The 2023 NBA Draft is now just one day away, and the excitement is palpable. Between the most exciting prospect since LeBron James — or ever, depending on who you ask — to
The first pick in the draft may not be a surprise, but there are still plenty of paths for this draft to travel down. Trades galore are expected as teams are looking to trade up, down, and even out, with the Indiana Pacers already moving one of their three selections to the Denver Nuggets. Even without those deals, this draft figures to be one of the more exciting in recent memory.
We at Philly Sports Network pride ourselves on providing readers with not only the latest in Philly Sports news, but in sports news across the globe. With that being said, let’s take a look at how the first round of the NBA Draft may fall.
Welcome to Philly Sports Network’s inaugural NBA Mock Draft
1. San Antonio Spurs | Victor Wembanyama | PF/C
As if there were any doubt. The San Antonio Spurs have received the first pick in the NBA draft for the third time in franchise history. With that pick, they are hoping to land a third consecutive game-changing big man. David Robinson, and Tim Duncan. These are the names the Spurs are hoping Victor Wembanyama can live up to, or perhaps even exceed.
The league has seen unicorns before. Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, heck, even Yi Jianlian, but Victor Wembanyama has widely been proclaimed as having the potential to possibly exceed these giants of the game. Is that a bit too much pressure to live up to? Certainly, but it will certainly be an amazing ride watching along the way.
Things are looking very bright in San Antonio.
2. Charlotte Hornets | Brandon Miller | SF
While the Charlotte Hornets missed out on the Wemby sweepstakes, they find themselves in the luxurious, albeit intimidating, task of selecting between forward Brandon Miller, and guard Scoot Henderson. The latter has long been proclaimed as the assumed runner-up to Wembanyama, but Charlotte finds themselves in the predicament of already employing a young guard with star potential.
According to multiple reports and a drastic odds shift, all signs point to the Hornets selecting Brandon Miller with the second pick in the draft. The 20-year-old forward boasts a unique combination of size and skill that teams dream of. His game doesn’t have many weaknesses, and his strengths pop are quickly noticeable, so much so in fact that he has apparently won over the Hornets’ front office.
Typically, teams in the position the Hornets find themselves in would draft for the best player available. That mentality is put by the wayside here as Michael Jordan bets on the fit of Miller in addition to his high ceiling and desirable archetype over Scoot Henderson’s jaw-dropping talent and intangibles. There is no doubt that Brandon Miller will be a fine, perhaps even fantastic, player; he’s simply not the best available.
3. Portland Trail Blazers | Scoot Henderson | PG/SG
As simultaneously lucky and unlucky as the Charlotte Hornets find themselves, it can easily be argued that the Portland Trail Blazers are in a similarly unfortunate position as they find themselves potentially with the choice between one of the most impressive prospects of the past decade or the greatest player in the history of their franchise.
Damian Lillard has made it abundantly clear that he is not interested in the Blazers selecting a player and three and would far prefer the team trade the pick for an additional star. Should the team be unable to find a deal for the third pick or fail to resist the allure of Scoot Henderson, they may find themselves at a crossroads with their star.
That may not be the worst thing, however, as Henderson is far closer to matching the team’s timeline and could be a generational player in the right situation. With elite traits as an athlete, a passer, and a two-level scorer, Scoot Henderson might be just good enough to force Portland’s hand.
4. Houston Rockets | Amen Thompson | PG
Amen Thompson has not received the same fanfare as Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson, but he is a potentially elite prospect in his own right. With incredible athletic and passing ability, Amen Thompson has the tools to become a perennial All-Star on the strict contingency that he finds even a semblance of a consistent jump shot. If not, then he risks becoming one of the biggest potential busts in the entire draft.
Houston is in need of a true point guard, and at last check, they are no longer the leader for the services of James Harden. If the team decides to continue with the slow and steady approach, Amen Thompson is the clear and obvious choice.
5. Detroit Piston | Jarace Walker | PF/C
The Detroit Pistons have a type, and you can’t convince me otherwise. Despite having Jalen Durren, James Wiseman, and Isaiah Stewart already on the roster, a player as physically impressive as Walker could easily prove far too much to pass up on for Detroit.
Thick, physical, and with a strong aptitude for defense, Jarace Walker checks all of the classic Detroit Piston boxes. While he’s not the most offensively versatile prospect, he is capable and, with some small mechanical tweaks, could perhaps even become serviceable.
Look for the Pistons to explore opportunities to trade back, but if they opt to remain at 5, look for Detroit to target an impact player as they feel they are ready to begin the ascension into playoff contention.
