The 2023 NBA Draft isn't short on intrigue. It features the most hyped prospect in recent memory in Victor Wembanyama, a plethora of other tantalizing talents eager to make their mark on the league, and several teams potentially poised to shake things up. Typically, the mystery of who the top overall pick will be is the largest looming question heading into draft day. That isn't the case this year, but there are still a bunch of potentially league-altering questions that will be answered on Thursday night. Here's a look at the five most pressing.
1. Who will Charlotte select with the second pick?
There's little mystique at the very top of the draft, as French phenom Victor Wembanyama is universally expected the be the first overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs. At 7-foot-4 with tight handles and a smooth shot, Wembanyama boasts a crazy mix of size and athleticism, and as a result he's already caught the attention of some of the league's top players.
"Everybody's been a unicorn over the last few years, but [Wembanyama] is more like an alien,"of Wembanyama . "No one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor. At 7-4, 7-5, 7-3, whatever the case may be, his ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot stepback jumpers out of the post, stepback 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots, he's for sure a generational talent."
Wembanyama will provide an enormous, immediate boost -- both on and off of the floor -- to whichever organization lands him, and that's why the Spurs will assuredly select him. With that decision locked up ahead of time, the most pressing question near the top of the lottery becomes: Who will the Charlotte Hornets select with the second pick?
The Hornets appear to have their choice narrowed down to two players, as Alabama's Brandon Miller and G League Ignite's Scoot Henderson both had multiple workouts with the team. Both players have franchise-changing potential -- something the Hornets certainly need as an organization that hasn't made it past the first round of the playoffs in over 20 years. Charlotte's decision at the second spot will have an enormous ripple effect on the rest of the draft, and in turn on the league as a whole. It's tough to overstate the overall importance of this pick. All eyes will be on Charlotte on Thursday night as a result.
2. Will the Blazers trade the third pick?
Heading into the draft, there has been rampant speculation that the Portland Trail Blazers could look to trade the third overall pick in order to acquire established, win-now talent to pair alongside Damian Lillard. Some have even suggested that Lillard could seek a trade if Portland doesn't make that move, as he has made it clear that he isn't interested in being part of a rebuild with the Blazers. While the situation is more nuanced than that, it's still certainly a central storyline surrounding the draft.
Lillard has said time and again that his first choice would be to spend his entire career in Portland, but he is also well aware that his window to help lead a team to a title is closing and he wants to maximize his remaining time at the peak of his powers, either in Portland or elsewhere.
"I want to have an opportunity to win in Portland…We got an opportunity, asset-wise, to build a team that can compete," Lillard said recently. "If we can't do that, then, you know, obviously, like I've said, you know, for months now, like then this is a separate conversation that we would have to have."
It will be very interesting to see what the Blazers do here. They could add a very promising player with the third overall pick, but by doing so they could run the risk of aggravating Lillard, and in turn pushing him out of Portland.
3. Will the Pelicans trade Zion Williamson?
Zion Williamson's name has popped up in trade rumors recently, and some reports have suggested that the Pelicans might be willing to part with the former top overall pick in order to move up into the top three in the draft in order to land top prospect Scoot Henderson.
Williamson getting traded prior to the draft is unlikely, according to The Athletic, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Williamson hasn't been the reliable franchise cornerstone that the organization hoped he would be when he was selected with the first pick in the 2019 draft. When he's been out on the floor, Williamson has been extremely impressive, but availability has been an enormous issue, and there's certainly some frustration on both sides behind the scenes.
The Pelicans have long been enamored with Henderson, and even if they don't want to trade Williamson, if the opportunity to turn Williamson into Henderson presents itself, it's something the organization would at least have to consider.
4. Will the Thunder cash in some chips?
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a ton of draft picks in the upcoming drafts, including three (one first-round, two second-round) this year. They also have four first-round picks in the 2024 NBA Draft. As a team with a ton of young talent already on the roster, could they look to trade in some of those picks for established talent in order to take the next step forward as a team? Or, could they potentially look to package a couple of picks -- maybe their first round pick this year and one in 2024-- to move up in the draft this year? They will have the No. 12 overall pick as it stands, but perhaps they'll want another crack at the top five.
Maybe they'll make a move, maybe they won't, but regardless the Thunder are definitely a team to keep an eye on draft night since they possess the draft capital to shake things up in a major way.
5. Will the Mavericks make a move?
After missing the playoffs last season despite acquiring star guard Kyrie Irving prior to the trade deadline, the Dallas Mavericks clearly need to upgrade the roster around Luka Doncic. One way to do that would be to trade the No. 10 overall pick in the draft to land some established talent. NBA insider Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports recently stated that he fully expects the Mavericks to trade the pick, and others have expressed a similar sentiment.
In a way, this situation is similar to the one in Portland. Both teams are in win-now mode thanks to the presence of a superstar guard in his prime, and both teams are facing pressure to build better teams around those guys. Lillard is older than Doncic, so there's a bit more urgency in Portland, but ultimately both teams could look to move their lottery pick in the name of immediate improvement.