Will the Charlotte Hornets have an image problem if they draft Miller/Bates?

Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

There will be a lot of debate about whether or not Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson should be the selection by the Charlotte Hornets as the number two overall pick in the upcoming 2023 NBA draft. The two have differentiated themselves on the court with shooting, defense, and shot creation. But another place the small forward and shooting guard will be contrasted is off-court behavior. Miller was involved in a homicide during his sole year in college.

The Charlotte Hornets had a difficult year from a public relations point of view. Not only was the on-court product bad, but several players associated with the Hornets found themselves in trouble. Miles Bridges was arrested for assaulting the mother of his children and James Bouknight was arrested with a gun a few months later. For a team that may be sold soon, having a bad reputation isn’t just a moral issue—it’s a financial one.

What’s at stake for the Charlotte Hornets?

It’s not just Miller’s draft stock that may affect his evaluation from the Hornets. Charlotte has five picks in the upcoming NBA draft, including four from the 27th pick on. Eastern Michigan and high school phenom Emoni Bates has tantalized NBA scouts for years and could be available late. So why would the 6’10 forward (who was the first high school sophomore to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year award) be available so late?

Between his injury-shortened year in Memphis and his year in Eastern Michigan, Bates was charged with two felonies—carrying a concealed weapon and “altering ID marks” on the gun. Bates later pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. Bates also recently stated he would be interested in playing for the Hornets.

Only time will tell about what lessons these young men learned regarding their behavior, but given the issues with Ja Morant and his conceivably pending lengthy suspension, it would be understandable if teams were wary of players with gun-related issues. And given the Hornets’ recent issues with players that are already on the roster—and who would otherwise be asked to mentor rookie players—it’s a reasonable conclusion that Charlotte will be hypersensitive to bringing on players with off-court baggage. And what about Steve Clifford, who can fall out of love with a young player in the best of circumstances?

There are lots of questions to answer about the potential of drafting one or both of the players. But one thing is clear, the Charlotte Hornets are not a destination for big-time free agents. Whatever talent they acquire is through free agency and the draft–and this sort of talent doesn’t usually find itself in Queen City. So maybe the most important question is this; will the league’s worst defense be able to say no to some of the best scorers the draft has to offer?

Next. Charlotte Hornets bring in Emoni Bates for workout. dark