6. Orlando Magic | Anthony Black | PG
The Orlando Magic already have two future stars beginning their accent in Franz Wagner and Paolo Panchero. In addition, they field a roster of several young role players with the potential to grow. What the team needs now, is a cerebral point guard to lead their offense, and Anthony Black is exactly that.
At a stellar 6’7″ with a nearly 7’0″ wingspan, Black possesses the size, mind, and attitude to be a more than effective floor general at the next level. There is some potential for a floor similar to Michael Carter-Williams but with the intelligence he brings to the game; those worries are certainly premature.
7. Indiana Pacers | Taylor Hendricks | PF/C
There are very few fits I love more in this draft than Taylor Hendricks and the Indiana Pacers. Few players project to be both the type and quality of role player that Hendricks projects to be. Offensively, Hendricks will likely be relegated to spot-up threes and putbacks, but that’s just initially. He is also capable of working off the pick and roll/pop.
Where Hendricks really makes his bones is as a defender. Mobile, athletic, strong, Taylor Hendricks has all the natural traits to be a successful defender in the NBA. He’s more than capable of defending in the post, off help, and on-ball, even onto smaller opponents in a pinch.
Alongside Myles Turner, Taylor Hendricks is a scary partner, while Tyrese Haliburton would undoubtedly bring the most out of him offensively.
8. Washington Wizards | Cam Whitmore | SF/PF
The Washington Wizards are now entering a full rebuild. Their first two items on the agenda are to acquire future assets and high-upside players. Cam Whitmore undoubtedly provides the latter. With the type of rare strength and athleticism that only a select few players can even dream of,
A powerful athlete, Cam Whitmore is a wrecking ball driving into the paint, punishing defenders left and right. Despite this, he also displays a fair amount of skill in his game, rarely looking out of control. He’s far more potential than production at this point, but that potential is so tantalizing that if all goes right, he very well could easily wind up as a top-five player in this draft. His injury history lightened the enthusiasm a bit, but that’s also the only reason he’s available here for the Wizards.
He will need time to develop, but that’s one thing Washington has plenty of.
9. Utah Jazz | Bilal Coulibaly | SG/SF
Few players have risen up draft boards like Bilal Coulibaly. Victor Wembanyama’s teammate with the Metropolitans 92 boasts a high level of athleticism and the makings of an elite NBA defender. It will take some time for Coulibaly to realize this potential, but there is a ceiling of a perennial first-team All-Defensive player.
While the rebuild of the Utah Jazz has progressed quicker than anyone could have anticipated, they are still a ways away from truly competing. With three first-round picks, expect the Jazz to either trade up, or invest in long-term potential.
10. Dallas Mavericks | Dereck Lively II | C
The Dallas Mavericks are a rare example of a team who honestly does not wish to make a top-10 pick. It’s not about not wanting one of the many talented players in this year’s draft, but rather it’s about the implication. That is, the implication that selecting at 10 means the Mavericks were unsuccessful in getting off the contract of Davis Bertans. While a top-10 prospect is always a desirable addition, Dallas does not have time to wait on prospects to develop as they’re working against the clock to retain Luka Dončić.
In Dereck Lively II, the Mavericks may have a happy medium. At 7’2″ with an incredible 7’7″ wingspan, Lively boasts some of the most covetable measurables in the draft. On top of that, he is prolific as a shot blocker and appears to have the ability to become a consistent three-point shooter.
Few players may have the unique combination of potential and day 1 ability as the shot-blocking stretch-five.
11. Orlando Magic (via Chicago) | Ausar Thompson | SG/SF
With their point guard of the future firmly secured, the Orlando Magic turn to not only their next need but the top prospect remaining on the board. Similar to his twin brother, Amen, Ausar is a top-tier athlete. Where they differ, while Amen is more adept as a facilitator, Ausar has fallen more into a wing role.
Still a capable passer, Thompson is better suited as a cutter and transition athlete. The shot may come along; eventually, it’s already further along than Amen’s, but until then, there’s enough to suggest he will at least be a starting quality player.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder | Gradey Dick | SG/SF
What exactly are the Oklahoma City Thunder looking for in the draft? It’s hard to say outside of the word “talent.” The Thunder are nearing the end of their rebuild, as their players have developed to the point that the team is no longer among the worst in the league. With their planned stars in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren secured, it’s time to fill out the roster with contributing role players. That description fits Gradey Dick to a T.
Last season with Kansas, Dick provided the Kansas Jayhawks with lights-out shooting hitting his threes at a 40.3% clip. His shot, paired with his quick trigger, especially in transition, are his major selling point, as he’s projected to become both a spot-up and movement shooter at the next level.
