They’ll miss out on generational prospect Victor Wembanyama, but the Hornets still had a great night on Tuesday at the draft lottery, moving up from No. 4 in the pre-lottery standings to nab the No. 2 overall pick.
Given that Wembanyama is a lock to be drafted first overall, Charlotte can prepare for draft knowing that every other player in this year’s class will be available after San Antonio makes its selection. There shouldn’t be any surprises for the Hornets, so assuming they keep their pick, it’s simply a matter of deciding which non-Wembanyama prospect they like the best.
When the 2022/23 season began, Henderson was widely considered a close runner-up to Wembanyama among this year’s top prospects — the two players were in a tier of their own, with Henderson viewed as a prospect who would be a worthy No. 1 overall pick in most years. He’s an explosive guard with excellent court vision who can be a primary play-maker on offense and shows plenty of promise as a backcourt defender.
However, Henderson had an up-and-down season with the Ignite, struggling with his shot in 19 regular season G League games — he made just 42.9% of his attempts from the field, including 27.5% of his three-pointers. Throw in the fact that the Hornets’ incumbent franchise player – LaMelo Ball – is a lead guard and you could make the case that Henderson might not be the best match for Charlotte.
If they’re not sold on Henderson, the Hornets’ top choice may be Miller, whose stock rose substantially over the course of the NCAA season. When Jonathan Givony of ESPN published a mock draft last October, Miller was the No. 19 pick, but the 6’9″ forward had a huge year for the Crimson Tide, averaging 18.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 2.1 APG while making 38.4% of his 7.5 three-point attempts per game.
In Givony’s most recent mock draft, he has Miller going to the Hornets at No. 2, writing that the 20-year-old’s ability to shoot, facilitate, and defend multiple positions makes him the “archetypal player every NBA team is currently searching for.”
While Miller is probably the better positional fit for Charlotte, his long-term ceiling may fall short of Henderson’s, and any franchise that drafts him will want to learn all it can about his character off the court. Miller was involved in a troubling story in Tuscaloosa over the winter, having brought former Alabama teammate Darius Miles the gun that was used in the killing of Jamea Jonae Harris.
Miller, who insisted that he didn’t know the gun was in the car, wasn’t charged with a crime and was described as a cooperative witness in the case. So while NBA executives will have plenty of questions for the Alabama wing about the incident, there has been a sense that it won’t hurt his draft stock.
“I don’t believe there will be any impact unless he lies in his interviews,” one executive recently told David Aldridge of The Athletic. “Integrity is more relevant than criminal friends; one we can fix, the other, we can’t.”
After Henderson and Miller, the consensus among draft experts is that there’s drop-off before the next tier of prospects, but the Hornets will certainly do their homework on a group that includes Overtime Elite twins Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson, Villanova wing Cam Whitmore, Houston forward Jarace Walker, and Arkansas guard Anthony Black, among others.
Trading the pick is also an option for the Hornets, but Charlotte isn’t believed to leaning toward an aggressive win-now approach this offseason in the same way that the two teams drafting behind them (Portland at No. 3 and Houston at No. 4) are. I can imagine scenarios in which the Hornets trade down from No. 2 to No. 3, but it’s hard to envision them moving out of the top three entirely.
We want to know what you think. If we assume the Hornets keep their pick at No. 2 and Wembanyama is off the board, which player should they draft? Do you think there’s a different between the player they should draft and the one they will select? Would you seriously consider anyone besides Henderson and Miller? Should Charlotte seriously consider trading the pick?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in!