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DJ’s 2023 NBA First Round Mock Draft

Draft season is officially upon us! As the San Antonio Spurs won the most anticipated NBA Draft Lottery since 2003 with the right to draft the 7-foot-4 French phenom Victor Wembanyama, the most hyped prospect since LeBron James (the 1st pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.) The draft also features NBA G-League Ignite Scoot Henderson, whom many draft pundits deem the best point guard prospect in a long time, and Alabama two-way elite wing and SEC Player of the Year in Brandon Miller, who most have as the top three in the class.

There are also other great prospects from the highflying Thompson Twins in Amen and Ausar, Villanova’s powerful burly forward Cam Whitmore, Arkansas combo guard, Nick Smith, who’s a scoring machine and a national champion in UConn Huskies guard Jordan Hawkins, who has a jump shot form as beautiful as another Huskie alum and NBA legend, Ray Allen.

There’s a lot of solid talent in the draft and with the lottery now behind us, let's get into some of the future stars of the NBA in my first-round mock draft in what is a talented class at the top.

1.San Antonio Spurs: Victor Wembanyama (C), Metropolitans 92, (France)-

Height: 7’4 Age:19

Weight: 230 lbs Wingspan: 8’0

Generational, league-altering, transcendent, franchise-changer, and the best prospect in NBA History are the words that have been bestowed upon the 7-foot-4 French phenom Victor Wembanyama. He is an “Alien” as Lakers star forward LeBron James stated back in October of 2022 and it couldn’t be more accurate. Here's why I call him the "French Mamba".

His ability at 7-foot-4 to have the offensive skillset of a Kevin Durant, the size of a Yao Ming, and is a defensive anchor who can move like a guard on the floor as if he’s a foot shorter is unforeseen in the history of the sport. Wembanyama can put it on the floor shoot it from deep with a seemingly unblockable jumper, is an elite rim protector, has a great head on his shoulders, and is a straight killer on the court.

He’ll need to get stronger, continue working on his post moves, and improve his deep ball as he has great shot mechanics but is shooting just 28% from three with Metropolitan this season.

He is currently still in season with Metropolitan 92s as they just played their final regular season game prior to the Draft Lottery that same day that saw him record 22 points and nine rebounds.

Wembanyama averaged 21.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, and a staggering 3.1 blocks per game during the regular season.

Imagine Giannis Antetokounmpo with a smoother jumper or a Gen Z Kareem Abdul-Jabbar… That’s the type of talent/player we’re talking about here and Wembanyama can ultimately be. He will fit perfectly under the Spurs system with the “Yoda” in Gregg Popovich who’s coached two of some of the greatest big men of all time Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Only injuries can stop him from being the perennial MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate he's destined to be.

Comparisons: Gen Z Kareem, Giannis with a shot

2. Charlotte Hornets: Brandon Miller (F), Freshman, Alabama-

Height:6’9 Age:20

Weight: 200 lbs Wingspan:6’11

Now many would say the Hornets should select Scoot here, but the Hornets already have a young dynamic guard in LaMelo Ball who’s only 21 years of age and has already been an All-Star and Rookie of the Year early in his career. He now needs a running mate to pair with him for the Hornets to take the next step and Alabama freshman forward, the reigning SEC Player of the Year in Brandon Miller makes sense here.

Now many would say the Hornets should select Scoot here, but the Hornets already have a young dynamic guard in LaMelo Ball who’s only 21 years of age and has already been an All-Star and Rookie of the Year early in his career. He now needs a running mate to pair with him for the Hornets to take the next step and Alabama freshman forward, the reigning SEC Player of the Year in Brandon Miller makes sense here.

Now the Hornets might be very cautious when considering Miller due to his off-court issues, but, the 6’9 wing possesses elite two-way ability on both ends that he displayed at Alabama this past season. Miller was very productive in his single season at Alabama, averaging 18.8 points (led the SEC), 8.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game as well as just a shade under a steal and block per game.

Miller displayed elite shot creation ability on all three levels of the floor whether that is from behind the arc (38%) or from the mid-range and at the rim (43%) while also showing off-ball ability. Miller helped revive an Alabama program that's predominantly known for its football and helped bring excitement back to the basketball program by helping lead the Bulldogs to a 31-6 overall record (best in the SEC), a significant jump from (19-14) the year prior.

The Hornets could use Miller’s scoring prowess and marksmanship from downtown as they were 27th in the league in scoring last year and 29th in 3-point %, according to Lineups.

Detractors would say the Hornets shouldn’t select Miller with his issues outside basketball, especially when they already have Miles Bridges' issues to deal with.

Overall, Miller just makes more sense here in terms of fit for the Hornets as opposed to Henderson with the Hornets already having their franchise point guard in Ball who’s still growing as a player. He’ll need to tighten his handle and improve his finishing at the rim in order to reach his star potential.

Comparisons: Paul George, Danny Granger

3. Portland Trail Blazers- Scoot Henderson,(G), G-League Ignite-

Height:6’2 Age:19

Weight:196 Wingspan:6’9

The best point guard prospect in a long time, perhaps since Derrick Rose in 2008 in some media pundits' eyes. Henderson is a mesmerizing blend of explosive athleticism, ferocious competitiveness, a chiseled frame, and has a high feel for the game which is really unique for someone who’s so electric in the open court.

The Blazers will have an interesting decision to make here at No.3 especially if Miller is off the board at No.2 as their star point guard Damian Lillard is still very much in the prime of his career but has expressed his desire to want to compete for a championship.

Adding Henderson and keeping Lillard wouldn’t make much sense for the Blazers as both are undersized guards who need the ball and they also have Anfernee Simons who has proven to be a highly productive starter in the NBA who’s still only 24 years old.

Do the Blazers add Henderson and trade Lillard and start building for the future with a Henderson-Simons backcourt? Or do they end up trading Henderson elsewhere to get a quality veteran who can help them compete in the vaunted Western Conference?

The Blazers will have to answer those questions prior to draft night, but if they do end up building for the future with Henderson, they’ll be getting the most dynamic and competitive point guard prospect since Ja Morant.

This kid has been a prodigy for years, even making the cover of Sports Illustrated as a junior in high school. He was a trailblazer by signing with the G-League Ignite as a junior in high school, forgoing his senior year to compete against grown men for two years prior to entering this year's draft.

In his debut season as a 17-year-old, Henderson averaged 14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game in 11 games of action, more than holding his own against grown men and even outshining two 2022 NBA Draft picks in Dyson Daniels (New Orleans Pelicans guard), and Jaden Hardy (Dallas Mavericks guard).

He’s taken a step further in his production on the court in his sophomore campaign with the Ignite by recording 17.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. Henderson put on a masterful performance in the exhibition game against his contemporary Victor Wembanyama and the Metropolitan 92s in an exhibition game back in October where in the one game he played (missing the second due to suffering a knee injury in a collision with Wembanyama) he finished with 28-5-9, displaying an array of moves from acrobatic finished at the rim over the gargantuan arms of Wembanyama, to stepback threes, to electrifying transition dunks with ferocity.

It was the best matchup showdown of a potential No.1 and No.2 pick in NBA history the way he and Wembanyama played. I mean just look at some of these highlights:

Henderson will still need to make improvements on his jumper as he shot just 43% from the field and 17% from three in his first season and improved from downtown his sophomore season shooting 27.5%, a significant jump from the prior season but still needs improvement, especially for someone who’s projected to be a primary lead operator at the next level.

He also can lapse defensively at times but usually plays with great effort with all the tools to be a good defender if he puts it all together. His decision-making can also tend to improve as well as continued refinement of his game.

