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Terry Rozier stuttering in lead role

Rozier has all the talent to be a success. After a trade to the Hornets, he was given the starting role he craved. Charlotte’s gamble might just pay off. 

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Like him or loathe him, Terry Rozier is part of Celtics history. Granted, in the grand scheme of the Celtic’s rich and illustrious past, Rozier is an often frustrating footnote, but his playoff run as Scary Terry was a peek into his possible potential.

Drafted 16th overall pick back in 2015, Rozier was the third-string point guard, playing behind both Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas. Rozier ended up averaging just eight minutes per game in his rookie season, seeing the floor in 39 games.

Celtics fans got treated to the good, the bad, and the ugly of Terry Rozier. One night he would be hot, the next cold. There were moments of “Scary Terry” and others of “what was Terry thinking.” It became clear that Rozier was the type of player who flourished at a high usage rate, but that opportunity rarely was accessible in Boston.

Rozier averaged 7.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists over 272 regular season games. He averaged a respectable 20 minutes on the floor, shooting 38 percent from the field, 35.4 percent from deep, and 77.7 percent from the line per Basketball Reference. Rozier’s poor shot selection and inability to find consistency around the rim of plagued his formative years; he has a 46.5 percent effective field goal rating.

Outside of his breakout 2018 playoff run, Rozier had been mostly average in the postseason. Playoffs are when stars shine their brightest, upping their game to new heights as the stakes begin to rise. Rozier’s accumulative splits over 50 playoff games per Basketball Reference are 9.8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. Rozier started 19 of those 50 games and shot 39.3 percent from the field, 33.5 percent from deep, and 80.9 percent from the line.

After last season’s abject performances and his questionable appearance on ESPN before free agency, the Boston Celtics and Rozier parted ways. A double sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets saw Boston acquire All-NBA point guard, Kemba Walker, while Rozier got paid along with the opportunity to be the starting guard for a rebuilding franchise.

To his credit, Rozier has shown signs of growth. His percentages are rising, along with his impact on games, as he becomes more accustomed to Charlotte’s system. Throughout this season, Rozier has posted averages of 18 points, 4.1 assists, and 4.4 rebounds, providing him with career highs in both scoring and assists. Rozier’s overall efficiency has improved, too; he’s scoring at career-highs of 42.3 percent from the field, 40.7 percent from deep, and 87.4 percent from the line over 63 games as a starter.

Looking closer at his improvements, Cleaning the Glass has Rozier ranked in the top 10 percent of all guards for both corner and non-corner threes. On defense, Rozier is playing prudently, only fouling two times per 100 possessions, which places him in the 92nd percentile of all guards in the league. Rozier has shown undebatable growth in certain aspects of his game. However, there is still plenty of work left if he wishes to hit the lofty heights of his predecessor.

Basketball is a team game, one which relies heavily on the point guard. Therefore, it would be unjust to not look at Rozier’s impact on the team during his time on the court and that impact does not paint a pretty picture. With Rozier on the floor, Cleaning the Glass has the Hornets at minus-16 wins, along with a negative 6.9 points per 100 possessions, ranking him in the bottom 17 percent of all guards.

There may be some explanation for this perceived negative overall effect. During Rozier’s time with Boston, he was predominantly a point guard, but this season for the Hornets, he has spent 62 percent of his time at the shooting guard position next to Most Improved Player candidate Devonte’ Graham.

James Borrego’s train of thought is understandable here, as Rozier was very productive at the shooting guard position during the small sample size he produced in Boston. In Charlotte, though, Rozier as the shooting guard is still a work in progress, but it does limit Rozier from the need to drive into the paint, which is one of his weakest areas on offense.

Terry Rozier positional statistics
Terry Rozier positional stats

For a team like the Hornets that is devoid of talent, Rozier will get time to learn on the fly. With a usage rate of 24 percent, the Hornets are looking for Rozier to continue to grow and develop into the floor general many perceived him to be just two years ago.

Development isn’t linear. Players improve, plateau, then improve some more. For right now, the Hornets fan base is experiencing Terry Rozier in a similarly frustrating fashion to which Celtics fans became so accustomed to. Rozier has all the talent to be a success. After a trade to the Hornets, he was given the starting role he craved. Charlotte’s gamble might just pay off.

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