The Greensboro Swarm, the new NBA D-League affiliate of the Charlotte Hornets, started their inaugural season pretty rough. They took something of a pounding in their Nov. 12 home opener hosting the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, losing 120-98 in front of a packed house. But they showed real gumption, outscoring their opponents 61-41 in the second half.
Of course, looking at their record, anyone can see that they lost their first five games. As of this writing, yes, the Swarm have a rather paltry 4-8 record. This might not inspire confidence.
But the story of any team cannot be reduced to the score of a single game. Hell, even the final score can’t tell the story of that game, as the Swarm’s premiere shows. I contend that the team shows more potential than their record states.
First off, we need to talk about 6-foot-3 guard Xavier Munford.
Before eventually coming to the Swarm, the New Jersey native played college ball for three schools: Miami Dade College, Iowa Western Community College and his final two seasons at the University of Rhode Island, where he reached 1,000 points scored quicker than any other player in program history. Following graduation, Munford went undrafted, but played the 2014-’15 D-League season with the Bakersfield Jam. Midway through the next season, the Memphis Grizzlies signed Munford to assist a roster riddled with injuries. He performed so well the Grizzlies initially offered him a multi-year contract, but reneged on their option. The Swarm acquired Munford right before their first game.
Munford was relatively quiet in the Swarm’s debut. Though he was one of five Swarm players who posted double digits, guard Prince Williams’ late-game heroics and center Mike Tobey’s double-double stuck out more.
Since then, it’s been hard to focus on anyone but Munford.
Right out the gate, Munford scored a phenomenal 33 points on 50-percent shooting in the Swarm’s second game against the Westchester Knicks on Nov. 16, a matchup the Swarm lost by only 5 despite Munford’s efforts. He tallied another 30-point effort in a second tight, 116-111 loss against the Delaware 87ers on Nov. 21, tallying 34 points, again on 50-percent shooting; the league acknowledged him as the Performer of the Week after the Swarm picked up their first two wins in the coming days. He played valiantly with 23 points in a 106-104 loss against the Raptors 905 on Dec. 7 and led the team in scoring on Dec. 2 in a road win against the Austin Spurs. On Dec. 10, Munford scored only 17 points — only! — but logged 13 assists in a big win against the Windy City Bulls.
In these first 12 games — all of which he has started, and for good reason — Munford has averaged 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. He may be one of the best guards in the D-League right now, and he’s a prime asset for the Swarm’s fortunes moving ahead.
Another recent addition has proven fruitful for the Swarm: former University of Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison (no relation to the author).
Technically, the Charlotte Hornets signed Harrison last year, but he has bounced back and forth between different leagues and different teams. Harrison played for the Oklahoma City Blue and Erie Bayhawks last year before the Swarm’s creation. Now, the Hornets juggle Harrison between Charlotte and Greensboro.
He shows his worth playing for Greensboro, though.
In the Swarm’s first win on Nov. 25, Harrison posted 31 points against his old teammates from Erie, beating even Munford’s 26-point tally. He’d lead the team again the next day in a down-to-the-wire, 96-95 win against the Bayhawks, scoring 24 while Munford added 23. In the most recent win against the Bulls, Harrison scored 28 points. In the loss against the Raptors, he put up 15 points, his lowest scoring appearance with the Swarm.
The Hornets organization seems impressed by Harrison’s showing, but unsure of where to keep him, assigning him to the Hornets before shipping him back up Interstate 85 to play for Greensboro. I’m sure the Swarm wishes they would keep him in the Triad for the remainder of the season. And I’m sure Harrison would like the opposite.
Harrison isn’t the only ex-Kentucky recruit who’s made a good impression with the Swarm.
Archie Goodwin, a 6-foot-5 guard, previously played professionally for the Phoenix Suns and briefly for the New Orleans Pelicans before the Swarm picked him up last month.
While Munford has proven the star guard for the Swarm, Goodwin’s momentum has rolled right along in his short time with Greensboro.
In his debut against the Texas Legends on Dec. 1, Goodwin contributed 18 points, just behind Munford’s 19. Goodwin added 19 to the board in the Swarm’s big win against Austin the next day. Fast-forwarding to the Raptors 905 game, Goodwin posted 21 points on 50-percent shooting.
And then, he blew the lid open.
I’ve already mentioned the Dec. 10 win against the Windy City Bulls as a big to-do. Many of those assists Munford recorded must have gone to Goodwin, who lit up the board with 31 points, including 14 of 16 free throws.
A team can be more than its win-loss record. For such a green team as the Greensboro Swarm, I expect things will only get better from here.