The 2023 NBA draft lottery could be the most anticipated of all-time. Victor Wembanyama — the 7’5 French super prospect — is one of the most talented teenagers in the history of the sport. You can make a case that Wembanyama would be the No. 1 overall pick in every NBA draft ever.
Wembanyama isn’t the only prize in this year’s lottery. Scoot Henderson is one of the best point guard prospects in recent memory as an ultra athletic, rim attacking floor general who also has a supreme feel for the game. There’s a chance the first four picks in this draft come from outside of college basketball if the Amen and Ausar Thompson — who are playing in the upstart Overtime Elite league — can make evaluators fall for them in the pre-draft process.
Wembanyama and Henderson are locked in at No. 1 and No. 2, but it feels like there’s 5-10 prospects who could conceivably go No. 3 overall. This year’s class of college freshmen is deep with talent, but there’s no obvious best prospect among them. It makes doing a mock draft even more fun.
We dropped our first 2023 NBA draft board the day after the 2022 draft. This is our first update since then. This is an attempt to focus on prospect introductions and scouting reports rather than specific team fit.
The draft order was determined by a spin from Tankathon because that’s what the people wanted. With some much fluidity inside the lottery after the top-two, I made the picks with a combination of team fit and my own evaluations. Here’s our look at where the 2023 NBA Draft class currently stands.
1. Toronto Raptors - Victor Wembanyama, C, Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92
Wembanyama is simply one of the greatest basketball prospects ever. The 7’5 French wunderkind has a combination of length, athletic fluidity, and skill that is legitimately unmatched in the history of the sport. He has spent this season establishing himself as the most dominant player in France’s top pro league at just 18 years old, in the process proving his extraordinary talent can immediately translate to immense on-court production. Whoever wins the lottery is landing a league-altering superstar, provided he can continue to stay healthy.
Wembanyama reportedly has an 8-foot wingspan that will be the longest in the NBA from the moment he’s drafted. His size allows him to own the rim on both ends of the floor, whether he’s slamming home lobs and putbacks on offense or deterring shooters with the threat of his shot blocking on defense. He’s also comfortable playing on the perimeter, where he’s happy to fire from three-point range, and has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Wemby also seems to have a good feel for the game as a passer and decision-maker, and typically plays with a high-motor. At minimum, he’s one day going to be the NBA’s best play finisher on offense and one of its most intimidating rim protectors on defense. Then you see him hit runners from three-point range and bust out ridiculous crossovers, and it seems possible this can be one of the greatest players of all-time.
2. Charlotte Hornets - Scoot Henderson, PG, G League Ignite
Henderson is an outstanding point guard prospect in almost every regard. The suburban Atlanta native left high school early to sign a two-year deal with the G League Ignite, and he’s been proving his standout talent against pros since his peers were preparing for prom. The 6’2 guard is an elite athlete in almost every regard. He has superb speed with the ball in his hands, whether he’s burning opposing defenses in the open floor or effortlessly creating space in the halfcourt with his wicked first step. He has great leaping ability to help finish his chances around the rim, and he’s also strong enough to absorb contact and get to the foul line.
Henderson has also made a noticeable leap as a playmaker during his time with the Ignite, and now feels like a point guard in complete control of the game. His combination of downhill scoring and playmaking in the body of a world class athlete gives him both a high floor and a high ceiling in the league. His three-point shot still needs some improvement, but his progress in that department has been encouraging as well. Henderson won’t get drafted ahead of Wembanyama because almost no one in the history of the league would, but you can make the case that he’s a better prospect than many of the recent No. 1 overall picks. Whoever lands at No. 2 in the lottery will be thrilled, because this year it equates to getting a franchise player.
