If the start of the NBA season has you excited as a fan, happy opening night! If you couldn’t care less about that and would rather look to the future, you might be a Jazz fan. No matter which side of the spectrum you’re on, it’s never too early to look into the upcoming draft, so I’d like to introduce the top 30 players of the 2023 draft class as the NBA season kicks off.
The first extended mock of the season is here and I couldn’t be more excited to begin our coverage on one of the most exciting draft classes in the past decade, headlined by one of the most unique and gifted prospects we’ve seen on a basketball court. Happy basketball season, everyone!
1. Houston: Victor Wembanyama 7-2 210 C France Intl.
There hasn’t been this kind of buzz for an NBA prospect since LeBron James, so it only makes sense that Wembanyama tops our first extended mock draft of the 2023 season. The French superstar put all of his talents on display in Las Vegas last week, putting an end to any debate about who should be the first pick of the draft at this point in the season. Victor combines insane athletic gifts with a sharp basketball mind and desire to be great. It’s abundantly clear that he’s a special kind of talent with incredible potential.
We could be looking at a higher number of teams than usual ejecting early on the season and tanking for this generational prospect (along with Scoot). The team that is lucky enough to pick first will likely add a seven-footer who can truly do it all on both ends of the floor, potentially transforming the trajectory of the franchise. Now the question is whether he’s really as good as advertised and whether that huge frame can stay injury free for a long and productive NBA career.
2. Orlando: Scoot Henderson 6-2 195 PG G-League Ignite Fr.
Henderson got off to a great start in the first half of the showcase against Wembanyama last week and it is clear now more than ever that there isn’t as steep of a drop-off as many initially believed from Wembanyama to Scoot. The explosive point guard utilizes his elite speed and ball-handling to create space for himself better than anyone else in this class on the perimeter. With a little Derrick Rose, and Ja Morant sprinkled on top, he flashed brilliant court vision and passing in the showcase, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Henderson is a consistent triple-double threat during his prime in the NBA. The recent history of big vs non-big debate at the top of drafts has been a steady stream of non-bigs ending up better (Jordan, Durant, Luka, Morant). Will Scoot be next in line to prove the consensus wrong?
3. Detroit: Brandon Miller 6-9 200 SF Alabama Fr.
With the top two picks virtually set in stone barring a Victor injury, it will be an interesting race for the third pick from the NCAA field. By our estimation, there isn’t a freshman in college basketball with the same level of intrigue that Brandon Miller has in Tuscaloosa. The 6-9 forward is an incredible athlete oozing with potential with some point forward ability. In the early season scrimmages and international tour, Miller shined the brightest for the Tide.
4. Oklahoma City: Dariq Whitehead 6-7 220 SF Duke Fr.
In his first season at the helm, Jon Scheyer brought in the best recruiting class in the nation and Whitehead is the crown jewel of it from an NBA prospect standpoint. He projects as an impactful three-level scorer with great size and excellent athleticism, but he might miss the start of the season with a foot injury. Becoming and remaining healthy the rest of the way will be important if he wants to keep his spot in the top five of this class.
5. Indiana: Nick Smith 6-5 185 PG/SG Arkansas Fr.
Nick Smith highlights the second-ranked recruiting class in college basketball for the Razorbacks and should prove to be one of the most exciting players in the country as a true freshman. He has exceptional size and length in the backcourt with a 6-9 wingspan and has the burst to rival any guard in the country. There will be plenty of highlights and exciting plays from Smith, who shined in the McDonald’s game practices giving scouts a glimpse of his upside and alpha personality.
6. Portland: GG Jackson 6-9 210 PF/C South Carolina Fr.
Jackson was no stranger to the college basketball headlines this summer when he decided to reclassify and flip to his hometown school in South Carolina. He’ll be the undisputed star player and is all but guaranteed to be a one-and-done star under first year coach Lamont Paris. He is the former top recruit in the 2023 class for a reason, but with the struggles of other players who reclassified to get into college early, it won’t be a shock to see Jackson’s stock fluctuate if he also struggles as a younger freshman in his first season.
7. Sacramento: Baba Miller 6-11 205 SF/PF Florida St. Fr.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Leonard Hamilton has a lengthy, versatile, true freshman who can go in the top 10 of the NBA Draft. Miller is the latest in a long line of recent Seminoles who has the potential to be the best freshman in the ACC and in the country with his unique skillset on the wing. He stands at nearly seven-feet tall and can play on the perimeter on both ends, which is the biggest reason why the top international prospect who is playing in college is projected to go seventh to start the season.
8. LA Lakers: Dillon Mitchell 6-8 205 SF Texas Fr.
Chris Beard knows how to recruit and demands defensive versatility from all his players. He checked both boxes when he landed Mitchell, who is considered a top-five freshman in the 2022 recruiting class. The southpaw two-way wing should make an instant impact for the Longhorns and bring a defensive energy that can carry them to the Final Four if all of their pieces mesh together in Beard’s second season in Austin.
