NBA writer advocates for Hornets to trade LaMelo Ball, build around Brandon Miller

San Antonio Spurs v Charlotte Hornets
San Antonio Spurs v Charlotte Hornets / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages

Hornets fans have actually had some things to be excited about recently, starting with the emergence of Brandon Miller in late January, and continuing with the deadline deals, and the team’s recent play since then.

But it’s nice to see some in the national media starting to take notice. Tony Jones of the Athletic wrote a column on Saturday titled, “The Charlotte Hornets actually have reasons to be optimistic”, which is a backhanded compliment if I’ve ever heard one.

But Jones made a lot of great points in the article and did a great job of outlining much of what Hornets fans have been excited about for the past few weeks. But buried within his praise of Miller, Jones unleashed a fairly explosive take that he would trade LaMelo Ball to truly build around Brandon.

A scorching hot take

He opined that despite Ball’s gaudy statistics, Miller is already the better player and does more to impact winning. He goes on to add that the Hornets would be selling high on Ball, trading the 22-year-old former all-star before his five-year contract extension even kicks in.

While it’s certainly a hot take, it’s really not that crazy. Ball has struggled immensely to stay on the court, really only having one fully healthy season in his four-year career. There are also serious questions to be asked about his play style, how he dominates the ball, displays frustrating shot selection, and can be a liability on defense.

Since Ball has gone out, Miller has had much greater opportunity to initiate offense and create shots for himself and others, and it has been encouraging. Moving Ball could allow the Hornets to fully focus on maximizing Miller and the team around him.

What would the Hornets look like?

They could go into next season with Miller, (hopefully healthy) Mark Williams, a likely top-5 pick in this June’s draft, plus the haul of assets they could recoup in a LaMelo trade. They’d also have the ability to bring back or sign-and-trade Miles Bridges, Nick Richards under contract, and the players they just acquired at the trade deadline.

That’s not exactly a title contender, but it’s the start of a promising rebuild for sure. Add in the two 2027 first-round picks they added at the deadline this year, and it starts to sound pretty compelling. 

If they could add another 2-3 first-round picks and a couple of players for LaMelo I think the team has to very strongly consider. The Hornets could become flush with young talent and draft capital in the blink of an eye, and that’s not easy to do in the NBA.

Playing devil's advocate

Now a few questions would naturally arise. One, what would Ball’s trade value even be at this point? The rest of the league knows his shortcomings and injury issues, and many may see his five-year max contract extension as a net negative. There is a chance that the market could actually be fairly underwhelming for the young star.

The other question is why not just keep LaMelo and build around both young stars? There isn’t a ton of overlap in what Ball and Miller do, so a case could be made to just be happy the team has two young stars aged 21 and 22 to build around. It’s not like the Hornets are in danger of having too many mouths to feed or anything like that.

The verdict

But this would be a cold, calculated, forward-thinking move. It only takes one team to throw a treasure chest of assets at Charlotte. If the decision-makers for the Hornets agree that Miller is “the guy”, it makes sense to pivot in that direction now, rather than having an awkward power struggle that could ultimately hinder Miller’s growth.

Furthermore, if the new regime isn’t sold on Ball, they would be wise to act now before his contract becomes a disaster down the road, especially if he struggles with injury yet again next season. There is a lot to digest with this grandiose idea, but suffice it to say, I am extremely intrigued.