With the NCAA tournament in the rearview, and nearly half the NBA seeing their seasons end this week, teams are jumping full-fledged into draft mode. All hands are on deck for video scouting, background checks, and the very first pre-draft camp of the cycle — the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament — starts Wednesday.
Outside of Victor Wembanyama at No.1, there isn’t a great deal of consensus among the 30 teams as front offices will see quite a few debates between now and June 22.
We’re updating our mock draft for the first time since prior to the NCAA tournament in March and will continue to make adjustments as we make the rounds and learn more about the prospects teams value entering the NBA draft combine and workouts.
For now, NBA draft expert Jonathan Givony and ESPN contributor Jeremy Woo look at Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson with the No. 2 pick, and how to rank the immediate tier of prospects starting at pick No. 4, along with our first 2023 NBA mock draft that includes team needs and player capsules for the first 30 picks.
Note: The projected 2023 draft order is based on NBA standings as of Wednesday. The complete order and tiebreakers will be determined at a later date.
The Pistons would be ecstatic to see a miserable season culminate in selecting one of the most highly anticipated prospects ever, bringing relevance and star power the franchise hasn’t had in years. Wembanyama would likely enjoy playing and growing alongside a more traditional center in Jalen Duren, who could handle much of the dirty work. The 7-foot-5 Frenchman’s outstanding skill level makes him a strong offensive fit alongside Detroit’s existing core, while his length, mobility and instincts would surely help improve the team’s defense, which ranked among the NBA’s worst. — Jonathan Givony
The Rockets could look at either Miller or Scoot Henderson here depending on how they feel about Kevin Porter Jr.’s long-term fit on the roster. Miller has rocketed up most NBA teams’ boards with the tremendous season he had at Alabama, winning SEC player of the year and All-American honors. At 6-9, he brings excellent size on the wing, along with dynamic shot-making and increasingly strong playmaking and defensive versatility. He’s an easy fit on basically any roster, and would benefit playing alongside the shot-creation prowess of Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun and the floor spacing of Jabari Smith Jr. as he makes the adjustment to the NBA. — Givony
G League Ignite
The Spurs are hoping this draft brings a star to anchor their rebuild, and landing a potential franchise point guard at No. 3 would be a pretty strong outcome. And while NBA evaluators have been poking holes in Henderson’s case as the clear-cut No. 2 prospect in the class, it’s still hard to envision him falling further than third. Henderson’s strength, quickness and scoring instincts can be overwhelming for opponents and should allow him to impact games from the get-go. But he’s far from a finished product, and his growth as a shooter, playmaker and defender will ultimately determine what type of heights he reaches. His second Ignite season wasn’t all smooth sailing, but expect Henderson to be the first guard drafted regardless. — Jeremy Woo
As Charlotte continues to build out its roster around guard LaMelo Ball, the notion of pairing him with another oversized, transition-oriented playmaker in Amen Thompson is interesting food for thought. On the other hand, the Hornets have gotten pretty mixed results from their recent draftees, which could lend itself to a safer approach. Amen profiles as one of the biggest risk-reward plays in the draft, combining a high-end physical profile with plus passing vision and downhill speed that could allow him to play as a de facto point guard. Due to uncertainty surrounding his jump shot and the significant leap in competition he’s about to make, much will hang on how Thompson fares in workouts and interviews. His sheer upside could be tantalizing for teams hoping to land a star after the first few picks. — Woo
Whether or not Portland continues working to kick-start another playoff team around Damian Lillard, the Blazers have already assembled a collection of young perimeter scorers, making them a natural fit for Walker, who would inject some instant connectivity, energy and defensive backbone. His upside is tied primarily to his versatility, as a physically gifted multi-positional player who’s evolved to fit a complementary role on offense. He doesn’t project as a go-to scoring option, but provided his catch-and-shoot game keeps improving, that shouldn’t be an issue. Walker is also an excellent passer who should be able to help spread the ball around and play out of different spots. His length and strong build should make him a two-way mainstay in smaller lineups. — Woo
