Editor’s Note: Find more of Jonathan Wasserman’s coverage of the 2023 Draft on Bleacher Report or to read this article on BleacherReport.com, click here.
(B/R) — NBA teams voted in 78 draft prospects to the combine in Chicago. And once it’s done, scouting departments will start fleshing out their final boards.
Bleacher Report will be in attendance for measurements, athletic testing, drills, scrimmages and gossip. Aside from Victor Wembanyama, who’s still playing overseas, every one of our top 50 players will be there.
Smaller changes may be made from here on out based on next week’s performance, workouts and interview reviews. But each prospect’s range/tier on our board feels set.
50. Coleman Hawkins (Illinois, PF, Junior)
A dozen teams would be interested in a 6-foot-10 big who can stretch the floor, pass and move around defensively. There is a second-round gamble worth taking in Hawkins’ 37 made threes, 3.0 assists per game and mobility. Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Jaylin Williams would be the player for him to study.
49. Emoni Bates (Eastern Michigan, SF, Sophomore)
Bates will need the right role that values his shooting versatility, doesn’t ask for playmaking and can mask his defensive limitations. He’s easier to buy if you think of him as a 6-foot-9 shot-maker than a top-scoring option.
48. Sidy Cissoko (G League Ignite, SG/SF, 2004)
No bankable scoring skill makes it difficult to have confidence in Cissoko, but flashes of passing, streaky shot-making and strong defensive tools could create a coveted brand of versatility. He’s interesting as a potential two-way playmaker from either wing position.
47. Tristan Vukcevic (KK Partizan, PF/C, 2003)
Vukcevic shot 40.0 percent from three in the Adriatic League, and the fluidity of his skill flashes could look enticing. The combine will be a key scouting opportunity, as we’ll get to watch the 7-footer in a faster, more athletic setting than he’s used to overseas.
46. Keyontae Johnson (Kansas State, SF/PF, Senior)
Johnson’s catch-and-shoot game, cutting and defensive tools hint at translatable off-ball scoring strengths, and he has a 230-pound frame to guard both forward spots.
45. Jalen Wilson (Kansas, SF/PF, Senior)
Wilson is more attractive as an NBA 4, attacking bigs with his physical driving and ability to separate into dribble jumpers. A limited playmaker, on-and-off shooter and inconsistent defender, he’s going to get paid to score, so he’ll have to improve his finishing and continue drilling pull-ups at a good rate.
44. Nikola Djurisic (Mega MIS, SG/SF, 2004)
In terms of second-round picks, one of the big questions is whether Djurisic’s poor shooting this season was fluky or an indicator. He came into the year viewed as a promising shot-maker, and for a 6-foot-8 wing, his ability to handle and pass seems unique and translatable. Unleashing an underrated jumper has the potential to make Djurisic some new fans in Chicago.
43. Marcus Sasser (Houston, PG/SG, Senior)
There isn’t a high success rate for 6-foot-2 and under guards who aren’t serious playmakers. Sasser’s sharp-shooting versatility should still be able to land him a scoring and shot-making role off a bench.
42. Terrence Shannon Jr. (Illinois, SG/SF, Senior)
Streaky shot-making may still work for Shannon under the assumption that his open-floor ball-handling, burst and physical tools will translate to effective slashing and defense. Even if he only shot 32.1 percent from three this year, it was encouraging to see him attempt 5.0 threes a game.
41. Judah Mintz (Syracuse, SG, Freshman)
Mintz’s combine performance could dictate whether he stays in the draft or returns to Syracuse. During scrimmages, he won’t have the same ball-dominant role that allowed him to keep attacking, get to his pull-up and play-make consistently at Syracuse. NBA teams should think about Mintz as a second-unit spark with enough speed, wiggle, aggression, shot-making and defensive energy to pressure opponents at both ends.
40. Jordan Walsh (Arkansas, SF/PF, Freshman)
Walsh will try to draw NBA interest and minutes with defense and hustle first. Most teams could use combo forwards who can guard the big scoring wings. But unless he’s eager to start his pro career or he shines during scrimmages in Chicago, it may be wiser to return to a bigger role at Arkansas and a weaker 2024 draft field.
