(B/R) — NBA scouts are making their initial rounds for non-conference tournaments and forming first impressions on prospects for the 2023 draft.
These are valued scouting opportunities, given the rare matchups that take place between quality opponents.
This projected class is off to a booming start, as it feels like at least 20 names could wind up earning lottery grades. And that’s before the inevitable breakouts that typically start to look real midway through conference play.
So far, we’ve already seen a handful of sophomores and juniors show they’ve made significant improvements over the offseason. The brother of a 2022 top-five pick seems poised to make a similar jump up the board.
Still, aside from the superstar in France, another in the G League and a third with Overtime Elite, a deep freshmen group will help this class challenge previous ones for the title of best of the decade.
Updated NBA mock draft after first impressions https://t.co/GrORX6nErZ
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) November 23, 2022
1. Detroit Pistons: Victor Wembanyama (Mets 92, PF/C, 2004)
Even in November, it seems like there isn’t much left for Victor Wembanyama to prove.
Coming off a 30-point, five-block game on Sunday, the 7’4″ 18-year-old leads the top French league in scoring for the 7-1 Metropolitans 92.
He continues to astound with off-the-dribble fluidity and coordination into jumpers and runners. And with an 8’0″ wingspan, difficult finishing angles become easy, drop-in baskets.
Meanwhile, he’s making 1.5 threes per game and swatting 11.1 percent of opponents shots. Aside from the go-to scoring arsenal he’s developed to average 22.4 points in 31.7 minutes, Wembanyama offers NBA teams a floor spacer and elite rim protector capable of transforming a team defense.
Whoever drafts him has a totally different future ahead. And right now, the Detroit Pistons are one of the most likely at 3-15. A core of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Wembanyama would suddenly have a new level of upside.
2. Houston Rockets: Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite, PG, 2004)
Already with four 25-point games, Scoot Henderson has had no trouble carving up G League defenses with his ridiculous change of direction, burst and off-the-dribble shooting.
He’s a scoring point guard, and he still has plenty of room to improve as a decision-maker, but he’s also been able to leverage his ball-handling, elusiveness and gravity into playmaking. With a 16-assist game on his resume, he’s sporting a 30.1 assist percentage, a development that’s putting him in the conversation with the most complete point guard prospects of the decade.
He’s even made 8-of-17 threes, showing a different level of confidence stepping into longer jumpers.
Henderson has a bright green light with Ignite, and it can lead to questionable shots and forces. But they wouldn’t cause a team like the Houston Rockets to hesitate. It’s difficult to picture a scenario where Henderson doesn’t go No. 2, unless Amen Thompson’s jumper starts heading up with Overtime Elite.
Teams like the Rockets would move prospects around positionally to make room for Henderson. In this case, Kevin Porter Jr. would presumably slide to the wing between Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr.
3. Charlotte Hornets: Amen Thompson (Overtime Elite, PG/SG, 2003)
While we’re still waiting for the college debuts of Arkansas’ Nick Smith and Villanova’s Cam Whitmore, Amen Thompson remains the favorite at No. 3 with an unmatchable combination of 6’7″ size, elite athletic ability and playmaking skills.
There isn’t an NBA player like him in terms of wing size, the highest levels of quickness and explosion and creation skill for teammates.
Limited shooting may still make some teams hesitate, but Thompson feels like an outlier capable of impacting games without a jumper—just with consistent blow-bys, finishes, assists and defense.
While certain coaches may see a primary initiator in Thompson, given the advantage he can create from the point of attack, he offers enough versatility to play the 2 or 3 next to a guard like LaMelo Ball in Charlotte.
4. Orlando Magic: Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas, PG/SG, Freshman)
Scouts are still waiting for the debut of Nick Smith (knee), who’ll return to a favorable role that should help showcase his skill level and combo versatility.
He’ll split time initiating offense with freshman Anthony Black. A team like the Orlando Magic could see an interchangeable guard, capable of creating or playmaking from the point or scoring and shooting as a 2.
