San Antonio will officially tip off the 2023 NBA Draft with the No. 1 pick after winning the lottery last week in Chicago and it's a near certainty the Spurs will take Victor Wembanyama. After that, the NBA Draft will unofficially start with the Charlotte Hornets at No. 2. Do they take Brandon Miller? Scoot Henderson? Cam Whitmore? One of the Thompson twins?
Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak in his post-lottery comments last week seemed to hint that the team may be comfortable taking best fit as opposed to best player available -- translated by some to mean that Miller, not Henderson, is the presumed favorite at No. 2. Whether or not that's pre-draft posturing is postulating, of course, but given how set the Spurs are at No. 1 with Victor Wembanyama, there's no reason to believe Kupchak is bluffing.
So in our first mock draft after the LaMelo Ball. Miller is a sharpshooting wing who led all freshmen in scoring last season for an Alabama team that won the SEC. His playmaking, size and scoring project as a neat fit on paper next to Ball, contrasted with what may be seen as a duplicative skill set to Ball in Henderson., we're going to take Kupchak's comments at face value and presume that the Hornets do indeed take best fit and select Miller to pair next to
The fall in this mock exercise wouldn't be far for Henderson, however. As a potential case to be the No. 2 talent in the class, Portland, which is reportedly open to moving the pick, stands pat and selects the G League Ignite product at No. 3. Whether the Trail Blazers move the pick or not, there is believed to be a tier break after the top three right now, likely positioning Henderson as a top three pick even if the destination isn't a certainty.
So how else does the rest of the first round shake out after a full week of testing, interviews, scrimmages and measurements in Chicago for the annual combine? Our full post-combine mock draft projections can be found below with some new names on the rise as a result of the week that was.
Round 1 - Pick 1
No appearance at the Combine for Wembanyama -- he is still playing out his season with Mets 92 -- but no problem. He remains No. 1 with a bullet atop a loaded class.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Alabama • 6'7" / 200 lbs
This isn't who I would take, but this is believed to be the way Charlotte is leaning. A 6-foot-9 scoring forward who shoots 38.4% from 3 -point range would pair nicely next to LaMelo Ball.
Round 1- Pick 3
Portland has all but deployed billboards to let the rest of the NBA know this pick is up for sale as it looks to upgrade its roster around Damian Lillard. Henderson would be the pick here if Wembanyama and Miller go No. 1 and No. 2, but whether he'll be playing for the Trail Blazers or someone else is up in the air.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Thompson is an elite playmaker who possesses the ability to make advanced reads as a potential lead guard. He profiles as someone who could be the initiator for an NBA offense, potentially setting up Houston -- which has already met with him after securing the No. 4 pick -- to maximize its investments in Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Houston • 6'7" / 235 lbs
There's a number of directions Detroit could go here at wing, but the addition of Jarace Walker makes a ton of sense both from a value perspective and from a fit standpoint. He's a ready-made NBA power forward who can hit shots and provide toughness for a young core centered around Jaden Ivey and Cade Cunningham.
Round 1 - Pick 6
There's lots of steam around Ausar -- the twin brother of Amen -- indicating he may not only be on the rise but in the mix to supplant Amen as the first Thompson taken in this year's draft. Getting him at No. 6 here would be robbery for the Magic, giving them a combo wing who has incredible athleticism, selfless playmaking ability and an improving shot.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Cam Whitmore SF
Villanova • 6'7" / 230 lbs
Whitmore is not a playmaker but what he does provide as a shooting wing with above-the-rim hops he does at a high level. Indiana surrounding Tyrese Haliburton with a player of Whitmore's ilk who can score should be priority No. 1 in this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Baylor • 6'4" / 185 lbs
If you squint a bit at George's game you'll see some shades of Bradley Beal in terms of what he can do as a scorer and combo guard. George impressed NBA teams at his pro day in Chicago during the NBA Draft Combine and appears to be on the rise as a potential top-10 pick.
