NBA Mock Draft 2023: The official Tradition projections
The 2023 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday night in Brooklyn. This could be one of the best draft classes in recent memory, starting with a trio of potentially elite players at the top.
But there’s plenty of drama to be found later in the lottery and throughout the entirety of Round 1. How many college players will come off the board? Where will some of last year’s elite freshmen land?
Without further ado, let’s dive into our Round 1 projections for Thursday night’s festivities!
No. 1 – Victor Wembanyama, F/C, France – San Antonio Spurs
This is perhaps the biggest no-brainer No. 1 overall pick since Anthony Davis back in 2012. The 7-4 prospect out of France looks ready to be a superstar from Day 1. You don’t pass on an opportunity to take a player of Wembanyama’s caliber.
No. 2 – Brandon Miller, F, Alabama – Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets face the first dilemma of the 2023 NBA Draft. Should they take Scoot Henderson, perhaps the best player remaining, or Brandon Miller, who fits better alongside LaMelo Ball and the Hornets’ existing roster of players? I predict they make the former Alabama star the pick here and keep LaMelo around for another year.
No. 3 – Scoot Henderson, G, G League Ignite – Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are a team at a crossroads. Do they build around superstar Damian Lillard and try to make a push for the playoffs? Or do they hit reset, trade Lillard, draft Henderson and build around a new backcourt of Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons? If Brandon Miller is off the board at No. 3, that decision may be made by default for Portland.
No. 4 – Amen Thompson, G, Overtime Elite – Houston Rockets
Of the Thompson twins (Amen and Ausur), Amen seems to be the one projected to go first in the draft. The Rockets have a busy backcourt already with Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. (plus continuing rumors about a potential reunion with James Harden). But Houston is not in a position to draft for need. The Rockets should take the best player on the board, and that’s Amen Thompson.
No. 5 – Cam Whitmore, F, Villanova – Detroit Pistons
There have been reports out there about Whitmore having poor workouts lately. This time of year, though, it’s important to take news like that with a grain of salt. I think Whitmore is in play at either No. 4 or No. 5. Detroit makes a lot of sense.
No. 6 – Taylor Hendricks, F, UCF – Orlando Magic
Hendricks would be a very interesting fit alongside Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. While he doesn’t have the ball-handling skills those other 2 guys have, he can shoot from distance and plays strong defense. Taking Hendricks gives the Magic even more size as they continue to build a very intriguing roster.
No. 7 – Jarace Walker, F, Houston – Indiana Pacers
Putting Walker alongside Myles Turner in the Pacers’ frontcourt makes too much sense. If he’s available at No. 7, expect Indiana to pounce.
No. 8 – Ausur Thompson, G, Overtime Elite – Washington Wizards
The other Thompson twin comes off the board at No. 8. The Wizards are in a full rebuilding mode after trading Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns. Thompson can get plenty of minutes right away in Washington’s new-look offense.
No. 9 – Dereck Lively II, F, Duke – Utah Jazz
The Jazz need to build some frontcourt depth alongside Walker Kessler and Kelly Olynyk. Lively may not have had the freshman season many expected from him at Duke, but he’s still a heck of a player who will make an impact defensively in the NBA.
No. 10 – Gradey Dick, G/F, Kansas – Dallas Mavericks
I’d be shocked if the Mavericks kept the No. 10 pick. I think this is a potential trade opportunity to land a more immediately impactful piece alongside Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. But if they do keep the pick, a shooter/scorer like Dick makes a lot of sense. He won’t need the ball in order to be effective, which is a must considering the ball-dominant backcourt already in place in Dallas.
No. 11 – Anthony Black, G, Arkansas – Orlando Magic
If Black falls this far, the Magic should be happy to scoop him up with the No. 11 pick. Imagining a future lineup with Black (6-6), Franz Wagner (6-10), Paolo Banchero (6-10), Taylor Hendricks (6-8) and Wendell Carter Jr. (6-10) should scare every other team in the Eastern Conference.
No. 12 – Bilal Coulibaly, G/F, France – Oklahoma City Thunder
A big, versatile player who can move without the ball and plays tenacious defense? Sounds like an ideal fit for OKC. Coulibaly is the sort of player the Thunder have built their entire roster around. Getting him at No. 12 would be huge.
No. 13 – Kobe Bufkin, G, Michigan – Toronto Raptors
Bufkin is a player on the rise at the right time. Once considered to be a late-first-round pick, he is now firmly in the mix for the lottery. The Raptors are likely losing Fred VanVleet to free agency. Bufkin can step in and fill some of that production right away.
No. 14 – Nick Smith Jr., G, Arkansas – New Orleans Pelicans
Smith had an up-and-down year at Arkansas while battling injuries, but his talent is undeniable. The Pelicans need to upgrade their backcourt alongside CJ McCollum. Smith is an elite scorer whose skills should translate to the next level.
No. 15 – Noah Clowney, F, Alabama – Atlanta Hawks
If the Hawks don’t trade this pick and don’t make any major roster changes, Clowney is a guy who fits in. He doesn’t need the ball a ton offensively, which is great for a team that already features Trae Young and Dejounte Murray as ball-dominant guards. Atlanta has been trying to trade forward John Collins for a couple of years now, so if the Hawks finally do make a deal for Collins, Clowney can slide into that spot.
