Biggest diamond in the rough prospects of the 2023 NBA Draft

Jun 16, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 12:03 pm

Jalen Hood-Schifino #1 of the Indiana Hoosiers is introduced before taking on the Miami Hurricanes ...

C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

It’s hard to believe that the 2023 NBA Draft is less than a week away!

While most of the draft talk has surrounded around the first three picks, the 2023 class is loaded with talented players that could thrive in the NBA today. But thanks to a murky middle class, some of these standouts could find themselves slipping in the draft. But some also find themselves uncovered in the right situation.

Here are a few candidates that could be drafted after the lottery, but also hold star potential down the line. These are your 2023 diamond in the rough prospects.

Jalen Hood-Schifino | PG/SG | Indiana

Draft Age: 20

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 217

2022-23 stats: 13.5 points, 3,7 assists, 41.7% FG, 33.3% 3PT, 77.6% FT

2023 NBA Draft Ranking: 13th

Every year, a Jamal Murray/Devin Booker type of player slips into the mid-teens in the draft. Case in point: Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley in 2020, or Cam Thomas in 2021. This year’s class has Indiana’s Jalen Hood-Schifino.

Hood-Schifino is one of the big winners of the measurements and pro day portions of the draft process, as he clearly possesses all-star-level physical tools with his tremendous size, frame and length for a point guard. Players with his caliber of upside tend to rise as we get closer to the draft.

Jonathan Givony – ESPN

At almost 20 years old, the Pittsburgh native has the makings of an elite scorer in the NBA, using touch and patience to get to his spot at will. JHS’s shot creation in the midrange is second to none, able to rise up, or around, defenders to get a tough bucket. That’s in large part due to his 6’10” wingspan, testing well at the NBA combine last week.

But when you get to the tape, it’s clear that his game is tailored made for the modern NBA.

His defense is also at a solid level, showing flashes of potential for the Hoosiers. Hood-Schifino does a good job of staying engaged as a defender, keeping his arms up while moving his feet well. 1-on-1 defense will need to be an area of focus at the next level, but he’s shown enough signs to feel good about it right now.

Continuous development in terms of consistency and three-point shooting will be the key for JHS moving forward. Only shooting 33.3% from behind the arc is decent, but if he wants to be an All-Star, he’ll need to get that number higher. Having individual games of 35 and 33 points, respectively, is one thing. To do it on a night-to-night basis is completely different.

Besides that, JHS is primed to be another big-time bucket-getter in the league. While projected to go late lottery, don’t be surprised if his name slips into the top 10 come draft night.

Bilal Coulibaly | SG/SF | Metropolitans 92

Draft Age: 18.9

Height: 6’7″

Weight: 230

2022-23 stats:11.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 52.8% FG, 34.2% 3PT, 72.5% FT

2023 NBA Draft Ranking: 15th

While most will know him as “Victor Wembanyama’s teammate”, France’s Bilal Coulibaly is quickly rising up draft boards this month. After starting the year on Metropolitan 92’s youth team, Coulibaly became a starter for the senior squad, helping the team advance the LNB Pro A Finals.

Coulibaly continues to play a key supporting role as Metropolitans 92 competes in the Pro A playoffs, scoring 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting in Tuesday’s semifinal win against ASVEL. His production has been up and down, but it would appear he’s on track to stay in the draft, having shown enough flashes alongside Wembanyama to justify a first-round selection. However, his team’s success has left Coulibaly unable to work out for teams stateside, which puts him in a bit of flux, at least for the time being.

Jeremy Woo – ESPN

The gifted 18-year-old stands at 6’7″, with a 7’3″ wingspan, allowing him to be a pest on the defensive end. He also has fluid movement and quick feet laterally to stay in front of his opponent. The Frenchman also uses instinct and angles to swipe the ball away, often taking it to the rim in transition.

His three-point shooting will need to improve (sub-35%), but he’s shown a willingness to take the shot when the opportunity arises. That bodes well for three & D potential in the NBA.

The trick here is how raw he is as a prospect, just recently emerging as a starter for the Mets. But that might be a good thing also.

When turning on the tape, his movement and stride in transition remind me of Giannis Antekoumpo at a young age. So full of talent but unaware of how to use it properly. At the very least, Coulibaly will be a stellar defender in the NBA. At his peak, he could be an All-Star-level player by the age of 25.

It all depends on fit and team situation, but the Frenchman has garnered some serious attention from lottery teams. Patience is a virtue, however, needing some time to develop.

Colby Jones | SG/SF | Xavier

Draft Age: 21

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 199

2022-23 stats: 15 points, 4.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 50.9% FG, 37.8% 3PT, 65.3% FT

2023 NBA Draft Ranking: 21st

Xavier’s Colby Jones is a player all teams covet in the backcourt: A jack-of-all-trades athlete that year feel and instinct to make the right basketball play.

“Jones makes for an easy fit in most rotations with an unselfish, versatile style of play that could make him an immediate value add for teams off the bench. He’s in play for teams all over the back part of the first round.”

