A look at the Charlotte Hornets’ full draft haul at a glance:
Pick #2, 1st Round, F Brandon Miller (Alabama)
A “fit” pick with the thought of complementing LaMelo Ball, the Charlotte Hornets selected Brandon Miller, who averaged 18.8 points per game, the most among any College freshman. The Hornets also are intrigued by his outside shooting, as someone who made the second most three-pointers in Alabama history with 106. Miller said that his greatest growth point is getting stronger, as his body isn’t quite up to NBA standards. While the off-the-court issues are a noteworthy part of Miller’s early NBA narrative, the Hornets fortified their statements on Thursday night saying they are “happy with Brandon on and off the floor”.
Pick #27, 1st Round, G Nick Smith, Jr. (Arkansas)
The Hornets bought in on a falling stock with Smith, after he missed 19 games during his lone collegiate season because of a lingering knee injury. Charlotte will bank on Smith’s ability to run the fast break, as he averaged 3.6 fast-break points per 40 minutes according to CBB Analytics. Smith also profiles as a guy who can hit floaters and three-pointers on the move, very much in the rhythm of Charlotte’s offensive profile. Many mock drafts had Smith being drafted in the lottery, so Charlotte hopes they got good value with a player motivated to prove the doubters wrong.
Pick #31, 2nd Round, C James Nnaji (Nigeria)
Charlotte adds a player with a 6-foot-11 frame and a 7-5 wingspan who appears to be a project backup big man. Nnaji started playing basketball late in life at age 12, and didn’t get a lot of playing time for Barcelona in Liga ACB, the top league in Spain. He took just two jump shots all season last year, with most of his offensive productivity coming on dunks. He used his frame to his advantage, however, as he blocked one shot every 7.3 minutes. The Hornets initially will want to see how he can run the pick-and-roll, a key principle with the dominance of a guard like LaMelo Ball. The Hornets had picks to burn, but using two picks to trade up and select a raw project like Nnaji can be looked at as a risk worth taking.
Pick #41 2nd Round, G Amari Bailey (UCLA)
A combo guard like Amari Bailey represents a like-for-like comparison with a player like Terry Rozier, albeit short of a lot of experience. Bailey averaged 16.7 points per game at UCLA as a freshman, connecting on 49.5 percent shooting. He could create his own shot at the NCAA level, but it remains to be seen if he can replicate that with the physicality of the NBA. With the roster glut the Hornets have, it’s entirely probable that a lengthy stint with the Greensboro Swarm should give him some time to acclimate to his new surroundings.
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