2023 NBA Mock Draft 2.0
The 2023 NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 22, and here’s an updated projection following the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery. For the sake of simplicity, potential draft day trades are not included. Selections are based on a combination of my own scouting, general prospect stock, and team needs. To view Mock Draft 1.0 for reference, click here.
1. San Antonio Spurs – Victor Wembanyama, 7-5 Center, Metropolitans 92
We’ve always known this would be the pick, but the NBA Draft Lottery finally revealed which team would land Victor Wembanyama. San Antonio will hope the Frenchman follows in the footsteps of previous Spurs bigs David Robinson and Tim Duncan. It’s not entirely human the things this guy can do on a basketball court. Offensively, he can get any shot he wants given his release point and his length allows him to basically guard the paint and the perimeter at the same time. It doesn’t make sense. Wembanyama is the surefire number one pick and has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect ever.
2. Charlotte Hornets – Scoot Henderson, 6-2 Guard, G League Ignite
Maybe this is wishful thinking based on my previous article on what I would do as the Hornets in this spot. I know that so many recent reports have the Hornets taking Brandon Miller. However, I still think Henderson is the clear No. 2 in this draft class and Charlotte will select him. The G League Ignite guard’s passing vision and creation ability are downright elite, plus he displays great burst in getting to the rim. He’s a “smaller guard,” but possesses the length and athleticism to hold his own on the defensive end. As I’ve written previously, don’t worry about his fit alongside LaMelo Ball. When you see a high-level playmaker like Scoot, take him.
3. Portland Trail Blazers – Brandon Miller, 6-9 Wing, Alabama
There’s always a spot in the NBA for a wing shotmaker like Brandon Miller. The Alabama freshman averaged 18.8 points per game and shot 38.4% from three with plenty of those makes coming from beyond NBA range. Defensively, Miller takes pride in doing well and staying in front of his man. He’s already fielding questions about his role in the murder scandal that rocked Alabama Basketball this past season. As long as they are satisfied with his answers, Portland gets a gifted wing to help them retool the roster around Damian Lillard.
4. Houston Rockets – Amen Thompson, 6-7 Wing, Overtime Elite
In this 2023 NBA Mock Draft, the Houston Rockets take a big swing to try and jumpstart their rebuild. Amen Thompson is an explosive athlete who puts pressure on the rim and creates real advantages for his teammates. Athleticism, playmaking, and potential are the positives. Shooting, defensive buy-in, and turnovers are very real negatives. If the jump shot comes around, Amen will be a legitimate perimeter threat and potentially one of the best players in the entire class. There’s a lot of enticing tools, but the red flags are there too. The vision of what could be with Amen Thompson should see him drafted pretty highly.
5. Detroit Pistons – Cam Whitmore, 6-7 Wing, Villanova
Whitmore offers a lot as a 3-and-D wing. He’s one of the best athletes in the class and has an NBA-ready frame. An effective cutter and finisher who doesn’t shy away from contact, the Villanova freshman is especially dangerous in transition. The self-creation ability is really intriguing. He’s still improving his consistency, both as a three-point shooter and defender, but he’s also just 18 years old and I think the development in those areas will come. Some have criticized Whitmore for being a low-feel player, but I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world because he won’t have the ball in his hands as much in the NBA. If he goes to Detroit, Cade Cunningham can handle the playmaking and processing for him.
6. Orlando Magic – Ausar Thompson, 6-7 Wing, Overtime Elite
I don’t believe Ausar Thompson has as high a ceiling as his brother Amen, but he’s still oozing with potential due to his game-breaking athleticism. He doesn’t project to be a high-volume on-ball player in the NBA, but he can nonetheless benefit an offense as a slasher and transition threat. Ausar is fairly underrated as a passer and his handle is good enough to where he can make things interesting with the ball in his hands. He will need to work on the jumper, but I don’t think that’s necessarily make-or-break for him considering what he projects to be. If he does become a reliable enough shotmaker, Ausar will be a serious matchup problem. Defensively, there’s a pretty clear floor given his athleticism and buy-in on that end. There’s plenty of upside for the Magic to tap into here.
7. Indiana Pacers – Jarace Walker, 6-8 Forward, Houston
I really believe in Jarace Walker. A strong, versatile forward, the Houston product will immediately improve the defense of whichever team drafts him. He’s got slept-on passing vision and offers a little bit of floor-stretching. Walker won’t be an explosive scoring threat and won’t be taking defenders off the dribble, but he’s a true Swiss Army knife who can fill in the gaps where he’s needed. With his high motor, I just don’t see how he allows himself to fail in the NBA. Indiana has their backcourt of the future locked in; adding quality pieces to the frontcourt is the next step.
