2023 NBA Mock Draft 2.0: Wembanyama, Henderson on top; Freshmen rising in latest projections

The 2022-23 basketball season is in full swing as the next wave of prospects across the college level and the professional ranks look ahead to the 2023 NBA draft on June 22.

Of course, the likes of Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson remain at the top of draft boards at the start of the new year. They both could shut down their seasons right now and still be viewed as the best two players in the class. In other words: They are locked in at one and two.

Elsewhere, though, things are changing seemingly nightly.

Several prospects have improved upon their preseason rankings, while others have struggled and have seen their stock fall. The latest look at the class even has several freshmen on the rise after some impressive performances through the first half of the year.

Rookie Wire took a look at where the first round stands at the midway point of the season. It is important to note that teams’ needs were not necessarily taken into account with each pick. The projections are rather a look at where each individual player stands at this point of the process.

Note: The order of the draft was pulled from Tankathon as of Jan. 10. The draft will have only 58 picks this year after the Bulls and Sixers were stripped of their second-round pick by the NBA due to tampering violations.

Houston Rockets: Victor Wembanyama, Metropolitans 92 (France)

Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images

Height: 7-4 | Weight: 209 | Year: N/A | Position: C

There is no secret as to who the first player drafted this year will be: Victor Wembanyama. The phenom has dazzled at every level of basketball to this point of his career and performed to expectations in October in front of scouts and executives against projected No. 2 pick Scoot Henderson and the G League Ignite.

Since then, Wembanyama has helped France claim a berth in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup and was named an All-Star with Metropolitans 92. He is averaging 22.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 2.2 assists this season and recently threw down the game-winning dunk over ASVEL Basket, his former team.

He laughed off sitting out this year and vowed to play in Europe through the end of the season. You probably wouldn’t have blamed him for sitting out and preserving his body ahead of the NBA draft, but the 18-year-old absolutely gained quite a bit of respect by playing anyway. The only other question to ask is: Who will ultimately land the No. 1 pick?

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

Detroit Pistons: Scoot Henderson, G League Ignite

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Height: 6-2 | Weight: 196 | Year: N/A | Position: G

Had it not been for Victor Wembanyama, Henderson would have been the sure-fire No. 1 pick. He has been electric on the court this season and is highly touted for his ability to score from virtually all over the court. He is averaging 20.4 points, six assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 35.1% shooting from 3-point range in 14 games. He is in the top 30 in scoring and dished out a season-high 16 assists on Nov. 12.

Henderson recently missed 11 games due to a concussion and nasal fracture. He has shown no signs of any lingering effects of those injuries and is averaging 19.9 points, 6.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in eight games since returning. He will be a tremendous consolation prize for the team that ultimately misses out on landing the top pick this year, and would be a great addition for the Pistons if they end up here.

Note: This pick is protected for selection Nos. 1-18

Charlotte Hornets: Amen Thompson, Overtime Elite

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Height: 6-7 | Weight: 202 | Year: N/A | Position: G

With Wembanyama and Henderson off the board, the draft really starts with the third pick and this is where Thompson should fall. Outside of those two players, Thompson, 19, has perhaps the highest ceiling and is widely viewed as a raw prospect after two years with Overtime Elite. He possesses elite athleticism and can make plays for himself and others given his vision and ability as a passer.

You’ve likely seen him throw down some insane dunks this season, but it will be how he develops other areas of his offensive game that will dictate how successful he can be at the next level. Still, Thompson should be an electric player in the NBA and will absolutely be a top-five pick barring something unforeseen.

Note: This pick is protected for selection Nos. 1-16

San Antonio Spurs: Ausar Thompson, Overtime Elite

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Height: 6-7 | Weight: 207 | Year: N/A | Position: G

Ausar Thompson is commonly projected to be drafted just behind his twin brother, Amen. Of the two, Ausar is viewed more as a traditional two-guard and can score in a variety of ways. He has elite athleticism that enables him to create for himself and penetrate into the paint and finish at the rim. He is viewed as the better shooter compared to Amen after shooting 36.1% from 3-point range this season. With plenty of offensive tools and ability on defense, Ausar could also be a top-five pick.