3. Detroit Pistons - Cam Whitmore, F, Villanova
Whitmore was considered a five-star recruit coming out of high school in Maryland, but it was his MVP run at the 2022 FIBA Americas U18 Championships just before he arrived at Villanova that really sparked his top-five draft hype. At 6’7, 232 pounds, Whitmore brings a blend of power, speed, and leaping ability that allows him to overwhelm opposing defenses when he gets downhill. Whitmore finds success on offense by cutting into open space in the lane, attacking closeouts, and finishing chances above the rim from the dunker’s spot. NBA teams will want to see him prove his FIBA three-point shooting (45 percent from deep) was real, and thus far his shot has been a lot more inconsistent to start his college career. Thumb surgery in Oct. got him off to a slow start, but he’s been turning it on lately and flashing the talent that could make him the first college player taken in the draft. The third pick is where the intrigue in this draft really starts, and Whitmore just feels like the best fit for Detroit even if I tend to favor Amen Thompson on my personal board.
4. San Antonio Spurs - Amen Thompson, G, Overtime Elite City Reapers
Amen and his twin brother Ausar have taken a unique path to the NBA by spurning college basketball and more established professional leagues for the upstart Overtime Elite league, but their talent is starting to feel undeniable regardless of the level of competition they’re currently facing. Amen Thompson is a 6’7 point guard with breathtaking athleticism, creative passing chops, and the ability to swing the momentum of a game by quickly turning defense into offense. Thompson feels like one of the best athletes you will ever see on a basketball floor: he has absurd standstill burst to dust his initial defender in the halfcourt, great speed in transition, and nuclear leaping ability. He’s a creative and at times spectacular facilitator who doesn’t hesitate to use jump passes to find the open man, or throw a daring outlet to kickstart a transition attack. The big question for Thompson is his overall scoring: his jump shot is the big red flag in his scouting report, and he needs to add more craft as a finisher around the rim, too. Still, Thompson is currently our front-runner for No. 3 overall in this draft class because he has elite size and athleticism for a point guard, with enough inventiveness to his game to make you think he’ll find a way to make a big impact in the NBA.
5. Houston Rockets - Ausar Thompson, G/F, Overtime Elite Reapers
The other Thompson twin is a damn good prospect in his own right, and could certainly have some teams who prefer him to his brother. While Amen is a superior passer with slightly freakier athletic ability, Ausar Thompson is a better shooter and has a skill set that feels easier to slot into a team structure. Also standing 6’7, Ausar is a lockdown defender with tremendous quick-twitch athleticism who projects into a secondary ball handler and slasher role on offense. While Amen’s shooting is a major question mark, Ausar has shown more development both on spot-up threes and self-created midrange attempts during his two seasons with Overtime Elite. Thompson still struggles from the foul line and will need to continue to prove he’s legit shooter overall and not just in comparison to his brother, but his positional size, defensive upside, tight handle, and ability to play more of an off-ball role on offense should be extremely intriguing to teams picking in the top-10.
6. Orlando Magic - Brandon Miller, F, Alabama
Miller has been the breakout freshmen in college basketball this season for a mighty Alabama team, and will have a strong chance to be the first college player taken in this draft. A lanky 6’9 wing, Miller looks like the type of player every team covets at first glance. He’s the leading scorer among all freshmen in college basketball, putting up some big-time scoring games — 36 points against Gonzaga, 24 points against Michigan State and Memphis, respectively — to launch his draft hype into the stratosphere. Miller has exceeded every expectation as a shooter to this point, hitting 43.5 percent of his threes on 7.2 attempts per game, while also making 83 percent of his free throws. While Miller projects as an excellent off-ball player offensively, there are some big red flags when he plays with he ball in his hands: he’s extremely upright as a ball handler which limits his burst and power going to the basket, and he’s also been a poor finisher (53.1 percent) at the rim. Still, Miller has looked pretty good defensively, has flashed some impressive passing chops, and continues to hit his threes at an awesome rate. He’s one of the oldest freshmen in the country — he’ll be 21 years old in Nov. — but he continues to show skill in a lot of areas. He doesn’t look like a very good bet to be a lead creator in the NBA right now, but every team needs tall wings who can shoot and defend to surround their stars. Miller fits that bill for sure.