Smith doesn’t have Scoot Henderson’s burst or bounce. Change of speed, ball-handling counters and footwork help the 6’5″, 18-year-old separate into drives and dribble jumpers. But he’s also suited to play possessions off the ball with a promising catch-and-shoot game from the wings and corners.
The Magic would ultimately have no problem playing Smith with Jalen Suggs, which could push Cole Anthony into a sixth-man role that may better suit his strengths and weaknesses.
5. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers): Cam Whitmore (Villanova, SF, Freshman)
Explosive and powerful with an improving shooting stroke, Cam Whitmore figures to enter the top-10 discussion once he’s back (thumb surgery) and gets comfortable in Villanova’s offense.
While he’s not the most creative of the top wing prospects, the gradual development and strides he’s made remains a selling point. Whitmore looked better and better from April through the summer, finishing it with MVP honors at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship.
It wouldn’t be surprising if it took some time for the freshman to build back his shooting rhythm joining an established lineup led by juniors and seniors. Age (turns 19 after the draft), a 6’7″, 232-pound frame and incredible burst/leaping ability should buy him time, however, particularly given the promise he showed making 10-of-22 threes for USA.
6. San Antonio Spurs: Anthony Black (Arkansas, PG/SG, Freshman)
Consecutive 26-point, six-assist games in Maui highlighted Anthony Black’s advantageous combination of 6’7″ size and ball-handling skills. But he also buried a combined four three-pointers, a notable development for a point-forward with translatable, impact passing and defensive instincts.
While there are still some questions about his shot, Black showed he could he could use quick-dribble moves, changing speeds, finishing-angle creation and touch shots to score inside the arc.
With recent jumbo-playmaking prospects like Scottie Barnes, Josh Giddey, Dyson Daniels and Franz Wagner going top-10, history says Black’s archetype will be valued.
7. Miami Heat: Cason Wallace (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)
Praised for his versatility and defense entering the season, Cason Wallace has delivered, averaging 4.6 assists and 3.4 steals on 8-of-15 from three.
Even if his tools, limited athleticism and lack of scoring firepower make it tough to detect star upside, every team should have some degree of his interest in his adaptable skill set/ mentality and obvious defensive gifts.
With some of the best defensive instincts shown from any freshman guard in recent memory, Wallace is also shooting 60.7 percent inside the arc, using sound decision-making and shot-making touch to score with extreme efficiency.
He looks like an easy NBA fit anywhere as a combo capable of making a big impact on relatively low usage.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder: Brandon Miller (Alabama, SF, Freshman)
Brandon Miller’s start has been a hop topic early, with the 6’9″ freshman averaging 20.2 points on 15-of-29 from three.
Scouts are waiting to determine the legitimacy of his blistering start from deep, considering the three-ball has fueled the majority of his scoring production. Regardless, the combination of 6’9″ size, shot-making and athletic finishes creates the perception of upside, and that’s not accounting for the possibility that he can also add value as a passer and defender.
Miller has clearly entered the top-10 discussion with his positional tools and shooting. Whether he can rise into the top-five mix will come down to sustaining a similar level of jump-shot makes, and if he can showcase more off-the-dribble skill or burst once Alabama’s schedule picks up. Having turned 20 years old this week, some scouts may be less forgiving if he hits a wall.
9. Orlando Magic: Dariq Whitehead (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)
While Dariq Whitehead has struggled to make shots in limited action returning to Duke’s lineup, we’ve still the dribble-jumper game and spot-up shooting and that point to three-level scoring potential.
Avoiding questions about his three-point consistency and shot selection will be Whitehead’s challenges. But at 6’6″, he doesn’t turn 19 until August and he’s already equipped with NBA-level moves for perimeter separation, tough shot-making skill and disruptive defensive tools.
He’s bound to resemble a pro scorer once his confidence and comfort level return, though sequences of energy plays, secondary playmaking and defensive pressure should help round out Whitehead’s scouting profile.