8. Washington Wizards – Anthony Black, 6-7 Guard, Arkansas
The Wizards have a lot of issues, but the first one they should address is getting someone dependable at the guard spot. Anthony Black is a good playmaker with fantastic positional size who should be able to guard 1-3. He can even be a connector on the wing depending on the lineup Washington wants to roll out. The jump shot is still a work in progress, and different scouts have varying degrees of faith in his ability to improve it, but the defense and passing should each translate to provide a solid floor.
9. Utah Jazz – Cason Wallace, 6-4 Guard, Kentucky
I just can’t see a world where Cason Wallace is a bad NBA player. For one, he’s so dang good on the defensive end and should be able to guard multiple positions. Between his footwork, active hands, and understanding of rotations, he just gets it. His feel on this end is so high. Offensively, he doesn’t do anything super advanced, but he projects to be a respectable shooter and secondary creator who doesn’t turn the ball over. There’s just no glaring issues I can find in Wallace’s game. Maybe the scoring chops never really develop, but even then the defense is just too good for him not to stick. Utah lands a really nice piece for their rebuild here.
10. Dallas Mavericks – Taylor Hendricks, 6-9 Forward, UCF
I had this pick in my first mock draft, and assuming Taylor Hendricks doesn’t get taken earlier (which wouldn’t totally shock me to be honest), he would be such a good fit for the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas needs capable defenders, and there’s a case to be made that Hendricks is the best defender in the class. The UCF product can protect the rim and guard out on the perimeter at a high level. What’s more is he shot 39.4% from three on over four attempts per game. Increasing his efficiency closer to the basket will help him round out his offensive game, but Hendricks has serious two-way potential overall.
11. Orlando Magic (via Chicago Bulls) – Gradey Dick, 6-7 Wing, Kansas
If nothing else, Gradey Dick projects to be a three-point sniper in the NBA. He converted 40.3% of his looks from three on high volume in his freshman season at Kansas. While that is Dick’s bankable skill, he’s got more in his bag. He was highly efficient in the midrange and at the rim. Although he isn’t the best athlete, he makes up for it with skill, touch, and IQ. Whether it’s a sidestep into a three or a timely cut to the basket, Gradey Dick will find a way to be a positive on the offensive end. Sometimes he was targeted on defense in his freshman season, but he has the frame, baseline athleticism, and good enough instincts to not get played off the floor with a little development.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder – Leonard Miller, 6-10 Forward, G League Ignite
Leonard Miller is a relatively big wild card for me in the 2023 NBA Draft because it’s a question of whether or not NBA teams value him as highly as I think they should. His elite touch around the rim helped Miller be extremely productive in his second season with G League Ignite, averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds per game. He’s a smooth mover with a surprisingly good handle for his size, two traits which allow him to be a nightmare to guard in transition.
The tools are there for him to be a really effective, switchable defender at the NBA level. He just needs some hands-on coaching to help him leverage his motor and physical profile into consistency on that end. A lot of mock drafts will have Miller slotted in the latter parts of the first round, but I think he could realistically return value if selected higher than that, even in the lottery.
13. Toronto Raptors – Bilal Coulibaly, 6-6 Wing, Metropolitans 92
It’s rumored that Bilal Coulibaly has a promise in the lottery, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that promise came from the Raptors. Toronto appreciates long, athletic wings and Coulibaly has a ton of two-way potential. He displays remarkable feel for offense as a slasher who makes smart, timely cuts. The jumper is still developing, but he’s made some really encouraging progress in that area over the course of this season. It’s easy to envision how Coulibaly’s 7-2 wingspan can make him a multi-positional defender, especially given his athleticism and high motor. Don’t get me wrong, he’s fairly raw, but the flashes are intriguing enough to take him this early.
14. New Orleans Pelicans – Keyonte George, 6-4 Guard, Baylor
Keyonte George is a pure bucket-getter. He’s such a smooth, gifted scorer who makes offense look both easy and really fun. Where he can run into trouble is when he tells himself, “Keyonte, you are a bucket. Now is your time,” before chucking up a super ill-advised shot outside of the flow of the offense. The tunnel vision can be concerning sometimes, but I think he can iron out those bad habits. If he does, the shooting percentages will improve. George’s defense can be hit-or-miss, so you really have to trust that the tools win out and he can be relatively effective there. He averaged 15.3 points per game as a freshman in the Big 12. Take him for the pure scoring and hope the secondary skills develop behind that.
