We’re a couple of games into the fun and frenzied spectacle that is preseason basketball, which means the real stuff is getting closer by the minute. It also means that the Canis Hoopus Player Previews are in full swing. Today, we will be examining Treveon Graham one of the plethora of new recruits who arrived this summer.
After spending two seasons in Charlotte and the 2018-19 campaign with the Brooklyn Nets, the 25-year-old was traded to Minnesota in the offseason along with Shabazz Napier. While it wasn’t the Brooklyn trade most had hoped for, it was a crafty move by Gersson Rosas. Over his career, Graham has averaged 4.1 points and 2 rebounds in 15.6 minutes per game, shooting 39.6 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from long-range.
While he was originally thought to be an end-of-bench guy who would simply be making up the numbers, the Maryland native has impressed during training camp. He continued to show out in the first preseason outing against Phoenix, earning himself a starting gig for game two against Golden State.
Head coach Ryan Saunders has stated that he is going to tinker with his line-ups over the exhibition season, but it’s still telling that Graham has his hat in the ring to assume the fifth starter spot that seems to be up for grabs. He looks to have cemented at least a minor role in the rotation for now, even if he is pipped by Jake Layman, Jarrett Culver, or even Noah Vonleh for the starting role when the regular season comes around.
Graham isn’t a flashy player by any means, that’s not his modus operandi. He replaces the flamboyance with straight-up grit. Defensively is where it shines through the most. With tenacity, lateral quickness, and a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Graham is a multifaceted and versatile defender. Should he assume a role in Saunders’ rotation, he will be able to guard small forwards and most power forwards, as well as switching onto point-of-attack ball-handlers and holding his own.
Minnesota finished 24th in defensive rating last season, which was actually their best finish since 2013-14. So it’s fair to say defensive improvement is highlighted on their whiteboard. With Saunders and defensive coordinator David Vanterpool preaching a smaller, more switch-heavy defense, Graham could fit the mold perfectly. He isn’t going to wow you when you sift through his defensive stats, but the eye test shows he is better than advertised. That’s the reason he was in Kenny Atkinson’s playoff-bound rotation last season.
As for his shooting, it’s a roller coaster to look at his career numbers. He shot a sizzling 60 percent in his rookie season with the Hornets, but that came on just 0.5 attempts per game. He upped his volume in year two, jacking 1.5 per game, while still maintaining a red-hot 41.2 percent clip. Then, after a variety of injuries, he plummeted last season, hitting just 29.7 percent of the 3.7 he attempted per night.
Perhaps it was the leap in volume, the injuries, or something in between, but Graham will be looking to trend more toward his rookie and sophomore season in 2019-20. If he can, he will almost certainly be involved in Wolves ball on a regular basis.
The coaching staff has been hammering home the idea of shooting more triples, evidenced in the whopping 44 triples per game they have launched over the first two preseason games. The problem is they have only hit 11 per game, which is good — or bad — for 25 percent. The idea is right, they need to start playing modern basketball, but they also need the personnel to do so. A sweet-shooting version of Treveon Graham fits that bill.
Outside of the shooting and defense, Graham doesn’t provide a whole lot. His handle is quite loose, he doesn’t finish well over or through rim-protectors, and he isn’t going to create his own shot very often. He is the quintessential 3-and-D guy. Assuming last season was simply a down year from deep.
If he doesn’t get the magic back from deep, Graham’s rotational stint could be cut short. The Wolves simply have too many wings that can’t shoot, and most of them possess more potential or peripheral skills to outgun the former Net. Even if he does get expunged from the rotation, he will be a handy guy to have on-call when the injury bug strikes.