Orlando Magic: Cam Whitmore, Villanova

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Height: 6-7 | Weight: 232 | Year: Fr. | Position: F

Whitmore missed the first seven games of the season after undergoing right thumb surgery in October. He eventually debuted on Dec. 3, recording seven points, three rebounds and three steals in a win over Oklahoma. He is viewed by some as the top collegiate prospect with his athleticism and ability to penetrate into the paint and finish with power. He can score from seemingly all over the court and should be a high pick.

Exhibit A of his finishing ability:

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Washington Wizards: Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas

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Height: 6-5 | Weight: 185 | Year: Fr. | Position: G

Smith, the highest-ranked prospect (No. 3) to commit to Arkansas since 2004, has only played in five games due to an ongoing knee issue. He missed the first six games of the season due to the injury but eventually debuted with the team on Nov. 28, logging just six minutes. He then averaged 16 points, 2.3 assists and two rebounds over the next four games before the injury flared up again.

He is expected to miss the rest of January, leaving his status in question.

The 18-year-old entered the season regarded as perhaps the top collegiate prospect in the country. He has elite athleticism and arrived in Fayetteville highly touted for his ability as a scorer and passer. Teams will certainly have questions regarding his knee injury, but if it checks out in pre-draft evaluations, Smith should still be a high lottery pick given his potential on both sides of the ball.

Note: This pick is protected for selection Nos. 1-14

Toronto Raptors: Keyonte George, Baylor

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Height: 6-4 | Weight: 185 | Year: Fr. | Position: G

George was known as a tremendous scorer entering the season, and the former No. 3 prospect has shown just that with Baylor. He is averaging 17.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 16 games. He has led the Bears in scoring eight times and recently put up a then-career-high 27 points in an overtime loss to No. 17 TCU.

The 19-year-old is heating up after scoring at least 20 points in four of his last five games. He set a new career high of 32 points on Wednesday and is establishing himself as one of the best scorers in the Big 12. He has the ability to take over games on offense and should be a player to watch over the rest of the season. He has the potential to be a top-five pick.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Brandon Miller, Alabama

Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News

Height: 6-9 | Weight: 200 | Year: Fr. | Position: F

Miller was recently named SEC Freshman of the Week for the fourth time this season after another great week of play. He is averaging 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists on 44.5% shooting from 3-point range on 6.9 attempts per game this season. He is one of seven Division I players with at least 280 points and 125 rebounds this season.

He leads the SEC in scoring, 3-pointers and 3-point percentage to continue a strong start on offense. He will have no issue with the transition to the NBA 3-point line and is already hitting from well beyond the arc with the Crimson Tide. Given his ability on offense, we could see Miller go even higher than eighth.

Orlando Magic (via Chicago): Cason Wallace, Kentucky

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Height: 6-4 | Weight: 193 | Year: Fr. | Position: G

Wallace was praised for his defense prior to joining Kentucky and the 19-year-old is showcasing that ability on a nightly basis. He brings a ton of energy on that end of the floor and is sixth in the SEC in steals (33) in 16 games. On the other side of the ball, Wallace has emerged as the Wildcats’ best shooter, converting 41.9% from beyond the arc.

Teams will certainly be curious to see how Wallace can evolve on offense, but it is quite possible that he has the defensive tools already to make an impact at the next level. Wallace left early after just eight minutes during his last time out because of back spasms so that could be something to monitor moving forward.

Note: This pick is protected for selection Nos. 1-4

New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers): Jett Howard, Michigan

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Height: 6-8 | Weight: 215 | Year: Fr. | Position: G

Jett Howard, the son of Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard, is performing well offensively this season in 16 games. He has scored in double figures in all but two games and is averaging 15.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He is converting on 38.7% from 3-point range on 6.9 attempts per game and is second in the Big Ten with 43 total 3s after erupting for a career-high 34 points on Thursday on 7-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc. He has a great form and can let it launch quickly, which will help him at the next level. Outside of his shooting, he has shown the ability to penetrate into the paint and finish. But, it will be his shooting that teams will love.

Note: New Orleans has the right to swap its pick with L.A.