Comparisons: Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose

4. Houston Rockets-Amen Thompson(G), Overtime Elite-

Height:6’7 Age:20

Weight:215 lbs Wingspan: 7’0

Now this is an interesting pick here, as the Rockets already have a young backcourt in their No.2 overall draft pick from 2021 in Jalen Green and incoming fifth-year guard Kevin Porter Jr, whom the Rockets extended to a four-year, $63.4 million deal that is good through the 2026-27 season.

Adding one of the Thompson twins (we’ll get to the other later) will add another uber-athletic guard for the Rockets as Amen may be the best athlete in the class with top-notch speed and twitchy athleticism that will immediately place him amongst the NBA’s top-tier athletes a la Anthony Edwards or a Zion Williamson… That's the kind of athlete we’re talking about here.

What makes Thompson a good fit here is if the Rockets do decide to trade Porter down the road they’ll have insurance with Amen who has solid playmaking skills as a lead guard and knows how to set up his teammates whether it’s with outlet passes, out of the pick-and-roll, or kicking it to wide open shooters in the corner with either hand.

He’ll immediately be a blur in the open court from day one and would pair nicely with the Rockets' young talented core as he also offers positional versatility due to his size at 6’7 with a 7-foot wingspan and has the tools and agility to be a great defender, already being a hawk on ball defender who navigates and fights around screens.

Thompson will need to improve his jumper as he shot just 65% from the foul line and 25% from three with defenders daring him to shoot when guarding him and going under screens to prevent him from blowing by to the basket (his biggest strength).

We also have to question his competition, as he mostly went against teenagers at 20 years old instead of grown men which leaves a lot of questions to be answered. Can he handle the physicality against grown men? Can he play in a half-court offense? Does he have any counters when his initial move gets stopped?

Those are all questions Thompson must address, but overall, due to his lead guard abilities, size, turbo jet-like athleticism, and incredible work ethic, I believe he’ll be a star in the league one day if he develops the jumper to a passable level and adds counters to his package.

Comparisons: Bigger John Wall, Skinny Zion Williamson

5. Detroit Pistons-Taylor Hendricks(F), UCF

Height:6’9 Age:19

Weight:212 Wingspan:7’0 1/2

The Pistons were the biggest losers of the Draft Lottery, having the highest odds (14%) to win the top pick along with the Spurs, Hornets, and Rockets but somehow fell out of the top three.

The Pistons already have their backcourt of the future with the 2021 No.1 pick Cade Cunningham and last year's No.4 overall pick Jaden Ivey. Since they traded Saddiq Bey to the Atlanta Hawks earlier this season what they need is a highly versatile wing with size and length who can shoot the ball to help spread the floor and make the lanes more easier to initiate offense for Cunningham and Ivey.

UCF 6’9 forward Taylor Hendricks makes perfect sense here at No.5 for the Pistons, even though most have him mocked at No.6 to the Orlando Magic as he is a supersized wing who rose up draft boards and surprised a lot of scouts in his freshman season at UCF.

Hendricks has a great defensive IQ and feel on the defensive side of the ball (1.6 BPG & 5.9 BLK %), using his length, foot speed, and athleticism to know when to offer help, which resulted in some emphatic rejections this season or altering shot attempts from opponents.

With his size at 6-foot-9 and over a 7-foot wingspan, Hendricks will have the ability to guard multiple positions at the NBA level, offering elite defensive versatility with the ability to defend 1-4 I see him doing at the NBA level and perhaps some small centers as well, but mainly 3’s and 4’s to start off his career.

He’s sound on the defensive end and shows solid ability as an offensive contributor, averaging 15.1 points, grabbing 7.0 rebounds, and dishing out 1.4 assists per game while shooting 57.7 % at the rim, 48% from the field, and 39% from three-point range.

Hendricks displayed the ability to be a solid catch-and-shoot weapon while at UCF, shooting nearly 41% (54 of 132 FGs) on those attempts. Hendricks will need to improve his lower body base on his shot but has solid overall upper-body shooting mechanics to work with and build upon.

He’ll also need to tighten his handle up as he had the same assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman, his ability to create his own shot off the bounce, and his finishing ability around the rim outside of dunks are all things he’ll have to work on offensively. I expect him to become a solid NBA starter or high-level rotational piece at the NBA level.

Comparisons: Jaden McDaniels, Jerami Grant

6. Orlando Magic- Anthony Black (G), Arkansas

Height:6’7 Age:19

Weight:198lbs Wingspan: 6’8

The Magic already have a dynamic young frontcourt duo in last year's No.1 pick and reigning Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero, who looks like a potential MVP candidate down the line, and Franz Wagner, their 2021 lottery pick who looks like a potential All-Star in the making.

The Magic have guards in Cole Anthony (6’2), Jalen Suggs (6’4), and former No.1 pick Markelle Fultz (6’4), but none of them offer the unique size with true guard skills that Black possesses.

Anthony has been solid through his three years with the Magic thus far, while Fultz has revitalized his career there and looks to be a solid contributor who can come off the bench while Suggs has been a bit disappointing so far as a No.4 pick in 2021.

The Magic could look to trade Suggs or Fultz come draft night as they already have a lot of young guards. Black brings in a supersized guard who can initiate the offense, lead the break, and know how to improve others as he has been a lead guard for nearly his entire life.

Black averaged 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 2.1 steals while shooting 45% from the field and 30% from three. He’s a solid decision-maker out of pick-and-roll situations, having great pace and allowing plays to develop whether that’s hitting the roll man with a bounce pass or a lob, or even the shooter in the corner right in their shooting pocket.

Black also is aggressive as a driver (58.3% at the rim) and that projects to be a strength of his going forward as he continues to add muscle to his frame.

He’s a pesky defender who moves well laterally with disruptive hands (hence why he averaged over two steals per game), consistently getting into passing lanes to cause deflections, diving for loose balls, getting his hand in on help defense to knock the ball out the ball handler’s grasp that resulted in a lot of transition opportunities for the Razorbacks this past season.

The biggest concern with Black is his shooting as he shot just 30% from three last season with funky mechanics on his shot, similar to Lonzo Ball when he was at UCLA, but with a slower release. Black also needs to add muscle to his frame as he currently is listed as a shade under 200 lbs at 198 at 6-foot-8.

Black will need to become more assertive as a scorer and improve his touch on his floaters and short pullups. Also, working on not picking up his dribble too early at times. Overall, he’s a unique talent with real upside to be a solid NBA player and can unlock All-Star upside if the jumper comes along and he improves his body.

Comparisons: Bouncy Josh Giddey, Lonzo Ball

7. Indiana Pacers- Cam Whitmore (F), Villanova

Height:6’7 Age:18

Weight:232 lbs Wingspan:7’3

The Pacers are already set with their young exciting backcourt of the future from their 6th overall pick last year in Benedict Mathurin, who was one of the better rookies this season by making All-Rookie First Team. They also saw Tyrese Haliburton blossom into a star player after acquiring him via trade from the Sacramento Kings in February of 2022.

Haliburton averaged over 20 points and 10 assists last season which garnered him the first All-Star selection of his young career as he established himself as a franchise cornerstone going forward. The Pacers also have Myles Turner still despite all the trade rumors over the years but extended him this past season.

The Pacers are in need of an athletic wing who can guard the best wings in the leagues a la LeBron James or a Giannis Antetokounmpo while also being able to spread the floor. This is where 6-foot-7, 232 lb, 18-year-old wing out of Villanova, Cam Whitmore, is the perfect fit here for the Pacers.

Whitmore comes in automatically with a chiseled frame ready for the NBA at 232 lbs with long arms. Whitmore is a dynamic powerhouse athlete who punishes his way to the rim (64.5% at the rim) to finish strong over opponents.