The Magic are loaded with young talent throughout their roster, especially in the frontcourt, with Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. Adding an explosive two-way wing in Ausar Thompson could make sense, especially if they believe in the progress he showed as a perimeter shooter this season. Ausar’s passing, defensive versatility and transition-scoring prowess gives him one of the highest upsides of any prospect in this draft, and his fit on Orlando looks strong provided he is able to space the floor adequately with his improving jumper. — Givony
Whitmore had an uneven freshman season at Villanova but still dropped some vivid glimpses of upside that made him a potential top-five pick entering the year with his frame, explosive first step and excellent scoring instincts. Adding a versatile wing/forward in his mold who has the tools to slide to the power forward position could make sense for the Pacers. Indiana has a strong young core in place — headlined by Tyrese Haliburton — and will likely want to continue to add athleticism and defensive versatility in the frontcourt. — Givony
The Wizards have had a revolving door at point guard ever since John Wall’s departure in 2020, and Black, who supplies a breadth of winning-oriented skills NBA teams covet, would appear a tailor-made fit here. He made a strong individual scoring jump at Arkansas, and while not a great 3-point shooter (30% on less than three attempts per game), he made some strides in his willingness to take them. His eye for playmaking will help drive a successful offense, and he’s a smart, active and switchable defender. Considering how many organizations are emphasizing positional size, skill and feel in building lineups, Black looks like a perfect fit for the modern league. — Woo
The Jazz exceeded expectations this season, nearly landing a spot in the play-in tournament despite being forecasted to be among the NBA’s worst teams in the preseason. With their frontcourt appearing well-stocked with Walker Kessler and Lauri Markkanen in the fold, adding perimeter talent could make a lot of sense, especially a big, dynamic shooting wing like Dick, who hit 40% of his 3-pointers last season and brings solid versatility with his toughness and strong feel for the game. — Givony
Keep in mind that if this pick falls out of the top 10, it will convey to the New York Knicks. After bottoming out in the final stretch of the season, Dallas’ surprise lottery selection looks like a critical juncture as it tries to build a winner around Luka Doncic. There appears to be a very real chance Hendricks vaults into the top 10, cementing an incredible rise for a player who began this season far from the one-and-done radar. Due to his size (6-9), shooting ability (39% from 3), defensive chops and understanding of his role, Hendricks looks like a safe bet to provide lottery value as an efficient stretch big who’s willing to play physically on the interior. It’s easy to fit him conceptually into any NBA rotation, and his impact on both ends could be an immediate boon for the Mavs. — Woo
Surrounding their young talent with floor-spacers will be a major priority for the Magic, who ranked among the NBA’s least prolific 3-point shooting teams last season. Hawkins led all projected prospects in 3-pointers made while hitting 39% of his attempts on UConn’s path to a national championship. He is more than a stand-still shooter, showing significant versatility on the move while getting to the free throw line at a strong rate and making strides with his passing and defense. With often-injured Gary Harris entering the final season of his contract, a sharp-shooting wing like Hawkins makes sense. — Givony
Nick Smith Jr.
Oklahoma City has built out a deep, talented roster with cover at every position, which might allow it to take a swing on someone such as Smith. To put it nicely, Smith had a highly uneven season at Arkansas, appearing in just 17 games because of injury and finishing out shooting just 39% on 2s and 33% on 3s. NBA teams have to weigh the value of Smith’s pedigree — for a time, he was viewed by some as the top prospect in the freshman class — versus his on-court results. His decision-making and shoot-first style have cast aspersions on his ability to play the point full time, which has reframed the conversation about where his ceiling lies as a bucket-getting combo guard. Smith’s range is wide at this point, with the lottery still in reach but not necessarily a lock. — Woo
The Raptors were one of the worst perimeter shooting teams in the NBA this season, and could see their two most prolific 3-point shooters, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., depart in free agency this summer. George is one of the most prolific shooters in this class and also brings significant scoring power with his shot creation and passing ability. He was far from consistent this season in terms of efficiency or decision-making but brings significant potential star power and upside to grow into at just 19 years old. — Givony
