State of the 2023 NBA Draft – An Early Look at The Strengths and Weaknesses of the 2023 Draft Class

We’re 9 months out from the 2023 NBA Draft and there is already a lot we know about this draft class -and a lot that we still need to find out over the coming basketball season and the ensuing draft season.

We already know for certain that this is a special draft class. It’s not hyperbole to say it’ll be regarded as one of the best in this generation.

Of course it starts at the top with the elite talents of Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson but there is also impressive depth across many positions in this class and a few other star (potential superstar) talents.

This class has a diverse mix of talent. Last year I wrote about the 2022 draft being The Year of the Big Man (with depth on the wing and lacking at PG). The 2023 class can’t be summed up so simply; there is talent and depth at every position plus plenty of modern position-less type players.

The wing position is especially strong but the elite talents are at the PF and PG positions.

There are many elite freshmen, a number of talented sophomores and a few upperclassmen who could be first round picks plus international and pro league talents. This class has a bit of everything and something for everyone. And as usual the lottery will be dominated by freshmen (and young pro league prospects).

I’ll keep the Victor Wembanyama part short because so much has already been written about him. He’s the type of player that will change the fortunes of a franchise and a city. He’s a LeBron James level talent. He’s a once in a decade or longer talent. He’s a 7-4 Kevin Durant. I’ll leave it at that.

Scoot Henderson is elite. He’ll get overshadowed during this draft cycle by Wemby but so will everyone else. Scoot is also a franchise level talent. He has the ability to carry a team and is a GREAT consolation prize for whichever lowly franchise lands the no.2 pick. At this point it’s hard to imagine another prospect passing Scoot for no.2. It’s possible, and this draft has a lot of talent so anything could happen, but Scoot is a special, special player who would go no.1 overall in a lot of classes.

After the top 2 there are a solid 15 or so lottery level prospects. And more will emerge throughout the season.

No More Weak Draft Classes

I have a theory that we will no longer see any weak draft classes going forward – the player development at the high school, college and international levels is just too good. But there will be strong drafts and generational drafts. This draft class has a chance to be generational. This is the type of draft class we’ll look back on in 10 years shaking our heads at the number of All Star and superstar players that this class featured.

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This Class Gives You Wings

Arguably the most important position in the NBA is the wing position. Many of the top players in the league are big, versatile wings. The position is instrumental in winning championships.

This 2023 draft class is absolutely stacked at the wing position. While the two superstar talents at the top of the draft play other positions the greatest depth of talent is on the wing. For the sake of this discussion I’ll include Anthony Black as a wing (although he’s kind of a big PG) and Ausar Thompson (wing) but not his brother Amen (PG). Kris Murray is versatile enough to play on the wing but for this post I’ll group him with the big forwards.

Lottery Level Wings

  • Cam Whitmore
  • Dariq Whitehead
  • Brandon Miller
  • Arthur Kaluma
  • Anthony Black
  • Dillon Mitchell
  • Baba Miller
  • Jordan Walsh
  • Ausar Thompson

These wings are all potential lottery talents. If I was a betting man, I’d bet that at least 5 of these players end up in the top 14 picks in the 2023 draft. But that number could be higher. A lot will happen between now and June, but the talent is so clear and so real with these wings that it seems like a safe bet.

And there is plenty of other wing talent in this draft. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few of the players listed below jump into lottery consideration by the time the draft rolls around.

Mid First Round Wings with Lottery Upside

  • Chris Livingston (Kentucky)
  • Sidy Cissoko (Ignite)
  • Leonard Miller (Ignite)
  • Jett Howard (Michigan)
  • Julian Phillips (Tennessee)
  • Harrison Ingram (Stanford)

Emoni Bates got off to a fast start to his Eastern Michigan career and we could see him reemerge as a high level wing prospect. His talent level is special and he’s got great size, which could be enough to overcome his below average athleticism. Either way, it’s great to see Emoni balling out

Big Forwards Are At A Premium

As the NBA moves towards a more free-flowing, versatile and position-less game big forwards who can handle the ball and guard inside and out are becoming a premium position. This draft class has at least two high-end talents at the position in:

  • Jarace Walker (Houston)
  • GG Jackson (South Carolina).

These two players might not have the hype of the Thompson twins or some of the other wings and guards in the class but don’t be surprised if they hear their names called early on draft day.

Jackson (the former no.1 overall prospect in the 2023 recruiting class, before reclassifying) is very polished and advanced for his age (potentially the youngest player in this draft) while Jarace Walker is a powerhouse of an athlete, a versatile and talented defender with a quickly emerging offensive game. I’m super high on both.

A handful of other big forwards will have first round consideration including Kris Murray (Iowa) and possibly Duke freshman Mark Mitchell. Trayce Jackson-Davis is in line for a monster season and could surprise to the upside on draft day.

Centers of Attention

  • Dereck Lively (Duke)
  • Kel’el Ware (Oregon).

Both are high upside players with wide draft ranges who could go as high as the lottery or slide to the mid/late first round, depending on how this season plays out.

Armando Bacot (UNC) and Oscar Tshiebwe (Kentucky) deserve shout outs as well. Both are throw-back type of centers who excel at rebounding and banging in the paint but might not have very clear roles to play in the modern NBA. Hunter Dickenson (Michigan) is a college star who projects as a back up at the NBA level.

