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2023 NBA Draft: First Round Analysis

2023 NBA Draft
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NBA Draft saw 58 dreams came true as NBA commissioner Adam Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum announced each player’s name as a new addition to the NBA family. The 2023 NBA Draft class has potential to become one of the deepest classes in NBA history. However, this class has a long way to go. Here’s my analysis on the top thirty picks in this year’s draft.


  1. San Antonio Spurs select: Victor Wembanyama, 7’5” 220 lbs Hybrid Post, Metropolitans 92 (France), 19 years old

Victor Wembanyama is the most anticipated first overall pick in recent memory because of his rare size (7’5″ with a 8′ wingspan) combined with a small forward’s skill set. He couldn’t have asked for a better situation to start his career in terms of coaching, championship DNA, player development, and even French pedigree. Wembanyama hasn’t scored an NBA point yet and is already expected to become a savior of a franchise and perhaps be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. However, durability will play a major factor in how his career pans out.

NBA Comparison(s): Ralph Sampson


   2. Charlotte Hornets select: Brandon Miller, 6’9” 200 lbs Wing, Alabama, 20 years old

Brandon Miller may not be the popular pick amongst Charlotte Hornets fans but he was the safer pick over Scoot Henderson. Miller gives the Hornets outside shooting, offensive and defensive versatility, along with wing depth. He’s also a good fit playing alongside LaMelo Ball in terms of pace and floor spacing. For Miller to reach his full potential, he must improve his ball handling and finishing at the rim. 

NBA Comparison(s): Paul George/Danny Granger


   3. Portland Trail Blazers select: Scoot Henderson, 6’2” 195 lbs Point Guard, 19 years old

The Portland Trail Blazers had one of the easiest decisions to make on draft night which was to draft one of Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson. The future of Damian Lillard is unclear at the moment so why not look for the 32-year-old’s replacement? Enter Scoot Henderson – the dynamic athletic guard who’s built like a tank and plays as if he’s shot out of a cannon. Henderson needs to continue improving his outside shooting but has shown progress through his two years with NBA G-League Ignite (17 percent in 2021-22 and 27 percent in 2022-23). The Blazers have a solid youth foundation with recent draft picks such as 20-year-old Shaedon Sharpe and 24-year-old Anfernee Simons. Expect the Blazers to run a high-tempo offense with Henderson.

NBA Comparison(s): Derrick Rose/Eric Bledsoe


   4. Houston Rockets select: Amen Thompson, 6’6” 214 lbs Point Forward, Overtime Elite, 20 years old

The Houston Rockets haven’t won much over the past two seasons and may not win much this upcoming season. However, there’s no denying that the Houston Rockets will be one of the most exciting teams to watch. Their roster is reminiscent of the early 2000s Los Angeles Clippers which featured young players like Darius Miles, Lamar Odom, Elton Brand, and Quentin Richardson. In terms of Amen Thompson’s fit with the Rockets, he forms a dynamic backcourt or wing tandem (however you want to slice it) with Jalen Green and can serve as a cutter off of the passing ability of Alperen Sengun.

 NBA Comparison(s): Andre Iguodala


   5. Detroit Pistons select: Ausar Thompson, 6’6” 218 lbs Wing, Overtime Elite, 20 years old

The Thompson twins became the second pair of twins to be selected back-to-back in the same draft. Marcus and Markieff Morris were selected 13th and 14th respectively in the 2011 NBA Draft. In regards to Ausar Thompson’s fit with the Detroit Pistons, he’s a Troy Weaver pick in terms of his athletic profile and grit to embody the city of Detroit. The Pistons have built a solid foundation with their recent draft picks like Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, and Cade Cunningham. The next step for the Pistons to compete for a top-ten seed in the Eastern Conference.

