With free agency looming and the NBA Draft just a couple days away, it’s time for our final extended mock draft of the season. The first choice is clear, but there’s been major shakeups throughout the rest of the draft with the surprise withdrawals from the college and foreign deadlines.
The Denver Nuggets won a championship last week because of how they constructed their team through the draft. And, of course, with one of the best draft picks of all time in two-time MVP and new NBA Champion, Nikola Jokic. Franchises and lives will change on Thursday night, so if you’re excited to find out just how that may happen, continue reading for our two round projection, 2023 Extended Mock Draft.
1. San Antonio: Victor Wembanyama 7-4 210 C France Intl.
Victor (pictured) is the best prospect to emerge in 20 years. Like a match made in heaven, when the Spurs won the lottery it became apparent that a perfect storm was brewing and something incredibly special could be the result. Barring injuries, Wembanyama has a great chance to be a “generational” talent and lead the Spurs back to their glory days. It will be extremely exciting to watch him develop and grow into a dominant bigman with some KD type offensive ability sprinkled in. Wembenyama’s ability to move like a 6-7 player at 7-4 is one of Earth’s great mysteries.
Why the Spurs take Wembanyama: The appropriate question is probably why wouldn’t the Spurs take Wemby. And the appropriate response is there really isn’t one. They appropriately tanked to get him, trading away some valued assets like Dejounte Murray with one goal in mind. And proved if you want something badly enough you can make it happen. Wembanyama added to his ridiculous highlight reel in his league playoffs last week and it’s clearer than ever that there hasn’t been anyone who can do some of the things he does. If he can put it all together, and have a lengthy relatively injury free career, we’re talking about a potential all-time great at the top spot of this draft.
NBA Comparison: Ralph Sampson/Anthony Davis
2. Charlotte: Brandon Miller 6-9 200 SF Alabama Fr.
Miller has held the second spot in our mock for some time now, but the tide is starting to turn in Scoot Henderson’s favor in recent weeks. The betting odds have shifted to Scoot’s as the favorite, but barring a trade, Miller staying at the second spot is the probability, from what we’re hearing, despite Scoot’s late surge.
Why the Hornets take Miller: LaMelo is still considered by many as one of the promising young talents in the league and it appears they don’t want to create a log jam with two ball dominant guards. The wise move would probably be to take the better talent in Scoot and move LaMelo, or at minimum take Scoot and see whether they could co-exist, or let the two battle it out until it becomes clear who they wanted to build around. But Miller is an intriguing talent in his own right, and there are indications the Hornets have decided on him if they keep the pick. Jordan’s impending sale of the team further clouds things.
NBA Comparison: Paul George
3. Portland: Scoot Henderson 6-2 195 PG G-League Fr.
It wasn’t the season Scoot Henderson was expecting for himself, especially after how well he played against Wembanyama in the preseason, but he still did enough to assure scouts that he belongs in the top three of this year’s draft. Scoot is as muscular as he is athletic and uses his dynamic speed and athleticism to his advantage in transition. He has also shown steady development with his mid range jumpshot. With franchise-altering potential, Portland will be lucky if Henderson falls to them here.
Why the Trail Blazers take Henderson: Whether this pick gets traded or ends up in Portland’s hands after all, it is a foregone conclusion that Henderson will be taken if he drops to the third overall pick. If it is Portland, their rebuild will have to start somewhere and Scoot is the perfect player to become their next foundational player to build around if/when Lillard is ready to move on to another team. Either that or they could dangle him as trade bait to add a more experienced player to combine with Lillard. Toronto and San Antonio are teams that have come up as potential trade partners for this pick. Imagine the excitement in San Antonio if the Spurs were somehow able to land both Victor and Scoot on draft night.
NBA Comparison: Derrick Rose
4. Houston: Amen Thompson 6-7 215 SG Overtime Elite Fr.
While the battle between Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller rages on above him, Amen Thompson is solidifying himself as the fourth overall pick in this class. With unreal athleticism and arguably the highest ceiling of anyone not named Victor, Thompson projects to be a fascinating prospect to follow as he makes the jump from Overtime Elite to the NBA with his twin brother. Despite two seasons of relatively low competition and development, Amen is highly coveted for his physical gifts and potential at the PG position. Whether he can overhaul his shot to become adequate remains to be seen.
Why the Rockets take Thompson: Houston’s young core has yet to make the leap from talented to a competitive squad, which is a big reason why they need to get this pick right. Amen Thompson is the consensus best player available based on media and NBA personnel. Whether or not the raw potential will translate into becoming a difference maker remains to be seen. His skill set as a defensive standout and athletic facilitator figures to be a good fit along with the young nucleus setting up Jalen Green, Jabari Smith and Alperen Sengun.