9. San Antonio: Anthony Black 6-7 200 SG Arkansas Fr.
Black is the second Arkansas freshman to start the year in the top-10 and while he’s a few picks behind his teammate for now, that could easily change as the season goes along. Black has better size and can take advantage of it in college against smaller defenders, but is lacking the shot mechanics and fluidity of Smith. Either way, these two figure to combine for one of the best backcourt duos in the country, and they’re only freshmen.
10. Washington: Ausar Thompson 6-7 205 SG Overtime Elite Fr.
Ausar starts the year as the better of the two Thompson twins because of his advanced defensive skill set and versatility compared to his brother, Amen. The two are very close from a talent standpoint and could go back and forth on big boards throughout the year, but for now Ausar looks like the safer bet because of his reliability and disruption as a defender. The twins will certainly create a ton of palpable buzz at Overtime Elite, granted they are older and have work to do on their shot form.
11. New York: Leonard Miller 6-10 210 SF G-League Ignite Fr.
All eyes were on Wembanyama and Henderson in Las Vegas, but Miller quietly had a solid performance showing an improved 3-point jump shot (2-5 in the second game) and solid body control and quickness with his lengthy frame. The Canadian prospect considered entering the 2022 NBA Draft, but decided to play for the Ignite this season and he could reap the benefits with a great season alongside an outstanding playmaker in Henderson, who will give him opportunities to showcase his skills.
12. LA Clippers: Cason Wallace 6-4 195 PG Kentucky Fr.
Depth in the backcourt turned into a major problem for John Calipari last season and he’s hoping Wallace can be part of the solution this winter. The true freshman is a remarkable athlete and could end up as one of the best perimeter defenders in all of college basketball. Offensively, he is a pass-first playmaker, but he can provide a boost as an outside shooter off the ball with Sahvir Wheeler likely to control the ball on most possessions when he’s on the floor.
13. Charlotte: Amen Thompson 6-6 190 SF Overtime Elite Fr.
Amen falls just three picks below his twin brother to start the season, but he will be sure to grab more headlines and find himself on more highlight reels as well. He will be one of the most exciting transition players in the draft and we are already getting a glimpse of how exciting he is from videos circulating on Twitter at the start of the season. There is plenty of room for improvement as a shooter, but the foundational skills of slashing and playmaking are at a high level already, which should make him an intriguing prospect.
14. Cleveland: Kel'el Ware 7-0 210 C Oregon Fr.
With a ton of guard/wing prospects filling up the lottery so far, Ware has a chance to jump the lot of them as the best college basketball center in the class. If a team desperately needs a center higher up in the draft, Ware could easily climb up in the lottery. Five-star centers at Oregon have struggled to stay healthy in recent years, but if Ware can stay healthy and showcase his stretch-five ability and intriguing athelticism, look for him to be one of the top centers in college basketball.
15. New Orleans: Cam Whitmore 6-7 230 SF Villanova Fr.
Whitmore is another freshman set to miss time to start the season, but it isn’t serious enough to knock him out of lottery contention to start the year. The MVP of the FIBA U18 Americas Championship looked incredible in the preseason before his injury and projects to be one of the most explosive wings in the 2023 draft class.
16. Atlanta: Tyrese Proctor 6-5 185 PG Duke Fr.
When Trevor Keels declared for the draft this summer, Jon Scheyer needed an immediate replacement and got it when Proctor reclassified to join the 2022 recruiting class. The Australian point guard has a wealth of international experience, which should bode well for him with the extended minutes he is likely to get with the Blue Devils as a freshman. He can do it all on both ends of the floor and is one of the best all-around players in the draft.
17. Brooklyn: Terquavion Smith 6-4 165 PG/SG NC State So.
One of the biggest surprises of the withdrawal deadline last season was the decision made by Smith to return to school for his sophomore season. He became a breakout star in Raleigh alongside Dereon Seabron, and will have an increased workload in 2022-23 with Seabron now in the NBA. We project he will make the most of a higher usage rate and compete for a lottery selection if he continues his development as a point guard and continues his efficient perimeter scoring.
18. Orlando (via CHI): Keyonte George 6-4 185 SG Baylor Fr.
Baylor fans are extremely excited for their freshman as his explosive scoring ability figures to add a new dimension to the team. He will need to improve as a defender and keep his weight under control in order to reach his potential in the NBA, but Baylor figures to be an ideal spot for him to smooth out the rough edges. George is a streaky scorer who can be lethal when he gets in the zone.
19. Utah (via MIN): Caleb Love 6-4 200 PG/SG North Carolina Jr.
Love was visibly heartbroken on the court the last time we saw him at the National Championship and with most of the band back together in Chapel Hill, we could easily see him again this April. His decision to return due to unfinished business was refreshing, but if he continues to grow as a ball-handler and shooter, his stock will only continue to rise.
20. Toronto: Dereck Lively 7-1 230 C Duke Fr.
If anyone can rival Ware as the top freshman center in the NCAA, it’s Lively. He was ranked as a higher prospect coming out of high school than Ware, but his NBA projection is a notch below for the time being. Lively certainly has a lot of intrigue with his fluidity and ability to knock down outside shots. He’s got to improve in his ability create offense and continue to get stronger.
