It’s March and the nation’s best teams are dancing. The tournament could have a pronounced effect on the 2023 NBA Draft.
It’s the best month of the year for basketball fans. We’ve already been treated to multiple historic upsets and some dominant performances from college basketball’s top programs. Naturally, NBA scouts will be glued to the action. What better atmosphere in which to evaluate talent than the biggest stage in college sports?
Meanwhile, we are in the final stretch of the NBA regular season and teams are beginning to act accordingly: the tankers are tanking, some of the winners are resting (shouts to Denver, they haven’t tried in a week), and the play-in hopefuls refuse to budge, making the whole draft picture a bit muddy.
The West has been particularly difficult to sift through this season. The line between contenders and pretenders is more clearly defined in the East, but even still, you have teams like Chicago, Washington, and Toronto desperately trying to salvage what most would consider lost seasons.
Who gets picked in the first round of our 2023 NBA Mock Draft?
We have once again determined the lottery order via Tankathon simulation. No matter how ardently a team loses, a couple bounces of the ping-pong ball could take them right out of the Wemby sweepstakes. It’s a cruel world.
Last month, the Detroit Pistons struck gold with the No. 1 pick. This time around, they face a more difficult decision at No. 2 — the kind of decision that could determine the success of their rebuild and shape the NBA for a decade to come.
You can read our top-60 prospect rankings right here. And now, for the main event…
The Clippers strike on Brice Sensabaugh, one of the best scorers in college basketball. His efficiency — especially relative to the volume and difficulty of his shot attempts — is hard to ignore. That said, he’s quite the turnstile on defense right now.
Dereck Lively has finally rounded into form at Duke. Bigs with his size, mobility, and athleticism don’t grow on trees. The Pacers have plenty of depth in the frontcourt and Myles Turner just signed an extension, but Lively’s raw talent and two-way upside next to Tyrese Haliburton warrants an investment. Indiana has multiple first-round picks to play with.
The Jazz fill the hole left by Jarred Vanderbilt to some extent. Coleman Hawkins has flashed shooting range out to the 3-point line and he’s everywhere on defense. He’s the ideal modern 4 to develop alongside Walker Kessler in the frontcourt.
GG Jackson’s lack of efficiency is hardly surprising considering that he’s the youngest player in college basketball. He was always going to face a steeper learning curve than his peers, but not many 6-foot-9 forwards combine strength, maneuverability, and shot-making upside like Jackson. He’s a worthwhile upside swing for the aimless Hornets.
The Pacers have an elite floor general, a rim protector, and a nice collection of complementary scorers. In Julian Phillips, they get a gutsy defensive stopper on the wing who profiles as a strong connective passer and play finisher on offense.
Trayce Jackson-Davis has put together several eye-popping stat lines for the Hoosiers. His twisty footwork, above-the-rim finishing ability, and dynamic passing flashes make him one of the more compelling centers in the draft — even if he’s slightly undersized. Injuries have decimated the Grizzlies’ frontcourt this season. Jackson-Davis could be worth a look.
The Kings have one of the best offenses in the NBA, primarily because they have surrounded the dynamic duo of Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox with a collection of high-level shooters. Jordan Hawkins makes one more. His movement shooting should carry over seamlessly to the next level.
The Blazers add defensive versatility and secondary playmaking to complement Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons in the backcourt. Cissoko has come on strong of late for the G-League Ignite.
The Nets bolster their already-strong wing rotation with Colby Jones, a multi-faceted player who doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses. A player like Jones could take on elevated importance if Cam Johnson’s price gets too high in free agency.
Perhaps the biggest late-season riser on draft boards, Brandin Podziemski would provide the Nets with some useful shot creation in the backcourt. At 6-foot-6, he brings size and competitive defense to the fold too. Mikal Bridges is thriving as a No. 1 option, but even so, the Nets are short on bonafide creators (especially if, long term, you question Cam Thomas’ ability to do anything other than shoot).
The Heat signed Kevin Love for stopgap support in the frontcourt, but it would be smart to target size and shooting in the draft. Kris Murray could slide into an important rookie-season role as a polished decision-maker and translatable offensive talent. His twin brother went No. 4 in last season’s draft — don’t be shocked in NBA front offices notice the unavoidable parallels.
Broadly speaking, Houston has a strong collection of young talent. Jalen Green is a mesmerizing athlete and scorer, Alperen Sengun is a legitimate offensive cornerstone, and Jabari Smith’s recent flashes have restored faith in his development. But, still, Houston needs to learn how to play defense eventually. Rayan Rupert has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a unique talent for shutting down ball-handlers.
The questions about Draymond Green’s future with the Warriors haven’t gone away. Golden State is on the precipice of a pivotal, potentially foundation-shaking offseason. Noah Clowney would be a wise investment for his defensive versatility and insatiable appetite for stops.
Jalen Hood-Schifino brings size and playmaking to Utah’s depleted backcourt. His silk-soft floaters and passing wizardry would quickly endear him to the Jazz faithful, even if his inconsistency as a long-range shooter and struggles finishing in traffic are cause for mild trepidation.
Dariq Whitehead just hasn’t been himself at Duke. Injuries sapped away his elevation and he has struggled to develop any sort of rhythm on a team loaded with future NBA players. OKC should be willing to look past the short-term struggles and remember why Whitehead was once billed as a potential top-five pick.
John Collins’ production is in the gutter and Quin Snyder’s arrival has only made it more apparent that Collins’ future likely lies elsewhere. If the Hawks are looking for alternatives at the 4 spot, Taylor Hendricks’ blend of shooting and defensive playmaking could pique their interest.