NBA Comparison: Latrell Sprewell
5. Detroit: Cam Whitmore 6-7 235 SF Villanova Fr.
The 6’7 freshman jumped from ninth to fifth despite some concerns regarding his knees. He is a freakishly powerful slasher with a huge frame to complement it. A lot of his struggles in college can be attributed to a rookie coach and lingering injuries that he simply wasn’t able to fully overcome with the pressure of carrying a team that was clearly reeling from the departure of their Hall of Fame Coach.
Why the Pistons take Whitmore: Whitmore tested in the top 1% of athletes in terms of vertical and lateral testing at P3, which feels like a great fit in Detroit next to another athletic standout like Jaden Ivey. They also have a talented 6’7 playmaker, Cade Cunningham, who missed nearly the entire season and three more past lottery picks in the frontcourt with Duren, Wiseman and Bagley. There is word that this pick may be moved for 9 and 16. The Jazz could be looking to move up for a few players including Whitmore, Jarace Walker or even Taylor Hendricks.
NBA Comparison: Caron Butler
6. Orlando: Ausar Thompson 6-7 220 SG Overtime Elite Fr.
Thompson is the first in a run of elite defenders slotted to go in the top-10 of this draft , with Jarace Walker and Anthony Black in the mix. Over the past two seasons the Overtime Elite product never faced the kind of competition that the other prospects in this class faced, but Orlando loves the defensive upside the 6’7 wing provides to ultimately put on anyone at the next level with his athleticism and length. While he struggled shooting in workouts, the form has shown some progress in the past year. That, of course, will be the key for him and his brother as they take an immense leap from Overtime Elite to the NBA.
Why the Magic take Thompson: Ausar brings Orlando a lot of promise and athleticism next to their Rookie of the Year, Paolo Banchero, and injects elite, versatile defense into a group that struggled to hold opponents on that end of the floor. The Magic could run out some tall and disruptive lineups with a player like Ausar Thompson joining the team. Anthony Black and Jarace Walker remain real possibilities here at 6.
NBA Comparison: Trevor Ariza
7. Indiana: Jarace Walker 6-8 250 SF/PF Houston Fr.
Walker quickly emerged as one of the most fascinating freshmen to watch in college basketball with his brute force and sneakily smooth fundamentals. The lengthy 6’8 forward could guard any player on the floor for the Cougars and will be able to do similar things at the next level as he improves his foot speed. Walker is no slouch offensively either, making 35% of his 3-point attempts and showcasing a solid post-scoring game.
Why the Pacers take Walker: The Pacers are reportedly looking to bring in an elite wing through a trade or free agency, but they can land a future one with their seventh pick in Jarace Walker. He’s proven to be a versatile, upside play to help them turn things around. While there are concerns about his willingness to play physical, he would offer Indiana or whomever picks here a high upside, unique four.
NBA Comparison: Cliff Robinson
8. Washington: Anthony Black 6-7 210 PG/SG Arkansas Fr.
Anthony Black could end up as the best defender of this year’s draft. With his length and athleticism in the backcourt, he projects as a four-position defender who creates havoc and turnovers on the perimeter. Add in his playmaking potential and shooting which could easily improve, and he’s got a lot of intrigue as a big facilitator.
Why the Wizards take Black: Washington doesn’t have a lot going for them, especially after the Bradley Beal trade that netted them very little in return. Poor drafting in recent years has them poised for a long rebuild, but landing a talent like Anthony Black, who has Josh Giddey attributes could help speed up that process.
NBA Comparison: Josh Giddey
9. Utah: Bilal Coulibaly 6-7 200 SF France Intl.
There is speculation that a team inside the lottery offered a promise to Coulibaly, and his recent measurements (6’6.75” barefoot with 7’2.25” wingspan) indicate that the rumors will be true. Playing alongside Wembanyama did wonders for Coulibaly who stood out all season long as a potential draftee. The 18-year-old wing shines defensively with the athleticism and length that is increasingly coveted in today’s NBA. It’ll require patience, but any team who lands the French wing could be getting one of the steals of the draft. Don’t be surprised if a team needs to trade into the top-10 to land him.
Why the Jazz take Coulibaly: It appears that whoever lands Coulibaly might need to trade up to get him, but if it does end up being Utah at the ninth pick, it’s a good fit. They have enough picks to solidify their backcourt with better value later in the draft and could use an upside wing who can defend. There’s also the chance that a team like Toronto moves up to take him, and Dallas moves back a few spots for Hood-Schifino. Hendricks is a possibility here too, especially if Utah retains the pick.
