The 2023 NBA Draft class is loaded with intriguing talent. Which players on our NBA Draft Big Board have the best chances of success at the next level?
The bulk of the conversation around the 2023 NBA Draft has revolved around one player: Victor Wembanyama. He’s a true singularity, the kind of player who comes along once in a generation. We’ve never seen a player like him: the size, the fluidity, the skill. He’s the embodiment of modern NBA basketball on steroids and the race for best lottery odds could be hot down the stretch.
That said, there’s much more to a draft class than its top prospect. In the year LeBron James was drafted, we also got Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh. The basketball fandom at large has pegged fairly high expectations on Wemby, and that will bleed over to the rest of the rookies too. The class of 2023 has the potential to craft a special legacy, but only if enough players answer the call.
So, with the college basketball season well underway, let’s engage with the year’s first NBA Draft Big Board. Which prospects stand out, and why? As always, big boards are something of a tricky and subjective exercise — how can one fully evaluate a prospect without knowing the team context? A player who looks great for the Warriors might not look so great for the Rockets.
That being said, I’ve done my best. consider this a jumping-off point for a season-long discourse, which will inevitably build to a fever pitch next summer. We will update this board monthly, so stay tuned. You can expect mock drafts in the very near future too.
2023 NBA Draft Big Board: Ranking the top 60 prospects
Victor Wembanyama, generously listed at 7-foot-5 and 220 pounds over at ESPN, will be the No.1 overall pick in 2023. He’s the most hyped prospect since LeBron James and probably the most unique prospect in modern NBA history. He’s everything the league currently values — length, dynamic shooting, defensive versatility, scalable offense — plugged into the most absurd physical frame one could think of.
There aren’t too many holes in Wembanyama’s game. He’s an excellent movement shooter with what might be the first actually unguardable jumper. Despite his high center of gravity, he’s more than capable of negotiating tight spaces off the bounce and fluidly moving into his pull-up jumper. Slower defenders are vulnerable to straight-line drives. His length and touch make up for his lack of strength finishing inside. On defense, he just inhales shots in the paint and is too long to actually drive by. Even if you get a step on Wembanyama, he’s capable of channeling Mr. Fantastic to swat the ball from behind.
G, United States,
At 6-foot-7, Amen Thompson is the most impressive athlete in the draft. The main knock against him will be the lack of high-level competition at Overtime Elite, as opposed to his peers who are facing collegiate or professional competition. That said, Thompson possesses unique size and explosiveness for a lead ball-handler, and he might be the best passer on the board.
He needs to get more consistent from 3-point range, but Thompson is a gifted finisher with the handles and shiftiness needed to break down defenders at the next level. He can finish with power or finesse around the rim and he’s electric in the open court, where his speediness and playmaking are on full display. He can also guard multiple positions.
G, United States,
Scoot Henderson is the current favorite to follow Wembanyama on draft night. The twitchy 6-foot-2 guard has been thrust right into a starring role for the G-League Ignite. He has room to grow as a decision-maker, but Henderson’s dynamic athleticism, three-level scoring, and flashes of on-ball defense cement his standing near the top of the draft board. He needs to trim the fat off his shot chart right now, but Henderson’s explosive live-dribble playmaking makes it easy to believe in him as a lead initiator and future star point guard.
G, United States,
While the spotlight slightly favors his twin brother at Overtime Elite, there’s still plenty of spectacle around Ausar Thompson. He’s going to go very high on draft night too, in large part because of the laundry list of physical attributes he shares with his twin brother — size, explosiveness, speed, coordination. He’s more of a wing than Amen, but Ausar profiles as a better defender and a perfectly impressive slasher with room to expand his abilities as a shot-creator.
Nick Smith Jr.
While Nick Smith Jr. lacks the eye-popping athleticism of his top-five counterparts, he more than makes up for it with skill and craft. The 6-foot-5 guard from Arkansas can absolutely obliterate defenses off the dribble, intermingling changes of speed and direction with advanced handles and feather-soft touch from everywhere on the court. His ability to shoot on the move, combined with excellent feel and vision spearheading the offense, makes Smith one of the draft’s most bankable lead playmakers.
An explosive 6-foot-7, 230-pound power athlete on the wing, Cam Whitmore should have NBA scouts salivating over him all season. He can defend up and down the positional spectrum and he possesses impressive open-court athleticism. Tie that in with steady growth as a shooter and playmaker, and there’s reason to believe Whitmore’s game will only get better from here. Plus, he’s playing for Villanova, one of the top developmental hotspots in the country.