10. Golden State Warriors: Jarace Walker (Houston, PF, Freshman)
While a 6’8″, 235-pound frame separates Jarace Walker, it’s the skill versatility and defense that will push him into the lottery mix.
He’s made five of his first 12 threes, showcased plus passing IQ and delivered some soft touch shots around the key. He’s also used his physical tools to finish through contact and force turnovers.
Contributing regularly to a Final Four contender will only help Walker’s image, though he’s also generated positive reviews behind the scenes for his coachability.
11. Brooklyn Nets: GG Jackson (South Carolina, PF, Freshman)
The draft’s projected young prospect, GG Jackson has been productive early for South Carolina, averaging 16.2 points and 8.0 rebounds with seven threes in five games.Shooting, athletic finishes and energy plays have been behind Jackson’s scoring. As long as he’s making jumpers at a respectable rate, his name should continue to be grouped in with the other lottery prospects. We haven’t seen much passing or exciting defensive plays from Jackson, though between his age (18), tools, budding perimeter skill, rim activity and motor, teams should picture translatable double-doubles.
12. New York Knicks: Gradey Dick (Kansas, SF, Freshman)
Scouts are already picturing a plug-and-play NBA wing in Dick, a convincing shooter (10-or-20 3PT) at 6’8″ who’s shown more athleticism at the rim, shot-making versatility and defensive toughness.
13. Utah Jazz (via Timberwolves): Keyonte George (Baylor, SG, Freshman)
With a high usage and tough schedule early, George has had mixed performances, though the pros still outweigh the lows. NBA teams will see translatable shot-making in his shooting versatility and ability to elevate over defenders, while his burst splitting defenses and screens should continue to work at the NBA level. His 5.0 assists per game have also been noteworthy and highlight real combo-guard playmaking ability. Improving his shot selection and in-between game will help George avoid turning some scouts off.
14. New York Knicks (via Mavericks): Terquavion Smith (North Carolina State, PG/SG, Sophomore)
If Smith’s first four games are an indication of what’s to come this season, the decision to pass on 2022 first-round interest should pay off. Shot-making will always be the signature skill that fuels his scoring, but he’s been significantly more efficient so far with his finishing, and he’s showcasing more playmaking ability to bolster his point or combo guard case to scouts.
15. Toronto Raptors: Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite, SG/SF, 2003)
Teams will show a willingness to stay patient with Thompon’s skill development, given the level of quickness and explosion has he possesses for attacking, finishing and defending at baseline. His shooting and decision-making remain inconsistent, but he’ll continue to look too tempting with enough flashes of self-creation and one-on-one shot-making, plus the highlight dunks, slashes and defensive playmaking.
16. Utah Jazz (via Sixers): Kel’el Ware (Oregon, C, Freshman)
Ware has stood out most early for the shooting flashes and his defensive mobility. He doesn’t have a huge offensive role in Oregon’s offense, but the 7-footer has already hit three threes and blocked eight shots through four games. The potential to stretch the floor and protect the rim should be enough for Ware to remain in the top-20 discussion all year, even if his shot attempts and scoring production fluctuate.
17. Chicago Bulls (via Blazers): Kris Murray (Iowa, PF, Junior)
After a 29-point game against Seton Hall and 30 points against Omaha, a Murray breakout appears on. Between the shooting versatility, drives past closeouts, post buckets and body-controlled finishes, the jump he’s making looks similar to Keegan’s last year.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Jett Howard (Michigan, SG/SF, Freshman)
Howard has immediately caught scouts attention with his shot-making and scoring instincts for a 6’8″ wing. Though not the most creative scorer, he’s produced within Michigan’s offense, making jumpers and good decisions in terms of when to attack or move the ball.