New Orleans spent much of the season with CJ McCollum as its de facto starting point guard and could find a long-term fit here in Wallace — a tough, consistent two-way player who’s comfortable on and off the ball. While he doesn’t come with immense shot-creating upside and didn’t get to the rim as often as you’d like at Kentucky, Wallace helps drive winning, which has been his reputation dating back to high school. He’s more NBA ready than most of the guards in this class and offers an appealing floor as a likely high-level contributor. — Woo
The Hawks are heavily reliant on the shot-creation prowess of Trae Young, whose standing is somewhat of an open question after a tumultuous season that saw changes in the front office and coaching staff. With that in mind, adding another lead guard to the team could make sense, making the live-dribble passing, shot-making and all-around aggressiveness Hood-Schifino brings attractive. He’s likely not ready to be handed the keys to an NBA offense anytime soon considering the huge swings in effectiveness we saw this season, but his upside is clearly significant for a team that can afford to be patient with his development. — Givony
16. Utah Jazz (via Minnesota)
Utah currently holds three first-round picks to help jump-start its rebuild, and it takes a fascinating swing here with Clowney. The 18-year-old forward began the season without a reputation in NBA circles and finished it as arguably the second-most-impactful player on the NCAA tournament’s top overall seed, vaulting himself into legitimate one-and-done territory. His excellent defensive instincts and room for shooting development are working in his favor as an already-versatile frontcourt player who can guard all over the court. Factor in that he’s one of the youngest players in the class, and Clowney has plenty of room to rise on boards between now and June. — Woo
Surrounding Anthony Davis and LeBron James with competent teammates who can space the floor effectively, bring a strong feel for the game and have the positional size needed to play multiple positions has long been a priority for the Lakers. Howard is one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in this class who also flashed impressive scoring versatility before injuries derailed his season. At 6-8, he can play either wing position and has upside to grow into multiple roles at just 19 years old. — Givony
Miami could certainly stand to beef up its defense on the wings, making Rupert an intriguing fit. Despite missing time because of injury and playing a limited role in the NBL this season in Australia, Rupert has plenty of fans around the NBA. He has shown he can impact games defensively with his wingspan and has flashed improved catch-and-shoot ability from distance, which remains a key growth area. While still a ways from contributing, the demand for wings with his type of tools and mentality makes him a firm first-round candidate, and a potential riser in the pre-draft process. — Woo
The Rockets ranked as one of the NBA’s worst offensive teams this season, in no small part due to their league-worst 3-point shooting accuracy. Sensabaugh, a 41% 3-point shooter who can score from anywhere on the floor, posted an eye-popping 27.3 points per 40 minutes. He has work to do in improving his frame and defensive engagement to become a more complete all-around player, but he could bring a dimension the team currently doesn’t have at the forward positions. — Givony
Dereck Lively II
The Warriors love to take long-term development swings with their first-round picks and can address a long-term need for a rim protector here with Lively. After reviving his stock with a series of compelling defensive showings in conference play, Lively staked his claim as perhaps the top non-Wembanyama rim protector in a draft class notably scant on centers. He doesn’t offer much offensively, and his specific, somewhat limited skill set makes him more of a need-based option in the first round. But the scarcity factor might wind up working in his favor, putting him on the short list for any team in need of a true big. — Woo
G League Ignite
The Nets have one of the longest, most positionless rosters in the NBA, with a huge amount of size and versatility at every position. Adding a 6-11 wing in Leonard Miller — who is coming off an incredibly productive season in the G League in which he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as a 19-year-old — could make sense in that vein. His perimeter shooting, decision-making and defensive consistency are still in need of refinement, but it’s hard to find teenagers with the type of length, activity and scoring instincts Miller brings, which gives him real upside to grow into. — Givony
The Nets don’t have much in the way of backcourt depth, partially by design due to their unique roster construction. With several veteran guards becoming free agents or entering the final season of their contracts, adding a young combo guard such as Bufkin to the fold makes sense. He had a breakout performance in Big Ten play, showing improved decision-making, outstanding open-court speed, real toughness defensively and increasingly effective perimeter shooting as the year moved on. Bufkin has strong versatility to go along with upside at 19 years old. — Givony