15. Atlanta Hawks – Jordan Hawkins, 6-5 Guard, UConn
The Atlanta Hawks were one of the NBA’s worst teams when it came to both taking and making three-pointers. The need is clear. Enter Jordan Hawkins, arguably the best sniper in the 2023 NBA Draft. His movement shooting is to die for. He’s fantastic off-ball; all he needs is a little bit of separation off a screen to make defenses pay. The threat he poses from distance will open up other avenues for him to score the ball as defenders close out hard on him, so I feel good about the rest of his offensive game rounding into form. He’s not an exceptional defender, but the effort he puts in on defense goes a long way. Jordan Hawkins is as plug-and-play as they come and fills a clear hole for the Hawks.
16. Utah Jazz (via Minnesota Timberwolves) – Jett Howard, 6-8 Wing, Michigan
Jett Howard is one of the top three-point shooters in the 2023 NBA Draft class. He’s got a smooth stroke and is able to hit shots off movement, plus he has a nice midrange game. I also think he’s an underrated passer. The offensive value alone should allow him to carve out a role in the NBA. He’s a limited athlete without much burst, which hurts his ability to get to the rim. He settles for pull-up midrange shots a little more than I would like. I’m not optimistic he’ll ever be a three-level scorer. Howard’s defense is also a little suspect as he lacks the lateral quickness to stay in front of his man consistently. While he’s certainly a candidate to fall in the draft due to these limitations, the premium shooting he offers at his size will be something NBA teams really like.
17. Los Angeles Lakers – Nick Smith Jr., 6-5 Guard, Arkansas
The more I watch Nick Smith Jr., the more concerns I have. There’s certainly some stuff to like – especially offensively. Smith is a really crafty combo guard with a fluid handle that allows him to create ample space for jump shots. He’s got a nice pull-up game and really good touch on his floaters. The Arkansas product has shown flashes on the defensive end, where his 6-9 wingspan comes in handy, but he’s pretty inconsistent and frequently sells out on pump fakes. He wasn’t particularly bursty this past season, but that may have been due to his injury problems. Regardless, he struggles to get to the rim and can be too reliant on the floater at times. Smith had some trouble reading defenses and making the smart pass. He just wasn’t making the most of advantages he was creating.
It’s tough to say what to make of Nick Smith at this point. The bright spots are really encouraging, but the negatives are equally glaring. I think the first step to reaching his potential will be adding bulk to his frame, which will help him in getting to the rim while also making him a tougher defender. The shot creation and touch cannot be discounted, but he’s far from a finished product. The Lakers need shot creators and ball-handlers; Nick Smith seems like a guy they could make good use of.
18. Miami Heat – Kobe Bufkin, 6-4 Guard, Michigan
There are some very smart people in the draft space who are extremely high on Kobe Bufkin. I’m not saying I don’t see the vision, I’m just not as sold on his upper-tier outcomes. His offensive game is pretty well-rounded – the Michigan product can create looks for himself and is a good finisher at the rim. For that to fully translate, he will need to add bulk to his frame. Bufkin is also a solid passer who makes quick reads. He has improved as a defender but can sometimes be over-aggressive and sell out for steals. Bufkin is a true combo guard and I trust the Miami Heat to develop him into a reliable option at either guard spot.
19. Golden State Warriors – Dereck Lively II, 7-1 Center, Duke
Truthfully, this might be far too low for Dereck Lively as the Duke product has been impressing NBA teams in recent workouts. He’s likely in play as early as the late lottery. Lively is one of the best rim protectors in the class who offers plus athleticism at the five. Although his offensive value appears limited, he may offer some stretch five ability that he wasn’t able to fully show off at Duke. At a minimum, he should be a pretty reliable lob threat and rim runner out of the PnR. The whole James Wiseman thing didn’t really work out, so I could see the Golden State Warriors attempting to get their center of the future in the 2023 NBA Draft instead.
