With the early entry withdrawal deadline passed it’s time to take another high-level look at the state of the 2023 NBA Draft. As June 22nd quickly approaches the big picture of this draft class is coming into sharper focus. Here’s what I’m seeing.
There’s a Top 3 and a Top 9.
After Wembanyama there are two top tier prospects rounding out the top 3: Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller. The Hornets picking at no.2 and the Trailblazers picking at no.3 (if they keep the pick) will be getting studs.
But after the top 3 I see six more elite talents that can all be grouped together in one tier. At this point it’s anyone’s guess how they’ll come off the board. The six players in this group are Cam Whitmore, Amen and Ausar Thompson, Jarace Walker, Taylor Hendricks and Anthony Black. I go back and forth on which of these six players I prefer and my board is still fluid in this range. Whitmore and the Thompson twins have more upside while Walker, Hendricks and Black seem to have higher floors. However it shakes out the teams picking 4-9 will be getting studs as well.
It’s possible that another player will crash the top 9 on draft day. Could it be a high upside wing like Bilal Coulibaly or a high scoring guard like Keyonte George or Gradey Dick?
There are ALWAYS players drafted outside of the lottery that end up being top 10 and even top 5 values so these top 9 players listed above won’t end up being the 9 best players in this draft. It just never works out that way. But going into the draft I feel that these top 9 players have separated themselves from the pack.
Late Lottery to Mid First Round Shooters
One of the most interesting things I’ll be watching on draft night is how the late lottery/mid first round shooters come off the board. I’m extremely high on Jordan Hawkins but will he be drafted ahead of Gradey Dick and/or Keyonte George? Where will Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin come off the board?
The Magic who pick at no.6 and no.11 are a team in need of a shooter. Dick would look dandy in a Magic uniform. Hawkins would fit there as well, or at no.12 to OKC. Keyonte George seems to have a wide draft range. He could crack the top 9…or fall to just outside the lottery. I’d love to see him on the Raptors, although he’s not the typical long, rangy wing type that they like to draft.
France in the House – And in the Green Room
The country of France will be very well represented on draft night with possibly four first round picks in Wemby, Bilal Coulibaly, Rayan Rupert and Sidy Cissoko.
Coulibaly might be the most unpolished and raw of the group but his upside is tantalizing. He’s one of the most fluid 6-8 athletes you’ll ever see and he makes the other players on the court look like they’re moving in slow motion. Don’t be shocked if a team takes a home run swing on him in the lottery.
I think Sidy Cissoko is flying too far under the radar and has been overshadowed by some of the bigger name Ignite prospects. He might not get drafted in the lottery but when we look back at this group in 5 years he could be one of the top 14 players in the draft class.
Rupert is another nice looking wing prospect who doesn’t flash as much as the two listed above but has great tools, awesome defensive potential and some passing instincts as well. He’s not as fluid or as bouncy of an athlete but instead uses his great length, overall size and good feel for the game to make plays. I could see him drafted in the 15-25 range, with a small chance he falls farther.
Upside Swings (Boom Or Bust)
The ultimate upside swing in this draft is GG Jackson who comes with a boatload of talent and plenty of question marks as well. Hi stock has moved down over the second half of the season and could be falling even farther in the pre-draft process. I’d still take a chance on him in the mid to late first round, but only for a team willing to be patience and put a lot of energy into his development. If he hits he’ll be a top 10 player in this class but there’s also a chance he takes a while to be NBA ready and might not bring consistent value to a team for a few years. Or ever, if his effort and intangibles don’t improve.
I’d put Maxwell Lewis in the upside swing category as well. He’s got really interesting tools and impressive flashes but is still figuring things out. I’m a bit lower on him…mainly due to the depth of this class and just liking other mid first round prospects more. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes top 20 but I’d personally wait to the late first round to draft him.
Both Nick Smith Jr. and Dariq Whitehead came into the season mocked in my top 10. But both struggled with injuries and are now likely to fall out of the lottery and possibly even out of the first round (especially Whitehead, who needed another surgery on his foot and is out until the fall). I’d take NSJ anywhere after about pick 15 and with Whitehead I’d be more cautious, maybe in the 25-35 range.
Lack Of Big Man Depth – But There’s Talent
I really like the mid to late first round big men in this draft class. Dereck Lively II could go lottery. He looked really good during the second half of the season and has been a standout during draft season. I’d like him in the 14 to 20 range but might see better value with one of the big men listed below, who could fall to the late first or early second round.
These guys might take time to develop but I believe they’ll become good to really good NBA players: James Nnaji is a beast on the block with awesome defensive ability. He’s a man-child with brute strength and impressive movement skills. He also has great length, protects the rim well and is an overall defensive force. Noah Clowney has the makings of a modern big man skill-set and an impressive frame/athletic ability.
Trayce-Jackson Davis looks ready to contribute immediately at the NBA level and would be a great pick for a contending team. He could be a sneaky star.
And then there’s Bobi Klintman, the young Swede who has skyrocketed up draft boards over the past month. He’s got a really impressive mix of size, shooting and play-making skills. And apparently has a first round promise. Leonard Miller is a solid late first round option as well after a strong showing with the G League Ignite this season.
This group took a hit at the withdrawal deadline with a few major talents choosing to return to school. I was higher than most on Adem Bona and would have taken him in the first round, even with the shoulder injury. Instead he’ll be back at UCLA for another year. And Zach Edey and DaRon Holmes II chose to return to Purdue and Dayton, further weakening the depth of this center class.
Tristan Vukcevic is one of the best shooting big men prospects you’ll see. He doesn’t project as much of a defender and so will probably fall to the second round but he’s got a good chance to stick in the league.
Overall I really like the center prospects that have stayed in this year’s draft, especially as value picks in the late first to early second round. But there’s definitely a lack of depth at this position.
Draft Combine Risers
This year we saw a handful of players significantly raise their draft stock at the combine. This includes O-Max Prosper, Brandon Podziemski, Seth Lundy, Sir-Jabari Rice, Ben Sheppard, Tosan Evbuomwan and Tristan Vukevic.
Emoni Bates also performed well and looked like a more willing passer and gave great effort to go along with his signature shot-making ability. He helped himself at the combine.
O-Max and Podziemski could go as high as the late first round.
Last Minute Decisions To Stay In The Draft
Three players that I thought might return to school but instead chose to stay in the draft, Andre Jackson, Julian Phillips and Jordan Walsh add to the wing depth in the late first to mid second round range. Each of these three comes with some flaws but a lot of upside as well.
Beyond the mid second round range there are about 30 or so prospects who could all be drafted or have a good chance to make a team or sign a two-way contract. As we’ve seen this year with the Miami Heat, hitting on the undrafted guys can be crucial to a NBA teams success. I like about 75 prospects this year as possible future NBA guys, so there will be plenty of very talented players who don’t get selected in the 58 picks of this years draft.
In conclusion the state of the 2023 NBA Draft is very strong and the talent is deep. The top of the lottery is exceptionally strong and there are big time talents through at least pick no.9.
There will be plenty of starters drafted in the mid first round and a number of high upside players who could pan out and pay off big in a few years. I like the depth of the second round, especially some of the talented upperclassmen and think there will be more then the usual number of long term NBA players that come out of this second round (even with all the talented players who chose to return to school).
All in all it’s a really good draft – and it’s less than 3 mutha flipping weeks away!