and that has paid dividends for him. Last season, 17% of the shots he took came with the ball in his hands for six seconds or longer, while shooting just 38% on those shots.
This season, Rozier has seen just 4% of his shots come from that variety, while over 50% of his shots are coming when he has the ball for two seconds or fewer and knocking down 49% of those shots.
Simply put, Rozier is thriving in an offense where he has guys like Graham (7 assists per game) and Gordon Hayward (5.2 APG) setting him up for great opportunities and not relying on his own playmaking to get his own buckets.
This puts the Hornets in an interesting position. Lamelo Ball, while his shooting hasn’t been great early in the year, has shown the elite ability to facilitate and wowing us all with his passing. He will soon be vying for time in the starting lineup which would leave head coach James Borrego with a tough decision to make.
While Charlotte could look to keep this roster as is and fight for a spot in the play-in tournament, they could also gauge the interest of teams across the league that are looking for an off ball scorer like Rozier.
With the way guys like Miles Bridges and PJ Washington have performed so far this season, giving them even more chances within the offense to create and score could be beneficial for long-term development.
Not only that, but a trade package for Rozier could include a pick in this year’s draft, giving Charlotte at least two cracks at finding another young piece to add to the young core in such a loaded class.
Whichever direction the Hornets decide to go, Rozier looks to be a guy that can benefit them either way.