Dwayne Bacon hadn’t even fielded a question before he was likened to a future Hall of Famer.
It wasn’t on purpose – at least, not at first. When sleep-deprived general manager Rich Cho took the podium for the Charlotte Hornets’ rookie introductions Friday, he rattled off a list of attendees with perfect accuracy. But not before he welcomed the two newest Hornets: Malik Monk and ...
Cho, of course, meant Dwayne Bacon, the 6-foot-6 guard from Florida State and not the three-time NBA champion for the Chicago Bulls. The rookie’s face said it all, as his already wide grin grew wider. Who could forget a name like Bacon?
But Cho, through embarrassed laughs, doubled down on his inadvertent introduction.
“Actually,” he said, “I think they have some similarities.”
It was high praise, even if accidental. And Bacon later agreed with Cho, who also compared the former Seminole to seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson.
“They’re smooth players that can score the ball,” Bacon said. “And I fall right in that bracket.”
Yet there’s one key difference between the three players: Wade and Johnson were top-10 picks with All-NBA trajectories. Bacon was taken in the second round.
That’s not to say the Hornets didn’t want him. On Thursday, Cho said Bacon was on the team’s radar at No. 31, but he felt the Hornets could snag him at No. 40 after trading down with the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Hornets picked Duke point guard Frank Jackson and traded him to the Pelicans for the 40th pick and cash, and Bacon slid nine spots into the open arms of the Hornets.
It’s a slide that seemed unlikely two years ago, when Bacon was a top-15 prospect coming out of famed Oak Hill Academy (Va.). He excelled in his first year with Florida State, setting the Seminoles’ freshman scoring record and generating as much buzz for his fiery play as his sizzling name.
But Bacon had unfinished business at Florida State, so he turned down a potential first-round slot for a second year in Tallahassee. He improved as a 3-point shooter – from 28.1 percent to 33.3 percent – and carried a heavier scoring load, as the Seminoles made their first NCAA tournament in five years.
Bacon’s stock slipped, though, and his name wasn’t called until four hours into Thursday’s draft.
“I don’t regret any decision I made,” Bacon said Friday. “I felt like I got a lot better.”
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said he’s already made tapes for both Monk and Bacon showing their college games and areas in which they can improve. Bacon already knows what’ll be on his tape, and it’s the same thing that has plagued both Wade and Johnson throughout their careers: outside shooting.
For most prospects, their free-throw rate in college is a better indicator of 3-point success in the pros than their percentage from beyond the arc. It’s counterintuitive, but for Bacon – a 73.3 percent free-throw shooter in college – it’s a positive sign.
Wade and Johnson improved their 3-point shot over time, and Bacon is sure that eventually he can do the same. He’ll need help on the defensive end, too, and he said guidance from Clifford can help him address the problem areas of his game.
But an improving jumper and inconsistent defense are mere bumps in the road for a natural-born scorer like Bacon, who made waves offensively the past two seasons.
He didn’t shy away from touting his talents at the podium. After averaging 16.5 points for his career at an ACC school, he shouldn’t have to.
“I don’t back down from anything,” he said.
So it should come as no surprise that Bacon, once-touted recruit turned second-round pick, would embrace the Wade remark. He knows Cho was up all night fielding draft calls, so the name drop was likely more subliminal than intentional. But Bacon will take it either way.
“I think it’s a comparison,” he said. “Low key, I think he was thinking of me and Dwyane Wade playing alike.”
It’s a lofty standard, even greater than Monk’s rookie of the year goals. But if Bacon even approaches Wade’s NBA production, he’ll have the game as unforgettable as his name.
C Jackson Cowart: @CJacksonCowart