After struggling early on for the Brooklyn Nets, Treveon Graham has established himself as a key glue guy for a potential playoff team.
Treveon Graham, the seldom-discussed starter for the Brooklyn Nets, has carved out an integral role on a playoff sleeper.
Since Jan. 11, Graham has been Brooklyn’s full-time starter at the shooting guard position. After spending some time on Brooklyn’s G-League team, the Long Island Nets, Graham entered the rotation out of necessity.
Graham cracked the ever-changing Nets lineup back in early January. At that time, Allen Crabbe was still recovering from injury and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had recently been sidelined.
At just 6-foot-5, Graham is relatively undersized for his position. As someone who has seen him in person on multiple occasions, Graham looks shorter than his listed height.
Part of it may be that Graham is always hunched over in a defensive stance. Defense has always been a major calling card for the VCU product. It’s how the 26-year-old undrafted wing clawed his way onto a winning roster.
What Graham doesn’t have in size, he makes up for with pure hustle. Graham is a prime example of how effort can be more impactful than physical tools when it comes to defensive prowess.
Good teams require players who are willing to lay out for loose balls. They need guys who protect the rim in transition, even in the face of a sprinting offensive player.
Graham has acted as the perfect glue guy for Brooklyn’s defense, stopping opposing offenses in the halfcourt. From the second he stepped on the floor, Graham molded to head coach Kenny Atkinson’s defensive system. Whether he’s playing traditional man-to-man defense or even experimental dips into zone coverage, Graham has certainly held his own.
The advanced numbers favor Graham’s defensive expertise, too. Graham is fourth on the team in defensive win shares at .087. His 105.8 points allowed per 100 possessions is the third-best number on Brooklyn’s roster.
Offensively speaking, things didn’t come as easy for the DMV native. In his first six games, Treveon Graham missed 21 of his 24 total attempted three-point attempts; a number that would even have the renowned bricklayer, Anthony Bennett, blushing. For a player who was pegged as a spot-up shooter, this wasn’t exactly encouraging.
His struggles from deep were somewhat unexpected. As a member of the Charlotte Hornets, Treveon Graham was lights out from deep, canning 41.2 percent of 97 total three-pointers.
Treveon Graham’s struggles on offense didn’t just pertain to the three-point line. He also appeared to be visibly shaken on line drives to the basket, missing many of his short-range attempts badly.
His offensive struggles caused many to call for his head, myself included. In fact, I wrote an entire 3,000-word column stating that the Nets should acquire his replacement at the trade deadline.
Since writing that piece, Graham has improved dramatically. In fact, he’s become of my favorite players on Brooklyn’s roster. He’s one of those guys that can persevere no matter how bad things have gotten. I, frankly, love players like that.
In Treveon’s defense, he joined this competitive Brooklyn team in the middle of their breakout season. With a cast of new teammates around him, the pressure was on the second-year player to perform. By no means was this an easy task. Brooklyn has a fluid and complicated offensive system, full of off-ball motion. So it’s understandable if Graham appeared timid. Perhaps he was fearful of sabotaging Brooklyn’s winning formula.
In spite of this, Graham’s defense kept him in Atkinson’s rotation. Graham became an integral part of the team due in large part to his defensive prowess.
As his minutes total grew, Graham became increasingly confident on offense. He began to catch defenders by surprise, blowing by them and executing skillful floaters and push shots.
Graham began using his 225-pound frame to his advantage during confident cuts to the basket. He showed no fear when bumping bodies en route to and-one finishes. Although he still rarely takes guys off the dribble, Graham picks his spots well.
His three-point shooting also came to life. Over the course of the last ten games, Graham has canned 11 of his 31 total threes; a respectable 35.5 percent. He has a really nice stroke when he puts it to use. Graham utilizes “the hop” when shooting the three-ball, swaying both of his feet towards the basket in unison (a la Kevin Love).
Graham’s breakout performance came against the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 6. In one of Brooklyn’s best wins of the season, Graham was outstanding, scoring 16 points while hitting four of six three-pointers. Graham hit two huge back-to-back threes in the fourth quarter to stop a Denver run in its tracks.
The very next game, Graham was back at it again, swishing back-to-back threes in transition.
Early shooting struggles included, Graham is now 10 of 24 in above the break three-pointers (41.7 percent!). He’s become a reliable offensive player and is now one of Brooklyn’s best transition three-point specialists.
Treveon Graham is one of the many successes of the Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson era. Like many players before him (Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie come to mind), Graham was acquired off the scrap heap. He was signed by Marks to the league minimum back in July.
In spite of his early struggles, Atkinson stuck by the undersized wing, encouraging him to play through his mistakes. With his coach standing by him, Treveon Graham began to play his game.
Now, Brooklyn has a three-and-D maestro on its roster. Graham is Brooklyn’s glue guy. He’s a winning player.