21. Charlotte (via DEN): Jarace Walker 6-8 235 SF/PF Houston Fr.
Kelvin Sampson preaches about culture and the best way to create it is to recruit players who model what you’re trying to create. No prospect embodies Houston culture quite like Walker. He is a lengthy wing who prides himself on his disruptiveness and versatility defensively. He will be an impact defender at the very least and a Draymond type of two way impact player and facilitator best case.
22. Utah: Mark Armstrong 6-2 180 PG Villanova Fr.
Kyle Neptune will have plenty of young talent in his first year at Villanova and Armstrong could be a day-one starter for him as a true freshman. The Wildcats are known for their frustrating style of fundamental offense and team basketball, but Armstrong is one of those players who can do it all on his own and he can do it at all three levels. He’ll create quite the highlight reel with transition dunks, but he’ll also rival Cason Wallace as one of the best defenders in the draft class, so don’t miss out on seeing this kid play.
23. Utah (via PHI): Arthur Kaluma 6-7 220 SF/PF Creighton So.
The buzz is palpable in Omaha as the Blue Jays are ready to not only compete for the Big East but also for a national championship. Kaluma broke out in a big way as a freshman and he’ll be a crucial piece once again in year two. He is a gifted athlete and an aggressive finisher around the rim and if he can gain more consistency as a perimeter shooter, he’ll only continue to rise up draft boards throughout the season.
24. Houston (via MIL): Kris Murray 6-8 220 SF/PF Iowa Jr.
Keegan Murray’s ascension as a sophomore was a popular prediction in college basketball circles before last season and many of those same people are projecting his twin brother to do the same thing as a junior. Kris still needs to learn to play with consistent energy as Keegan, but has a similar style and after taking a huge jump last year as a bench contributor, he should be ready to make the jump to stardom with more minutes and more confidence as a junior.
25. Indiana (via BOS): Sidy Cissoko 6-8 220 SF G-League Ignite Fr.
Cissoko is one of the youngest prospects in the draft, but he is already a starter to begin the season for the Ignite. He struggled in the Las Vegas showcase, but this is typical for any young players joining the Ignite to need some time to get acclimated. He will get valuable experience playing in the backcourt alongside Scoot, and even if he doesn’t have a breakout season, the upside for the French guard/forward should keep him in the first-round discussion when the draft rolls around next summer.
26. New York (via DAL): Julian Phillips 6-8 200 SF Tennessee Fr.
Rick Barnes is no stranger to recruiting one-and-done talent and he might have another in Julian Phillips. He is already raving about his young freshman, who is “a dream to coach” so far this preseason. He has all of the tools to be an NBA star, but if his mindset in work ethic is as strong as Barnes says it is, that could take him to the next level at Tennessee and eventually in the NBA.
27. Miami: Rayan Rupert 6-6 185 SG France Intl.
Every team in the NBA is looking for 3-and-D wings who can switch defensively and knock down shots on the perimeter. Rupert promises to be all of that and more, with the potential to be more than just a role player at the next level. He isn’t an elite shooter yet, but he has solid fundamentals on his jumper and is improving as a ball-handler and playmaker. Rupert has insane length with potentially a +8 inch wingspan (7-3) to height differential. His defensive potential will be the most desirable part of his game, but don’t underestimate his ability to grow offensively and climb draft boards with a solid season in the NBL.
28. Golden State: Trayce Jackson-Davis 6-9 245 PF Indiana Sr.
Jackson-Davis is the lone senior projected to go in the first round of this draft and whether he keeps that spot or not will come down to what kind of strides he makes as a perimeter shooter. The makings are there as the lefty displays a soft touch and solid form. He only attempted three shots from beyond the arc in his first three seasons, but he is committed to extending his range to better fit the modern style of the NBA. There are no questions about his interior defense, athleticism or work ethic, so his draft stock will depend on how he evolves as a scorer in Bloomington.
29. Memphis: Marcus Bagley 6-8 215 SF Arizona St. Jr.
With ideal size and length for an NBA wing, Marcus Bagley will look to bounce back after an injury cut his season short. He will need to stay on the floor and expand his offensive skill set to earn the trust of NBA scouts and work his way into the first round. We can see a path for the younger brother of former second-overall pick Marvin Bagley to do just that. If he can boost his points per game by 3-5 points and get to 40% or better from the perimeter, Bagley will put himself in first round discussions.
30. Phoenix: Jordan Hawkins 6-6 195 SG UConn So.
Jordan Hawkins was one of the best kept-secrets last season as a freshman, but everyone is prepared for a breakout season this year. He is a talented combo guard who can let it fly as an off-ball shooter, but any development as a shot-creator will go a long way in the eyes of scouts as his shooting and defense already look sound enough to translate to the next level. The talent and skill is there, it’s a matter of Hawkins developing the confidence and consistency to be one of the Huskies offensive standouts this season.