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NBA Mock Draft, Volume One

Victor Wembanyama

Victor Wembanyama

© Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just over one week away from the 2023 NBA Draft, and the only certainty is that the San Antonio Spurs will select Victor Wembanyama as the first overall pick. The 7-foot-4 big man is the most hyped draft prospect since LeBron James, and we’re well aware of how his arrival changed the NBA. Can Wembanyama, with his unique combination of size and skill set, have a similar impact on the league? Only time will tell, but the expectations of many likely mean that he won’t last too long in fantasy drafts.

Beyond Wembanyama, there are questions despite the talent at the top of this class. What will Charlotte do with the second overall pick? Will Portland, which holds the third overall pick, go all-in on trying to surround Damian Lillard with the talent needed to truly contend? Or will they pivot, leaning into a rebuild while looking into offers for the team’s franchise player? And will the recent reports that New Orleans is looking to move up to draft Scoot Henderson turn into reality by draft night? Below is a look at how next week’s draft could play out.

1. San Antonio: PF/C Victor Wembanyama (Metropolitans 92)

There’s no mystery here. San Antonio will make the partnership official on June 22. In the meantime, Wembanyama and his Metropolitans 92 squad are in the midst of France’s LNB Pro A playoffs, as they trail Monaco by two games to none in the finals. Despite being listed at 7-foot-4, he is not your prototypical center. Wembanyama has the athleticism needed to play out on the perimeter, defending well either on or off the ball while also displaying the ability to score on all three levels at the other end of the floor. The question for the Spurs: do they play him at the five or allow him to spend time at the four as well? The latter approach would likely unlock more of Wembanyama’s potential as an NBA player. His arrival stands to impact Zach Collins and Jeremy Sochan the most, as one of them (I’m betting on the former) will likely move to the bench.

2. Charlotte: SF/PF Brandon Miller (Alabama)

This is the first “question mark” of the draft. Do the Hornets go with the “better” positional fit, selecting Miller in this spot? Or do they go with the younger prospect in Scoot Henderson, despite having LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier in the fold? The pick here is Miller, a talented forward with the offensive skills needed to excel at the three or the four. However, the on-court gifts are countered by serious off-court question marks that the Hornets have been looking into. Miller was not charged by prosecutors in connection with the January murder of Jamea Jonae Harris, but that’s still something any team would need more information on before making an eight-figure commitment to a draftee. The “curve ball” here could be the reports that New Orleans is targeting Henderson. Could that lead to Charlotte (or Portland) being offered a deal that they cannot refuse? We’ll see.

3. Portland: PG Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite)

While Charlotte appears a safe bet to hold onto its pick, we can’t assume the same about Portland. With a highly-paid superstar in Damian Lillard looking to get into title contention as soon as possible, holding onto the third overall pick may not work with his “timeline.” But does it work for the timeline of the front office? That’s the question the Trail Blazers brass is working through in the lead-up to June 22. Henderson, at this spot, would be the best available player. However, with Lillard and Anfernee Simons in the fold and a clear need to improve the frontcourt, would it make more sense to move this pick? Henderson’s a good athlete and at 19 years of age, may have a higher upside than many of the other lottery prospects in this class. The perimeter shot needs to improve, but playing alongside someone who can handle some of the playmaking responsibilities could lead to Henderson getting cleaner looks.

4. Houston: PG/SG Amen Thompson (Overtime Elite)

Like Portland, it’s been reported that Houston could be interested in moving its pick. The Rockets have been in a rebuild the last few seasons, and there’s a serious need for veterans given how young the current core is. Could this pick be used as a “carrot” to bring in an established star ahead of Ime Udoka‘s first season in charge? We’ll see. Thompson would be a good fit if Houston holds onto the pick due to his positional versatility. He has the ability to play either guard position, with his size and athleticism being key assets. Perimeter shooting is the biggest question mark for Thompson at this stage in his career, but the strong work ethic should help matters at his next stop, whether that’s Houston or somewhere else.