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2 Shooting Stars

Both Keyonte George and Nick Smith are special talents and should be in the top 5 conversation. They are both elite shot makers who can score in a variety of ways. George has the frame of a 10 year vet and is superb at finishing through contact. Nick Smith gives me Gilbert Arenas vibes.

The rest of the shooting guard class consists of later first or second round talents such as Caleb Love, Marcus Sasser (who can run the point), Amari Bailey and combo guard Terquavion Smith. Smith seems to be especially well suited for the modern NBA with his pure scoring ability. Gradey Dick is a big shooting guard/wing who is off to a hot start for Kansas. He’s one of the youngest prospects available and has the type of shooting ability that scouts drool over. If he keeps up the hot play he could be a 2023 mid first rounder – or he could end up in the 2024 draft.

Point Taken

The top PG is clearly Scoot Henderson. He’s a special talent and will get drafted near the top of the draft.

Amen Thompson is super intriguing with his blend of size and incredible bounce. I don’t think of him as a pure point guard but he’s very capable of running an offense, operates well in the pick and roll and will have the ball in his hands initiating the offense a lot during his career.

The two Arkansas guards (Anthony Black and Nick Smith) can both run the point but neither are considered pure point guards. Smith will play on the ball a lot in his career.

Kentucky guard Cason Wallace has a chance to make a lot of noise this season and could see his draft stock rise. I’ve had him outside the lottery so far in my mock but wouldn’t be surprised to see that change. Wallace isn’t the flashiest player out there but gets it done on both ends of the court and is wise and mature beyond his years.

Duke’s Tyrese Proctor and Villanova’s Mark Armstrong are both loaded with talent and potential but could be two or even three-year players and enter the 2024 or 2025 draft. Keep an eye on both of them.

Overall this is a strong group at the top but lacking great depth. There are plenty of second round-type of point guards in this class but only a handful of likely first round grades.

The Pro Leagues Are Popping With Draft Prospects

Both the G League Ignite team and the Overtime Elite league have a handful of first round talents and will be major players on draft night.

Scoot is a top 3 lock. And then there are a few other Ignite prospects who will get looks in the first round.

Leonard Miller is raw af but has the type of size/length/natural talent that NBA teams love to draft. 6-9 forwards with his mobility, handle and shot making prowess don’t’ grow on trees. If he shows improvement throughout this season he’ll be a highly coveted on draft night.

Sidy Cissoko is an intriguing two-way player who could end up with a first round grade and shooting guard Mojave King is intriguing as well. Efe Abogidi is a bouncy big with long-term potential.

The Overtime Elite league is set to make their first big impact on the NBA Draft. The Thompson twins, Amen and Ausar are both special talents. Amen has the best chance to land in the top 8, while Ausar is a lottery talent. Some scouts see Amen as a truly elite talent who could challenge Scoot for no.2 overall. I’m not there yet. He’s a big time player but still has a lot to prove and some holes in his game. He’ll be one of the most interesting stories to watch on draft night and with how he transitions to the league.

There’s also plenty of talent in the pipeline with many top high school stars opting to join the Ignite or the OTE. Here’s a look at the top 15 pro prospects from these two leagues, including plenty of future talent.

Like A Fine Wine

Some things just get better with age and younger isn’t always better when it comes to NBA draft picks. The 2023 draft features a number of intriguing upperclassmen who have made big strides with their games over the years and also have plenty of upside left to develop. Upperclassmen with first round potential include Jamie Jacquez Jr. (UCLA), Kris Murray (Iowa), Marcus Sasser (Houston), Caleb Love (UNC).

This article feels incomplete without at least mentioning Drew Timme (Gonazaga). He might not be a first round player, possibly not even a draft pick, but he’s such a star at the college level and is a the face of college basketball – and has a shot at making it in the league too.

International Flavor

After Wembanyama there is a big drop off in the international talent in this class but there are a handful of players who will likely end up with first round (or early second round) grades. Keep an eye on Rayan Rubert (France), Nikola Durišić (Serbia), Ousmane N’Diaye (Senegal) and James Nnaji (Nigeria). I wouldn’t be surprised if at least two of these four end up as first rounders.

Rayan Rubert recently suffered a serious wrist injury and could miss the rest of the season (playing for the New Zealand Breakers). The lengthy and athletic wing was in line for a big draft stock-boosting season but is now sidelined indefinitely. But he should be healthy for draft season and could be a big riser this Spring.

It should also be noted that many of the top prospects in the draft have international roots, even if they are now playing in the States (Baba Miller, Leonard Miller, Sidy Cissoko etc.)

Something For Everyone

NBA teams will get a lot better next June when they get to select from this special group of prospects. This is a draft class that will have franchise altering impacts and implications.

The tanking for Wembanyama and Scoot will be blatantly obvious, it’s already begun, and the draft lottery drawing on May 16th will be one of the most anticipated events of the year.

Playoff level teams looking to add win-now players to their rosters will have plenty of experienced talent to choose from later in the first round. And there will be plenty of developmental players to be had in the second round.

The 2023 draft has it all: generational players at the top, stars in the lottery, starters through the first round and plenty of depth. There’s a lot to get excited about.