The Chronicle’s 2023 NBA Mock Draft

Connor Youngberg, Associate Multimedia Editor

The 2023 NBA Draft is coming and basketball prospects around the world wait to hear their name on Thursday night. This has been one of the most entertaining draft cycles in recent memory due to a plethora of rumors, reports and an uber-talented 2023 draft class.

This mock draft will consist of the entire first round. Although trade rumors have been swirling left and right, there will be no trades in this mock draft.

1. The San Antonio Spurs select:

Metropolitans 92 center Victor Wembanyama is listed at No. 1 on ESPN’s draft board. (Thomas S/Wikimedia Commons)

Victor Wembanyama, C, Metropolitans 92

This is the definition of a no-brainer. Wembanyama is nothing short of a generational prospect. The 19-year-old French phenom stands 7-feet, 4-inches tall with an insane bag of offensive tricks. However, Wembanyama’s defensive abilities are already polished. His feel and his instincts make him an immediate impact player on defense.

Offensively, his highlight reel is absurd, but there’s still a lot of work to do in San Antonio. According to Basketball Reference, Wembanyama shot just 27.5% from three this season with the Metropolitans 92. However, the San Antonio Spurs are the perfect squad to develop him into his full potential as their core of young players gets even stronger.

2. The Charlotte Hornets select:

Scoot Henderson, G, G-League Ignite

While Brandon Miller has been a rumored favorite for  Charlotte, it’s hard to believe Henderson won’t hear his name called at pick two. The G-League Ignite guard has explosiveness reminiscent of prime Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose. He uses his elite athleticism to make insane plays. Henderson is an effective and creative slasher as well as an extremely skilled passer.

While Charlotte could be concerned about drafting another ball-dominant guard to pair with LaMelo Ball, the franchise is not in a position to be picky. After winning less than 30 games last season, they should be picking the best player available, which is Henderson.

3. The Portland Trail Blazers select:

Brandon Miller, F, Alabama

Miller is a lights-out scorer who dominated college basketball at Alabama this year, averaging 18.8 points per game. Throughout the season, Miller worked his way up draft boards, becoming an undisputed top-three selection. While Miller’s best trait is easily his shooting ability, he is fairly well-rounded. He’s a great rebounder and has shown massive playmaking upside.

The Trail Blazers are looking to trade this pick to bring in another star alongside Damian Lillard, but no matter who is picking here, expect Miller to be the selection.

4. The Houston Rockets select:

Amen Thompson, G, Overtime Elite

Amen Thompson is the first of the two Thompson twins to hear his name called on draft night, as the Rockets take a huge upside swing. He is a true floor general with the potential to be the best playmaker in the entire class. A backcourt of Amen Thompson and Jalen Green would be one of the best in the league if the Rockets can develop both into the players they can be. 

The only drawback to Amen Thompson is he might struggle adjusting to the NBA level, as Overtime Elite is not an extremely competitive league. Regardless, the tools are all there for Houston to be excited about Amen Thompson joining the roster.

5. The Detroit Pistons select:

Cam Whitmore, F, Villanova

The Pistons’ season didn’t quite go as planned, as Cade Cunningham went down with a season-ending injury and Detroit found itself to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference. However, the Pistons should be very excited about adding a player like Whitmore to their already strong core of young players.

Whitmore is a high-level athlete who can score at all three levels. Detroit can buy into a guy like Whitmore to be a scoring threat for years to come, while also being very good on the defensive end.

6. The Orlando Magic select:

Ausar Thompson, G/F, Overtime Elite

While Ausar Thompson won’t go as high as his brother on draft night, Ausar Thompson has traits that many NBA teams find attractive. He’s a much better defender, with the potential to be one of the best perimeter defenders in all of basketball. Ausar Thompson still isn’t a great shooter, but has much better touch and a lot more shooting upside than his brother in that area.

Orlando is a team that has a lot of young talent at every position, so why not take a positionless player? Ausar has a nice mix of offensive tools and can guard multiple positions on defense. With two picks in the lottery, the Magic can afford to take a huge swing with one of these picks.

Houston forward Jarace Walker is listed at No. 7 on ESPN’s draft board. (RJ Cruz/Wikimedia Commons)

7. The Indiana Pacers select:

Jarace Walker, F, Houston

Walker falling to this spot is a dream scenario for the Pacers. Walker is one of the most versatile players in this draft. He’s a high-IQ prospect who plays with physicality on defense. Offensively, his ability to stretch the floor is attractive, as he shot 34.7% from three for the Cougars. Walker also has a lot of potential to be the perfect small-ball center in some offensive packages. 

