NBA

2023 NBA Mock Draft: Scoot or Brandon to Charlotte?

Jun 10, 2023, 8:00 AM

Brandon Miller #24 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts during the second half against the Missouri T...

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 11: Brandon Miller #24 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts during the second half against the Missouri Tigers during the SEC Basketball Tournament Semifinals at Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

It’s hard to believe that the 2023 NBA Draft is less than two weeks away but here we are.

While the headlines have been centered around French phenom Victor Wembanyama, the draft is loaded with talent that can contribute right away. Plus, who will round out the top-three selections, will Brandon Miller surpass Scoot Henderson on draft night?

There are so many questions left to be answered, but for now, let’s mock it out!

Here is the first version of Sactown Sports’ 2023 NBA Mock Draft for the first round.

 

1. San Antonio Spurs: Victor Wembanyama

NBA Comp: Nobody

Team: Metropolitans 92

Draft Age: 19.4

Just like in 1987 and 1998, the San Antonio Spurs have landed the No. 1 overall pick to draft a franchise-altering center. This time around may be the most significant as well, with French phenom Victor Wembanyama coming to the NBA.

Wemby has been on most scouts radars for quite some time, standing at an enormous 7’4” with an eight-foot wingspan.

The Frenchman has been playing professional basketball in the LNB for a few years now, playing for Metropolitans 92 this past season. Averaging 21.8 PPG and 10.6 RPG, Wembanyama has helped his team reach the finals in league competition.

He’s more than just stats though, Wemby possesses the rare five-tool skillset that any athlete covets. His ability to initiate offense, make the right read and then score over everyone else is uncanny. Couple that with his defensive instincts and length around the rim, it’s almost unfair. He also has a dribbling package that few big men have EVER had in pro basketball.

Touted as the best prospect since LeBron, some believe Wembanyama can be the best defensive player in the NBA by Year 3. And he couldn’t have landed at a better spot to reach those lofty expectations.

Under Gregg Popovich and the Spurs guidance, Wemby will thrive as the de facto star on the team. Supported by emerging prospects like Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson, the big man will be able to win some ball games in a hurry.

Don’t be surprised if San Antonio is creeping around the Play-In next season, this kid is that good.

2. Charlotte Hornets: PG Scoot Henderson

NBA Comp: A mix of Anthony Edwards, Ja Morant, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose all rolled into one guy

Team: G League Ignite

Draft Age: 19.3

While the Hornets may have missed the bus, second place shouldn’t feel like a consolation prize this year, especially with Scoot Henderson on the board.

In any other draft class, Scoot would be in the conversation for the first overall selection. Picture Anthony Edwards, Ja Morant and Russell Westbrook had a baby: That’s the talent Scoot has on the court. Standing at 6’3”, 200 pounds, Henderson is what you want in a prototypical point guard and leader for your ball club.

Build like a linebacker, the 19-year-old has flashed explosive playmaking and poise the last two years for the G League Ignite team. Already having a deep bag on offense, his defensive tenacity is also inspiring, often looking to pickpocket his opponents using instinct. And when he’s running at you, look out, there’s no stopping the express once he gets going.

His most impressive performance of the year came last October when The Ignite played Wembanyama and his French side in two exhibition games. Henderson took the opportunity to showcase his talents with a national audience, dropping 28 points and nine assists in a losing effort. How he scored was also impressive, taking on Wemby a few times to put him in the blender. Whether it was a stepback three or a drive to the basket, Henderson did it all with the brightest lights on him.

His development as a shooter is the only concern, hitting 42.9% of his field goals and a grim 27.5% of his threes. Regardless, his intangibles of the court should negate concerns.

Teaming up with Steph Curry and Under Armor, Henderson is a gym rat, always wanting to perfect his craft with countless hours of work. Adored by teammates and coaches alike, Scoot could be a Hall-of-Famer when his career is over.

Which is why Charlotte can’t pass on him.

