The Charlotte Hornets are a disaster.
Through four games of the NBA 2k24 Summer League, the Hornets have not won. Their point differential is -9 points, which is 3rd worst in the NBA.
On July 13, the Hornets announced that second overall draft pick Brandon Miller was sidelined for the remainder of the Las Vegas summer exhibitions. Prior to the 2023 NBA Draft, there was an ongoing debate over whether Charlotte should select Scoot Henderson over Miller.
The Hornets submitted their pick to be Miller, although Henderson was considered the safest pick in the draft.
Following the Hornets’ selection, the Portland Trail Blazers capitalized on Henderson’s availability with the third pick.
The main problem goes beyond Charlotte’s inability to produce wins; It’s Miller In five games in both California and Las Vegas, Miller averaged 15.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
At the California Classic, Miller was strong, shooting 46.7% from the field and 44% from three-point range. However, in Las Vegas, that success didn’t translate; instead, Miller shot 35.4% from the field and 26.1% from deep in just three games.
In Miller’s last outing against the Blazers, he got much better, scoring 26 points and six rebounds on 8-for-15 shooting from the field and shooting 3-of-6 from deep.
Honestly, that’s a huge sigh of relief for Charlotte.
The strong performance gave the Hornets a chance to tune Miller out of the spotlight, which unfortunately caused viewers to scrutinize his game.
Now we are going to control ourselves. It’s the Summer League, the same place that has seen a number of talented young players who became future flops come and go. That’s part of the draft, and each franchise is betting its rights on a certain prospect each year.
Unfortunately, the Hornets have faltered multiple times in the last 20 years.
Since 2004, Charlotte has only drafted two All-Star prospects: Kemba Walker and LaMelo Ball, who were drafted in 2011 and 2020, respectively.
The reality is that Charlotte is a small market. Subsequently, the Hornets can’t compete to recruit massive talent through free agency the way Los Angeles, Chicago and New York can; that is implausible.
Charlotte’s biggest free agent splash in recent memory was big man Al Jefferson. In four years with the Hornets, Jefferson claimed a respectable All-NBA third team in 2014, but was out of the NBA in less than five years.
Year after year, Charlotte has always missed the mark on draft day.
For example, the Hornets selected Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the 11th pick in 2018 and immediately traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers for another prospect, Miles Bridges. Gilgeous-Alexander has risen to stardom, earning his first All-Star and All-NBA First Team honors last season; Meanwhile, Bridges spent the entire season serving a suspension on domestic violence charges.
The Hornets’ development department has been baffled in recent years because they’ve given limited minutes to young players in favor of veterans.
Every team does that to some degree, but Malik Monk, for example, spent his first four seasons in Charlotte averaging just 18.2 minutes per game. Since leaving the Hornets, Monk has seen an increase in minutes, points per game, field goal and 3-point percentage, and assists because he’s playing more games.
Knowing that Charlotte Miller will likely sit behind Bridges and split time off the bench with Kelly Oubre Jr. or Gordon Hayward, don’t get me wrong, Oubre is a solid player, but Hayward shouldn’t play more than 31 minutes anymore.
Considering this year’s draft, one prospect has a big advantage: Nick Smith Jr. Before injuring his knee in December, the Arkansas point guard was projected to be a top-five pick. However, Smith slipped to the 27th pick and took him to Charlotte.
Through six games this summer, Smith has averaged 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, which is solid for a late first-round pick. Additionally, Smith exploded against Portland for 33 points while shooting 60% from the field and 80% from three.
Smith’s early production is a predictor of his potential; however, Smith may receive the same timid attention that Monk experienced with Charlotte.
Another example is guard James Bouknight, who was drafted 11th overall by the Hornets in the 2021 NBA Draft. Despite being a lottery pick, Bouknight has seen the court just 65 times and averaged 12.6 minutes. in two seasons.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons for the few minutes could be Bouknight’s lackluster shooting. In two seasons, Bouknight has shot 35.3% from the field and 31.6% from deep.
Those struggles have continued for Bouknight this summer, as he shot 38.4% from the field and 23.1% from three.
In hindsight, it seems Charlotte inadvertently squandered its pick on Bouknight, as the Hornets have taken a guard in the first round in three of the last four drafts. Especially since Bouknight just doesn’t get many minutes outside of garbage time.
The Bouknight and Smith tandem failed to win against the New Orleans Pelicans in their last Summer League matchup as the Hornets started the game missing their first 14 shots. Later, after starting the game down 18-0 and ending the first quarter down 25-5.
As you can imagine, the Hornets lost but not without a fight, coming up short 89-83 when Bouknight scored 28 points thanks to a 4-9 three-point record.
However, Summer League is merely a glimpse, nothing more than a showcase for young talent to grow and show their respective teams what they have to offer.
Even the much-hyped first overall pick Victor Wembanyama struggled in his debut against the Hornets, ironically. The San Antonio Spurs only kept Wembanyama for two games in the Las Vegas showcase.
However, the NBA season will be right around the corner, and at least the Hornets can show off their $260 million extension with Ball, keeping him in Queen City for the next five years.
The Hornets have a chance next season to end their seven-year playoff drought, which is currently the longest in the NBA.