19. Memphis Grizzlies: Maxwell Lewis (Pepperdine, SG, Sophomore)
Averaging 17.2 points, shooting 69.0 percent inside the arc and 58.8 percent from three, Lewis is off to a scorching start delivering the type of creation and skill flashes that should draw NBA attention. Scouts figure to have Pepperdine’s two Gonzaga games highlighted on their schedules.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (via Pelicans): Dillon Mitchell (Texas, PF, Freshman)
Though Mitchell hasn’t showcased any noticeable skill yet, superpower quickness and leaping could be enough for NBA teams to picture an athletic specialist for finishing and defensive playmaking.
21. New York Knicks (via Wizards): Emoni Bates (Eastern Michigan, SF, Sophomore)
Despite what certain teams might think about Bates’ decision-making and demeanor, his combination of 6’9″ size and shot-making may become difficult to resist. He’s off to a strong start for his team, averaging an efficient 23.0 points on 11-of-24 from three, though there will be a microscope on Bates when in-game adversity strikes.
22. Sacramento Kings: Kyle Filipowski (Duke, C, Freshman)
Duke’s leading scorer early, Filipowski has made a strong impression with his skill level for scoring versatility. While there may be questions about how limited athleticism affects him at the NBA level, he’s flashed the type of shooting range and face-up ability teams covet in centers.
23. Los Angeles Clippers: Dereck Lively (Duke, C, Freshman)
Physical tools won’t be enough for Lively to generate lottery interest, as he’s looked fairly limited at both ends in terms of offensive skill and defensive speed.
24. Phoenix Suns: Rayan Rupert (New Zealand Breakers, SG/SF, 2004)
Inefficiency in the NBL didn’t stop Ousmane Dieng from going in the lottery, and it won’t prevent teams from picturing Rupert’s NBA fit. Age (18), shooting (38.9 percent 3PT) and defense will give him wiggle room to struggle finishing plays inside the arc. Rupert’s ceiling does appear limited, but the demand for three-and-D wings should keep interest alive throughout the season and draft process.
25. Charlotte Hornets (via Nuggets): JJ Starling (Notre Dame, SG, Freshman)
Scoring double-figures in three of four games, Starling has showcased a variety of dribble and finishing counters plus confident shot-making skill. The ingredients for a pro scorer are there in terms of tools, athleticism, creation potential and shooting, though limited playmaking ability does reduce his margin for error.
26. Indiana Pacers: Judah Mintz (Syracuse, SG, Freshman)
The second-leading freshman scorer at 17.5 points, Mintz should creep his way onto NBA radars with his ball-handling and off-the-dribble footwork for creation, mid-range shot-making, secondary playmaking, rim pressure and defensive energy. Scouts will presumably want to see more three-point shooting to buy a 172-pound guard for the next level.
27. Utah Jazz: Jalen Wilson (Kansas, SF, Junior)
One of college basketball’s top scorers early (24.5 points), Wilson has been aggressive attacking transition defenses, closeouts and ball screens. At 6’8″, he’s excellent at finishing in the lane, so if the signs of shooting improvement (2.0 3PTM) continue in conference play, Wilson should have a first-round case.
28. Indiana Pacers (via Cavaliers): Julian Strawther (Gonzaga, SF, Junior)
Strawther lit up Kentucky for 20 points (and 14 boards), scoring with that projectable shooting stroke, touch shots and transition offense. While it seems like a long shot for the junior to break out the self-creation, he still possesses an easy-fit NBA skill set for off-ball scoring.
29. Houston Rockets (via Bucks): Marcus Sasser (Houston, PG, Senior)
Though Sasser’s 6’1″ size and limited athleticism hurt his perceived NBA projection, a team still figures to buy his super sharpe ball-handling for creation and shooting ability.
30. Indiana Pacers (via Celtics): Nikola Durisic (Mega, SG/SF, 2004)
Positional wing size (6’8″), shooting potential and IQ/feel are the draws to Durisic, who should look like an NBA fit if his jump-shot development trends upward. He just returned to Mega’s lineup after being out a month.