39. Julian Strawther (Gonzaga, SF, Junior)
Though limited off the dribble, Stawther’s shooting accuracy and shot-making versatility may be effective enough to warrant a specialist role. His shot rhythm with prep and footwork can be persuasive, while one of the draft’s best floaters could become a useful weapon when he’s run off the three-point line.
38. Ricky Council IV (Arkansas, SG/SF, Junior)
Usually scoring sparks have three-balls, but Council’s athleticism, ball-handling for creation and two-point shot-making could buy him time with his shooting development. Cracking the first round will still likely require Council to stand out among the pack during scrimmages.
37. Jaime Jaquez Jr. (UCLA, SF/PF, Senior)
Scouts have questions about how well Jaquez’s offense will translate and if he’ll be able to defend NBA wings. But it wouldn’t be surprising if there will be one team in the 20s that sees a surefire role player with the right type of versatility and toughness. A physical finisher and defender with capable shot-making and passing ability, I’d bet on seeing Jaquez in a rotation at some point.
36. Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana, PF/C, Senior)
Jackson-Davis has been in the lab working on his shooting, and scrimmages would be a good time to showcase any progress. Scouts still sound hesitant to fully buy into a 6-foot-9 post scorer, but he improved his NBA chances greatly by making bigs jumps with his passing and rim protection.
35. Kobe Brown (Missouri, SF/PF, Senior)
Brown left the door open to return or transfer, but there is legitimate NBA interest in his three-ball and passing right now. Though he’s already 23 years old and without much athleticism, his connector skill set traditionally fits well, and he still manages to get to spots with his ball-handling and footwork.
34. Ben Sheppard (Belmont, SG, Senior)
I’ve been pitching Sheppard as draftable for the last few months, so it was assuring to hear that NBA teams voted him into the combine. It’s a huge opportunity for the versatile scoring guard to catch eyes of executives who’ve yet to seen him live. Belmont’s weak schedule shouldn’t negate Sheppard’s shooting versatility (45.0 percent off screens, 45.3 percent pull-ups), and with long strides, runner touch and passing IQ, there is driving and ball-screen playmaking ability worth betting on in the early second round.
33. James Nnaji (Barcelona, C, 2004)
A team could draft Nnaji in the first round just based on his age (18) and physical profile for finishing, rebounding and shot-blocking. It’s just difficult to get too excited about a 6-foot-10 center who doesn’t handle, shoot or rank with the top shot-blockers.
32. Terquavion Smith (North Carolina State, SG, Sophomore)
Smith didn’t answer the questions scouts had last year about whether his frame and shot selection will make it too difficult to generate offense efficiently. But he might not need to in the right role that values his shot-making and knack for catching fire.
31. Amari Bailey (UCLA, PG/SG, Freshman)
Bailey changed some minds late in the season when Jaylen Clark’s injury led to more on-ball reps. The live-dribble passing popped most, though there has also been plenty of shot-making flashes dating back to high school. He’ll still likely need to stand out among the pack during combine scrimmages to crack enough first-round boards.
30. Leonard Miller (G League Ignite, SF, 2004)
Miller struggled during combine scrimmages last year, but he’s a different player today after a season in the G League, and he demonstrated clear growth from November to March. Teams in the 20s may be willing to take on a project with the potential payoff of adding a 6-foot-10 wing scorer with some open-floor handle, touch, motor and shot-making potential.
29. Jalen Hood-Schifino (Indiana, PG/SG, Freshman)
Hood-Schifino has generated NBA buzz around his 6-foot-6 size, passing flash and mid-range shot-making. Limited three-point shooting, finishing struggles and a casual approach are turnoffs, but he’ll bring an appealing mix of positional tools, flair, off-the-dribble scoring and playmaking to a backcourt.
28. Rayan Rupert (New Zealand Breakers, SG/SF, 2004)
Rupert played sparingly this year in the NBL, and at this point, it’s the idea of an 18-year-old, 6-foot-6 wing with 7-foot-3 length and shooting range that will earn him workouts for first-round teams. Taking him top 20 means putting heavy stock into his age, archetype and flashes of shot-making and defense.
27. Maxwell Lewis (Pepperdine, SF, Sophomore)
Scouts sound torn on Lewis’ smooth creation flashes, three-level shot-making, defensive lapses and poor win-loss record in a mid-major conference. But he’s bound to look good in workouts as a fluid, 6-foot-7 wing who can hit jumpers in a variety of ways.