7. Washington Wizards - Nick Smith Jr., G, Arkansas
When we ranked the best NBA prospects in college basketball coming into the season, Smith earned the No. 1 spot because he felt like the safest choice. The 6’4 guard was electric when we evaluated him at the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic, showing high-octane scoring ability in both on-ball and off-ball roles. Unfortunately, Smith started to feel pain in his right knee just as Arkansas’ season was set to begin, and played just five games before being shut down indefinitely. While his numbers in a small sample were underwhelming, the glimpses of his talent still flashed on tape. There aren’t many better bets for on-ball creation in this class: Smith is extremely quick and slippery as a ball handler, and he has real shot-making touch from all three levels of the floor. He projects as a good three-point shooter off the dribble or the catch, and when he puts the ball on the floor he can be deadly with his floater inside the arc. Teams would have loved to see more reps of Smith operating in ball screens and gotten a real read on his defense, but even if he doesn’t play another game it’s hard to imagine him slipping outside the top-10. If today’s NBA is all about getting buckets, Smith Jr. can say he does that as well as any college prospect in this class.
8. Orlando Magic (via Bulls) - Cason Wallace, G, Kentucky
Wallace was hyped as one of the best defensive guards to hit the draft in recent memory when he entered Kentucky as the crown jewel of John Calipari’s recruiting class. What most evaluators didn’t expect is that he’d be one of the best three-pointers among the top freshmen in this draft class, too. While Kentucky has been a disaster so far this season, Wallace has been a rock on both ends of the floor. The rugged 6’4, 195 pound guard can hound opposing guards at the point of attack and defend bigger players in a pinch on a switch. His glistening four percent steal rate is a solid indicator for his long-term future, and he’s also shown off some impressive playmaking chops with a 22.8 percent assist rate. Wallace projects as more of a connective piece than a true floor general, but his ability to defend anyone, stretch the floor from three (he’s currently hitting 41 percent of his triples), and keep the ball moving makes him one of the safest choices in this draft class.
9. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers) - Jett Howard, F, Michigan
Jett Howard is starring for his father, head coach Juwan Howard, as a freshman at Michigan, and he’s putting together a convincing case that he was wildly underrated as a high school recruit. Howard was only No. 34 in the RSCI but looks like one of the most pro-ready freshmen in the country with a plus size for a wing, promising movement shooting potential, and perhaps a little more juice off the dribble than most expected. A 6’7, 215 pound forward, Howard derives plenty of value as an off-ball scorer by spacing the floor, running off screens, and getting up threes with volume. He takes more than 60 percent of his field attempts from three-point range, and has hit 40 percent of those attempts so far. Howard doesn’t pressure the rim as often as you’d like, but he’s a good handler for his size and a skilled finisher when he does get downhill because of his big frame and soft touch. He isn’t the quickest defender on the perimeter, but has pretty good technique and the size to hold up in the paint. Howard has thrown some really good passes this year, too, and should be able to keeping the ball moving on the perimeter as his creation ability develops. He should have a high floor as a big off-ball shooter, and hints at having a higher ceiling than most give him credit for as he continues to get better creating off the dribble.
10. Phoenix Suns - Jarace Walker, F, Houston
Kelvin Sampson has turned the Houston Cougars into one of the best programs in college basketball, and for the first time he has a true blue chip freshmen to work with in Jarace Walker. Walker was a dominant high school scorer at IMG Academy, and has had to tailor his game to fit with a veteran Cougars team with national title expectations so far this season. The first thing you notice about Walker is his huge frame: at 6’8, 240 pounds, he looks like a grown man already despite being just 19 years old. He’s a versatile scorer who has flashed on-ball creation potential going back to his IMG days, and has shown he can get buckets in more opportunistic ways this season, whether that’s off putbacks, cuts, or attacking closeouts. Walker’s three-point shot has been encouraging — he’s made 40 percent of his first 30 attempts — but he has something of a slow release and will need to improve his volume. His defense is highly intriguing, too. Walker has the size and strength to bang down low, and has shown a knack for getting into the passing lanes this year. Ideally, he can be a modern power forward who can space the floor and provide supplemental rim protection while also being able to fall back on his one-on-one scoring bag. Walker’s raw numbers aren’t amazing like some might have thought coming into the year, but he’s playing a key role on a winning team on both ends of the floor. The NBA should be thrilled to see it.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder - Maxwell Lewis, F, Pepperdine
Lorenzo Romar has recruited plenty of future first round picks during his time as a head coach, but Maxwell Lewis is the most unlikely one of the bunch. Lewis originally intended to skip college basketball and train for the NBA in the same program as Bucks’ 2022 first round pick MarJon Beauchamp, but those plans were blown up in part by the pandemic. Instead, he was a late signee by Romar at Pepperdine, where he immediately outplayed his No. 135 recruiting ranking. A solid freshmen year has given way to a breakout sophomore season that has put Lewis squarely on NBA radars and ignited hype that he could be a lottery pick. A 6’7 wing with a 6’10 wingspan, Lewis has sky-high offensive potential as a good three-point shooter and shifty ball handler who has been scoring efficiently all over the floor this season. Lewis offers on-ball creation upside because of how he leverages his size, flexibility, and creativity as a driver. He’s made some flashy passes as WCC defenses have loaded up to stop him, but it’s also led to some turnover issues (thus far, he has a few more turnovers than assists). Lewis’ skill off the ball feels like a more seamless translation: he’s been deadly shooting the ball on spot-ups, and has also been hitting unassisted threes all-season. His positional size, shooting touch, and ability to create his own shot is going to sell itself come draft time.
