2023 NBA Mock Draft 1.0: France's Victor Wembanyama runaway favorite for No. 1 pick
NEW YORK — The 2022 NBA draft is over and NBA fans will have to wait patiently to see how Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith pan out in their rookie seasons. Teams that have made questionable picks, leaving fans scratching their heads, have one more year to get it right with a loaded 2023 group at the top and a better than expected group of one-and-done prospects entering the college hoops space next season.
There will most likely be only one college player in the top five, something that has never happened in the last 20 draft classes, led by 7-foot-2 French phenom Victor Wembanyama. Following right after him is the teenager dominating the G League right now, Scoot Henderson, and Overtime's OTE league has a pair of twins who could be the highest set of twins ever drafted in NBA history.
Here's a way-too-early look at the first-round projections in the 2023 NBA draft and players to keep tabs on during the 2022-23 college basketball season.
1. F Victor Wembanyama
Ht./Wt.: 7-2, 230 pounds | ASVEL (France)
Wembanyama is the clear-cut favorite for the No. 1 pick and has backed the hype in the way he's playing as a 18-year-old in the EuroLeague. Wembanyama is the most talked-about prospect among NBA scouts and executives since LeBron James in 2003 and is the runaway favorite for the No. 1 pick by a mile. The French native will be the biggest and most talented import from overseas ever, trumping Luka Doncic and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.
"Right now, it’s Wembanyama and everyone else for the 2023 draft," one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. "There’s always concern about someone so good so young, but it hasn’t gotten in the way of Wembanyama from getting better over the years. He’s the closest thing to a transcendent talent the draft has seen since probably Zion [Williamson], and even then the feelings throughout the league were much more mixed compared to where things stand right now with Wembanyama."
2. G Scoot Henderson
Ht./Wt.: 6-2, 195 pounds | G League Ignite
Henderson took the G League by storm last season at just 17 years old, averaging 14 points, five rebounds and 3.6 assists in 11 games. The shifty guard (now 18) plays much bigger than his 6-foot-2 size and is strong with the ball when taking contact in the lane from bigger players.
The early success as a teenager in the G League means Henderson could be the next great point guard to take over the NBA. He watches a lot of film on Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday and Ja Morant and tries to draw different things from their game.
"He has another level most players don't have," one scout said after seeing Henderson play this past season. "If he's playing like this as a teenager in the G League, I can't wait to see the player he becomes at the NBA level."
Scoot went CRAZY tonight! The 17-year old flirted with a triple-double off the bench for Ignite. 👀 @thereal013
19 PTS | 10 AST | 7 REB | 8-13 FG pic.twitter.com/kx6yKRuwxt
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) January 8, 2022
3. G Nick Smith Jr.
Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 185 pounds | Arkansas: Freshman
Smith Jr. might be the only college player selected in the top five in the 2023 draft. The Arkansas guard caught the eyes of numerous scouts during the high school All-Star circuit (McDonald's All-American Game, Nike's Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic) and is high on a lot of draft boards. Smith Jr. is a highly skilled guard who seemingly makes the right decision when getting downhill and has a quick first step off the dribble.
Smith Jr. elected to stay home and play at Arkansas over blue-blood programs Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina. Smith Jr. will be a player to watch closely in the SEC next season, and he has all the tools to be a productive guard at the NBA level.
“I just have to keep working. I’m just 18 years old, and I know I still have a long way to go and I just have to continue to get better and develop as a player,” Smith Jr. told Yahoo Sports.
4. G Amen Thompson
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 200 pounds | Overtime Elite
Overtime's OTE league will have its most successful draft class next year when the Thompson twins arrive on the scene. Both are elite guards with great size and huge upside. When the pair played together growing up, Amen played point guard and excels at pushing the ball in transition and weeding passes through the defense.
As juniors in high school, the duo was one of the best backcourts in the country. They led Pine Crest High School out of Fort Lauderdale to a Florida state championship. Amen finished with 43 points and 13 rebounds in the double-overtime win, solidifying himself as one of the best guards in the country.
