When NBA commissioner Adam Silver takes the stage at Barclays Center in New York on June 22 to announce the first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, there will be no mystery about the name he is going to announce. Barring some unforeseen and historic twist of fate, the San Antonio Spurs are going to selectwith the No. 1 overall pick.
As for the No. 2 pick? Well, plenty remains to be sorted out in the weeks leading up to draft night as the Charlotte Hornets decide what do after jumping from No. 4 to No. 2 during this year's lottery. While G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson was long-regarded as the No. 2 player in the class, the Hornets are set at point guard with LaMelo Ball.
If Charlotte passes on Henderson, the most obvious choice at No. 2 would be Alabama wing Brandon Miller. Miller would fit more naturally alongside Ball than Henderson, but the pick would bring its own set of complications. Miller wasnear the Alabama campus during the 2022-23 season, and concerns over that incident have overshadowed the 20-year-old's stellar on-court credentials.
Miller has not been charged in the killing of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris, a mother of a 5-year-old boy, but police testimony in February alleges he brought the gun used in the fatal shooting to then-teammate Darius Miles at the request of Miles, who then handed the gun to another individual to commit the crime. Both Miles and his accomplice, Michael Lynn Davis, have been indicted on charges of capital murder.
It's something Miller's been forced to address with franchises while going through the NBA's pre-draft process.
"The message that I've presented to them is just that it's all a lesson learned," Miller told reporters at the NBA Draft Combine last week. "You always have to be aware of your surroundings and what you're surrounded by. The night could have changed my career in less than a heartbeat. So just always be aware of your surroundings."
While trading down to a team with a more specific need is always an option, amassing high-end talent is Charlotte's path back to relevance, and keeping the No. 2 pick provides an obvious means to add a high-ceiling player. So should the Hornets double-down on high-end point guards and take Henderson? Or should they take a chance on Miller even amid the off-court concerns?
The case for Scoot Henderson
Henderson averaged 16.5 points and 6.5 assists for G League Ignite in the 2022-23 season. He made just 27.5% of his 3-point attempts this season but had no problem carving up opposing defenses off the dribble and using his explosive athleticism to reach the rim.
He ranked as the No. 13 overall prospect in the high school class of 2021 after reclassifying from the Class of 2022 in order to spend two years in the G League's developmental program for elite prospects before reaching draft eligibility. The program served Henderson well as he matured on and off the court, cementing himself as a surefire top-five pick in the 2023 draft.
But playing him with Ball may not be practical for the Hornets. Henderson is just 6-foot-2 and not reliable enough on either end of the floor to be considered "versatile" at this stage in his development. That would likely mean more time spent on the wing for Ball, which would be an unnatural transition for a player whose best skills are passing and facilitating. It is not an obvious or natural pairing, and it's why there is a case for to be made for using the second pick on Miller.
A bright basketball mind could surely find a way to make a Henderson-Ball pairing work in the back court, and there would be plenty of offensive upside to the partnership. But defining roles for two players with similar styles could be a challenge, and the defensive issues presented by playing both together may be too large of a hurdle to overcome for a franchise seeking its first playoff series victory since 2002.
The case for Brandon Miller
Miller established himself as the top freshman in college basketball during the 2022-23 season as he earned All-American honors while leading Alabama to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. At 6-8, Miller's length and versatility on both ends make him an obvious NBA talent. In fact, the case can easily be made that he would have been the top overall pick in last year's draft.
Though his connection to an off-campus shooting clouded the perception of his freshman season and created questions about Miller away from the floor, there is no question about the type of player he can be. Miller hit 38.4% of his 3-pointers on 7.5 attempts per game, showed proficiency in the mid-range and defended tenaciously. He also led the Crimson Tide in rebounding at 8.2 boards per game and free-throw shooting at 85.9%.
Conveniently, the Hornets have an opening on the wing next season with Kelly Oubre Jr. becoming an unrestricted free agent. Given that Ball and fellow guard Terry Rozier are in the fold for years to come, Miller is a more obvious fit than Henderson in Charlotte. But the franchise is concerned enough about the off-court incident that it is sending its attorneys to Alabama to conduct an independent investigation, ESPN reported.
Could Scoot fall further?
The idea of Henderson potentially falling to No. 4 seemed unlikely entering the lottery. But with Charlotte at No. 2 and Portland at No. 3, it's within the realm of possibility. The Trail Blazers have undersized guards Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons on huge contracts for years to come. Is there room for another small guard in the mix a year after the franchise selected Shaedon Sharpe at No. 7 overall?
If the Trail Blazers also passed on Henderson, he would fit more naturally with Houston at No. 4 than with Charlotte or Portland. While the Rockets have talented young guards such as Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green and TyTy Washington, Henderson's upside is so high that, if he's available at No. 4, he would be an obvious choice for the Rockets.