The words “Charlotte Hornets” and “second-round pick” haven’t fit comfortably in the same sentence lately.
The Hornets have had a pattern in recent years of dealing away their second-round picks, sometimes for money. They took cash from the New Orleans Pelicans to trade back on draft night last month from No. 31 – first pick in the second round – to No. 40. But so far, what they got in the middle of the second round appears intriguing.
Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon looked anything but jittery or indecisive in his first summer league game, a 74-67 victory against the Miami Heat at the Orlando Magic’s practice gym.
Bacon took the game’s first shot, swishing from above the key. A few minutes later, handling the ball in transition, he whipped a behind-the-back bounce pass precisely to forward Anthony Gill for a dunk.
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It might be too strong to say Bacon was sizzling Saturday, but this was a promising debut: nine points, three rebounds and that assist in 27 minutes at shooting guard.
Bacon, 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, often describes his game as “smooth.” He knows he’s skilled, probably more than the coaching staff anticipated on draft night.
Plus, there is a pace about Bacon’s approach that is opposite what you see in so many NBA rookies: He isn’t prone to rushing and that paid a premium Saturday. When a rookie handling the ball frequently totals but one turnover in 27 minutes his first time out, things went well.
“He doesn’t rush at anything; it’s hard to speed him up,” Hornets small forward Treveon Graham said of Bacon. “He’s always going to go at his own pace, and that’s a good thing to have in a rookie. A lot of rookies have jitters and try to go really fast.”
Bacon occasionally draws comparison to seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson, for his build and ability to play multiple perimeter positions. Another analogy could be former Hornet Kendall Gill, as far as stocky in a boxer-like way, without losing athleticism or flexibility.
Bacon resembled Gill on a spectacular transition dunk Saturday. What did he think of his debut?
“I definitely need to correct some defensive mistakes. Then, just keep playing offense; the shots are definitely going to fall,” said Bacon, who was 3-of-9 from the field against the Heat.
Charlotte’s splashy rookie story this summer was billed to be Kentucky guard Malik Monk, who the Hornets drafted 11th overall. However, Monk has a lingering ankle sprain that will likely keep him out of any of the five summer games in Orlando.
That moved Bacon into the starting unit here, playing relatively near where he was born in Lakeland, Fla. One thing for sure: Bacon radiates confidence. He said that was solidified playing high school ball at famed Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.
“Coach (Steve) Smith taught me to be that way and that’s what I ran with in college. I’m calm and collected. I do things at my speed,” Bacon said.
How does he describe his game?
“I feel I’m a smooth player to get to my spots, but I feel like I have the energy and power to explode at any time,” Bacon continued.
“I’m a big guard. I can play like a (point guard). I can handle pressure situations. I love pressure situations. The time for me to explode is going to come soon.”
If that glimpse Saturday was any indication, it just might be so.