NBA Comparison(s): Andrew Wiggins


   6. Orlando Magic select: Anthony Black, 6’5” 210 lbs Point Guard, Arkansas, 19 years old

Anthony Black joins a crowded backcourt of Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, and Markelle Fultz. Although this selection didn’t address outside shooting, they addressed that need five picks later. As far as Black’s fit with the Magic is concerned, it looks awkward on paper, but his physical profile (6’5” with a 6′ 7” wingspan) is what GM John Hammond desires across the board. Black’s best attributes are his passing ability, and potential to guard 1s, 2s, and smaller 3s. However, he must improve his perimeter shooting and his ability to handle the ball against pressure. 

NBA Comparison(s): Josh Giddey


   7. Indiana Pacers select (traded to the Washington Wizards): Bilal Coulibaly, 6’6” 194 lbs Wing, Metropolitans 92 (France), 18 years old

This selection was somewhat of a surprise but given the youthful direction of the Washington Wizards, the pick makes sense. At 18 years old, Bilal Coulibaly is one of the best kept secrets of the 2023 NBA Draft.  The French wing is an explosive athlete who shows potential as a three and D wing similar to Mikal Bridges and OG Anunoby. All three players possess a wingspan of over seven feet (Coulibaly- 7 ‘3”, Bridges- 7’ 0”, Anunoby- 7 ‘2”). However, Coulibaly is raw offensively. His ball handling ability is suspect and his outside shot is inconsistent at this stage. With the proper development, he has a sneaky chance to become one of the best players from the highly-anticipated 2023 Draft Class.

NBA Comparison(s): Mikal Bridges/OG Anunoby


   8. Washington Wizards select (traded to the Indiana Pacers): Jarace Walker, 6’6” 248 lbs Power Forward, Houston, 19 years old

The Indiana Pacers could’ve drafted Jarace Walker with the seventh overall pick instead of trading down one pick to acquire him. Nonetheless, he adds toughness and versatility to an Indiana Pacers organization that’s trying to make their first playoff appearance since 2020. Walker also gives Tyrese Haliburton another pick and roll partner and lob threat aside from Myles Turner (assuming the Pacers don’t trade him. If Walker’s defense translates and he improves his outside shooting, he has potential to become an All-Star.

NBA Comparison(s): Paul Millsap


  9. Utah Jazz select: Taylor Hendricks, 6’8” 213 lbs Hybrid Forward, Central Florida, 19 years old

Taylor Hendricks is up there with Brandon Miller in terms of being one of the safest picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. If you combine the shot-blocking ability of Walker Kessler and the perimeter shooting of Lauri Markkanen and you get Taylor Hendricks. He likely won’t become a first or even a second scoring option throughout his career. However, Hendricks gives the Utah Jazz a blue collar, low-maintenance role player to play alongside Markkanen and Kessler.

NBA Comparison(s): Trey Murphy


  10. Dallas Mavericks select (traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder): Cason Wallace, 6’4” 193 lbs Combo Guard, 19 years old

The Oklahoma City Thunder have their core set with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren, and Jalen “J-Dub” Williams. Now, they need a low-maintenance role player to complement their core of young players. Cason Wallace adds defensive grit and a tertiary ball handler to a young Thunder roster that’s knocking on the door in terms of making the playoffs. This selection is reminiscent of the Sacramento Kings drafting Davion Mitchell with the 9th overall pick and adding him to a crowded backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. However, the size of Gilgeous-Alexander (6’6” 195 lbs) and Giddey (6′ 8” 216 lbs) makes a three-guard lineup more of a realistic possibility with the Thunder. The next steps for Wallace are to continue improving his guard skills and becoming a more consistent perimeter shooter.

NBA Comparison(s): Jrue Holiday


  11. Orlando Magic select: Jett Howard,  6’8” 215 lbs Wing, Michigan, 19 years old

The Orlando Magic were one of the worst three point shooting teams in the NBA last season finishing 25th in the association. Although a surprise pick, the Magic addressed that need by drafting Jett Howard. Howard also shows potential as a defender but could use some coaching on his technique in that aspect of his game.  It’s also worth noting that his father, Juwan Howard, signed a five-year $28 million with the Magic back in 2003. Twenty years later, Juwan watched his son’s dream come true. 