The NBA values versatility above all else, and Jarace Walker provides a lot of it. On defense, he has the potential to guard 4-5 positions on any given night. He’s strong enough to battle bigs inside, quick enough to contain guards at the point of attack, and he ties it all together with tremendous instincts off the ball. He makes his presence felt consistently on the defensive end. He has more work to do offensively, but Walker’s impressive athleticism and potential as a downhill scorer shine through. If he can make the 3-point shot a regular staple of his game, Walker will have very few glaring weaknesses at the next level.
The recent legacy of Kentucky guards in the NBA is quite strong. Cason Wallace will look to keep the momentum going. He’s an excellent perimeter defender at 6-foot-3, possessing the length and physicality needed to stonewall ball-handlers at the point of attack. He’s not a freak athlete, but Wallace plays with spirit and contributes in myriad ways offensively, from a bankable 3-point shot to nifty floaters and proficient passing. He won’t explode past defenders, but he has the skill, craft, and poise to get by just fine.
A talented three-level scorer who can make shots from any angle, Keyonte George should have no trouble finding his way to points in the NBA. A strongly built 6-foot-4 guard, George will need to get better at elevating teammates in the long run, but there are flashes of legitimate passing upside to complement his impressive shot-making. On defense, thanks to his broad shoulders and impressive bulk, he can guard bigger wings or stick with guards at the point of attack.
A big guard who can function as a wing in some lineups, Anthony Black is the kind of malleable, connective-tissue offensive player so many good teams covet. He doesn’t create his own shots with much success, but Black is a gifted passer who can influence winning without dominating touches. He can sling every pass in the book out of pick-and-rolls, he’s great at kickstarting transition offense, and he does the little things to keep the ship sailing smoothly. His versatility and basketball IQ, even if it isn’t paired with imminent star potential, should keep Black in the lottery conversation.
A 6-foot-7 wing who can shoot the everliving crap out of the ball, it’s not hard to see the path to NBA relevance for Gradey Dick. He’s an elite shooter with the size to compete on defense and enough secondary skills to keep the defense honest. He has an excellent sense of when to move and cut — and he’s a talented finisher in the lane relative to your typical shooting specialist. Put him next to a couple of good creators at the next level and Dick has serious Star In His Role potential.
Playing against grown men in the Adriatic League, the teenage Nikola Durisic has proven his mettle on both sides of the ball. At 6-foot-8, he’s a strong and physical defender capable of guarding several positions. Offensively, he’s quick to impress with playmaking flare and signs of shot-making potential. He has to get more efficient and choose his spots more wisely, but he has the foundation of a gifted multi-faceted contributor.
F, Crimson Tide
Any concerns about Brandon Miller making the high school-to-college transition have been blown out of the water. He’s an electric and efficient three-level scorer at 6-foot-9, possessing a blend of size and shot-making prowess that immediately jumps off the screen. Alabama is leaning on him to great effect, and it’s easy to decipher the path to stardom when watching a player his size move so fluidly with the ball. The cherry on top is Miller’s passing upside. He slings some beautiful dimes, no doubt aided by his high vantage point. That said, his decision-making can lag behind at times.
It hasn’t been perfect, but all things considered, GG Jackson’s productivity so far at South Carolina has been quite impressive. Once the top recruit in the high school class of 2023, Jackson instead graduated early and went to Carolina as a 17-year-old. He’s the youngest player on the board and thus should be afforded some extra leniency by NBA decision-makers who see the obvious upside in a physical, fluid 6-foot-9 forward who can space the floor, create off the dribble, and defend multiple positions.
G, Blue Devils
Dariq Whitehead just checks a lot of boxes. At 6-foot-7, he provides good size and physicality on the wing. He takes pride in his defense and is switch-friendly. On offense, he’s a fairly crafty and dynamic shot-maker who makes an effort to move the ball and get teammates involved. His limited athleticism is a mark against him, and he will have to work hard to shed the “streaky” label that preceded his arrival at Duke, but the base skill set is quite tantalizing.
Another twin, for good measure. Kris Murray will undoubtedly draw comparisons to his brother Keegan, the No. 4 pick in last year’s class. Those comparisons are, of course, mostly surface-level (quite literally). That said, the twins should join each other at the professional level next season thanks to Kris’s blend of size and shooting, as well as his ability to drive the lane with long strides, precise footwork, and feather-soft touch.
G, Blue Devils
The shots aren’t falling yet at Duke, but Tyrese Proctor should appeal to NBA teams with his sharp playmaking acumen and defensive toughness. He can make every pass in the book, his head constantly on a swivel when he’s probing the defense or driving downhill. At 6-foot-5, he has good size and physicality at the point of attack on defense. His track record as a shooter is much stronger than the current numbers suggest, so there’s reason for optimism on that front.
