The ping pong balls can fall in whichever order they well please next Tuesday night in Chicago as the annual draft lottery officially locks in which teams will pick where from No. 1 to No. 14 in the 2023 NBA Draft. It really matters not at the top, however, because there is no debate or discussion about whose name will be called first on draft night next month as NBA commissioner Adam Silver announces the No. 1 overall pick: Victor Wembanyama.
It has been a foregone conclusion for months -- and maybe even longer -- that the 7-foot-4 Wembanyama would go No. 1. There is no drama surrounding exactly at which draft spot he'll be picked, and any debate to the contrary is not genuine. Don't take my word for it, though. Take Wemby's. Here's what he tweeted earlier this week in the lead-up to lottery night, hinting that -- no, outright asserting that -- he will go No. 1.
"10 days before knowing my future team," he said. "It's really a crazy thing."
He's right. The only drama now is which team will be fortunate enough to win the lottery and, thus, the rights to draft one of the most exciting prospects in a generation.
Our Big Board has been updated as we look ahead to next week's lottery and combine to reflect the current landscape as things stand entering one of the most consequential stretches of the pre-draft process. Surprise, surprise: Wemby -- as ever -- remains No. 1, while Scoot Henderson holds firm at No. 2. But there are some tweaks throughout the rankings, which I've expanded from 50 to 60, as you can see below.
Bilal Coulibaly, SF
- Big Board rank: 35
Coulibaly is a frontrunner to be MVP of the Hiding In Plain Sight All-Star team. A teammate of Wembanyama's this season with Mets 92, injuries and attrition only recently thrust him into a bigger role, and he has validated his standing as a potential first-round pick with his size and energy. At 18 years old, Coulibaly is raw but has all the tools, and has flashed some shot-making to buttress a really nice long-term athletic profile on which teams will be itching to gamble.
Bobi Klintman, SF
- Big Board rank: 37
It's pretty easy to talk yourself into Klintman as a potential first-round prospect in this class. I'm not quite there yet, but I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility he plays his way into the top 30 in the coming weeks. He's 6-foot-10, 20 years old and hit 37% from 3, effectively profiling as a jumbo-sized wing. He might be something of a developmental project, but he is one that has immense upside down the road.
Nick Smith Jr., SG
- Big Board rank: 12
The reason for Smith's fall out of the top 10 is almost entirely related to knee injuries he battled off and on last season at Arkansas. The former No. 1 recruit in his class, Smith, when healthy, is an electric scoring talent who can make plays on and off the ball and projects as a potential star from the scoring guard spot. It's hard to draw up a worse one-and-done season than the one he had, but it's also hard to see teams letting him slip out of the lottery given his potential upside.
Jaime Jaquez Jr., SG
- Big Board rank: 40
With some raw but exciting young prospects making moves up the board in the pre-draft process, Jaquez Jr. is on the slight decline for no real reason other than that he doesn't quite move the needle the way others might. The goal of the draft is to swing for a homerun, ultimately. Jaquez Jr. feels like a standup double; he can be a good NBA rotation player who wins with smarts and shooting but isn't a bonafide star. He feels like the exact player the Grizzlies might target late in Round 1 -- a proven winner possibly overlooked because of his age -- and also inevitably someone who will outperform his draft slot if he gets out of Round 1.