Utah Jazz: Jarace Walker, Houston

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Height: 6-8 | Weight: 235 | Year: Fr. | Position: F

Walker, the Cougars’ first five-star signee since 2012, is averaging 10.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 17 games this season. He was recently named the AAC Freshman of the Week after averaging 22 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in two games. With great size at the position, Walker has emerged as a force on defense for the top-ranked Cougars and is a key reason why they rank so highly on that side of the ball. He is seventh in defensive rating in the country (79.1) and 16th in defensive win shares (1.5). Walker has great instincts and can emerge as a problem defensively with his athleticism. With an improving offensive game, Walker is emerging as one of the best two-way prospects.

Atlanta Hawks: Anthony Black, Arkansas

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Height: 6-7 | Weight: 198 | Year: Fr. | Position: G

The Razorbacks’ best recruiting class took a hit with the injury to Nick Smith Jr. but Black has emerged as perhaps their most important player this year. He is exceptional as a floor general and can rebound with the best of them at the position. He can penetrate into the paint and has converted some tough finishes this year through contact. Teams will love his size and ability to switch on defense as Black can fill a lot of holes in the backcourt. His outside shooting will need some improving, but Black figures to be a lottery pick given his ability on both sides of the ball.

Portland Trail Blazers: Gregory 'GG' Jackson II, South Carolina

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Height: 6-9 | Weight: 215 | Year: Fr. | Position: F

Jackson, who was the top player in 2023 before reclassifying to 2022, is averaging 15.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, and is fifth in the country in scoring among true freshmen. He was the only true freshman to score in double figures in every game prior to going scoreless on Jan. 7 in a loss to Tennessee. However, he bounced back with a 16-point effort on Tuesday as the Gamecocks beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena for only the third time since joining the SEC in 1992.

The 18-year-old is emerging as a great scorer this season but there are some concerns with his efficiency and turnovers. He is shooting just 33.8% from 3-point range on five attempts and has only a 48.9 true-shooting percentage with 2.6 turnovers per game. Despite those issues, which can be fixed over time, teams will love his ability on offense as a creator and shooter at the next level and that should be enough to hear his name called in the lottery.

Note: This pick is protected for selection Nos. 1-14

Utah Jazz (via Minnesota): Gradey Dick, Kansas

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Height: 6-8 | Weight: 205 | Year: Fr. | Position: F

Gradey Dick was known as a shooter prior to joining the Jayhawks and the 19-year-old has emerged as one of the best in the country and draft class. He is averaging 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.5 steals in 16 games this season. He is shooting 47.2% from 3-point range on 5.6 attempts per game, and ranks ninth in the country in percentage and fourth in the Big 12 in makes (42). His defense is evolving, but given his ability to make shots in a variety of ways, Dick will likely be a lottery pick.

Phoenix Suns: Dariq Whitehead, Duke

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Height: 6-7 | Weight: 220 | Year: Fr. | Position: F

Whitehead missed the first three games of the season due to a fractured right foot and still looks to be settling in. He recently scored in double figures in four straight games and offered a glimpse of what he can bring to the court with his scoring. He can produce in a variety of ways and slowly looks to be getting back to his pre-injury form. Foot injuries can be tricky to return from so it may take the majority of the season for Whitehead to fully show off his game so teams will certainly be monitoring his progress closely.

LA Clippers: Kyle Filipowski, Duke

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Height: 7-0 | Weight: 230 | Year: Fr. | Position: C

Filipowski is off to a great start with the Blue Devils. He became the first freshman in program history to register a double-double in each of his first three games. He has scored in double figures in 15 of his 17 games and is coming off a career-high 28-point effort in a win over Pitt.

He can be a force in the paint given his array of moves and is as skilled of a big man as they come this year. Teams looking for a versatile big man will love Filipowski and the 7-footer should hear his name called in the mid-to-late first round, as a result.

Golden State Warriors: Brice Sensabaugh, Ohio State

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Height: 6-6 | Weight: 235 | Year: Fr. | Position: F

Sensabaugh, a former four-star recruit, wasn’t really on the NBA radar prior to the start of the season but is quickly rising up most draft boards because of his shooting from all over the court. Sensabaugh is averaging 16.8 points, five rebounds and 1.1 assists in 16 games, and is third in the country in scoring among freshmen.

The 19-year-old is converting 53.2% of his 2-point attempts and 44.3% from 3-point range on 4.4 attempts per game. He is 18th in the country in PER (28.9). He can create for himself with his patented jab step and has good — perhaps not great, though — athleticism at the position. His shooting, though, is what will ultimately attract teams in this range.