Dillon Mitchell is arguably the best athlete in the draft. He has the potential to be an absolute stud on defense due to his length, quickness, and high level of intensity. He crashes the glass, explodes into passing lanes, and racks up highlight blocks on the regular. His offensive contributions are similarly sourced: easy finishes around the rim resulting from hustle and explosive athleticism. If he can continue to grow as a passer, great. If he can show consistent touch around the rim and start adding range to his scoring arsenal, watch out.
A 6-foot-8 wing with picturesque shooting mechanics, Jett Howard should pop for a lot of NBA teams. He can shoot off movement, he can shoot spotting up, or he can attack closeouts. His floater and in-between game are well-developed, and while he won’t create much for others, Howard profiles as an excellent complementary talent with room to grow. Per usual, positional versatility (especially on defense) boosts his stock.
A wrist injury interrupted his season, but the early body of work from Rayan Rupert in Australia’s NBL is quite impressive. He’s playing important minutes against professional, high-level competition. Standing 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he’s one of the best perimeter defenders on the board. He’s a monster at the point of attack, frequently bottling up ball-handlers and converting turnovers into transition offense. If he can progress as a shooter, it’s hard to imagine he won’t stick around in the NBA.
A bulky 6-foot-6 guard with feather-soft touch and advanced playmaking instincts, Jalen Hood-Schifino should hover around draft boards all season. He lacks explosiveness on drives to the rim, but a wide array of floaters and touch shots — combined with his ability to play physically through contact — allow Hood-Schifino to offset those limitations. He’s a tremendous passer and versatile, high-IQ defender as well. If he can get 3s to fall consistently, NBA teams should be banging down his door.
The 3-and-D wing has become the NBA’s most sought-after commodity. Chris Livingston looks the part. He’s a ravenous defender, weaponizing his 6-foot-10 wingspan and 220-pound frame to hassle ball-handlers at the point of attack and generate turnovers with his activity level. He’s more limited offensively and will have to get more consistent with his jump shot, but Livingston’s strength driving the lane and unselfish demeanor provide a solid foundation.
Dereck Lively II
C, Blue Devils
Dereck Lively II is next in a long line of physically imposing centers from Duke. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-7 wingspan, nimble feet, and impressive defensive instincts. He projects as possibly the best rim protector in the draft behind Wembanyama. He will catch lobs, inhale rebounds, and put his 230-pound frame to good use on the block.
The NBA has gone away from traditional 7-footers, which makes Kel’el Ware’s blend of old-school appeal with modern flourishes quite appealing. He has all the shiny measurables you want in a first-round center prospect — massive wingspan, explosive leaping ability, impressive frame — combined with touch out to the 3-point line and the potential to adequately defend in space. That said, he has a lot of learning to do on defense.
C, Blue Devils
Kyle Filipowski brings a lot of interesting skills to the center position. He can shoot, pass, handle the rock, and finish above the rim — a lot of teams will salivate over his offensive potential. That said, 7-footers with negative wingspans who struggle to defend in space and lack discipline can present serious downside risk too. Filipowski will have to convince scouts the offensive dynamism can offset the defensive limitations.
Marcus Sasser is a magnificent shooter with deep range — on the move, pulling up, standing still, it doesn’t really matter. He’s shifty off the bounce and has no trouble creating space to get into his jump shot. Unfortunately, he’s 6-foot-2 in shoes and will be unavoidably limited on the defensive end despite his impressive commitment to that side of the ball.
One of the most electric performers in college basketball, Terquavion Smith will likely have no shortage of standout moments this season. He’s a nutty pull-up shooter with deep range and unquenchable confidence. He needs to show he can defend on a regular basis, but Smith’s shooting and playmaking upside will keep him glued to draft boards.
Sidy Cissoko is getting plenty of run with the G-League Ignite. He can be something of an erratic decision-maker on both sides of the ball, but the tools are all there. He’s 6-foot-7 with powerful athleticism and a real nose for the ball. He mucks up the floor for opposing offenses and shows potential as a downhill driver and perimeter shooter. If he can clean up simple mistakes and really nail down the 3-point shot, NBA teams will have no trouble imagining a productive future at the next level.
Colby Jones is another box-checker, well-rounded to the extreme. He appears to be making strides as a shooter early in the season. He drops some seriously impressive passes, with a play style geared toward elevating teammates. Jones isn’t the best athlete on the board, but he’s capable of finishing with craft around the rim and hitting some funky shots in the paint. With versatile defense and Swiss Army Knife potential offensively, Jones profiles as the quintessential modern role player if the 3-point shot is here to stay.