13. Toronto Raptors | Cason Wallace | PG/SG
The Toronto Raptors supposedly want to run it back. They have been reluctant to trade either Pascal Siakma or OG Anunoby, and with Gary Trent Jr. recently opting into his player option, they have even more of an opportunity to pursue a playoff spot next season. One player who likely won’t be returning, however, is Fred VanVleet, who will pursue a lucrative deal in free agency.
In his place, the Raptors have the opportunity to draft Cason Wallace. Like Devin Booker and Tyler Herro before him, Wallace becomes the next talented Kentucky guard drafted 13th overall. Garnering unending comparisons to Jrue Holiday, Cason Wallace is a defensive stopper with electric combo guard skills offensively. With the 13th pick, the Toronto Raptors would have their point guard of the future.
14. New Orleans Pelicans | Jalen Hood-Schifino | PG/SG
The New Orleans Pelicans are in serious need of a true point guard. CJ McCollum has performed well for the team but is just not a true natural point. In Jalen Hood-Schifino, the Pelicans would be able to address not only that need but several other rippling needs.
JHS, not unlike Anthony Black, is a tall, long facilitator. Although not much of a shooter, Hood-Schifino does have the ability to score, particularly from the mid-range. and could be deadly in the pick-and-roll with Zion Williams — should he remain in New Orleans.
15. Atlanta Hawks | Jordan Hawkins | SG
The Atlanta Hawks are rumored to have the desire to trade up in tomorrow’s draft, potentially with interest in Derek Lively II or Cason Wallace. If they are unable to do so, a player as ready to contribute as Jordan Hawkins is certainly not a bad consolation prize.
One of the premier shooters in the draft, Hawkins is capable of contributing from day 1. With elite passers in Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, Hawkins would be able to feast against the competition on any given night. He doesn’t do much else to enthrall scouts but his ability and willingness to take and hit big shots is certainly added value.
And at the end of the day, if Hawkins isn’t a Hawk, then someone in Atlanta dropped the ball.
16. Utah Jazz (via Minnesota) | Kobe Bufkin | PG/SG
After drafting a defensive-minded forward, the Utah Jazz select Kobe Bufkin with their second of three first-round picks. A score-first combo guard, Kobe Bufkin is no one-dimensional player either, as he has the makings of a legitimate 3&D guard. He’s a bit ball-dominant for certain teams, but in Utah, he would have a clear path to offensive touches.
A fast riser since the end of the season, don’t be surprised if you hear Kobe Bufkin’s name before the 16th pick.
17. Los Angeles Lakes | Jett Howard | SG/SF
Like the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakes will do everything they can so they do not have to make this selection. A team looking for a 2023-2024 contributor will be hard-pressed to find that player at this point in the draft. With that said, Jett Howard is one of the best floor spacers in the entire draft. The Lakers notably struggled with spacing last season, a result of how the roster was constructed; Howard is a step in the right direction.
The team will also need help on the wing, not just now, but going forward, especially if LeBron James does leave LA.
18. Miami Heat | Keyonte George | SG
The top selling points of Keyonte George are his scoring upside and his unwavering confidence — which is also one of his faults. For a Miami team looking for some more firepower, offensively, George could grow into quite the role.
He doesn’t project as a plus defender or an impressive passer, but there are few players in this range who have the ability to grow into a three-level scoring threat.
19. Golden State Warriors | Nick Smith Jr. | PG/SG
Once seen as a top-10 pick, an injured knee slowed down Smith’s freshman season. The Warriors are in need of youth and quality depth in a variety of areas, but a combo guard with size could serve them well, especially if Jordan Poole’s time in the Bay Area is coming to an end.
After a full offseason and in a reduced role, Smith’s inefficiency issues will not be as prevalent at the NBA level. If all goes right, he could grow into a Spencer Dinwiddie-type role with the Warriors.
20. Houston Rockets (via LAC) | Brice Sensabaugh | SF
The Houston Rockets were the worst shooting team in 2022-2023. Adding Brice Sensabaugh won’t solve that, but it will provide the team with a consistent and capable deep threat. Not only does he hit threes at a high clip (40.5% last season), but he’s shown an ability to hit score in a variety of ways.
Houston may look to move this pick into the future, but adding a shooter like Brice Sensabaugh would be considered a success for the Rockets.
21. Brooklyn Nets (via Phoenix) | Leonard Miller | SF/PF
The Brooklyn Nets find themselves in a limbo of sorts between building a contender or rebuilding altogether. The team seems dead set on building around Mikal Bridges and perhaps a star yet to be acquired. If the Nets are truly pushing toward contention, Miller may seem an odd fit, especially considering his potential redundant fit next to Dorian Finney Smith and even Royce O’Neale. However, that may very well be all the more reason to acquire him.
