Hornets eye Henderson, Miller with 2nd overall selection

Charlotte moved up in the draft lottery and will pick after San Antonio

Scoot Henderson of G League Ignite could be the Hornets’ pick when they select second overall in next month's NBA Draft. (John Locher / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — Heading into last week’s NBA Draft lottery at No. 4 in the pre-lottery standings, the Charlotte Hornets received a much-needed stroke of good fortune as they moved up to the second pick in next month’s draft.

While they fell one pick short of the chance to draft a generational talent in Victor Wembanyama — a lock as the top selection for San Antonio — the Hornets will have their pick of G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson and Alabama wing Brandon Miller as the second player taken off the board.

Charlotte general manager Mitch Kupchak met with the media after the draft lottery and talked about the excitement as it was revealed the Hornets had jumped up from the No. 4 spot.

“Of course, human nature sets you up to get greedy, so when it was the two teams left, yeah, we wanted No. 1,” he said. “For a second, there was a little bit of, ‘Ah, shucks. We didn’t get it,’ But overall, to go from four and not to go back to eight and then to go from No. 4 to No. 2, it’s an incredible stroke of luck. I wish there was some way we could have prepared for it and done something to improve our luck other than lose games. Incredibly excited about getting a pick like that.”

The Hornets will likely be deciding between Henderson and Miller, and there are several factors to consider in ultimately deciding who will be wearing purple and teal next season.

Many believe Henderson is the second-best player in the class, while Miller could be a better positional fit for Charlotte.

During most years, Henderson would be an easy choice as the No. 1 overall pick.

The speedy, explosive playmaker from Georgia has dazzled league draft experts with his combination of superb court vision, promising defensive talent and an All-Star ceiling that has had scouts interested for years now. While just 6-foot-2, the 19-year-old possesses a 6-foot-9 wingspan and an overall tenacity in his game that could eventually make him a team’s primary offensive threat.

Though his 2022-23 G League season numbers aren’t eye-popping — he averaged 16.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists on 43% shooting — most analysts agree that he checked all the right boxes as a young star-in-the-making right out of high school and a lottery selection.

Charlotte’s choice on whether or not to take Henderson could come down to how the Hornets think he would coexist with franchise point guard LaMelo Ball.

Both players prefer to have the ball in their hands, so a Henderson-Ball backcourt would require each to take turns playing off the ball. That could also backfire if both struggle to share the responsibilities as the primary ball handler.

The latter scenario is where the idea of drafting Miller instead comes into play.

The 6-foot-9 small forward is coming off a spectacular freshman season with the Crimson Tide. He averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and his draft stock soared throughout the year. Miller is also versatile — he can slash into the lane while also shooting 38% from behind the arc.

But the ongoing legal problems of Charlotte restricted free agent Miles Bridges could make the Hornets reluctant to move forward with Miller.

Although no charges were filed against him, Miller was investigated in the off-campus murder of a woman in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, earlier this year when it was determined that he had provided the gun used in the murder to former teammate Darius Miles. Miller is on record stating that he was unaware that the murder weapon was in his car.

If the Hornets decide that Miller’s connection to the incident isn’t reflective of him as a person, the All-American could very well be a top target for the team. Miller’s talent ceiling might not be as high as Henderson’s, but he makes sense from a need point of view with Kelly Oubre Jr. becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Whether it is Henderson or Miller who puts on a Hornets hat next month, Charlotte should be adding another star player to its lineup.