Jeremy Woo – ESPN

While not possessing the elite upside of others on this list, Jones should be a rotational piece right away in the league. His feel for the game is uncanny, on both sides of the ball.

He holds well for his size defensively, using good fundamentals to force his opponent into a tough jumper. He also has above-average lateral movement and is surprisingly strong, given his listed weight of 199 pounds. Defensive versatility is key for guys like Jones, and he has that in spades.

His offensive game is also intriguing, able to orchestrate the offense at all times. Jones is most effective coming off DHOs or ball screens, finding the open man for a three with a pinpoint pass. If that option is guarded, no problem, he’ll just rise up for a nifty floater from midrange.

Expected to go in the late teens to mid-20s, the Xavier product checks a lot of boxes for teams in need of a connector on the court.

Leonard Miller | SF/PF | G League Ignite

Draft Age: 19.5

Height: 6’9″

Weight: 213

2022-23 stats: 18 points, 11 rebounds, 55.4% FG, 32.7% 3PT, 79.2% FT

2023 NBA Draft Ranking: 23rd

If you’re looking for a lower-risk, high-reward guy in this year’s class: Canada’s Leonard Miller should be on your radar.

Miller had a good season with the G League Ignite, coming into his own as a big man with touch. While Scoot Henderson got much of the spotlight, Miller filled inn the gaps, showcasing transition and playmaking skills that are rare for a guy his size.

But he’s still super raw as a prospect.

Miller is a bit of a polarizing prospect in NBA circles. On one hand, he’s coming off an incredibly productive season in the G League in which he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as a 19-year-old. On the other hand, teams question his shooting mechanics and feel for the game, as it’s not quite clear what position or role he’s best suited for long term. Ultimately, it’s hard to find teenagers with the type of length, activity and scoring instincts Miller brings, which gives him real upside to grow into and makes him a strong candidate to be picked in the first round.

Jonathan Givony – ESPN

The Canadian has the natural physical tools to hold up defensively in the NBA, standing 6’9″-6’10” with a 7’2″ wingspan. He’s very quick laterally, able to cover a lot of ground fast. On top of that, he has the verticality to be a solid shot blocker at the next level.

His offensive game will be the real selling point, having guard-like skills at a much larger size.

His movement in transition is very fluid, able to run the break with ease. Miller also has some passing IQ, making the right play for a teammate at least once a game. He also loves to attack downhill, drawing contact against lesser opponents.

But again, he’s super raw.

The 19-year-old is still growing into his body, with weight being an area of focus in the NBA. He must also work on his jumper, hitting less than 33% of his three pointers. That, along with a natural position fit, could be what see him slide in the draft next week.

Regardless, the potential is undeniable, with a ceiling of Paul Millsap to hang your hat on.

James Nnaji | C | Barcelona (ACB)

Draft Age: 18.8

Height: 6’10″

Weight: 225

2022-23 stats: 4.9 points, 3 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 67.1% FG

2023 NBA Draft Ranking: 24th

The 2023 NBA Draft is very thin at the center position, with only one prospect (Derek Lively II) expected to be drafted inside the lottery. But while there aren’t any premier big men, there’s a single prospect from Nigeria who could trump them all.

Meet James Nnaji.

While his stats are limited at best, the FC Barcelona standout has all of the physical tools to be a starting center in the modern NBA. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor described him as a “long-armed big man who’s built like a tank and has the mentality to dominate on both ends of the paint.” And that’s exactly what he is.

Turning 19 after the draft, Nnaji is a rim-running, shot-blocking giant of a man that looks physically imposing already. He looks both agile and strong in the paint, qualities that NBA centers need in today’s game.

Starting with defense, the Nigerian is an exceptional shot blocker, using instincts and length to cover ground in a hurry. Nnaji can also guard other positions, able to use good footwork to track back for a blocked shot against the backboard. His 7’7″ wingspan also helps.

Nnaji also excels in the dunker spot on offense, making sharp and fast cuts to the basket for an alley-oop. He plays within himself, setting good screens before cutting back door for the slam. His athleticism is uncanny, possessing serious hang time when going up for a rebound or dunk.

The Nigerian also has a few moves to his game, already honing a pump fake that fools pro ballers. One play in particular showcased that, coming off a screen at the top of the key before receiving the ball in the paint. He then used his pump fake to fool the defender, spin dribbled back to his strong side and flushed it down with authority. Plays like that show a lot of similarities to Atlanta Hawks’ center Clint Capela.

It’ll take some time to develop him though, likley getting exposed by NBA-level talent from the jump. But if the team can stick with him and be patient, in a few years, he could be the all-defensive big man to anchor a budding franchise.

Sacramento Kings Offseason Schedule

  • Thursday, June 22– 2023 NBA Draft
  • Friday, June 30– Free Agent negotiating period begins
  • Thursday, July 6– Free Agents can begin signing deals
  • Friday, July 7–Monday, July 17– NBA Summer League in Las Vegas
  • August TBD– 2023-24 NBA regular season schedule release
  • September TBD– Sacramento Kings training camp begins

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