Victor Wembanyama will go first overall, that much is clear. Our 2023 NBA Mock Draft projects what will happen in the rest of the first round.
The 2023 NBA Draft is The Victor Wembanyama Draft. No matter the Frenchman’s career plays out, the hype surrounding the once-in-a-generation prospect has overtaken this event now and will do so throughout history.
There seemingly is no scenario in which he is not the No. 1 pick. Wembanyama is taller than Zach Edey with guard-like handle, Rudy Gobert-like rim protection with the mobility of players nearly a foot shorter than him. He also has the creativity and skill to do things like consistently draining one-footed threes and tip-slamming his own missed 3-point attempt.
That’s why the suspense around this draft isn’t so much about where players will go as much as where teams will end up picking. The San Antonio Spurs won Tuesday night’s lottery, securing the right to draft Wembanyama. But the drama starts behind them.
The Charlotte Hornets, who were awarded the No. 2 overall pick, are expected to choose between Scoot Henderson of G League Ignite and Alabama’s Brandon Miller. Miller is the only college player considered to be a lock to be selected in the top 5, as this draft will have a heavy dose of talent from international waters, as well as the G League and Overtime Elite.
That said, the number of prospects coming from non-traditional routes, combined with the lack of consensus surrounding the top college players, should make for an eventful and unpredictable draft night.
Where do things stand now that the draft order is finally set? Here are our complete first-round projections based on the intel we’ve gathered with five weeks to go until draft night.
—Way-Too-Early Heat Check CBB Top 25 rankings for 2023-24
1) San Antonio Spurs
Victor Wembanyama, C/PF, Metropolitans 92 (LNB Pro A) – 7-4, 229 lbs.
21.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 47.0 FG%, 27.5 3P%
The 19-year-old is dominating the French professional ranks like no one his age has done before. As discussed, there is nothing he can’t do on the basketball court. The only negative thing is that he needs to add strength, which he should as he gets older. Durability is the only concern at this point — and he has been healthy since his professional career started in 2019.
2) Charlotte Hornets
Scoot Henderson, PG, G League Ignite – 6-4, 195 lbs.
16.5 ppg, 6.5 apg, 5.4 rpg, 42.9 FG%, 27.5 3P%
Charlotte has a tough choice here between Henderson and Miller, and Miller fits positional needs better given LaMelo Ball’s presence. But the Hornets have the opportunity to pair Ball with Henderson, who has (rightfully, in my opinion) been compared to a young Derrick Rose. He’s also 16 months younger than Miller and has two years of professional experience. This pick would immediately give Charlotte one of the league’s premier backcourts.
3) Portland Trail Blazers
Brandon Miller, SF, Alabama – 6-9, 200 lbs.
18.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 43.0 FG%, 38.4 3P%
It feels like Portland has been looking for a dependable wing scorer to pair with Damian Lillard for years now, so they’ll gladly snatch Miller here. He did have a historically bad NCAA Tournament, shooting under 20 percent across Alabama’s three games, but Miller’s strong body of work should override that. He’s also lethal in catch-and-shoot situations, which is significant given Lillard’s ball dominance.
4) Houston Rockets
Amen Thompson, PG/SG, Overtime Elite – 6-7, 209 lbs.
16.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.9 apg, 56.6 FG%, 25.0 3P%
Houston needs a point guard and is still early enough in its rebuild that it can (and should) go with the best player available here. Thompson checks both those boxes with tremendous size, playmaking, versatility and athleticism. James Harden has been linked to a return to the Rockets in free agency, but that shouldn’t deter the Rockets from drafting someone with Thompson’s upside.
5) DETROIT PISTONS
Cam Whitmore, SF, Villanova – 6-7, 232 lbs.
12.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 47.8 FG%, 34.3 3P%
The Pistons were the biggest losers of lottery night, falling all the way from the projected No. 1 pick to No. 5. Without a shot at Wembanyama and having filled backcourt needs with each of the last two first-round picks (Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey), I have Detroit taking a swing on Cam Whitmore. Injuries and inconsistent playing time caused the talented freshman to have an up-and-down season at Villanova, but he’s a smooth offensive weapon that can fill it up from all three levels with the strength and versatility to impact the game defensively if he’s bought in.
6) orlando magic
Gradey Dick, SG, Kansas – 6-8, 205 lbs.