NBA Comparison: OG Anunoby
10. Dallas: Taylor Hendricks 6-9 215 PF Central Florida Fr.
With a rare combination athleticism, rim-protection and outside shooting, Hendricks is one of the most intriguing prospects in the class. That is natural for a freshman forward who was barely on the 2023 NBA Draft radar before the season started. While the upside is real, he remains a few years away from realizing that vast potential and could stumble out of the gates and require some G League time before he’s fully equipped to impact games.
Why the Mavericks take Hendricks: It’s no secret that Dallas needs considerable help in their frontcourt, so it makes sense to go with a versatile frontcourt player that possesses the most upside at their pick. Hendricks brings a promising 3-point jumper and defensive potential to a team that severely needs it. The Hawks are desperately trying to jump over OKC to get Lively. But word is Capela may not be a player Dallas is interested in order to get that 10 for 15 swap done.
NBA Comparison: Pascal Siakam
11. Orlando (via CHI): Dereck Lively 7-1 230 C Duke Fr.
What a turnaround for the 7-foot-3 1/2 wingspan Dereck Lively. It would’ve been no surprise coming into the season that he played his way into the lottery, but after a month or two of minuscule production with the Blue Devils, no one expected it. He finished the season well and gained a lot of steam/hype follwing his UNC game. Fast forward three months, after a strong shooting performance working out in front of scouts, teams apparently have bought into the long-term potential of his scoring to accompany the rim protection and believe they need to be inside the lottery to land Duke’s freshman phenom.
Why the Magic take Lively: There’s a real chance a team like Atlanta moves up in front of Oklahoma City to the 10th or 11th spot to nab the Duke shot blocker. After landing, arguably, the most versatile defender in the draft at the sixth pick, Orlando could bring in one of the best rim protectors as well in Dereck Lively at the 11th pick. They will have enough playmaking talent to go around with Thompson joining Banchero and Suggs, and Lively will sure up any defensive questions the team has in the frontcourt. If this is how the lottery shakes out for Orlando, they will surely be a playoff team next season and for many years to come. Atlanta could be a team that moves up for Lively here.
NBA Comparison: Willie Cauley-Stein
12. Oklahoma City: Keyonte George 6-4 185 SG Baylor Fr.
George is the second of the next tier of guards to go in our final mock draft of the season, but he’ll face steep competition from Wallace, Hood-Schifino and Smith who have all received green room invites along with George. What Baylor’s guard has going for him is being the best shooter of that group and it could be the key to hearing his name called inside the lottery before the rest.
Why the Thunder take George: George can log minutes at either spot in the backcourt but will flourish as an off-ball scorer who only needs one make to get hot. He has the potential to develop into a secondary ball-handler providing further depth to OKC’s talented backcourt, with his floor being an elite shot maker who can play with any guard archetype in the pros.
NBA Comparison: Markelle Fultz
13. Toronto: Kobe Bufkin 6-5 185 SG Michigan So.
The momentum he built down the stretch of his sophomore season hasn’t slowed up for the southpaw shooting guard. His overall offensive development and steady contribution of winning plays, not to mention upside, has boosted his draft stock ahead of Thursday’s draft. It’s doubtful he can climb much higher but it’s likely he ends up somewhere in the 12-17 range.
Why the Raptors take Bufkin: There is a large hole in the Raptors backcourt after Fred VanVleet declined his player option, creating a clear need for Toronto. Bufkin is clearly one of Toronto’s targets, along with making a bid (Pascal Siakam) to move up for Scoot Henderson at 3. Kobe Bufkin shut his workouts down leading to speculation that he has a promise and Toronto, who is known for promising players, is thought to be a strong possibility. Bufkin would provide Toronto with a talented guard who can create shots on his own and let it fly from the perimeter.
NBA Comparison: Malik Monk
14. New Orleans: Gradey Dick 6-7 205 SG Kansas Fr.
It’s easy to argue that Gradey Dick is one of the premier shooters in this draft, and it’s easy to like him with the height advantage he possesses over many of his opponents. There were noticeable improvements in his defensive game as his college season went on and it’s reasonable to expect that he can be an elite shooting wing and an exciting fastbreak finisher.
Why the Pelicans take Gradey Dick: It feels like the Pelicans, if they can keep their core together and healthy, are one more shooter away from being an elite offensive team in the NBA. Lineups that feature Trey Murphy and Gradey Dick will face a tough assignment with defenders trying to slow down the penetration that Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum create.
NBA Comparison: Kevin Huerter
15. Atlanta: Cason Wallace 6-4 195 PG/SG Kentucky Fr.
There were lofty expectations in Lexington after the Saint Peter’s disaster of 2022 and the only reason this team was able to compete as well as they did was because of the play of their freshman standout. The offense was painfully different without him on the floor as he battled through injuries late in the season. Whether it’s his composure on offense or relentless peskiness on defense, any team that chooses Wallace will know they’re getting a high level competitor from a school that has produced a number of overachievers in recent years..
