Despite Victor Wembanyama’s destination being preemptively decided with the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery result, there are still plenty of exciting questions to look forward to with the upcoming draft.
Will the Hornets take the best player available in Scoot Henderson, or pass up and lean elsewhere for the sake of fit? Will the Trail Blazers retain the third pick and build from the ground up once more, or trade it to try and win now?
Many of these questions will be answered come next month, but for the sake of continuity, no picks in this mock were traded.
Find out how I see things playing out in my 2023 NBA Mock Draft.
NBA Mock Draft Round 1 Lottery Picks
1. San Antonio Spurs: Victor Wembanyama, C, France
Wembanyama is a no-brainer selection for the Spurs with the No. 1 overall pick. This would also be the case for any other team in the league, regardless of their roster construction or competitive timeline.
Wembanyama is the complete package when it comes to rookies with a package loaded with shooting, ball-handling, defense, and finishing ability, all in a 7-foot-5-inch frame. The Spurs get their elite prospect here to build into their next era, and potentially, dynasty.
Given how short Wembanyama’s NBA Draft No. 1 pick odds are going to be, it’s difficult to justify listing him as an NBA bet of the day. There’s no ROI there for the bettor.
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2. Charlotte Hornets: Scoot Henderson, G, G League Ignite
Henderson is a confounding pick if Charlotte chooses to go that route due to the presence of LaMelo Ball, but it makes sense for several reasons.
First and foremost, Henderson is the best player available. Also, he would mesh well next to Ball given that he is more of a score-first guard who can pass, while Ball is more of a pass-first guard who can score.
Henderson’s slashing ability and rim pressure are far more refined and would allow Ball to focus on distributing and shooting.
3. Portland Trail Blazers: Brandon Miller, F, Alabama
While the rumors make it seem as if the Blazers are more likely to trade this pick in an attempt to draw in a veteran wing (possibly Jaylen Brown), for the sake of this mock, we will assume that it’s kept.
Miller had a tumultuous freshman season off the court but was nothing short of fantastic on it. He shot 43% from the field, 38% from three, and 86% from the free-throw line, displaying a fantastic scoring and rebounding ability with solid defense that makes for the perfect modern wing in the NBA.
Portland would be wise to make this selection if they stand pat.
4. Houston Rockets: Amen Thompson, G, Overtime Elite
The Rockets need a lead guard in the worst way, and they were fortunate to land at No. 4, where two viable day-one starters are present.
Thompson’s size and explosion to the basket are a fearsome mix. He is also a creative passer who can initiate an offense with several viable pieces in Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, Tari Eason, and Alperen Şengün.
While Thompson’s three-point shooting may be a work in progress, it is not broken and can be developed alongside this young core.
5. Detroit Pistons: Cam Whitmore, F, Villanova
The Pistons are in a curious spot with the No. 5 pick. While they could opt for what most view as the best player available in Ausar Thompson, it is a tough fit next to the ball-dominant backcourt duo of Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.
Opting for Whitmore gives them a wing who projects as a better shooter and defender while being a full year and a half younger. The Pistons have some legitimate pieces in the aforementioned guards and 2022 first-rounder Jalen Duren.
Given that Whitmore and Thompson can be discussed within the same prospect tier, optimizing the current core should be considered.
6. Orlando Magic: Ausar Thompson, G/F, Overtime Elite
The Magic would be lucky to see Thompson fall to them, as they are in desperate need of another athletic creator on the floor. They hit big with Paolo Banchero in last year’s draft but he alone cannot lead this offense.
Thompson adds an explosive element to the NBA’s fifth-worst offense that ranked 16th in pace. A core of Thompson, Banchero, Franz Wagner, and Wendell Carter Jr. would be arguably the longest in the league, with versatility for days.
7. Indiana Pacers: Jarace Walker, F, Houston
The Pacers need to fill out the middle of their roster. They lack talent at the forward spots and would benefit from a two-way big like Walker, who is a bit of a tweener with his size.
He is built like Julius Randle but plays with more savvy — better defensive IQ and less reckless offensively. He will likely never be the scorer that Randle is, but Walker’s impact should be greater if developed properly.
8. Washington Wizards: Anthony Black, G/F, Arkansas
There is very little that could fix the Wizards as currently constructed, but Black could lead them in the right direction. He was forced to play more of a lead role with Nick Smith Jr. injured for the majority of this season.
This resulted in a semi-impressive stat line of 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game, but that came with 3.0 turnovers as well. Black would fit well next to a lead guard like Bradley Beal who would allow him to focus on his strengths: attacking the rim and defense.
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9. Utah Jazz: Gradey Dick, G/F, Kansas
Dick definitely looks the part of a future Jazz player, and lucky for them, he is also quite skilled. While he may not be the strongest or fastest 6-foot-7-inch swingman, he is a very good shooter and defender who should make a consistent impact on an NBA court.
Dick’s upside is no lower than his more athletic peers in this range, given how pure his shot is.
