Way-Too-Early 2023 NBA Mock Draft: The Year of Victor Wembanyama

Jonathan WassermanAugust 1, 2022

Way-Too-Early 2023 NBA Mock Draft: The Year of Victor Wembanyama

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    Victor Wembanyama (Sonia Canada/Getty Images)

    The conclusion of the 2022 NBA draft means it's time to start the conversation about 2023's incredible field of talent.

    Scouts have already spent plenty of time preparing for and talking about next June's projected class. The top of the board is as loaded as it's been in recent memory. And there is a good chance that neither the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 pick will play college basketball.

    Next year's draft should also receive a strong boost from prospects who returned to school despite generating 2022 interest.

    And then there is Emoni Bates, who'll finally be draft-eligible and have eyes glued to his development, wherever it takes place.

Top Five

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    Victor Wembanyama (Sonia Canada/Getty Images)

    1. Victor Wembanyama (Metropolitans 92, PF/C, 2004)

    Scouts are looking at Wembanyama differently than any recent prospect predraft. Generational is the cliche used most. He'd have gone No. 1 in 2022 if eligible. We've never seen a 7'2" player move and execute ball skills and shot-making and passes with Wembanyama's level of fluidity. Smooth creation moves, an unchallengeable release point and shooting versatility fuel outrageous scoring upside.

    And then there's the shot-blocking and rim protection, which could propel Wembanyama into the NBA's most impactful two-way player. Only durability concerns could lead to teams questioning if he's the no-brainer No. 1 pick. He already has an injury history, and he'll miss EuroBasket 2022 with a lingering muscle issue.

    2. Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite, PG, 2003)

    Already inked to a seven-figure shoe deal with Puma, Henderson looks like a top-three lock after averaging 14.3 points and 4.2 assists as a 17/18-year-old in the G League. Speed, explosion and strength separate him from most ball-handlers, though he also has the playmaking instincts and an advanced pull-up game to back up his signature athleticism.

    3. Amen Thompson (Overtime Elite, SG/SF, 2003)

    Improved shooting can push Thompson into the top three of the 2023 class. Considering his 6'7" size, ball-handling for creation/playmaking, explosiveness attacking the rim and defensive quickness, a more threatening jumper would unlock seemingly unmatchable versatility.

    4. Dariq Whitehead (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Once a high-motor, passing role player at Montverde, Whitehead transformed into its lead scorer by improving his self-creation and shot-making. He can be streaky and reliant on tough jumpers, but with 6'6" size, shooting versatility, secondary playmaking skills and terrific defensive tools, Whitehead figures to be viewed as one of the class' more complete prospects.

    5. Cam Whitmore (Villanova, SF, Freshman)

    No 2023 prospect has risen more over the past few months than Whitmore, who just won MVP of June's U18 Americas Championship after three standout showings at the Nike Hoop Summit, McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic. He's a decent bet to lead freshman wings in dunks with his special blend of explosion, coordination and motor. But he also shot 10-of-22 from three this month in Tijuana for USA, and his handles and passing are rapidly improving.

Nos. 6-10

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    Kel'el Ware (Chris Kohley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    6. Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite, SG/SF, 2003)

    Thompson's 6'7" size, shot-making flashes, off-ball athletic plays and defensive playmaking have made it easy to ignore Overtime's lack of competition. He's an every-play threat just off his quickness, leaping and instincts at both ends alone, though he's shown plenty of off-the-dribble moves and pull-ups for scouts to see high-level scoring upside.

    7. Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas, PG, Freshman)

    Smith operates as a scoring ball-handler with an advanced in-between game and budding playmaking feel. He's a shot-maker, though shooting well from three and limiting wild decisions should maximize his chances of climbing into the top-five mix.

    8. Kel'el Ware (Oregon, C, Freshman)

    Ware earned fans during the All-Star circuit, and he continued to strengthen his scouting profile this month at the U18 Americas Championship. In just 19.5 minutes, he averaged 15.7 points, 6.8 boards and 1.8 blocks, and scouts still think there is a three-ball in his game waiting to emerge at some point.

    9. Keyonte George (Baylor, SG, Freshman)

    A physical driver and confident shot-maker, George puts pressure on defenses off aggressive takes and pull-up threes. Developing more playmaking and mid-range touch shots will make him more complete, though NBA teams should detect a pro scorer regardless.

    10. Jarace Walker (Houston, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Walker immediately stands out for his chiseled 6'8", 235-pound frame. In nine NIBC games, he finished first in field-goal percentage and second in blocks, but it's flashes of face-up moves, improving touch and passing that elevated Walker into a lottery pick. He's added considerable skill to go with his power over the past year.

Nos. 11-20

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    Terquavion Smith (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    11. Dillon Mitchell (Texas, PF, Freshman)

    Mitchell's scoring and impact are mostly fueled by wildly athletic plays, but they also feel translatable at both ends. He consistently earns himself easy baskets, while flashes of post-ups and transition passing highlight more versatility.

    12. Dereck Lively II (Duke, C, Freshman)

    Lively's NBA archetype is clear, as he'll play the role of finisher and rim protector with 7'1" size, ridiculous reach and an effortless ability to make plays above the cylinder. Continuing to build on the flashes of post-ups and spot-up threes will be the goal to give him some differentiator skills compared to other easy-basket targets.