NBA Comparison(s): Saddiq Bey


   12. Oklahoma City Thunder select (traded to the Dallas Mavericks):  Dereck Lively II, 7’1” 230 lbs Center, Duke, 19 years old

The Dallas Mavericks finished as one of the league’s worst defenses in the NBA ranking 24th in the association. Drafting a 19-year-old may not solve their problems right away but adding a rim protector and lob threat in Dereck Lively II is a solid start. At the moment, Lively is sushi-raw. However, the Mavericks will be glad they swing for the fences if they’re able to develop Lively into a starting-caliber center in a few years. For now he can learn from veteran big men JaVale McGee and Dwight Powell while he makes his transition to the NBA.

NBA Comparison(s): Mitchell Robinson


   13. Toronto Raptors select: Gradey Dick, 6’6” 204 lbs Shooting Guard, Kansas, 19 years old

The Toronto Raptors shot 33 percent from the perimeter as a team last season which ranked 28th in the association. The Raptors addressed their weakness by adding Gradey Dick from the University of Kansas who shot forty percent from behind the arc last season. However, he’s more than a shooter. He’s shown flashes of playmaking ability (aka passing) despite only averaging 1.7 assists. Defense is an area of concern for Dick because of his skinny frame and lack of lateral quickness. 

NBA Comparison(s): Kevin Huerter 


   14. New Orleans Pelicans select: Jordan Hawkins, 6’4 186 lbs Shooting Guard, Connecticut, 21 years old

The New Orleans Pelicans don’t have a lot of holes on their roster. However, Josh Richardson, one of the Pelicans’ better two-way players, will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. As a replacement, the New Orleans Pelicans selected Jordan Hawkins who brings perimeter shooting and winning pedigree to a team trying to make it back to the playoffs. Hawkins isn’t a player who’s going to create his own offense very often but his ability to be a smart cutter will be a great asset playing next to Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and C.J. McCollum.

NBA Comparison(s): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope


   15. Atlanta Hawks select: Kobe Bufkin, 6’4” 187 lbs Combo Guard, Michigan, 19 years old

The Atlanta Hawks are set in terms of their starting lineup of Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, De’Andre Hunter, and Clint Capela. However, they could use another ball handler to take the pressure off Young and Murray. Kobe Bufkin not only gives the Hawks ball handling, but a microwave scorer who shows potential as a defender. Bufkin needs to continue improving his decision making and becoming a more consistent perimeter shooter.

NBA Comparison(s): De’Anthony Melton


   16. Utah Jazz select: Keyonte George, 6’4” 185 lbs Combo Guard, Baylor, 19 years old

The Utah Jazz drafted a potential steal in Keyonte George. He’s a crafty microwave scorer who can play on and off the ball. George needs to become a more efficient scorer (37/33/79 shooting splits) if he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a sixth man. Don’t be surprised if George is Utah’s starting point guard at the end of the season. In the event that Jordan Clarkson declines his player option, George could serve as his replacement. 

NBA Comparison(s): Anfernee Simons


   17. Los Angeles Lakers select: Jalen Hood-Schifino, 6’4” 216 lbs Point Guard, Indiana, 19 years old

The Los Angeles Lakers needed insurance at the point guard position given that they could lose D’Angelo Russell and/or Dennis Schroder in free agency. Although he’s only 19 years old, Jalen Hood-Schifino has a mature game.His  greatest strength is his ability to initiate offense and set the table for his teammates. He’s also a capable scorer in the mid-range especially out of pick and roll actions against drop coverages. In terms of defense, he has the physical profile (6’4”, 215 lbs with a 6′ 10” wingspan) to fight over screens and disrupt other guards’ rhythm. However, Hood-Schifino must improve his shot consistency, finishing around the basket, and his handle against pressure.