As a Villanova Wildcat, Whitmore averaged 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals on 48% from the field and 34% from three while also shooting 70% from the charity stripe which is a positive sign of potential growth. He showed to be a valuable defender while at Villanova, boasting a 3.2 steal % and has the frame to guard some of the stronger forwards in the league such as LeBron and Giannis to make it harder for them to score.

He’s strong on straight line drives and uses his frame to his full ability when driving, having defenders bounce off of him when he drives to the basket with an emphasis; displaying the ability to finish with either hand.

Whitmore showcased the ability to spread the floor and hit perimeter shots off the catch, off penetration, and coming off screens. He also gets in a nice triple-threat position at times where he’ll utilize a jab step to get his defender off balance before rising and knocking down from three.

He’ll need to improve as a playmaker for others and tighten his handle, as he didn’t even average an assist per game last season (0.7), which signals a lack of awareness offensively and tunnel vision, which is something you don’t want to see in a player, especially a perimeter one to have not even a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio as he averaged 1.6 turnovers per game. Forcing tough shots and missing open teammates at times.

Whitmore also will need to exert himself more on the defensive end as well as he has the potential to be a terrific defender but at times can have lapses throughout the course of a game. You would also question why he wasn’t more dominant statistically for someone of his frame and athleticism which calls into question his killer instinct to take over on a nightly basis.

Overall, Whitmore makes a perfect fit here for the Pacers as he’ll have time to develop his warts with a team that’s already semi-competitive. Expect a lot of great transition highlight passes from Haliburton to him and Mathurin in the open court that’ll make for great appointment television. He won’t turn 19 until July and has much room for growth.

Comparison: A stronger DeMar DeRozan

8. Washington Wizards- Jarace Walker (F), Houston

Height:6’8 Age:19

Weight:240 lbs Wingspan:7’2

The Wizards are set to have plenty of free agents this offseason in Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Kuzma, Taj Gibson, and Kendrick Nunn to name a few. They’re coming off another season of missing the playoffs and have their star guard Bradley Beal’s hefty contract to pay with a no-trade clause until 2027 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Porzingis and Kuzma both have player options to opt into their $31 million and $13 million deals for 2023-24 if they so choose so which will be interesting considering the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) that will kick into effect next season that will have a lot of penalties for teams over the luxury tax, especially since they’re paying Beal over $46 million a year, which will continue to rise in the coming years.

With the possibility of losing Kuzma, Porzingis, or Gibson, the Wizards could use a big body who’s relentless but also has some skill and that’s where Walker fits in.

As a Houston Cougar last season Walker averaged 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.3 blocks per game on 46.5% from the field and 35% from three while shooting 66% from the foul line.

Walker is a highly alert player on the defensive end who’s aware of what is going on defensively off-ball and on-ball, typically getting deflections and stops in his one season as a Cougar. The Wizards could use someone with that type of insatiable defensive energy as they ranked just 23rd in steals and 29th in turnovers forced last season according to Lineups

Walker’s size and length will make him a very valuable defender at the next level who’ll offer a high degree of versatility that will be able to matchup with 4’s and potentially some 5’s as he has a man frame already at just 19 years old with an All-Defensive type ceiling on that end.

Defensively Walker is special, but he also offers some value and upside on the offensive end, showing some flashes to shoot the three. Walker has also shown some ability to be a playmaker, albeit he won’t ever be a primary creator with the ball in his hands, but shown some high IQ plays at Houston, whether it was passing out of the high post or seeing the double team coming in the low post to find an open teammate for a good shot.

He’ll be a very effective passer out of the pick-and-roll as the short roll man, which he proved capable of while at Houston being able to make elite quick decision reads to find people at the rim or in the open corner.

Like all other prospects, Walker does have his faults as he still needs to work on his jumper and utilize his strong frame more to finish through contact. Will also like to see him become a better creator off the dribble with more shooting consistency and a better perimeter defender as he was routinely beaten off the dribble by quicker guards and forwards during the season, a skill that is coveted in today’s big men to be able to do.

Comparison: Larry Johnson, Carl Landry

9. Utah Jazz- Cason Wallace (G), Kentucky

Height:6’4 Age:19

Weight:193 Wingspan:6’9

The Jazz shocked many around the league last season as prior to the start of last season many had them as one of the favorites in the Wembanayama sweepstakes. Little did they know that former Bulls 2017 lottery pick and Cavaliers role player Lauri Markkanen would break out as a franchise cornerstone and star for the future.

Also having All-Rookie First Team selection Walker Kessler turn into such a defensive stalwart in just his first season after the departure of three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert whom they traded away last summer to the Minnesota Timberwolves, certainly helped as Kessler easily filled that void.

Kessler already proved to be one of the best rim protectors in the league and looks to even have more of an offensive repertoire to his game than Gobert did; a double win-win for the Jazz including all the draft picks they acquired in the trade.

The Jazz shipped Mike Conley to the Timberwolves as well as Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers to help clear up $45 million in cap space to spend on some free agents this offseason.

The Jazz currently have Colin Sexton as their point guard along with Kris Dunn and Talen Horton-Tucker as the other lead initiators with former Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson being one of the team's go-to scorers.

The Jazz can use another guard here as Clarkson and Tucker will be free agents if they choose to opt out of their player option. Kentucky guard Cason Wallace will give the Jazz insurance in case one of their guards leave and a much needed presence defensively on the perimeter as they ranked 27th in turnovers forced and 30th in steals, something that is Wallace’s calling card as he averaged two steals per contest with a 3.7 steal %.

Wallace will be an immediate impact player defensively at the next level due to his foot speed, instincts, solid strength to hold his ground, active hands, and willingness to do it. He’ll also be able to provide some offensive value as well as he showed some flashes to score as well averaging 11.7 points last season on 44.6% from the field and 34.6% from three.

He won’t necessarily ever be a primary or secondary scorer on a winning team but will contribute and be impactful on both ends of the floor that’ll contribute to winning.

Comparison: Jrue Holiday, Rich Mans Patrick Beverly

10. Dallas Mavericks- Ausar Thompson (G), Overtime Elite

Height:6’7 Age:20

Weight:215lbs Wingspan:7’0

Similar to his brother Amen, Ausar is a skywalker with nuclear turbo charge jet-like bounce which will make him a living nightmare for opponents guarding him in transition as he will immediately be one of the most breathtaking open court players in the NBA upon his arrival.

Landing at 10th overall here to the Mavericks is a great fit for Thompson as he’ll be playing alongside two of some of the most skilled players the league’s ever seen in the Mavericks franchise player Luka Doncic and ball-handling magician Kyrie Irving (assuming he stays).

Thompson averaged 17.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.5 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 47% from the field, 33% from three, and 70% from the foul line.

While Ausar and Amen in similar in how dynamic they are athletically, there are some differences. Unlike Amen, who’s more of a creator and initiator of an offense, Ausar thrives more on being an off-ball player off backdoor cuts and dives to the rim for finishes for his offense than someone who’s going to call the plays.

Thompson will fit nicely with the Mavericks who traded away Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith who provided spacing with his shooting and guarded the other team's best perimeter player. He’ll thrive in transition with Doncic or Irving running the break and garnering most of the defense's attention which will open up easy transition baskets and lobs for Thompson, which will be his calling card early on in his career.

He’s very crafty with finishes at the rim, finishing over 60% in his first season with Overtime Elite and 65.3% at the rim this season. He has shown some ability to handle but will need to continue to refine that aspect of his game and the ability to finish and initiate in a half-court offense against a set defense to reach a new level in his game.