Miller may be a raw prospect whose handles never develop, but he projects to grow into an incredibly versatile defender. There’s hope that his shot will progress, but it’s his defensive ability and transition play that are his major selling points. Sound like any player(s) you know?
22. Brooklyn Nets | Oliver-Maxence Prosper | SF/PF
Another rangy, versatile, wing defender, Oliver-Maxence Prosper, fits the mold of what the Brooklyn Nets like. With high-end athleticism, a strong motor, and the ability to defend in a variety of ways,
Prosper has been one of the fastest risers in the draft, and could very well hear his name called a number of spots ahead of this.
23. Portland Trail Blazers (via New York) | Brandin Podziemski | SG/SF
Another year another Santa Clara prospect flying up draft boards? After Jalen Wiliams rose all the way to the 12th pick in last season’s draft, Brandin Poziemski is expected to make a leap in his own right. At 6’5″, he lacks the ideal size to float between wing positions but would be a wonderful off-ball guard next to Damian Lillard.
His elite three-point shooting ability, he made 43.8% of his threes last season, and plus ability as a rebound allow him to fall comfortably into a role sorely needed by the Blazers.
24. Sacramento Kings | Kris Murray | SF/PF
The Sacramento Kings, at last, have the opportunity to select the twin brother of their 2022 fourth-overall pick, Keegan Murray. Like his brother, Kris displays a strong ability as a shooter off the catch and a capable defender both on and off-ball.
Aside from the immense vibes of pairing the Murray twins, the Kings have a true need for as many two-way shooters as they can get their hands on. While that’s true for any team, it’s especially true for a team built around Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox.
25. Memphis Grizzlies | Jaime Jaquez Jr. | SG/SF
The Memphis Grizzlies sign back up for the grit and grind era with Jaime Jaquez Jr. The senior out of UCLA has continued to work his way up draft boards, into the first round no less, thanks to a strong shooting performance in recent workouts.
More of a hustle guy than a particularly gifted defender, Jaquez has his weaknesses, but also the potential strength to infect this Memphis team with his energy.
26. Indiana Pacers (via Cleveland)| Dariq Whitehead | SG/SF
The Indiana Pacers continue to find the perfect balance of need in potential by selecting Dariq Whitehead out of Duke. Once one of the top-rated prospects heading into the college season, a foot fracture derailed his season, but there is still hope that the high-flyer can regain some of his electric scoring ability.
The Indiana Pacers are beginning to round out their core, and if all goes well, Dariq Whitehead could potentially join that list.
27. Charlotte Hornets (via Denver) | Noah Clowney | PF/C
The Charlotte Hornets return to the podium with the 27th pick in the NBA draft. As they are still a few years away from truly competing, investing in a project player like Noah Clowney is not an unwelcome idea. Clowney projects to become a 3&D big who can defend both the four and the five at the NBA, in time at least.
Whichever team drafts Clowney must have patience, but the potential payoff is immense.
28. Utah Jazz (via Philadelphia) | Ben Sheppard | SG
Ben Shappard is another fast-rising name. A sharpshooting wing who grew up a point guard, Sheppard is unusually offensively versatile for this late in the draft. He’s not a particularly strong defender, but his size and length will at least make up for that in some part.
29. Denver Nuggets (via Indiana) | Jordan Walsh | SF/PF
The Denver Nuggets, fresh off their first championship in franchise history, have traded back into the first round as star role player Bruce Brown has announced he will decline his player option. In Jordan Walsh, the Nuggets would have a player who may struggle as a shooter, but projects to be a strong defender and is a dedicated cutter. Not all that different than Bruce Brown before he came to Denver.
Perhaps Mike Malone and Nikola Jokic could rework their magic one more time for Walsh as they did for Brown?
30. Los Angeles Clippers (via Milwaukee) | Rayan Rupert | SF
After the surprising trade Wednesday afternoon that was set to send Kristaps Porziņģis to the Boston Celtics fell apart, the Los Angeles Clippers remained the owners of the 30th pick in the 2023 NBA draft. Looking for a young, athletic player who offers value in the short and long term, Rayan Rupert certainly qualifies.
Standing at 6’7″ with a 7’3″ wingspan, Rupert has the measurables that, when paired with his plus athletic attributes, really paint the picture of a long-time NBA player. Already a talented defender, particularly on-ball, Rupert has the potential to grow beyond his transition threat role into a spot-up shooter with capable handles.