No. 16 – Keyonte George, G, Baylor – Utah Jazz
George might not be a traditional point guard, but he certainly has playmaking skills. The Jazz might be moving on from Collin Sexton this offseason, which would make George an attractive pick here.
No. 17 – Jett Howard, G/F, Michigan – Los Angeles Lakers
Howard is a great off-the-ball offensive player. That’s exactly the sort of player the Lakers need to go alongside LeBron James. Even when LeBron eventually leaves or retires, Howard has the skills to fit into any offensive system and be productive.
No. 18 – Cason Wallace, G, Kentucky – Miami Heat
Imagine this scenario. The Heat trade for Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, losing Kyle Lowry in the process. If they also lose Gabe Vincent to free agency, they’ll need to rebuild their backcourt around Lillard. If they manage to hold on to pick No. 18, drafting Wallace is a no-brainer. Lillard isn’t known for his defense, so putting a tenacious defender like Wallace alongside him is a best-case scenario.
No. 19 – Jordan Hawkins, G, UConn – Golden State Warriors
The Warriors might be trying to move off of Jordan Poole this offseason. Poole, like James Wiseman, who was traded last season, doesn’t fit with the Warriors’ smart ball-movement offense. Enter Hawkins, who is an athletic, aggressive guard. He could fill the Poole role and potentially make the Warriors better as they try to win 1 more title before Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all get too old.
No. 20 – Olivier-Maxence Prosper, F, Marquette – Houston Rockets
The Rockets need some guys who are invested on the defensive end of the floor. Prosper fits that bill. He’s a player who has risen up draft boards in recent weeks and would be a good fit in Houston.
No. 21 – Jalen Hood-Schifino, G, Indiana – Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have a bunch of wing players, but not much backcourt depth. Hood-Schifino has a somewhat similar game to Spencer Dinwiddie, so Brooklyn could benefit from getting a lottery-caliber player in this spot. Then the Nets could always have either Dinwiddie or Hood-Schifino on the floor to run the offense.
No. 22 – James Nnaji, F/C, Nigeria – Brooklyn Nets
The Nets need some help alongside Nic Claxton in the front court. At No. 22, taking a flier on Nnaji makes a ton of sense. Nnaji can help the Nets improve their interior defense in a big way.
No. 23 – Leonard Miller, F, G League Ignite – Portland Trail Blazers
After adding Scoot Henderson to an already crowded backcourt, the Blazers need to make a pick to bolster their wing position and their front court. Miller, at 6-9, is an intriguing player. He’s a decent ball handler for a bigger guy and could pair well with Henderson and the Blazers’ other talented guards.
No. 24 – Kris Murray, F, Iowa – Sacramento Kings
The Kings drafted Keegan Murray last year and it worked out pretty well, so why not snag his twin brother here? Sacramento needs more depth on the wings, so Kris would be a good fit alongside his brother. And if they make each other better? Well, that’s a major plus for a Kings squad that was on the verge of doing something special this past season.
No. 25 – Jaime Jaquez Jr., G/F, UCLA – Boston Celtics
The Celtics are picking here after trading for Kristaps Porzingis in a 3-way deal that netted them this pick from Memphis. Taking a guy who is ready to play makes sense for a team that is currently in a window where it can win an NBA title.
No. 26 – Julian Phillips, G/F, Tennessee – Indiana Pacers
I’m admittedly a bit higher on Phillips than most analysts. But he would be a great fit in Indiana. The Pacers have a loaded backcourt with Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard and Buddy Hield, among others. They addressed their frontcourt depth with their first pick, taking Jarace Walker at No. 7. Now, they should take a flier on a guy who could develop into a strong player in a couple of years.
No. 27 – Brice Sensabaugh, G, Ohio State – Charlotte Hornets
After opting for Brandon Miller over Scoot Henderson at No. 2, the Hornets get a bigger guard who might develop into a better pure scorer at No. 27. Though Sensabaugh might not be the all-around playmaker Henderson is, he can light up the scoreboard alongside LaMelo Ball. He’d be a fun addition to an increasingly interesting Charlotte squad.
No. 28 – Brandin Podziemski, G, Santa Clara – Utah Jazz
For Utah’s third first-round pick, it takes another swing at a potential ball handler after grabbing Keyonte George at No. 16. Podziemski and George could potentially be a talented young tandem in Utah’s backcourt for the next couple of seasons.
No. 29 – Colby Jones, G/F, Xavier – Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets traded up into this spot in order to add a player who can fill a role right away. They need guys to fill out their bench as they try to win a second-straight NBA title in 2023-24. Jones fits that model. He can help to replace Bruce Brown should the Nuggets lose him in free agency.
No. 30 – GG Jackson, F, South Carolina – Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers need some frontcourt depth alongside Ivica Zubac. Jackson is a developmental prospect, but he can potentially be a good fit in a couple of years. The talent is there and, as one of the youngest players in the draft class, he has time to live up to his potential.