12. Portland Trail Blazers - Keyonte George, G, Baylor
George is one of the best freshmen scorers in the country, but his game is also deeper than that. The 6’4 guard has lived up to the hype as a consensus top-10 recruit by showing off his impressive shot-making touch, tight ball-handling, and enticing passing flashes while also being a plus defender for the Bears since day one. George is not the quickest or most explosive athlete going to the basket, but he still finds a way to stockpile points. He hits some incredibly difficult shots in tight spaces from mid-range when going off the dribble, and also already knows how to draw fouls like a pro. He’s thrown some amazing passes this season, too, which adds to his on-ball potential even without elite athleticism. George also provides real value off the ball as a movement shooter: he can dart around screens, quickly square himself up to the basket, and get up threes with volume. So far, he’s shooting 7.6 threes per game and hitting better than 35 percent of those attempts. He’s also a technically sound defender, sliding his feet well on the perimeter and being strong enough to play through contact. It would be nice to see George get easier buckets against college defenses, but his combination of skills helps him overcome his athletic limitations, and makes him one of the safer bets in this class.
13. Utah Jazz (via Timberwolves) - Dariq Whitehead, G, Duke
Whitehead entered Duke as the No. 1 overall recruit in the class according to the RSCI, but a fractured right foot in the preseason kept him out of the lineup early and has limited his explosiveness since he returned. Whitehead’s high school tape at Montverde shows an athletic 6’5 ball handler who can get to the basket and finish above the rim, but those glimpses have been few and far between so far this season. He’s playing in a mostly off-ball role next to point guard Jeremy Roach, and has struggled to finish when he does get to the rim, making only 51.7 percent of his attempts so far. Instead, Whitehead has spent a lot of time spotting up as a shooter around the perimeter, and those results there have been okay (32.7 percent from three) considering his shot wasn’t considered a strength at the high school level. How Whitehead closes the season will go a long way towards determining his draft stock, but ideally this is an explosive combo guard who can attack the defense off the bounce, make the right pass, and defend both backcourt spots as well as smaller wings. It’s been a rough season so far, but a player this talented can’t slip too far.
14. Atlanta Hawks - Kel’el Ware, C, Oregon
Ware’s production has been a bit underwhelming in a less-than-ideal role within a crowded Oregon front court this season, but his size, skill, and youth should give NBA teams reason to believe his best ball is in front of him. The 7-foot center has the potential to one day space the floor as a shooter on offense and lock down the rim as a shot blocker on defense. His shot isn’t a finished product yet — he’s 11-for-38 from three-point range while hitting 72.7 percent of his free throws — but his confidence shooting from deep is encouraging. He’s also posting an outstanding 8.7 percent block rate despite playing a lot of power forward next to teammate N’Faly Dante. Ware isn’t super long (7’3.5 wingspan) or super strong (only 210 pounds) yet, and he’ll need to get in better physical shape to continue improving as a finisher around the rim. Still, Ware is one of the younger freshmen in this class and feels like he’s just scratching the surface of his long-term potential. He has a skill set custom-fit for the NBA if a team can properly develop it.
