James Bouknight was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets Thursday night. Here are some thoughts from an earlier UConn Blog article on his fit with the Hornets:
LaMelo Ball has evolved into one of the most exciting young stars in the NBA, and it’s now Charlotte’s charge to start building around him. The Hornets already have a backcourt partner for him in Malik Monk, but if they wanted to trade up from No. 11, Monk would be a prime piece to move in the last year of his contract.
Bouknight becomes the Huskies’ first lottery pick since Andre Drummond was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Jeremy Lamb was picked 12th by the Pacers that same year.
Bouknight celebrated the selection at the NBA Draft’s Green Room in Brooklyn surrounded by some of his family and friends in the borough he grew up. UConn head coach Dan Hurley and assistant Kimani Young were supposed to be alongside Bouknight for the draft, but opted out due to COVID-19 complications amongst the Huskies’ coaching staff.
At UConn, the 6-foot-5 guard quickly established himself as a gifted scorer as he finished the 2019-20 season averaging 13 points and 4.1 rebounds before COVID-19 abruptly ended the season. Bouknight earned American Athletic Conference Rookie Team and All-Conference Third Team honors.
Bouknight followed up a solid freshman season with a stellar sophomore campaign that established him as one of the best scorers in the country. He averaged 18.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 18 games during the 2020-21 season, including a 40-point performance in the Huskies’ Big East return against Creighton. While Bouknight missed time due to a left elbow injury that he suffered late in the first half on the road against Marquette, he still managed to shoulder the bulk of UConn’s offensive load, scoring at least 20 points in four of his eight games after returning from his elbow surgery and injury.
Even though Bouknight and the Huskies fizzled out of the NCAA Tournament with a first-round loss to Maryland, Bouknight — largely considered a mid to late first-round pick throughout the season — was able to rocket up draft boards with an impressive showing at the NBA Combine in June. Prior to Thursday night, Bouknight was firmly entrenched as a top-10 selection.
UConn's James Bouknight put on an absolutely incredible shooting display at his NBA Combine Pro Day workout today. Shot the cover off the ball, showing phenomenal footwork, touch and body control. pic.twitter.com/XzHdjwLpRK— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 26, 2021
In Bouknight, the Hornets will get a talented and athletic scorer with a solid feel for the game. Although he has some flaws based on his performance at UConn — 3-point shooting and playmaking for others being the two biggest ones — he has the scoring ability and athleticism to make an immediate NBA impact as a bench scorer.
While Bouknight shot just 32 percent from deep at UConn, including 29 percent last season, Bouknight has addressed some of the shooting concerns with his combine performance earlier this summer. The same can be said for his playmaking; Bouknight has a high basketball IQ, especially on the offensive end, and should be able to distribute in some capacity more than he did in Storrs, where he was the focal point of the team’s offense.