Thompson; similar to his brother, will need to improve his jumper as he shot just 30% from three last season, something he’ll have to work on and get better at drastically in today’s NBA if he ever wants to be a starter at the NBA level and a potential star, which he could be if he unlocks the jumper similar to his brother who also has a questionable jumper.

Thompson is an elite lockdown defender at the point of attack who has extraordinary lateral quickness to keep up with the swiftest of guards and wings while also possessing great instincts and a will to want to defend.

It all comes down to consistency, if he keeps at it while continuing to learn the nuances of defensive fundamentals, there’s no reason he can’t be an All-Defensive type player someday. If he ever gets the jumper right and adds some counter moves to his offensive game, this is a major steal for the Mavericks.

Comparison: Jaylen Brown

11. Orlando Magic (via CHI) Gradey Dick (G), Kansas

Height:6’8 Age:19

Weight:205 Wingspan:7’0

You can never have enough shooting, and the Magic need more of that around their two cornerstones in Banchero and Wagner to open up the driving lanes for them and make the game easier. Who better to have than Kansas Jayhawk freshman guard Gradey Dick who was an All-Big 12 Second-Team selection and is arguably the best shooter in the draft who shot an impressive 40% from three, an absurd efficiency level from any player let alone a 19-year-old teenager still learning the fundamentals of the game.

Dick averaged 14.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.4 steals on 44% from the field while shooting 85% from the foul line, having the true touch of a shooter. The Magic ranked 25th in 3-point makes and 24th in 3-point %.

Dick fits perfectly here with a young budding Magic core as he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective with already ball-dominant players in Banchero and Wagner who’ll be taking up most of the touches, the Magic could use a floor spacer to spread things out, and that’s where he fits in as he doesn’t need the ball all the time to get going and is a locked and loaded shooter coming off flare screens off the elbow and has a quick release upon the catch.

Dick is not just a shooter though, as he also displayed athletic ability to finish strong at the rim and catch lobs off backdoor cuts and in transition at Kansas last season. He utilizes a great pump fake to fool defenders closing out on him to get them off-balanced before gathering himself to splash a jumper.

Despite his low assist average, Dick did flash some playmaking upside as a Jayhawk as he showed some ability to be a secondary or tertiary playmaker, showing the ability to make great difficult overhead passes while crowded by defenders and also finding cutting teammates on dribble penetration.

He gets after the glass offensively, always hustling to gain a second chance opportunity for his teammates/extra possession which shows his willingness to do the dirty work and will to win.

Dick will need to become a better defender as he got beaten off the dribble or was caught sleeping at times which calls into question his foot speed at the next level but did improve in terms of taking charges and knowing where to be on rotations.

Overall, the former Jayhawk will need to prove he can become at least a passable defender who can guard the quicker guards/wings in the league as those will be the people he’ll assuredly be guarding. Dick will provide instant much-needed spacing and shooting to a Magic team looking to make the playoffs next year.

Comparison: Poor Mans Reggie Miller, Klay without the Defense

12. Oklahoma City Thunder- Leonard Miller (F), G-League Ignite

Height: 6’10 Age:19

Weight:211 Wingspan:7’2

We spoke about the Magic as one of the most exciting upcoming teams destined to compete for years to come, but the Thunder are right in that conversation as well if not more with their Canadian superstar guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the slippery crafty guard who can get his anywhere on the floor which led to his All-NBA First Team selection.

The Thunder also have rookie forward Jalen Williams who made All-Rookie first team and proved to be a highly impactful versatile wing defender who can also score the ball, which is highly coveted in today’s game.

They also have the big 6’8 Australian lead guard in Josh Giddey who looks to be a jumper away from stardom and their second overall pick in last year's draft in 7’1 Chet Holmgren out of Gonzaga who’s nicknamed “The Unicorn” because of his do it all ability with guard skills at his size combined with impeccable shot-blocking instincts.

Holmgren, unfortunately, missed all of his rookie campaign due to a lisfranc fracture in his right foot he suffered at a Drew League summer game while trying to stop LeBron on a fast break.

However, Holmgren proves to be a promising player when healthy and that makes for an infusion of young talent on the roster. Plug in 6-foot-10 forward Leonard Miller from the G-League Ignite, and you have another young budding talent who fits into the jumbo-sized, versatile, multi-talented scheme they have going on in Oklahoma.

Miller is an interesting prospect, as he has the size of a power forward with the skills of a wing. Here were his averages last season with the Ignite:

16.9 points

10.1 rebounds

1.6 assists

1.0 steal

0.6 blocks

FG %:53



Despite struggling with foul trouble, something Miller should get better at as he learns more discipline defensively he is a solid defender in the low post who fights hard and makes it tough for most of his opponents to score due to his length and size.

Miller is very mobile defensively on his feet on the perimeter which he displayed with the Ignite last season while also utilizing his 7’2 wingspan to bother shots at the rim against penetrators.

Offensively Miller garners most of his scoring of off-ball action from dives to the rim and motion within the offense as well as transition buckets. He has a relentless motor that’s always in overdrive, hustling for loose balls and always crashing the glass.

He’ll have to become more polished on both ends in terms of decision-making and improving his jumper to knock down shots consistently at the NBA level as well as add strength to his frame.

Comparison: Al Harrington, Paul Millsap

13. Toronto Raptors- Kobe Bufkin,(G), Michigan

Height:6’4 Age:19

Weight:187 Wingspan:6’8

With Fred VanFleet and Gary Trent Jr set to become unrestricted free agents this summer, the Raptors are going to need some fresh new backcourt talent to replace them in case they do decide to go elsewhere or to pair with them if they decide to return. Michigan Wolverine freshman guard Kobe Bufkin would be a perfect fit for the Raptors and the work mentality they have there.

Bufkin improved drastically from his freshman year to his sophomore year, increasing his averages across the board:

3.0 PPG-14.0

1.1 RPG-4.5

0.3 APG-2.9

0.4 STL-1.3

0.1 BLK-0.7

38% FG- 48%

22% 3-Pt- 35%

Bufkin’s vast improvement shows the type of work ethic he has to continuously get better and we saw that last season as a Wolverine. He shot 84% from the foul line and is a crafty versatile scorer who can finish at the rim, knock down open shots, and has a solid mid-range game.

He has a great change of pace to his game, knowing when to slow down in the halfcourt to get the offense set up or speed up to take full advantage of a fastbreak opportunity when his team is in the advantage.

Bufkin has a slippery handle that allows him to split the pick-and-roll for finishes at the rim or a pullup jumper. He’s not just a scorer out of pick-and-roll actions as he also displayed the ability to be a playmaker to find cutters/divers to the rim while drawing the double to him due to his improved ability as a shooting threat which leaves space for his teammates to get open.

He is a streaky shooter currently but expect him to get better and more consistent as his career progresses, especially under the great developmental staff the Raptors have on staff.

Bufkin also is a solid defender who’ll be able to guard 1’s and 2’s at the NBA level as he has good lateral agility and is a good on-ball defender with quick hands who doesn’t give up on the play while also having some nice chasedown blocks last season.

He’ll have to put more muscle on his frame to be able to handle the rigorous NBA season against stronger opponents which will help his ability to hold ground defensively and finish through contact at the rim better.

Bufkin we’ll also need to become a more consistent shooter and get smarter at navigating/fighting his way around screens in high-screen and roll actions.

Also, does he have a right hand? He didn’t display much ability to finish with his weak hand last season as he’s very left-hand dominant and will need to improve his consistency with his decision-making.

