Trade speculation surrounding Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is among the many rumorsleading up to Thursday's 2023 NBA Draft which is just about finally here. It's nothing new for the 32-year-old seven-time All-Star, who has four years and $215 million left on his contract. But the rumor mill is particularly active in conjunction with the draft since the Blazers hold the No. 3 pick.
Latest NBA Mock Drafts:| | |
That valuable spot could be trade bait if Portland wants to acquire a proven talent for the sake of maximizing Lillard's prime and pushing for the playoffs after consecutive non-playoff seasons. But if the Blazers keep the pick and don't trade away their star guard, Lillard doesn't seem particularly interested in leading a rebuild.
"I don't have much of an appetite for bringing in guys two and three years away from really going after it," Lillard said after Portland's 33-49 season concluded.
With that in mind, Portland must be strategic about what it does in the 2023 NBA Draft. While point guard Scoot Henderson is regarded by many as the No. 2 player in the draft class behind, he's not a perfect fit with Charlotte at No. 2 or Portland at No. 3 since both franchises already have lead guards on long-term contracts.
It seems like Henderson, 19, would be exactly the type of developmental project that Lillard is hesitant to embrace. But if Charlotte decides to pass on Brandon Miller and roll with Henderson at No. 2, it could work out nicely for Portland at No. 3.
Miller is a 6-foot-8 forward with immediate two-way appeal, in addition to long-term upside. After starring for an Alabama team that won the SEC regular season and tournament titles, the 20-year-old Miller could be ready to immediately play a starting role for Portland. A rookie -- even one as talented as Miller -- isn't going to single-handedly turn Portland back into a playoff team. But he would be a good fit with the franchise's current pieces and is talented enough to help the Trail Blazers turn back in the right direction.
Round 1 - Pick 1
No need to overcomplicate things. Wembanyama is regarded as one of the best prospects of all-time and will become the centerpiece of San Antonio's franchise. The Spurs have largely been searching for an identity since the end of the Duncan-Parker-Ginobli days. Now, they have one. Wembanyama is 7-4 and can do it all. He'll fill the arena, bring eyes to the franchise's TV broadcasts and attract other players who want to play with a world-class talent. It's been proven that San Antonio can win big, and Wembanyama is the type of player who can help it regain competitive footing in the Western Conference in the relatively near future.
Round 1 - Pick 2
The Hornets already have a franchise point guard in LaMelo Ball, but Henderson's talent may be too much to pass up. It would take some creativity to effectively deploy Ball and Henderson together, but they are different enough that it could work. Ball is five inches taller and a more refined shooter than Henderson, who is a quick-twitch guard with the speed and quickness to beat defenders off the dribble. A little time spent off the ball would allow Ball to thrive as a scorer and keep him fresher on the defensive end. The presence of Henderson could actually force Ball to become a more well-rounded player as he enters the fourth season of a promising career.
Round 1- Pick 3
Alabama • 6'7" / 200 lbs
With Henderson off the board, Portland's choice here is easy. It didn't really need another guard -- especially not another small guard like Henderson -- and Miller is a more natural fit with the franchise's current pieces. As a 6-8 shooter with a well-rounded offensive game and excellent defensive upside, Miller is as close to a ready-made contributor as a 20-year-old possibly can be. There are concerns about his connection to a fatal shooting from earlier this year, but Miller will have veterans Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic to help him mature.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Thompson is an athletic playmaker who can play on or off the ball. At 6-6, he should pair well with Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. With that trio and a front court of Jabari Smith and Alperen Sengun, the Rockets would likely start five players age 23 or younger next season. But a full, long-term nucleus would finally be in place that also includes several other promising young pieces completing a theoretical 2023-24 rotation. Perhaps Houston would prefer to trade this pick to get a bit older and more competitive. But if they keep it, Thompson is a good fit.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Cam Whitmore SF
Villanova • 6'7" / 230 lbs