5. G Ausar Thompson
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 204 pounds | Overtime Elite
Almost everything Amen can do on the offensive end of the court, Ausar counters and adds his own flair. The pair are so identical (physically and the way they play the game), it's difficult for scouts to tell them apart. Amen might be the best facilitator out of the two, but Ausar is an elite defender with excellent shot-block timing, coming off the weakside or trailing his man.
Ausar posted two 30-point games and scored in double digits 18 times last season. He's creative in mismatch situations and punishes smaller guards in the lane with his athleticism. Where things stand now, both twins are interchangeable in the top five and it will come down to preference from NBA teams at the top.
6. G Cam Whitmore
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 220 pounds | Villanova: Freshman
Former head coach Jay Wright and the Villanova system are known for establishing solid, reliable guards over the course of three or four years before players hit the NBA. Former Villanova players Kyle Lowry, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Saddiq Bey are all solid players in the NBA. Whitmore could be the first to change the mold, becoming the first one-and-done prospect in Villanova program history. He had a great spring and capped it off with an even better start to the summer, leading Team USA to a gold medal in the FIBA U18 Americas Tournament. Whitmore was arguably the best player on the court and averaged 38.4 points, 13 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.7 steals per 36 minutes.
"I just want to show the NBA scouts watching me that I'm versatile, I can do everything on the floor, both offense and defense," Whitmore told Yahoo Sports. "Coach told me I could be one-and-done next year but I'm going to have to earn my minutes and work hard on the court."
7. F Dillon Mitchell
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 200 pounds | Texas: Freshman
Mitchell might be the most raw, talented player projected at the top of the draft and has a ton of untapped potential he'll hopefully grow into and showcase in his (most likely) one year at Texas. He loves to play above the rim and blow by opponents off the wing with his first step. His outside jumper is still an area of development, but Mitchell showed the most improvement from every all-star game he played in last spring and left many NBA scouts excited about his upside as an NBA prospect.
8. C Dereck Lively
Ht./Wt.: 7-1, 220 pounds | Duke: Freshman
Lively moves incredibly well for his 7-foot-1 frame and is an agile center who makes great reads out of the double team. Lively is the No. 1-ranked player in the 2022 high school class and a part of Jon Scheyer’s inaugural recruiting class that has three other five-stars and is the No. 1 recruiting class coming in next season. His outside jump shot off the block continues to be a work in progress, and he's proving to be more than a rim-running center.
“I know I’m not going out there to take every shot or grab every rebound," Lively told Yahoo Sports. "I just want to show the NBA scouts that I can play good basketball and basketball that’s good enough to make it to the league.”
9. G Dariq Whitehead
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 190 pounds | Duke: Freshman
Whitehead is a fast-twitch combo guard who has the size to drop down to the wing. He loves to attack the rim but has shown an improved outside jumper over the last year. Defensively, he's quick at anticipating the next pass and can guard positions 1-through-4. Whitehead impacts winning and played alongside Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes and Moses Moody in high school at Montverde Academy.
10. Kel'el Ware
Ht./Wt.: 7-0, 210 pounds | Oregon: Freshman
No future NBA prospect has garnered more attention in a short amount of time than Ware. He improved from every high school all-star event in the spring with NBA scouts in attendance and was the leading force in the lane, blocking everything during the FIBA U18 Americas Tournament.
"I'm a center that can shoot the ball, post up, score and defend well and get blocks," Ware told Yahoo Sports. "So I'm just trying to showcase my versatility and be consistent."
11. G Anthony Black
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 185 pounds | Arkansas: Freshman
Black has tremendous size as a primary ball handler and showed much more consistency and leadership during the FIBA U18 Americas Tournament, playing alongside Ware and Whitmore. Black ranked No. 1 overall in per-40-minute assists (8.4) and was second in per-40-minute rebounds (15.8).