Nnaji’s role has fluctuated dramatically for Barcelona this season, keeping his stock in check as scouts have struggled to predict when they can get eyes on him. At 6-11, with a 7-4 wingspan and exceptional mobility and explosiveness, it’s hard to find a more gifted prospect in this class from a physical standpoint. Portland could very well be looking to add a young big man to their stable of talent to pair with the often-injured Jusuf Nurkic. Nnaji isn’t ready to shoulder significant playing time, but the Trail Blazers, who struggled to get stops this season, might be attracted to the defensive upside he brings. — Givony
Sacramento seems to be shifting gears toward winning after a successful 48-win campaign, but in this scenario, the Kings take a flier on Whitehead, who now looks like an intriguing reclamation project. After entering the year viewed as a top-10 prospect, his disappointing freshman season placed his draft status in a bit of flux, with scouts struggling to assess his production relative to his reputation. His pre-Duke résumé and the fact he doesn’t turn 19 until August will spur teams to take another long look in workouts, however. Whitehead did finish the season shooting 42% from 3 but lacks a truly elite skill or a pronounced physical advantage on the wing. He’s a worthy first-round swing, but his range is pretty wide as things stand. — Woo
Coulibaly struggled to get on the floor early in the season alongside Wembanyama on Metropolitans 92, seeing most of his action in the French U21 league, where he was dominant. Since mid-January, he has been given consistent playing time and raised many eyebrows around the NBA with his unique combination of physical tools, defensive versatility and improving skill. He has upside to grow into as an 18-year-old late bloomer. A team with a deep roster and a forward-thinking front office, such as Memphis, could very well decide to take a flier on him late in the first round, as he’d likely enter next season as a projected top-10 pick should he choose to wait another year. — Givony
The Pacers were among the teams heavily interested in Keegan Murray last season and could have an opportunity to grab his twin brother, Kris, late in the first round. While not the flashiest player, nor someone with the creative skills to anchor an offense, Murray turned in a positive year at Iowa and offers plenty to like as an unselfish floor-spacing forward who can hold his own defensively. He’s not the same level of scorer or defender as his brother, but Kris drew a good deal of interest from teams while testing the waters last season, and should be entrenched somewhere in the first round. — Woo
Gregory Jackson II
Jackson has become an eye-of-the-beholder prospect and a divisive name within front offices. He’s the youngest player in the draft, boasts a strong physical profile and has shown the ability to catch and shoot and also create his own looks. Yet his frustrating decision-making, shot selection and overall raw nature of his play has hampered his lottery case. He has the skill set to potentially excel as a floor-spacing 4 — it just requires a leap of faith, depending on where you have to draft him. Should he fall this far, he’d be a pretty appealing development swing, particularly for a team like the Hornets with multiple first-round picks. — Woo
28. Utah Jazz (via Philadelphia)
Jaime Jaquez Jr.
After a distinguished career at UCLA, Jaquez is one of this season’s more ready-made, plug-and-play options. He’s physical, smart and reliable, with the requisite ball skills, shooting and well-rounded production to hold his own as a useful bench player. While not flashy, Jaquez has his fans around the league and looks like a viable low-maintenance role player, potentially from opening night. He’d be an appealing addition for the Jazz, who continue to stockpile young talent as they rebuild. — Woo
With their third first-round pick, Indiana might elect to take a swing for the fences on a talented young prospect, such as Lewis, with more upside (and downside) than you typically expect to find with the No. 29 pick. Every NBA team is actively searching for fluid, long-armed 6-7 wings with shot creation, shot-making versatility and potential. His poor defense, decision-making and overall end to the season damaged his standing, but the intrigue around his profile still gives him a good chance to be a first-round pick with a strong pre-draft process. — Givony
With one of the league’s highest payrolls, and entering a highly restrictive environment for adding talent dictated by the new CBA, the Clippers will need to find contributors in the draft to bolster their depth. Jones looks like a plug-and-play wing coming off a breakout season at Xavier. While not blessed with overwhelming physical tools, Jones brings defensive versatility, an excellent feel for the game and much-improved perimeter shooting at 20 years old. — Givony