26. Kris Murray (Iowa, PF, Junior)
Between the 6-foot-8 size, 66 three-pointers and complementary scoring off transition, cuts and flashes, Murray possesses a physical profile and skill set for off-ball offense. He’ll still be reliant on spot-up and movement shooting given his projected role and limitations off the dribble.
25. Andre Jackson Jr. (Connecticut, SF, Junior)
The NCAA tournament made it easier for scouts to picture Jackson’s NBA purpose in the right role. He made a compelling case to succeed as a non-shooting outlier who’ll impact games by creating for teammates in transition, making quick passing reads in the half court and using his special athletic gifts for play-finishing and defense. There could be steal potential with Jackson if he goes to a team with enough scoring threats and a need for glue.
24. Noah Clowney (Alabama, PF, Freshman)
Clowney’s shooting fluidity, rebounding and shot-blocking tools/production create a potentially valuable archetype that teams will be willing to draft and wait on. Limited creation and poor three-point and free-throw percentages suggest his NBA-ready timetable will be lengthier than most first-rounders.
23. Jordan Hawkins (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)
With 109 threes and the draft’s most made shots off screens, Hawkins has a plug-and-play, catch-and-shoot game. Without much creation or playmaking ability, history just says he’s most likely to mirror a shot-maker like Malik Beasley than an offense’s top option.
22. Colby Jones (Xavier, PG/SG, Junior)
Jones gives off high-floor, low-ceiling vibes with his easy-fit, two-way versatility, low-volume three-point shooting and creation limitations. Aside from interviews, there won’t be many opportunities for Jones to raise his stock during the predraft process.
21. Dereck Lively (Duke, C, Freshman)
Lively won back support over the second half of the season, showing promising improvement in his defensive anticipation. There is a chance he also helps himself in workouts with a three-point shot he looked more comfortable shooting in high school. Still, between his offensive limitations, foul rate and trouble defending physical centers in the post, it could be a few seasons before he’s a starting 5 man.
20. GG Jackson (South Carolina, PF, Freshman)
Jackson should be salivating at the idea of predraft workouts, a favorable setting for him to showcase his shot-making and help NBA teams forget about the inefficient scoring numbers and ugly assist-to-turnover ratio. It’s worth taking them into consideration, as they reflected Jackson’s tough shot selection, struggles in traffic and decision-making. But he still hit 55 threes and 45 pull-ups as a 6-foot-9, 18-year-old with enough ball-handling skill to project on-ball creation potential. An ideal landing spot may be one that gives him early minutes and the freedom to play through mistakes.
19. Bilal Coulibaly (Metropolitans 92, SF, 2004)
Coulibaly continues to produce in a supporting role for a Victor Wembanyama-led Mets 92 team headed to the Pro A playoffs. He won’t be at the combine with his season still going, but he’s generated enough attention with his explosive finishes, spot-up shooting and defensive flashes to earn first-round consideration.
18. Branden Podziemski (Santa Clara, PG/SG, Sophomore)
While Podziemski has shed the sleeper label, some teams may hope that he doesn’t scrimmage and increase his chances of moving up boards. There will be others who want more proof that the Santa Clara sophomore can light up a floor full of second-round prospects. An ultra efficient 60.2 true shooting percentage should help validate the 19.9 points per game that were generated off advanced creation, touch and shot-making. His 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game can also alleviate concerns over his frame and defense.
17. Jett Howard (Michigan, SG/SF, Freshman)
Scouts buy Howard’s shot-making, question his creation and knock his defense. The versatility to shoot off the catch, dribble and movement will represent his NBA calling card. A lack of ancillary stats (2.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.7 blocks) bring up concerns over his athletic limitations and additional avenues for upside. He should be more heavily targeted by teams looking for perimeter and off-ball scoring.
16. Dariq Whitehead (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)
News that Whitehead will undergo another foot surgery to fix an unhealed injury can actually be viewed as positive. It gives credence to the idea that he wasn’t at full strength this year while struggling to get to and finish at the rim. Whitehead still shot 42.9 percent from three, while high-school tape shows more flashes of self-creation and athleticism than we saw this year from a player who was clearly limited by his foot and role. There will be teams who see too much risk, but all it takes is one to buy low on a 6-foot-6 18-year-old with proven shot-making, untapped scoring and strong defensive tools.
15. Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas, PG/SG, Freshman)
Teams will want Smith to participate in scrimmages and competitive workouts, though neither will happen. He’ll hope to use a lack of continuity (caused by a knee injury) as an excuse, as scouts have soured on the 6-foot-5, 185-pound guard who shot 37.6 percent and totaled 29 assists to 27 turnovers. High school results and the eye test still point to a shot-maker who’s far more advanced than the small sample size of freshman numbers suggests. Promising spot-up shooting and cutting flashes should also ease concerns over his on-ball questions and overall fit.
14. Brice Sensabaugh (Ohio State, SG, Freshman)
While a lack of passing and defense reduce Sensabaugh’s offensive margin for error, his scoring efficiency and shot-making versatility were overwhelmingly sharp. He shot 45.8 off the catch, 46.1 percent off the dribble and 51.1 percent from the post, with the latter stat highlighting his ability to hit tougher, off-balance jumpers. While it’s worth questioning how much space he’ll consistently create, Sensabaugh didn’t need much to average 16.3 points in just 24.5 minutes.
13. Kobe Bufkin (Michigan, PG/SG, Sophomore)
Bufkin has enough NBA support to be able to skip NBA combine scrimmages. But the consensus is he’s more of a No. 15-30 prospect, as there are still some questions about his potential to create separation and shoot NBA threes. I’m higher on Bufkin and his shot-making, along with his two-way playmaking instincts and outstanding 71.1 percent finishing at the rim. His 48.9 percentage on long twos and 84.9 free-throw percentage ultimately bode well for his shooting development.
12. Anthony Black (Arkansas, PG/SG, Freshman)
NBA teams aren’t likely to find new takeaways about Black during the predraft process, considering his pitch mostly focuses on documented positional size and instincts/timing that can only be felt during five-on-five. He could help himself by shooting well in workouts, though regardless, teams figure to look at Black as a two-way playmaker who’ll impact games without shot-making firepower, using his passing and defensive IQ and off-ball finishing.
11. Keyonte George (Baylor, SG, Freshman)
George’s shot selection and inconsistent shooting may lead teams to see him more as a Jordan Poole type with the instant offense and vulnerability caused by a heavy diet of contested jumpers. The streakiness could turn off top-10 teams. But in the late lottery and mid-first round, there should be enough interest in George’s self-creation and shot-making firepower, along with the flashes of breakdown penetration and secondary playmaking. The payoff with George seems most likely to come toward the end of his rookie deal.
10. Gradey Dick (Kansas, SG/SF, Freshman)
The predraft process should go well for Dick, who could measure around 6-foot-8 in shoes, finish high on the vertical-jump leaderboards and light up workouts with his signature shooting. While there are questions about his creation upside, there is enough evidence that elite shot-making and off-ball scoring can still translate to quality-starter or star-caliber offense.
9. Cam Whitmore (Villanova, SF, Freshman)
Whitmore possesses too much explosiveness, power and shot-making ability for teams to nitpick and let him slide. The NBA’s pace and playmakers should instantly create easy baskets and rhythm threes for the 6-foot-7, 232-pound 19-year-old. Just 19 assists in 26 games does raise flags about his struggles with tunnel vision and making reads off the dribble. But he has demonstrated some high-level ball-handling moves for creation, and though passing doesn’t figure to be a major part of his game, lottery teams will be willing to bet on his development/trajectory as a self-creator and pull-up scorer.
8. Taylor Hendricks (Central Florida, PF, Freshman)
Translatable shooting (39.4 percent, 4.6 3PA) and defensive versatility/playmaking create an archetype for Hendricks that often sways one team early in the lottery. With Jonathan Isaac, Jaren Jackson Jr., De’Andre Hunter, Patrick Williams and Keegan Murray each going top five over the last five drafts, Hendricks seems like a sneaky bet to go ahead of other one-and-done scorers who were ranked higher in high school. The 6-foot-9 freshman jumps out as an easy fit with a high floor, plus time/room to build on the brief flashes of pull-up shooting and drives past closeouts.
