(BR) — Each potential lottery pick for the 2023 NBA draft resembles a different NBA star, quality starter or mix of multiple pros.
The projected No. 1 pick looks like a combination of two of the rarer prospects over the last decade.
For some comparisons, it’s necessary to stretch one’s imagination or revisit the prime of a player’s career from years past.
Some big names sprung to mind in drawing parallels with these mostly 18- and 19-year-olds who have scouts particularly excited about the upcoming class.
Teams ultimately use the comparison exercise so scouts can paint a picture (to their general managers) of what prospects may look like in three to five years.
Gradey Dick (Kansas, SG/SF, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: Kevin Huerter
Gradey Dick (6-foot-8) and Kevin Huerter (6-foot-7) both possess an appealing combination of positional wing size and shooting.
Their value revolves around shot-making and the ability to rise up over defenders. But Huerter flew up draft boards by flashing more than just a stroke, and Dick should follow suit by showcasing extra shooting versatility and ball skills.
Both are still off-ball scorers, but as we watch Huerter now average 16.6 points and 3.2 assists as a Sacramento King, Dick similarly has another level of offense to reach with his pull-up game and passing IQ for secondary playmaking.
Keyonte George (Baylor, PG/SG, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: Jamal Murray
With solid frames, three-level shot-making skills, secondary playmaking ability and limited explosiveness, Keyonte George and Jamal Murray are similar combo guards.
Neither wows athletically. They unload on defenses with shooting confidence and the versatility to drill jumpers off dribbles and movement. But they’re also clever scorers who have a reputation for being able to take over key stretches or hit clutch shots late.
Ideally, they aren’t the lineup’s best passer, given their shot-hunting mentality. However, both have shown they can operate as setup men when needed, allowing them to take on different roles depending on game script.
Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite, PG, 2004)
NBA Comparison: Derrick Rose/Russell Westbrook
Explosiveness as a ball-handler separates Scoot Henderson, as it did for Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook in their primes.
These point guards possess a special blend of speed, burst and power on their way to the rim. Their ability to hang in the air and absorb contact makes them highly effective finishers.
Like Rose, Henderson is more of a scorer than a playmaker. And similar to both MVPs, he struggles from three but can still beat defenders in one-on-one situations with his mid-range pull-ups.
Decision-making is Henderson’s biggest weakness right now, but the production he’s poised to put up is bound to offset any effect of his turnovers or forced shots.
GG Jackson (South Carolina, PF, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: Christian Wood/Pascal Siakam
At 6-foot-9, 215 pounds, GG Jackson is currently at his best rim-running, finishing and offensive rebounding. Like Christian Wood and Pascal Siakam, he’s also flashed a comfort level shooting threes or making plays off the dribble.
Siakam seems like a best-case outcome if his face-up game and shot-making versatility take off. A lesser version could be Wood, who still averaged a double-double last year, though he does have defensive question marks. Jackson is similarly active on the boards, and early signs point to a big who’ll regularly be launching threes.
Cleaning up his in-between game when forced to put the ball on the floor will be key to his chances of reaching Siakam levels offensively.
Dereck Lively II (Duke, C, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: Brook Lopez
At 7-foot-1, 230 pounds, Dereck Lively II looks (physically) and moves like Brook Lopez. Lively will similarly serve as a giant finishing weapon and shot-blocker with a massive reach around the basket.
Both are strictly anchors from the 5-spot. Lively has also flashed useful, over-the-shoulder touch to score from the post. And though he might not be shooting many threes at Duke, he put an emphasis on showcasing his range last year in high school.
Eventually, Lively could mirror Lopez as a rim protector who can stretch the floor and score with one-handers around the key.
Brandon Miller (Alabama, SF, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: Ziaire Williams/Jaden McDaniels
Brandon Miller’s 6-foot-9 size and wing skills hint at the same type of upside tied to Ziaire Williams and Jaden McDaniels.
We’re still waiting to learn more about Miller’s three-point and defensive consistency, but he has clear range and confidence in his shot, plus the right tools for guarding both forward spots.
Ideally, the team that drafts Miller gets Williams’ shot-making and McDaniels’ two-point finishing and defense. The Alabama freshman looks more athletic than both pros, but he ultimately possesses similar measurements, perimeter game and defensive tools.
Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas, PG/SG, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: CJ McCollum
Like CJ McCollum, Nick Smith Jr. is a scorer whose creativity allows him to also run the point.
Neither player uses advantageous athletic traits to earn buckets or free throws. Smith creates space with change of speed and direction via his handle. And he projects as a versatile, three-level scorer with pull-ups, floaters and spot-up shooting.
Since joining the New Orleans Pelicans, McCollum has averaged 5.9 assists per game, a number that seems realistic for the Arkansas combo guard. Smith has shown he can make passing reads and play the setup role when needed, though he isn’t likely to ever challenge playmakers like Trae Young, Tyrese Haliburton or Chris Paul on the assist leaderboards.
Terquavion Smith (NC State, SG, Sophomore)
NBA Comparison: Jordan Poole
Terquavion Smith’s archetype is clear: an instant-offense scorer who can create his own shot and add shot-making firepower.
He’s another version of Jordan Poole with his ability to generate offense one-on-one and drill tough, dribble jumpers.
Both players ooze confidence, which can lead to points in bunches but also some questionable shots.