10. Dallas Mavericks: Taylor Hendricks, F, Central Florida
Hendricks would be a dream pick for the Mavericks. They’ve failed in recent years to find a two-way big to complement Luka Dončić and Hendricks could develop into just that.
He can score inside and out, clean the glass, defend the rim, and get to the free-throw line consistently without being a turnover machine. He’s still very young, but he could make a huge impact on a contender early in his career.
11. Orlando Magic (via Bulls): Cason Wallace, G, Kentucky
With their second pick in this draft, the Magic take a shot on a more traditional point guard for the first time in years. Wallace is a court general who can defend and distribute well.
His three-point shot and free-throw percentage should improve going forward, and while he is not much of a scorer, the Magic can rest easy pairing him with Ausar Thompson (No. 6 overall), Wagner, and Banchero.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Leonard Miller, F, G League Ignite
Miller is a great fit on a budding Thunder roster that is ready to erupt. As an 18-year-old in the G League, Miller averaged 18.0 PPG on a 64.3% true shooting in 24 games.
He’s a versatile scorer who would benefit greatly from playing alongside creators in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey.
13. Toronto Raptors: Nick Smith Jr., G, Arkansas
The Raptors are somewhat in flux as they move on from Nick Nurse and potentially Fred VanVleet. Their team is extremely wing-heavy between OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Scottie Barnes.
There could be a massive need for a lead guard, and Smith Jr. is just that. He missed significant time as a freshman due to a knee injury but ended the college year healthy. This is a perfect swing on upside in the late lottery.
14. New Orleans Pelicans: Keyonte George, G, Baylor
George’s stock has fallen after an inefficient shooting year as a freshman. However, he was a top high school recruit for a reason, and he flashed upside while leading a veteran Baylor roster in usage.
Yes, his 37.6% shooting is dreadful, but it is important to note that over half of George’s shots came from three-point range. He did struggle to finish around the rim and score inside the arc, yet attempted an impressive 4.5 free throws per game while draining 79%.
NBA Non-Lottery Round 1 Picks
15. Atlanta Hawks: Brice Sensabaugh, F, Ohio State
With John Collins potentially pushed out of Atlanta this offseason after years of trade rumors, the Hawks could be in need of a forward who can offer some offense to a stagnant frontcourt.
Sensabaugh is a three-level scorer who thrives with the ball in his hands and shot 40.5% from three as a freshman. His size is that of a tweener, but he is quick on his feet and can drive to the rim with ease.
While the defense is lackluster, Atlanta can make up for that with a talented rim-protector at center.
16. Utah Jazz (via Timberwolves): Jett Howard, G/F, Michigan
The Jazz double-down on talented wings after selecting Gradey Dick. Howard attempted 7.3 threes per game last season and drained 36.8% while shooting 80% from the free-throw line.
His shot should translate well enough to the league that his poor defense can be forgiven. The Jazz would have a fun offense for 2023-24 between Lauri Markkanen, Dick, Howard, and Jordan Clarkson while relying on Walker Kessler for all defensive needs.
17. Los Angeles Lakers: Dariq Whitehead, F, Duke
The Lakers, much like LeBron James, must consider their future if this pick is retained. Whitehead was the top high school prospect in his class but failed to live up to expectations as a freshman due to injuries.
He averaged just 8.3 points in 20.6 minutes per game and recently underwent another surgery on his broken right foot. While some may see this as damaged goods, Whitehead still presents the upside of a highly valuable two-way forward that can shoot the lights out.
Most picks in this range do not make a significant impact in year one, making it wise to go the way of Whitehead.
18. Miami Heat: Bilal Coulibaly, G/F, France
On top of their NBA Finals appearance, the Heat have a top-20 pick to boot. Coulibaly would be a good pick for Miami given his age and upside on both ends of the floor.
He hardly played as an 18-year-old in the French Pro League, but every Euro prospect is not Wembanyama or Dončić. Coulibaly can be stashed for a year or two and then join the Heat when/if he is ready to contribute or be traded for a piece that can help them continue to contend.
19. Golden State Warriors: Kris Murray, F, Iowa
The Warriors could be approaching their post-Draymond Green era and may be in need of another versatile big on the roster. Murray is the twin brother of Sacramento Kings’ forward Keegan Murray and was buried on Iowa’s roster behind him up until this past season.
Kris averaged 20.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and just over 2.2 combined steals and blocks per game this past season. He shot 58.3% from two, 33.5% from three, and 72.9% from the free-throw line.
He is not the same level of prospect Keegan was due to his later breakout and lesser shooting and defensive ability, but he offers a similar skillset that is necessary for bigs in the modern NBA.
20. Houston Rockets (via Clippers): Jordan Hawkins, G, Connecticut
After adding Amen Thompson earlier, the Rockets target recent National Champion Jordan Hawkins to add to this young roster’s offense. Hawkins was a scoring force for the Huskies, leading the team with 16.2 points on a 58.4 TS%.
Hawkins shot 38.8% from three as a sophomore on 7.6 attempts per game but likely projects as a sixth man in the NBA. Nevertheless, he would be a valuable piece for a Rockets roster that would greatly benefit from the spacing of another skilled scoring guard.
