James Bouknight, 22, was drafted by the Hornets out of the University of Connecticut with the 11th pick in the 2021 NBA draft. Photo: Charlotte Hornets

As NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off, the Charlotte Hornets get a brief break to prepare for the season’s remaining weeks.  

Charlotte, 17-44, doesn’t have a chance at making the playoffs but will likely try to salvage the disappointing season and look toward the future.

In doing so, Head Coach Steve Clifford should consider giving the young players more minutes to showcase their talent.

Here are a few players due for more minutes after the break:

Bryce McGowens – rookie guard/forward

McGowens has spent most of his rookie season with the Greensboro Swarm, the Hornet’s G-league affiliate. The 2021 second-round pick was selected because of his size (standing six foot seven inches) and his ability to be a shooter and defender in the league.

It wasn’t until January that he saw an uptick in playing time with Terry Rozier (hand) and Cody Martin (knee) sidelined. 

He got one of his best games on Wednesday, notching 11 points (3-9 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 3-4 FT), one rebound, three assists and two steals across 26 minutes during Wednesday’s 120-110 victory over the Spurs.

Rozier and Martin are expected back on the court after the All-Star break, but McGowen’s flashes on the court may warrant more minutes. 

Kai Jones – second-year forward

Like McGowen, Jones has seen most of his season in Greensboro, an assignment he’s been accustomed to since being drafted in 2021.

Standing at 6-foot-11 and weighing less than 230, Jones was viewed as a developmental project, but his agility and high-flying ability showcases in the G-League shows why he was a first-round selection.

With Mason Plumlee traded at the deadline, Jones figures to be the third center on the depth chart behind Mark Williams and Nick Richards.

But finding minutes behind PJ Washington can help him develop in his true positon.

James Bouknight – second-year guard

Bouknight’s maturity may be a factor in why he hasn’t seen much playing time. The 22-year-old guard has had a number of off-court issues, most notably making headlines for driving while intoxicated in Oct.2022

He was selected with the 11 pick in the first round of the 2021 NBA draft, primarily due to his scoring ability.

He has showcased this, averaging 15 points in his two seasons in Greensboro.

The Hornets could use a consistent scoring threat off the bench, but finding meaningful minutes behind guards Lamelo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr., and McGowens could be tough.  

JT Thor – second-year forward

The Hornets traded for Thor in a draft day deal in 2021. Standing at 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he offers a high upside as an elite defender.

In the G-League, he’s averaged 19 points and seven rebounds but has seen few minutes on the main roster. 

The Hornets had a string of injuries with key wing players Gordon Hayward, Cody Martin and Kelly Oubre Jr. 

Trading away forward Jalen McDaniels — who played relatively well this season — shows that the team is focused on developing Thor on the main roster. 

Jalon is a general assignment reporter for QCity Metro. He is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and an avid sports fan. (jalon@qcitymetro.com)

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