Charlotte Hornets Draft Preview: Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller, or a Trade?

By Chase Whitney

June 20, 2023

Photo: Matt Kelley / AP

It’s been a little over a month since the lottery, and immediately after the Hornets jumped from the fourth slot and received the second pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the debate between Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller began. A little after 8:00 p.m. EST on Thursday night, Hornets fans will finally have their answer.

The No. 2 pick in this draft will have a monumental impact on the long-term outlook of the franchise. Pairing LaMelo Ball with another young potential All-Star could lock the Hornets into playoff contention for years to come. 

Following two productive years as a teenager with G League Ignite, Henderson is perceived as the higher-upside prospect of the two, possessing otherwordly athleticism, length, and elite strength for a guard. His ability to pressure the rim, score in the mid-range, and defend opposing team’s point guards would complement Ball’s deep-range shooting and playmaking.

On the other hand, Miller fits the bill of a ball-handling wing in the modern NBA. At 6’9” with excellent shooting touch from beyond the arc and the willingness to shift off-ball, it’s easy to picture him as a seamless fit on the perimeter with an elite playmaker like Ball. Miller can shoot from range, handle the ball, and make plays in pick-and-roll with the ability to guard multiple positions defensively.

No matter who general manager Mitch Kupchak and his staff decide to select, that player will be expected to grow and develop alongside Ball and carry the team to its first playoff berth since the 2015-16 season. 

The 2023 draft marks the end of an era. After holding a majority ownership stake in the franchise for 13 years, Michael Jordan will step back and assume a minority position following the official start of the 2023-24 season. Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall are leading the group purchasing Jordan’s majority stake, with North Carolina recording artists J. Cole and Eric Church as new minority owners. Plotkin has been a minority owner of the Hornets himself since 2019 and Schnall was previously a part of the Atlanta Hawks’ ownership group.

The Hornets’ tight-lipped front office has made it difficult to pin down what they plan to do at No. 2 and their four other draft positions. With nine players on guaranteed deals for next season, plus the anticipated re-signings of JT Thor, PJ Washington and Miles Bridges, the Hornets only have room for three of their five draft selections on the roster.

A combination of the Hornets’ later picks (27, 34, 39, 41) are highly likely to be traded in some way, whether it’s moving them into future years or further back in the 2023 draft. Players are more likely to sign Two-Way contracts in the 40s and 50s than in the 30s, where selections tend to strongly desire guaranteed contracts on the 15-man roster. The new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) in place for next season will add a third Two-Way contract slot, which adds another layer of intrigue to the late portion of the draft and free agency for a small-market team like Charlotte that banks on player development.

There have been rumors the Hornets are in the market to join the Suns and Wizards in making a blockbuster trade. The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported that the New Orleans Pelicans are looking to move up in pursuit of Henderson, and in all likelihood both Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson are a part of trade negotiations. For the Hornets to give up a chance at drafting a potential All-NBA player– which many believe Henderson and Miller to be– the Pelicans (or any other team) would have to fork over an established star along with more valuable assets.

It’s not long now before we find out which prospect Kupchak selects as Ball’s running mate. Whether he opts for Henderson’s explosiveness, dynamic two-way playmaking, and culture-shifting attitude, or Miller’s elite shooting, length, and defensive versatility, Hornets fans can rest assured that a potential franchise-altering prospect is on the way to Charlotte.

The 2023 NBA Draft will take place on June 22 at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN. The Hornets will host their official 2023 NBA Draft party Thursday night at Spectrum Center.

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