The 2023 NBA Draft is right around the corner. It will be on our screens this coming Friday at 8:00 AM (Manila time), so teams’ player evaluations are getting more intense, and as always, it includes rumours as to which teams have certain type of plans.
For the Charlotte Hornets, who slightly missed winning the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes by instead getting the second overall pick, they can’t afford to draft another bust or a slow-developing prospects.
Let’s rewind at how they did beginning in 2018. They’ve been mostly off on their first-round picks:
- 2022 – Jalen Duren (traded, became a stud for the Detroit Pistons), Mark Williams
- 2021 – James Bouknight (picked ahead of Alperen Sengun Trey Murphy III), Kai Jones
- 2020 – LaMelo Ball
- 2019 – PJ Washington
- 2018 – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (traded for Miles Bridges)
LaMelo Ball and PJ Washington are proving to be good selections, with the former winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2020-21 and earning an All-Star nod in 2021-22, and the latter having four-straight double-digit scoring seasons, including a career-best 15.7 PPG this past year. However, it’s not good if those were the only hit in five drafts. Ball has also endured a couple of injury problems in three seasons. He missed 46 games in 2022-23, which was among the main reasons why Charlotte only finished 27-55 and up for another lottery pick.
The Hornets are in a dilemma about one of the age-old questions in a draft: should you take the better fit or better upside? The debate in this particular case is taking Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson, and there may not be a clear answer until draft day.
Quick side note: Yes, ‘His Airness’ and majority owner Michael Jordan, who’s had a terrible run and recently sold his ownership, will still make it through the draft decisions.
Now on to the two prospects:
Brandon Miller – SF/PF – University of Alabama
Player comparisons: Danny Granger, Paul George
Brandon Miller was a freshman standout for the University of Alabama. He led the Crimson Tide into a breakout season, catapulting the widely known ‘football school’ at the top spot in the college basketball rankings thanks to a 31-6 record that included an SEC championship. By season’s end, he rightfully won the conference’s player of the year award.
The 6’9 tweener forward can play both the three and four spots, perhaps even the five in small-ball situations. He averaged 18.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game, and shot a serviceable 38.4% from beyond the arc in 7.5 attempts. He does, however, have to improve his efficiency as he only posted a 43% clip overall.
Still, this kid has the length and athleticism, allowing him to attack in the post, midrange, and from downtown. The best part is he’s arguably the best fit for the Hornets since they have an opening on forwards – Kelly Oubre and Gordon Hayward should easily get bumped for such a prospect.
Scoot Henderson – PG/SG – G-League Ignite
Player comparisons: Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose
You read that right. This prospect is being compared to two former league MVPs. The hype is that good because there’s not much you can say against an uber-athletic point guard that has a 6’9 wingspan and tank-like body. To top it off, he plays downhill and will go right into the chest of the defense at every chance he gets.
Henderson put up 17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game in 19 outings for the G-League Ignite squad this past season. He doesn’t have sexy shooting splits (42.9%/27.5%/76.4%), but that can be improved, especially for someone who has been eating and breathing basketball all his life.
Here’s the problem for the Hornets, though: LaMelo Ball has the PG spot locked. Will it be a good idea to pair them up? That has been the question ever since they got the second overall pick. If they do, is it a good mix with head coach Steve Clifford who’s known to have a stagnant offensive system? Note that they plummeted into 27th in scoring this season after finishing 4th in 2021-22.
One other scenario sees Charlotte moving Ball for either a collection of assets or a different star talent and pair it with Henderson. That can be interesting too if it is executed well.
The third option is to trade down and gather more picks, but doing such a move when solid prospects are on deck is tough to do. Doing it requires to hit the jackpot at every move so you can fully justify your move, and that’s too long of a process for a playoff-hungry franchise.