The Pistons have their backcourt of the future established in Jaden Ivey and Cade Cunningham. They are also overflowing with promising young bigs in Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren and James Wiseman. The only question mark is on the wing, and Whitmore looks like a perfect fit. With an NBA-ready frame, he's the type of one-and-done prospect who won't need excessive seasoning before he's ready to help. He shot a stellar 57.8% on 2-pointers at Villanova and a respectable 34.3% on 3-pointers while also playing solid defense.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Assuming the Magic aren't giving up on ball-handling guards Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs or Markelle Fultz any time soon, they are set at point guard. With frontcourt players Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter also under contract for multiple seasons, the need for Orlando is at shooting guard or on the wing. Thompson checks the box as a 6-6 playmaking wing with high upside. The Overtime Elite program remains unproven as a breeding ground for NBA talent, but even a skeptic can see the athleticism, skill and potential of the Thompson twins in this draft class.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Houston • 6'7" / 235 lbs
The Pacers are set in the backcourt with young guards Tyrese Haliburton and Andrew Nembhard, they have a promising young wing in Bennedict Mathurin and longtime center Myles Turner remains in the fold through 2024-25. The missing piece needed to round out the nucleus appears to be at the 4 spot. Walker fits perfectly after shining for a veteran-laden Houston squad during his lone college season. The former five-star prospect is sturdily built and boasts a surprisingly refined offensive package and also has the tools to become an impact defender over time.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Arkansas • 6'7" / 200 lbs
Black is a rangy point guard with high defensive upside for the position and obvious competitive instincts. He was a multi-sport star growing up, and it shows with his coordination as a passer and rebounder. He's not a finished product -- his 3-point shooting needs work -- but Black would pair well with Bradley Beal and have the chance to develop into a franchise cornerstone after shining in just one season at Arkansas.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Indiana • 6'5" / 215 lbs
The Jazz have Collin Sexton, but he could use some help in the ball-handling and facilitating realm. Hood-Schifino can provide that while playing either guard position. He's got good positional size and lots of offensive game. There were flashes of stardom on his highlight reel during his lone season at Indiana.
Round 1 - Pick 10
UCF • 6'9" / 215 lbs
The Mavericks suffered through the embarrassment of trading for Kyrie Irving only to disintegrate down the stretch. Now comes the reward: a lottery pick. Hendricks shined as a freshman at UCF, scoring 15.1 points per game on 53.5% 2-point shooting and 39.4% 3-point shooting while yanking down seven rebounds per game and blocking 1.7 shots. Hendricks won't interfere with Luka Doncic's ball-dominant ways, nor will he stifle the development of young scoring guards Josh Green and Jaden Hardy.
From Chicago Bulls
Round 1 - Pick 11
Gradey Dick SF
Kansas • 6'6" / 205 lbs
Dick shot 40.3% from beyond the arc as a true freshman at Kansas. He's also solid off the bounce and athletic enough to defend multiple positions. A haul of Ausar Thompson and Dick with picks No. 6 and 11 would bolster the Magic on the wing and make them one of the draft's big winners.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Jett Howard SG
Michigan • 6'6" / 215 lbs
Howard outplayed his four-star prospect rating during one season at Michigan. The 6-8 wing averaged 14.2 points per game and hit 36.8% of his 3-pointers. The son of former NBA champion and current Michigan coach Juwan Howard has a bright future and would complement franchise cornerstones Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren well.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Connecticut • 6'5" / 190 lbs
Toronto finished 28th in 3-point percentage at just 33.5% this season. Hawkins can help solve that problem. The shooting guard enjoyed a breakout sophomore season, propelling UConn to a national title as he hit 38.8% of his long-range shots on 7.6 attempts per game.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Baylor • 6'4" / 185 lbs
George is a natural scoring guard who could benefit from the tutelage of CJ McCollum after playing one season at Baylor. There is a tantalizing amount of potential in George's game, but it's counterbalanced by concerns over his efficiency and defense. If nothing else, he could be a spark plug off the bench or trade bait.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Kentucky • 6'3" / 195 lbs
Atlanta has plenty of mouths to feed from an offensive standpoint. The Hawks need help defensively, and that's what Wallace can bring. He's a rangy guard who averaged two steals per game at Kentucky while playing on and off the ball. Over time, he could also develop into a scoring option.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Miller is a long forward with future upside who posted encouraging offensive numbers with G League Ignite last season. There is plenty of refining to be done here, but 6-9 players with 7-2 wingspans and shooting touch don't come along often.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Kris Murray PF
Iowa • 6'8" / 220 lbs
Murray can help right away after averaging 20.2 points and 7.9 rebounds for Iowa. He'll be 23 on opening night of the 2023-24 season and is a plug-and-play NBA wing. Not sold? Look at Sacramento, where Kris' twin brother, Keegan, started 78 games this past season on a playoff squad.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Duke • 7'1" / 230 lbs
Miami ranked dead last in the NBA in blocked shots per game at three during the 2022-23 NBA season. The Heat made the NBA Finals anyway, but they could absolutely use some more rim protection. Lively can provide it as a 7-footer who blocked 2.4 shots per game in just 20.6 minutes per contest during his lone season at Duke.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Noah Clowney PF
Alabama • 6'9" / 210 lbs
Clowney lived in Brandon Miller's shadow during his freshman season at Alabama but managed to shine anyway. As a 6-10 stretch forward with tantalizing two-way potential, he would be a smart long-term play for a franchise with plenty of guards and wings under contract.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Wembanyama isn't the only French prodigy in this draft class. Coulibaly has great athleticism and upside. He won't be 19 until late July and may need some G League reps while transitioning to the American game. But his upside as a versatile, two-way wing is clear.
From Phoenix Suns
Round 1 - Pick 21
Ohio State • 6'5" / 235 lbs
Sensabaugh has some developing to do defensively, but he was stunningly effective as a three-level scorer during his true freshman season at Ohio State. At 6-6 and with a built frame, his shooting touch is surprisingly smooth.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Kobe Bufkin SG
Michigan • 6'5" / 195 lbs
Bufkin took enormous strides as a sophomore at Michigan. The combo guard rated as the Wolverines' best defender, according to evanmiya.com. Getting a two-way player of his potential at this stage in the draft is great value.
From New York Knicks
Round 1 - Pick 23
Arkansas • 6'2" / 185 lbs
Smith's freshman season at Arkansas dampened his stock as knee issues kept him from finding a groove. But there's a reason 247Sports ranked him the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2022. He's a dynamic combo guard with elite offensive potential. Going to Portland would allow him the chance to develop behind Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons.
Round 1 - Pick 24
With a wingspan larger than that of many big men in this draft pool, Rupert projects as a high-impact defender. His offensive game needs to be polished, to say the least, but the young French wing is an interesting long-term project.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Santa Clara • 6'4" / 205 lbs
The Grizzlies like going for multi-faceted college players from off-the-radar locales. Podziemski fits the bill to perfection after hitting 43.8% of his 3-point attempts while also leading Santa Clara in rebounding and steals as a sophomore in 2022-23.
From Cleveland Cavaliers
Round 1 - Pick 26
Pepperdine • 6'7" / 195 lbs
Lewis is 6-7 and has a deep offensive bag. Because of his size and the promise he's shown offensively, there's reason to believe Lewis could develop into a solid two-way wing. His development could require some patience, but if he can shoot 35% or better from 3-point range in the league, he should be able to crack an NBA rotation.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 27
Marquette • 6'7" / 230 lbs
Prosper is a long, rangy wing with the physical tools to be a menacing two-way player in the NBA. His defensive metrics were a bit underwhelming at Marquette this past season, but there is a solid combination of collegiate production and raw talent here that makes him a great pick for late in the first round.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 28
Connecticut • 6'6" / 209 lbs
Jackson is an elite facilitator and defender who crashes the boards and plays the "connector" role often coveted in today's game. His shot needs work, but the rest of his game is NBA-ready after three seasons at UConn.
From Boston Celtics
Round 1 - Pick 29
Duke • 6'6" / 220 lbs
Injuries slowed Whitehead during his freshman season at Duke, but there's a reason 247Sports ranked him the No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2022. Armed with a great 3-point shot for his size, Whitehead will play in the league a long time if he can stay healthy.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Vukcevic is worth a flyer at No. 30 because of his offensive upside. As a near 7-footer with a feathery outside touch, he's got the potential to stick in the league. Concerns over his athleticism and defense are valid, but he's worth the risk at this point in the draft.