Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham is one of the more sneaky-good players set to hit the NBA free agent market this offseason. Across the last two seasons he has averaged a combined 16.6 points and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 37.4 percent from beyond the arc.
It was just a year ago that Graham was the best young thing the Hornets had going for them. LaMelo Ball’s stud rookie campaign and Terry Rozier’s highly productive season took the spotlight away from Graham. The 26-year-old remains a reliable shooter and scorer who creates for others. Given the presence of Ball, Rozier and other youthful wings, chances are the Hornets won’t match a hefty offer sheet for Graham, who’s a restricted free agent.
Here are three ideal free agent destinations for Devonte’ Graham.
3) Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have a fascinating offseason ahead of them, highlighted by $20-plus million in cap space and selecting fourth in the NBA Draft. Devonte’ Graham is a compelling option for the Raptors.
With Kyle Lowry a free agent, head coach Nick Nurse’s starting backcourt for next season is a bit of a mystery, as the veteran could very well sign with a contender. Graham would step into their starting backcourt from the jump. Toronto has an array of efficient and capable shooters, which Graham would add to. Graham’s ability to sink outside shots over defenders is his greatest asset. Coupled with his sly passing ability, Graham could take over the point guard reins with Fred VanVleet moving into more of an off-the-ball role.
Graham and VanVleet would make for a youthful and ever-improving backcourt. Mixed in with Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher and a top-five pick, the Raptors would have the pieces to bounce back from missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
On the other hand, the Raptors could refrain from pursuing a lead guard in free agency given them having the ability to take one with the fourth selection and/or package their first-rounder in a trade. It’s also fair to wonder whether Lowry re-signing with the Raptors is still a possibility.
2) New York Knicks
The Knicks need someone to facilitate for their offense and someone who can help carry the scoring load. Devonte’ Graham would assist head coach Tom Thibodeau in both regards.
New York has a handful of young players like RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley who have the potential to grow more productive and effective. That said, this team needs more offensive firepower, which Graham would help provide. Graham’s ability to drain outside shots would complement Barrett well, and his passing ability would assist abrupt team star Julius Randle. Like Randle, Graham has only improved with age and wouldn’t necessarily have to be the driving force of the team’s offense.
As long as Barrett and Quickley take another step forward and Randle replicates his 2020-21 heroics, Graham would be part of a versatile, well-rounded offensive attack. The Knicks could sign Graham to a contract in the ballpark of $15-20 million a season and still have close to $30 million to improve their roster, not to mention having two first-round selections in this year’s draft. Graham improves the team at a plausible cost.
Why wouldn’t the Knicks pull out all the stops for Graham? It’s entirely possible that the team’s business-savvy front office feels it’s in the organization’s best interest to go star hunting on the trade market and use free agency to complement that player’s arrival.
1) Miami Heat
One way or another, the Heat have to make a move in their backcourt, as Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson and likely Goran Dragic are set to hit the free agent market this summer. Devonte’ Graham would be a shrewd signing for their sake.
First of all, the Heat wouldn’t be asking Graham to be the impetus or even the second motor of their offense; they’d be asking him to facilitate and shoot. With little attention on him (Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are attracting opposing defenses’ attention), Graham will get plenty of clean looks from distance. When Graham attacks the rack, Adebayo could get open for an easy, inside bucket. If and when Graham forces defenses to respect him off the dribble, Butler could have the luxury of not being double-teamed.
Graham will surely command a nice contract but nothing that’s breaking the bank, so to speak. Plus, one could argue that he’d be a better fit for the Heat than Nunn, who’s better suited being somewhat of a combo guard than a true one or two guard. Graham checks a lot of boxes for head coach Erik Spoelstra. He’s efficient from three-point land, finds his teammates and is capable of scoring off the dribble.
Devonte’ Graham is a valuable and improving player. Such a player could thrive with the Heat, who have done a superb job of developing young players. Heck, maybe they help Graham add a new dimension to his game?