15. Utah Jazz - Anthony Black, G, Arkansas
Arkansas was supposed to have more NBA prospects than any team in college basketball this year, but potential season-ending injuries to Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile quickly put a damper on some of the hype. Still, Anthony Black has helped keep the Razorbacks afloat while solidifying himself as a likely lottery pick. The 6’7 point guard leverages his size at both ends of the floor, whether he’s looking over the top of opposing defenders for an easier passing angle or switching onto a variety of positions defensively. While he’s not the most quick-twitch of athletes, Black is still a load to handle when he gets going downhill, and he’s shown real skill as a finisher by making 65.1 percent of his attempts at the rim. Black should be a great connective piece at the next level by making quick decisions as a passer and being able to threaten the defense by putting the ball on the floor. A consistent three-point shot would make his game so much more effective, but to this point that remains a work in progress (he’s made 32 percent of his 50 attempts from deep). Black’s positional size, defensive switchability, ball handling, and passing should give him a high floor as an NBA guard, but he’ll need to develop more reliable avenues as a scorer — starting with improving his outside shot — to raise his ceiling.
16. Golden State Warriors - Gradey Dick, G/F, Kansas
Gradey Dick might be the most dangerous shooter in this draft class. Playing on the defending national champion Kansas Jayhawks next to one of the front-runners for National Player of the Year in Jalen Wilson, it feels like Dick commands more attention from opposing defenses than anyone else on the roster. The 6’7 freshman wing is an automatic shooter from deep, hitting 48 percent of his first 98 attempts from behind the three-point line. Most of his shots come on spot-ups or one-dribble pullups, with Dick showing off a quick release, deep range, and a minimal shooting dip off the catch. Dick is also a solid rebounder and makes quick decisions as a passer. The two big red flags in his scouting report will be his on-ball creation and his defense, but the latter looks better as the season goes on. Dick’s shooting gravity and ability to knock down shots at an elite rate while playing off the ball gives him the chance to be a lottery pick — especially if Kansas makes another deep run in March.
17. Indiana Pacers - Brice Sensabaugh, G, Ohio State
Sensabaugh is another freshman majorly outplaying his recruiting ranking this year after entering Ohio State rated as the No. 65 player in his class. He’s been a dominant volume scorer from the day he stepped foot on campus, and he’s also putting up incredibly efficient shooting percentages all over over the floor: right now, he’s shooting 50.3 percent from the field, 46 percent from three, and 82 percent from the foul line. The 6’6, 235 pound guard already looks like a grown man physically. He’s one of the best shot creators in this class, but he’ll need to learn to read the floor better as a passer and prove he can hold up defensively. If you want a pure bucket-getter in this draft, Sensabaugh is one of the best options.
18. Los Angeles Clippers - Kris Murray, F, Iowa
Keegan Murray blossomed into one of the best players in the country for Iowa last season and turned himself into a top-5 pick in the 2022 draft. Now his twin brother Kris is making a very similar leap for the Hawkeyes one year later. Kris went from role player (9.7 points per game as a sophomore) to superstar (21.2 points this year) while closely mimicking his brother’s skill set. Kris has great size for a modern four at 6’8, 220 pounds, he’s hitting 37 percent of his threes on 6.6 attempts per game, and he’s been a playmaker defensively, too. Keegan might be a tad better at going off the dribble and may have a little more athletic pop, but there’s major value in adding a very similar player so much later in the draft than Keegan went last year.
19. New York Knicks (via Mavericks) - GG Jackson, F, South Carolina
Jackson was considered one of the top recruits in the 2023 high school class before reclassifying to join his hometown South Carolina Gamecocks a year early this season. Jackson was just 17 years old for the start of this season, and will be the youngest first round pick in this draft class. His combination of youth, size, athleticism, and scoring touch will be intriguing for a team that wants to bet on upside and has enough patience to develop him properly. At 6’9, 215 pounds, Jackson shows flashes of shot creation potential by putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim. So far, he’s made 67 percent of his rim attempts, with 70 percent of those looks coming unassisted — a truly impressive number. Jackson has also been confidently shooting from deep this season, going 27-of-80 (33.8 percent) so far. For all of his talent, scouts will question Jackson’s feel for the game and his shooting touch. He’s only hit 27.1 percent of his non-rim two-pointers, and he has 41 turnovers to 10 assists through the start of this season. Jackson represents a swing for the fences, but the team that takes him better be patient.