5. Detroit: SF Cam Whitmore (Villanova)

The Pistons were the biggest loser in last month’s draft lottery, as they landed in the five spot after going in with the best odds for the first overall pick (tied with San Antonio and Houston). We’ve seen Troy Weaver load up on young bigs in recent drafts, and the Pistons also have two young lottery guards in Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Killian Hayes. How the rebuild will look under new head coach Monty Williams remains to be seen, but his work with the Suns at the start of that franchise’s rebuild is why Detroit didn’t hesitate to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse. As for this pick, the athletic Whitmore could be a good fit in Detroit, as he boasts good size and elite athleticism for a wing.

6. Orlando: SG Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite)

The Magic, who were an improved team this season, hold two lottery picks in the draft. Even with the addition of Paolo Banchero, there remains a clear need to improve offensively this summer, and the two picks can help with that. Thompson may not be a great perimeter shooter right now, but he’s a hard worker with plus athleticism. Playing alongside his twin brother, who took on more of the primary playmaking responsibilities with Overtime Elite, may have left a little more of Ausar’s potential untapped on the offensive end of the floor.

7. Indiana: SF/PF Taylor Hendricks (UCF)

The Pacers are in a nice position heading into this draft. They’ve long identified their point guard of the future (and present) in Tyrese Haliburton, and Myles Turner inked his extension during the season. Add in the fact that they hold three first-round picks (and four of the first 32), and Kevin Pritchard is in a position of strength regarding this rebuild. As for this pick in particular, Hendricks would make for a very good option for the Pacers. He’s skilled enough offensively to play either forward position while also being a solid defender. Hendricks shot just over 39% from three on nearly five attempts per game.

8. Washington: PG Anthony Black (Arkansas)

The Wizards are in an interesting (and difficult) spot this offseason. Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis will be free agents, and it was reported Thursday that the team will work with Bradley Beal‘s agent to find him a new home this summer. Add in new chief executive Michael Winger, and a team that has long languished in the NBA’s equivalent of no man’s land (the middle) will be in for significant changes. This area of the lottery is where perimeter players may come to the forefront, and the versatile Black would make for a good choice. While he does need to improve as a perimeter shooter, the former Arkansas standout is a solid playmaker capable of defending either guard position. Black measured at a shade under 6-foot-6 without shoes at last month’s NBA Draft Combine (no height measurements were recorded with shoes) and recorded a max vertical of 39 inches.

9. Utah: SF/PF Jarace Walker (Houston)

The Jazz surprised many this season, as a team expected to tank from the start spent much of the year in the playoff conversation. Of course, Utah would fall off the pace down the stretch as injuries took their toll, but Will Hardy‘s team has a bona fide building block in Lauri Markkanen and a center in Walker Kessler who was a finalist for Rookie of the Year. What will also aid in the team’s rebuild is its draft capital, with the Jazz having three first-round picks to work with. While Utah does need to address the point guard position at some point (is Collin Sexton the long-term answer?), Walker would be too good to pass up if he’s available at this spot. As a freshman at Houston, he averaged 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 3-pointers per game.
The defensive ability is what will get Walker on the floor early, but his promise as a secondary playmaker should not be overlooked, either.

10. Dallas: PG/SG Jalen Hood-Schifino (Indiana)

Dallas’ sudden decision to pull the plug ahead of its final two games of the regular season paid off, as they managed to hold onto their first-round pick (top-10 protected; New York would have claimed it otherwise). Even with the tandem of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving, the roster wasn’t good enough, even if everyone were healthy. While the frontcourt needs help, a solid perimeter defender capable of covering for Doncic and Irving (should he be re-signed) would also work in this spot. Hood-Schifino has good size for a combo guard and tested out very well at last month’s combine. Kentucky’s Cason Wallace makes for another intriguing option at this point in the draft, but Hood-Schifino offers a bit more on the offensive end of the floor.