    13. GG Jackson (South Carolina, PF/C, Freshman)

    Add Jackson to the 2023 draft discussion now that he's reclassified. His physical tools and improving skill level were on full display this month at Peach Jam, where he averaged a double-double and 2.3 blocks. While size, length and athleticism will be behind most of his production at South Carolina, it's the flashes of fluid drives and outside touch that will generate more NBA interest.

    14. Cason Wallace (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

    Wallace will fill in for TyTy Washington Jr. to give Kentucky another creator and shot-maker. As long as athletic/physical limitations don't become worrisome, he should score and draw lottery buzz with a believable level of skill and craft off drives, dribble jumpers and floaters.

    15. Julian Phillips (Tennessee, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Phillips' 6'8" wing size, projectable shooting and shot-making versatility should quickly pop. Though a thin and relatively limited creator, he feels like an easy NBA fit for his off-ball scoring skill set.

    16. Terquavion Smith (North Carolina State, SG, Sophomore)

    Smith surprised scouts by returning when he'd gained so much momentum/buzz predraft last month. As long as he improves his finishing efficiency, he should have a first-round case around his tremendous shot-making firepower and secondary playmaking flashes.

    17. Kyle Filipowski (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

    Highly skilled for a projected power forward or center, Filipowski will create highlights by handling in the open floor and shooting threes. Showing he can defend away from the basket (next to Dereck Lively) will be key for getting scouts to buy in.

    18. Anthony Black (Arkansas, SF, Freshman)

    Two-way playmaking will be Black's signature/differentiator. He may have trouble scoring in volume, but this month at the U18s, he averaged 7.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals in 19.5 minutes.

    19. Leonard Miller (G League Ignite, SF, 2003)

    Leonard cracked draft boards during the 2022 pre-draft process, particularly after the Nike Hoop Summit. He'll have a chance to polish his game in the G League, where he can continue to sell teams on his wing skills and shot-making as a 6'9" forward.

    20 Yohan Traore (Auburn, PF, Freshman)

    Jabari Smith Jr. and Kessler Walker leaving should open the door for Traore to showcase his improved shooting and inside-out scoring. Though not the most explosive athlete, he'll make NBA fans by drilling pick-and-pop jumpers, finishing, scoring efficiently and playing hard.

Nos. 21-30

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    Emoni Bates (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    21. Jordan Walsh (Arkansas, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Walsh figures to earn a lot of praise for his defense as a 6'7" combo forward who gets low and competes with intensity. His three-ball isn't fully there yet, but Walsh still operates as a face-up scorer with driving ability, a mid-range shot and passing skills.

    22. Gradey Dick (Kansas, SG/SF, Freshman)

    By next June, Dick may have a case as the draft's best shooter. He also has some athletic pop on finishes, and his IQ as a passer and defender bodes well for his role-player potential.

    23. Arthur Kaluma (Creighton, SF/PF, Sophomore)

    After finishing his freshman year with 24 points, 12 boards and three assists against Kansas in the NCAA tournament, Kaluma went on to score a combined 45 points for Uganda in the African World Cup Qualifiers. He seems poised to make a serious jump as a creator and shooter, which should draw NBA attention, given his 6'7" size, athleticism and defensive tools.

    24. Sidy Cissoko (G League Ignite, SG/SF, 2004)

    Cissoko's raw offensive game was exposed at the Nike Hoop Summit, but 6'7" size, passing and defensive tools create unique potential that should buy him time with scouts. He could play a similar role that Dyson Daniels played for Ignite, working on and off the ball as an interchangeable guard and wing.

    25. JJ Starling (Notre Dame, SG, Freshman)

    Expected to slide into Blake Wesley's role at Notre Dame, Starling combines exciting open-floor athleticism and the shot-making versatility to drill jumpers in a variety of ways.

    26. Judah Mintz (Syracuse, SG, Freshman)

    Quick-twitch and crafty off the dribble, Mintz should have a chance to showcase his creation with the Boeheim brothers and Cole Swider gone. He'll earn fans for his low ball-handling, shot-making and energy/activity.

    27. Chris Livingston (Kentucky, SF, Freshman)

    At 6'6", Livingston blends an impressive physical profile with the ability to attack from the wings, hit threes and defend both forward spots. The right amount of efficiency with his shooting and shot selection should be the key to the 2023 first round.

    28. Kris Murray (Iowa, PF, Junior)

    It feels like Murray is on the verge of a breakout after seeing his shooting improvement, defensive activity and flashes of scoring versatility. With his brother Keegan now a Sacramento King, there should be a high-usage role for Kris to produce and continue strengthening his shot-making and half-court face-up skills.

    29. Emoni Bates (Eastern Michigan, SG/SF, Sophomore)

    Eastern Michigan will offer Bates a bright green light, though scouts' bar will be high (given the weaker strength of schedule), and defenses will game-plan around his scoring. He'll have a chance to win back lost support by showing more mature decision-making, both with his shot selection and finishing attempts. Despite concerns over his athleticism, frame and intangibles, he's still a high-level shot-maker for a 6'9" wing.

    30. Harrison Ingram (Stanford, SF, Sophomore)

    Ingram's invite to the 2022 combine proved scouts were interested in his versatility. He'll need to make more threes to compensate for athletic limitations inside the arc, but he did show promising touch and passing IQ, strengths for an NBA connector role.


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