We are just over a quarter of the way through the NBA season, which is crazy, considering it feels like Golden State just won the championship and the Jayson Tatum slander was at an all-time high. Not only is NBA moving through its season, but college hoops are too. Many players, like Keyonte George, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Brandon Miller, have used early-season tournaments to improve their stock for 2023 NBA Mock Drafts.
Obviously, there is a lot of basketball yet to be played in both college and professional leagues, so things will change from now and my final 2023 NBA Mock Draft.
With that being said let’s take an earlier look at who may hear their name called and where they could end up…
Updated 2023 NBA Mock Draft | First Round Projected Order
1. Detroit Pistons – Victor Wembanyama – France
Victor Wembanyama is currently playing professional basketball overseas in France, where the 7-4, 18-year-old is averaging 23.2 points per game, nine rebounds per game and three (!) blocks per game. Hype has surrounded Wembanyama ever since he started playing professionally, but his two-game appearance in Las Vegas in October seems like it was enough to already lock him into the top spots across all 2023 NBA Mock Drafts.
Wembanyama is a guard in a center’s body, who is just as capable of taking his defender off the dribble and finishing strong in the paint, to hitting a fading, one-legged three-pointer. He is not going to be hitting one-legged threes in the NBA, but his eight-foot wingspan should be enough alone to create his own shots and lock down on defense. I am assuming once draft time rolls around, Wembanyama’s hype will be as strong as Zion Williamson’s was. Plus, a starting lineup containing Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Victor Wembanyama makes it look like the Pistons are trending in the right direction.
2. Orlando Magic – Scoot Henderson – G League Ignite
With G League Ignite producing as many NBA players as they do, there may not be one that has been better or is going to be better than Scoot Henderson. His physical tools set him apart from other guards in this 2023 NBA Mock Draft, as the 18-year-old stands at 6-3 and weighs just short of 200 lbs. His long arms, ability to finish at the rim and exceptional passing ability should be enough to make him an impact player in the NBA.
Maybe his biggest positive though is his incredible first step, followed by his explosive finishing ability. Think of guys like Ja Morant, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. There is a lot of those three’s games in Scoot Henderson.
3. Houston Rockets – Brandon Miller – Alabama
Our first American-College player is off of the board and there may not be a player in college hoops who is more ready for the NBA than Miller. Brandon Miller is a 6-9, 200-pound wing that plays better as a two than as a three. What jumps out immediately is Miller’s long frame for a guard. He also possesses the ball-handling necessary to blow by defenders. On top of that, Miller is one of the better freshman three-point shooters, which should easily transfer to the NBA. With Jalen Green as Houston’s franchise player, I think drafting Miller will take a little pressure off of Green while allowing Stephen Silas to mix and match players without many consequences.
4. San Antonio Spurs – Nick Smith Jr. – Arkansas
For those of you counting at home, this is the second SEC player in the top four, and neither of them is from Kentucky. I was actually just talking about that with my buddy, “remember when Kentucky would just absolutely annihilate the SEC every year?” That sure has changed.
But anyway, Nick Smith hasn’t played yet (as of Dec. 1) for Alabama, so there is a little unknown surrounding him. What we do know is Smith is an awesome passing point guard, who oftentimes finds the open teammate, before the defense realizes that they are open. More than that, Smith has shown that he can consistently finish in the paint, often resorting to a good-looking floater. Smith always wants to run in transition and with a solid three-point shot-making ability, that may be what the Spurs need to replace Dejounte Murray.
5. Charlotte Hornets – Amen Thompson – Overtime Elite
If the Hornets draft Amen Thompson, there may be no one happier than LaMelo Ball. Thompson is everything you want from a slashing forward. At 6-7, Thompson loves to play above the rim, whenever he can find a lane or sneak behind a defense. All I am hearing from that is half-court fast-break alley-oops from Ball to Thompson. A strong wing is a necessity for Charlotte and Thompson is as good as anyone in this draft to fill that spot.
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6. New Orleans Pelicans – Ausar Thompson – Overtime Elite
If this pick seems eerily similar to the previous pick, you probably aren’t the only one noticing that. Ausar and Amen are twin brothers who share a lot of the same game. Ausar plays with a little faster pace than Thompson, which is totally up New Orleans’ alley. I think what makes Thompson a good fit for NO is that he can take the pressure off of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson and run the break by himself. Thompson’s defense is awesome, which will be a bright sight for Pelicans fans. Thompson has the ability to easily turn defense into offense.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder – Dillon Mitchell – Texas
Dillon Mitchell may have the most potential in this entire NBA Mock Draft, not named Wembanyama or Henderson, something that Oklahoma City has notoriously taken chances on in the past. Much like Amen Thompson, Mitchell excels when he is cutting to the basket and finishing inside. Mitchell’s energy is unmatched, as he is one of the better offensive-rebounding wing players in the country. Mitchell has yet to show his prowess from the three-point line, only because Texas has so many other players who consistently knock down threes.
Mitchell is probably the biggest project that we have talked about yet, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. He doesn’t need an overwhelming amount of help to produce. If he doesn’t produce, Oklahoma City can trade him for more picks.
8. Orlando Magic – Cason Wallace – Kentucky
To add to Scoot Henderson, I think the Magic go guard once again here in this 2023 NBA Mock Draft. It seems likely that they have a franchise player in Paolo Banchero, who can lock down one of the big man spots. The Magic are currently running Markelle Fultz and Gary Harris at the guard spots, who are both shells of their former selves. Cole Anthony is coming off of the bench and Jalen Suggs is currently injured. With the improved play of Bol Bol and Franz Wagner, inserting two new guards into a 12-man rotation should work.
Anyways, Cason Wallace is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country and can affect the game without scoring the ball. He also possesses a strong finishing ability at the rim. In order to get immediate playing time, Wallace may need to improve his offensive game, but he is worth a top-10 pick based on defense alone.
9. Brooklyn Nets – Anthony Black – Arkansas
Nobody may have improved their draft stock more during early-season tournaments than Anthony Black. In Maui, Black averaged just over 22 points, while shooting 40% from three. Black is lanky, long and has the ability to switch on to almost any player in college basketball. There were concerns early in the year about his offensive game, but to see him settle into the number-one scoring role without Nick Smith on Arkansas is a good sign for Brooklyn Nets fanatics.
10. Miami Heat – Keyonte George – Baylor
Keyonte George may be the best player on a veteran-led Baylor team. Outside of their loss to Marquette, they look like one of the better teams in college hoops this year. His instincts as a scorer should immediately grab the attention of NBA scouts, as the freshman is a three-level scorer. He is no slouch on defense either. With Jimmy Butler’s injury concerns this year and the overall poor play from Miami this season, George needs to be looked at for an instant contributor.