by Joey Davis
Photo of Brandon Miller courtesy of Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports.
Welcome to the 2023 NBA draft, where 14 teams had a chance to get the next franchise changing player Victor Wembanyama. The seven-foot two-inch prospect has been compared by many scouts to future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant. The Spurs, Rockets and Pistons all had the best odds to win the first overall pick. But when the dust settled, San Antonio won first dibs.
San Antonio is on the clock as they say and even though many teams will call them about moving up, the Spurs will most likely hold the pick and walk to the podium first.
“And with the first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Victor Wembanyama.”
Many NBA scouts, coaches, GMs and, of course, commentators feel Wembanyama is the best talent to come out in the draft since Lebron James. That’s right… King James. That’s a mighty high “comparable” to live up to. His height and his ball handling skills translate well into today's NBA game. He has the chance to be a match-up nightmare if the Spurs decide to let him be the primary ball handler and can create his own shot on defenders.
The downside to Wembanyama is that his frame is very slight, and he could struggle
defensively if he doesn’t get stronger and add “good weight.” If this was the NBA from years ago many would have concerns about his boom or bust potential, and the likelihood of being the league’s next Shawn Bradley. But the NBA is all about upside and potential and this prospect has a ton of it.
“And with the 2 nd pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets take six-foot nine,
small forward from Alabama, Brandon Miller.”
Pairing Miller with Lamelo Ball, a guard who can get the ball in his hands and in positions to shoot, will make for a deadly connection. Miller will help the Hornets improve their chances of making the playoffs—a feat that hasn't happened since 2016. Miller could be the best player in this draft and the Hornets could get a steal at the 2-spot. The only questions are that he hasn't been interviewing well with NBA GM’s. Miller will need to answer serious questions about his presence at the murder of Jamea Harris in January, although he hasn't been charged.
The Portland Trailblazers hold the third pick, and they should select point guard from the G league, six-foot-two Scoot Henderson. Henderson is a very intriguing pick at three. He is super athletic and has elite quickness with the ball. He can break down defenders with the ball to create his own shot at the rim and finds ways to avoid defenders in midair at times. In the G league, he has excelled in the schematic pick and roll offenses and finishes at the rim. Henderson is a very exciting player that will make Portland's offensive much more explosive than it has been. He needs to work on his three-point shooting at the next level or smart defenders will find let him shoot at range and overplay the drive.
The Houston Rockets have the fourth pick of the draft and are slated to select the first of the “twins,” Amen Thompson from Overtime Elite. The Rockets were hoping Henderson was going to fall one spot to them, but they are getting the point guard they need. Thompson has an elite first step that draws multiple defenders to him, allowing for creative, flashy passes. When he has the ball in the open floor his speed shines through.
Thompson needs to work on his finishing at the rim while he’s in a crowd and doesn’t get clean looks. And he needs to work a bit on shooting beyond the arc. He may be a bit of a gamble with the fourth pick overall, but his size, flexibility on defense, passing and leaping make him difficult to pass up on potential alone.
At five, the Detroit Pistons should select Cam Whitmore, a forward from Villanova. Whitmore possesses a rare combination of strength and athleticism. His six-foot-six, two-hundred-thirty pound frame helps him muscle smaller defenders and attack the rim. He plays well on or off the ball in the paint and his ball handling skills are surprising strong for a player of his size. Whitmore is an above average shooter from beyond the arc and can be streaky good from time to time.
If Whitmore has a weakness, it’s finding out at the next level what positions he will defend best. That said, he may be the safest pick in the draft.
The Orlando Magic is in a great spot, holding two picks in the top eleven this year. And with pick six, they choose Arkansas guard Anthony. Black is a pass first guard that is building his repertoire of shots to accompany his dishing skills. At times he can be a streaky shooter and hasn’t shown he can be an elite finisher going to the rim, but his strengths are on defense. He is an excellent “on the ball” defender with plays with instincts. He demonstrates the ability to rotate against all four positions and hold up well against bigger players while keeping up with smaller guards.
“With the seventh pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers select Jarace Walker,
forward out of Houston.”
The six-foot-eight, two-hundred-forty-pound forward is deceptively skilled and excels at defending at the rim on rotations. Quicker than he looks, Walker can defend against smaller defenders and can drain three’s from beyond the arc, adding offensively when asked. Yet he needs to develop his ball handling skills to allow him to battle and pass by smaller defenders and get to the rim better. The Pacers are getting probably the best defender in the draft and will help them get back in the right direction.
The eight pick belongs to the Washington Wizards, and with that selection they take
the other “twin” from Overtime Elite.
Ausar Thompson falling to the Wizards at eight is a great fit. He may have a bit more athleticism than his brother, and his defensive skills are NBA-ready. Thompson’s length makes him a natural disruptor who can play out of position, and he has the potential to become a playmaker and above average two-way player for the Wizards.
The ninth pick in the draft belongs to the Utah Jazz, and they should select Cason Wallace, guard from Kentucky. Wallace will remind Jazz fans a bit like John Stockton. He’s got enough size at six-foot-four and possesses enough speed on the floor to be disruptive. However, his precision passing and skilled ball handling more than make up for the lack of elite size or quickness. He’s a physical defender and could be the steal of the draft if he hits his potential ceiling.
The Dallas Mavericks with the tenth pick in the draft are in an interesting spot. In the last twenty years, they may have only missed the playoffs a handful of times. So, with this pick, they take power forward Taylor Hendricks out of Central Florida. Hendricks is a versatile scorer and play maker. He can guard multiple positions in the front court and could be a match up nightmare for some defenders. He has a nice touch from beyond the arc and can finish plays above the rim with the best of them. He needs to develop his off the ball skills to mesh well with Luka, but a player like Hendricks can speed the Mavs back into contention.
The Orlando Magic own the eleventh pick in the draft and there’s some scuttlebutt that they are calling the Spurs to package the picks and move up to the first slot in the draft. Knowing a trade is unlikely, the Magic stay put and instead choose one of the best shooters in the draft, Gradey Dick of Kansas. Pairing Dick with the “pass first” skill set of Anthony Black could truly create a dynamic duo for years to come.
Dick has shooting range and an elite release that forces coaches to instruct defenders to play him tight, and that’s a double edged sword. If defenders play him strong, he can get one dribble open for the mid-range jumper.
He has some question marks on the defensive side of the ball but passing up on an elite shooter with size is impossible at 11.
The Oklahoma City Thunder hold the twelfth pick and should select Nick Smith Jr. A six-foot-five-inch guard has the skill set to grow into a three-level scorer in the NBA. He was able to shine in Arkansas’s high-powered offense opposite of Anthony Black. His offensive skill set may see him come off the board earlier, but the Thunder are a good fit for him here.
The Toronto Raptors at thirteen turn to standout Baylor guard, Keyonte George. George
led a talented and seasoned Baylor team in scoring this year. He isn’t afraid to dish and create plays and can guard back court defenders well. George will need to work on his consistency at the next level but can be the guard the Raptors have been looking for.
The last pick in the lottery belongs to the Pelicans of New Orleans. Kobe Bufin, out of Michigan, is the guy who can get this offense back on track if Zion can get healthy. Bufin is a true “pass first” guard that improved his shooting over the past season, building a repertoire of shots from anywhere on the floor. His defensive play will need some work at the next level and perhaps keeps him from going higher, but he is a great fit at fourteen.
Guys like Jordan Hawkins and Jalen Hood-Schifino could sneak into the lottery slots too and look out for Jett Howard if he can perform on the big stage like his father. Any team that takes him will get a gem.