20. Miami Heat - Taylor Hendricks, F, UCF
Perhaps no freshman in college basketball is out-playing their recruiting ranking to a more impressive degree than UCF’s Taylor Hendricks this season. Hendricks was the No. 67 recruit in his class coming into the season, but he’s emerged as a possible first round pick because of his size, shot-blocking, and shooting projection. The 6’9, 210 pound forward is hitting 39 percent of his threes so far on good volume, and also has an impressive 5.6 percent block rate. A four who can provide supplemental rim protection and space the floor is so valuable in the NBA, and Hendricks has a chance to be just that.
21. New York Knicks - Kyle Filipowski, F/C, Duke
Duke’s latest purported freshmen superteam hasn’t lived up to the hype, but Filipowski has been the Blue Devils’ most productive five-star newcomer this season. At 7-foot, 230 pounds, Filipowski is skilled big man who feels comfortable playing out on the perimeter. He’s a solid passer and ball handler for his size, and should be a better three-point shooter than he’s shown so far (16-of-62 or 25.8 percent), in part because he’s an 80 percent shooter from the foul line. Filipowski isn’t going to blow anyone away with his athleticism, but he’s big enough to hold up in the paint defensively, rebounds well, and should be useful as a stretch big offensively.
22. Sacramento Kings - Terquavion Smith, G, NC State
Smith likely would have been a first round pick last year, but made the surprising decision to return to NC State for his sophomore season. The 6’4 guard still projects as a microwave backcourt scorer in the league, and he’s made some improvements in his game as a sophomore. His playmaking looks noticeably better, improving his assist rate from 14.7 percent to 25.3 percent. His rim finishing also looks better, though his 52.2 percent conversion rate there isn’t anything to write home about (last season it was 48.2 percent). The calling card for Smith is still his ability to create his own shot and get up threes on extremely high volume. Teams will want to see his percentage from deep tick up a bit if he’s going to hold as a top-20 pick.
23. Los Angeles Lakers (via Pelicans) - DaRon Holmes II, C/F, Dayton
Holmes was viewed as one of the best returning prospects in college basketball after a breakout freshman season for Dayton, and so far he’s lived up to the hype as a sophomore. A 6’10, 230 pound center, Holmes is a bouncy athlete who can finish plays above the rim on both ends of the court. He’s been dunking everything this year (his 50 dunks lead all college players in this mock draft) and he’s shooting 61.8 percent on two-pointers. His 6.5 percent block rate also ranks No. 85 in the country. There hasn’t been much development in terms of his perimeter skill set this season, but Holmes knows who he is as a player and is reliable in his role.
24. Indiana Pacers (via Cavaliers) - Rayan Rupert, G, New Zealand Breakers
Rupert is an 18-year-old guard from France with tremendous defensive tools who has shown upside as a shooter this season. Rupert went to NBL to play for the New Zealand Breakers via the league’s Next Stars program this season, and will likely play himself into the first round if his offensive development sustains all year. He has great size at 6’7 with a 7’3 wingspan, showing enough quickness to check most off guards and enough length to contest shots from bigger forwards. So far, he’s made 39 percent of his attempts from three and 80 percent from the free throw line. He’ll need to continue proving his jump shot, but there are a lot of tools to work with here.
25. Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers) - Leonard Miller, F, G League Ignite
Miller is a 6’10 Canadian forward who received a rush of attention from scouts last spring when it became apparent he’d be eligible for the 2022 draft out of high school. He earned an invite to the combine but underwhelmed in the scrimmages, and eventually decided to withdraw and commit to the G League Ignite. His first pro season has showcased why many believe he has a high ceiling, but still needs plenty of refinement to his game. Miller is comfortable putting the ball on the floor, and has upside as a jumbo playmaker. His shot is less developed: he’s making only 28 percent of his threes this year, but his 80 percent mark from the free throw line hints improvement down the road. He’s been excellent scoring inside the arc for the Ignite this season (57 percent on twos) and has been rebounding well all year. Miller has a good blend of size and athleticism, and is already pretty good at doing big man stuff while he continues to flush out his perimeter skill set.
26. Houston Rockets (via Bucks) - Emoni Bates, F, Eastern Michigan
Bates was being called the next Kevin Durant before he was old enough to get his driver’s license, and has had a star-crossed career ever since. He joined Memphis as a 17-year-old last season, was sidelined with a back injury most of the year, and transferred back home to Eastern Michigan for his sophomore year. Bates has been putting up big numbers for the Eagles all season, and is again reminding scouts that he should get looks in this draft. Listed at 6’10, 170 pounds (he’s likely an inch or two shorter than that), Bates’ appeal is his intersection of size, shooting, and ball handling. Teams will want to see him hit better than the 34.4 percent he’s currently making from deep, but his shot is effortless and he will be able to get it off at high volume. He still has major questions about his frame (he has short arms and is incredibly skinny), playmaking, and defense, but it’s important to remember how young he is for this class. Bates’ story has been a rollercoaster to this point, but there’s still a chance it has a positive ending.
27. Utah Jazz (via Nets) - Jordan Walsh, F, Arkansas
Walsh was the third McDonald’s All-American in Arkansas’ recruiting class, and he’s the best defensive prospect of the bunch. A strong and long 6’7 wing with a reported 7’2 wingspan, Walsh can get after both guards and wings at the point of attack defensively and make plays by getting into the passing lanes. He’s most comfortable with the ball in his hands on offense, making some impressive plays in transition while still needing to figure out a pathway to value in the halfcourt. Walsh’s shaky three-point shot will be his biggest area of improvement, and scouts will want to see better touch from two-point range, too. Still, his size, athleticism, and defensive upside is tantalizing if a team can develop his offensive skill set.
28. Charlotte Hornets (via Nuggets) - Ricky Council IV, G, Arkansas
Council transferred from Wichita State to Arkansas this year and has been the most productive and reliable performer on a team loaded with talent. The 6’6 junior wing is a good athlete who can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket. He’s a skilled finisher around the rim (71 percent), and creates more than 60 percent of those attempts himself without an assist. Council has seemed like a prime candidate for three-point shooting improvement for multiple years because he shoots an easy ball and has always been an 80+ percent free throw shooter, but he’s only shooting 30 percent from deep again this year. Council has a nice frame for an off-ball wing (6’10 wingspan) with good defensive tools and production. He seems like a good bet to be a floor spacer in the league ... if he can actually knock down his threes efficiently one day.
29. Memphis Grizzlies - Marcus Sasser, G, Houston
Sasser has probably been the best guard in college basketball this season as a senior for Houston. At 6’2 and nearly 200 pounds, Sasser can get off his own shot against any team with a deep bag of step-backs and pull-ups. While he’s not an amazing playmaker, he’s been impressive at avoiding turnovers and making the easy play as a passer. Sasser is also extremely competitive defensively, getting into the body of opposing guards and posting an impressive four percent steal rate. A big NCAA tournament for a loaded Cougars team could give Sasser enough juice to crack the first round.
30. Indiana Pacers (via Celtics) - Coleman Hawkins, C, Illinois
It feels like Hawkins has gone from prospect to player this year as a junior for Illinois after shifting to center following the departure of Kofi Cockburn. At 6’10, 225 pounds, Hawkins’ appeal starts with his ability to play on the perimeter offensively. He’s a willing shooter from three with over four attempts per game, but scouts will want to see him make more than 32 percent of his triples. He’s able to attack a closeout against slower big men by putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the rim. He’s also an impressive passer for his size with a 20 percent assist rate. Hawkins may not offer quite enough in the paint as a shot blocker or rebounder to solidify himself as a first rounder, but his talent and tools are impressive enough to convince teams he could be something even more down the road.