Why the Hawks take Wallace: The Hawks were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season, so it would make a ton of sense to bring in one of the top perimeter defenders in the draft just outside the lottery, or moving up to grab a rim protector like Lively at 10-12. Wallace won’t be able to share the floor with both but throwing him in with either Young or Murray will increase the defensive effort and maintain a high level of play when one of their star guards is off the floor. If the Hawks are able to swing a trade to move up a few spots, a team like Orlando or Dallas could be making the selection here.
NBA Comparison: Marcus Smart
16. Utah (via MIN): Jalen Hood-Schifino 6-5 215 PG/SG Indiana Fr.
Hood-Schifino is a lengthy combo guard who showcases a polished game as a mid-range shooter and sees the floor as well as any guard in the class. He does this with elite size and poise in the halfcourt, dissecting defenses and making sound decisions in the PnR. If he can improve at getting all the way to the basket and finishing, rather than settling for his, admittedly efficient, mid-range jumper, he could be among the elite group of young playmaking guards in this league. Hood-Schifino is a maestro as a ball-handler in the PnR and brings elite mid-range shooting to the table off the dribble. He also brings the defensive potential and size that Utah desperately needs in the backcourt. .
Why the Jazz take Hood-Schifino: In the explanation of the last Jazz pick at No. 9, I mentioned that they could potentially land a playmaking guard with better value later on. Utah could look to trade down a few spots, perhaps a deal (9-13 flip) with Toronto to select Hood-Shifino at 13. Hood-Schifino is very well liked by Utah, as well as a potential trade partner, Detroit. Pick number 9 is a real possibility for him also, with Utah holding onto their pick or a team like Detroit moving back and making it.
NBA Comparison: Malcolm Brogdon
17. LA Lakers: Jordan Hawkins 6-5 185 SG Connecticut So.
A sophomore surge from Jordan Hawkins turned him into a national champion and a potential lottery pick. The 6-5 shooting guard is a strong finisher around the rim and an outstanding shooter from beyond the arc, perhaps the best in the class. His lack of playmaking production and questionable defensive attributes are potential drawbacks. But Hawkins figures to go somewhere in the teens on draft night.
Why the Lakers take Hawkins: To put it bluntly, the Lakers cannot shoot the basketball. Why not bring in a player who addresses the most glaring weakness on your roster? They’ll also be able to make up for Hawkins’ shortcomings as a playmaker and defender, as those are their two strengths as a team already.
NBA Comparison: Isaiah Joe
18. Miami: Nick Smith 6-5 185 PG/SG Arkansas Fr.
Smith’s fall from grace was clear with his disappointing end to the season, although his invite to the draft indicates he won’t drop too far outside the lottery, but someone has to fall. If he slides this far, a team will be getting some of the best talent value of the night in the former five-star recruit. He was unable to put it together in Fayetteville this season, but his high school tape and hype coming into the season help his cause.
Why the Heat take Smith: There could be a lot of changes coming to the Heat roster in the next few days, but one thing they undoubtedly need is some dynamic play out of the backcourt. The Heat may be forced to let go of a few of their key contributors and get younger and Smith’s upside makes him an appealing option for a contender. Smith may have struggled in college, but if anyone can get him back to his high school excellence, it’s Coach Spo.
NBA Comparison: Jamal Crawford
19. Golden State: Kris Murray 6-9 215 SF/PF Iowa Jr.
The lefty Murray twin shined in the spotlight this season, averaging 20.2 points and 7.9 rebounds as the go-to scorer for the Iowa Hawkeyes. His shooting isn’t on the same level as Keegan, but Kris is a reliable floor-spacer with tremendous finishing around the rim and a prototypical NBA frame on the wing. A green room invite suggests that a ton of NBA teams feel the same about this draft range for Murray.
Why the Warriors take Murray: What made the Warriors dynasty so special was the incredible success they had building through the NBA Draft. Despite a phenomenal 12 year GM job by Bob Myers, they’ve lost their edge in recent years in that department. Kris Murray is intriguing as he could be a contributor quickly, which matches their timeline. His versatility and size in the frontcourt, as well as his ability to spread the floor and set solid screens, will blend beautifully with Golden State’s style of play. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Leonard Miller are also possibilities here, and there’s a chance they attempt to move up into the mid lottery targeting either Coulibaly or Lively.
NBA Comparison: Dorian Finney-Smith
20. Houston (via LAC): Jett Howard 6-8 215 SG Michigan Fr.
Many see Jett Howard as a mere three-point specialist, but his advancement as a scorer inside the arc was there for all to see in a Michigan uniform. It often came with him settling for mid-range jumpers, but with his height and smooth shooting stroke, he is able to make it work and should continue to do so.