"I think I do a lot of things that impact winning," Black told Yahoo Sports. "I know there's a lot of good players in the league that can score and do all that so I just have to show them that I can do other stuff too, like make plays for my teammates, play defense and just be a good leader."
12. F Jarace Walker
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 220 pounds | Houston: Freshman
Walker is exactly the type of versatile, strong forward Kelvin Sampson needs on his Houston squad filled with upperclassmen guards Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead. Walker has a great frame and runs the floor well, something he'll have to do often with the speed in the backcourt. In Sampson's offensive system, Walker will be able to play to his strengths and have the freedom to move off the block and take players off the dribble.
13. G Amari Bailey
Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 190 pounds | UCLA: Freshman
Bailey proved during the spring that he's a dog on the court and loves to compete. The lefty's outside jump shot is still an area that needs work, but Bailey's relentless work ethic will bode well for him next season at UCLA and further into his career. He has another level to his game and can change speeds with ease in transition, putting defenders on their heels.
14. G Keyonte George
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 185 pounds | Baylor: Freshman
When George gets hot from deep, it’s difficult to stop him and it creates a ton of space for his teammates. When he does get in the lane, he has great body control at the rim and isn’t afraid of contact. He’s a solid defender, can keep guys in front and is effective in dropping down low and grabbing steals when forwards put the ball on the floor.
15. G Terquavion Smith
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 160 pounds | NC State: Sophomore
Smith elected to return to NC State after testing the waters for the 2022 NBA draft. He played well during the combine scrimmages and some thought it was enough to stay in this year's draft. Going back for one year of development will only help his draft stock. Smith averaged 16.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 31 minutes last season and is a player NBA scouts will be watching closely to see how he develops his game and how he takes on a leadership role.
16. F Kyle Filipowski
Ht./Wt.: 6-11, 230 pounds | Duke: Freshman
Filipowski will bring a great inside presence to Duke next season and also has a mature inside-out game off a high ball screen. He has strong hands; when going up in traffic rarely lets guards rip the ball from him when dipping down for the double-team. Filipowski chose Duke over Syracuse, Ohio State and Indiana and will an evaluator's dream playing alongside Dereck Lively.
17. G Cason Wallace
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 185 pounds | Kentucky: Freshman
Sahvir Wheeler is returning to Kentucky for his senior year and that means Wallace will be playing more off the ball, similar to TyTy Washington's role this past season. Washington (No. 29 pick in this year's draft) struggled at times adjusting to the wing, and Wallace might have the same growing pains early on. He's a little bit taller than Washington and NBA scouts are reminded year after year that former Kentucky guards can flourish at the NBA level.
18. Caleb Love
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 195 pounds | North Carolina: Junior
Love had a terrific sophomore year, leading his squad to the national championship game. He showed his poise and scoring versatility in first knocking off a Final Four team from the 2021 season, UCLA, where he finished with 30 points (including six 3-pointers) and four assists. He then followed up with a 28-point performance in one of the biggest games of his career, sending rival Duke home to advance to the title game. NBA scouts want to see Love put everything together for a full season and be a bit more consistent and reliable in crunch-time situations. He's could rise if he picks off where he left off in the NCAA men's tournament.
19. F Chris Livingston
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 200 pounds | Kentucky: Freshman
Livingston already has a mature frame for his young age and uses it to his advantage in his back-to-the-basket game just outside the block. He loves the turnaround jumper when the defender is on his right shoulder. A true worker who will need to adjust to half-court set offensives at Kentucky, but will really shine in transition and iso situations.
20. G Emoni Bates
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 190 pounds | Undecided: Sophomore
Bates had a rough freshman season at Memphis, after reclassifying up a grade and joining Penny Hardaway's squad early. There were issues with injuries and chemistry within the program, causing Bates to enter the transfer portal. He is still undecided, but is favored to pick Louisville where there's a new coaching staff led by Kenny Payne (former Kentucky associate head coach) and Nolan Smith (former Duke assistant). He's still young at 18 years old and has plenty of time to develop his game and be a productive pro at the next level.
