Hornets

Henderson or Miller the Better Fit in Charlotte?

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The Charlotte Hornets have a problem. A good problem, but a problem nonetheless.

Who will be the better fit in Charlotte, Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller?

Draft-Lottery Disappointment

On May 16, Hornets fans were glued to their televisions. They were not watching their beloved team playing in a playoff game. They were instead watching the infamous draft lottery. The Hornets had the fourth-best odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick— a pick that would give them French phenom, Victor Wembanyama.

Most Hornets fans probably thought their team would fall to No. 8— the lowest Charlotte could go. This year was different, however. As the lottery draft order was revealed pick by pick, the Hornets’ odds of getting Wemby kept getting higher and higher.

Once Detroit fell to the No. 5 selection, everyone felt as though the Hornets at least have moved up from No. 4, although that choice had not yet been revealed. Then when the fourth pick finally came, everything seemed surreal because everyone knew that landing a franchise-altering cornerstone seemed more and more like a reality than a dream.

When the Blazers’ logo popped up to claim the No. 3 pick, only the Hornets and San Antonio Spurs remained. Hornets’ lottery representative Mark Williams looked cool, calm and collected before the second pick was announced. At this point, every Hornets fan felt there is no way they make it this far without the No. 1 choice.

Things did not end happily for the franchise as the second card was revealed with the purple and teal. Thus, giving the historic Spurs another top choice with the opportunity to get another dominant center for years to come.

Michael Jordan’s team went from getting the No. 1 overall pick and clear-cut decision on who to take to getting the second selection and a lot of unanswered questions. The Hornets have three different choices to make this upcoming draft and every choice has its pros and cons. If they select Scoot Henderson, they will have one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA.

But can Henderson and LaMelo Ball share the court together and both be successful while providing for the team?

Alabama wing Brandon Miller is the other avenue. For a majority of the year, Scoot was the clear number two over Miller. After an impressive season and historic shooting numbers, more and more people think Miller is the new number two. It helps Miller’s case that the Hornets desperately need wing depth. The only wings on the books next year right now are Gordon Hayward, Bryce McGowens, JT Thor and Cody Martin.

Therefore, Miller would be a massive boost to this team. This leaves the question, should the Hornets go for fit with Miller or talent with Henderson?

It’s a tough question deciding between those two alone, but let’s not forget about the third option which has been floating around with other teams expected to want to trade up. Will the Hornets look to deal this pick?

It is very unlikely but it is an option considering the Hornets just need reliable talent on their roster. LaMelo is the only sure thing they have with Miles Bridges not *officially* signed yet and Williams showing promise but is only entering his second year.

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These potential three options are something the Hornets will be thinking about for the next few weeks until June 22 when the 2023 NBA Draft rolls around. All three can change the Hornets’ franchise forever. Whether for better or for worse remains to be seen.

Let’s take a deep dive into each option for the Hornets and weight the pros and cons for each.

Draft Scoot Henderson

Scoot Henderson is an outstanding prospect coming from the G League Ignite. He chose to play for the Ignite instead of going to college two years ago and has been there ever since. Measured at 6’2 and 195 pounds, you’ll see he plays much bigger than that after watching three seconds of film. His height is part of the problem that some Hornets fans and national media members have. Not that 6’2 is too short, but 6’2 may not pair well with a 6’7 guard who already does not play the best defense.

The concerns are understandable, but some are simply overthinking. While LaMelo does not play the best defense, he is a smart defender. He knows where he needs to be and plays the passing lanes very well. Scoot on the other hand does play good defense and has all the tools to be an even better defender. Scoot has a 6’9 wingspan and as mentioned above, plays much bigger than he really is, which in turn should be able to work in a backcourt with LaMelo.

What is probably the biggest concern is that both are seen by many as ball-dominant guards. Both are at their best with the ball in their hands and everyone relying on them to make the right reads.

It is not a wild statement to make. That does not mean either player can play off ball, though.

