No, Wembanyama will not be at the draft combine. Also no: it absolutely matters not. Wembanyama will be the No. 1 pick next month. Now we wait to see which team is fortunate enough to win the lottery and secure the right to draft him.
Brandon Miller’s rise this season combined with Henderson’s stagnated development as a shooter makes this a tougher pick than it might’ve seemed a few months ago, but Henderson’s still a gamble I’d take in a vacuum over other No. 2 pick contenders. He’s a fiery, swaggy competitor who has elite handles, major athletic pop and a creative mind that perfectly fits the NBA point guard position.
Off the court, NBA teams are likely to have questions about Miller after he was connected to, and on the scene of, a fatal shooting during the season. On the court, though, 6-foot-9 forwards who have the scoring and creation ability Miller has makes him an easy top-five selection in this class.
Which Thompson twin is more highly-coveted in this draft might be up for debate but I still prefer Amen over his brother, Ausar. Amen is an elite playmaker who possesses the ability to make advanced reads as a potential lead guard. He’s an elite athlete who could be the initiator for an NBA offense.
While twin brother Amen has been viewed as the better of the two twin prospects, Ausar quietly put together a great season with OTE and had better 3-point shooting, rebounding and assist numbers. He fits the mold of a playmaking wing which the NBA values highly right now.
Villanova had its worst season by win percentage in more than a decade in 2022-23, largely keeping Whitmore’s star power hidden beneath the radar. I like him as much as any of the non Wemby/Henderson players in this class, though, and the combination of his powerful athleticism and shot-making at the wing position makes him very appealing.
Anywhere from 5-12 in this draft feels like the range for Walker, who is one of the most physically ready prospects in this draft class. He plays with relentless energy on both ends and projects cleanly as a do-it-all power forward who can stretch the floor.
Black’s a connector-type prospect with a big frame who plays selflessly. He can defend multiple positions does a little of everything that affects winning as one of the most savvy, rounded players in the class.
The meteoric rise last season of Santa Clara star Jalen Williams — and his subsequent stellar season as a rookie with OKC — has taught us not to overlook mid-major stars. Hendricks is perhaps the latest example of that, as he starred for UCF last season as a sharpshooting forward who can protect the rim and be a havoc-wreaker on defense.
Tall wings who have the ability to shoot it — and do so successfully in the multitude of ways Dick can shoot it — don’t come around every draft. His game is tailor-made for an NBA role player with room to grow into more.
Kentucky guards underwhelming in college and becoming stars in the NBA has been something of a regular occurrence. Wallace profiles as someone who could keep that tradition alive, as he didn’t dominate as a freshman but showed off a ton of versatility on offense while routinely making highlight reel plays as a difference-maker on the defensive side of the floor.
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I remain a big believer in the ability of Keyonte George but his stock is believed to be slipping a bit in recent weeks so this late-lottery placement is reflective of that. He was a high volume scorer who wasn’t terribly efficient at Baylor in his one season, but the combo guard ability he brings remains a worthwhile gamble in this range of the draft.
Hawkins shined for UConn in its run to the national championship with his stellar sharpshooting on full display. He hit nearly 40% from 3-point range on the season and rated in the 97th percentile this season as a spot-up shooter, according to Synergy data. His off-ball movement and shooting ability in various situations makes him a really exciting wing prospect.
The younger brother of 2022 lottery pick Keegan Murray, Kris Murray had a breakout season for Iowa averaging north of 20 points per game while showing off range as a 3-point shooter. He’s a combo forward who brings versatility, polish and size to a position that NBA teams prioritize versatility, polish and size.
NBA teams are always on the hunt for combo guard/creators like Hood-Schifino, and he flashed enough on both ends at Indiana to push for a potential lottery spot in this year’s draft. Great frame, really good defensively, and knows how to attack and make plays off the bounce. His shot needs to become more developmentally consistent but the tools here are undeniable.
A second-year player for Michigan, Bufkin blossomed into a bona fide first-round talent this past season. He has a nice combination of scoring and creation that might make him an appealing two-way guard in the league.
Rupert is a toolsy prospect with a great frame and a defensive baseline that presents promise, but he remains very raw in terms of what he can bring to the table on the offensive end. If his shot comes around, there’s a lot to like, but there’s not much right now that suggests he can be an NBA player anytime soon. Definitely a developmental prospect.
The stats listed above don’t do justice to how impactful Lively was at the end of the season for Duke and how impactful he can be as an NBA player. He’s an above-the-rim threat on both ends of the floor who can be a game-changer defensively protecting the basket.
I’m not ranking Jackson this high on the Big Board — he’s closer to 30 than 20 for me — but I won’t be surprised if he goes higher than expected and jumps into this range by the draft. The former No. 1 overall recruit in his class reclassified and is one of the youngest players in the class. NBA teams love youth with room to grow, and Jackson presents an intriguing developmental case.
A nagging knee injury cost Smith Jr. real exposure to showcase himself on a big stage this season after carrying momentum into the season as a potential top-three pick. But the No. 1 recruit from the 2022 class, an immensely talented scorer and slasher, is still someone I think teams will be glad to bring in and develop, and in this range he’d be a no-brainer.
As a four-star prospect ranked 85th in his class, Sensabaugh wasn’t even on the one-and-done radar entering the season. But his production with Ohio State is tough to ignore. Uses his big frame well and smashed in his role as a rotation piece hitting 40.5% of his 3-pointers on the year.
Miller tested the NBA Draft waters and had some first-round buzz before ultimately withdrawing and committing to the G League Ignite. Now he’s built upon that momentum as a scorer and rebounder who, while still a tad raw, has the physical tools and size to warrant mid-to-late lottery consideration.
Whitehead had a topsy-turvy season at Duke and didn’t quite live up to expectations as a five-star, consensus top-five recruit, in part because of injuries and inconsistencies that resulted from that. ESPN reported that his preseason right foot injury did not heal properly and requires a follow-up procedure, so teams will want to make sure his medicals check out.
Big men who don’t shoot 3-pointers don’t pop off the page as definite first-rounders, and yet Jackson-Davis by most measures appears to be an anomaly. He’s a dominant interior scorer and rebounder who shows great touch and makes great plays as a passer.
This is a bit of a plunge from where I last had Howard — which was late lottery — but I’m still very much in on him as a top-30 player in this class. Really good shooter with an excellent frame who has touch on floaters, in the mid-range and from beyond the 3-point line.
One of my favorite prospects in this class. Jones is one of those players who can fade in and out of games, then you look up and he has 10 points, seven assists and eight rebounds. Impacts winning in a variety of ways.
Coulibaly is a late riser in the 2023 class who has showed flashes of excitement for Mets 92 as a teammate of Victor Wembanyama’s. He’s a raw prospect who has the physical ability, athleticism and length that teams like in wings.
Smith is a twitchy athlete who I thought was a first-round talent a year ago before withdrawing and returning to NC State. He basically held steady production-wise but his improvement as a passer and decision-maker has unlocked even more upside for him.
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After Peyton Watson was snagged in the first round last year after an underwhelming one-and-done season at UCLA, I find it highly unlikely Bailey and his five-star pedigree slip further in this draft. He was admittedly streaky, but he flashed some scoring punch down the stretch for the Bruins and has nice flash as an athlete that could make him a slasher/scorer type in the league.
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