Why the Rockets take Howard: The Rockets have been rumored to love Jett Howard’s game after a terrific workout with the team, and they should be able to land him if they hold onto this pick. He’d give one of the worst 3-point shooting teams a huge boost with his ability to drill shots, in particular in the catch and shoot, filling out a guard/wing rotation.
NBA Comparison: Doug McDermott
21. Brooklyn: Noah Clowney 6-10 210 PF Alabama Fr.
It’s not very often a 6’10 freshman starts at the four in college basketball, but not many players are gifted with the size and skills of Noah Clowney. His perimeter jumper faded as the season went on, but he has the ability to develop into a floor spacer and will have the same versatility as he did with the Tide as a four or a five in the frontcourt in the NBA.
Why the Nets take Clowney: the Nets struck gold with a late first rounder a few seasons ago with a raw, athletic bigman in Nic Claxton. Clowney has a profile that is very similar to Claxton with athleticism and some shooting potential. With two picks, the Nets will likely be looking to swing for the fences with one of them, and Clowney provides exactly that.
NBA Comparison: Theo Ratliff
22. Brooklyn (via PHX): Jaime Jaquez 6-7 225 SF UCLA Sr.
Jaquez was a staple of the UCLA resurgence under Mick Cronin, and they will surely miss him in Los Angeles next season. This attachment that Cronin and the fanbase developed with Jaquez shows just how passionate and special Jaquez is. A championship contender could buy into his winning mentality and well-rounded game, much like the Nuggets did with Christian Braun (different talent level) last season at this exact spot.
Why the Nets take Jaquez: The Kevin Durant trade left Brooklyn with Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, who can be starting wings and terrific shooters if they decide to bring back Johnson in free agency. Jaquez figures to be able to contribute right away with his great feel for the game and ability to make those around him better.
NBA Comparison: Jorge Garbajosa
23. Portland (via NY): Trayce Jackson-Davis 6-9 245 PF/C Indiana Sr.
Jackson-Davis was one of the best college basketball players this season and has a more translatable set of skills than many seem to realize despite a lack of a perimeter jumper. Inside the arc, TJD is a devastating shot creator and a human pogo stick around the rim. While his potential doesn’t match that of the players around him, few will make an immediate impact or contribute on both ends as well as the 2,000-point collegiate scorer.
Why the Trail Blazers take Jackson-Davis: Let’s say the Blazers do hang on to Damian Lillard and add Scoot Henderson to their backcourt next to him. They’re still going to need an athletic screener who can get the post out of PnR actions with these two stud ball-handlers. We saw Jackson-Davis do just that at Indiana with Jalen Hood-Schifino and his instant impact will certainly please Dame and put Portland right back into playoff contention.
NBA Comparison: David West
24. Sacramento: Brandin Podziemski 6-5 205 PG/SG Santa Clara So.
Podziemski was a major winner of the NBA Combine. He’s a knockdown shooter with the versatility to play either guard position. He obviously developed a considerable amount to make the kind of jump he did this year, but the inability to carve a role for himself at Illinois as a freshman raises questions about his ability to separate against high level athletes. Regardless, he’s got a good shot to end up with a team in the 17-25 range looking for immediate help.
Why the Kings take Podziemski: Podziemski is somewhat local playing a few hours away at Santa Clara. He gives the Kings a solid rotational guard to add to their surging team. While not the speediest of players, his style actually fits well playing with Sabonis, so potentially he could be a change of pace guy when Fox is out.
25. Memphis: Brice Sensabaugh 6-6 235 SF/PF Ohio State Fr.
Sensabaugh is an elite contested jump-shooter, which bodes well for him given his lack of positional size and inability to create a ton of separation off the dribble. Continuing his success on these jumpers will be difficult against longer, more athletic defenders in the NBA, but if he’s able to do so, teams will be getting a scorer with a well rounded skill set, including ball handling, passing and a physical build.
Why the Grizzlies take Sensabaugh: Dillon Brooks’ departure leaves Memphis without a two-way starter. Sensabaugh is a skilled wing with the type of profile that Memphis usually looks for in this range. He’s considered a possibility at 25, but his inability to work out for teams could drop him to the early second. Marquette’s athletic dynamo Olivier-Maxence Prosper could be a possibility here.
NBA Comparison: Shake Milton
26. Indiana (via CLE): Leonard Miller 6-10 210 SF/PF G-League Fr.
There are questions about Miller’s NBA readiness due to his need to bulk up considerably, but his skillset at 6’10 at just 19 years old is likely too enticing to drop out of the first round. The Canadian forward has a secure handle and excellent rebounding instincts to round out his offensive game, but will be coveted mostly for his athleticism and potential on the defensive end. As Miller adds strength and develops his jumper, he can become a contributor at the next level.