The other option here is Alabama’s Brandon Miller, but he comes with a series of red flags off-the-court. That doesn’t bond well for the Hornets, wanting a fresh image after the Miles Bridges incident.

It may seem redundant at first but pairing LaMelo Ball with Henderson might actually work. The former is great passing and hitting spot-up threes, while the latter plays defense and attacks the basket.

Two perennial All-Star guards in the Queen City; that’s exciting to say the least.

3. Portland Trail Blazers: SF Brandon Miller

NBA Comp: Paul George/Brandon Ingram

College: Alabama

Draft Age: 20.5

Portland is in an interesting spot, wanting to compete next season with Damian Lillard still around. Because of that, they are likely to move the pick for win-now players. But let’s say they don’t and just select Brandon Miller.

At 6’9″, 200 pounds, the Alabama prospect falls into the Paul George/Brandon Ingram mold perfectly. His shotmaking ability is uncanny, able to rise up over his defender from anywhere on the court. He also possesses a sweet shooting stroke that translates to the NBA on Day 1. Averaging 18.8 PPG while shooting 38.4% from the three-point line bodes well for his development long-term.

Miller’s stock has also risen thanks to his defensive versatility, able to play three positions on the court at all times. 

The only concerns with the Alabama star is off-court, particularly one incident where a women was killed by a handgun he allegedly provided. Miller & the Crimson Tide have remained cooperative in the investigation, as he has not been charged with anything at this time. For those reasons alone, teams could be a little less bullish on adding him to their rosters.

Portland shouldn’t be one of those teams.

If The Trail Blazers finally feel like it’s time to rebuild, the 20-year-old prospect would be a nice piece to add to an emerging backcourt of Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe.

4. Houston Rockets: G Amen Thompson

NBA Comp: Taller Ja Morant with a shakier shot

Team: Overtime Elite

Draft Age: 20.4

Houston is in a similar situation as Portland, except they don’t have a de-facto superstar to sell to the biggest bidder. Much speculation has centered around a James Harden return to Texas. If that’s their plan, keeping this pick makes no sense. If it’s not, then drafting a playmaker like Amen Thompson is the move.

The younger Thompson twin has the making of an elite playmaker in the NBA, using quick-twitch bursts to attack the rack before kicking out to a wide-open teammate. He can also score as well, taking it to the cup with great finishing moves. He’s also shown a willingness to shot, an area of his game that would make him an All-Star level talent in the league.

The key here is that shot though, especially considering his shaky at best mechanics. He’s very stiff in his shooting motion, with shoulder and hand placements all caddywhompus. That will be a major fix at the next level, with teams having to consider that in the draft process.

Additionally, a lack of competition is also concerning, playing for Overtime Elite the last two years.  For example: The twins played against Bronny James and Sierra Canyon last season. That’s a high school team. 

Nevertheless, his potential as a two-way threat makes it worthwhile for a rebuilding franchise like Houston to take him this high. It’ll just be a long, long wait until he reaches his true potential.

5. Detroit Pistons: SF Cam Whitmore

NBA Comp: Bigger Ant with a more limited dribbling package

College: Villanova

Draft Age: 18.9

It was heartbreaking when the Detroit Pistons fell all the way to No.5 in the draft lottery last month. Losing out on Wemby is one thing, but to drop four spots after having the worst record in the NBA last season?

Tragic.

Nevertheless, Detroit is still in a good spot and can draft a player or need, rather than overall talent. Thankfully, Villanova’s Cam Whitmore is a little bit of both.

Whitmore has been described as a semi truck with a Ferrari engine on the inside, a true force of nature when attacking the rim. But he’s more just a slasher, showcasing a shooting range and dribbling package that makes him exciting for years to come.

He also has killer defensive instincts, unafraid to get physical and hard-nosed on defense. His size and overall width at 6’6”, 235 pounds makes him a candidate to play three positions in the NBA. The Pistons can use a guy like this, allowing Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey to be the stars. Whitmore fills in the gaps, doing the dirty work as a prominent member of the supporting cast.