Comparison: Tyrese Maxey, lefty Lou Williams

14. New Orleans Pelicans- Nick Smith, (G), Arkansas

Height:6’5 Age:19

Weight:185 Wingspan:6’8

The Pelicans are the most talented team in the lottery, where they shouldn’t be, as their two best players in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, both top two picks in their respective drafts can’t seem to stay on the court together as they both have been injury prone in their tenure together.

The Pelicans made the postseason in 2022 where they lost in seven games in the first round to the Phoenix Suns where they showed they were on the come up with Ingram having the series of his life and proving he can contribute to winning.

That team made strides that year after adding veteran, via trade in C.J. McCollum, elite 3-and-D player Herb Jones, who was a steal in 2021 for the Pelicans as well as Trey Murphy III who’s a knockdown shooter jumbo-sized wing who’s highly athletic and the pesky feisty undrafted 5’11 guard Jose Alvarado who gave Chris Paul hell in that series.

Injuries were the Pelicans' detriment as they started the season off hot being ranked as high as the 3rd seed in the Western Conference around December with Williamson playing at an All-NBA level before he pulled his hamstring in January which cost him to miss the rest of the season and ultimately led to the colossal downfall of the Pelicans.

The Pelicans could stand to use another scorer off the bench to make them even more lethal and deeper offensively. That’s where Arkansas freshman guard Nick Smith comes in as he’s a pure microwave scorer who can get hot at any moment of a game and can score on all three levels.

Smith averaged 12.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 0.8 steals while shooting 38% from the field and 34% from three. His efficiency isn’t exactly what analytical nerds will be jumping out of their chairs for, but he does display high-level shot creation ability on all three levels and has a beautiful touch on floaters.

Smith’s freshman year was derailed by injuries as he was limited to just 17 games of action and never was fully healthy throughout the season, a caveat that we have to include here as to why his efficiency numbers may be so low.

Smith can go left or right with his floater which makes him more of a diversified attacker offensively and tough for opponents to guard.

He has a great dribble pull-up game, especially when going right that he uses in pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs. We’ve also known since his high school days at North Little Rock that he can create his own shot in 1-on-1 situations and doesn’t shy away from the big moments of a game.

Smith also flashed some defensive upside and ability as well as a Razorback despite his numbers as when he was engaged, he was very capable of putting/extending pressure on ball-handlers out on the perimeter or at halfcourt, making life tough for them which sometimes ended up in a turnover for the opposition.

He’s great at recovering and swatting shots out of his opponent's hands due to his 6’8 wingspan which helps blanket those mishaps and catches him having to come from behind.

Smith will need to improve his decisions with the ball as almost most young players do. He also can stand to attack more to apply more rim pressure which I think will come with added muscle as he matures, as he currently only weighs 185 lbs soaking wet.

Smith will add more scoring punch to an already dynamic Pelicans team when healthy and gives some shades of current Denver Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray who’s been a machine in the postseason for the Nuggets… That’s what Smith should strive to become.

Comparisons: Jamal Murray, Tyler Herro

15. Atlanta Hawks- Bilal Coulibaly, (F), Metropolitan 92s

Height:6’6 Age:18

Weight:195 Wingspan:7’2

The Atlanta Hawks could stand to use more depth at the wing position with their backcourt in franchise cornerstone Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, whom they acquired via trade from the Spurs last offseason set up for at least the next season or two depending on if they resign Murray.

The Hawks also have a solid young budding wing in A.J. Griffin and another young big in Onyeka Okongwu who seems to be getting better every season.

This is the point of the draft where you either look for fit or swing for upside, and Coulibaly, Wembanyama’s teammate, can be a great addition to the Hawks team due to his size, length, and how much more room for growth there is for his game as he won’t be asked to do much right out the gate.

Coulibaly has the chance to be a major steal here, and this may be too low due to his high ceiling. He compiles great size for a wing, standing at 6-foot-6 and boasting a 7-foot-2 wingspan compiled with elite athleticism. He uses those long arms to guard multiple positions and provides elite versatility defensively.

Coulibaly’s stats aren’t one to run home about, as his production isn’t on par with a top prospect, but you can see the flashes and the physical tools he possesses on why some scouts are high on him.

He’s active in passing lanes (1.5 SPG), disrupting passes, contesting hard on shots and even being a secondary shot blocker due to his superb athleticism, instincts, and length. Add in a solid motor and instincts and you have a potential All-Defensive player if he can put all the tools together.

Offensively, Coulibaly has a long way to go to polish his game from improving his jumper to tightening his handle. He does display some solid catch-and-shoot upside (34% from 3 ). He’s a blur in transition due to his fluid athleticism and is an explosive above the rim finisher who can posterize it on opponents.

He has improved his handles, which should only get better over time, and has a strong rip through move to explode to the basket while embracing contact despite his slim frame.

Coulibaly can be one of the steals and gems of this class if he polishes up his game over the next few years.

Comparison: O.G. Anunoby

16. Utah Jazz- Keyonte George, (G), Baylor

Height:6’4 Age:19

Weight:185 Wingspan: N/A

The Jazz could use another talent in the backcourt position and someone with upside in Baylor Bears freshman guard Keyonte George. George has a strong frame and broad shoulders at 6-foot-4, 185 lbs, and utilizes it to his advantage.

George averaged 15.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.1 steals on 37% from the field and 34% from three while being a 79% foul shooter.

George has advanced footwork already for his age, being able to create his shot from anywhere while having countermoves to combat when a defender stops his initial move. Has a beautiful pullback dribble and does a great job selling his downhill momentum to get his defender on his heels and off balance before elevating for a shot.

Has advanced moves from pump fakes, euro steps, fadeaways, and forth which make him one of the best scorers in the class and makes up for his lack of “elite” burst.

George will be able to spread the floor at the NBA level as he shot 46.2% (12/26) on offscreen threes.

He’ll need to improve his defensive consistency, as he wasn’t always the most engaged defender and sometimes has lapses that allow easy buckets for his matchup. George isn’t/won’t be a versatile defender at the next level due to his lack of size.

His efficiency wasn’t the best at Baylor last season, but that should increase with better players around him and not being asked to do so much at the next level early on. George could also stand to make better decisions as a playmaker, as he averaged nearly three turnovers per game (2.9) last season and his shot selection as well, which was sporadic, to say the least.

George will also need to improve his finishing ability at the rim as he was out of control at times and shot just 52% at the rim. Overall, George is one of the best scorers and creators on all three levels in the class. He’s a creative shotmaker and taker who’ll need to improve his efficiency, consistency, finishing, and defensive effort for the NBA level.

Comparison: Eric Gordon

17. Los Angeles Lakers- Jordan Hawkins, (G), UConn

Height:6’4 Age:21

Weight:186 Wingspan:6’7

The Lakers are coming off a rollercoaster of a season that saw them on the verge of not even making the play in around early April, traded away Russell Westbrook before the trade deadline where they acquired D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt from the Timberwolves, and former 2019 4th overall pick from the Wizards in Rui Hachimura.

The Lakers ranked 25th in 3-point % and 24th in 3-pointers made according to Lineups. The Lakers desperately need shooting and spacing for their two superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis and who better to add than arguably the best shooter in the class who was the leader behind the national champion UConn Huskies… Jordan Hawkins.

Hawkins has a picture-perfect jumper of art as if Mozart made it, with great elevation, form, and follow through, similar to past legends such as Klay Thompson, the greatest shooter of all time Stephen Curry, and Huskie alum Ray Allen to name a few.

Hawkins is a flawless shooter and marksman from all over the floor who’d fit perfectly alongside James and Davis having shot 39% from downtown last season for the Huskies. He’s elite off the catch which makes him a multidimensional scoring threat.

He averaged 16.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while shooting 41% from the field and 88% from the charity stripe.