14.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 44.2 FG%, 40.3 3P%
Orlando has finished in the bottom six in the league in 3-point shooting each of the last four seasons. To take the next step, the Magic have to be able to space the floor, and Dick is the best and most versatile shooter in this draft. It is a bit of a reach — especially considering Orlando also has the No. 11 pick — but I don’t think the Magic will want to risk him being taken before they’re back on the clock.
7) INDIANA PACERS
Jarace Walker, PF, Houston – 6-8, 240 lbs.
11.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 46.5 FG%, 34.7 3P%
Indiana has a guard-dominated team full of shooters around Myles Turner, which gives it a promising and exciting identity, but the Pacers do need more of an interior presence. That’s where Walker comes in. He was a defensive and rebounding menace for Houston while also showing reliable range extending beyond the college 3-point line. This fit seems to work well for both sides.
8) washington wizards
Anthony Black, PG/SG, Arkansas – 6-7, 198 lbs.
12.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.9 apg, 45.3 FG%, 30.1 3P%
Black emerged as Arkansas’ best and most reliable playmaker last season and saw his draft stock skyrocket because of it. Standing 6-7, he does a little bit of everything and prefers to play with the ball in his hands. Washington has been looking for a starting-caliber point guard since John Wall’s Achilles injury and subsequent departure, so this makes sense. His size allows him to play multiple positions and would give the Wizards some lineup versatility, too, which is a bonus for a team still searching for an identity.
9) utah jazz
Ausar Thompson, SG/SF, Overtime Elite – 6-7, 215 lbs.
16.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.1 apg, 48.1 FG%, 29.8 3P%
Ausar, twin brother of Amen, is another top-5 talent — but he slides in this scenario, which would thrill the Jazz on draft night. Utah’s unexpected success in 2022-23 came thanks to Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler emerging as franchise building blocks. The flipside is that it also knocked the Jazz out of position to nab one of the draft’s top picks. Thompson is the best player available and fills a need on the wing, making this an easy selection.
10) dallas mavericks
Cason Wallace, SG/PG, Kentucky – 6-4, 193 lbs.
11.7 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 spg, 44.6 FG%, 34.6 3P%
It’s no secret that Dallas needs to improve defensively while surrounding Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving with more talent. There’s a case to be made that Wallace is the best perimeter defender in this class and can guard anyone 1 through 3. He also showed at Kentucky that he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make an impact offensively — helpful when playing alongside Doncic — but can serve as a secondary playmaker. If his 3-point shot continues to improve, he may end up looking like a steal here.
11) orlando magic (via Bulls)
Taylor Hendricks, SF/PF, UCF – 6-9, 210 lbs.
15.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 47.8 FG%, 39.4 3P%
Hendricks is a high upside play thanks to his elite tools. He has the size, production and efficiency that NBA teams covet, especially when it comes to his shooting ability. Hendricks does need to add weight, but his defensive versatility and high motor will be valued by a Magic team that utilizes positionless basketball and will be patient with his development.
12) OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Jordan Hawkins, SG, UConn – 6-5, 185 lbs.
16.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 40.9 FG%, 38.8 3P%
Simply put, Hawkins is an elite shooter. Whether it’s in spot-up situations or on the move off screens or dribble handoffs, no one was more lethal in college basketball than the sophomore. Hawkins’ efficiency dips when he has to put the ball on the deck or make plays for others, but he has an elite skill. Oklahoma City already has several playmakers and needs to get better shooting after finishing in the bottom half of the NBA from behind the arc. This feels like the perfect fit.
13) Toronto Raptors
Jalen Hood-Schifino, SG/PG, Indiana – 6-6, 213 lbs.
13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.7 apg, 41.7 FG%, 33.3 3P%
Toronto may have a glaring need in the backcourt if it loses Fred VanVleet and/or Gary Trent Jr. in free agency this offseason. Hood-Schifino demonstrated the ability to thrive in either guard position at Indiana, along with showing off NBA-level shot creation. He has the tools to be a plus defender, and Hood-Schifino has the potential to develop into a versatile weapon on the offensive end — something the Raptors need long-term.
14) New Orleans Pelicans
Keyonte George, SG, Baylor – 6-4, 185 lbs.
15.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 37.6 FG%, 33.8 3P%
The Pelicans need more offensive creators, too, because they don’t really have any outside of Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum. George showed flashes of being one of the nation’s best during his season at Baylor. Whether it was his 12 20-point games or multiple games with seven assists, he has demonstrated the ability to create for both himself and his teammates. George isn’t the best defender, but his offensive game fills a need for New Orleans.
15) Atlanta Hawks
Nick Smith Jr., PG/SG, Arkansas – 6-5, 185 lbs.
12.5 ppg, 1.7 apg, 37.6 FG%, 33.8 3P%
Smith was a five-star prospect who never found his groove at Arkansas due to injuries. That said, the tools that made him a five-star prospect still make him appealing. He has tremendous size for a point guard, the length to be an elite defender and the shot-making ability to be special. Smith wasn’t very efficient during his time with the Razorbacks, but his shot selection wasn’t the best as Arkansas’ offense struggled with spacing. Atlanta needs more perimeter pop behind Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, so it makes sense for them to take this gamble.
16) Utah Jazz (via Timberwolves)
Rayan Rupert, SG/SF, NZ Breakers (NBL) – 6-6, 192 lbs.
5.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.9 spg, 35.1 FG%, 23.0 3P%
We mentioned Utah’s ability to gamble on long-term upside previously, so that’s what I have them doing here with Rupert. He’s a tremendous defensive player with the upside to become one of the NBA’s best on that end. The hope is that he becomes a tremendous 3-and-D player but, at the very least, he’ll be a defensive specialist with a selfless offensive game.
17) Los Angeles Lakers
Jett Howard, SG/SF, Michigan – 6-8, 215 lbs.
14.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 41.4 FG%, 36.8 3P%
The Lakers are going to continue to build around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, which means adding players who can knock down perimeter shots and play multiple positions. Howard showed he can do those things at a high level during his season at Michigan. There must be more buy-in from Howard on the defensive end if he’s going to succeed in the NBA, but his size, skill and pedigree make him a solid fit here.
18) Miami heat
Noah Clowney, PF, Alabama – 6-10, 210 lbs.
9.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 48.6 FG%, 28.3 3P%
Kevin Love’s career has been somewhat revitalized with the Heat, whose run to the Eastern Conference Finals has been aided by the spacing Love’s shooting provides. No one will compare Clowney to Love, but the flashes of perimeter prowess he showed as a freshman intrigues NBA teams. Clowney is a freak, fluid athlete who has immense potential, and few franchises develop talent as well as the Heat do. This may be a spot for them to gamble on that upside.
19) Golden State Warriors
Dereck Lively II, C, Duke – 7-1, 230 lbs.
5.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 65.8 FG%
Remember when the Warriors drafted James Wiseman in hopes that he could be their long-term piece in the middle? That never materialized, but that same thinking goes into this Lively projection. Golden State built a dynasty around perimeter shooting, yet rebounding and defensive versatility allowed those championship runs to happen has much as anything. Given Draymond Green’s uncertain future and the lack of size on this roster, Lively would provide some more versatility and the kind of rim protector/lob threat the Warriors haven’t had. Golden State needs to focus on that end, which makes Lively a solid fit.
20) Houston Rockets (VIA Clippers)
Leonard Miller, SF/PF, G League Ignite – 6-9, 195 lbs.
18.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 55.6 FG%, 32.7 3P%
Miller was incredibly productive while playing for Ignite, more than anyone really anticipated. As this Houston team amasses versatile pieces, Miller would add a new dimension in the frontcourt. He still needs to grow into the mental side of the game with improved decision-making and consistency/effort, but all the tools of an impact player are there. The Rockets can be patient with his development, too.
21) Brooklyn Nets (via Suns)
Kobe Bufkin, SG/PG, Michigan – 6-4, 175 lbs.
14.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, 48.2 FG%, 35.5 3P%
Brooklyn’s backcourt could use more depth, and the franchise has placed an emphasis on versatile, multi-positional players. Bufkin can play either guard spot and excels on the defensive end, flashing the potential to be a quality two-way guard. If the Nets don’t package their picks to move up in the draft, this would be a solid landing spot with plenty of opportunity for Bufkin.
22) Brooklyn Nets
Bilal Coulibaly, SG/SF, Metropolitans 92 (LNB Pro A) – 6-6, 230 lbs.
5.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 53.2 FG%, 45.2 3P%
Speaking of opportunity, Coulibaly makes all the sense in the world for the Nets. He gained attention of NBA scouts thanks to his efficient shooting numbers while playing with Wembanyama. While he is still incredibly raw, Coulibaly’s development has him on track to be an impact player sooner rather than later. It’s hard to get lottery-level talent this late in the draft, yet Coulibaly’s shooting and defensive upside give him that ceiling.
23) PortlanD Trail Blazers (via Knicks)
Brice Sensabaugh, SF, Ohio State – 6-6, 235 lbs.
16.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 48.0 FG%, 40.5 3P%
There’s a good chance Portland tries to flip this pick (and the No. 3 overall pick) for an established veteran player. However, if the Blazers keep it, I have them adding more versatility and offensive firepower to their frontcourt. Sensabaugh is an efficient 3-point shooter who can score at all three levels with ease, both off the bounce or in spot-up/cutting situations. He needs to improve defensively, but Sensabaugh can step in and be productive offensively right away.
24) Sacramento Kings
Kris Murray, PF, Iowa – 6-8, 215 lbs.
20.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 47.6 FG%, 33.5 3P%
The Kings drafted Keegan Murray with the No. 4 overall pick last year, so why not double up and draft Kris here? Keegan had a successful rookie season thanks to how the Kings used his versatile offensive skill set, much of which Kris also possesses. Having two of those chess pieces would allow Mike Brown to do some creative things on that end.
25) Memphis Grizzlies
Jaime Jaquez Jr., SF, UCLA – 6-6, 220 lbs.
17.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 48.1 FG%, 31.7 3P%
This feels like a relatively easy choice for Memphis, who is already dealing with a tumultuous offseason thanks to Ja Morant. The Grizzlies need to replace Dylan Brooks’ defensive versatility on the wing, and Jaquez should be able to step in and fill that role — without all the antics. Jaquez will need to become more consistent with his perimeter jumper, but he does so many positive things that impact winning. Memphis also doesn’t shy away from taking experienced college players.
26) Indiana Pacers (VIA Cavaliers)
Gregory Jackson II, PF/SF, South Carolina – 6-9, 215 lbs.
15.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 38.4 FG%, 32.4 3P%
We already discussed Indiana’s need for size and its ability to gamble on upside given where its rebuild is at. The Pacers can afford to gamble even more considering they have three first-round picks, so why not take a chance on the ultimate wild card in GG Jackson? The top prospect in the 2023 recruiting class reclassified to play for South Carolina this past season, showing both his potential and his flaws in the process. Jackson is a terrific athlete who can dominate down low and play on the perimeter, but his shot selection is spotty, and his effort was inconsistent. The star potential is there if he can put it altogether.
27) Charlotte Hornets (via Nuggets)
Dariq Whitehead, SF, Duke – 6-7, 220 lbs.
8.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 42.1 FG%, 42.9 3P%
Since I have Charlotte passing on wing help at No. 2, the Hornets will address that here with Whitehead. He was a top-5 prospect in the 2022 recruiting class but never really found his footing at Duke due to injury. Nevertheless, he still showed flashes of being an efficient offensive force last season. There isn’t anything Whitehead struggles with on that end given his size, skill and fluidity.
28) Utah Jazz (via 76ers)
Amari Bailey, SG, UCLA – 6-5, 185 lbs.
11.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 49.1 FG%, 38.9 3P%
Another five-star prospect who wasn’t as impactful as expected in college, Bailey’s lack of eye-popping numbers has more to do with being buried on UCLA’s depth chart than anything else. When he stepped into a bigger role in the postseason following Jaylen Clark’s injury, he averaged 17.3 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting over 50 percent from the floor and nearly 47 percent from deep. Utah will hope he can maintain that kind of production.
29) Indiana Pacers (VIA Celtics)
Andre Jackson Jr., SF, UConn – 6-6, 210 lbs.
6.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.7 apg, 43.2 FG%, 28.1 3P%
After taking a big gamble on GG, Indiana takes the safer approach with this Jackson. The glue of UConn’s national championship team, Andre Jackson is an elite defender and playmaker on the wing. He does everything to impact winning except shoot it well. Considering the Pacers have a team full of shooters, adding Andre Jackson as a connector and secondary playmaker could be beneficial.
30) Los Angeles Clippers (via Bucks)
Brandin Podziemski, SG, Santa Clara – 6-5, 200 lbs.
19.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.7 apg, 48.3 FG%, 43.8 3P%
Podziemski flourished at Santa Clara after transferring from Illinois, showcasing elite offensive ability beyond just shooting (though he was an incredibly efficient 3-point shooter, both in spot-up and off-the-bounce situations). The Clippers don’t have many pressing needs that can be filled at the end of the first round, but the hope here is that Podziemski can impact the game with his shooting and eventually develop into a Luke Kennard-type bench producer.