Round 1 - Pick 9
UCF • 6'9" / 215 lbs
The meteoric rise last season of Santa Clara star Jalen Williams -- and his subsequent stellar season as a rookie with OKC -- has taught us not to overlook mid-major stars. Hendricks is perhaps the latest example of that, as he starred for UCF last season as a sharpshooting forward who can protect the rim and be a havoc-wreaker on defense.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Gradey Dick SF
Kansas • 6'6" / 205 lbs
Tall wings who have the ability to shoot it -- and do so successfully in the multitude of ways Dick can shoot it -- don't come around every draft. His game is tailor-made for an NBA role player with room to grow into more alongside a superstar in Luka Doncic.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Kentucky • 6'3" / 195 lbs
Perhaps Orlando looks elsewhere here after going guard with its first pick in this mock, but Wallace's skill set is so different and complementary to Thompson that the two could coexist successfully. One of the best playmaking defenders in this class.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Arkansas • 6'7" / 200 lbs
Black had the highest assist rate on a loaded Arkansas team last season operating as a connective tissue and heartbeat for one of the most talented teams in the SEC. OKC is stacked with selfless guards of Black's archetype and checks a ton of boxes for what this team likes.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Kobe Bufkin SG
Michigan • 6'5" / 195 lbs
If Bufkin gets past OKC at No. 12, it's unlikely he is on the board much longer. The second-year player for Michigan blossomed into a bona fide first-round talent this past season. He has a nice combination of scoring and creation that might make him an appealing two-way guard in the league.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Kris Murray PF
Iowa • 6'8" / 220 lbs
Murray had a breakout season for Iowa averaging north of 20 points per game while showing off range as a 3-point shooter. He's a combo forward who brings versatility, polish and size, all assets for a team looking to surround Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram with weapons.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Indiana • 6'5" / 215 lbs
NBA teams are always on the hunt for combo guard/creators like Hood-Schifino, and he flashed enough on both ends at Indiana to push for a potential lottery spot in this year's draft. Great frame, really good defensively, and knows how to attack and make plays off the bounce. His shot needs to become more developmentally consistent but the tools here are undeniable.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Miller tested the NBA Draft waters and had some first-round buzz before ultimately withdrawing and committing to the G League Ignite last season. Now he's built upon that momentum as a scorer and rebounder who, while still a tad raw, has the physical tools and size to warrant mid-to-late lottery consideration.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Amari Bailey SG
UCLA • 6'3" / 185 lbs
Few players boosted their draft stock at the combine than did Bailey, who acquitted himself nicely as expected as a scoring guard but flashed some unexpected playmaking and passing to boot in front of NBA teams. The former five-star recruit has played his way into the lottery mix and seems unlikely to slip out of the first round.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Connecticut • 6'5" / 190 lbs
No player in this class is more skilled as a spot-up shooter than Hawkins, whose ability to be his own offensive hub because of his space-creation is underrated and under-appreciated. He profiles as a Duncan Robinson-like talent with better defense.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Creighton • Jr • 6'4" / 190 lbs
Alexander's development the last two years from an athletic wing into a legitimate playmaking guard who can shoot is among the more impressive arcs for a player in this class. He did well for himself at the combine, getting to the rim at will and showcasing his length as a potential two-way player in the NBA.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Arkansas • 6'2" / 185 lbs
A nagging knee injury cost Smith Jr. real exposure to showcase himself on a big stage this season after carrying momentum into the season as a potential top-three pick. But the No. 1 recruit from the 2022 class, an immensely talented scorer and slasher, is still someone I think teams will be glad to bring in and develop, and in this range he'd be a no-brainer.
From Phoenix Suns
Round 1 - Pick 21
Ohio State • 6'5" / 235 lbs
As a four-star prospect ranked 85th in his class, Sensabaugh wasn't even on the one-and-done radar entering the season. But his production with Ohio State is tough to ignore. Uses his big frame well and smashed in his role as a rotation piece hitting 40.5% of his 3-pointers on the year.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Duke • 7'1" / 230 lbs
Best player available here is Lively, the one-and-done Duke big man who was among the most effective rim-protecting players in all of college hoops last season. He's still got some growing to do as an offensive weapon, but his defensive impact is a foundational piece of his game that will translate.
From New York Knicks
Round 1 - Pick 23
Duke • 6'6" / 220 lbs
Whitehead had a topsy-turvy season at Duke and didn't quite live up to expectations as a five-star, consensus top-five recruit, in part because of injuries and inconsistencies that resulted from that. ESPN reported that his preseason right foot injury did not heal properly and requires a follow-up procedure, so teams will want to make sure his medicals check out.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Indiana • 6'9" / 245 lbs
Big men who don't shoot 3-pointers don't pop off the page as definite first-rounders, and yet Jackson-Davis by most measures appears to be an anomaly. He's a dominant interior scorer and rebounder who shows great touch and makes great plays as a passer, and there is optimism in NBA circles that he will in time develop into a floor-spacer.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Santa Clara • 6'4" / 205 lbs
One of the big winners of the NBA Draft Combine, Podziemski, coming off a breakout season in which he won Co-WCC Player of the Year honors at Santa Clara, goes No. 25 here as a plug-and-play combo guard who can add scoring, playmaking and toughness right away.
From Cleveland Cavaliers
Round 1 - Pick 26
Colby Jones SG
Xavier • 6'6" / 207 lbs
One of my favorite prospects in this class. Jones is one of those players who can fade in and out of games, then you look up and he has 10 points, seven assists and eight rebounds. Impacts winning in a variety of ways.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 27
This is probably the floor for Coulibaly, a late-riser in the 2023 class who could go as high as mid lottery to somewhere in the 20s. Playing next to Victor Wembanyama for Mets 92 has given him a huge spotlight to shine as a long wing with great athleticism who has shown improvement as a shooter.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 28
Marquette • 6'7" / 230 lbs
Prosper played so well on the first day of scrimmages at the combine that he pulled out of the second day, showing so much as an energetic combo forward that he likely solidified himself as a top-30 pick in this class. A really athletic, long forward who can shoot and impact winning with effort.
From Boston Celtics
Round 1 - Pick 29
South Carolina • 6'9" / 210 lbs
Not the most appealing profile coming off a disappointing season at South Carolina, but Jackson, the youngest prospect in the class and a former No. 1 recruit, has plenty of believers in NBA circles and feels like a lock to hear his name called in the first round.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Connecticut • 6'6" / 209 lbs
No team is going to trip over themselves just glancing at Jackson Jr.'s stat line, but no team that watched UConn in its run to national champion this past season will be able to resist what he brings to the table as a playmaking guard who brings energy and an infectious attitude to the table.