Hawkins is like a rat running for cheese without the ball, constantly in motion to try to open up free for a shot which either creates a shot for him or helps spread the floor wide open for an easy basket for a teammate due to the attention he draws.

Not a standout defender by any means, but Hawkins did display some quality defensive upside last season by fighting over screens and knowing when to help in rotations.

Hawkins will also need to improve as a self-creator off the dribble as he showed he’s more than capable of creating his own shot and getting to wherever he wants on the floor but just hasn’t done it consistently.

He’ll need to get stronger, improve his handle, and defensive awareness, but, he should be a really good pro for a long time.

Comparison: Richard Hamilton, Tyler Herro

18. Miami Heat- Jalen Hood-Schifino, (G), Indiana

Height:6’5 Age:20

Weight:217 Wingspan:6’10

The reigning Eastern Conference could stand to use more size in their lineups as Bam Adebayo is their most reliable big and stands at just 6-feet-9 inches tall. With a draft very thin on quality bigs outside of the golden prize in Wembanyama, it’d be smarter for the Heat here to take a guard considering there are no bigs worth taking in the lottery or mid-first round.

That’s where Jalen Hood-Schifino out of Indiana comes in as he’s a big guard with an NBA-ready body who can come in right away and handle the physicality of the league.

In his one-and-done season as a Hoosier, Schifino averaged 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists on 41% shooting from the field and 33% from three.

Schifino would make a great addition to a Heat team at the point with an aging Kyle Lowry and would form a great backcourt duo with Tyler Herro alongside their main catalysts in Jimmy Butler and Adebayo.

He already has a solid mid-range dribble pullup to his right that he displayed often at Indiana last season, especially out of the pick-and-roll. He’s strong and precise with the ball and does a good job shielding his defender off on drives.

Schifino torched defenders that played drop coverage on him where he would just rise up and shoot the mid-range jumper while also freezing his defender with a hang dribble, showing many ways to get his shot off.

Schifino not only has a nice mid-range jumper but also has soft touch attacking the rim going to his right where he has shown versatility with using his left hand as well as implementing floaters over the trees of big men, which is an important skill all guards must have at the NBA level.

He not only is dangerous as someone attacking to score but also has a great knack and feel for knowing what position his teammates will be in and finds a way to hit them right on the dime with either hand before the defense can react.

Schifino also is a dangerous pocket passer who drops the ball perfectly in his big’s hands and that would make a dangerous combo with Adebayo who’s one of the more athletic bigs in the entire NBA.

Though his defensive numbers are nothing to scream about, Schifino did show great screen navigation fighting over screens in his freshman season at Indiana while also showing he has great instincts and active hands defensively that cause deflections that translate into transition opportunities.

He’ll have to continue improving his jumper as he wasn’t the most efficient from the field. Schifino will also need to build upon his ball security as he averaged 2.8 turnovers last year which was a 16.9% turnover rate, according to Basketball Reference, something you don’t want to see from any player, let alone from a guard who is the prime initiator of an offense.

Can have some passes he either throws too low on and is not ideally a lob passer. He can stand to be inaccurate on passes at times, hence the high turnover rate.

Schifino also isn’t necessarily a vertical athlete as he has just one dunk all season at Indiana and is not someone you expect to soar in the air for finishes or dunks at the NBA level.

He’s a strong low grounded guard with a solid mid-range jumper who knows how to find teammates for easy shots but will have to cut down on turnovers.

Comparison: Bigger Kyle Lowry

19. Golden State Warriors- Colby Jones, (G), Xavier

Height:6’5 Age:21

Weight:200 Wingspan:6’8

With continuous rumors on if the Warriors will trade away Jordan Poole after extending him prior to the start of last season, the Warriors could use insurance for a solid role player in case Poole ends up getting dealt this offseason.

Xavier Musketeers junior guard, Colby Jones, looks to be one of the more valuable potential high-end role players in this draft class due to his ability to impact the game with his scoring, defense, and as a playmaker.

Jones improved every season of his three years as a Musketeer by increasing his field goal % (FG%) and points per game (PPG) in each season.

As a junior Jones averaged 15.0 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.3 steals while shooting career highs in FG% (51%) and 3-Pt % (37.8%), showing his efficiency and ability to be a reliable knockdown shooter and scorer from various levels on the floor.

The All-Big East Second Team selection proved to be an effective transition playmaker who can lead the break which will fit perfectly in a Warriors offense that loves to get downhill and will take pressure off Stephen Curry in ball-handling duties as a secondary initiator who can then just do what he does best by moving without the ball to get an easy shot for himself or others.

Jones plays at a steady deliberate pace and doesn’t seem to be rushed by pressure from defenders. He has great touch on scoop layups off the glass at the rim and utilizes a great hesitation move to free himself up to create an easier shot toward the rim.

An impactful and driven defender who moves his feet well laterally and is hard nose driven to give full effort on that end, making it hard for opposing guards/wings to get an easy shot off due to his length and strength.

Does a great job of beating ball screens over the top and might be the best at fighting over screens in the class which should help him see ample time early on in his career.

Jones also always is shot prep ready having his hands ready and feet set locked and loaded ready to fire up a shot right as the ball hits his hand pre-catch which will make him a reliable floor spacer due to his solid fundamentals.

He’ll need to improve as a shot creator as he struggles to find his own shot without a ball screen, and struggles with inconsistency on pullup jumpers. Jones also will need to tighten up his handles and raise his intensity consistently on the defensive end. Also could stand to improve as a foul shooter.

Comparison: Malcolm Brogdon

20. Houston Rockets (via Clippers)- Dereck Lively,(C), Duke

Height:7’1 Age:19

Weight:230 Wingspan:7’7

Alperen Sengun is a tremendous young tantalizing talent for the Rockets for the foreseeable future, but he’s not an above the rim player or rim protector who can make opponents think twice about coming to the paint. Plug in Duke 7-foot-1 freshman Dereck Lively and you get one of the better shot blockers and athletic bigs in this draft class.

Lively didn’t have the freshman season at Duke much expected him to have, as he underwhelmed with his stats averaging 5.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists while averaging 2.4 blocks per game, being an elite rim protector vertically as well as a guy who can move his feet well laterally.

Lively won’t ever be a go-to scorer at the next level but he will be a tremendous pick-and-roll partner and lob threat with any solid passing guard at the NBA level who can finish above the rim in transition, in the halfcourt and off screen and rolls.

Has displayed some ability to stretch the floor from three, especially from the corners. Lively has also shown some playmaking upside as a guy who can catch the ball in the low or high post as a hub and make plays when facing up to find teammates.

He’ll need to improve his low post game as he lacks any type of skillset and moves down on the low block. Lively can also stand to get stronger in his lower body as he struggled boxing out in college and should be averaging more rebounds as his height projects one should.

Lively also needs to become more aggressive offensively and show more of a motor and killer instinct to assert his will and imprint on a game more.

Comparison: Tyson Chandler, Willie Cauley-Stein

21. Brooklyn Nets (via Phoenix Suns)- Dariq Whitehead, (G), Duke

Height:6’6 Age:18

Weight:194 Wingspan:6’10

The Nets are coming off a polarizing last two seasons that saw the Big Three of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant all get traded in what was a colossal failure, probably the biggest in NBA history as they never even achieved a Conference Finals appearance.

Harden was traded to the Sixers, Irving to the Mavericks, and Durant to the Phoenix Suns, all culminating into pieces such as Ben Simmons from the Harden trade, Spencer Dinwiddie from and Dorian Finney-Smith from the Irving trade, and Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson from the Durant deal.

The Nets don’t have a superstar but they do have a ton of solid players on the roster who can play and Bridges showed advanced ability offensively in the second half of the season that we never saw from him in his four and a half years as a Sun.

