Hornets take Brandon Miller with 2nd pick of NBA draft

NEW YORK -- The Charlotte Hornets took Brandon Miller with the second pick of the 2023 NBA draft Thursday night, choosing the Alabama forward over G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson and ending up with the player the franchise had been leaning toward throughout the process.

"Obviously, there were two players that were heavily considered at that position. Brandon was the favorite all along," Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said after their selection. "It wasn't the easiest decision, but Brandon was our favorite all along. A lot of spirited discussion the last three or four days, which I welcome, and it's good for the basketball department to discuss pros and cons."

Miller and Henderson were brought back to Charlotte for a second round of workouts and interviews earlier this week, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, before the franchise ultimately settled on Miller, the 6-foot-9 forward who won the SEC's Freshman and Player of the Year awards. Kupchak said there was "100 percent consensus" on the choice.

"I know we are going to go in and have as much fun as we can in Charlotte," Miller said.

Miller averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 43% from the field and 38% from 3-point range. He also won the SEC tournament's MVP award and was named a second-team All-American.

Miller, 20, will slot in next to LaMelo Ball as the Hornets hope to return to the postseason.

"Melo is my guy," Miller said. "I think with Melo, as good of a point guard as he is, I just kind of fill in the place [on the court]. And I know he is going to be the big brother for me away from home."

Miller's arrival in Charlotte comes months after his name surfaced in court testimony in the capital murder case of former Alabama player Darius Miles and another man, who are charged in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris on Jan. 15.

A police officer testified that Miles texted Miller asking him to bring Miles' gun in the early morning hours of the shooting. Miller has not been accused of any crime.

"Especially with a pick this high, this valuable, we do a lot of due diligence," Kupchak said. "We contact a lot of people. In fact, [assistant GM Buzz Peterson] and I went to Alabama about two weeks ago. Over the course of the year, we did a lot of investigative intel, so to speak, whether it's reading articles, you bump into people, you go to games, you watch body language on the court and then you talk to people, you bump into people.

"But with a pick this high, we did more due diligence than we normally would. And yeah, we're comfortable."

Miller, speaking to reporters at last month's NBA draft combine about the message he hoped to convey to teams about the shooting, said, "It's all a lesson learned."

"You always have to be aware of your surroundings and know what you're surrounded by," he said. "I feel like the night could've changed my career in less than a heartbeat. So always be aware of your surroundings."

The Hornets also selected 19-year-old guard Nick Smith Jr. from Arkansas with the 27th overall pick. Smith had been projected as a potential top-five pick before a knee injury caused him to miss 19 games last season.

In addition, Charlotte added James Nnaji, a 6-foot-11 center from FC Barcelona, and UCLA guard Amari Bailey in the second round.

It has already been an eventful offseason in Charlotte. In addition to landing a potential franchise cornerstone in Miller, the Hornets are going through an ownership change after Michael Jordan agreed to sell his majority stake to current Hornets minority owner Gabe Plotkin and current Atlanta Hawks minority owner Rick Schnall earlier this month. Jordan will still hold a minority stake in the team.

The Hornets also have a decision to make on restricted free agent forward Miles Bridges, who pleaded no contest to a felony domestic violence charge in November and never signed a contract with Charlotte this past season. Bridges was suspended for 30 games by the NBA in April, with 20 of them being counted as time served after he did not play this past season, meaning he'd miss the first 10 games of the 2023-24 season.

Information from ESPN's David Newton and The Associated Press was used in this report.