If he is to develop into an all-star, his jumper would need to keep improving. He also has a more limited dribbling arsenal at the moment, an area of focus upon entering the league.

Regardless, Detroit shouldn’t think twice here and select a guy that is plug-and-play from Day 1 in Whitmore.

6. Orlando Magic: SG/SF Ausar Thompson

NBA Comp: Shaun Livingston with serious hops 

Team: Overtime Elite

Draft Age: 20.4

They may share the same last name, but Ausar Thompson plays a little different than his brother. 

For one, his shot is much more pretty than Amen’s, using a fluid motion to release the ball at a high point. While only shooting 33% from the three-point line, concerns about his jumper needing work aren’t present with this twin. 

As for what does work, his athleticism is awesome. He’s liken energizer bunny on the court, always looking to attack the rim with vigor and force. He’s definitely not afraid to be physical in the paint. Ausar also has a plethora of moves to get an open shot in the NBA, making him ideal as a second or third option. 

But just like his brother, his shot will be the key to his development. His handles can also be a bit loose at times, making him a concern against plus defenders.

The Magic will probably look past those concerns to add a guy that can develop with their young collection of superstar talent. Maybe Ausar can be Paolo Banchero’s scoring mate, who knows.

7. Indiana Pacers: F Taylor Hendricks

NBA Comp: Jerami Grant meets MPJ

College: UCF

Draft Age: 19.5 

The Indiana Pacers have a lot of things going for them right now. Tyrese Haliburton looks like a future All-NBA player, Benedict Mathurin looks to be the real deal, and Myles Turner is coming off his best season as a pro. The one thing the Pacers are missing is a three & D forward that can play multiple positions defensively.

Taylor Hendricks solves that problem and then some.

Hendricks blossomed last season at UCF, averaging 15.1 PPG and seven rebounds in his freshman year. He was also lethal from deep, shooting 39.4% from behind the arc.

His physical traits are what makes him so enticing, standing 6’8” with a 7’1” wingspan. And frankly, he looks bigger than that. Hendricks excelled as a weak-side help defender in college, routinely making jaw-dropping defensive stops for the Knights.

His ability to be a team player should excite the Pacers’ front office, adding a do-it-all forward to an already budding unit could be a return to the postseason for Indiana in a few years.

8. Washington Wizards: G Anthony Black

NBA Comp: Taller Ricky Rubio/Prime Lonzo Ball

College: Arkansas

Draft Age: 19.4

The Wizards have lacked a quality point guard since John Wall was in his prime. Anthony Black could change that. 

Black was a phenomenal teammate at Arkansas, a floor general for the Razorbacks last season. While his assist numbers are lower than expected (3.9 APG), his willingness to make the right basketball plays was apparent when watching film. He. thrives in the set-up role thanks to his size as well, standing 6’6″ as the primary ball handler. 

He also thrived when attacking the basket, either getting a solid shot with the floater, or finding a teammate for an alley-oop slam. Defensively, he’s very sound, using instincts to swipe the ball away for a quick transition bucket. He also plays within himself, willing to stand upright as the opposition tries to drive on him. 

The key for Black’s development will be his jumper, only shooting 30.1% from the outside in college. A lack of a shot will allow NBA defenses to sag off him, making it harder to get an open look for his teammates. But, he’s shown a desire to improve that area of his game, enough to at least take the shots when he’s left open.

Washington will need to work with him on that, but his natural PG abilities should make him a great fit next to Bradley Beal right away. 

9. Utah Jazz: PG Cason Wallace

NBA Comp: Smaller Jrue Holiday/Mike Conley

College: Kentucky 

Draft Age: 19.6

The Utah Jazz might be ahead of schedule in their rebuild. Last season was a wake-up call for the NBA that Danny Ainge isn’t playing around. Trading their two former stars for massive draft capital, Utah is now sent up for serval years of rebuilding with Will Hardy at the helm.