For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

Miami Heat: Terquavion Smith, NC State

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Height: 6-4 | Weight: 165 | Year: So. | Position: G

Smith is improving upon a tremendous freshman campaign with a great showing so far to begin this season. He is averaging 18.6 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 17 games on 34.5% shooting from 3-point range on 8.7 attempts per game. He leads the ACC in scoring and is third in assists thus far. He set the program record for a freshman with 96 made 3-pointers last season and is on pace to top that this year: He is 18th in the country in 3s (51) and eighth in attempts (148).

It was rather surprising that Smith ultimately returned to school last year as he was considered by most to be a late first-round pick. He opted to come back simply to play another year in college but now appears to be locked in as a mid-first-rounder. There is some concern given his small frame and his ability to finish through contact, but the offense he can provide is too much to overlook. He projects to bring a scoring prowess with him to the next level and should be high on teams’ radars.

New York Knicks: Maxwell Lewis, Pepperdine

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Height: 6-7 | Weight: 195 | Year: So. | Position: F

Lewis has dazzled this season with Pepperdine and has had a great run of late. He tied a career high of 30 points in a loss to Pacific on Jan. 7 and hauled in a career-high 14 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He is 18th in the country in scoring and is one of 20 players averaging at least 20 points per game. He has good size at his position as a wing and is a great rebounder. Lewis figures to fill a lot of needs at the next level for teams with his shooting and overall ability as a scorer.

Sacramento Kings: Kel’el Ware, Oregon

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Height: 7-0 | Weight: 210 | Year: Fr. | Position: C

Ware can do it all as a 7-footer: Hit 3s, defend, block shots and run the court. He is averaging 8.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on 30.6% shooting from 3-point range. He has the versatility all teams love and has real potential as a floor spacer at the next level. While the draft order is far from set and will continue to change, Ware projects to be a good fit with the Kings in this range.

New York Knicks (via Dallas): Taylor Hendricks, UCF

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Height: 6-9 | Weight: 210 | Year: Fr. | Position: F

Hendricks burst onto the scene through the first half of the season with the Knights. He is averaging 14.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.5 assists on 46.8% shooting from the field, including 38.4% from 3-point range, in 17 games. He has dazzled at times with his size and athleticism, and has emerged as a real shot-blocking threat with his long arms and instincts; Hendricks ranks first in the AAC in block percentage (6.0) and second in blocks (28).

On the other side, the 19-year-old is a great lob threat down low with his size and agility. He has great hands and has good vision out of the post to find his teammates. As a late riser, it will be worth monitoring how Hendricks develops throughout the rest of the season. UCF is currently 13-4 after knocking off Memphis on Wednesday and is considered by some to be a possible tournament team. That would likely help raise Hendricks’ stock with a good showing.

Note: This pick is protected for selection Nos. 1-10

Indiana Pacers: Kris Murray, Iowa

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Height: 6-8 | Weight: 220 | Year: Jr. | Position: F

Kris Murray, the twin brother of Keegan Murray, is on a tear. He has established himself as the go-to player on the team and is averaging 21.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 blocks in 13 games. He entered the season with only two 20-point games, and already has seven, including four 30-point efforts. He is one of two Division I players with four such performances and, unsurprisingly, is 11th in the country in scoring. Included in that run was a ridiculous outing on Nov. 29: 31 points, 20 rebounds and four steals.

He missed some time last month with a foot injury but looks to be rounding back into form. Keegan told Rookie Wire in November that he wanted Kris to have a productive season with the Hawkeyes and put his name into the Iowa history books. It is safe to say Kris has done just that this year and looks to be well on his way to joining Keegan as a first-round pick in the NBA.

Los Angeles Lakers (via New Orleans): Rayan Rupert, NZ Breakers (NBL)

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Height: 6-7 | Weight: 192 | Year: N/A | Position: G

Rupert, a native of France, recently missed nearly two months of action due to a wrist injury but returned on Jan. 3 with 14 points and three rebounds for the Breakers. Prior to joining the team, Rupert was highly touted for his ability to penetrate into the paint and kick it out when necessary. On the other end, his 7-foot-3 wingspan can often create havoc in the passing lanes. The second half of the season will be key for him to get back on track and showcase himself to scouts and teams.