7. Cason Wallace (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)
Limited scoring production and burst for creation may cause Wallace to fall outside the top 10. He shouldn’t. Wallace offers enough ball-handling command, shot-making versatility, touch, finishing craft and passing IQ to overcome a lack of explosion and threaten from either backcourt spot. And his defensive outlook remains more promising than most guards based on his tools, unteachable anticipation and wild 3.7 steal percentage.
6. Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite, SG/SF, 2004)
There is a general lack of confidence from NBA teams in their scouting of Thompson, just based on the unfamiliarity tied to assessing Overtime performance and its high-school competition. His pro day and workouts figure to be crowded with executives who’ll want a closer look at his shooting, which can be described as capable but erratic and unreliable. Given his reputation for possessing all-world athleticism, there won’t be much for Thompson to gain during testing at the combine, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he only participates in interviews. But he’s drawn strong reviews from behind the scenes for his character and work ethic. And while his jump shot and decision-making need to improve, it will be difficult for teams in the No. 5-10 range to pass on the upside tied to his 6-foot-7 size, quickness, bounce, defensive speed, ball-handling and flashes of shot-making and playmaking skill.
5. Jarace Walker (Houston, PF, Freshman)
Walker can only move up boards over the next six weeks as executives see his ridiculous frame up close, conduct more background/interviews and watch him shoot. There has been a desire from teams to learn if he really does measure 6-foot-8, but it shouldn’t matter too much, given his unique power and length. Feedback on his character has been overwhelmingly positive throughout the year as well. Walker ultimately graded out as an average shooter this season (35.8 percent on jump shots), which isn’t a bad place to start for a 240-pound forward who can attack closeouts, pass off the dribble, comfortably use floaters, finish through contact, play-make defensively and physically match up against 4s and 5s.
4. Brandon Miller (Alabama, SF, Freshman)
Miller could go as high as No. 2 after the shot-making, live-dribble passing and takeover stretches he delivered at Alabama. We have him lower at No. 4, mostly because of concerns over a lack of burst for penetrating and finishing. But even a worst-case outcome for Miller still pictures a quality starting wing with 6-foot-9 size, lethal shooting range, a pull-up game, vision, defensive tools and a competitive edge.
3. Amen Thompson (Overtime Elite, PG/SG, 2004)
NBA executives will have two priorities during their pre-draft assessments of Thompson: getting to know him and watching him shoot. The ability to create advantages and opportunities with his elite quickness, burst, wiggle and ball-handling is known. And there is enough tape of his passing and playmaking to know he has the right vision and feel for a primary ball-handler. While we believe he’ll find plenty of ways to score just off transition, blow-bys, runners and elevation in the lane, some teams still need to be convinced. His shooting numbers don’t match Ausar’s, but Amen possesses the same superhero athletic and defensive abilities while demonstrating more natural facilitating instincts, trustworthy decision-making and sharper finishing.
2. Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite, PG, 2004)
Henderson is expected to attend the combine, but it’s highly unlikely he does anything but interview. His camp figures to try to control the process as much as possible, assuming there is some desire from the 19-year-old ball-handler to join a team that has an opening at point guard. The Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards may be more appealing destinations than the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets or Indiana Pacers. This would be the last year agencies will have the freedom to dictate which teams can see their clients’ medicals. Depending on how the lottery shakes out, Henderson may benefit from falling to No. 3, which does seem possible with Miller and potentially Thompson in play behind Victor Wembanyama.
1. Victor Wembanyama (Metropolitans 92, PF/C, 2004)
Wembanyama won’t make it to the combine with his season still going and Metropolitans 92 holding the league’s second-best record. There wouldn’t have been any reason for him to attend, regardless. Leading Pro A in scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking while making 48 threes (32 games) and 83.9 percent of his free throws, the No. 1 overall lock will presumably meet with only one team once the lottery order is set. He continues to churn out mind-blowing highlights of self-creation, shot-making and above-the-rim finishes that are initiated from outside the key. Forget about the obvious long-term potential—Wembanyama appears on track to raise a team’s 2023-24 ceiling with his floor-spacing, easy baskets and defense. It just may take a season with his current frame to score efficiently enough for an All-Star invitation.
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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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