Before you scroll down and see which NBA prospects smiling faces are next to which teams in this 2023 NBA Mock Draft, understand that this mock is not like any other mock you've read this season. If it's draft week, that means it's time for my once-a-year Big Board mock.
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Below, you'll see my projection on who should be taken and in what order. What do I base this on? Overall future and projection of each player's NBA career. Vital context to keep at front of mind as you read this mock: I am NOT predicting team behavior. If you'd like to take a peek at traditional mock drafts, we have plenty of those. Here'sand and and .
My mock below isn't predicting who will be best pick after the first couple of years in the Association. This is a long-term projection. When we get to 10-plus years from now, who will have the best NBA careers from the 2023 NBA Draft? That's what this exercise is all about. So, scroll down and you will see some big swings and major fades vs. what the collective NBA scouting community has settled on just days out from the draft.
It's important to keep in mind that I'm not lining up these guys based on fit or team need. This is purely about projecting who can, and who I think will, be the best NBA players in totality. Let's check back in come 2033 and see how I did, deal?
Round 1 - Pick 1
What more is there to say at this point? Wembanyama led the French League in scoring, rebounding and blocks this past season and continued to play through June. (This still seems a tad under-appreciated.) He's the best combination of height, scoring, ball-handling, playmaking, defense and fine-tuned skill we've ever seen from someone at his size. Plainly, he's the best prospect to come into the NBA since LeBron. There is a chance (and I don't think it's faint) that he winds up outside the top three of this draft by the end of his career, but there's no practical reason to predict that right now. If Wemby hits his ceiling, he'll be one of the 10 best players of all time. If he merely reaches 80% of his potential, he'll be one of the 15 best players of the next 15 years. That still probably puts him atop this list.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Nickname is a verb? I'm probably going to be in on that guy. Scoot has All-NBA potential. There have been 15 players in NBA history to average 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a rookie. I think Henderson has an outside chance to be the 16th. Glorious handle, confidence, get-to-the-rim tenaciousness and shot-making potential that make his game irresistible. He should be an impact starter from Day 1. There are valid concerns with his defensive consistency and long-range shooting, but Henderson is the best playmaker in 2023's draft pool. He manifests angles and situations that most other players can't even envision. Star.
Round 1- Pick 3
Duke • 7'1" / 230 lbs
Here's my moonshot prediction, and it's going to need years and years if it's going to come true. Lively's college stats don't jump out at you, but he's the former No. 2 overall prospect in the Class of 2022, per 247Sports. His bounciness, rim protection, galloping frame and long-term shooting potential make him one of the best potential boom picks in this draft. Lively could wind up being a top-three defender in this draft, and maybe No. 2 to Wemby. He'll also be a looming lob menace. I go as high as third on my big board because I think he'll grow into a 35% 3-point shooter. At his size and with that defense and shooting prowess, I'm predicting multiple All-Star seasons. He'll need a couple of years to fill out his frame, but the future is bright, bright, bright. He's going to get picked too late.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Arkansas • 6'7" / 200 lbs
Can play 1, 2 or 3 at the NBA level and will likely be ready to step in and start in short order. I'm higher on Black than almost anyone because he loves to play defense and is damn good at it — as in, ALL the time. His football background has him primed for physical play. He's not a sloppy player, which you might expect from time to time for a 6-6 point guard. Good lateral movement, walls up well. Will chase and push through screens and seldom looks out of his depth against guards and forwards. A sneaky help defender, too. On offense, he understands passing lanes well and gets his chest into defenders. Definitely stronger than what he looks — and he's got a good base to his frame. His shooting is what will prevent him from being picked this high, but I think there's a chance Black eventually becomes a notch better than Ben Simmons at his peak.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Alabama • 6'7" / 200 lbs
I've got Miller just a few slots lower than where he'll be picked. Why? I do wonder if he's got the thing that Henderson has — the dynamic power of personality to be a No. 1 on a team. He had it in spurts at Alabama, but in talking to scouts, Miller's sometimes-beta on-floor approach has been a knock. His stock revolves around his size, length and scoring upside. Simply put: he looks the part of a go-to scoring NBA wing. There's a chance Miller emerges from this draft as the best shooter of the group. That would not surprise me. I think he has All-Star potential, but I also think there's a chance he winds up blending into the scenery. I understand the debate at No. 2 between him and Henderson, but Henderson for me clearly has the better all-around package.
