We all know him at this point, and in a few days the 7’4” French prodigy will finally hear his name called first overall in the 2023 draft. Wembanyama enters Thursday’s draft as the most sure-fire first-overall selection since LeBron James. I mean, why wouldn’t he? I don’t really think we’ve ever seen something like this. Comparing him to Kevin Durant or Kristaps Porzingis is fair (I guess), but Victor is so much different than both of those guys. From dunking his own missed 3 pointer, to hitting side-step 30-footers off one leg, it’s safe to say the Spurs won this year’s draft before it even began.
Henderson is a supremely athletic guard who impressed scouts all year playing for G-League Ignite. He blends brute physical force with such grace on the court that it is hard to believe he is only 19. Scoot posted impressive averages of 17.6p/5.1r/6.6a per game while competing in one of the most talented leagues in the world. He can blow by defenders with his quickness and finish above or below the rim with either hand. Part of what I think makes Scoot so intriguing as a draft prospect is that he is so young and determined, he will only continue to get better. We haven’t even come close to seeing his best self and that is very, very scary.
If it were any other year we would be talking about how Brandon Miller should be the first player taken in the NBA Draft. With his frame and skillset, it is easy to see how Miller has the ability to excel at the next level given the right system. Over the past year at Alabama, Miller solidified himself as the best Freshman in the country and one of the most elite players in the entire NCAA. He averaged 18.8 points a game and shot 38.4% from beyond the arc at 6’9”. Miller should be instant offense for any NBA team, and he enters the league ready to make an impact after a full year in Nate Oats’ pro style run n’ gun system at Alabama.
Entering this years draft with perhaps some of the most upside out of anybody, Amen Thompson should be off the board within the first 5 picks. Whoever selects the 20 year-old from Overtime Elite is getting a 6’7” guard who has an NBA-ready frame today. I’m excited to see how his game translates to the league, and after watching his tape it’s easy to see why teams are so high on him. Thompson’s offensive versatility and defensive potential make him so desirable for any franchise in the lottery looking for a guard to build around. During his time with Overtime Elite he flashed his supremely high basketball IQ and finishing ability.
At 6’7” and 235 pounds, Cam Whitmore was basically an NBA forward playing in the NCAA this past season, and he played like it. Despite Villanova’s struggles as a team, Whitmore showed NBA teams why he’s worth the hype. His footwork and fluidity at his size are eye-popping. Whitmore is able to combine his strength and skill so well which will allow him to bully smaller defenders and blow past bigger ones. Cam Whitmore has tremendous upside and will be able to play in an NBA game from day one on his future team.
Although he often gets roped into comparisons with his twin brother, Ausar has some key differences from Amen. Ausar has the same off the charts athleticism, but with a bit more polished jumpshot. He brings the same shifty style of play on the offensive end to go with elite leaping ability which will make him a problem in transition as well. I think perhaps the most sought after skill both twins have however, is their unlimited defensive potential.
Playing with Victor Wembanyama is a full proof plan to get your talent recognized by NBA scouts, and I’m sure teams were thrilled they tuned into those Metropolitans 92 games to find a diamond in the rough. Coulibaly turned heads this season with his terrorizing defense and special athleticism. At just 18 years of age, Coulibaly’s ceiling is scary. His shooting stroke is already polished for having long arms and standing at 6 foot 6. Bilal had numerous putback dunks off of missed shots, and some jaw-dropping finishes in transition. One team is going to bet on his future and be very, very happy they did.
I had to do a double take on Hendricks’ Freshman stats at UCF this past season. You would think at 6 foot 9 that his most impressive attribute would be his finishing ability, or maybe defensive versatility. And while Hendricks plays well above the rim and recorded 59 blocks this year, its his shooting ability that sticks out most. Hendricks shot 39.4% from 3 this season and can immediately plug into an NBA system to space the floor, protect the rim, and run in transition.
The biggest premium in the NBA is players who can take (and make) 3-pointers and defend multiple positions. Dick showed NBA teams he was more than capable of that this year as one of the best Freshman in the country at Kansas. He shot 40% from 3 and posseses all of the physical attributes to be a prototypical 3 & D guy for any team looking to contend. It seems far out of reach that Gradey Dick won’t have an impactful NBA career, almost instantly. His role and skillset is one that would allow him to fit on any team in the league.
Maxwell Lewis is a 6 foot 7 inch 207-pound wing from Pepperdine University and had an extraordinarily impressive season this past year for the Waves. He posted averages of 17.1 ppg on 47%fg/35%3fg/79%ft shooting splits. Lewis is a gifted athlete first and foremost, showing scouts a 36.5-inch vertical at the combine in addition to his multiple highlight-reel dunks this past college season. His ability to run in transition and finish above the rim on the break will intrigue teams, but when people get a look at his footwork and fluidity at his size, teams will see a prototypical NBA wing.
Jaime Jacquez Jr.
Every NBA draft it seems as if there are players that seemingly fly up the board from predicted late 2nd round draft picks to potential lottery selections. Jaime Jacquez is the latest prospect that fits that description. After a highly successful pre-draft process, Jacquez impressed teams with his size, sneaky athleticism, technically sound footwork, and smooth jumpshot. Coming out of UCLA with an extremely decorated resume, Jaime Jacquez Jr. has the potential to be a key role player for a contending team as soon as next season.
Phillips enters the NBA draft with some of the highest upside of any prospect. He measures at 6’7” with a 7 foot wingspan, and brings with him the experience of playing at the soundest defensive school in America (Tennessee). Julian dealt with some injuries at UT, but was still able to show scouts his elite 3 & D potential that is so coveted in todays game.
Another prospect who flew up mock draft boards has been Brandin Podziemski out of Santa Clara. A 6’5” guard who averaged 19.9 points per game on a scorching 43.8% from 3. Podziemski was a Sophomor transfer who ended up winning WCC player of the year. The lefty brings special shotmaking ability and tremendous vision. He plays at a slow, methodical pace, and never seems to get sped up by opposing defenses.