21. Brooklyn Nets (via Suns): Kobe Bufkin, G, Michigan
Bufkin grew dramatically between his freshman and sophomore seasons at Michigan. He went from bench piece averaging 3.0 points to starting every game and scoring 14.0 while shooting 54.6% on twos, 35.5% from three, and 84.9% from the free-throw line.
Bufkin could become the lead guard on Brooklyn’s roster following Spencer Dinwiddie’s eventual departure and be a great complement to Mikal Bridges.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Jordan Walsh, F, Arkansas
With back-to-back picks, the Nets select Jordan Walsh, giving them another talented wing to pair with Bridges and, potentially, Cam Johnson moving forward. While Johnson is all-offense and some defense, Walsh is the opposite.
He still has the shine of a top-20 high school recruit, but he shot very poorly as a true freshman. Luckily, a 2.6% steal rate and 2.0% block rate are quite impressive, and even if the shot never develops to average, he should be a valuable three-and-D forward.
23. Portland Trail Blazers (via Knicks): Dereck Lively II, C, Duke
Given Jusuf Nurkić’s injury history and Portland’s lack of depth, Lively would be a wise pick for a franchise whose future is foggy. The Blazers have teetered between going all-in or trading star Damian Lillard to rebuild.
Lively was the No. 2 recruit of last year’s high school class, and he was an impressive defender as a freshman who at least attempted to take shots from three. If that part of his game develops whatsoever, his upside is absurd.
24. Sacramento Kings: Brandin Podziemski, F, Santa Clara
Podziemski’s been a late riser for the NBA Draft. After an impressive season in his first (and only) year with Santa Clara, Podziemski declared for the draft and could wind up sneaking into the first round despite early reports of a second-round grade.
He makes sense as a pick for the Kings, as they are looking to win now. While they did lead the NBA in offensive rating this past season, the Kings could lose starting SF Harrison Barnes and only have sixth man Malik Monk under contract for one more season.
An offensive sparkplug like Podziemski, who averaged roughly 20 points per game as a sophomore, would make sense.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Jalen Hood-Schifino, G/F, Indiana
The Grizzlies are absolutely not bringing back Dillon Brooks under any circumstances and may need to make due for part of the 2023-24 season without Ja Morant if his recent social media endeavor results in a suspension.
Hood-Schifino was a creative lead guard for the Hoosiers this past year and wound up as the Big Ten’s Rookie of the Year. He was tasked with much more than expected this season due to Xavier Johnson’s injury and held his end of the bargain.
While his scoring and defense are questionable at the moment, the shot looks good, and he is athletic enough to grow in a great developmental organization.
26. Indiana Pacers (via Cavaliers): Colby Jones, G, Xavier
Jones has been a high-impact guard since his freshman year with Xavier. While he may not have the most upside due to his age and questionable shooting, this is a safe pick for a team in need of talent.
Jones is an all-around player who would greatly benefit from playing off of Tyrese Haliburton. He and recently-selected forward Jarace Walker would immediately raise the Pacers’ floor with high-IQ play.
27. Charlotte Hornets (via Nuggets): Maxwell Lewis, G/F, Pepperdine
After passing on Brandon Miller earlier, the Hornets land wing Maxwell Lewis, a fluid athlete and talented scorer. His shot-making is not close to Miller’s, but he gets to the rim with ease and can hit his fair share of threes.
Moreover, Lewis has the wingspan to develop into an impact defender, or at least one who consistently disrupts passing lanes.
28. Utah Jazz (via 76ers): Andre Jackson, G/F, Connecticut
Another member of the UConn Huskies gets drafted, and this time it’s Jackson. While his scoring and shooting ability is lackluster, Jackson did everything else at a high level.
He was vital in leading the Huskies, and he projects as a plus-initiator and defender in the league. The Jazz do not have a true point guard on the roster, and after selecting scoring/shooting wings Gradey Dick and Jett Howard earlier, Jackson would be a perfect fit.
29. Indiana Pacers (via Celtics): Noah Clowney, F/C, Alabama
The Pacers double-up on big men in this draft with Clowney and Jarace Walker. Clowney is more of a center than Walker, who is capable of sliding up to the four which makes for a good potential future pairing.
The Pacers extended Myles Turner recently, but his name is never far from trade rumors. Clowney would be a backup early in his career but could become a consistent starter after displaying a solid all-around game as a freshman.
30. Los Angeles Clippers (via Bucks): Terrence Shannon Jr., G, Illinois
The Clippers take scoring aficionado Terrence Shannon with the final pick of the first round to fill out a roster that is consistently lacking at least one of Paul George or Kawhi Leonard.
Shannon took off as a senior at Illinois by scoring 17.2 points per game with the highest usage of his college career. His 58% true shooting sustained from his third season despite this jump, and he worked himself into a potential first-round pick.
The Clippers need guys they can insert into the rotation now if they want any chance of contending, and Shannon is just that guy.