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11. Orlando (from Chicago): SG Gradey Dick (Kansas)

This is the second of Orlando’s two lottery picks, thanks to the trade that sent Nikola Vučević to Chicago during the 2020-21 season. One area where the Magic need to make strides is perimeter shooting. With players such as Banchero, Markelle Fultz, and Franz Wagner being capable playmakers, the lack of consistent catch-and-shoot options was a big reason why the Magic remained in the bottom third of the league in offensive efficiency. Gradey Dick can certainly help in that department, as he finished last season shooting 40.3% from three (on 5.7 attempts per game) and 85.4% from the foul line. Also, according to Hoop Math, he shot better than 63% at the rim, so finishing should not be an issue for the 6-foot-6 guard.

12. Oklahoma City: SG/SF Bilal Coulibaly (Metropolitans 92)

Victor Wembanyama isn’t the only highly regarded draft prospect on the Metropolitans 92 roster. Coulibaly, viewed as a first-round pick early in the pre-draft process, may be playing himself into the lottery during his team’s playoff run in France. A 6-foot-7 wing with prior point guard experience (pre-growth spurt), the athletic Coulibaly is averaging nearly 11 points per game on 53% shooting across all competitions. While there are still strides for him to make as a perimeter shooter, Coulibaly has been better this season (34.2%) than he was in 2021-22 (20.9). He’s a plus athlete with plenty of room for growth, and his timeline would work well with a Thunder squad that made significant strides this season.

13. Toronto: PG/SG Cason Wallace (Kentucky)

This will be an offseason of change for the Raptors, as Nick Nurse is now in Philadelphia after five seasons as the team’s head coach. Add in pending free agency decisions for Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. (to name two), and Toronto’s roster could have an entirely different look next season. As for this pick, the Raptors could look to address their lack of depth at the guard spots, as Malachi Flynn hasn’t panned out. Wallace would be a good fit here due to his defensive versatility. There’s still work to be done on the offensive end of the floor, but the presence of Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam can help matters when it comes to the playmaking responsibilities.

14. New Orleans: C Dereck Lively II (Duke)

The Pelicans failed to reach the postseason, losing to Oklahoma City in the play-in tournament. A major issue for this franchise has been injuries, especially among its star players. Brandon Ingram has yet to appear in 65 regular season games since joining the Pelicans, while Zion Williamson played in just 29 games this season after missing the entire 2021-22 campaign. CJ McCollum played in 75 games during his first full season in New Orleans, but he appeared in 47 and 62 games in the two seasons prior. As for the draft, Lively can provide immediate help in the frontcourt, especially with Jaxson Hayes due to be a free agent. The Duke center averaged 2.4 blocks in 20.6 minutes per game this season while also accounting for 5.4 rebounds. Lively, who did not go through any testing at the draft combine, moves well laterally, which will help in defending the two-man game. There’s still work to be done offensively, but the Pelicans (when healthy) have the weapons needed to cover for that.

15. Atlanta: PG/SG Keyonte George (Baylor)

While Atlanta has a starting backcourt of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, the latter is entering the final season of his contract. Whether or not that impacts the thinking of the front office on draft night remains to be seen, but there’s still a need for better options behind those two. The 6-foot-4 George is a combo guard who still has work to do regarding his efficiency as a scorer and playmaker. However, he defends both guard positions well, which would be of use in Atlanta for periods when Murray isn’t on the court, but Young is.

16. Utah (from Minnesota): SG Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas)

This is the second of Utah’s three first-round picks, which gives Danny Ainge a lot to work with as he continues to rebuild this roster. Smith’s draft profile took a hit this season due to injury, as he missed nearly two months due to a knee injury. Upon returning to action in February, the 6-foot-5 wing endured some struggles efficiency-wise, but that should be no surprise given the amount of time missed. Smith shot just 33.8% from three and 39.7% from two, with the majority of his shot attempts coming in the mid-range and from three. His defensive ability will help him early on, especially on a team that boasts one of the league’s best shot blockers in Walker Kessler.