Scoot recently mentioned he believes in his ability to play with guards specifically like LaMelo because he knows he can make an impact on the game outside of playmaking or controlling the offense. Each player compliments the other very well.

Scoot struggles shooting from the three-point line, only connecting on 27.5% from deep this year with the Ignite. What he does extremely well, however, is attack the rim— something the Hornets have none of. Not even LaMelo Ball. It will take time for this three-point shot to start falling at a consistent rate, but it helps tremendously that Ball is a great three-point shooter, shooting 38% from downtown before he was injured this past season.

With each guard being so different but effective in their own right, it creates different offensive looks to opposing defenses. The Hornets will be able to give looks with LaMelo where teams will have to worry about him pulling for three or having Henderson cut baseline and Ball placing the ball directly where Scoot needs it for a dunk. Not to mention while Henderson’s threes do not fall at a consistent clip, the 19-year-old is an excellent mid-range scorer which is another skill that not many Hornets players have.

Draft Brandon Miller

Brandon Miller might be the best fit. The SEC Player of The Year had shooting splits of 43% FG/38% 3PT/86% FT this past season which are all things the Hornets need. Just for context, the Hornets percentages in those categories ranked 29th, 29th and 27th, respectively.

It is more than obvious why the Hornets should want and — quite honestly — need Miller. He automatically gives a significant boost in each of those areas the moment he steps on the floor. This is all from his offense— not even mentioning his defensive potential. At 6’9, 200lbs, Miller is being compared to the likes of Celtics’ superstar Jayson Tatum because of stature and play style.

The concerns for the 6’9 wing are few and far between but they cannot be ignored. The major concern being his activity off the court, which the Hornets have dealt with too much of in just the last year alone with Miles Bridges and James Bouknight. Mitch Kupchak and Co. will need to do their due diligence on Miller because they cannot afford another off-court issue to reveal its ugly head again around this franchise.

The Tennessee native does not have many weaknesses when it comes to his on-court game, however. He has:

  • An excellent ability to shoot from range
  • An underrated ability to make plays for those around him
  • High defensive upside
  • A no-quit motor when it comes to getting better

The downfall of Miller’s game is that he is not as athletic as you would want him to be nor does he do a great job of creating space for himself when it comes to his offense.

In a high-octane offense that likes to run the floor, the Hornets will probably want Miller to have more athleticism, but because he excels so much in areas critical for the team to improve on, it will be very difficult for the Hornets to pass on Miller.

Trade The Pick

Out of the three options, this option is the most unlikely. The only reason it is even worth bringing up is because trading this pick guarantees the Hornets one thing— talent.

If the Hornets trade the second overall pick, there is no telling what the package will be assuming every GM feels as if Henderson or Miller can be the pick to change their franchise forever.

The Hornets have a lot of interesting pieces but it’s hard to have confidence in any of their abilities. With a myriad of picks the team will receive from a trade, there is no way that not one or more of those picks end up a key contributor for a franchise desperate for talent.

Kupchak has said countless times that he believes in this roster and its ability to compete. To an extent, every general manager is going to say something along those lines because you can cause chaos if you don’t. The problem is that based on actions, it seems as though Kupchak really believes his statements. The team has not made any big moves since initially constructing this roster in 2021.

Getting an immense trade package for the No. 2 choice could help the Hornets build out a completely new roster for a rebuild or if they are really risky, trade for a well-established player. This remains unlikely to happen because the Hornets typically don’t make big moves, they already have five 2023 picks, and actually want to compete next season.

Therefore, trading for picks in this draft and future compensation won’t make sense if the goal is to compete in 2024 or 2025.

Michael Jordan — or whoever ends up buying from Jordan — and company have a massive decision to make. This could be the biggest draft in franchise history. If the team hits this pick, they will have a clear star to pair with LaMelo and could have many years to build a competent roster around the two.

If the pick flops, it could be remembered as one of the biggest fumbles in NBA history. It will easily lead to a front-office clear-out. The likelihood of LaMelo being shipped out of Charlotte increases immensely and the team then has to start over.

That is how important this draft is.

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About Darian Thomas

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