Which Freshmen Should Declare For The 2023 NBA Draft – Or Return to School

With the first weekend of March Madness nearly in the books, decision time is just around the corner for this year’s NBA Draft prospects.

Every year the NBA draft is dominated by one and done freshmen. This year will be slightly different with an international player likely going no.1 overall, a G League Ignite player in the top 3 and a couple of OTE players in the top 10. Still, college freshmen will be heavily featured in the lottery and throughout the draft.

Many of these freshmen ballers will have an easy decision (or have already made their decision) while many will look to test the draft waters and get valuable feedback from scouts before deciding whether to stay in school or jump to the pros.

Here is a breakdown of which freshmen I think should declare for the draft and which ones should return to school with an eye on next year’s draft.

No Brainer Decisions To Declare This Year

  • Brandon Miller – SF – Alabama – Miller has been a stud all year. He’s a top 10 lock and likely goes in the top 5.
  • Cam Whitmore – SF – Villanova – After a delayed start he found his groove and showed why he’s a lottery pick. I have my questions with him, but whether or not he should stay in school is not one of them. Likely lottery pick.
  • Jarace Walker – PF – Houston – A lock to go lottery with top 5 potential. He could probably go top 3 next year but no need to risk injury with another year in school.
  • Tyler Hendricks – PF – UCF – A two-way stud who dominated as a freshman. Isn’t the biggest name but has high lottery potential. If you’re not familiar with his game it’s time to learn. This kid is elite.
  • Gradey Dick – SG/SF – Kansas – A near lock to go in the lottery, one of the best shooters in the draft with good size and an emerging all around game.
  • Anthony Black – PG/SF – Arkansas – Carried a big load for the Hogs all season. A likely lottery pick but could fall to the mid first round.
  • Nick Smith – SG – Arkansas – His draft stock has taken a hit with all the missed time due to injuries and his inefficient play. But he’s still a first rounder and it’s not worth the risk of returning to school. Get that guaranteed money.
  • Keyonte George – SG – Baylor – George is a first round lock with late lottery potential. Although he could benefit from another year in school you don’t pass up that top 20 money.
  • Jalen Hood Schifino – PG – Indiana – One of the breakout stars of the season, JHS is a first round lock who could slide into the late lottery.
  • Jett Howard – SF – Michigan – An elite shooter with good size – that equals a first round pick with lottery potential.
  • Gregory Jackson – PF – South Carolina – The youngest player in the draft would really benefit from another year in school but that’s not going to happen. He wasn’t in a great situation as SC, voiced his frustrations and seems to be already out the door. He can continue to his development with a NBA team. Jackson still has some lottery potential but could fall to the mid first round.
  • Cason Wallace – PG – Kentucky – Scouts have a wide range of opinions about Wallace with some seeing him as a top 10 pick and others seeing him closer to no.20. Either way the stud two-way point guard will be first rounder and is a near lock to declare for the draft this year.
  • Dariq Whitehead – SG/SF – Duke – Dariq battled back from injuries and started to round into shape over the past month of the season. Even though his draft stock is lower than it was, it’s not worth the risk of returning to school. He’s a first rounder.

Probably Should Declare

Jumping into the draft is a decision that can go two ways. Some prospects would be wise to ride the momentum they have from high school or their freshman season – But sometimes it makes a lot of sense to return to school to hone and polish their skills and lock in a first round grade. The below players should/will probably declare but should at least strongly consider the advantages of another year in school.

  • Brice Sensabaugh – SF – Ohio State – I’ve cooled off a bit on Brice but still the decision should be easy for him. He blew-up this year and should ride that momentum into the draft. He’s not a total lock to go in the first round…so the only way I see him staying in school is if he gets bad feedback during the draft process.
  • Dereck Lively II – C – Duke – Lively II is going to have a long NBA career whenever he decides to go. The biggest argument for him staying another year is how weak next year’s class is and so he’d have the chance to jump into the lottery. He probably goes in 2023 but staying in school should at least be considered.
  • Noah Clowney – PF – Alabama – He wasn’t on this year’s draft radar before the season but quickly emerged as one of the most intriguing young bigs in college ball. He’s a borderline first rounder this year who could lock in a first round grade and maybe go lottery with another year in school. I bet he stays in the draft this year.
  • Adem Bona – C – UCLA – He’s not the biggest name but NBA scouts are salivating over his elite tools and defensive ability. I think he’s a first rounder this year and will probably stay in the 2023 draft. Another year in school would lift his draft stock but brings the risk of injury.
  • Tyrese Proctor – PG – Duke – In an ideal world Proctor returns to school and hones his skillset but after a very strong final month of the season he has a lot of draft buzz and momentum. If he stays in school he’d be joined in the Duke backcourt by 5-star prospects Caleb Foster and Jared McCain, which would be really fun to watch but this is starting to seem like a pipe dream. (Update – Proctor has announced his return to Duke)
  • Amari Bailey – SG – UCLA – After an average start to the season Bailey is coming on strong in February and March and regaining some of his draft buzz. I’d love to see him stay in school, hone his craft and dominate college ball next year but there’s a decent chance he declares this year.
  • Julian Philips – SF – Tennessee – Philips has great tools, a clear NBA role and flashes potential. He could sneak into the first round this year and if that’s the feedback he gets from scouts he’s probably gone. But another year for the Vols could catapult his draft stock into the lottery.