17. Los Angeles Lakers: PG/SG Kobe Bufkin (Michigan)

The Lakers have both of their picks this year, which could open them up to do some wheeling and dealing before or during the draft. LeBron James isn’t getting any younger, and Anthony Davis’ injury issues are well-chronicled by now. Do they look to move this pick to assemble a package that reels in an established player? Or do they hold onto the pick, going with a younger player who can be productive now while also being a solid piece for the future? Bufkin’s a versatile guard who can fit the bill should the Lakers keep this pick. After coming off the bench as a freshman, he started all 33 games that he appeared in this season, averaging 14.0 points per game on 48.2% shooting. Measured at a little over 6-foot-4 without shoes at the combine, Bufkin is a well-rounded guard capable of playing on or off the ball.

18. Miami: SG/SF Rayan Rupert (New Zealand Breakers)

While Miami’s season came to a disappointing end in the NBA Finals, their run from play-in tournament to being one of the last two teams standing is something to take pride in. There have been some reports that the Heat would consider moving Tyler Herro this summer in an attempt to strengthen the roster beyond Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, so we’ll see what happens there. As for this pick, maybe the Heat include it in a deal to acquire another star. If not, the 6-foot-6 Rupert could be a good fit due to his defensive versatility. In addition to the height, Rupert’s wingspan was measured at 7 feet, two inches at the combine. The offensive game needs polish, but pairing the 19-year-old with established scorers would help cover for those deficiencies early on.

19. Golden State: SG Jordan Hawkins (Connecticut)

This will be a very interesting offseason for the Warriors. Bob Myers will not return as lead executive after his contract expires at the end of the month, with the expectation that Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Kirk Lacob will call the shots moving forward. Player-wise, Draymond Green has a player option for next season, and Klay Thompson is eligible for an extension. Given the amount of money tied up in the team’s star players, the Warriors have a lot of work to do financially in their quest to put together a roster that will again be a factor in the West. As for this pick, Hawkins is one of the best shooters in the draft class, and he helped lead UConn to a national title this season. He’ll need to improve some as a creator, but the catch-and-shoot ability is already high-level. The possibility of playing off of the Warriors’ top offensive weapons (Stephen Curry, especially) would be huge for Hawkins should it come to fruition.

20. Houston (from LA Clippers): SF Maxwell Lewis (Pepperdine)

The Rockets have two first-round picks and a stated desire to get older, as their rebuild really hasn’t gone anywhere these last two seasons. With that being the case, will Rafael Stone use one (or both) of the firsts to bring in a more established player? And how will new head coach Ime Udoka look to set things up offensively? A versatile wing like Lewis would work here, as he’s capable of playing on or off the ball. Defensively, the physical tools needed to be a solid wing are there, but the offensive skill set is further ahead right now. Similar to the aforementioned Bufkin, his production improved when he was moved from the bench to the starting lineup ahead of his sophomore season. While the turnover average (3.3) was a bit high for Lewis, his turnover percentage (17.9) was on par with the number he produced as a freshman (18.0).

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21. Brooklyn (from Phoenix): PF Leonard Miller (G League Ignite)

The Nets hold each of the next two picks, with this one being acquired in the Kevin Durant trade. Mikal Bridges has the look of a foundational piece (and he’s on a team-friendly contract), while Nicolas Claxton also established himself as a key figure moving forward. But what will they do with Cameron Johnson, who will be a restricted free agent? Johnson won’t lack suitors in free agency, so the question then is how much will Brooklyn be willing to pay in order to keep him? Also, there’s the case of Ben Simmons, who hasn’t panned out since being acquired from Philadelphia. Miller can be a solid option for the Nets with either first-round pick, as the 6-foot-9 forward can be used at either forward position. An intriguing name in last year’s pre-draft process before pulling his name out, Miller’s decision to play for G League Ignite has improved his “stock.”

22. Brooklyn: SG Jett Howard (Michigan)

Regardless of what happens with the aforementioned Johnson, the Nets can use additional depth on the wings. Joe Harris was limited by injury this season and is heading into a contract year, as is Royce O’Neale. Add in the fact that Seth Curry will be an unrestricted free agent, and drafting a quality shooter would be a good idea. Howard, who shot nearly 37% from three on 7.3 attempts per game this season, would fit the bill. He was banged up for a decent chunk of this season, which didn’t help matters regarding his explosiveness. He’ll also need to improve as a defender, but in Brooklyn, there would be some cover in the form of the aforementioned Bridges and Claxton.

