On June 22, the Charlotte Hornets drafted Brandon Miller with the second overall pick. Hornets fans debated whether Scoot Henderson was the better choice for weeks, although it now appears that Mitch Kupchak preferred Miller’s versatility on the wing.
With LaMelo Ball already on the roster and thefront office likely wanting to build a contender around his unique skillset, Miller made a ton of sense as a potential second star. The Alabama Crimson Tide product can operate as an off-ball catch-and-shoot threat; he can provide secondary playmaking, is a reliable defender, and has flashed three-level scoring ability. Most importantly, though, Miller does not need to be ball-dominant in order to have a positive effect on games.
A learning curve is inevitable. Every player who enters the NBA must navigate the difficulties of being in the league. The travel. The physicality. That sheer talent of everyone you face on the court. And the relentless schedule are all part and parcel of being part of the most competitive league in the world. Fortunately, Charlotte has a few rotation options in Miller’s position and can protect him when he needs some rest before reinserting him when he’s ready to continue making a contribution.
There’s also a reasonable chance that Miller acclimates to the NBA quickly and that he finds himself in contention for Rookie of the Year honors due to his impact on the floor. In a season where Victor Wembanyama is also entering the league, believing that anybody else has a shot at being crowned as the league’s best rookie feels like a stretch, but it might be more realistic than you want to believe.
Here are three reasons why Brandon Miller could challenge for Rookie of the Year this season.
Brandon Miller won’t be the featured offensive option
Unlike Wembanyama, Miller isn’t walking into a franchise as the clear-cut number-one guy. For the Hornets, that tag belongs to LaMelo. Instead, Miller will be asked to play a specific role for the team before it slowly gets expanded as the year progresses.
The likelihood is that Miller operates as a catch-and-shoot guy. Then, he will be tasked with driving close-outs. Perhaps curling and cutting off screens will come next. However it unfolds, Steve Clifford would be wise to increase Miller’s offensive and defensive responsibilities incrementally. Wembanyama won’t have that luxury.
When you’re the highest-rated prospect since LeBron James, all eyes will be on you from the opening tip to the final buzzer. That type of pressure can have an effect on you. It weighs heavily. Miller will be free of that pressure, to an extent, and could thrive because of it.