Note: This pick is conveyed from New Orleans via swap

For more coverage on the Lakers, visit LeBron Wire

Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia): Colby Jones, Xavier

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Height: 6-6 | Weight: 205 | Year: Jr. | Position: G

Jones is another player that has put himself on teams’ radars with a strong first half of the season. He is averaging 14.4 points, 5.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 16 games on 44.7% shooting from the field. He has established himself as one of the top floor generals in the country with his vision and passing ability. He can also create for himself on offense and get into the paint. As a junior, Jones is one of the more experienced players likely to be taken in the first round and teams should love his maturity and unselfishness.

For more coverage on the Nets, visit Nets Wire

Indiana Pacers (via Cleveland): Leonard Miller, G League Ignite

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Height: 6-11 | Weight: 221 | Year: N/A | Position: F

Miller has an all-around offensive game and boasts a 7-foot-2 wingspan that has been on display all season long. He is averaging 15.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 21 games on 52.5% shooting from the field with the Ignite. He recently put up his best game of the season: 26 points, eight rebounds and two steals on Jan. 10.

With Scoot Henderson playing as the prized prospect on the Ignite, Miller is emerging next in line to be drafted and is commonly projected to be selected in this range. He will need to improve as a shooter, but the Canadian has the tools to be an impact player at the next level. At this stage of the draft, that could turn out to be great value for a team.

Note: This pick is protected for selection Nos. 1-14

Houston Rockets (via Milwaukee): Dillon Mitchell, Texas

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Height: 6-8 | Weight: 205 | Year: Fr. | Position: F

Mitchell entered the year projected to be a late lottery pick, but has slipped some due to an inconsistent showing this year. His range is a bit all over the place but he should still draw some interest from teams given his athleticism and energy on the court. He is a great rebounder at the position but will need to continue to evolve as an offensive player. A strong second half of the year would work wonders for his draft stock.

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

Utah Jazz (via Brooklyn): Marcus Sasser, Houston

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Height: 6-2 | Weight: 195 | Year: Sr. | Position: G

Coming back to school is paying off for Sasser, who was a projected second-rounder last year. He has dropped off a bit shooting-wise — 34.6% from 3-point range compared to 43.7% in 12 games last year — but can still score from all over the court and get to his spots. He is viewed as one of the top defenders at the position this year and flourishes at disrupting opposing guards. On the top-ranked team in the country, Sasser should have plenty of opportunities to solidify his standing as a first-round pick with a likely deep tournament run on the horizon.

Charlotte Hornets (via Denver): Dereck Lively II, Duke

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Height: 7-1 | Weight: 230 | Year: Fr. | Position: C

Lively is viewed as one of the top rim protectors in the draft this year and is second in the ACC in blocks (1.8 per game). However, his offensive game hasn’t quite panned out as expected and questions are starting to surface if he’d be better served returning to school for another year. He still brings plenty on the defensive side and could impress a team well enough in the pre-draft process to earn a first-round grade. We’ll see how the second half of the season goes for him.

Memphis Grizzlies: Jalen Wilson, Kansas

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Height: 6-8 | Weight: 225 | Year: Jr. (RS) | Position: F

Wilson is having a tremendous season for the Jayhawks. He is averaging 20 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 34% shooting from 3-point range. He is 19th in the country in scoring and one of 19 players averaging at least 20 points per game. He is doing a large portion of his scoring in the form of shooting and can hit from virtually all over the court. Teams are always in the market for shooting and Wilson could be a good option at this stage of the draft.

Indiana Pacers (via Boston): Jordan Hawkins, UConn

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Height: 6-5 | Weight: 195 | Year: So. | Position: G

Hawkins has improved his scoring from 5.8 points per game to 14.4 points per game this season in a larger role for the Huskies. He is emerging as one of the top shooters in the draft this year after converting 38.8% of his 7.3 attempts per game. He is hitting some difficult looks either off the catch or on the move, too.

His overall offensive game should be good enough to get him on the court in the NBA next season, but his shooting is what teams will love. We have him a bit lower than most but believe he will be a great addition in the draft. With three first-round picks at their disposal, the Pacers could take a chance on a player here.

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire