It’s put up or shut up time for the Hornets


Well, the Hornets didn’t listen to me.




Blessed with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Charlotte opted for Alabama’s Brandon Miller over Scoot Henderson/a potential trade. Last week, I argued why one of the latter two choices would be the wisest move. But here we are. 


The Hornets have made their bed, and now they have to make sure it doesn’t catch on fire and burn the whole house down.


Charlotte came into this year’s draft with a less-than-stellar history of picking players. I’ve seen too many tweets about the players the Hornets could have had — guys like Kobe Bryant, Bradley Beal, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zach LaVine, Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell — and the players they rode with instead — Vlade Divac, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, Frank Kaminsky and Malik Monk.


Am I wrong to question the Hornets’ decision-making? The evidence seems to suggest otherwise. So how am I supposed to feel comfortable about what Miller can bring to the table?


I’ll give Miller this — He seems to have this weird irrational confidence, or maybe it’s just a solid sense of humor. In the pre-draft process, he went viral for claiming that Paul George was his pick for the greatest player of all time. After he was selected last week, he made more noise by predicting Charlotte would make the NBA Finals this upcoming season.


Shoot for the moon, I guess.


Is Charlotte a contender to win the Eastern Conference in 2023-24? I’d say they’re far from it. This past season, the Hornets finished 14 out of 15 teams in the East with a 27-55 record. The Hornets will have a few new additions with Miller and the return of Miles Bridges (yuck), but Charlotte isn’t expected to make any big splashes in free agency.


While making the finals seems out of the realm of possibility, the playoffs seems like a much more attainable goal for the team. And there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to fight for a spot.


Before cratering out last season, Charlotte made the play-in round in two straight seasons, but lost before making the actual playoffs. Bringing back Miller and Bridges could get the Hornets over the hump and reach the actual postseason for the first time since 2016.


To help reach that goal, Charlotte will have to lock down key pending free agent forward P.J. Washington as well as make a decision on wing Kelly Oubre Jr. If the Hornets decide to let Oubre go, it would free up about $16 million in space they could use to bring on another player.


If Charlotte fails to get the ball rolling and can’t make the playoffs this year, what is keeping LaMelo Ball from deciding he’d rather play out his second contract elsewhere? Sure, the Hornets could offer him the most money, but they will have inspired zero confidence that they are a franchise worthy of a superstar-caliber player.


From there, things could snowball pretty fast. Who’s to say the Hornets won’t be moved to a different city like Seattle or Las Vegas? Maybe a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered.


I kid, a little. Honestly I think the Hornets have a deal signed with the City of Charlotte to stay through at least 2045. But contracts are meant to be broken. And who’s to say the city would even want the team that far down the road?


Whatever the next step the Hornets take, they can’t afford to have it be the wrong one.