The 2023 NBA Draft Combine is scheduled for Monday, May 15 through Sunday, May 21, so here is our list of the five players to watch for this year. This event will be held at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. The multi-day showcase occurs annually before the NBA draft in June.
At the combine, college basketball players are interviewed and compete in 5-on-5 drills, strength programs, shooting drills, and other athletic tests. Seventy-eight prospects were invited to attend. However, top prospect Victor Wembanyama is not expected to attend. The 2023 NBA Draft is Thursday, June 22.
Amen Thompson | Overtime Elite | Guard
First off, Amen Thompson (+600) has third-shortest odds of being selected third overall in the 2023 NBA Draft, according to multiple NBA betting sites. The 6-foot-7, 215-pound guard played high school basketball at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he was rated a five-star recruit.
Thompson forewent his senior year to sign with Overtime Elite (OTE), a professional basketball league for players between the ages of 16 and 20. In the 2021-22 season, Thompson played for Team OTE, one of three teams in the league. He averaged 14 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.1 steals per game.
Moreover, the guard then played for Team Overtime in The Basketball Tournament in July 2022. In the 2022–23 OTE season, Thompson was selected by captain Ausar Thompson with the first pick in the league’s draft to play with the City Reapers. He’s expected to impress scouts at this year’s NBA Draft Combine.
In January, Thompson received his first OTE Player of the Week award after recording 22 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and five steals in a 101-90 win over the Cold Hearts. At the end of the regular season, he was named to the All-OTE First Team. The City Reapers went on to win the 2023 Overtime Elite championship.
Emoni Bates | Eastern Michigan | Forward
Next, Emoni Bates is a top-50 prospect ahead of the 2023 NBA Draft. In his freshman 2021-22 season with Memphis, the forward averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 23.4 minutes per game in 18 appearances. The Michigan native then transferred to Eastern Michigan for his sophomore 2022-23 season.
This past season, Bates averaged career highs of 19.2 points, 5.8 boards, 1.4 assists, and 33.8 minutes in 30 appearances. In the same way, he shot career bests of 40.5% from the field and 33% beyond the arc. The 6-foot-9 forward led the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in usage percentage (31.1%).
“Bates will need the right role that values his shooting versatility, doesn’t ask for playmaking and can mask his defensive limitations,” Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report wrote. “He’s easier to buy if you think of him as a 6’9″ shot-maker than a top-scoring option.”
Jarace Walker | Houston | Forward
Additionally, Jarace Walker (+1400) has fourth-shortest odds of getting picked No. 3 overall in this year’s draft. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward made 35 starts out of 36 games played with Houston this past season. Walker averaged 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.3 blocks per contest. Not to mention, the wing shot 46.5% from the floor and 34.7% outside the arc.
The Maryland-born prospect led the American Athletic Conference (AAC) in defensive box plus/minus (4.4) and defensive rating (87.1). His defensive skill level is duly noted. By the same token, Walker won AAC Freshman of the Year. He also played high school basketball for Susquehannock (Glenn Rock, Pennsylvania) and IMG Academy (Brandon, Florida), where he was a consensus five-star recruit.
Ausar Thompson | Overtime Elite | Guard/Forward
Furthermore, Ausar Thompson (+1400) has fifth-best odds of being selected third overall in the 2023 NBA Draft. Thompson attended Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, just like his twin brother, Amen. During his junior year, he averaged 22.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. Likewise, Thompson signed with Overtime Elite in 2021, where he went on to join Team Elite for the 2021–22 season.
Equally important, he won the inaugural OTE championship and was named the inaugural Finals MVP with Team Elite after averaging 17 points and ten rebounds per game. For the 2022-23 OTE season, Ausar joined the City Reapers. At the end of the regular season, he was named MVP. Of course, Ausar was selected to the All-OTE First Team as well. Therefore, Thompson is a two-time OTE champion and OTE Finals MVP winner.
Amari Bailey | UCLA | Guard
Lastly, Amari Bailey is a 6-foot-5, 185-pound guard. Bailey made 28 starts and played in 30 games with UCLA in the 2022-23 season. He averaged 11.2 points, 3.8 boards, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 26.9 minutes per game. The guard also shot 49.5% from the field and 38.9% from 3-point range. Coupled with his scoring abilities, the guard’s perimeter defense has dazzled scouts.
Bailey was selected to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team. In UCLA’s opener in the 2023 Pac-12 Tournament, Bailey scored a career-high 26 points in the Bruins’ 80-69 win over Colorado. It’s why he’s among the 78 invitees for this year’s NBA Draft Combine. Although born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Bailey went on to play high school basketball for Sierra Canyon School in Los Angeles, California. He won California Mr. Basketball in 2021.