They also have a pure bucket getter in 22-year-old guard Cam Thomas who has shown flashes of brilliance and should have a bigger role next season with Irving and Durant no longer at the helm.

The Nets are loaded with wings and can use another scorer guard off the bench such as Dariq Whitehead out of Duke. The Newark native came into Duke as a top recruit out of Montverde Academy with a complete game. Unfortunately, he was hobbled and limited to just 28 games where he started only seven of them due to a foot injury that hampered him all season.

Despite that, Whitehead did show some flashes of what made him such a highly touted recruit. He averaged 8.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, and an assist per game while shooting 42% from the field, 43% from three, and 79% from the foul line, which is a good indication that he has solid mechanics on his shot and should only get better with more reps.

Whitehead is a good athlete who attacks and is an ambidextrous finisher finishing 50% at the rim which can and will need to improve at the pro level. He’s a reliable 3-point shooter which should be one of his immediate contributing factors early on in his career.

Seemed to always relocate/position himself for a natural pullup motion jumper where his teammates could easily find him which shows his IQ and feel for the game.

Whitehead also showed potential as a self-creator, implementing two to three dribble pull-ups and showing elite triple-threat ability by using jab steps to get his defender thinking, keeping his moves sharp and with a purpose before rising up to score.

Whitehead is solid on defense, containing drives and using that 6’10 wingspan to recover when getting beaten off the dribble while also contesting shots despite all the injuries he battled throughout the season.

He’ll need to improve as a finisher as he didn’t have the same burst at Duke that was displayed in his prep career at Montverde whether that was due to him being impacted by the leg and foot injuries or if he’s more of a good athlete rather than an elite one which is what we’ll see once he returns.

Like most young players, Whitehead can tend to have some lapses on defense and allow easy layups and dunks in transition off backdoor cuts.

He’s the third youngest player in the draft so there’s still much more room for growth as he should due to his work ethic.

Comparison: Lonnie Walker

22. Brooklyn Nets- Noah Clowney, C, Alabama

Height:6’10 Age:18

Weight:210 Wingspan:7’2

The Nets need more size outside of Nic Claxton who made major strides last season as an interior presence as some even thought he was a fringe All-Star at one point in the season.

Alabama freshman center, Noah Clowney, would make a great fit here for the Nets as he brings a shot-blocking presence, another mobile big man, and even some more shooting upside than Claxton.

As a freshman at Alabama Claxton averaged 9.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and just under a block per game in 25 minutes per contest.

Claxton shows consistent effort and hustles on rebounds and contests shots, which the Nets could use considering they ranked 29th in rebounds last season. Despite being so young Claxton does a good job being disciplined on defense and not falling for fakes as often as most young bigs tempt to do.

Claxton has also shown the ability to be a versatile defender who can switch onto guards, hedge, or be in drop coverage depending on who he’s guarding.

He has a soft touch around the rim and good hands to make for a good rolling finishing option out of the pick-and-roll. Also has a little handle to put it down on the floor a bit to attack off the bounce.

Claxton will need to add strength as he weighs just 210 lbs, as he will struggle to defend stronger opponents in the low post. Has solid mechanics on his shot but only shot 55% from the foul line so still has a long way to go before he’s a reliable weapon to spread the floor.

Comparison: Clint Capela

23. Portland Trail Blazers- Olivier Prosper, (F), Marquette

Height:6’7 Age:20

Weight:212 Wingspan:7’1

The draft is very thin on quality bigs so the Blazers could look to take another wing here despite having so many already on their roster. Olivier-Maxence Prosper, the junior forward out of Marquette is a powerful athlete who leaps out of the gym and uses that ability as a disruptive defender.

Prosper dives for loose balls, chases down rebounds, and is a tremendous off-ball cutter in designed plays within an offense or improvising on his own.

He’s not just a run and jump athlete, as Prosper has proven to be a respectable shooter, making 34% of his 3-pointers as a junior last season which will still need improvement if he wants to see the floor consistently in big games.

Has a great bulk of strength to guard bigger players and the lateral quickness to guard guards as well.

Will need to improve as a playmaker as he tends to be sloppy with the ball at times, even when initiating simple dribble handoffs.

Comparison: Athletic Draymond without the playmaking IQ

24. Sacramento Kings- Kris Murray, (F), Iowa

Height:6’8 Age:22

Weight:213 Wingspan:7’0

The Kings are coming off the best season in years after making the postseason for the first time since 2005! Their stars in the speedy De’Aaron Fox and low post savant Domantas Sabonis who both were All-NBA third team selections last season.

Add in Fox’s former college teammate at Kentucky, Malik Monk, who formed a dynamic backcourt with Fox this season, and Kris Murray’s twin brother, Keegan Murray, who played a vital role for the Kings all season and in the playoffs and proved he can contribute to winning.

Murray was just as productive as his brother was for the Iowa Hawkeyes, averaging 20.2 points. 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.2 blocks on 48% from the field and 33% from three.

Murray is similar to his brother; although left-handed, he is an intelligent 3-and-D player who’s one of the best available in the draft. Murray is an excellent finisher at the rim who converted on 66.1% of his attempts at the rim last season at Iowa due to his long arms and strength which make up for his lack of elite burst.

He does a great job of relocating without the ball, as he is a knockdown 3-point shooter with smooth mechanics off the catch similar to his brother.

Murray does a lot of damage in the mid-post area, utilizing a hook shot much of the time after facing his opponent up while also doing a great job of sealing his man in the post.

Not a player who’s flashy and going to get in the way of an offense; just does all the little things well and necessary to help his team win.

Murray is also a versatile on-ball defender who’s capable of switching on screens and has the frame to handle physicality against stronger guards and bigger low post players.

Murray will need to improve his handle off the dribble as he’s not a guy who’s dynamic with the ball and will probably struggle to create his own shot at the NBA level and lacks top-notch speed.

He also is going to be 23 years old before the start of the season and doesn’t have a high ceiling as a player.

Comparison: Left-Handed Keegan Murray

25. Memphis Grizzlies- Brandin Podiziemski, (G), Santa Clara

Height:6’4 Age:20

Weight:204: Wingspan:6’6

The Grizzlies went through a lot of drama last season headlined their franchise player Ja Morant who’ll be suspended to start the season due to his antics off the court. Despite them being a young brash team, the Grizzlies backed it up by having the 2nd best record in the Western Conference behind the NBA champion Denver Nuggets.

The Grizzlies need more perimeter shooting around Morant to continue spacing the floor for him so he can do what he does best which is attack the rim. Add in sharpshooter Brandin Podiziemski out of Santa Clara who’s a 6’4 sniper, having shot an absurd 44% from three.

Podiziemski averaged 19.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.8 steals on an efficient 48& from the field en route to winning the West Coast Conference Player of the Year.

He thrives best in catch-and-shoot situations and is a marksman off the catch who also flashed the ability to score off the dribble as well as the primary shot creator at Santa Clara last season.

Uses hesitations, spins, and lustrous footwork to generate space for himself to finish with a beautiful soft touch floater or hook shot he has in his repertoire.

Despite being just 6-foot-4, Podiziemski is a great back-to-the-basket player for his size where he has shown his impeccable footwork and array of moves down low.

He’s a solid playmaker with a high IQ who can make plays in the fast paced offense the Grizzlies run and play, especially in transition. Also is a solid rebounder for his size who’s not afraid of doing the dirty work.

Some of Podiziemski’s weaknesses are he’s not an advanced ball handler, as he struggled against defenders with length. He also did play lower-level competition who got blown by quicker guards and isn’t strong enough to guard burlier, bigger players.

