On Sunday night, Charlotte Hornets rookie Brandon Miller had the best performance of his young NBA career, scoring a career-high 35 points on 10-of-25 shooting from the field and 5-of-12 from three while grabbing 6 rebounds and blocking 2 shots.
Miller did it in a variety of ways, including stepbacks, floaters and drives to the rim. He hit 5 threes and showcased the three-level-scoring potential that helped him go No. 2 overall in the 2023 NBA Draft.
No. 2 Pick Brandon Miller dropped a career-high 35 PTS in Charlotte against the Pacers! pic.twitter.com/WWhBGqHFf1— NBA (@NBA) February 5, 2024
This outing served as a statement game for Miller, who has mostly been an afterthought in the Rookie-of-the-Year race since his fellow freshmen Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren are having all-time rookie seasons. Miller has faced a lot of doubters, as people have been skeptical since the pick was made, with many citing No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson as the better overall prospect.
Over his last 10 games, the 6-foot-9 forward has been averaging 22.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists, on 48% shooting from the field, 40% from three and 85% from the free-throw line. Miller is starting to figure it out and proving he belongs in the league.
The 21-year-old’s career-night made him the first Hornets rookie since 1993 to have a 35+ point game, joining Alonzo Mourning and Rex Chapman as the only rookies to do so in Charlotte’s franchise history.
With Miller averaging 28 points over his last four games, the No. 2 overall pick did something that turned heads. With nine minutes in the second quarter, Miller tallied his first field goal of the game with a driving layup over Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner. After scoring, Miller sprinted down the floor on the other end as TJ McConnell found Obi Toppin leaking out on a fastbreak. However, Toppin was not able to catch the ball, leading to the turnover. Despite that, Miller was clearly distraught at his teammates' lack of effort and was heard saying “get the f*** back!”
Even after scoring and making the layup, Miller was the first one back on defense ahead of the other Hornets players, who were jogging nonchalantly with just three minutes elapsed in the second quarter.
It sent a message to his teammates, coaching staff, organization and the whole city of Charlotte raring to see a competitive basketball team in their lifetimes: they now have a someone who cares and is willing to give everything night in and night out to win. And it came from their prized 21-year-old rookie.
This type of winning mentality separates the good players from the great players — the willingness to work hard, the ability to motivate himself and others to win, and being a leader who holds teammates accountable on their mistakes.
As Charlotte looks to build a winning team after being stuck in mediocrity, perhaps Miller is the cornerstone they've been looking for in recent years.