Why the Pacers take Miller: Tyrese Haliburton is already one of the most gifted young playmakers in the league, but he needs more athletic screeners to take their PnR offensive sets to the next level. Miller can develop into a tremendous short roll playmaker, above the rim finisher and even a floor spacer in Indiana’s offense, giving them a power and finesse complement with their multitude of first-round picks.
NBA Comparison: Jonathan Isaac
27. Charlotte (via DEN): Rayan Rupert 6-7 195 SG/SF France Intl.
The buzz around Rupert is dwindling, as he is just barely clinging to a first-round projection in this final mock of the season. The French shooting guard has an outstanding wingspan of 7’3 and moves with great fluidity around the floor. The key will be working with him to bulk up his frame and developing a more consistent outside jumper.
Why the Hornets take Rupert: The Hornets are an abysmal defensive unit who could instantly flip the narrative by bringing in the length of Brandon Miller and Rupert this summer. With Miller joining the team, they are adding offense and this pick helps them improve defensively.
NBA Comparison: Thabo Sefolosha
28. Utah (via PHI): Maxwell Lewis 6-7 205 SG/SF Pepperdine So.
Playing at Pepperdine, who went a dismal 9-22, did no favors for Lewis, but the team’s failures is not an indictment on Lewis’ lack of competitiveness. He flashed his tools and size on the wing with the potential as a 3-and-D rotational player as he further develops his shot creation skills. He’ll be the first to say he needs to provide more consistent effort defensively, but it’s easy to see a long-term future as a starter for the 6’7 sophomore.
Why the Jazz take Lewis: Utah has multiple picks and can afford to take an upside pick late in the first round. Lewis has a wide range of grades from teams and could go higher but there is some chatter that feedback from teams hasn’t been so positive on him. He gives the Jazz an athletic swingman to add to their rebuilding core.
NBA Comparison: Sean Elliott
29. Indiana (via BOS): GG Jackson 6-9 215 PF South Carolina Fr.
GG Jackson appears to be in free fall with a lot of negative feedback among NBA teams, some who have said he’s not even in their top 50. The 6’9 freshman is still young with a ton of natural ability but clearly has a lot of maturity left in front of him. Jackson is the youngest player in the draft and one of the biggest boom or bust picks available. He’s no lock to be taken in the first round and will need to do some self evaluation and develop a new approach to maximize his opportunity at the next level.
Why the Pacers take Jackson: Like Utah, the Pacers also have three first-round picks, but could go in a different direction here. Instead of filling out the rotation, Indiana could shoot for the stars with GG Jackson. Jackson is a freak athlete who is adept at creating mid-range shots for himself, but a lack of NBA readiness and maturity concerns has him plummeting down draft boards. Indiana has multiple picks, so 29 may be a spot where a team looking to swing for the fences would grab him. At 27 to Charlotte is another possibility.
NBA Comparison: Jerome Kersey
30. LA Clippers (via MIL): Ben Sheppard 6-6 195 SG Belmont Sr.
A lot of the questions around Sheppard stemmed from a lack of competition in his college career. Matched up against all the players in his draft range in the scrimmages, Sheppard shined and nearly notched the single-game scoring record at the Combine with a 25-point outing. He’s right on the fringe of the first round because of it, with word that he stands a good chance of going in the late first.
Why the Clippers take Sheppard: Los Angeles is in a tricky spot here as one of the oldest teams in the league who need to get younger, but they’re also in win-now mode. Sheppard can be a long-term player for the franchise and also presents them with a reliable option off the bench from the start. The Clippers need to fill out their rotation with shooters and this would be a great start for them.
NBA Comparison: Garrett Temple
31. Detroit: Julian Strawther 6-7 210 SF Gonzaga Jr.
Strawther emerged as a clutch outside shooter with an elite floater in the lane during his time learning under Mark Few in Spokane. His range is wide from the mid-20s all the way to the middle of the second round, but we are bullish on the Las Vegas product.
32. Indiana (via HOU): Andre Jackson 6-6 210 SG/SF UConn Jr.
Jackson possesses one of the most intriguing skill sets in the draft with creative ball-handling and playmaking, transition highlights and disruptive defensive effort. He can be a mismatch nightmare and Swiss army knife for whichever head coach can unlock his remarkable potential.
33. San Antonio: Olivier-Maxence Prosper 6-8 210 SF/PF Marquette Jr.
Following Prosper throughout this offseason has proved difficult as he went from a probable return to school to a major draft combine winner, causing him to climb draft boards fast. After continuing to build on that momentum in individual workouts, he is flirting with a late-first, early second round grade.
