Charlotte Hornets

How Treveon Graham keeps making his case to stay a Charlotte Hornet

Treveon Graham (12) didn’t play much for the Charlotte Hornets’ last season, but he earned coach Steve Clifford’s respect with defense and savvy.
Treveon Graham (12) didn’t play much for the Charlotte Hornets’ last season, but he earned coach Steve Clifford’s respect with defense and savvy. AP

Forward Treveon Graham was no lock before the start of Orlando summer league to make the Charlotte Hornets again next season.

He’s still not a lock. However, the way he’s played in the Hornets’ first two games presents a prime case for him sticking around beyond the preseason.

In Saturday’s victory over the Miami Heat, Graham finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Sunday, in an 84-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Graham scored 18 points, making six of his 12 shots from the field. He and second-round pick Dwayne Bacon (eight points and four rebounds Sunday) have been the stories for the Hornets this summer league.

Multiple times last season, Steve Clifford said he’d trust Treveon Graham to play with a game on the line. That speaks to two attributes; Graham’s savvy, particularly on defense, and his concentration even when he’s not playing.

That comes as no surprise to Hornets coach Steve Clifford. Multiple times last season, Clifford said he’d trust Graham to play with a game on the line. That speaks to two attributes; Graham’s savvy, particularly on defense, and his concentration even when he’s not playing.

Assistant Stephen Silas, who is coaching the Hornets’ summer team, says you never see Graham have a brain cramp: Each assignment he’s where he’s supposed to be and mentally in the flow, whether he plays three minutes of mop-up time or a big role filling in for an injured teammate.

Fans didn’t see much of him: 189 minutes spread over 27 of the Hornets’ 82 regular-season games. But he’s had these summer games in a hammerlock, and that might make some difference when the Hornets decide who to keep in October.

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Treveon Graham is having a big summer for the Charlotte Hornets and that must continue if he intends to stay on the roster. Matt Slocum AP

The Hornets’ biggest hole entering free-agency Saturday was a backup point guard. They came to terms with Michael Carter-Williams on a one-season, $2.7 million deal he will sign once the NBA’s moratorium ends July 7.

The Hornets don’t have much payroll flexibility, in part because they added guaranteed salary in acquiring center Dwight Howard. The Hornets need a third point guard. Based on how the roster has been constructed in the past with Clifford coaching, they would also bring in another big man (probably a veteran-minimum type player).

Graham could change that plan with his performance. At 6-5 and 219 pounds, his body type is best suited for small forward at the NBA level. The Hornets already have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist there and Nic Batum plays about as much small forward as he does shooting guard. Also, Bacon, 6-7, looks like a promising project.

That could put a squeeze on Graham, except he’s versatile enough to play some power forward. At Virginia Commonwealth, he occasionally played everything from shooting guard to center. Again, he’s proved himself smart and adaptive.

He’s having a big summer, and that must continue. He showed up last fall without a good enough jump shot for his position. That’s improved. He wasn’t a good enough ballhandler, which meant opponents could force him to drive left and neutralize him.

So just about every day this off-season he has a regimen: Shooting drills with assistant Bruce Kreutzer. Strength and conditioning in the weight room. Then a ballhandling session with Silas.

Don’t mess with that system; it’s paying dividends. It just might keep him lucratively employed come October.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

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