Grading the Charlotte Hornets 2023 draft class

Yesterday we looked at what the national media thought of the Charlotte Hornets 2023 NBA Draft class. But what about us here At The Hive? We have opinions too, so I figured I’d give my grade on the class.

Brandon Miller: A

I was all aboard the Scoot Henderson train all the way up to the 11th hour. We did our debate between Miller and Henderson with me taking up the side of Miller just for the dialog. I kinda talked myself into the pick while I did that, though that might be some good ol’ fan coping as well.

Miller gives the Hornets something they lacked, a big shot creator and shot maker. They were one of the worst teams in the league at making shots last year, so why not look to fix that? And 6’9″ players that can handle the ball, create and make shots, and defend are super hard to find. You have to take one when you have the chance. The best version of Ball the facilitator and Miller the scorer is tantalizing.

Nick Smith Jr: A+

I’m a huge fan of using later picks on former top recruits that struggled in college, especially as one and dones. Smith was a consensus top three recruit in the 2022 class before a down season at Arkansas tanked his draft stock. The circumstances of Smith’s struggles make him a perfect buy low candidate too. He fought to come back from injury and battled through it despite what it did to his draft stock. You love the competitive spirit.

On the court, Smith provides some guard depth that the Hornets need more than I think people talk about. He’s got some scoring pop like the classic 6th man and can run an offense well enough as well. He should outperform his draft slot.

James Nnaji: B

We’ll see what the Hornets elect to do with Nnaji given he’s under contract with Barcelona. But for now, it almost feels like this pick was made because Nnaji could be stashed in Europe more than a real desire to pick and use him.

I do like the idea of Nnaji as a second round pick. He has elite physical tools and fits the energy depth big archetype. He just feels the least likely to make an impact on this roster as currently constructed.

Amari Bailey: A-

The reasoning behind the selection of Bailey would have been similar to the reasoning behind the selection of Smith–swing on the highly ranked recruits that had underwhelming freshman seasons in college. Bailey wasn’t quite as highly regarded, but he was ranked as high as number five by ESPN.

His play at the combine showed he might have more facilitation skills than he had shown at his past stops. There’s untapped potential there that the Hornets could harness.

The one knock I have on the pick is the redundancy of Bailey and Smith. That’s generally not something you worry too much at this point in the draft because you’re just looking for anyone you think might hit. But it’s easier to get excited when multiple picks don’t have such overlapping skill sets.

Overall: A

The Hornets hopefully have a future star in Brandon Miller to form a 1-2 punch with LaMelo Ball. The later part of the draft was used for high upside swings on young players with good pedigree. Since the Hornets aren’t really in desperate need for immediate contributors, I like the decision to pick for potential instead of immediate productivity.

Now the team just needs that veteran leader to guide them.

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