31. Detroit Pistons: Sidy Cissoko (G League Ignite, SG/SF, 2004)
Cissoko’s identity revolves around versatility and two-way playmaking, but his 9-of-24 start from three has been the early storyline.
32. Indiana Pacers (via Rockets): Jordan Hawkins (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)
Hawkins entered the season on breakout watch, and he’s quickly delivered some noteworthy stretches of persuasive shooting with a quick, high release. How much off-the-dribble improvement he shows will dictate the trajectory of his rise.
33. Philadelphia 76ers: Tyrese Proctor (Duke, PG/SG, Freshman)
Eventually, Proctor’s shot-making confidence should kick in to pair with his ball-handling, vision and decision-making for facilitating. It may ultimately take two seasons for the 18-year-old to build a complete draft case, though NBA teams may be willing to reach early on a 6’5″ combo who should be able to manipulate defenses, pass and shoot.
34. Orlando Magic: Trevon Brazile (Arkansas, PF/C, Sophomore)
Athletic finishing remains Brazile’s signature strength, though continuing to build on the early-season shooting flashes will be his key to a legitimate draft-stock spike.
35. Los Angeles Lakers: Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech, SG/SF, Senior)
Scouts are waiting to see how real Shannon’s early-season shooting is after he made four threes versus Monmouth and eight threes against UCLA. With his 6’6″ size and athleticism, he won’t need to show much improvement off the dribble if he’s suddenly a consistent threat from deep.
36. San Antonio Spurs: Brice Sensabaugh (Ohio State, SG, Freshman)
Unless Sensabaugh hits a wall, he should start to make his way onto NBA radars with his impressive 6’6″, 235-pound frame, shooting (7-of-18 3PT) and scoring instincts.
37. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Heat): Coleman Hawkins (Illinois, PF/C, Junior)
Intriguing last year as a 6’10” play-finisher, switchable defender and improving shooter, Hawkins is currently 7-of-17 from three, averaging a combined 3.0 steals and blocks.
38. Los Angeles Lakers (via Bulls): Jaime Jaquez (UCLA, SF, Senior)
Jaquez scores and competes with the type of craftiness, physicality and defensive toughness for teams to look past his three-point percentages and athletic limitations.
39. Denver Nuggets (via Thunder): Jordan Walsh (Arkansas, SF, Freshman)
Though Walsh doesn’t have a high-usage creation or scoring workload, scouts will admire his ability to impact games from a supporting role by making open shots, play-finishing, passing and defending multiple positions.
40. Atlanta Hawks (via Nets): Terrance Arceneaux (Houston, SG, Freshman)
Scouts could see Arceneaux excelling in a three-and-D role for Houston (38.1 percent 3PT, 3.3 steals per 40) and picture his shooting and defensive instincts translating to that same role at the NBA level.
41. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Warriors): Leonard Miller (G League Ignite, SF, 2003)
Miller has given Ignite a source of scoring versatility and motor plays for finishing, rebounding and defense. Still, NBA teams will want to see shooting improvement to consider him in the first round.
42. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Knicks): Arthur Kaluma (Creighton, SF, Sophomore)
An immediate physical standout at 6’7″, 225 pounds, Kaluma has appeared to have added more shooting confidence and creation skill. A breakout won’t fly under the radar thanks to his NBA body and Creighton’s Top 10 team.
43. Philadelphia 76ers: Forfeited
44. Toronto Raptors: Ricky Council IV (Arkansas, SF/SG, Junior)
Arkansas’ leading scorer, Council is starting to draw attention with athletic finishes, self-creation flashes and different types of shot-making. He doesn’t have the most believable three-point stroke, but between his 6’6″ size, scoring versatility, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals, Council has enough working for him for scouts to start taking him seriously.