31. Detroit Pistons
Dillon Mitchell | Texas | PF | Age: 19.5
32. Indiana Pacers (via Houston)
Andre Jackson | UConn | PG/SG/SF | Age: 21.4
33. San Antonio Spurs
Trayce Jackson-Davis | Indiana | PF/C | Age: 23.1
34. Charlotte Hornets
Terquavion Smith | NC State | SG | Age: 20.2
35. Boston Celtics (via Portland)
Marcus Sasser | Houston | PG/SG | Age: 22.5
36. Orlando Magic
Sidy Cissoko | G League Ignite | SG/SF | Age: 19.0
37. Sacramento Kings (via Indiana)
Brandin Podziemski | Santa Clara | SG | Age: 20.1
38. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Washington)
Jalen Wilson | Kansas | SF/PF | Age: 22.4
39. Charlotte Hornets (via Utah)
Keyontae Johnson | Kansas St. | SF | Age: 22.8
40. Denver Nuggets (via Dallas)
Terrence Shannon Jr. | Illinois | SG/SF | Age: 22.6
41. Washington Wizards (via Chicago)
Amari Bailey | UCLA | PG | Age: 19.1
42. Charlotte Hornets (via Oklahoma City)
Ricky Council IV | Arkansas | SG/SF | Age: 21.6
43. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto)
Kobe Brown | Missouri | PF/C | Age: 23.2
44. Atlanta Hawks (via New Orleans)
Baylor Scheierman | Creighton | SG/SF | Age: 22.5
45. Portland Trail Blazers (via Atlanta)
Nikola Durisic | Mega MIS | SG/SF | Age: 19.1
46. Memphis Grizzlies (via Minnesota)
Adem Bona | UCLA | C | Age: 20.0
47. Los Angeles Lakers
Coleman Hawkins | Illinois | PF | Age: 21.3
48. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Golden State)
Mouhamed Gueye | Washington St. | PF/C | Age: 20.4
49. LA Clippers
Julian Strawther | Gonzaga | SF | Age: 20.9
50. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami)
Zach Edey | Purdue | C | Age: 20.9
51. Brooklyn Nets
Ryan Kalkbrenner | Creighton | C | Age: 21.2
52. Phoenix Suns
Jordan Walsh | Arkansas | SF/PF | Age: 19.1
53. Minnesota Timberwolves (via New York)
Julian Phillips | Tennessee | SF | Age: 19.4
54. Sacramento Kings
Tristan Vukcevic | Partizan | PF/C | Age: 20.0
55. Indiana Pacers (via Cleveland)
Reece Beekman | Virginia | PG | Age: 21.5
56. Memphis Grizzlies
Kevin McCullar Jr. | Kansas | SF | Age: 22.0
57. Washington Wizards (via Boston)
Emoni Bates | Eastern Michigan | SG/SF | Age: 19.1
58. Milwaukee Bucks
Mike Miles Jr. | TCU | PG | Age: 20.6
Note: The Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers each forfeited a 2023 second-round draft pick.
The debate at No. 2: Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson?
At the beginning of the 2023 draft cycle, NBA executives widely expressed the wide gap between the top two prospects in this class — Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson — and the next tier of candidates. Fast forward to April, and that thinking has evolved, with most executives we’ve spoken with saying that Wembanyama has firmly cemented himself at No. 1, while Henderson has opened the door to other contenders at No. 2 — especially Alabama’s Brandon Miller — with his uneven play this season for G League Ignite.
Playing in just 25 of 50 Ignite games because of injuries, load management and G League officials’ decision to shut him down late in the season once it became clear the team would not make the playoffs, Henderson did not make the step forward NBA executives were hoping he would. He struggled with efficiency and looked fairly checked out for long stretches, especially defensively, where his effort took a major step backward, particularly off the ball.
His playmaking, which showed real promise in October when the Ignite matched up with Wembanyama and Metropolitans 92 in Las Vegas, also didn’t evolve as hoped. That was especially true in pick and roll, where Henderson was inconsistent, often hunting for pull-up jumpers excessively, making just 36% of his attempts (0.8 points per possession, per Synergy). Henderson didn’t show a great deal of nuance, patience or creativity in probing or making advanced reads when his preferred option was cut off, mostly seeing what was directly in front of him and often letting defenses off the hook with his decision-making, averaging 4.5 turnovers per 40 and hitting 32% of his 3-pointers this season.
Henderson still shows All-Star-caliber flashes of ability accelerating powerfully out of hesitation moves, driving and dishing, making pocket passes and being difficult to stay in front of with his strong frame, explosive first step and excellent body control, especially in the open floor. He has shot-making ability, outstanding scoring instincts, tools to be an outstanding defender with his 6-foot-9 wingspan, quick feet and solid instincts getting in passing lanes, and is more than 14 months younger than Miller.
The hope is that Henderson’s stagnation in his second season had more to do with the carefree and uninhibited nature of the G League, where defense is often optional, any shot goes and contests can devolve into pickup-style games with varying levels of intensity. We saw Henderson ramp up his competitiveness significantly when playing against Wembanyama, but that version simply wasn’t there often enough as the year moved on.