21. G Matthew Cleveland
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 200 pounds | Florida State: Sophomore
Florida State dealt with a ton of injuries last season, and it was hard for any player, let alone a freshman new to the system, to find any rhythm. Cleveland is slated to have a big season after averaging 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in 26 minutes last year. A lot of NBA teams are always looking for long, playmaking guards who can play on the perimeter; Cleveland fits that mold.
22. C James Nnaji
Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 225 pounds | FC Barcelona (Spain)
Originally from Nigeria, Nnaji is a young, raw center with a frame he's still growing into and surprisingly quick getting up and down the court. He has a solid base and is an effective screener but needs to work on his shot selection off the pick-and-roll option.
23. C Yohan Traore
Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 225 pounds | Auburn: Freshman
It was 6-foot-10 Jabari Smith who went No. 3 this year, and Traore is a solid consolation prize to losing size in the lane (7-foot Walker Kessler also went in the first round at No. 22). A five-star prospect coming out of high school, Traore isn't the shooter Smith was in college, but he's a skilled, productive big man who has a nice touch around the rim.
24. F Harrison Ingram
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 230 pounds | Stanford: Sophomore
Ingram tested the NBA waters for the 2022 NBA draft and elected to return after meeting with teams. He's a big wing with great footwork and can guard multiple positions on the court with his athleticism and strength.
25. SF Julian Phillips
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 202 pounds | Tennessee: Freshman
Phillips was one of the last five-star recruits to commit this high school season and chose the Vols over Auburn, Florida State and LSU. Rick Barnes has had draft success with Kennedy Chandler (No. 38 this year), Keon Johnson (No. 21 in 2021) and Grant Williams (No. 22 in 2019). Phillips can be the next one up. He has a strong, natural feel for the game, can really pass on the move and is effective when going to his left.
26. G Nolan Hickman
Ht./Wt.: 6-2, 185 pounds | Gonzaga: Sophomore
Andrew Nembhard (No. 31 this year) had the ball in his hands for the majority of the 2021-22 season, and Hickman will now have the freedom to showcase what he's best at: finding pockets in the lane and creating for others. He has a tight handle and deadly crossover and is a decent outside shooter when stepping into 3-pointers.
27. F Alex Fudge
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 185 pounds | Florida: Sophomore
Fudge is a raw power forward/center who can jump out of the gym. He transferred to Florida from LSU after averaging only 3.3 points and 3.2 assists in 14 minutes. This new start at Florida, playing alongside upperclassman Colin Castleton will help his development and confidence, undoubtedly getting scouts' attention early on.
28. G J.J. Starling
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 180 pounds | Notre Dame: Freshman
Blake Wesley was the first one-and-done prospect in Notre Dame program history when the San Antonio Spurs selected him with the No. 25 pick in this year's draft, and head coach Mike Brey could make it two years in a row with Starling. He was a late bloomer on the high school basketball scene but was incredible his senior year at powerhouse La Lumiere, commanding the offense and making plays in the lane.
29. F Kris Murray
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 225 pounds | Iowa: Junior
The twin brother of No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, Keegan Murray, Kris will have the freedom to move and create like his brother did last season at Iowa. Keegan was highly regarded as a player who interviewed extremely well for teams this past season, and if Kris improves on his shot selection, it could be back-to-back first-round picks in the Murray household.
30. G Gradey Dick
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 195 pounds | Kansas: Freshman
Dick is way more bouncy and athletic than what meets the eye. On top of that, he can shoot out of the gym. He averaged 17.9 points per game on one of the best high school basketball teams in the country, Sunrise Christian Academy. He knows he'll have to work for that starting slot, but can slide in and help fill the void of Ochai Agbaji (No. 14 this year) and Christian Braun (No. 21) next season.