45. Memphis Grizzlies (via Timberwolves): James Nnaji (Barcelona, C, 2004)
Any production or flashes from 18-year-old Nnaji in the ACB or EuroLeague should feel meaningful. Playing against the top competition outside the NBA, he’s starting to earn some minutes for physical tools and athleticism that NBA teams could eventually use for finishing, offensive rebounds and defense.
46. Boston Celtics (via Mavericks): Amari Bailey (UCLA, SG, Freshman)
Bailey is missing a surefire NBA skill, though he deserves a spot on second-round boards or his three-level shot-making potential and passing.
47. Charlotte Hornets (via Wizards): Matthew Murrell (Ole Miss, SG, Junior)
With 14 threes in four games, Murrell possesses the shot-making skill that needy shooting teams could seek out in the second round.
48. Atlanta Hawks (via Pelicans): Caleb Love (North Carolina, PG/SG, Junior)
Love’s efficient start inside the arc (63.3 percent) seems more notable than his cold three-point shooting (5-of-27). He proved enough with his shot-making last year. Showing he’s made adjustments finishing around traffic is what scouts want to see after two years of poor finishing.
49. Memphis Grizzlies: Mojave King (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)
Averaging 14.3 points with Ignite, King has entered the draft chat by spot-up shooting and converting timely drives and tough paint finishes. He has an easy-fit, off-ball skill set if his three-ball and finishing can translate.
50. Brooklyn Nets (via Hawks): Colby Jones (Xavier, PG/SG, Junior)
Jones hasn’t made a three-pointer yet, but Swiss Army knife-numbers (13.3 points, 6.7 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.7 blocks) could look enticing for a versatility specialty role.
51. Boston Celtics (via Blazers): Ousmane N’Diaye (Grupo Eleyco Baskonia, PF, 2004)
N’Diaye should be on NBA radars after making noise at the U18 African Championship, where the 6’11”, 18-year-old project was launching 8.8 threes per game and flashing unique shooting versatility for a big.
52. Sacramento Kings: Eric Gaines (UAB, PG, Freshman)
With more initiator reps after transferring from LSU, Gaines has been a playmaking machine, though poor shooting and turnovers will keep his draft stock in check for now.
53. Los Angeles Clippers: Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana, PF/C, Senior)
Jackson-Davis has been dominant early (20.8 points, 75.6 percent FG), just not with any new skills. His finishing and post game may still be strong enough for a team that could use more high-percentage scoring options up front.
54. Sacramento Kings (via Pacers): Baylor Scheierman (Creighton, SF, Senior)
Shooting over 40.0 percent from three for the third consecutive season, Scheierman should have fans who see a shot-making, ball-moving role player.
55. Chicago Bulls (via Nuggets): Forfeited
56. Phoenix Suns: Juan Nunez (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG, 2004)
This late in the draft, a team may put more stock into Nunez’s special facilitating and passing than the questions about his shooting and physical traits.
57. Charlotte Hornets (via Jazz): Oscar Tshiebwe (Kentucky, PF/C, Senior)
Tshiebwe’s path to the pros will call for specialty rebounding and energy, though any signs of improved mid-range or free-throw touch will make him more desirable.
58. Milwaukee Bucks (via Cavaliers): Adam Flagler (Baylor, PG, Senior)
With a second-round pick, NBA teams could bet on Flagler’s playmaking (6.8 assists) and shooting (54.3 percent 3PT), allowing him to overcome his mediocre tools and burst.
59. Milwaukee Bucks: DaRon Holmes II (Dayton, PF/C, Sophomore)
Aside from showing more passing, Holmes looks relatively similar compared to last year. Teams could still see translatable finishing and shot-blocking tied to his 6’10” frame and athleticism.
60. Boston Celtics: Drew Peterson (USC, SF, Senior)
With the offense running through Peterson, the 23-year-old senior is making a late NBA case by showcasing unique playmaking ability (8.0 assists) for a 6’9″ forward to complement some shooting range and post scoring skill.
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Jonathan Wasserman is the lead scout and NBA Draft analyst for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter.
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