Scary Terry Gives The Hornets Their Sting

Terry Rozier is playing his best basketball of the season, and the Hornets are peaking at the right time.

Since December, when Terry and many other Hornets battled COVID, he’s gotten consistently better each month: 16.4 points per game in December, 19.3 in January, 21.8 in February, and 22.8 in March. His FG% has increased each month, too, topping out in March at an excellent 49.7%.

Not coincidentally, this has been Charlotte’s best month as a team since October, as they ripped off a recent five-game winning streak en route to a current 8-3 mark for March. Rozier’s play is a bellwether for Charlotte: he shoots 51% in wins vs. just 39% in losses.

Star point guard LaMelo Ball is Charlotte’s engine, and forwards Miles Bridges and Gordon Hayward each get more attention, but Terry Rozier has nights where he looks like the Hornets’ most essential player. He possesses a jack-of-all-trades skillset that allows him to play a variety of styles both with and without the ball.

Synergy Sports shows an unusually diverse shot profile. Terry spends about equal amounts of time spotting up for bombs, getting out in transition, and running the pick and roll as a secondary ball-handler. He also is quite active off-ball, darting around screens and taking dribble hand-offs to shoot tightly-contested jumpers or slither into the paint.

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He’s become adept at drifting to corners when defenders are ball-watching to get an open look, and one of the Hornets’ favorite sets involves him running to the paint before doubling back around a screening big man for a three:

Terry has incredible chemistry with center Mason Plumlee. Plumlee (a highly underrated passer) has almost half-again as many assists to Terry (54) as the next-closest player (Bridges, 37):

Terry even has a surprisingly effective isolation game when needed (in the 83rd percentile, according to Synergy Sports), which comes in handy for his regular late-game heroics.

Rozier was one of the NBA’s clutchest players last season, and although he hasn’t been as accurate in crunch time this season, he still leads the team in shot attempts within the last 5 minutes of close games. He’s never scared of the moment, and his ability to score from anywhere on the court, regardless of defenders, makes it easier for him to get a shot off than anyone else on the team:

Rozier is an acceptable finisher at the rim for a 6’2” guard and a good midrange shooter, but his biggest strength lies behind the arc. After struggling from outside early in his career, Rozier has emerged as a consistently accurate, high-volume marksman over the last few seasons. He’s tenth in the league in 3PA at 8.3 per game, and he’s hitting 38% of those shots; the only guy in the league more prolific and more accurate is Toronto’s Fred VanVleet.

But enough with the statistics and numbers! Rozier is about the vibe, man. Why would you shoot a three-pointer standing still when you could fade sideways instead?

Why do a normal behind-the-back dribble when you can put Shakespearean amounts of English on it?

Terry Rozier swashbuckles. He brings a feistiness to the Hornets that they need, a dose of personal swagger to complement LaMelo Ball’s flashy passes and Miles Bridges’ high-flying rim demolitions.

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He talks endless amounts of trash, gets under opponents’ skins (just ask Eric Bledsoe about it), and never passes up an opportunity for a highlight.

Defensively, Rozier isn’t good, exactly, but he is active. He gets caught ball-watching and tends to gamble for steals. Like, where is he even going here?

Terry is better on-ball. Rozier loves to harass opposing point guards with constant swipes at the rock and hand checks, but he does a surprisingly good job of avoiding fouls.

Rozier has shown flashes of being a good guard defender, but he (and the rest of the Hornets, for that matter) probably needs a coach who will instill better discipline in him and curtail his worst instincts (sorry, James Borrego).

Defense is the problem with the Hornets in general. They’re 20th in the league on that side of the ball, which is actually an improvement since the beginning of the season. Even with their current strong play, they sit ninth in the East, and they will likely have to beat two other play-in teams to earn a spot in the real playoffs.

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I hope they do! Watching basketball is about having fun, and no team is more fun than the Hornets. It’s hard to see them winning a seven-game series against the Heat or Bucks, but this is a young team on the rise. Rozier’s undeniable skill, inherent unpredictability, and unflappable swagger give the Hornets their sting.

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Michael Shearer is an NBA obsessive who writes to answer the questions he has about the league. You can follow him @bballispoetry. He also is a contributing writer for Fansided at Hoops Habit and writes a free NBA analytical newsletter at basketballpoetry.com that goes out every Tuesday and Friday.

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