Walker isn’t a player Indiana will take with hopes of blossoming into a star, but rather a major piece to the puzzle. Indiana is an ideal landing spot for Walker, as he will get to run pick-and-rolls with All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton. 

8. The Washington Wizards select:

Anthony Black, G, Arkansas

It feels inevitable that Black will go to the Washington Wizards. The Wizards just dealt their franchise star Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns in a blockbuster trade, which could be the beginning of a full restart. Black would be a fantastic player to build a new identity.

Black is an amazing facilitator — averaging 3.9 assists at Arkansas — and an amazing defender. Standing 6-foot-6-inches, Black can guard multiple positions with his length and has a knack for finding the ball and forcing turnovers. While there are shooting concerns, Washington can be patient with Black’s development.

9. The Utah Jazz select:

Taylor Hendricks, F, UCF

Hendricks is a dream player for any NBA team. He stands 6-foot-9-inches with a 7-foot wingspan, and has an incredible set of skills. Hendricks averaged 15.1 points and 1.7 blocks per game, while shooting 39.4% from three. 

Hendricks projects to be an immediate 3&D player, with star upside if he can work on his shot creation ability. The Jazz should be elated to add Hendricks to a team already stacked with great forward talent. A death lineup consisting of Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler alongside Hendricks, would be a nightmare for other NBA teams.

10. The Dallas Mavericks select:

Dereck Lively II, C, Duke

The Dallas Mavericks were one of the worst defenses last season, especially after the Kyrie Irving trade. If they hope to re-sign Irving this off-season, they have to add defense around him. Enter elite college rim protector Lively.

The Duke product blocked 2.4 shots per game this season, equating to an absurd 4.7 blocks per 40 minutes. The 7-foot-2-inch center still needs a lot of development on offense. However, it seems that teams see the long-term upside in his shooting ability, despite shooting just 15.4% from three at Duke. 

11. The Orlando Magic (via CHI) select:

Gradey Dick, G/F, Kansas

Orlando took a high upside swing with Ausar Thompson with their first pick in the lottery, so it makes sense for the Magic to now use this pick to draft a player that can come in right away and be impactful. Dick is arguably the best shooter in the draft. This past season at Kansas, Dick shot 40.1% from three on nearly six attempts per game.

Dick is ready to come in and be a team’s sharpshooter, which makes this a perfect fit for Orlando, who were in the bottom six in three-point percentage as a team last season.

12. The Oklahoma City Thunder select:

Bilal Coulibaly, F/G, Metropolitans 92

It seems like every season nobody knows what the Oklahoma City Thunder are doing, and this year is no different. However, ESPN reported that OKC sent a group of decision makers to France to watch Coulibaly play. While it could just be scouts doing due diligence, Coulibaly feels like a Thunder pick.

The 18-year-old Frenchman is all about upside, as he has all the tools to be a great player. Defensively, he’s very active. He also showed flashes of being able to run the offense. Despite the numbers not quite being there, averaging only 5.0 points per game this season, Coulibaly has extreme potential.

13. The Toronto Raptors select:

Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin is listed at No. 18 on ESPN’s draft board. (Marc-Grégor Campredon/Wikimedia Commons)

Kobe Bufkin, G, Michigan

Michigan guard Bufkin has been a late draft riser, and it’s easy to see why. Bufkin broke out from just 3.0 points per game in his freshman year all the way up to 14.0. In his final 10 games of the season, Bufkin exploded for 18.1 points per game, while shooting 52.0% from the field and 44.4% from three over that stretch.

With NBA champion Fred VanVleet set to hit free agency this summer, the Raptors should be searching for the point guard of the future, which very well could be Bufkin. 

14. The New Orleans Pelicans select:

Jalen Hood-Schifino, G, Indiana

It’s hard to envision Hood-Schifino falling outside the lottery. He’s got an incredible feel for the game offensively and is fantastic at reading defenses. The Indiana guard might have the best mid-range game in the class. 

Hood-Schifino could be the eventual successor to C.J. McCollum for the Pelicans, as they add another bucket getter and facilitator to their already youthful squad.

15. The Atlanta Hawks select:

Cason Wallace, G, Kentucky

Wallace may very well be the best perimeter defender in the class. In his lone season at Kentucky, he averaged 11.7 points and 2.0 steals per game. Not only will teams buy into Wallace’s defense, but his potential to play on and off-ball at the NBA level.