Like Poole, Smith can ultimately serve as an isolation or off-ball, catch-and-shoot weapon.
Amen Thompson (Overtime Elite, PG/SG, 2003)
NBA Comparison: Ja Morant
Finding a comparison for Amen Thompson means being a bit open-minded and picturing a taller Ja Morant. Otherwise, there hasn’t been an obvious 6-foot-7 playmaker blessed with Thompson’s speed, bounce and flexibility.
Like Morant, Thompson’s quick change of direction can make it impossible to stay in front of him. It fuels his playmaking, which is elevated by point-guard instincts and willing passing.
And then there is their signature ability to launch themselves at the rim.
These are rare guards who can score in volume without a lethal jumper thanks to how effectively they shake defenders off the dribble, squeezing through tight gaps and beating rim protection with their athletic gifts.
Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite, SG/SF, 2003)
NBA Comparison: Andrew Wiggins
At this point, Ausar Thompson’s production and function are mostly powered by quickness and athleticism. He’ll be optimized playing Andrew Wiggins’ role, where he’ll be valued for his play-finishing and defense initially operating between superior creators and shooters.
But Thompson has plenty of untapped scoring potential. Like Wiggins’ jump shot did, Thompson’s will need time to develop consistency and efficiency from behind the arc. Ideally, until Thompson’s one-on-one execution and stroke become more reliable, he’ll fill a supporting role that plays to his strengths as a transition weapon, slasher and defender.
But flashes from Overtime suggest he can eventually deliver a scoring punch similar to Wiggins once he sharpens his shot-making.
Cason Wallace (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: Jrue Holiday
Cason Wallace mirrors Jrue Holiday in a number of ways, from his defensive impact to his combo-guard label and ability to produce with skill and feel over athleticism.
Like Holiday has, Wallace will earn a reputation for applying tough ball pressure and guarding multiple positions.
Offensively, the Kentucky ball-handler mixes crafty scoring and playmaking IQ, a combination that should create an easy fit with any lineup.
If there is a con to Wallace, it’s that he’s missing one elite offensive strength, though he’s ultimately sharp enough across the board to fill up box scores by picking his spots to drive, capitalizing on space with shots off the dribble, making passing reads and hauling in boards.
Dariq Whitehead (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: Bennedict Mathurin/Harrison Barnes
Dariq Whitehead possesses Bennedict Mathurin’s tools and shot-making versatility, but the Duke freshman isn’t as athletic. And if that limited explosion holds him back, he could wind up more like a complementary scorer and role player like Harrison Barnes.
Whitehead and Mathurin can both create their own shot around the perimeter with pull-ups and step-backs or off-screen shooting. Both have the potential to be tough point-of-attack defenders capable of guarding multiple positions.
But Whitehead does lack a degree of burst, and if he winds up reliant on jumpers, he may fall into a Barnes role that calls for more spot-up play and passing.
Cam Whitmore (Villanova, SF, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: OG Anunoby/Jaylen Brown
Depending on how Cam Whitmore’s self-creation evolves over the next five years, he could look like OG Anunoby or Jaylen Brown.
At this point, he still mostly relies on outstanding strength and explosiveness for scoring and racking up easy baskets. But he’s also trending upward as a set shooter, and unless Whitmore totally struggles to improve his defensive IQ, his 6-foot-7, 232-pound frame seems like a lock to help defensively and allow him to guard ball-handlers, wings and bigger forwards.
A baseline projection envisions an Anunoby type who’s more of a third option than one who’ll carry a team’s offensive workload.
Gradual honing of his skills could lead to the second coming of Brown, who combines overwhelming tools and athleticism with capable self-creation and three-level shot-making. The strides he’s made with his jumper suggest his scoring development may be worth betting on.
Jarace Walker (Houston, PF, Freshman)
NBA Comparison: Julius Randle/Tari Eason
At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, Jarace Walker immediately stands out for his strong, chiseled frame. Physically, he resembles Julius Randle, and while Randle’s decision-making and inefficiency have overshadowed his production, he and Walker offer similar ball-handling, passing and shot-making versatility.
With a power forward’s frame, Walker can initiate breaks, playmake out of pick-and-rolls and attack in space. He operates out of the post, using his strength or footwork and fallaway touch.
Walker is closer to Tari Eason defensively with his ability to guard both forward spots and make athletic plays on the ball. Like Eason will, Walker figures to eventually log minutes at the 3, 4 and 5 throughout his career.
Victor Wembanyama (Metropolitans 92, PF/C, 2004)
NBA Comparison: Anthony Davis/Chet Holmgren
With Defensive Player of the Year upside and the potential to lead the NBA in blocks, Victor Wembanyama also possesses No. 1 option scoring skills and the fluidity to realistically pull them off.
There isn’t a singular player who seems even remotely comparable to Wembanyama in terms of physical tools, isolation creation ability, perimeter shot-making, elite finishing and rim protection. Anthony Davis averaged over 24 points for six consecutive seasons after developing into an inside-out threat with his handle and shooting, and Wembanyama seems capable of matching those numbers while mirroring Davis’ rim play, post jumpers and comfort level from three.
And like Davis and Chet Holmgren, another mobile, thin-but-long shot-blocker who covers ground fast and possesses outstanding instincts, Wembanyama looks capable of changing games by shutting down the paint and guarding in space.
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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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