The 2023 NBA draft is 12 months away, but we’ve had our eyes on this group of players for quite some time, posting updates in January and May. We’ve watched the class’ best prospects grow up in high school, AAU, USA Basketball and FIBA events, as well as other all-star settings in the past two years, and will continue that process this summer and fall.
NBA teams still have a lot to learn about this group. We’re still feeling the effects of a pandemic that severely disjointed the high school careers of many of these prospects. That likely caused quite a few players to slip between the cracks and end up at lower levels than they should have. Missed evaluation opportunities have forced teams to dig even deeper into the college ranks to the mid- and low-major schools (as well as non-Division I programs, potentially), where more NBA prospects are still certain to emerge. G League Ignite and Overtime Elite are other evaluation platforms that are becoming increasingly important in the NBA scouting world, as evidenced by the fact that only one of the top five projected 2023 picks will be attending college — something that’s never occurred in the history of the NBA draft. First, let’s look at the updated 2023 mock, followed by some top storylines for next year’s class
The 2023 draft order is based on ESPN projections prior to draft night, and reflects the current state of picks owed and owned:
2023 mock draft
Victor Wembanyama | ASVEL | PF/C| Age: 18.4
Scoot Henderson | G League Ignite | PG | Age: 18.3
Nick Smith | Arkansas | PG/SG | Age: 18.1
Ausar Thompson | Overtime Elite | SG/SF | Age: 19.3
Amen Thompson | Overtime Elite | PG/SG | Age: 19.3
Cameron Whitmore | Villanova | SF | Age: 17.9
Dillon Mitchell | Texas | SF/PF | Age: 18.7
Dereck Lively | Duke | C | Age: 18.3
Dariq Whitehead | Duke | SG/SF | Age: 17.8
Keyonte George | Baylor | SG | Age: 18.6
11. New York Knicks
Kel’el Ware | Oregon | C | Age: 18.1
Anthony Black | Arkansas | SG | Age: 18.4
13. Atlanta Hawks
Terquavion Smith | NC State | SG | Age: 19.4
14. Orlando Magic (from Chicago)
Cason Wallace | Kentucky | PG/SG | Age: 18.6
15. Indiana Pacers (from Cleveland)
Kyle Filipowski | Duke | PF/C | Age: 18.6
16. Toronto Raptors
Jarace Walker | Houston | PF | Age: 18.8
Julian Phillips | Tennessee | SF | Age: 18.6
Gradey Dick | Kansas | SG/SF | Age: 18.5
19. Utah Jazz
Leonard Miller | G League Ignite | SF/PF | Age: 18.5
20. New York Knicks (from Dallas)
James Nnaji | Barcelona | C | Age: 17.8
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Denver)
Jordan Walsh | Arkansas | SF/PF | Age: 18.3
22. Brooklyn Nets (from Philadelphia)
Rayan Rupert | NZ Breakers | SG/SF | Age: 18.0
23. LA Clippers
Brandon Miller | Alabama | SF | Age: 19.5
24. Brooklyn Nets
Chris Livingston | Kentucky | SF/PF | Age: 18.6
25. Houston Rockets (from Milwaukee)
Sidy Cissoko | Undecided | SG/SF | Age: 18.2
26. Boston Celtics
J.J. Starling | Notre Dame | SG | Age: 18.2
27. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Miami)
Marcus Sasser | Houston | PG/SG | Age: 21.7
Ousmane Ndiaye | Undecided | PF/C | Age: 18.2
Amari Bailey | UCLA | PG/SG | Age: 18.3
30. Phoenix Suns
Nikola Djurisic | Mega Mozzart | SG/SF | Age: 18.3
Arthur Kaluma | Creighton | PF | Age: 20.3
32. New York Knicks (from Detroit)
Nolan Hickman | Gonzaga | PG | Age: 19.1
33. Orlando Magic
Emoni Bates | Undecided | SG/SF | Age: 18.4
34. Boston Celtics (from Houston)
Jordan Hawkins | UConn | SG | Age: 20.1
35. Sacramento Kings
Julian Strawther | Gonzaga | SF | Age: 20.1
Jaime Jaquez Jr. | UCLA | SF | Age: 21.3
37. Sacramento Kings (via Indiana)
Andre Jackson | UConn | SG/SF | Age: 20.6
38. Boston Celtics (from Portland)
Harrison Ingram | Stanford | SF/PF | Age: 19.5
39. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Washington)
Roko Prkacin | Undecided | PF | Age: 19.5
Adem Bona | UCLA | C | Age: 19.2
41. New York Knicks
Oscar Tshiebwe | Kentucky | C | Age: 22.5
42. Atlanta Hawks (from Charlotte)
Caleb Love | North Carolina | SG | Age: 20.7
43. Philadelphia 76ers (from Atlanta)
Daimion Collins | Kentucky | PF/C | Age: 19.6
44. Los Angeles Lakers (from Chicago)
Alex Fudge | Florida | PF | Age: 19.1
45. Milwaukee Bucks (via Cleveland)
Drew Timme | Gonzaga | PF/C | Age: 21.7
46. Toronto Raptors
Mouhamed Gueye | Washington State | C | Age: 19.6
Kris Murray | Iowa | PF | Age: 21.8
Coleman Hawkins | Illinois | PF | Age: 20.5
49. New York Knicks (from Utah)
Matthew Cleveland | Florida State | SG/SF | Age: 19.7
50. New York Knicks (from Dallas)
Ryan Kalkbrenner | Creighton | C | Age: 20.4
51. Philadelphia 76ers
Matthew Murrell | Ole Miss | SG | Age: 20.5
52. LA Clippers
Colby Jones | Xavier | SG/SF | Age: 20.0
53. Brooklyn Nets
Kevin McCullar | Kansas | SF | Age: 21.2
54. Milwaukee Bucks
Jazian Gortman | Overtime Elite | PG/SG | Age: 19.1
55. Charlotte Hornets (from Boston)
Matthew Mayer | Illinois | SF/PF | Age: 22.7
56. Indiana Pacers (from Miami)
Ariel Hukporti | Melbourne | C | Age: 20.1
57. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Golden State)
Zach Edey | Purdue | C | Age: 20.1
Trayce Jackson-Davis | Indiana | PF/C | Age: 22.3
59. Phoenix Suns
Jamarion Sharp | Western Kentucky | C | Age: 20.8
Note: The Chicago Bulls forfeited a 2023 second-round draft pick.