50/50 – Maybe Should Declare But Should Probably Go Back To School

  • Kyle Filipowski – PF – Duke – Flip has some NBA skills but could really benefit from another year in school. He needs to get stronger physically and hone his 3pt shot. If he can do those things he’s a first rounder next year. This year he probably falls into the second round and might spend most of next year in the G League.
  • Jordan Walsh – SF – Arkansas – Walsh is super toolsy, has elite defensive potential and shows some promise on the offensive end but he’s not NBA ready at this point and the choice will between staying in school and potentially becoming a first round pick next year or spending a year or two in the G League trying to work his way onto a NBA roster. There’s not a right decision here, it’s just a matter of preference for him. I really hope he stays in school and puts on a show for Arkansas next year.
  • Aidan Mahaney – PG – St. Mary’s – A super crafty and talented point guard, Mahaney burst onto the draft radar with a great freshman season. He’d get drafted this year but should probably stay in school with the goal of landing in the first round in 2024.
  • Riley Kugel – SG – Florida – Another player that flew up draft boards this year, Kugel should explore the draft process and see what feedback he gets. My bet is he stays another year for the Gators.
  • Judah Mintz – PG – Syracuse – Mintz had a great freshman season and will have to take a long, hard look at declaring this year. He could probably lock in a first round grade with another year at Syracuse (where he’d be joined in the backcourt by stud transfer J.J. Starling).
  • Kel’el Ware – C – Oregon – Ware came into the season with a ton of hype and momentum but after a somewhat disappointing freshman season he’s lost that first round buzz. He’d be in line for a big increase in minutes next season and would benefit from the added development plus the chance to enter a weaker draft next year.
  • Mark Mitchell – SF/PF – Duke – Mitchell will be a pro some day and will probably be a long-term NBA player but would be well served to stay another year at Duke. (Update: Mitchell is returning to Duke)

Should Return To School

  • Donovan Clingan – C – UConn – The 7-2 behemoth would be a second round pick this year after a very strong freshman season but another year in Storrs is probably in store. He could be one of the faces of college ball next year, get good NIL money and improve his draft stock.
  • Felix Okpara – C – Ohio State – One of my favorite under the radar prospects, Okpara might not be drafted this year but will likely burst onto the national scene next year. Buy stock now.
  • Dillon Mitchell – SF /PF – Texas – Mitchell had a disappointing freshman season after coming in with lottery hype. He’s a big time athlete who doesn’t have much basketball skill at this point. He’s a year or two away from being draft ready.
  • Bruce Thornton – PG – Ohio State – A high level prospect who has a chance to really raise his draft stock next year. Ohio State is going to be fun to watch next season.
  • Arterio  Morris – SG – Texas – Showed flashes this year and will be in line for an expanded role next season.
  • Urnest Udeh Jr. – C – Kansas – At least a two-year player, maybe longer for the Jayhawks, Udeh Jr. is a physical force with clear NBA potential.
  • Jaden Bradley – PG – Alabama – Bradley has big time ability but is a long ways off from being NBA ready. He’d probably go undrafted this year and bounce around a while before getting a shot in the NBA.
  • Baba Miller – SF/PF – Florida State – After missing the first half of the season Miller returned to play but didn’t find much success on the court. There’s a chance he could get drafted late second round this year but another year in school is really needed.
  • Bobi Klintman – PF – Wake Forest – Klintman is a big time talent who didn’t get as much run as expected this year. Look for him to breakout in year two for the Demon Deacons.
  • Chris Livingston – SF – Kentucky – Livingston was a top 20 recruit who just didn’t flourish this season. His NBA potential is unclear.

Other freshmen of note that clearly need to stay in school

  • Ugonna Kinsley Onyenso – C – Kentucky
  • Dylan Andrews – PG/SG – UCLA
  • Terrence Arceneaux – SF – Houston
  • M.J. Rice – SG – Kansas
  • Mark Armstrong – PG – Villanova
  • Kylan Boswell – PG – Arizona
  • Mike Sharavjamnts – PG/SF – Dayton
  • Malik Reneau – PF –Indiana
  • Alex Karaban – SF/PF – UConn
  • Ryan Dunn – SF – Virginia
  • Cade Tyson – SF – Belmont
  • Tre White – SF – USC

2023 NBA Mock Draft