Into that void emerged Miller, who played his best basketball of the season from January through the SEC tournament, where a huge contingent of NBA executives watched courtside. Miller assumed more of Alabama’s playmaking responsibility, looking like a 6-9 guard who can facilitate with either hand and hit jumpers with significant volume from anywhere on the floor. He also substantially improved his defensive intensity while demonstrating strong versatility on that end of the floor.
Every NBA team is looking for this mold of player — Jayson Tatum, Paul George, Brandon Ingram — who can slide between the shooting guard and power forward positions on both ends in different lineup configurations and tower over smaller wings. Miller’s improvement as a live-dribble passer, threading the needle with skip passes, lobs and over-the-shoulder dishes using outstanding velocity, timing and touch, is especially notable for what it suggests about his ability to shoulder more significant offensive responsibility in the NBA.
However, Miller’s play in the NCAA tournament — 8-for-41 from the field in three games with 10 turnovers — poured a huge dose of cold water on the momentum he had built, bringing back to the forefront question marks NBA teams had about his lack of explosiveness and struggles creating inside the arc. In 19 games against top-50 opponents this season, Miller shot 38.5% from 2-point range and 32% for 3, per Bart Torvik. In 18 games against all other opponents, Miller shot 63% from 2 and 45% from 3. These splits point to concerns teams have as the level of competition he faces increases in the NBA, although Miller’s performance in SEC play was notably better than in November and December.
That’s not to mention the concerns around his involvement in the fatal shooting of Jamea Jonae Harris, for which he has not been charged with a crime. NBA executives say if the version of events that Miller’s attorney has described regarding his client’s role in the incident proves to be accurate, his draft stock is unlikely to be affected, but teams will certainly do their own research and will want to hear from Miller himself regarding his account of what occurred.
Ultimately, the identity of the team that lands the No. 2 pick will play a significant role in who ends up being selected. Teams such as Detroit, Portland and Indiana — all flush with backcourt options — will likely be more attracted to the idea of adding an all-around wing in Miller as opposed to Henderson, a ball-dominant guard. San Antonio, Houston, Charlotte and Orlando have needs both in the backcourt and on the wing and will likely look at both prospects. Henderson and Miller are unlikely to do much in the way of competitive workouts during the pre-draft process, but measurements, medicals, background checks, interviews and whatever basketball activity they elect to conduct will also play a role in who ends up being selected immediately after Wembanyama. — Givony
Why the No. 4 pick could be the turning point of the draft
The clear subtext of the debate surrounding Miller and Henderson at Nos. 2 and 3 is that the 2023 NBA draft appears to truly open up at No. 4. There has been little consensus among NBA executives in designating the fourth-best prospect in the draft, with five or six players feasibly in the mix, all of whom can strengthen their respective cases over the course of the next two months. The eventual lottery order and the needs of whichever team drafts fourth will ultimately dictate how things unfold, but at present, No. 4 is where the unpredictability would seem to begin.
Although missing out on the Wembanyama sweepstakes will ultimately sting for all but one team, strategically speaking, whoever lands the fourth pick will still be working from a position of strength. Whether that team intends to make the pick or explore trading down, it can operate with clarity on who will be available, and select from a diverse group of prospects who fit a variety of roles and needs. Those expected to be in the mix at No. 4 include Amen and Ausar Thompson of Overtime Elite, Houston’s Jarace Walker, Villanova’s Cam Whitmore and Arkansas’ Anthony Black. UCF’s Taylor Hendricks, who began the season off the radar, has built up enough esteem around the league to become a sleeper in that conversation.
From a pure upside perspective, the Thompson twins have always been intriguing high-lottery candidates. Yet the variance of opinion among NBA executives surrounding where exactly they sit in the draft’s hierarchy has remained wide since the beginning of the season, with a host of the league’s top decision-makers passing through Overtime Elite’s Atlanta facility to assess the situation. How the 20-year-old Thompsons handle the pre-draft process will be particularly pivotal because of the massive leap in competition level they will face. The league-wide demand for athletic wings helps their cases as long-term projects warranting lottery status.
