When it comes to teams who have their best days ahead of them, the Charlotte Hornets are definitely at the top of the list. Coming off a disappointing 27-55 season marred by injuries and poor performance, the Hornets were in a position to add some top-end talent in the draft to help build the foundation of their roster moving forward.
Head coach Steve Clifford was recently asked about rookies Brandon Miller and Nick Smith Jr. in an interview with NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner. Speaking on Miller, Clifford was very complimentary of the second overall draft selection.
"“He has a combination of size, skill and IQ that’s hard to find even in our league. Almost 6-foot-9. Very good decision maker. Great skill package. Better off the dribble than I realized. He has a big advantage in that he played for a terrific college coach”"
Clifford would also add that Smith is an “ A-plus worker” when discussing their second first-round pick.
Expecting to say anything but positives about incoming rookies would be foolish from a head coach. However, hearing that Miller’s dribble is better than expected and that Smith is working hard in the offseason is encouraging. However, some caution should be exercised as Miller’s dribble was something recently mentioned as an area that needs to be worked on before the season starts. While it is possible it has improved, no one will truly know until real games are played.
It is important not to raise expectations to a height that is unrealistic for these players to reach. These are still very young players in this league who are adjusting to the increased difficulty of playing at the next level, in addition to having their day-to-day lives changing in an instant. There is going to be an adjustment period, and at times, things will look a little bit rough on the court. But this is about the long game in Charlotte. The Hornets are a team that is not ready for prime time, and this year is all about building. There is a very real chance that veterans on the roster are moved at some point this season in order to clear minutes for the younger players on their roster to establish themselves. While the results may not be there in the win-loss column, this is crucial in the development of a young team that is looking to find its way in the league.