34. Charlotte: Julian Phillips 6-8 195 SF Tennessee Fr.
It would’ve been fascinating to see him develop for another season in college, but a long stint in the G-League and on an NBA weight program could get him to where he needs to be in a couple seasons. Phillips is getting mentioned as a possibility in the 25-35 range.
35. Oklahoma City (via POR): Sidy Cissoko 6-7 225 SG G-League Intl.
The development of Sidy Cissoko as time went on with the G-League Ignite is keeping him right on the edge of the first round of the draft. A team that is looking more for long-term upside over instant impact could pull the trigger on the physical, playmaking, defensive-minded wing who steadily improved his 3-point jumper this season.
36. Orlando: Dariq Whitehead 6-7 220 SG/SF Duke Fr.
Due to lack of college production and some negative feedback, Dariq Whitehead is likely to fall, but it’s certainly possible that a team values his high school prestige and upside if he retains his athleticism, more and takes a chance on him at the end of the first round. He lacked the same explosiveness he displayed in high school, but the mystery to unlock is just how much of his pre-foot injury athleticism he can regain.
37. Denver (via WAS): Marcus Sasser 6-2 195 PG/SG Houston Sr.
Sasser is an intriguing talent, but after a career riddled with injuries forcing him to stay in college to the age of 22, he has dropped to a early/mid second-round projection. If he can stay on the court and showcase the talent and defense he did at Houston for four years, he could be a steal for a team like Denver this late in the draft.
38. Sacramento (via IND): Terquavion Smith 6-4 165 PG/SG North Carolina St. So.
Smith is a dynamic but undersized combo guard who showed flashes in his sophomore year. His lack of shooting efficiency hurts his cause, but he impressed as a breakout freshman a season ago and showed some improvement as a sophomore.
39. Charlotte (via UTA): Amari Bailey 6-4 190 PG/SG UCLA Fr.
Bailey likely was not even considering staying in the 2023 NBA Draft halfway through the season, but an impressive second half, where he basically carried the UCLA offense with Jaime Jaquez, made him think twice. A standout performance at the NBA Combine was the icing on the cake for a prospect who could jump into the first round if a team buys into his upside.
40. Denver (via DAL): Jalen Pickett 6-3 200 PG/SG Penn State Sr.
Fresh off an NBA Championship, the Nuggets will be using this newly acquired pick to sustain the winning culture that brought them a title. Bringing in one of the most physical and experienced ball-handlers in college basketball and a consensus All-American is the perfect start early in the second round.
41. Charlotte (via OKC): Isaiah Wong 6-4 185 PG/SG Miami (FL) Sr.
Miami’s undisputed leader should be a surefire selection in this year’s draft with his underrated size at the point and slithery finishing ability around the rim. He proved to be a great leader taking his team to the Elite Eight and Final Four in back-to-back years.
42. Washington (via CHI): James Nnaji 6-10 250 C Nigeria Intl.
You won’t find many players who are as intimidating as James Nnaji measured to be at 7’0 in shoes with a 7’7 wingspan at 251 pounds. He’s clearly got above average physical attributes to compete at the NBA level. At just 18 years old, he’s got time to figure out how to play.
43. Portland (via ATL): Colby Jones 6-6 205 SG Xavier Jr.
Colby is an analytics standout and it’s possible he ends up with a team like Memphis. Jones helped lead one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball as a combo guard who can run an offense or attack opponents off the ball. He has positional size and should be able to knock down shots when he gets open looks.
44. San Antonio (via TOR): Seth Lundy 6-5 215 SG/SF Penn State Sr.
Seth Lundy guaranteed himself as “the steal of the draft” in a recent interview with us and a quick review of his tape from Penn State and the combine reflects his confidence. He is a remarkable shooter on the move and a competent defender on the wing with excellent versatility. Teams are now forced to put more emphasis on building through the draft to fill out their rotation and Lundy feels like the perfect candidate with his experience, energy and shooting.
45. Memphis (via MIN): Jordan Walsh 6-7 205 SF/PF Arkansas Fr.
Jordan Walsh didn’t show much in the offensive department at Arkansas, but with his lengthy (7’2 wingspan), physical frame, the 6’7 freshman projects to be a defensive specialist at the next level. He isn’t helpless as a perimeter shooter, but it’s nowhere near a strength to his game. Teams will have to live with him being a near liability on offense for the defensive acumen he’s built his game around.
46. Atlanta (via NO): Tristan Vukcevic 7-0 225 PF/C Serbia Intl.
Vukcevic is a 20-year-old seven-footer who proved he can really shoot it from beyond the arc during drills and scrimmages at the 2023 NBA Combine. If his performance at the combine was any indication, he has what it takes to become as a floor spacing center with advanced scoring for his size.