Debate persists in front offices surrounding not only how high they should be drafted, but also which twin is the better prospect. Amen has demonstrated a flair for playmaking and finishing and could excel in transition, but he still struggles to make shots from the perimeter. Some scouts question whether he can safely project as a lead guard in the long run, and then, whether the shooting questions will hamper his ability to contribute off the ball. A team such as the Houston Rockets, who have demonstrated a willingness to swing big, or the Charlotte Hornets, whose roster could desperately use an infusion of athleticism and talent, could strongly consider him high in the lottery.
Ausar made greater strides this season, particularly with his catch-and-shoot play away from the ball, and his more defensive mindset places him closer to helping an NBA team in the short term. While the public perception for much of the past year has centered on Amen as the superior prospect, there’s a segment of the league that prefers Ausar, viewing him as a safer and more advanced player. He’d be a particularly captivating fit for the Indiana Pacers, where he’d benefit massively from the presence of Tyrese Haliburton and could develop to fit a need as a perimeter stopper.
Perhaps the safest option in the mix at No. 4 is Walker, who played a crucial role on a Houston team that went 33-4, and could provide instant two-way versatility wherever he lands. Walker’s physical strength and 7-2 wingspan enables him to tackle a wide variety of matchups on the defensive end, and he brings a high enough skill level as a passer and ball handler to operate all over the floor on offense. His confidence from long distance has to keep improving — he shot a respectable 34% from 3 and made important strides in that department. Lottery teams that have scorers in place — the Blazers and Magic come to mind — could strongly benefit from Walker’s ability to blend lineups, but he’s an easy player to superimpose onto nearly any team’s core group.
Whitmore entered the season on a top-five trajectory and remains in the high-lottery mix, despite a disappointing 17-17 season at Villanova. In a transition year for the program following coach Jay Wright’s retirement, not all of that falls on Whitmore, who came in with high expectations before missing the start of the season because of a broken thumb. NBA executives noted his inconsistency on the defensive end and an occasional underwhelming motor, but the flashes Whitmore shows tend to be loud, and he has yet to turn 19. He’s physically gifted and has made strides as a shooter and self-creator over the past year, portending bucket-getting upside, but his overall feel for playing with teammates and all-around contributions leaves something to be desired. There’s a clear case for him as a big development swing for any team in need of scoring, with the Pistons, Pacers, Spurs and Hornets among potential fits.
Cam Whitmore flies down the lane for massive one-handed jam for Nova
Cam Whitemore puts an exclamation point on Villanova’s upset win over Creighton with a massive dunk.
With respect to the NBA’s premium on tall guards and feel-driven lineups, perhaps the most intriguing candidate in this group is Black, who has not only built a case as the best passer in the draft, but made strides as a scorer while emerging as the clear best prospect on a loaded Arkansas team. He also established himself as one of the best defenders in college basketball, with excellent balance and quick hands at 6-7 that caused problems for guards and wings alike.
Anthony Black sinks a triple
Anthony Black extends Arkansas’ lead to double digits with a 3-pointer.
The concept of a tall, pass-first point guard who makes teammates better and can guard all over the floor would be a dream for most franchises, with the only true wart being Black’s 30% 3-point clip. But his growing willingness to take open shots and flashes of increased assertiveness and self-confidence place him on a strong trajectory going into June, and some around the NBA view him as an obvious top-five talent. He could help any guard-needy team, such as the Magic, Spurs and Wizards.
Lastly, keep an eye on Hendricks, who kept improving as the season went on and fits an extremely bankable mold as a long, versatile, late-blooming big with a developed catch-and-shoot game. He’s a multipositional defensive deterrent who covers ground well by using his length and can play physically on the inside, boasting a range of traits NBA teams are constantly hunting for. Ultimately, you can never have too many players like Hendricks on your roster. His efficiency, particularly at his size, (53% on 2s, 39% on 3s and 78% on free throws) quickly made him a favorite of analytics departments around the NBA, so it’s no longer a question of whether he warrants lottery looks, but how high he might rise on draft night.
Taylor Hendricks impresses with nice basket
Taylor Hendricks impresses with nice basket
Opinions vary widely around the league on this group of players, and without knowing who holds the pick, there’s no obvious answer yet. As such, the No. 4 pick is shaping up as the first key pivot point in the draft, and potentially the most challenging lottery spot a team will draw on May 16. — Woo
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.
Jeremy Woo is an NBA analyst specializing in prospect evaluation and the draft. He was previously a staff writer and draft insider at Sports Illustrated.