A lanky 6-foot-7 wing with a lot of intriguing physical traits, Travis Arceneaux has been an early-season riser on draft boards. He can space the floor, attack closeouts, and defend multiple positions. He plays with confidence and energy. And, over time, he should learn how to channel his freneticism more efficiently.
Ricky Council IV
The Wichita State transfer has been putting up big numbers for Arkansas, one of the most talented teams in the country. At 6-foot-6, Council is a fearless and physical slasher who has no trouble embracing contact at the rim. He’s going to keep drawing eyeballs all season.
A bulky 6-foot-5 wing who scores with patience and precision, Brice Sensabaugh should see his role expand as the season progresses. He can make the net sing from 3-point land, he can leverage his strength advantage in the post, and he has the chance to provide some measure of defensive versatility.
Not unlike throwing a dart in a dark room. Emoni Bates was once a top recruit who felt destined for top-five pick status. Until he wasn’t. Now at Eastern Michigan after his dreadful stint in Memphis, Bates is looking to rebuild his draft stock. He’s putting up numbers but one has to remember the context of those numbers (it’s Eastern Michigan). At 6-foot-9, his combination of size and shot-making is not easy to find. That said, Bates’ complete lack of explosion at the rim is a concern when projecting his efficiency long-term.
An experienced collegiate wing in one of the nation’s top programs, Julian Strawther should continue to draw attention all year thanks to his combination of size and shooting on the wing. He’s more than just 3-and-D, though — Strawther is an under-appreciated athlete who can get out in transition and play above the rim every now and then.
He has more than doubled his 3-point attempts compared to last season and he’s hitting a lot of them. Drawing expanded duties as a sophomore, Jordan Hawkins should intrigue NBA teams with his impressive shot-making and boundless energy on the wing.
Adem Bona is an enthusiastic and explosive dunker who will gladly supply his future NBA point guard with a lob threat and play finisher inside. He can also defend the paint quite well, with quick enough feet to survive the increasing pace and space of the modern game. He checks a lot of the important physical boxes and should draw first-round consideration accordingly.
The production isn’t quite there yet, but the size (6-foot-8), fluidity of movement, and potential as a shooter and play finisher should keep NBA teams invested in Julian Phillips. The tools are all there, now he just has to put them together.
F, Fighting Illini
There’s a lot to like here: at 6-foot-10, Coleman Hawkins combines excellent effort and versatility on the defensive end with a budding offensive repertoire. The 3-point shot looks legit and he’s starting to show more life as a passer. There’s plenty of room for bigs like that in today’s game.
DaRon Holmes II
DaRon Holmes is one of the best shot-blockers in college basketball. His instincts around the rim, paired with a well-rounded approach to the offensive end, make it very easy to project him as a successful role player in the NBA. Long term, there’s reason to believe in his jumper.
Terrence Shannon Jr.
G, Fighting Illini
The senior, who transferred over from Texas Tech, appears to be making a shooting leap in his final collegiate season. Terrence Shannon’s main appeal, still, is rooted in defense: at 6-foot-7, he’s equal parts versatile and hard-edged. He gets after it and takes pride in making stops.
G, Fighting Irish
A talented movement shooter with athleticism and two-way potential, NBA scouts should eagerly track J.J. Starling’s development over the course of the season. He’s off to a slower start than expected but his game projects quite favorably toward the modern NBA.
Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. projects as a rock-solid role player. He doesn’t explode off the screen and he needs to get his 3-point numbers back on track, but he’s a gritty two-way player with scoring craft, a real eye for playmaking, and all the intangibles you’d expect with an accomplished four-year player.
F, United States,
At 6-foot-10, Leonard Miller’s impressive fluidity and shot-making potential will have NBA teams salivating. He has a long way to go developmentally, but he’s scoring with relative efficiency in the G League, against professional competition. He can handle the ball in tight spaces and flashes impressive upside as a pull-up shooter.
A physically imposing center with rim-rocking power and impressive shot-blocking instincts, James Nnaji has honed his skill set with one of the best teams in Europe — Barcelona. He will set massive screens, roll hard to the rim, and do the things you expect of a quality role-playing big, but he’s still in the early stages of development as far as decision-making is concerned.
Currently posting absurd shooting numbers at Pepperdine, Maxwell Lewis is a strong candidate to continue rising up draft boards. He has excellent size on the wing at 6-foot-7, combined with comfort shooting on the move and the ability to attack downhill, using long and purposeful strides to keep the defense off-balance.
