2023 NBA Mock Draft 9.0: Hornets, Rockets set dominoes in motion

Victor Wembanyama, NBA Draft, NBA Mock Draft (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE/AFP via Getty Images)
Victor Wembanyama, NBA Draft, NBA Mock Draft (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Victor Wembanyama (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE/AFP via Getty Images)
Victor Wembanyama (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE/AFP via Getty Images) /

With individual workouts under way and the NBA season (almost) in the rearview mirror, the 2023 NBA Draft picture is starting to take shape. 

The 2023 NBA Draft will usher in a new era of basketball stardom with Victor Wembanyama, arguably the best prospect in decades. Behind him, an especially deep lottery class promises to introduce several high-impact contributors to the league’s talent pool next season.

With the season over for 28 of the NBA’s 30 teams, the pre-draft cycle is in full swing. Individual and group workouts are giving front offices up-close looks at potential draftees. Meanwhile, the politicking and maneuvering from players’ agents is already rampant. Prospects and teams alike are looking for the right match.

The draft will take place on June 22 at 8 PM E.T. in Chicago.

2023 NBA Mock Draft: Projected lottery picks

Scouting Report. C. Victor Wembanyama. 1. player. 29. Pick Analysis. France

There’s no mystery here. Victor Wembanyama is the best prospect since LeBron James. At 7-foot-5, he can legitimately create his own shot at all three levels. His blend of shooting, passing, and at-rim finishing makes Wemby highly adaptable to the personnel around him. He’s also an elite defensive prospect, capable of evaporating shot attempts in the paint with his 8-foot wingspan and erasing mistakes by virtue of being taller and longer than everybody else.

F. Alabama. Brandon Miller. 2. 170. Scouting Report. player. Pick Analysis

Brandon Miller feels like the safe bet here due to his positional size and defensive versatility at 6-foot-9. He’s one of the best pull-up shooters on the board and an advanced playmaker out of pick-and-rolls. He fits pretty seamlessly next to LaMelo Ball, who will keep the rock swinging and place Miller in a position to attack rotating defenses or run out in transition.

USA. Scoot Henderson. 3. 34. Scouting Report. G. player. Pick Analysis

The Blazers will heavily consider trades here and the fit between 6-foot-2 Scoot Henderson and 6-foot-2 Damian Lillard (not to mention 6-foot-3 Anfernee Simons) isn’t perfect. That said, he’s the clear best player on the board. The Blazers can’t get too caught up on fit when there’s a potential franchise talent available. Henderson has the potential to carry the Blazers into the future once Lillard inevitably declines.

169. G. USA. 4. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. Ausar Thompson. player

Amen Thompson is the better athlete and playmaker, but there’s reason to believe Ausar Thompson could be the first twin off the board due to his superior shooting and defense. Ausar is still a tier-one athlete and the Rockets could prefer his experience working off the ball if James Harden is under serious consideration as a free agent.

Pick Analysis. F. Villanova. 64. Scouting Report. Cam Whitmore. 5. player

Cam Whitmore has gained a lot of fans in the pre-draft process. His blend of explosiveness and strength on the wing is rare. He gets into the teeth of the defense at will and he’s liable to punish daydreaming defenders with mesmerizing rim attacks. His defensive versatility and upside as a slasher working off of Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey makes him a clean fit in the No. 5 spot.

Pick Analysis. G. USA. 38. Scouting Report. Amen Thompson. 6. player

Amen Thompson tumbles to No. 6, where he’s not the best fit, but he’s clearly the best player. Orlando loves long, skilled athletes. Thompson is a genius-level playmaker at 6-foot-7 and he’s flat-out one of, if not the best perimeter athlete in professional basketball. His ability to glide through space and time, constantly shifting gears before accelerating full-speed like a sports car is incredible to watch. If he the jumper ever comes around he has perennial All-Star potential.

Pick Analysis. F. Taylor Hendricks. player. Scouting Report. Central Florida. 7. 100

The Pacers have been searching for help at the power forward position and the solution could be Taylor Hendricks. An unheralded recruit who rocketed up draft boards as a freshman at UCF, Hendricks is the ultimate 3-and-D prospect. He’s one of the best volume spot-up threats in the draft and he’s a legitimate 4 or 5-position defender, capable of sliding his feet with guards or roaming around the paint and blocking shots.

G. Kentucky. Cason Wallace. 8. player. 142. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis

Cason Wallace would be the perfect complement to Bradley Beal in the Wizards’ backcourt. He’s an elite perimeter defender capable of guarding 1-3 due to his strength and 6-foot-8 wingspan. What he lacks in explosive scoring potential, Wallace makes up for with efficient shooting, steadfast poise, and mistake-free playmaking.

118. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. G. 9. Arkansas. Anthony Black. player

The Jazz love to share the sugar offensively and Anthony Black is the embodiment of that philosophy under Will Hardy. There are legitimate concerns tied to his iffy 3-point shot and lack of self-creation, but he puts pressure on the rim and he is probably the most reactive, instinctive passer on the board. Black makes teammates better and he’s a dominant wing defender at 6-foot-7, which addresses a real point of weakness on the Utah roster.

Jarace Walker. player. 79. F. Houston. 10. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis

The Mavs get their defensive enforcer with Jarace Walker, a tank-like big who can legitimately guard 1-5. His versatility projects well toward the postseason, where the Mavs hope to be with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving next season. On the offensive end, Walker has legitimate creation upside due to his passing chops and face-up scoring ability. Two-man actions with Walker and Dallas’ guards would be hard to stop given Walker’s strength, footwork, and touch around the basket.

G. player. 38. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. Gradey Dick. 11. Kansas

The Magic desperately need shooting to take the next step offensively and Amen Thompson, while brilliant, only increases that need. Dick is arguably the best shooter on the board while also providing positional size and smart team defense. He would fit hand-in-glove with Orlando’s gaggle of jumbo-sized creators.

F. Bilal Coulibaly. 12. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. France. player. 149

Bilal Coulibaly’s stock is soaring with his play in the French playoffs right now. Already a tremendous defensive prospect at 18 years old, he’s now shooting above league-average from 3 and he’s flashing legitimate creation upside with his powerful downhill drives. He’s a game-changing athlete with a lot of time to develop. OKC has afford the patient approach.

Pick Analysis. G. Arkansas. player. 81. Scouting Report. Nick Smith Jr.. 13

Nick Smith Jr. couldn’t put his best foot forward at Arkansas, but he’s a rangy athlete at 6-foot-5 with effortless shooting touch and significant scoring upside in the off-guard spot. Toronto needs more shot-making in the backcourt and Smith won’t compromise their defensive integrity.

Pick Analysis. G. Kobe Bufkin. 14. 69. Scouting Report. Michigan. player

There has been a lot of lottery buzz around Kobe Bufkin lately. The Michigan guard is younger than your average sophomore and his blend of slashing and defense could appeal to a team like New Orleans. The Pelicans won’t need Bufkin to create for others; instead, he’d be empowered to attack rotating defenders off the catch while Zion and Brandon Ingram draw attention in the middle of the floor.