Drones Dime (Vol 3.0): The 2025 Preview
- By David Gonzalez, Day 1, 2025
2025 Charlotte Drones Preview
There was not much drama post-draft this offseason as we had no coaching decisions to make heading into 2025 and with the acquisition of DeAngelo Tarver we would be exceeding the $80M cap to resign our own players. We successfully brought back both Lucas Rush and Khalen Anthony on team friendly deals while striking out with our MLE. Our initial target was Jermaine Wade who would have fit in perfectly as a 6th man and then we were subsequently snubbed by Kellen Chambers and Isiah Harris who each signed for far more lucrative deals than we could offer with the MLE. With that said, we head into the season at $89M in salary and free from any penalties assessed on our 2026 draft status.
2025 Lineup by Position
Starter: DeAngelo Tarver (6’4, 207 lbs) #8 overall pick in 2020 (UCLA) 3.5*/4*
- Tarver was our biggest offseason upgrade as Isaiah Leonard’s regression in year 3 put us in a spot where we needed to look elsewhere. We feel strongly that Tarver will shine in Charlotte and will also help us push the pace our team is capable of now after spending the past 3 off-seasons shaping this team from a bunch of old slogs to a team which should be able to get out and run with the best of them.
Bench: Caius Springer (6’2, 164 lbs) Rookie UFA in 2023 (Georgia Tech) 2.5*/3*
- Springer was a solid FA pickup in 2024 as he led the team in +/- with a +189 pm the season and he would end up starting the final 25+ games and in the post-season over Leonard. Springer posted a 13.9 PER and 4.3 WS and we will rely on him to lead the second unit again this season.
J-League: Isaac Page (6’2, 186 lbs) #52 overall pick in 2025 (Stanford) 1.5*/2.5*
- Page was our 4th and final selection in 2025. As a 4-year starter in the Pac-12, Isaac averaged 11.0/2.9/5.1 over his career on 47.3/29.7/89.4 shooting. We hope to see him develop over the course of this year in Raleigh where he will likely start at the PG position as we look for him to develop his outside shot and playmaking abilities.
Starter: Raefael Williams II (6’8, 207 lbs) #5 overall pick in 2023 (Duke) 3.5*/5*
- RW II kicked off the season with a sophomore slump and never quite regained the form he had shown in his rookie year. His FG% dropped from 49.2% to 45.4% and his 3P% dropped from 39.2% to 35.1%. This also led to a drop in his PER from 17.4 to 15.5 and his WS from 5.8 to 2.2. Needless to say this is a big season for RW II and by all accounts from his effort in Training Camp he knows it as well.
Backup: DeVaughn Wilkinson (6’9, 204 lbs) #45 overall pick in 2024 (UCLA) 2.5*/3.5*
- Wilkinson is a player who would have benefitted from having the opportunity to play in the J-League this past season as he only appeared in 36 games where he averaged just over 8 mpg. He did show some exciting flashes like when he scored 33 against the Huskies on 11/14 shooting and 6/7 from distance. The team saw some really positive signs during TC and he will fight for minutes at both the two and the three.
Backup: DeAndre McRoy (6’6, 201 lbs) Rookie UFA in 2024 (Brown) 1.5*/2*
- McRoy and Springer formed a UFA backcourt for us on the second unit and in DeAndre’s case performed well above expectations. McRoy quickly replaced former Drone, Justin Chauca, in the backup role to RW II as he shot 5.02/38.5/72.7 and averaged 6.9 ppg. It will be interesting to see if McRoy’s offense off the bench can outpace what Wilkinson may be able to provide as more of a two-way player in comparison.
Starter: Lucas Rush (6’9, 224 lbs) #9 overall pick in 2014 (Texas) 4*/4*
- The best player in Drones franchise history is back after signing a $15M/yr 2+1t contract this offseason. We were a bit surprised that Rush did not attract any offers from other teams in the league and are very happy to get him back without busting our cap space. Last season, we were able to leverage Rush’s entire skill set as he saw time at every position except center compared to 2023 where he was our primary scorer. Rush would post a season line of 19.7p/8.9r/5.0a/1.54s while keeping his PER above 20 at 20.3. He posted a career high 6.3 WS while his USG% dropped from 32.9% to 25.9%. Rush had a solid TC as well and we expect another year where he has a chance to be in consideration of an All-Star bid.