23. Portland (from New York): SF/PF Kris Murray (Iowa)

This is the second of Portland’s two first-round picks, and one has to wonder if the front office would be open to moving it in an attempt to strengthen the roster around Damian Lillard. Or would the team go all-in on a rebuild instead of looking to move Lillard? The latter scenario feels unrealistic, especially with it being reported that Jerami Grant plans to re-sign with Portland, but you never know. Regardless of the answer, Portland could look to strengthen its wing rotation here. Murray, whose twin brother Keegan was a fixture in the Kings’ starting lineup this season, would make for a solid addition. Similar to Keegan, Kris’ production at Iowa jumped considerably once he was given a marquee role within their offense. He didn’t shoot the ball as well as Keegan did during his final season at Iowa, but the offensive tools are there.

24. Sacramento: SF Olivier-Maxence Prosper (Marquette)

People outside of the Kings organization didn’t expect much from Mike Brown‘s team before the season began. The eventual NBA Coach of the Year turned Sacramento into one of the league’s feel-good stories, winning 48 games and a Pacific Division title. With De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis leading the way, the Kings have a nice foundation to work with as they look to take the next step in the NBA pecking order. Where they can get better is depth on the wings, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Sacramento ranked 25th in defensive rating and points allowed per game. For that reason, Maxence-Prosper, whose draft profile has improved considerably since the combine, would make for a very good fit. A 6-foot-7 forward with a wingspan over seven feet, O-Max can defend either forward position. The offensive skill set needs some refinement, especially when it comes to finishing at the rim, but Sacramento has the pieces (and system) needed to account for that.

25. Memphis: PF Noah Clowney (Alabama)

While the Grizzlies did finish the regular season with the second-best record in the West, the way in which things ended left a bad taste in the mouths of many. Ja Morant had his off-court issues and a right-hand injury, and there’s the question of whether or not he’ll be looking at an even longer suspension than the eight-game ban he was hit with in April. Injuries sidelined Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke for extended periods, with the latter likely to miss the beginning of next season due to his ruptured Achilles. The question is whether or not the frontcourt injuries will impact Memphis’ approach to the draft, as they’ll have this first and two seconds. Clowney can provide additional frontcourt depth, with the 6-foot-10 forward capable of playing either the four or the five. It’s also worth noting that more than 47% of his field goal attempts this season came from beyond the arc. However, Clowney only shot 28.3% from deep and 64.9% from the foul line. While he can be a stretch big in time, there’s still work to be done in that regard.

26. Indiana (from Cleveland): Dariq Whitehead

As noted above, having three first-round picks puts Indiana in a position of strength in this draft. Taking Whitehead in this spot comes with considerable risk, as he recently underwent a second surgery on his right foot. He’s expected to be healthy by the beginning of training camp. The foot issues limited his overall production during his lone season at Duke, but Whitehead still shot 42.9% from three on 3.5 attempts per game. Indiana has the perimeter depth to have some patience with him, allowing even more time to get back to full health.

27. Charlotte (from Denver via New York, Oklahoma City): PF GG Jackson (South Carolina)

The 6-foot-8 Jackson is one of the younger prospects in this draft class, and there’s still room for growth regarding his skill set. While capable of playing either forward position, the percentages in the mid-range (28.4% per Hoop Math) and from three (32.4% on 5.3 attempts per game) show that there’s work to be done. Charlotte has a younger frontcourt, especially after trading Mason Plumlee at the February deadline, and his “calendar” may work well with that of Mark Williams. What could impact the thinking here is what the Hornets decide to do with the second overall pick; should Charlotte go with Scoot Henderson, that could increase the chances of them leaning toward a frontcourt player like Jackson.

