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2023 NBA Draft Lottery Team Preview: Charlotte Hornets
The 2023 NBA Draft is just around the corner. Now, it's time to take a look at the options for the Charlotte Hornets.
Corey: A wise man once said: “if you ain’t first, you’re last.”
Very apropos for a middling Charlotte Hornets franchise who very much did not win the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.
Winning Wemby would have made life much easier for a franchise that is still in search of a true identity. The team hoped that they would find it when they landed LaMelo Ball — the run-and-gun maven best known for high school half court pull-ups and highlight reel passes — in the 2020 NBA Draft. Ball is certainly…divisive. But while his impact on winning may still be in question, he at the least has been a shimmer of hope, showing flashes of elite-level guard play, and he is an undeniable star to Gen Z.
Buzz City proceeded from nailing the Melo pick by taking big swings in the 2021 Draft (or dare I say strikeouts worse than those um…CLT uniforms they wore last year), before bouncing back and hitting big, landing Duke’s Mark Williams with the 15th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Williams is a keeper, a rim-running lob threat for LaMelo, and the back-line of Charlotte’s defense for the foreseeable future. Bryce McGowens showed some promise last season as well. A tall, lanky, wing who is going to get some buckets. PJ Washington is a RFA and it will be interesting to see what his market is this summer, but he’s a solid player of basketball that can space the floor. The rest of the roster is filled with a bunch of bleh. Gordon Hayward can’t stay on the court. Terry Rozier is a good NBA player, but would be better served on a non-rebuilding team. The Dennis Smith Jr. reclamation project was fun but he certainly isn’t a part of their core. All that is to say that the cupboard is pretty bare at the moment.
But that can all change when Adam Silver steps up to the podium on Thursday night. The team can finally get LaMelo a running mate and hopefully some stability and direction. So what direction do you predict that will be Albert?
Albert: What the Hornets do on draft night this year has been a sizzling hot topic this cycle. I love everything you said above about the roster, the presence of Lamelo Ball and the potential fit of him playing next to a dynamic guard like Scoot Henderson or a wildly talented jumbo wing like Brandon Miller. The truth of the matter is the variables don’t end there, the second pick in the draft is an incredibly valuable asset that can be moved for a more ready-made asset like a Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram.
I think the discussion around the potential fit of Scoot Henderson next to LaMelo Ball has been an interesting one. I understand how the fit may be tricky to some but I don’t think it’s as bad as people are making it seem. LaMelo is a hooper, a guy that can flow and be effective without having the ball in his hands at all times. Growing up as the youngest of the three ball brothers meant he had to share the ball with his older brothers and find ways to affect the game without having the keys to the car. Whether it was leaking out for transition opportunities or spotting up from three, Lamelo found ways to compliment his brothers. Just because we haven’t really seen much of that version of Lamelo in the NBA doesn’t mean it’s not in him.
I believe he can do the same next to a guy like Scoot Henderson. Scoot is a really special talent and a guy that has everything you’re looking for in a point guard. For all the talk around his athleticism and NBA-ready physique, Scoot is an awesome playmaker with the potential to become a truly dynamic scorer from all three levels. I know the shooting from outside was pretty rough last season, but I think his shot passes the eye test and will only get better from here. My reason for believing in him is the because I think he has the desire in him. Seeing him lock horns with Victor Wembanyama in Vegas was still one of the coolest in-person basketball moments of my life. Scoot came out with all the intensity and went toe to toe with the Alien.
Ultimately, the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t think the fit is as clunky as people are trying to make it seem. If the Hornets have Scoot at number two on their board, I think they should grab him without hesitation and feel fantastic about their decision. Corey and I both have Brandon Miller at two at on our boards, but that’s not to say that we think Scoot is a bad player or not worthy of being the second player drafted in this class, we’re just slightly higher on Brandon Miller, right Corey?
Corey: Scoot absolutely rocks. Despite the rumors of Miller going second, I fully believe that Charlotte is actually going to take Scoot. I don’t blame them one bit even if the fit with LaMelo isn’t the cleanest. It can and will work if they take him, but I don’t know if either guy will fully optimize their potential playing off of each other. They’ll still be productive, but ultimately it feels like a ticking time bomb before they find themselves in a Fox/Haliburton situation. But if they believe Scoot is the guy, they should take him. If however, they feel like Brandon Miller is a better prospect, and it’s possible and read that they do, he could be the exact kind of wing every team in the league covets. At 6’9” Miller is coming off one of the best prospect shooting seasons in years having connected on over 100 made threes at a 38% clip. Hitting 85% of his FTA is another positive shooting indicator. Add in that he connected on 51% of his unguarded catch-and-shoot threes and you start seeing the vision as to why he’s such a fantastic compliment to Ball. But beyond the dynamic shooting, Miller also displayed high level playmaking flashes. 6’9” dribble, pass, shoot, and defend wings don’t grow on trees. Either way, I think Charlotte is walking away with a phenomenal player to add to their core. But the fun doesn’t end there for Charlotte as they also have a late first and a few second round picks, so they have other avenues to add to their core. The last time they were in this scenario they took Kai Jones and JT Thor. Is it time to think about taking some safer prospects that are more likely to hit?
Albert: Corey and I were in the building when the Hornets selected Jones and Thor and we were pretty sad for the Hornets in the moment. I like your idea, Corey of the Hornets going with a safer pick here at the end of the first round.
The first name that came to mind was Kris Murray. After the success that his brother Keegan enjoyed in his rookie season, Kris should be a really intriguing option for teams looking for shooting and maturity. Kris showed off some on-ball ability this past season which definitely helped his stick but the increased usage also hurt his outside shooting a bit as his percentages dipped 5% from the previous season. You have to like how much his scoring increased and he was good on the boards as well. His role in the NBA will be a bit more defined and he won’t be asked to handle the ball as much. I think Murray would be a great addition as wing depth and another shooter to add spacing for Lamelo and whoever they grab at 2.
Another name you have to throw in for similar reasons is Julian Strawther. Strawther is another lights-out shooter from the outside with good size for the wing position. Strawther is a guy that improved every season during his time at Gonzaga and was a huge part of their success over the past two seasons. I know people have highlighted the fact that he’s not the strongest defender, but I do think it’s something he’ll improve upon and at the end of the day I think he offers enough on the offensive side of the ball to warrant taking him at the end of the first round. Strawther has silky soft touch on his floater and has shown the world that he can play in big games and produce some big moments.
What the Hornets end up doing in the draft is going to be really fun to watch. I truly believe they can do no wrong as long as they’re taking whether Scoot or Brandon Miller and then adding some solid pieces in the late first and then the second round could really get them pointing the arrow up again. They clearly have a lot of work to do with the rest of the roster and some of their veteran pieces, but they should walk away from the 2023 NBA Draft with some intriguing teams to help them build for the future.