Photo Cred: Sporting News
The 2023 NBA Draft took place in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center this past Thursday night, and the next batch of young basketball stars are entering the league. There were many surprises later on in the draft, but the first ten to fifteen picks went at least somewhat as expected.
The first pick was no shock to anyone. The San Antonio Spurs selected Victor Wembanyama, a seven-foot-five center from France. With Wembanyama’s height, he can easily block shots, attack the rim, and dominate any other player in the post. On top of this, he has a guard-like handle, a solid jump shot, and the ability to shoot three-pointers even off one leg. With his size and skill, he is pretty much impossible to guard and effectively plays like a taller version of Kevin Durant on offense and Kevin Garnett on defense. He has the potential to be one of the best NBA players of all time and should be a perennial NBA all-star for years to come.
Photo Cred: CNN
Moving on to the second pick, the Charlotte Hornets selected Brandon Miller out of Alabama. The six-foot-nine small forward shot nearly 40% from three and is a great shooter and scorer. He is also an elite playmaker, can finish at the rim, and is a strong defender. He led the Alabama attack and earned the MVP of the SEC tournament, carrying Alabama to a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, before the Tide lost to eventual runners-up San Diego State in the Sweet Sixteen.
Photo Cred: AL.com
The Portland Trail Blazers selected Scoot Henderson with the third pick, a six-foot-two point guard who played in the NBA G-League for the G-League Ignite. Although Henderson struggles with his jump shot and isn’t much of a three-point shooter, he is very explosive, can draw fouls well, and is a good finisher. He is also a crafty ball handler and playmaker and can shoot midrange jumpers. It will be interesting to see if the Blazers keep Damian Lillard and pair Lillard with Scoot or trade Damian Lillard and build around Scoot Henderson.
Photo Cred: NBA.com
Rounding out the top five, the Houston Rockets selected Amen Thompson, and the Detroit Pistons picked his twin brother Ausar Thompson. Both brothers played at Overtime Elite, a developmental league similar to the G-League in which players could test themselves at a young age against similar prospects. This draft highlighted the different pathways players could take to the NBA, with international players, the G-League, and the Overtime Elite program in addition to the traditional college route. Both Thompson twins are taller guards at six-feet-seven, with Amen being a point guard and Ausar being a shooting guard. In addition to size, both brothers can shoot outside, attack the basket, and guard multiple positions. Amen has a better handle, and Ausar is more of a wing player. The brothers are similar players who will help their lottery teams compete for a playoff spot.
Some other intriguing picks from later in the first round were Duke center Dereck Lively II going to the Thunder at the twelfth pick, followed by Gradey Dick going to the Raptors and Jordan Hawkins going to the Pelicans, two of the best shooters in the class. Indiana guard Jalen Hood-Schifino went to the Western Conference runners-up Lakers at pick #17, while UCLA small forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. went to the NBA Finals runner-up Miami Heat.
Photo Cred: Toronto Star
The slide of this year’s draft belongs to Cam Whitmore. He was projected to go top-5 in many mock drafts but fell to the 20th, where the Rockets picked him. The Villanova small forward has an NBA-ready body, is a shot maker with athletic ability but disappointed in individual workouts and interviews, and he and Villanova struggled this season en route to missing March Madness for just the second time since 2004.
Photo Cred: NBA.com
The Brooklyn Nets selected Noah Clowney, a power forward out of Alabama, and Dariq Whitehead, a shooting guard from Duke. They had back-to-back picks in the first round. They added size to pair with Nicholas Claxton in the post in Clowney and an explosive athlete who developed a 40% 3-point shooting touch in Whitehead. Clowney is a versatile big man who played a role in a great Alabama season, while Whitehead has some injury concerns but showed his potential to at least be a solid 3-and-D player for the Nets.
Near the end of the first round, Keegan Murray’s younger brother and former Iowa teammate Kris Murray joined Scoot Henderson in Portland, Houston standout point guard Marcus Sasser was picked by the Grizzlies, and Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh went to the Jazz. The defending champion Nuggets traded into the first round to select the hot-shooting small forward from Gonzaga in Julian Strawther.