47. LA Lakers: Jalen Wilson 6-7 225 SF/PF Kansas Jr.
It’s at this point in the draft where teams prioritize experienced collegiate winners and intriguing foreign prospects. Wilson became a national champion and an All-American in his last two seasons in Lawrence, maturing along the way.
48. LA Clippers: Adam Flagler 6-2 190 SG Baylor Sr.
After helping Baylor to a national championship in 2021, and two more successful seasons since, Flagler is ready to contribute as a shooter/scorer for an NBA team off the bench. He is a polished, experienced guard who makes good decisions and shoots as well as any player in the draft as a 39% career 3-point shooter.
49. Cleveland (via GS): Adama Sanogo 6-8 260 C UConn Jr.
Sanogo is a brute force down low, boasting an excellent hook shot from the position he earns in the post, but don’t think he isn’t skilled and crafty, too. The NCAA Tournament MOP possesses solid court vision and even added perimeter shooting to his skillset, shooting 36% from deep this season. His growth into a 76% free throw shooter is further proof of his shooting acumen.
50. Oklahoma City (via MIA): Ricky Council 6-6 205 SG Arkansas Jr.
Council feels like an underrated scorer late in the draft here after earning sixth man of the year honors for Wichita State before leading a talented group of Razorbacks in scoring this past season. He is an electrifying athlete with the size and strength to translate his scoring skills to the NBA as a spark plug off the bench.
51. Brooklyn: Keyontae Johnson 6-5 240 SG/SF Kansas State Sr.
A few years ago, Keyontae Johnson was a potential first rounder before an on-floor collapse robbed him of two years of his college career. He was reborn with a vengeance in Manhattan, emerging as a premier scorer and eventual All-American for the Wildcats. He has the talent and strength to compete at the next level, even if it’s just filling a role off the bench and providing the leadership and competitiveness to bring the best out of his teammates.
52. Phoenix: Emoni Bates 6-10 190 SG Eastern Michigan So.
Things are looking much better for Bates now than they were a year ago in a disappointing freshman season at Memphis. Against lesser competition, Bates thrived as the uber-talented shooter and scorer we saw in high school. The wiry sharpshooter seems to have taken a step in the maturity department as well, which makes him a project who could be well worth the low-risk chance late in the second round.
53. Minnesota (via NY): Jaylen Clark 6-5 205 SG UCLA Jr.
Another UCLA Bruin rises into the final mock of the season, but instead of bringing it on the offensive end like his teammates above, Clark brings it with elite defense. The 6’5 junior emerged as one of the premier defenders in college basketball with his instincts and athleticism that wreaked havoc in half-court sets for opponents. Unfortunately he missed the end of the season and the entire draft buildup due to a foot injury.
54. Sacramento: Oscar Tshiebwe 6-8 255 PF/C Kentucky Sr.
Oscar Tshiebwe returned to Lexington this season to redeem last year’s failure in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It didn’t quite go according to plan and now he’s ready to move on to the NBA. Even with his historic rebounding production, without true NBA size or shooting ability, it’s hard to project him much higher than this.
55. Indiana (via CLE): Jazian Gortman 6-2 170 PG Overtime Elite Fr.
Gortman put up decent numbers in the same league as the Thompson twins and even brought his team to the championship series before losing to those same twins. He did it with twitchy athleticism and defensive intensity that doesn’t come around often. However, he is another 20-year-old who essentially played against high school level competition. But he looked solid in Chicago at the Combine and stands a chance to be selected on Thursday night.
56. Memphis: Kobe Brown 6-8 250 SG/SF Missouri Sr.
The Missouri resurgence started with the Dennis Gates hiring but was propelled by Kobe Brown’s outstanding play on the court. He is a physical specimen, standing at 6’8 and 250 pounds, with a smooth shooting stroke (45% 3PT) and excellent passing skills. As a do-it-all offensive player and solid athlete, this could be another steal for the Grizzlies in the draft.
57. Chicago: Forfeited Pick
58. Philadelphia: Forfeited Pick
59. Washington (via BOS):Nadir Hifi 6-1 170 PG France intl.
Hifi is the perfect draft and stash candidate in the late second round. he had a solid showing in Treviso at the Eurocamp. He’s also under contract to play in France next year and is not a player that needs to come over right away.
60. Milwaukee: Chris Livingston 6-7 220 SF/PF Kentucky Fr.
Livingston began to contribute late in the season as an offensive rebounder and tenacious defender, which are attributes that give him a chance to land with a team. Despite strings being pulled to ensure his playing time at Kentucky, Livingston struggled to produce much and figures to be a late pick if at all.