Backup: Xavier Russell (6’7, 219 lbs) #6 overall pick in 2015 (Oklahoma) 2.5*/2.5*
- Xavier enters the second year of his two-year deal with us as a player we were not 100% sold on in year 1. It didn’t help that he started bitching about minutes when he did play the most of any of our bench players, albeit at 15.2 mpg. We hope the increase in pace this season will open up looks for Russell as he did shoot 39.4% from 3P in 2024.
J-League: Eric Holden (6’9, 217 lbs) #50 overall pick in 2024 (Cincinnati) 1.5*/2.5*
- Eric comes into the league as a tweener combo forward who could see minutes in the JBL as needed defensively but is in need of work on the offensive end. Holden spent two seasons as a starter at Cincinnati where he averaged 9.2/6.1/4.7 and shot 44.2/35.5/68.5. We saw some improvement from him during TC but it was mostly on the defensive end which we knew was his strong suit already.
J-League: Lucas Phillips (6’7, 212 lbs) #33 overall pick in 2024 (American) 1*/2.5*
- On the opposite end from Holden is Lucas Phillips. Lucas enters the league with a nice stroke as somebody who could potentially provide some offense off the bench while being an average defender at best. Lucas was a 4-year starter at American where he averaged 16.0/7.8/2.0 during his career and shot 42.1/38.0/80.8.
Starter: Devan Carroll (6’10, 228 lbs) #9 overall pick in 2017 (New Mexico) 3.5*/3.5*
- Devan was our big offseason move in 2024 and we definitely think it was a success. Devan would tie for second in the JBL with 5 Triple-Doubles including a monster 26-15-10 game against his former squad the Fireballs on Day 60. Devan posted a career high 17.8 ppg to along with 7.7 boards and 4.9 assists. His 6.6 WS also matched his career high from 2020 when he when 6th Man of the Year.
Backup: Lafayette Okonkwo (6’8, 244 lbs) #36 overall pick in 2022 (Butler) 3*/3*
- Lafayette returned to the Drones after seeking a $7M+/yr payday from any JBL team who would pony up the cash which ultimately never came. Lucky for us, we get a very underrated player back at $1.5M/yr for the next 2 years. He was certainly the one player we expected to lose this offseason and now will fight with Godwin Kite for minutes behind Carroll which don’t mind since his career Per36 line in his first 3 seasons in Charlotte is 13.1/11.0/5.2.
Backup: Godwin Kite (6’10, 253 lbs) #25 overall pick in 2024 (Connecticut) 2.5*/3*
- Godwin much like Wilkinson would have benefitted from the J-League this past season; however he did see more action as he appeared in 61 games and averaged 10 mpg. Kite showed a strong ability to score in the post and played relatively well at both the PF and C spot which he will likely do again in 2025. Kite also had a very positive TC where he reportedly put more focus on his rebounding and blocking which are both areas he will need to contribute more in if he wants to beat out Okonkwo for more minutes.
Starter: Khalen Anthony (6’11, 251 lbs) #14 overall pick in 2021 (USC) 3.5*/4*
- The man in the middle is back for the next 5 years as Drones management expects big things from the 22-year old during that time frame. Last offseason Anthony worked on his fitness which paid off as he was able to up his mpg from 31.3 to 34.7. We were also to focus the offense a bit more around Khalen since Leonard was not the type of PG who could run and gun and it allowed Anthony to put up a career best 19.4 ppg where he also matched his career best with 7.8 rpg. With the addition of Tarver combined with Anthony’s athleticism and ability to spread the floor we expect the offense to be even more dynamic in 2025.
Backup: Avery Morrison (7’1, 273 lbs) #27 overall pick in 2025 (Kansas State) 2.5*/3*
- Avery is going to be our enforcer/intimidator off the bench as he brings the complete opposite package to Anthony. Morrison left K-State after two seasons where he used his size and skill to post a career line of 16.0p/8.0r/.5a/2.0b. Morrison will likely see most of his team with the Drones this year but I would not be surprised if he heads to Raleigh for a few starts here and there for development.
After beating all our goals the past two seasons, as we shaped and molded the roster, it’s time to see what the Drones can do with as full a deck as we have ever had in 2025. We feel our starting 5 of Tarver-RW II-Rush-Carroll-Anthony can match up with almost any style we come across and this year more than ever we feel like we can push teams to play the style of game we will be looking to deploy. Our second unit will be the reason for how far or not we eventually get. If Wilkinson and Kite both show growth to go along with the solid effort we received from Springer leading that unit last year we should be in for a good season.
Goal #1: Win, at minimum, one round in the playoffs
Goal #2: Finish with a .500 or better record against the Huskies, Bullets, Kings and Jailbirds.
Goal #3: Win 46-50 regular season games