The potential for defensive versatility offered by Arthur Kaluma should keep him firmly on the NBA radar. At 6-foot-8, he’s built like a linebacker and has the tools necessary to potentially guard any frontcourt position. He needs to iron out his 3-point stroke and become far less turnover-prone.
Matthew Cleveland is an athletic wing who should be capable of guarding multiple positions at the next level. He’s quite good at getting downhill or out in transition, using his frame to initiate contact and finish at the rim. He’s statistically a very poor 3-point shooter, but his touch closer to the rim is a positive indicator long-term. Cleveland appears very coachable and unselfish, so NBA teams should buy the intangibles too.
Ousmane Ndiaye has all the tools for success in the NBA. At 6-foot-10, he moves his feet well and flashes upside as a shooter. Physically, he looks like a very talented rim protector. That said, he’s unpolished. He needs to work on his decision-making and fundamentals.
What looked like a very promising sophomore season for Trevon Brazile was just cut short by a torn ACL. A big wing who can shoot the rock and who plays with significant zeal on the defensive end, Brazile is not a player NBA teams should scratch off their draft boards just yet. But the injury is an undeniable roadblock.
Kevin McCullar Jr.
Adjusting to a new role at Kansas, fourth-year wing Kevin McCullar Jr. has upped his 3-point rate without sacrificing the small things that make him unique. A smart connective passer who supplies the Kansas defense with frenzied activity, McCullar possesses strong role-player traits on both sides of the ball.
Amari Bailey is a talented downhill scorer and creator, showing a willingness to look for teammates out of the pick-and-roll that should have NBA scouts intrigued. His 3-point shots are falling, now he just needs to ratchet up the volume.
Jalen Wilson is evidently in store for a massive senior season. His numbers are up across the board as he settles into a primary-scoring role. Most promising of those numbers are his 3-point shooting, which bode well for teams curious about his fit at the next level — when he’s no longer that go-to player. If Wilson can sustain his current 3-point rate while continuing to punish defenses as a driver, he could swiftly rise up draft boards.
Jordan Walsh runs the risk of getting overshadowed by the sheer volume of talent on the Arkansas roster. That said, the recent season-ending injury to Trevon Brazile could open up more minutes. Walsh is a tremendous athlete on the wing and a whirlwind defensive presence. His main challenge is proving to NBA teams that he can shoot.
G, Tar Heels
A former top recruit who struggled out of the gates, Caleb Love is now playing his third season at North Carolina. He’s starting to look the part, comfortably picking apart defenses out of the pick-and-roll and flashing his impressive speed and finishing ability in the open court. If the 3-point shot can stabilize more, Love should have plenty of NBA suitors based on pedigree and production.
Primed for a strong second season at Texas, Tyrese Hunter is bound to grab the attention of NBA scouts with his poise, confidence, and shooting flashes. His 3-point shot isn’t fully consistent, but Hunter’s mechanics are projectable and he looks comfortable helming the offense when given a chance.
At 7-foot-4 and 285 pounds, Zach Edey occupies quite a lot of space on both sides of the ball. There are obvious and valid concerns about his potential to hold up defensively in the NBA — he doesn’t move very well in space — but he can still wall off the paint, inhale rebounds, and contribute with surprising skill on the offensive end. He’s one of the most dominant players in college basketball and is going to earn some looks at the next level.
A flashy athlete who likes to get out and run, Eric Gaines is a stable jump shot away from first-round status. He thrives as an open-court playmaker and can finish impressively in traffic, but his inefficiency is a major hurdle right now.
One of the best rebounders in college basketball history, Oscar Tshiebwe should stick on the NBA radar by virtue of sheer productivity for college basketball’s most scrutinized program. He’s a bruiser in the paint, defending with manic energy and simply out-hustling most opponents. There are questions about his ability to defend in space at the next level, but Tshiebwe has all the intangibles and has no doubt earned his professional opportunity.
Something of a dinosaur in his ability to score with power and finesse in the post, many will question whether or not Trayce Jackson-Davis is a decade late to the NBA. Those questions are justified, but his ambidextrous finishing, polished footwork, and multi-faceted skill set make me generally optimistic about his potential to carve out a lane.
One of the country’s top defensive guards, Reece Beekman’s steadfast offensive improvement — most notably from 3-point range — is edging him into early riser territory. He’s a smart, well-rounded lead guard who doesn’t make a ton of mistakes. He has vision operating out of the pick-and-roll and he’s especially comfortable playmaking in transition.