Top storylines to watch for the class of 2023
Who’s No. 1?
Victor Wembanyama is a player we’ve all been penciling in at No. 1 for the better part of three years, and for good reason. He stands 7-foot-3 with a 7-9 wingspan, has an exceptionally high skill level and feel for the game, and possesses defensive player of the year-type instincts as a shot-blocker.
Wembanyama could very well be on the move this offseason thanks to an opt-out clause in his contract that he’s expected to execute at the conclusion of the French playoff finals. Reports in France indicate there’s a level of unhappiness brewing regarding the way several minor injuries he suffered this season were diagnosed and treated, while the head coach of his current ASVEL team — owner Tony Parker’s brother, T.J. — hasn’t left a lasting impression thus far. G League Ignite and Paris Basket are said to be the main candidates for his signature. The opportunity for Wembanyama to be closer to home in Paris and still play in the competitive EuroCup league will likely be attractive. Most NBA executives feel that Wembanyama simply staying healthy for the duration of next season, while showing progress with his thin frame and ability to handle physicality, should be enough to lock down the top spot.
In regard to Wembanyama’s candidacy for the top pick, it’s worth keeping a close eye on how the three big men who just heard their names called atop the 2022 NBA draft — Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero — fare as rookies. Not every executive agrees that selecting a big man at No. 1 is an ideal use of a team’s resources, in terms of the value they return in the modern game.
Should Wembanyama struggle to stay healthy, or not improve as much as hoped, there’s a group of extremely talented prospects right behind him looking to show there’s a conversation about why big playmakers who can be the engine of an NBA offense deserve just as much consideration atop the draft.
That starts with Scoot Henderson, who has Jaden Ivey-esque explosiveness changing gears in the open court, taking a piece of the paint and finishing powerfully above the rim. Henderson’s court vision is more advanced than Ivey’s at the same stage, but he’s 2 inches shorter and his struggles as a perimeter shooter (22% from 3) are something teams will want to study closely next year. To be fair, Henderson is far from a non-shooter in terms of his mechanics and ability to throw in pullup jumpers when defenses go under ball screens (he made 43% of his off-the-dribble jumpers last season, per Synergy Sports Technology), and the fact that he hit nearly 80% of his free throws last season leaves significant room for optimism, especially considering he’s still only 18.
Arkansas’ Nick Smith and OTE guards Ausar and Amen Thompson are currently behind Henderson and Wembanyama in the pecking order of the 2023 draft, but have a full season to show they deserve to be in that conversation. Their tools and talent suggest they very well could be in it if they make another jump with their productivity and skill level.
Wings and bigs, but few guards
One of the trends we saw throughout the 2022 NBA draft process was a distinct lack of lead guards, with only one of the top 28 picks, Jaden Ivey, likely to see the majority of his NBA minutes at the point guard spot. Even Ivey is considered by most to be more of a combo guard after being utilized heavily in an off-the-ball role in his time at Purdue.
The 2023 NBA draft isn’t shaping up as a point-guard-heavy class either. While Henderson and Nick Smith project as primary ball handlers down the road, they must refine their decision-making and ability to create for others. The same can be said for the other guards in the first round who are mostly scoring-oriented, such as Baylor-bound Keyonte George, NC State sophomore Terquavion Smith, blue-collar Kentucky guard Cason Wallace, UCLA combo Amari Bailey and Houston senior bucket-getter Marcus Sasser. Gonzaga’s Nolan Hickman, the “purest” point guard of the group, will hope to break through and show his stripes as a distributor in a crowded backcourt despite his average physical tools.