This year’s draft should be about finding players that have potential and fit with the team. Cason Wallace fits the profile for both.

Wallace is a defense-first point guard that doubles as an offensive initiator, averaging 11.7 PPG and 4.7 APG at Kentucky. He uses craftiness and IQ to make plays on the basketball court, while also possessing the talent to score in a variety of ways. 

His defense is what makes him an all-around player though, able to pickpocket the best of them in the college game. While only 6’2″, having a longer wingspan (6’8″) will allow him to use his skills at the next level. He’s also a player that plays within himself, never forcing the issue when the look isn’t there. 

That’s the kind of guy Utah and Will Hardy are looking for, giving them a new Mike Conley to grow with the young guys.

10. Dallas Mavericks: PF Jarace Walker

NBA Comp: Larry Johnson/Julius Randle 

College: Houston

Draft Age: 19.8

The Mavericks could very well trade this pick for ready-now talent to help Luka Doncic. If they don’t, Jarace Walker would be the most ready player available at No.10. 

Walker is a wrecking ball in the spot, able to muscle his way to the basket at will. But he also has a soft touch and quality shot that makes him more dynamic as a scorer. He averaged 11.2 PPG and 6.8 RPG on 34.7% shooting from three in his lone season at Arkansas. 

His defensive versatility will make him rotational piece right away, able to play the four and small-ball five for any team. Dallas can use a defensive savant in the frontcourt, offsetting the woes of the backcourt. And then when they feel he’s ready, allow him to play as the third scorer in the post and around the basket. 

11. Orlando Magic: SG Gradey Dick

NBA Comp: A mix of Reggie Miller, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Korver 

College: Kansas

Draft Age: 19.6

12. Oklahoma City Thunder: C Derek Lively II

NBA Comp: Mitchell Robinson 

College: Duke

Draft Age: 19.3

13. Toronto Raptors: G Kobe Bufkin

NBA Comp: Tyler Herro/Tyrese Maxey

College: Michigan 

Draft Age: 19.7

14. New Orleans Pelicans: G Keyonte George

NBA Comp: Bradley Beal/ Jaden Hardy

College: Baylor 

Draft Age: 19.6

15. Atlanta Hawks: F Bilal Coulibaly 

Team: Metropolitans 92

Draft Age: 18.9

16. Utah Jazz: SF Leonard Miller 

Team: G League Ignite

Draft Age: 19.5

17. Los Angeles Lakers: SG/SF Jordan Hawkins

College: Arkansas 

Draft Age: 21.1

18. Miami Heat: G/SF Nick Smith Jr.

College: UConn 

Draft Age: 19.1

19. Golden State Warriors: SG/SF Colby Jones 

College: Xavier 

Draft Age: 21

20. Houston Rockets: SG/SF Rayan Rupert

Team: New Zealand Breakers 

Draft Age: 19

21. Brooklyn Nets: G Dariq Whitehead

College: Duke

Draft Age: 18.9

22. Brooklyn Nets: G Brice Sensabaugh

College: Ohio State

Draft Age: 19.6

23. Portland Trail Blazers: F G.G. Jackson

College: South Carolina

Draft Age: 18.5

24. Sacramento Kings: F Kris Murray

College: Iowa

Draft Age: 22.8

25. Memphis Grizzles: SF Jett Howard

College: Michigan 

Draft Age: 19.7

26. Indiana Pacers: G Ben Sheppard

College: Belmont

Draft Age: 21.9

27. Charlotte Hornets: F Oliver-Maxence Prosper

College: Marquette

Draft Age: 20.9

28. Utah Jazz:  SG/SF Maxwell Lewis 

College: Pepperdine

Draft Age: 20.9

29. Indiana Pacers: G Jalen Hood-Schifino

College: Indiana

Draft Age: 20

30. Los Angeles Clippers: PF/C Bobi Klintman

College: Wake Forest

Draft Age: 20.3

 

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