2023 NBA Draft Winners and Losers
The 2023 NBA Draft just wrapped up and the trajectory of every NBA franchise changed drastically. But what teams improved the most? What teams made the biggest gambles? These are the three biggest winners and losers of the 2023 NBA draft. Let’s talk about it!
Winners – Houston Rockets
With the No. 4 pick in the draft, the Rockets drafted Amen Thompson and simultaneously drafted a major position of need and one of the best prospects in the draft. Thompson is a freak athlete, and in most drafts would have been considered a potential number-one overall pick.
He’s got one of the quickest first steps I’ve ever seen, a 40-inch vertical and a 7-foot wingspan. Add in that he’s a rock-solid playmaker with a dirty handle and good feel out of the pick-and-roll, I think the Rockets found their point guard of the future. In the biggest surprise of the draft, Houston was also able to nab consensus top-ten prospect Cam Whitmore with the 20th pick.
It’s unclear why Whitmore fell, but I loved him as a prospect. He’s also an athletic freak with a 40-inch vertical and 7-foot wingspan with great defensive upside. Whitmore is limited as a closeout and mismatch attacker now, but there’s untapped off-the-dribble upside in his game. Both Whitmore and Thompson need to improve as perimeter jump shooters to maximize their potential, but there’s a lot to like in Houston.
Jalen Green, Thompson, Whitmore and Jabari Smith Jr.? The ceiling for the Rockets’ future is unmatched. Houston’s biggest issue to resolve for next season is to play winning basketball and be engaged defensively, but I trust Ime Udoka to get all the young talent in Houston in shape. To recap, the Rockets added a pair of 6-foot-7 consensus top 10 prospects with 7-foot wingspans and 40-inch verticals. I think it’s safe to say they crushed the draft.
Winners – Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz officially have their frontcourt of the future. By adding in Taylor Hendricks, Utah is getting a perfect complementary player alongside Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler. Hendricks can space the floor well and is an elite perimeter and interior defender with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. They also nabbed Keyonte George, one of my favorite prospects in this year’s draft.
George isn’t a supreme athlete and won’t put a ton of pressure on the rim but is a supreme tough shot-maker from the perimeter. He’ll immediately bring spacing and solid playmaking but has real upside as a star perimeter guard. The Jazz also fleeced Brice Sensabaugh with the No. 28 overall pick. Sensabaugh won’t ever be a defensive plus with his athletic limitations but is one hell of a crafty scorer. He is arguably the best mid-range scorer and one of the best pure shooters in the class.
Utah likely won’t be a playoff team next season but is one star piece away from being a legitimate contender out West.
Winners – Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers managed to nab two first-round caliber prospects with both of their selections. With the No. 17 pick, they added an immediate rotational bench playmaker in Jalen Hood-Schifino. Hood-Schifino is a 6-foot-5 point guard with good feel out of the pick-and-roll and veteran instincts and pace.
With D’Angelo Russell hitting free agency, Hood-Schifino is an excellent replacement. He doesn’t bring the same scoring upside as Russell but will be a steady ball-handling presence and is capable as a mid-range and pull-up jump shooter. Los Angeles got another steal with the No. 40 pick, where they drafted Maxwell Lewis. Lewis will immediately provide off-ball shooting with some on-ball scoring upside. He shot 44 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts last season and showed flashes of off-the-dribble creation.
Lewis’ handle needs to get tighter, and he needs to improve as a defender, but the Lakers added two immediate rotation players with legit upside.
Losers – Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards might as well be the biggest losers of the entire 2023 NBA Offseason. They began the offseason by dealing away Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis where they received minimal value in return.
Kyle Kuzma also opted out and will become a free agent this offseason. Essentially, they lost their three best players from last season, and their new building blocks for the future are Jordan Poole, Johnny Davis, and Bilal Coulibaly.
I’d say that’s a less-than-textbook rebuilding effort. I don’t hate the Coulibaly pick, I just think the Wizards gave up too much value in moving up and there were better prospects on board. I preferred Jarace Walker and Taylor Hendricks as prospects, and I think Coulibaly would’ve been available even if Washington traded down. Coulibaly has real upside as an athletic defensive playmaker and shooter. He’s just raw and must carve out his offensive game.
Losers – Dallas Mavericks
My real issue with Dallas’ draft was their first-round selection of Dereck Lively II.
Lively II has an absurd 7-foot-1 frame and 7-foot-7 wingspan. He also has supreme defensive upside as he averaged 4.7 blocks per 40 minutes last season. But that’s why I emphasize his upside.
Lively II needs time to develop and round out his game before he even sets foot on an NBA floor. Alternatively, Dallas could have brought back Javale McGee and gotten similar on-court value to what Lively II provides immediately.
The bottom line is that the Mavericks desperately need to build a contender around Luka Doncic before he gets fed up and decides to skip town. Because of that, I think Dallas should have prioritized drafting a win-now wing and I would have much preferred Gradey Dick or Cam Whitmore to Lively II. They aren’t complete losers because Richaun Holmes will immediately be their best offensive center and Olivier Maxence-Prosper does bring some win-now qualities.
Regardless, I preferred Dallas going in a different direction with their 12th pick.
Losers – Miami Heat
Maybe I’m missing something with the Heat’s first-round selection of Jaime Jaquez Jr.?
Miami needs win-now players who can contribute immediately, and Jaquez fits that bill. But I wasn’t even sure that Jaquez was an NBA talent.
To me, he’s too much of a tweener and I think he’s going to get picked on defensively. He’s too slow to guard agile and quicker guards, and too small to legitimately defend big men and wings with size. Additionally, while he’s a good mid-range shooter, he can’t space the floor effectively, as he was just a 33 percent 3-point-shooter across four seasons at UCLA. I would have preferred if Miami nabbed a more athletic wing with defensive and perimeter shooting upsides like Kris Murray or Julian Strawther.
Miami’s player development and drafting track record is immaculate, but I question the selection of Jaquez Jr.
Who do you think the 2023 NBA Draft winners and losers were? Let us know in the comments!
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