The premium on scoring at the guard position points to the direction basketball is heading as much as anything, but there certainly is a need in the NBA for guards who can run a team and make others better in addition to putting points on the board, something this class certainly has room to improve upon.
Where this group is very strong is with towering big men, as three 7-footers make up the top 11 prospects, and eight overall 7-footers are currently projected to be drafted. Just over one-third of all players currently projected to be picked can be classified as big men, which is a significant number but might not ultimately hold up. Big men emerge early as prospects for obvious reasons, but the bar for being playable in today’s NBA has never been higher, which means that showcasing their defensive versatility, playmaking ability and skill level on the perimeter will be important to separate from the crowd.
Wings also make up a good part of the intrigue with this group, especially near the top of the draft. Players including the Thompson twins, Cameron Whitmore, Dillon Mitchell, Dariq Whitehead, Anthony Black, Jarace Walker, Julian Phillips, Gradey Dick and Leonard Miller make up half of the top 20 prospects currently forecast, and all currently project as wings. Most offer quite a bit of multipositional defensive versatility with varying degrees of perimeter shooting, shot creation and plenty of physical and long-term upside to tap into, but productivity, consistency and showing growth in terms of their feel for the game and skill level over the course of the year will be important to keep their stock high.
Another deep draft coming
While few first-round prospects declined to enter the 2022 NBA draft, and a high number elected not to withdraw their names from consideration after testing the waters, NBA teams seem intrigued by a graduating high school class that is just about to become draft-eligible, as well as a solid international group that currently features six projected first-rounders from Europe.
Several NBA decision-makers we’ve spoken with expressed the belief that the NBA draft continues to get stronger and deeper, pointing to the fact that the 2020 and 2021 draft classes have significantly exceeded early expectations. Also, the abundance of young talent found throughout the 2022 crop caused several highly regarded talents to drop on draft night into the second round, or even go undrafted altogether.
Basketball is being taught and played at a high level across the globe, and prospects have never had more access to training and elite competition from a younger age than they currently do. Top prospects are being found in rural parts of the U.S. or obscure places around the globe, in many cases moving on to top-notch American prep schools where they usually compete against other top prospects year-round in grassroots and high school competition. That’s only going to increase in the coming years with the advent of platforms like the NBA Academy, G League Ignite, OTE and the NIBC, which all scout the globe intently and draw on talent from extremely diverse backgrounds.
Early movement on 2023 draft order
Multiple first-round draft picks have changed hands for 2023:
Charlotte’s first-rounder is owned by Atlanta if Charlotte’s pick falls between No. 17 and 30 in 2023. If Charlotte’s pick finishes between 1-16, Atlanta will instead receive Charlotte’s 2024 first-rounder, lottery-protected.
On draft night, Charlotte scored a protected top-14 protected first-rounder from Denver via Oklahoma City and New York in a three-way trade.
Houston has first-round swap rights with Brooklyn.
Houston owns Milwaukee’s first-rounder, which is unprotected.
Brooklyn owns Philadelphia’s first-rounder, which is unprotected.
Chicago’s first-rounder is owned by Orlando if Chicago’s pick falls between 5 and 30 in 2023. If Chicago’s pick finishes between 1-4, Orlando will instead receive Chicago’s 2024 first-rounder, protected for picks 1-3.
Portland’s first-rounder is owned by Chicago if Portland’s pick falls between 15 and 30 in 2023. If Portland misses the playoffs as expected, Chicago will instead receive Portland’s 2024 first-rounder, again lottery-protected.
Cleveland’s first-rounder is owned by Indiana if Cleveland’s pick falls between 15 and 30 in 2023. If Cleveland misses the playoffs, Indiana will instead receive Cleveland’s 2025 second-round pick and the Lakers’ 2026 second-round pick.
Dallas’ first-rounder is owned by New York if Dallas’ pick falls between 11 and 30 in 2023. If Dallas’ pick finishes between 1-10, New York will instead receive Dallas’ 2024 first-rounder, protected for picks 1-10.
Denver’s first-rounder is owned by Oklahoma City if Denver’s pick falls between 15 and 30 in 2023. If Denver misses the playoffs, Oklahoma City will instead receive Denver’s 2024 first-rounder, again lottery-protected.
Detroit’s first-rounder is owned by Oklahoma City if Detroit’s pick falls between 19 and 30 in 2023. If Detroit’s pick falls between 1-18, Oklahoma City will instead receive Detroit’s 2024 first-rounder, again protected for picks 1-18.
Oklahoma City has first-round swap rights with the Los Angeles Clippers.
New Orleans has first-round swap rights with the Los Angeles Lakers.
On draft night, New York gained two protected first-round picks, both via Oklahoma City: a top-14 protected originally from Washington, and a top-18 protected originally from Detroit.
Washington’s first-rounder is owned by Oklahoma City if Washington’s pick falls between 15 and 30 in 2023. If Washington’s pick finishes between 1-14, Oklahoma City will instead receive Washington’s 2024 first-rounder, protected for picks 1-12.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.