- Brandon Miller (draft), Nick Smith Jr. (draft)
It was mainly a wash for the Hornets, who couldn’t stay healthy and couldn’t win enough games. Other than that, all was fine.
Star guard LaMelo Ball played only 36 games because of injury and Charlotte wasn’t the same without him. He’s by far the Hornets’ best player and its future as the stylish playmaker elevating everyone around him.
Then there was Miles Bridges, who in November pleaded no contest to one count of felony domestic violence stemming from an incident in June of 2022. He missed the entire season mainly because of legal issues and the Hornets missed his 20.2-point scoring average. The NBA eventually handed him a 30-game suspension, giving him credit for 20 because he didn’t play last season.
Without Bridges and Ball, the Hornets were among the worst offensive teams in the league and had the overall record to prove it.
The perils of choosing second in a Victor Wembanyama draft is that this choice isn’t a no-brainer like the first overall choice. After the San Antonio Spurs took Wembanyama, the Hornets were on the clock.
And once the Hornets decided not to trade the pick, it really came down to two players: Miller or Scoot Henderson?
If you polled most NBA people, the consensus would be the Hornets didn’t make the right choice. There was an unofficial yet distinct ho-hum among Charlotte fans once Miller was the guy. And that’s being kind. Henderson was the more sensational option, Miller the safe one. And given where the Hornets are right now — with no strong co-pilot next to Ball — this team needs someone who can bring the sizzle.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) September 15, 2023
This isn’t to say Miller is a slouch. Far from it, actually. He was the best prospect in college (Henderson starred in the NBA G League) and is a versatile forward with polish to his game who might have a rather problem-free NBA transition. His shooting mechanics are strange-looking and his range is suspect, but that’s about the only nitpick.
The other argument for choosing Miller? Henderson is a point guard who needs the ball and there’s no telling how he and Ball would’ve fit together.
Speaking of front-line help, the Hornets welcomed back (sort of) Bridges, their wayward son. To say he had an uneventful last 14 months is an understatement. Because of his legal troubles, nobody in the NBA was willing to extend a rich contract offer for the restricted free agent. Nor would the Hornets. That means Bridges, who was excellent two seasons ago and was in line for a five-year, $173 million max extension, had to settle for a lot, lot, lot less.
As in: One year for just under $8 million.
Bridges apologized for his actions and will sit the first 10 games of 2023-24 as part of his suspension.
And finally, there were two other bits of big news out of Charlotte this summer. First, Ball inked a reported five-year, $260 million extension with the Hornets in July that keeps the young playmaker in the fold for years to come. After injuries held him back last season, Ball is ready to make a big impact on the court and regain his All-Star form.
Second, Michael Jordan cashed out as owner in August. This was a bit of a surprise, but only a bit. The surprise part is that Jordan certainly didn’t need to sell from a financial standpoint and really, why sell before the NBA’s next TV contract is secured in 2025 which will raise the value of all 30 teams? The not-so-surprising part is Jordan was obviously weary of steering a team that constantly struggled to make the playoffs or have any relevancy in the league under his 13-year ownership.
He made out OK, selling his majority share at a $4 billion valuation, quite a profit after buying the team for $275 million in 2010. His departure leaves the NBA without a Black majority owner.
The good news: Charlotte can finally find a player with better basketball skills than the owner.
> 30 teams in 30 days: Complete schedule
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