The Hornets came out of the 2023 NBA Draft with a nice haul. Second-overall pick Brandon Miller and late first-round pick Nick Smith will both be able to contribute in year one, but what specifically do these prospects provide the Hornets with, and where could they improve?
The headliner for the 2023 NBA Draft class is Brandon Miller. The 6′ 9″ forward out of Alabama was one of the best NCAA Division 1 basketball players last season. He averaged 18.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game last season. Miller was among the better outside shooters from the forward position, shooting 38.4% from deep on 7.5 attempts per game.
Miller capped off a sensational season, winning the SEC tournament MVP while leading The Crimson Tide to the SEC championship. Miller will come in ready to contribute. His outside shooting will provide inside space for Lamelo Ball and Mark Williams. Miller ranked second in the SEC in defensive rebounds and twentieth in the nation, with 229.
His knack for defensive rebounding will provide the defense with a boost. That being said, Miller does have areas to work on. He is prone to defensive fouls due to poor discipline and isn’t a terrific finisher around the rim. However, his good off-ball play and ability to space the floor will boost the offense and earn him playing time.
Nick Smith could be a wild card pick
Nick Smith Jr. was a preseason top-five pick in the draft; however, due to injury and streaky play, he fell to the end go the first round. Smith was a fantastic value pick. He has a very high upside, and a late first-round pick on someone as talented as him is not much of a gamble. Smith will come in and provide competition for Terry Rozier and James Bouknight.
Nick Smith should be expected to be in the G League to start the season, and depending on his play, he could be called up. Smith Jr. could provide solid three-level scoring or the second unit and see some actual backup point guard minutes depending on how he develops.
Rim pressure and athleticism make Amari Bailey stand out
Amari Bailey had an underrated season at UCLA. he scored about 11 points per game on very respectable efficiency. Bailey is a strong athlete who could provide rim pressure immediately. Bailey is another prospect that could spend time in Greensboro with the G League this season. Though Bailey has raw talent and athleticism, adjusting to the NBA will take some time.
Toward the end of the season, Bailey could look to get minutes with the second unit as a point-of-attack defender, as he has all the tools to excel in this role. His athleticism will make him a good lob threat for Ball and Smith Jr., and his rim pressure will look to open the deep ball and mid-range for Miller and Ball.
The Hornets came out of the 2023 NBA Draft with heaps of talent. Only time will tell if The Hornets will capitalize on this opportunity, but the Hornets are in prime position to leap into playoff contention. It will be up to Steve Clifford and the staff of the team to unlock the potential greatness.