Comparison: Donte DiVincenzo

26. Indiana Pacers-Brice Sensabough, (G), Ohio State

Height:6’6 Age:19

Weight:235 Wingspan:7’2

The Pacers surprised many last season behind the play of All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton and the audacious rookie Benedict Mathurin. The Pacers also extended center Myles Turner last season to a 2-year $60 million deal due to his elite shot-blocking ability and 3-point shooting.

The Pacers could look to add more scoring on the wing and Brice Sensabough out of Ohio State would make sense here for the Pacers as he had a surprising breakout freshman season as a Buckeye.

Here are his stats:

  • 16.3 points

  • 5.4 rebounds

  • 1.2 assists

  • 48% from the field

  • 40.5% from 3

Sensabough is what you call an old-school bucket getter like that old man you see at the park who just kills the younger generation as he is a methodical scorer who lacks elite athleticism by any means of the stretch and is a more grounded scorer.

Sensabough thrives from deep and operates in the mid-range area where he sometimes can lull defenders to sleep. He can hit threes off the catch and off the dribble which could add a third scorer who can create their own shot in the Pacers lineup.

A smart, heady player in transition who knows how to fill his lane in transition and also repositions himself in the mid-post/ low post area.

Sensabough tends to have tunnel vision at times as he’s a reluctant passer, hence the low assist numbers.

His lack of quickness and speed also affects him on the defensive end as he gets blown by quicker players and loses sight of his man as an off-ball defender.

Comparison: TJ Warren

27. Charlotte Hornets (via Nuggets)- Jett Howard, (G), Michigan

Height:6’8 Age:19

Weight:215 Wingspan:N/A

It might be a surprise to see former NBA star Juwan Howard’s son, Jett Howard, get to this point of the draft, but this might be a steal here for them with many free agents coming this offseason for them. Adding the former Michigan Wolverine, who had a productive freshman year averaging 14.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 41% from the field and 37% from three.

A pure elite shooting threat coming off screens and spotting up as one of the best shooters in the draft who moves well without the ball. Howard also is one of the best midrange operators in the class who utilizes a floater.

Howard has a high IQ and can create for his teammates as well as hustling hard on defense and giving maximum effort; just his lack of awareness and positioning needs more work.

He hustles hard to close out on shooters and fights over screens. Howard should end up being one of the best shooters in the class.

Can be a bit flat-footed when guarding as he lacks fluid lateral quickness. Can tend to ball watch at times which causes him to lose his man and leaves an open shot for his opponent.

Comparison: Desmond Bane

28. Utah Jazz- Trayce Jackson-Davis, (C), Indiana

Height:6’8 Age:23

Weight:240 Wingspan:7’1

The Jazz can look to add more positional versatility and depth in their frontcourt behind Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler. Plug in Trayce Jackson-Davis out of Indiana who averaged 20.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.9 blocks on 58% from the field.

Davis is a high-flying lob threat who plays above the rim and will bring some athleticism to the Jazz. He causes mismatches in the post as he’s excellent at sealing off defenders and has a soft touch on hook shots and floaters.

Davis has the ability to put the ball on the floor and can facilitate dribble handoff actions with his superb rolling ability. Being surrounded by shooters will only display his high IQ as a playmaker more and increase his value.

Gets the defense off balanced with crosscourt passes from the post to open shooters and has a great second jump which allows for a plethora of second chance opportunities for his team.

Is a great weakside shot blocker due to his long arms and dynamic athleticism he’s adept at switching on screens.

Davis can tend to be too reliant on his strong hand and hasn’t shown much of the ability to utilize his right hand. He also hasn’t shown any ability to stretch the floor from three, not even taking a single attempt from beyond the arc last season which is a major concern since most bigs nowadays need to be able to spread the floor to see the court and will limit and suffocate your offense.

He’s undersized for a center and will struggle against the stars at that position a la Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid.

Comparison: John Collins

29. Indiana Pacers (via Celtics)- Maxwell Lewis, (G), Pepperdine

Height:6’6 Age:20

Weight:207 Wingspan:7’0

You can never have enough skilled wings in today’s NBA, and I can see the Pacers adding another talented one to their roster here in the late first round in Pepperdine sophomore guard Maxwell Lewis.

Lewis improved his numbers across the board last season from his freshman year, posting averages of 17.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on 46% from the field and 35% from 3-point range.

Unfortunately, despite his numbers increasing, so did his turnovers as Lewis is not much of a creator off the dribble and needs to be stronger with the ball as he averaged a jarring 3.3 turnovers per contest, an alarming rate for a guard.

Though Lewis is not a weapon with the ball as a creator in his possession, he sure is one of the best knockdown shooters in the class with flawless mechanics and a quick release.

Lews has a diverse bag of crossovers and hesitations to his offensive repertoire, he just needs to learn how to slow down and tighten his handle to lessen his turnovers to help the end result of those possessions end on a positive note such as an easy shot for a teammate or converted basket rather than a turnover.

He’s a skilled back-to-the-basket scorer who utilizes fadeaways off the pivot or can attack the rim strong by overpowering smaller defenders. Can also facilitate a bit by finding bigs in the dunker spot or hitting the shooting pocket of spot-up shooters.

Has the frame and and length to be a high impact defender if he improves his focus and quickness. Lewis isn’t an isolation scorer due to his shaky handle and doesn’t draw many fouls.

His defensive effort waned his sophomore year in comparison to his freshman year due to a larger offensive load.

Comparison: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Devin Vassell

30. Los Angeles Clippers(Bucks via Rockets)- James Nnaji, C, Barcelona (ACB) Nigeria

Height:6’10 Age:18

Weight:225 Wingspan:7’7

The Clippers have had a polarizing last four seasons to say the least with the constant injuries between their two star wing players in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George who they both acquired in the summer of 2019 which seems like ages ago.

They have yet to reach an NBA Finals, with the their best chance coming in 2021 when they lost to the Phoenix Suns in the Conference Finals and were without Leonard after he suffered a torn ACL against the Jazz in the series prior after playing some of the best basketball of his career, which is unfortunate.

Their Croatian center, Ivica Zubac, has gotten better it seems each and every year after averaging career highs in points (10.8), rebounds (9.9), and blocks (1.3) while becoming one of the better starting bigs in the league that’s not an All-Star.

The Clippers could stand to add another physical presence and more size to their lineup when Zubac needs a breather and who better to fit their roster than James Nnaji out of Barcelona from the Liga ACB League who’s originally from Nigeria.

Now Nnaji’s numbers are nothing to brag about (4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds per game) as he saw just 12.1 minutes per game in the Liga ACB League.

Nnaji brings a strong physical presence who uses his 7’7 wingspan to alter plenty of shots around the rim and should be an incredible drop coverage defender at the NBA level as he continues to learn the nuances and fundamentals of the game.

He’s an ambidextrous shot blocker who makes defenders think twice about coming to the paint and is also a relentless rebounder who uses his massive frame to sky for rebounds through traffic.

Nnaji is a strong interior finisher out of the pick-and-roll as he plays as strong as his frame suggests which is a good sign of someone who’s not afraid of playing through contact.

He sets strong sturdy screens with his wide frame that free up teammates for open shots which is an overlooked skill in today’s game. Has some ability to be in some dribble handoff actions if he can polish that area of his game up.

Nnaji is more of an old school big who doesn’t have any perimeter skill to speak of and played very limited minutes last season. Teams can implement Hack-A-Nnaji as he’s a poor free throw shooter (48%).

Commits avoidable mistakes as most teenage players do and will need to refine his offensive game over time to fit the modern game if he wants to see major minutes at the NBA level.

Comparison: Stronger Clint Capela


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