NBA Comparison(s): Killian Hayes


   18. Miami Heat select: Jaime Jaquez Jr., 6’6” 226 lbs Hybrid Wing, UCLA, 22 years old

Jaime Jaquez Jr. may not be a sexy pick but he gives the Miami Heat a mature player with a high basketball IQ. He isn’t the most consistent outside shooter (shot 31 percent from three point range), doesn’t jump out the gym, and isn’t the greatest defender. But there’s something to be said for just knowing how to play and Jaquez does that very well. He also does the little things such as hustling for loose balls, making the right pass, and being alert on defense Overall, this pick embodies the Miami Heat culture.

NBA Comparison(s): Jae Crowder


   19. Golden State Warriors select: Brandin Podziemski, 6’5” 204 lbs Shooting Guard, Santa Clara, 20 years old

The Golden State Warriors recently traded Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards and could potentially lose Donte DiVincenzo in free agency. Brandin Podziemski provides the Warriors another sniper from deep who could provide a major spark off their bench. Aside from his outside shooting Podziemski is also a capable playmaker who can initiate offense at times which is evident in his 3.7 assists per game. The main concern about his game is his defense and the positions he’ll be able to guard because of his lack of lateral quickness and physicality. 

NBA Comparison(s): Luke Kennard/Donte DiVincenzo


   20. Houston Rockets select: Cam Whitmore, 6’6” 235 lbs Hybrid Wing, Villanova, 18 years old

Cam Whitmore was projected as a top-ten pick but reportedly slipped because of poor interviews and poor workouts. At just 18 years old, he’s a burly high-flying wing who’s shown potential as a three-level scorer. Aside from those attributes, he’s a jack of all trades but a master of none. If developed properly, the Houston Rockets potentially drafted a steal. However, the Rockets have an abundance of young talent and will need to figure out their core moving forward.

NBA Comparison(s): Miles Bridges


   21. Brooklyn Nets select: Noah Clowney, 6’10” 210 lbs Power Forward, Alabama, 18 years old

The Brooklyn Nets needed more size on their roster. Only two players on last season’s roster were 6’10” and above— Nic Claxton and Ben Simmons. Noah Clowney not only gives the Nets size, he also gives them versatility and long-term potential. At only 18 years old, Clowney has a long way to go in his development. He needs to continue adding strength to his frame and becoming a more consistent perimeter shooter (shot 28 percent from three point range). If the Nets can capitalize on Clowney’s upside, he could potentially form a formidable frontcourt tandem with Nic Claxton.

NBA Comparison(s): Marquese Chriss


   22. Brooklyn Nets select: Dariq Whitehead, 6’6” 217 lbs Wing, Duke, 18 years old

If not for a right foot injury, Dariq Whitehead would probably be in the discussion as a potential top-ten pick in this year’s draft. Along with two foot surgeries within nine months of each other, the 18-year-old had a slow start to his college career similar to fellow Duke alum A.J. Griffin in 2021-2022. However, like Griffin, Whitehead showed glimpses of potential later on in the season but looked nothing like the high school version of himself. In terms of the NBA, Whitehead will likely start his career playing in the G-League but could provide three point shooting insurance in the event that they lose Cam Johnson in free agency. If Whitehead can stay healthy, the Nets have themselves a steal. 

NBA Comparison(s): Terrence Ross


   23. Portland Trail Blazers select: Kris Murray, 6’7” 212 lbs Stretch Four, Iowa, 22 years old

The Portland Trail Blazers could lose Jerami Grant in free agency this summer. Kris Murray gives the Blazers a mature rookie to go along with the upside and youth of Scoot Henderson. He’s a low-maintenance role player who could play a similar role to Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu in their Western Conference Finals run in 2019. Murray projects as a stretch four in the NBA but needs to become more consistent as a perimeter shooter (shot 33 percent from three point range).

NBA Comparison(s): Nemanja Bjelica/Georges Niang


   24. Sacramento Kings select (traded to the Dallas Mavericks): Olivier-Maxence Prosper, 6’8 215 lbs Hybrid Wing, Marquette,  20 years old

The Dallas Mavericks lost a versatile defender in Dorian Finney-Smith at the trade deadline in a deal in which they acquired Kyrie Irving. Olivier-Maxence Prosper will serve as his replacement and could earn minutes right away as a spark plug off the Mavericks’ bench. Prosper is an elite athlete with two-way potential and positional versatility. However, he lacks consistency as an outside shooter and has a tendency to be sloppy with the ball. If Prosper develops into at least a league average perimeter shooter, he could end up becoming a permanent starter in the NBA. 