20. Houston Rockets (via Los Angeles Clippers) – Dariq Whitehead, 6-7 Wing, Duke
One thing the Rockets have a pretty big need for is high-feel players. Dariq Whitehead was hindered by injuries during his freshman season at Duke, but I think he’s got a lot of positive traits and could end up being great value for whichever team decides to look beyond his recent foot issues. He shot 42.9% from three this past season and is a good shooter off the catch who can function as an off-ball scorer. There’s some on-ball ability as well, but Whitehead doesn’t quite have the handle to be a primary creator. I still think he’s a better passer than most give him credit for. I like his projection as a defender with his strong frame and willingness to be physical. A lot will come down to his health and what role teams want him to play at the next level, but Dariq Whitehead’s combination of feel and tools is promising.
21. Brooklyn Nets (via Phoenix Suns) – Jalen Hood-Schifino, 6-6 Guard, Indiana
I think a lot of people are falling in love with the idea of Jalen Hood-Schifinio as opposed to what he actually is. Many look at him and see a guard with great positional size, playmaking chops, and shotmaking ability. Those are all certainly present to a degree, but the biggest issue he struggles with is consistency. He was extremely hot and cold in his freshman season at Indiana, and just flat-out inefficient on the whole. The midrange shotmaking was there some days and the next game he would go 2-11 from the field. JHS relies on making contested midrange shots and I would not bet on his consistency if that’s his regular diet. He’s not very good at generating rim pressure, which hurts his projection as a primary ball-handler.
I don’t view him as a bad defender by any means, but he isn’t anything for me to write home about. It’s hard to completely count him out due to the idea of what he could be, but I would like to see more scouts be realistic about the fact that he isn’t that player right now. Even that idea of what he could be – a midrange killer and tough shotmaker – is a high-wire act that is rarely pulled off with consistency. At some point the flashes of two-way ability are worth a shot; I think the 20s are where that conversation should start.
22. Brooklyn Nets – GG Jackson, 6-9 Forward, South Carolina
I understand the concerns people have with GG Jackson. He was wildly inefficient in his freshman season at South Carolina. However, I would respond with the following: 1) his context was terrible and 2) there’s a reason he was the No. 1 player in his class before reclassing. The tunnel vision and inefficiency are pretty easy to explain when Jackson was the number one option on a really bad team. His combination of scoring and handle were really promising. The physical tools are there to be an impactful defender, but the effort wasn’t always dialed up. I am curious to see what Jackson looks like in a better context where his development is actually helped. People talk about him like he’s 24 years old and can’t develop any further, but he’s the youngest player in the draft and has plenty of potential in the right setting.
23. Portland Trail Blazers (via New York Knicks) – Maxwell Lewis, 6-7 Wing, Pepperdine
Maxwell Lewis is a fun offensive-minded player coming out of Pepperdine. He’s a talented shot creator who excels at hitting off the catch, getting to the rim, and getting to the line. Lewis has a deep offensive bag with so many ways to score. Operating with efficiency was one of his biggest issues this year. He has the physical tools to be a good defender, but many times those tools came into play for recovery rather than stopping offensive players from the outset. A legitimate two-way impact isn’t hard to visualize with Lewis, but he needs to improve his efficiency, decision-making, and defensive tenacity. Imagining a Portland wing tandem of Maxwell Lewis and Brandon Miller knocking down shots one after the other is a super fun idea, wouldn’t you say?
24. Sacramento Kings – Noah Clowney, 6-10 Forward, Alabama
Sacramento had all the offense they could want this season, but it was the defensive end where they came up short. I really like what Noah Clowney offers defensively as a rim protector with the athleticism to switch out to the perimeter if necessary. He certainly has some things he needs to work on from a technique perspective, but he has what he needs to succeed. Offensively, Clowney offers stretch big potential. Although he did not convert a high percentage of his threes, his relatively high volume and willingness to shoot from distance gives me confidence in projecting him to one day be an impactful shooter. He’s already pretty effective around the basket. While he may be raw, I’m excited to see what Clowney looks like in a few years. He’ll be just 18 years old on draft night.
25. Memphis Grizzlies – Brice Sensabaugh, 6-6 Wing, Ohio State
I’ll admit I don’t have a great read for where Brice Sensabaugh is selected in the 2023 NBA Draft. He’s a gifted offensive talent who was quite efficient for Ohio State last season. Sensabaugh has great feel for offense and has a variety of different ways he can score; the shotmaking prowess is undeniable and he’s a real threat in the midrange. 16.3 points per game on 48.0/40.5/83.0 splits as a freshman really jumps off the page. He has no problem playing physically and bodying defenders if that’s what it takes to score.
After that I have a lot of questions/concerns. Sensabaugh is an absolute traffic cone on defense. He really struggles to stay in front of his man and is a total negative on that end of the floor. I doubt his ability to create a ton of separation at the next level due to his general lack of athleticism. He isn’t bursty enough to take guys off the dribble consistently and has a long way to go as a creator. I question what he really offers besides shotmaking, which will be hard to benefit from if he’s on the bench for being such a poor defender. As it pertains to this mock draft, Memphis needs some wing shooting and doesn’t really need defense too badly. Sensabaugh jumps out as a good fit here.
26. Indiana Pacers (via Cleveland Cavaliers) – Colby Jones, 6-6 Guard, Xavier
Colby Jones is going to be a good supplementary piece for whichever team takes him in the 2023 NBA Draft. Although he may not have one elite skill to bank on, he’s got a very solid all-around game and can contribute in a number of areas. He has good positional size and can capably play either guard spot. This past season at Xavier, Jones noticeably improved as both a shooter (37.8% from three) and playmaker. He’s solid defensively and has the length to play on the wing depending on the lineup. The Indiana Pacers have a few exciting young pieces and I like Jones as a player who can tie everything together for them with his versatility.
27. Charlotte Hornets (via Denver Nuggets) – Kris Murray, 6-8 Forward, Iowa
Kris Murray doesn’t have the juice his brother Keegan did entering last year’s draft, but he does enough things well to find his way. He profiles as a stretch four, although he struggled with knocking down triples consistently this past season. The Iowa product is capable of guarding multiple positions at a respectable level. Role players who can shoot and play defense are in high demand, and Murray will stick if he can develop consistency. Should the Hornets come out of this draft with Scoot and LaMelo, two guards who are very good at finding open shooters in transition, Murray would be a very good supplemental piece to add.
28. Utah Jazz (via Philadelphia 76ers) – Rayan Rupert, 6-6 Wing, New Zealand Breakers
Rayan Rupert is sort of the inverse of Brice Sensabaugh. He’s a real disruptor on the defensive end, generating plenty of blocks and steals thanks to his 7-3 wingspan. It’s the offensive side of the ball where he really struggles to find his groove. The jump shot isn’t really there at this point. He just doesn’t have the same feel on offense that he possesses on defense. I’m not confident that he will ever become a factor offensively, but he’s still developing at 18 years old and there’s at least a roster spot for him as a defensive stopper. Utah needs anything and everything. Rupert is the type of role player that can return value towards the end of the first round.
29. Indiana Pacers (via Boston Celtics) – Olivier-Maxence Prosper, 6-8 Forward, Marquette
O-Max Prosper has seen his draft stock rise since the end of the college basketball season and I think there’s a real chance he gets his name called in the first round or just outside. The athletic forward out of Canada is good at attacking the rim and has good enough passing chops to not be completely one-dimensional on offense. His perimeter shot is improving, and continuing to develop that area of his game will open up more driving opportunities for him attacking closeouts. Where Prosper will most likely have the greatest impact is the defensive end. He’s a very good on-ball defender who was frequently employed as Marquette’s defensive stopper, possessing the motor and athleticism to switch onto quicker players. There’s a chance he becomes a real 3-and-D threat, but the on-ball defense is where O-Max Prosper will really shine and carve out a role for himself.
30. Los Angeles Clippers (via Milwaukee Bucks) – Brandin Podziemski, 6-5 Guard, Santa Clara
Brandin Podziemski didn’t get much run in his freshman season at Illinois, so he transferred to Santa Clara and showed everyone what he was capable of. The offensive production was remarkable: 19.9 points and 3.7 assists per game on 48.3/43.8/77.1 splits. Podziemski is a gifted scorer who creates easy offense and can also function as a secondary playmaker. The shooting ability is legit. As a bonus, he averaged a stellar 8.8 rebounds this past season. The big question with the Santa Clara product is athleticism. Can he stay in front of his man on defense? Will he be able to finish at the rim through contact? Tough to say. He’s not explosive, but he’s so crafty that it might not matter. It’s never a bad thing to get a straight bucket-getter for your bench, and that’s what the Clippers do at the end of the first round.
2023 NBA Draft First Round Bubble: Terquavion Smith (NC State), James Nnaji (FC Barcelona), Sidy Cissoko (G League Ignite), Julian Strawther (Gonzaga), Jaime Jaquez Jr. (UCLA), Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana), Marcus Sasser (Houston)
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