The Atlanta Hawks are always going to be looking to add more defense next to Trae Young, and with a massive hole at backup point guard, Wallace feels like a match made in heaven for the Hawks.

16. The Utah Jazz (via MIN) Select:

Jordan Hawkins, G, UConn

With Dick off the board, Hawkins becomes the next best shooter on the board. The Jazz should be elated to add the NCAA champion to their rebuilding squad. Hawkins shot 38.8% from three on an absurd 7.6 attempts per game this past season at UConn. 

However, to brand Hawkins as just a shooter would be disrespectful to his game. He’s a player that just does everything right. He doesn’t have the biggest frame and he isn’t a fantastic athlete, but you can trust him to make an impact. One of his best traits is his gravity. The ability to move off-ball and scare defenses by the thought of leaving him open is a real skill, and something Hawkins has mastered during his two years in college.

17. The Los Angeles Lakers select:

Nick Smith Jr., G, Arkansas

At some point, the Los Angeles Lakers have to think about the future, which is why taking an upside swing at 17 makes a ton of sense. Smith displayed a ton of skill at Arkansas this season, but an injury-riddled season left teams wanting more.

The efficiency numbers are quite concerning, as Smith shot just 37.6% from the field in his 17 games in college. However, the scoring upside is absolutely there and the Lakers should jump on the opportunity to add youth and potential to the roster.

18. The Miami Heat select:

Michigan forward Jett Howard is listed at No. 19 on ESPN’s draft board.

Jett Howard, F, Michigan

The Heat specialize in finding tall wings who can shoot the lights out of the basketball, and  Howard fits that description. Howard shot 36.8% from three this season, which is pretty good considering the volume he shoots threes at, which is over seven attempts per game.

Miami has reportedly been very active in the trade market thus far, and if the Heat decide to depart with the contract of Duncan Robinson, Howard could slide in and replace him in the rotation.

19. The Golden State Warriors select:

Olivier Maxence-Prosper, F, Marquette

Maxence-Prosper has been shooting up draft boards, earning himself an invite to the green room on Thursday night. After a successful NBA Draft Combine outing, the Marquette forward has propelled himself into the mid-to-late first round, and it’s easy to see why. Maxence-Prosper is a lockdown defender who can legitimately guard every position on the floor. Mix in a bit of offensive potential, and you’ve got a solid first-round draft pick.

For Golden State, this makes a ton of sense. The Warriors were bottom 10 in points allowed last season, and if they are looking to deal Jonathan Kuminga, they’ll need another situational defender off the bench.

20. The Houston Rockets (via LAC) select:

Leonard Miller, F, G-League Ignite

After a poor 2022 NBA Draft Combine performance, Miller decided to withdraw from the 2022 NBA Draft and instead spend a season in the G-League. What a terrific decision that was, because Miller has made a name for himself. Averaging 18.0 points and 11.0 rebounds, Miller showed a lot of offensive versatility, while also being a very active defender on defense.

Miller’s lack of athleticism and consistent perimeter shooting are a couple of reasons why he’s not getting too much lottery buzz. However, in this range, the Rockets would be happy to take a chance on Miller.

21. The Brooklyn Nets (via PHX) select:

Keyonte George, G, Baylor

With back-to-back picks, the Nets select a couple of guards. George has found himself slipping down draft boards during the draft process. While the Baylor guard has the ability to take over games with his scoring, his poor efficiency and high volume are too concerning to look over in the lottery, but then Nets would be happy to swoop in and try to develop George.

22. The Brooklyn Nets select:

Brandin Podziemski, G, Santa Clara

On the other side of the spectrum, Podziemski has been one of the biggest draft risers. No player in college basketball saw a bigger jump than Podziemski, going from 1.4 points per game at Illinois to 19.9 points per game this past season at Santa Clara. Podziemski’s scoring output on 48.3/43.8/77.1 shooting splits is absolutely insane and it wouldn’t be surprising if Podziemski heard his name closer to the lottery.

This draft is deep with talent and the Nets are still looking for a future in a post-Kevin Durant world. These two guards would add youth and excitement to the Nets franchise.

23. The Portland Trail Blazers (via NY) select:

Noah Clowney, F, Alabama

Clowney brings a very intriguing mix of rim protection and shooting upside that many teams could find attractive. The Alabama forward averaged a double-double per 40 minutes and while the shooting percentage wasn’t quite there at 28.3%, the upside was. 