28. Utah (from Philadelphia via Brooklyn): SG Brandin Podziemski (Santa Clara)

In a few years, Podziemski could prove to be one of the best values in this draft class. His decision to transfer from Illinois to Santa Clara proved fruitful, with the sophomore averaging 19.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 steals, and 2.5 3-pointers per game on 48.3/43.8/77.1 shooting splits. His ability to play either on or off the ball is a selling point, especially for a Jazz team that needs to address the playmaking roles for the future. Jordan Clarkson will be a free agent this summer. Also, Collin Sexton was given a lucrative deal to help facilitate last summer’s Donovan Mitchell trade, the jury’s still out regarding his ability to run a team.

29. Indiana (from Boston): SG/SF Colby Jones (Xavier)

Will the Pacers hold onto this pick? Holding four of the first 32 picks gives them the flexibility that no other team in this draft has, and a deal could help strengthen the roster around Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner. Jones is a versatile perimeter player who’s ready to contribute on both ends of the floor. His playmaking ability improved in each of his three seasons at Xavier, and he shot nearly 38% from three as a junior.

30. LA Clippers (from Milwaukee via Houston): James Nnaji (FC Barcelona)

Mason Plumlee, who was acquired from Charlotte at the trade deadline, will be a free agent this summer. Can the Clippers bring him back to remain Ivica Zubac‘s backup, or will he look for a starting role somewhere else? Regardless of the answer to that question, the promising Nnaji is 6-foot-11 with a wingspan of seven feet, four inches. He moves well, and there’s some untapped potential due to the lack of playing time at FC Barcelona (9.3 mpg in all competitions). He’d have some time to develop with the Clippers, especially if Plumlee were to be re-signed.

Second Round

31. Detroit: SF Jaime Jaquez (UCLA)
32. Indiana (from Houston): SG Ben Sheppard (Belmont)
33. San Antonio: SF/PF Brice Sensabaugh (Ohio State)
34. Charlotte (from Charlotte via Philadelphia, Atlanta): SF/PF Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana)
35. Boston (from Portland via Atlanta, LA Clippers, Detroit, Cleveland): SG/SF Andre Jackson Jr. (Connecticut)
36. Orlando: SF Julian Phillips (Tennessee)
37. Oklahoma City (from Washington via New Orleans): PG Marcus Sasser (Houston)
38. Sacramento (from Indiana): SF Jordan Walsh (Arkansas)
39. Charlotte (from Utah via New York): SG/SF Sidy Cissoko (G League Ignite)
40. Denver (from Dallas via Oklahoma City): SF Jalen Wilson (Kansas)
41. Charlotte (from Oklahoma City via New York, Boston): SG/SF Seth Lundy (Penn State)
42. Washington (from Chicago via LA Lakers, Washington): SF Kobe Brown (Missouri)
43. Portland (from Atlanta): SF Keyontae Johnson (Kansas State)
44. San Antonio (from Toronto): PF/C Tristan Vukcevic (Partizan Belgrade)
45. Memphis (from Minnesota): PG Terquavion Smith (NC State)
46. Atlanta (from New Orleans): SG/SF Julian Strawther (Gonzaga)
47. Los Angeles Lakers: SF/PF Hunter Tyson (Clemson)
48. LA Clippers: PG/SG Amari Bailey (UCLA)
49. Cleveland (from Golden State via Utah, New Orleans): PF/C Mouhamed Gueye (Washington State)
50. Oklahoma City (from Miami via Boston, Memphis, Dallas): C Adama Sanogo (Connecticut)
51. Brooklyn: PF Toumani Camara (Dayton)
52. Phoenix: PG/SG Jalen Pickett (Penn State)
53. Minnesota (from New York via Charlotte): SF Jordan Miller (Miami-Florida)
54. Sacramento: SF Chris Livingston (Kentucky)
55. Indiana (from Cleveland via Milwaukee, Detroit): SG/SF Ricky Council IV (Arkansas)
56. Memphis: C Colin Castleton (Florida)
— Chicago (from Denver via Cleveland; forfeited by Chicago)
— Philadelphia (forfeited)
57. Washington (from Boston via Charlotte): SG/SF Emoni Bates (Eastern Michigan)
58. Milwaukee: SF Nikola Djurisic (Mega Basket)