NBA Comparison(s): Pascal Siakam


   25. Memphis Grizzlies select (traded to the Detroit Pistons): Marcus Sasser, 6’1” 196 lbs Combo Guard, Houston, 22 years old

The Detroit Pistons have their young core set with Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, and Ausar Thompson. Marcus Sasser gives the Detroit Pistons a mature rookie who could provide a spark of their bench with his scoring ability. He’s also capable of disrupting opposing guards while guarding them. Given that he’s undersized and not a natural point guard, a bench role is ideal for him in the NBA. 

NBA Comparison(s): Norris Cole


   26. Indiana Pacers select: Ben Sheppard, 6’6” 190 lbs Shooting Guard, Belmont, 21 years old

In the event that the Indiana Pacers move on from Buddy Hield, they need insurance for outside shooting and Ben Sheppard could serve as his replacement. Aside from his perimeter shooting, he’s also a capable playmaker and solid defender. However, Sheppard needs to improve his free throw shooting (shot 68 percent from the free throw line last season) as well as finishing in traffic.

NBA Comparison(s): Quentin Grimes


   27. Charlotte Hornets select: Nick Smith Jr., 6’5” 185 lbs Combo Guard, Arkansas, 19 years old

Nick Smith Jr. and Brandon Miller were AAU teammates on Brad Beal Elite (Bradley Beal’s AAU team) two years ago. Now they’re reunited as teammates on the Charlotte Hornets. Besides his chemistry with Miller, Smith gives the Hornets a microwave scorer with playmaking potential despite averaging 1.7 assists at Arkansas last season. He’ll need to improve his shot selection and continue to add strength to his frame.

NBA Comparison(s): Jordan Clarkson


 28. Utah Jazz select: Brice Sensabaugh, 6’6” 235 lbs Hybrid Wing, Ohio State, 19 years old

The Utah Jazz ranked 20th in three point percentage last season. The Jazz not only addressed that in drafting Taylor Hendricks with the ninth overall but they also added Brice Sensabaugh from the Ohio State University. The 19-year-old shot 40 percent during his lone season representing the scarlet and gray. He’s not only limited to perimeter shooting but a versatile scorer. He’s a catch-and-shoot threat, can back smaller opponents down a score out of the post, and is capable of knocking down one-dribble pull-ups. A major concern with him is his defense, or lack thereof. He lacks off-ball awareness and lateral quickness. Overall, Sensabaugh has a high floor despite being 19 years old.

NBA Comparison(s): Marcus Morris


   29. Indiana Pacers select (traded to the Denver Nuggets): Julian Strawther, 6’7” 208 lbs Wing, Gonzaga, 21 years old

The Denver Nuggets added another young player who can contribute to their championship DNA right away. The Nuggets are likely to lose their three-and-D guard Bruce Brown in free agency. Julian Strawther can provide insurance in the event that Brown signs with another team. Despite falling short of winning a National Championship at Gonzaga, Strawther also adds a winning pedigree to the defending champions and was well-coached under the guidance of head coach Mark Few.

NBA Comparison(s): Danny Green


 30. Los Angeles Clippers select: Kobe Brown, 6’7” 252 lbs Hybrid Wing, Missouri, 23 years old

The clock is ticking on the Kawhi LeonardPaul George era with the Los Angeles Clippers in terms of their championship aspirations. Kobe Brown is a mature rookie who can contribute right away. Brown gives the Clippers offensive versatility in terms of his improved outside shooting, ability to find open teammates, and play bully ball. However, a major concern with Brown is the legitimacy of his outside shooting. During his first three seasons at Missouri, he never shot above 25 percent from three point range but shot 45 percent as a senior. 

NBA Comparison(s): Eric Paschall

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