Round 1 - Pick 6
I'm zagging on the Thompson twins and siding with my colleague, Adam Finkelstein, who's been banging the drum for a while now that Ausar Thompson is the superior prospect to brother Amen. Ausar's game has more all-around attributes than Amen, even if Amen is more frequently putting up highlight-reel plays. Ausar's shooting also has some NBA scouts optimistic about how he fits as a true 2. He has good feel, always a desired attribute for someone playing shooting guard. He's developed a reputation as a greaser for how well he cuts and keeps the defense on its heels. It would've been a lot of fun to see him play in college.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Connecticut • 6'5" / 190 lbs
Even if he doesn't prove to be the best shooter in this draft (disclaimer: Hawkins might prove to be the best shooter in this draft), he'll probably be top-three. Hawkins was the back-breaking piece that made UConn go from being a really good team to being a dominant national champion. And yet, his role seems better and more opportunistic at the next level. Poor Man's Klay Thompson is a fair bar for him heading into the NBA. Hawkins is never going to be a great all-around player, but he's going to get buckets at a good clip and has the physical tools and discipline to allow him to thrive if he's drafted in the right system.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Indiana • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Good guard with good size who's not afraid of the big moment and was one of the best Robins in college hoops last season (Trayce Jackson-Davis being the Batman at Indiana). Succeeding as a point guard at the NBA level means understanding ball-screen reads and making the right decisions; Hood-Schifino was one of the best in the Big Ten last season. I love his touch, love his feel for the big moment. There are times he plays like a veteran, yet he's 19. Will get knocked for not having a fifth gear, but give him time to grow and he can be a steady hand running an offense. He's not reliable yet from long distance, and that will have to change to validate having him as high as eighth 10-plus years down the road.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Athleticism will not be denied and his size playing point guard is where the standard is moving to in the NBA. Watching him, it's hard to take your eyes off his game due to how electric he can be. Most people have not seen him or his brother play, but the hype is valid. The chances of both players being top-six-good in this draft are narrow, however. I am selling a bit on Amen because his shooting isn't among the 15 best in this draft class. Coming from OTE, I also wonder about the development and adjustment to the NBA level. Intrigue level is high here, though.
Round 1 - Pick 10
UCLA • 6'6" / 226 lbs
Let's get a real dash of spice in this top 10. Jaquez is older than most of my other top 30 prospects, but his competitiveness, athleticism (check those combine numbers), consistency and reputation as a teammate will ultimately suit him well in his NBA career. I see Jaquez as a guy who will grow into a player capable of giving a team 24 one night, then dropping a line like 7/7/6/2 and being just as effective. Plays tough, been in the spotlight a long time. I think his defensive ceiling will limit him, but some players just have the stuff to stick and I love Jaquez's chances to play in the NBA for a decade.
From Chicago Bulls
Round 1 - Pick 11
Kentucky • 6'3" / 195 lbs
A lot of NBA people will tell you the ingredients to sticking in the league for a long time involve these three pillars: play legitimate defense all the time, don't be a below-average shooter, be a great teammate. Simple as it sounds, it's a tall task for a lot of guys. I don't think it will be for Wallace, who is a flat-out joy to watch play defense. He has ridiculous versatility and reaction when guarding the ball. I don't think he'll be much of a scorer, but so long as his injury from Kentucky doesn't linger moving forward? He'll be alright. His wingspan is six inches longer than his frame and he could be one of the most valuable backup point guards by 2026.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Duke • 6'6" / 220 lbs
Whitehead looked like he was tracking to easy lottery status when I saw him in the summer of 2021. Two foot surgeries in the past eight months is not going to move me off the visual of Whitehead eventually putting it together and growing into a fun 14 ppg guy by the late 2020s. His body is perfect for a 2-guard in the NBA, he has three-level range and will be a deployable defender if injuries don't inhibit his instincts. Had he not faced two sets of foot issues, he very well could be a top-10 pick. He's not going as high as I have him here, but it's very much on the table that he vastly outplays his draft position by the end of his rookie contract.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Houston • 6'7" / 235 lbs
I wonder if Walker gets squeezed a bit in terms of his position. I don't foresee him playing a lot of small-ball 5, and that's not an indictment on his game. Walker is a beast and can succeed as a 4 in the NBA. I question how productive he'll be overall on the offensive end and how often he'll be asked to score. And for a player his size, he was a bit too in love with his floater in his one-and-done season at Houston. There will be some changes in roles and tasks for him at the NBA level. I like him a lot as a sometimes-starter who thrives early as a backup. I don't love him as a top-seven pick who will in essence be asked to be something close to an eight-year starter.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Cam Whitmore SF
Villanova • 6'7" / 230 lbs
No, I didn't forget Whitmore. Go peek back at the past 20 years worth of drafts and see guys who were taken in the top six or seven in a given year. There's almost always at least a pair of those players who prove to be well outside of the top 20 years down the road. It's going to happen this year, too, I'm just giving my best shot at identifying which players it'll be. Whitmore has had a great pre-draft process, but at Villanova he was a bit all over the place, and was often a player who did not significantly increase VU's objective to win. There is a lot to like here, but Whitmore might be the player with the best collection of traits and measurables in this draft, while not having a "game" to package it in.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Connecticut • 6'6" / 209 lbs
If I had more conviction that Jackson would eventually be able to fix his jumper, I'd have him coasting into the top 10. I'm not sure that ever gets ironed out. I expect to see him on a roster a decade from now, even if his role is situation-specific. The word "unique" is often overused in sports — and particularly player evaluations — but it is no stretch to say that Jackson's game in the context of the '23 draft class is unique. Nobody else like him, and it's why he's got a chance to stick. Overwhelming strength is his twitchy and bendable athleticism. Has superb length, great leaping ability, good hands and flies all over the floor. High-IQ, a rare non-lottery prospect who is a near-guarantee to make any roster better because he checks dozens of boxes.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Miller will be a wing who is capable of being an interlocking chain on offense. Good wingspan, good size, is comfortable playing in traffic and has confidence finishing at the rim with power or improv. He comes from G League Ignite, and I still think we're early in determining how reliable projections from players out of that system are. But in watching Miller and talking to a few evaluators, he seems a pragmatic choice to ultimately end up in the 12-18 range — both as a draft pick and in the hierarchy of picks in this class 10 years from now.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Ohio State • 6'5" / 235 lbs
I love that his shooting percentages are all impressive. He's potentially going to be a reliable shot-maker for years to come. He wasn't expected to be here after one year at Ohio State, so there is a chance he's a flash in the pan from a prospect perspective, but that would surprise me long-term. I think he'll occasionally crack into a starting rotation. He's got a nose for rebounding and will be able to play three positions in a few years' time. Defensive IQ needs some honing, but he's got no business dropping out of the top 20.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Jett Howard SG
Michigan • 6'6" / 215 lbs
Howard seemed undervalued heading into college, and that wound up being the case. Michigan had a forgettable season, but Howard showed poise and promise throughout most of his freshman campaign. In addition to having NBA DNA, Howard has so much room to grow. He'll have NBA range and will be able to thrive in advanced concepts at that level. Rarely goes shot-hunting, and the ball doesn't stick with him. He does need some firming up around the edges, and his commitment to defense is up for debate. Watch him play for 40 minutes and you'll see he has the collective game that will enable him to make it in the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Kris Murray PF
Iowa • 6'8" / 220 lbs
Considered a notch below his brother, Keegan, who proved his value as one of the best rookies last season. Kris is long, and I think he'll get to a second contract because of his length, above-average defense and healthy range of 3-point accuracy. His playmaking ability is limited, but there's enough all-around competency to see him being a quality journeyman. Murray could have been drafted a year ago but wisely went back to Iowa. He improved his game and, as a result, will be rewarded on draft night.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 20
What future awaits for Wembanyama's French teammate? He's a year ahead of the pace, having solidified his 2023 stock with his play over the spring. (How much did having Wemby in the mix help this?) Coulibaly has physical traits and athleticism that will give him a chance to play good minutes as a rookie. He is comfortable playing fast, has a jump shot that is good now and should get better. Plus: he's still just 18. Potential is dripping off his jersey. We'll see if he can adjust from European play to the NBA without losing the tangible talents that make him one of the trendiest risers heading into Thursday night.
From Phoenix Suns
Round 1 - Pick 21
Gradey Dick SF
Kansas • 6'6" / 205 lbs
Acknowledging right off the jump that I'm fading Dick in a contrarian way, partly because I think he's got a chance to make an NBA paycheck for a while as a spot-up shooter ... but how else will his talents be deployed? Dick has the range to be a contributor as a rookie, for sure. The shot is going to be his moneymaker. How often does he get his chances? His measurables and athleticism are a concern, and Dick hasn't proven to be a guy who is going to win off the dribble a ton. Of course he can evolve into having more dimensions as a player, but from an NBA standpoint, I think he's got a lot of room to grow/go.
Round 1 - Pick 22
UCF • 6'9" / 215 lbs
Hendricks is a trendy player heading into draft night. A durable power forward with a 7-1 wingspan, a good athlete who should be a plus-defender in short order at the NBA level. Understands those concepts well and has the body type and durability to give himself a really good chance at sticking. I think he's been held in such high esteem because a lot of NBA teams think he can fill a role as a do-it-most (but not do-it-all) defender who can adapt in a variety of schemes. My drawbacks: His all-around offensive game, from a playmaking or creation standpoint for others, is still raw. He's also not nearly the rebounder he should be at his size and position. Would be no failure, and would not surprise me, if he is an energy role player.
From New York Knicks
Round 1 - Pick 23
Arkansas • 6'2" / 185 lbs
Smith is a moving target as a prospect. Once upon a time, he was regarded as the No. 1 player in the high school class of '22. He had injuries as a freshman at Arkansas, which led to him playing in fewer than half of the Razorbacks' games (17 out of 36). I think Smith is going to be a good-not-great NBA scorer. He has a lot of tools in his belt, and there's enough activeness on the defensive end to buy him as someone that can make it to a second NBA contract with some room to spare.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Isaiah Wong SG
Miami (Fla.) • 6'3" / 185 lbs
I'm a sucker for three- and four-year college players who a) steadily improve year over year, and b) play significant roles on highly successful teams. Wong was the central force on Miami's Final Four squad. He's being severely undervalued in this draft. Somewhat undersized, but he has NBA range, is among the most sure-minded guards in this draft and was the ACC Player of the Year. His ball handling, decision making, competitiveness and shooting eye will guarantee he's drafted — but I'm willing to bet we'll look up in five years and see he went at least 15 spots too late.
From Memphis Grizzlies
Round 1 - Pick 25
Baylor • 6'4" / 185 lbs
George didn't pop as a shooter at Baylor, but he has the physical scoring tools to eventually crack as a starter if he's on the right team and if he buys into a supplemental role. George has been unafraid to have the ball in his hands for much of his playing career, but now he'll have some adjustment periods. I'm lower on him than what you'll see in traditional mock drafts due to a lot of ground that needs to be made up on the defensive end and his growth as an all-around playmaker that I didn't see a lot of at Baylor. On talent alone, I'd have George in the top 15 in this class.
From Cleveland Cavaliers
Round 1 - Pick 26
Kobe Bufkin SG
Michigan • 6'5" / 195 lbs
The last of the projected lottery or near-lottery picks I'm dialing back on in my top 30. I think Bufkin has one of the lowest floors and highest ceilings of any guard in this draft. To me, WHERE he goes is going to be a big factor in his long-term sustainability. He's projected to do well in part because he's so young as an outgoing sophomore (he won't turn 20 until September). If he can grow into more of a creator and bulk out his body, he's going to have a great shot. Ultimately, some of the players picked in the teens will wind up being taken 5-10 spots too early, and for me, Bufkin is in that group.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 27
Emoni Bates SG
Eastern Michigan • 6'8" / 170 lbs
Some evaluators believe there's still a great player hiding inside of Bates. By that I mean: If he hits, he'll be a top-10 player in this class. Not unthinkable, but the evidence for that hasn't existed for a few years now. Still, Bates' raw shooting ability and athleticism (at least on the offensive side) is so tempting, it would be foolish to not include him in here ... just in case. It's not so hard to envision Bates lasting five years on an NBA roster, and if you can do that as someone in the 25-30 range, you're doing something right. Bates has been living a humbled life for some time now. He'll have to mature all the way in order to validate this projection.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 28
Adama Sanogo PF
Connecticut • 6'9" / 245 lbs
The 2023 Final Four MOP has inevitably been undervalued heading into the draft. Sanogo has one of the best combinations of strength and touch of any big in this year's pool. He also developed a mild 3-point habit in between his sophomore and junior seasons. After going 0-of-1 from 3-point range in his first two seasons, Sanogo went 19-of-52 (36.5%) last season. He won't be tasked with making a lot from beyond 15 feet, but he can, and that's why he's going to turn out to be a top-30 player from this draft. The rebounding and low-post passing is undeniable, and Sanogo's switching on defense is getting better. He can play in space. He's ready for the league.
From Indiana Pacers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Miami (Fla.) • 6'5" / 194 lbs
He played five years and started his career at George Mason, but that's no reason to hold him back. (After all, look around at how many players who went undrafted and/or had mid-major backgrounds who are getting NBA minutes these days.) Miller was one of the best wings in college hoops last season. He's a career 58% shooter from inside the 3-point line. He takes good shots, is highly disciplined and could be a good glue guy on many an NBA team. One of my biggest sleepers in this draft.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Amari Bailey SG
UCLA • 6'3" / 185 lbs
Was ranked 10th in the Class of 2022. A combo guard with good size, plenty of talent and someone who didn't get his full chance at UCLA due to some injury problems and getting squeezed on roster minutes. If he finds the right spot, he's got a good chance at playing more than a couple of years due to his shooting stroke, willingness to pass and command of the dribble. Will be a fun value pick, no matter when/where he gets selected.
Five players just outside who could make me look foolish: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Kobe Brown, Jalen WIlson, Olivier Maxence-Prosper, Julian Phillips.