Clowney would offer much needed rim protection off the bench for a Portland team that desperately needs it. The Trail Blazers have been an awful defensive team for the better part of the last decade and haven’t done too much to change that. Clowney could be a great fit there, as long as they develop his offense.

24. The Sacramento Kings select:

Kris Murray, F, Iowa

No, this is not just a fun pick because the Sacramento Kings drafted Kris’ Murray’s brother, Keegan Murray, last season. Kris Murray was a legit two-way star at Iowa this past season averaging 20.2 points per game. He’s one of the most NBA ready players in the draft and the Kings seem eager to compete for a championship. Adding Kris Murray to the rotation is a match made in heaven for both parties.

Kris Murray was invited to the 2023 NBA Draft green room, but declined in order to spend Thursday at home with his family. While this isn’t too out of the ordinary, it wouldn’t be surprising if Kris Murray intends to be with his brother when he’s drafted to Sacramento.

25. The Memphis Grizzlies select:

Ben Sheppard, G, Belmont

Sheppard was an offensive star in his senior season at Belmont, averaging 18.8 points per game and shooting 41.5% from beyond the arc. Sheppard has successfully launched his name into the first round, even generating some buzz in the middle of the first round. However, I think the Grizzlies are a nice landing spot for the Belmont product.

With Ja Morant suspended for the first 25 games of the season, guard depth is a must if the Grizzlies want to stay afloat in his absence. When Morant returns, Sheppard will still provide much needed shooting, as they ranked in the bottom 10 in three-point percentage last season.

26. The Indiana Pacers (via CLE) select:

Maxwell Lewis, F, Pepperdine

Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis is oozing with offensive upside. Lewis has so much potential as an isolation scorer in the NBA, and the Pacers are the perfect team to let him spread his wings, as they can take time with his development.

With three first-round picks, the Pacers can afford to take a couple of swings. If Lewis hits, this could be the steal of the draft, making him a perfect low-risk, high-reward move for Indiana at this spot.

27. The Charlotte Hornets (via DEN) select:

Gregory Jackson II, F, South Carolina

Jackson is one of the most polarizing players in this year’s draft. Jackson averaged 15.4 points per game with South Carolina this season, but the efficiency numbers were terrible. You can see the flashes of shot creation and scoring potential, but 38.4% from the field as a power forward is just inexcusable. 

Luckily for Jackson, the Hornets can give him time to develop in the G-League before expecting him to be an immediate contributor.

28. The Utah Jazz (via PHI) select:

Dariq Whitehead, F, Duke

Riddled with injuries, Dariq Whitehead has a fairly wide range on draft night. The Duke forward was once seen as a future star before a foot injury derailed his athleticism. Whitehead then reinvented himself as a three-point sniper, shooting 42.9% from three this season at Duke. However, he recently had another surgery on his foot, sidelining him for much of the off-season.

If Whitehead finds himself available this late in the first round, the Jazz would be extremely happy to add another high upside shooter to their arsenal. With a draft class of Hendricks, Hawkins and now Whitehead, the Jazz would walk away ecstatic with how the board shaped up for them.

UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. is listed at No. 30 on ESPN’s draft board. (Steve Cheng/Wikimedia Commons)

29. The Denver Nuggets (via BOS) select:

Jaime Jaquez Jr., F, UCLA

Averaging 17.8 and 8.2 rebounds per game, Jaquez plays well above his 6-foot-7-inch frame. However, he’ll need to reinvent his game at the NBA level, as he won’t be playing the same low-post basketball he played at UCLA. 

Drafting Jaquez means buying into his offensive skills making a smooth transition. For the Denver Nuggets, who traded into the spot in a deal with the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, grabbing the most polished player available could be the wisest decision. Last year, the team took Christian Braun in the late first round, who became a huge contributor during Denver’s playoff run. 

30. The Los Angeles Clippers (via MIL) select:

Rayan Rupert, F, NZ Breakers

The 19-year-old French defender Rupert is an extremely raw prospect. His tenacity and effort on the defensive end is fantastic, but his lack of offensive polish makes it hard for teams to take a swing. Shooting just 36.4% from the field, Rupert is going to take a lot of time to develop, which the Clippers may choose to do with a lack of youth to develop on the roster.

At the very minimum, Rupert will be a project for the Clippers to be patient with, but even if his offense never quite progresses to the next level, Rupert will be a lockdown defender.