We have reached the midway point of the NBA season. Which 2023 NBA Draft prospects ought to be on the radar of every front office?
We are fast approaching the final stretch of the 2022-23 NBA season. The trade deadline brought about a whirlwind of change, the fallout of which won’t be fully realized until many years from now. The NBA Draft picture changed as much as anything else.
A record number of second-round picks exchanged hands. Meanwhile, plenty of first-round picks were tossed around too. Teams with their sights set on Victor Wembanyama and the enticing crop of potential lottery picks cleaned house (see: Jazz, Utah), while other teams decided to heck with tanking, we want to win now (see: Raptors, Toronto).
The NBA Draft picture is becoming clearer and clearer. Beyond the rather obvious No. 1 and 2, we’re starting to understand just how deep the class is. A number of players have flashed legitimate All-Star potential. The jumble of different opinions in the 3-14 range is indicative of the volume of quality prospects set to become available to NBA teams next summer.
That said, it’s only February. The story of the 2022-23 season (and its draft prospects) is not complete. The NCAA Tournament provides a massive stage for prospects to either rocket into the spotlight or fade into the shadows. Then, NBA teams will have months of individual workouts and prospect interviews to color their perspectives anew.
You can read last month’s installment of the big board here. You can also read our most recent mock draft — which takes individual team fit into account — here.
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.
Check out our detailed scouting report on Victor Wembanyama here.
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.
Check out our detailed scouting report on Scoot Henderson here.
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, opposed to his piers 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.
Check out our detailed scouting report on Amen Thompson here.
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.
Check out our detailed scouting report on Ausar Thompson here.
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.
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. Unfortunately, he’s slated to miss extended time to knee maladies, which can always get dicey.
Check out our detailed scouting report on Nick Smith Jr. here.
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 I.Q., even if it isn’t paired with imminent star potential, should keep Black in the lottery conversation.
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.
F, Crimson Tide
Brandon Miller is 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. He has been one of the most productive freshmen in the country, with remarkable efficiency beyond the arc and countless examples of advanced shot creation upside. 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.
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 good creators at the next level and Dick has serious Star In His Role potential.
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.
F, 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. Injuries are the main impediment between Whitehead and lottery consideration right now. He just hasn’t been healthy or consistent enough to wow NBA decision-makers at Duke.
Currently posting absurd shooting numbers at Pepperdine, Maxwell Lewis has entrenched himself in the lottery discussion. 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.
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.
F, Crimson Tide
With Brandon Miller soaking up the spotlight in Alabama, you wouldn’t be blamed for overlooking Noah Clowney. The 6-foot-10 freshman, however, has been steadily climbing up draft boards on the strength of his multi-faceted defense and competent complementary skill set offensively. He’s one of those prospects who will have NBA teams drooling if his jumper shows signs of progress.
A talented floor spacer and shot-blocker at the four spot, Taylor Hendricks has been one of the biggest risers so far this college season. He doesn’t have much on-ball juice yet, but Hendricks’ fluid athleticism and impressive instincts on defense should have scouts hooked. The NBA is a 3-and-D league nowadays.
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.
Colby Jones is another box-checker, well-rounded to the extreme. He’s posting career-best numbers across the board, most notably as a 3-point shooter. 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 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.
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.
DaRon Holmes II
C, All Atlantic 10
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.
A bulky 6-foot-5 wing who scores with patience and precision, Brice Sensabaugh has been the best scoring freshman in college basketball. He can make the net sing from 3-point land and he can leverage his strength advantage in the post. He can absolutely torch defenses with tough shot-making, but the defense has been deeply problematic and could hold him back at the next level.
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.
F, United States,
At 6-foot-10, Leonard Miller’s impressive fluidity and skill will have NBA teams salivating. He has a long way to go developmentally (especially with his jumper), but he’s scoring with relative efficiency in the G-League and contributing in various ways across the board. He can handle the ball in tight spaces, create for teammates, and defend multiple positions.
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.
A bulky 6-foot-6 guard with feather-soft touch and advanced playmaking instincts, Jalen Hood-Schifino has genuine potential to crack the lottery if the right team latches on. 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-I.Q. defender as well. If he can get 3s to fall consistently, NBA teams should be banging down his door.
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.
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.
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.
One of the country’s top defensive guards, Reece Beekman’s steadfast offensive improvement — most notably from 3-point range — is edging him into first-round 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.
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.
One of the most electric performers in college basketball, Terquavion Smith will supply instant entertainment value for whichever team drafts him. 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.
Terrence Shannon Jr.
F, Fighting Illini
The senior, who transferred over from Texas Tech, appears to have made the shooting leap in his final collegiate season (at least in terms of volume). 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.
Despite wavering efficiency, Jalen Wilson has handled an increased workload with aplomb in his senior season. His 3-point numbers have skyrocketed and he’s showcasing never-before-seen versatility as a scorer, which should interest NBA teams in search of more offensive punch. He has a real chance to enter the first round conversation if he hasn’t already.
Playing against grown men in the Adriatic League, the teenaged 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 to choose his spots more wisely, but he has the foundation of a gifted multi-faceted contributor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, albeit 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.
Read more about the unique case of Emoni Bates here.
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.
NBA teams will need to give Keyontae Johnson the all-important medical all-clear, but years after collapsing mid-game in 2020, the former Florida Gator is back to full strength and then some for his new team. He can spread the floor, attack the lane, and defend a couple positions. He profiles well as a two-way role player at the next level.
Playing an increased role in year three with the Bruins, Jaylen Clark has given NBA teams plenty to be excited about. He defends smart and hard, with enough 3-point shooting and off-ball scoring upside to complement teammates on that side of the ball too.
Jordan Walsh runs the risk of getting overshadowed by the sheer volume of talent on the Arkansas roster. He’s a tremendous athlete on the wing and a whirlwind defensive presence. His main challenge is proving to NBA teams that he can shoot.
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.
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.
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.
He will have to prove that he can score and defend well enough to stay on the floor in the NBA, but Juan Nunez is one of the smartest players on the board – an expert manipulator with the ball in hand, lulling defenders to sleep with stop-start handles before rocketing perfectly-placed passes from anywhere, to anywhere on the court.
Andre Jackson Jr.
Something of an oddball prospect, Andre Jackson’s draft case is built almost entirely beyond the box score. He doesn’t score much at all, but he’s a noteworthy athlete who exerts immense influence over the game defensively while operating as play-connector offensively. He’s smart, unselfish, and hard-working.
Matthew Murrell’s scoring efficiency is suspect at best, but he has enough flashes on that end to support the intrigue around his dogged determination on defense. Few college players get after it like Murrell.
A lanky 6-foot-7 wing with a lot of intriguing physical traits. 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.
F, Blue Devils
A switchable 6-foot-8 forward who has already played important minutes for the always-loaded Blue Devils, Mark Mitchell is rapidly rising up draft boards. His 3-point shot is falling, but the volume remains low. If he can get NBA teams to believe in his offensive package, the athleticism and defensive upside could carry him into the first round conversation.
A 19-year-old, 6-foot-10 forward who is setting the nets on fire for KK Partizan in Serbia. His size, smooth jumper, and ability to get out in transition should appeal to NBA teams.
Mike Miles Jr.
G, Horned Frogs
One of college basketball’s most productive guards. What Miles lacks in 3-point volume, he makes up for with fearlessness driving the lane and impressive finishing ability for a 6-foot-1 guard.
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.
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.
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.
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.