2023 NBA Mock Draft: Never-too-early lottery picks as Rockets win Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes

1 Victor Wembanyama (Boulogne Levallois Metropolitans 92)
Wembanyama, a 7ft 2 center, has been considered one of the most valuable prospects in all of basketball for a number of years. He’s a game-changing defender, much like Chet Holmgren, this year’s No. 2 overall – only with more length. His offensive versatility allows him to score goals anywhere on the pitch. 2 Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite)
Henderson ranks No. 1 in this class among non-Wembanyama prospects. He played in G League Ignite last season as a 17-year-old and has the arsenal of passing and scoring to be one of the most polished offensive picks in the draft. 3 Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite)
A season with Overtime Elite didn’t fare well for the draft stocks of Jean Montero or Dom Barlow — two players with first-round potential who didn’t get drafted — but Ausar and twin brother Amen are such obvious lottery talents in the contest, what they face next year doesn’t matter. Ausar has great positional length and amazing defensive potential. 4 Nick Smith (Arkansas)
Smith has always been considered an elite talent but has really stepped up in the last year, going from a recruit under 25 to the No. 3 player in his class. He’s a lithe combo guard who can handle and score with an Arkansas team that has backcourt talent as well as any team in college hoops. 5 Amen Thompson (Overtime Elite)
Brother Ausar’s twin, Amen is also a lottery talent with the position size and length to make a difference on guard. He has shown some really impressive playmaking skills over the past year and could rival his brother, who is currently seen as the brighter prospect, as he develops further. 6 Cameron Whitmore Villanova
Whitmore didn’t finish his high school career as a top 10 talent, but after a strong summer with Team USA, he’s already making his mark as a top 10 pick in 2023. Good size winger who has a slasher mentality and plays with an advantage. Fits perfectly with Villanova – and corresponds to the archetype of a wing of the NBA values. 7 Cason Wallace (Kentucky)
Wallace is an elite candidate who finished his high school career as a top 10 recruit in his class. He’s expected to be a plug-and-play starter in Kentucky and should be considered a top-10 talent in the 2023 class for his defensive skills and all-around scoring ability. 8th Dariq Whitehead (Duke)
Whitehead was ranked #2 in the composite rankings in his high school recruit class. He has the ideal positional size, hard-hitting athleticism, and defensive versatility that Duke — and soon an NBA team — will really appreciate. 9 Anthony Black (Arkansas)
The appeal here with black lies in its versatility as a large sized combo guard who can play both with and without the ball. He’s spent most of the last year transitioning to pointing full-time, a role that could help him shine for NBA decision-makers in Arkansas. His game doesn’t have much explosiveness, but he has the finesse, positional size, and passing game reminiscent of Cade Cunningham. 10 Keyonte George (Baylor)
A McDonald’s All-American who has been considered a one-time lottery talent for several years, George is a formidable goaltender who should be putting up big numbers at Baylor right away. Cultivating his all-around offensive game will be key, but he’s a long-range sniper who can get a bucket from anywhere. 11 Dillon Mitchell (Texas)
Mitchell was one of the lowest-rated four-star prospects less than two years ago but has blossomed into a true five-star player, finishing as the No. 5 player in the 2022 recruit class. The Montverde Academy product is a top athlete with great distance and defensive shots. He needs to improve his score to validate lottery status. 12 Dereck Lively (Duke)
That’s a bit under for Lively, the #1 in the 247Sports Composite rankings, in part because I value wings and guards over centers in a vacuum. (Have you watched the NBA Finals? I’m resting!) Nonetheless, Lively could and should fall into the lottery. At 7-foot-1, it runs the ground at a high level and has the engine to make a difference on and around the rim. 13 Arthur Kaluma Creighton
Kaluma finished his freshman season at Creighton on a high note and has continued his upward trend this offseason, where he shines in FIBA ​​play for Nigeria. He is facing a sophomore breakout season where his size and score could make him a lottery pick. 14 Leonard Miller (G League Ignite)
Miller tested the NBA draft and had some enthusiasm in the first round before eventually retiring and joining the G League Ignite, where he will spend next season. The size, left-handed swing and ability to create from position are all interesting tools, although he’s still a very raw player at this point. fifteen Kel’el Ware (Oregon)
Less than two years ago, Ware wasn’t a top 100 talent — now he’s positioned himself as a potential top 10 NBA pick. His 7ft frame holds immense potential even as he develops his game. At his size, his movement and ball skills are talents worth playing for. 16 Terquavion Smith (NC State)
There was real momentum for Smith in this year’s NBA draft after a strong performance at the combine that showed his athleticism before eventually returning to school. He’ll have a great opportunity to build on that next season at NC State as a focal point for Kevin Keatts’ team. 17 Julian Strawther (Gonzaga)
Strawther has gone from small player to solid starter on a No. 1 Gonzaga team over the past year and will now take another leap as a junior with the Zags. With Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard gone he will have a chance to take on an expanded role on the ball and should see a healthy increase in production across the board. 18 Jarace Walker (Houston)
Houston brings in a gem in Jarace Walker who could be one of the most influential freshmen in college — and for a Houston team that should be viewed as a contender. Tall, strong and physically mature, Walker is a true foursome who could be a little fivesome given his next level physicality. 19 Amari Bailey (UCLA)
There’s a lot of expectation for Bailey, a McDonald’s All-American who was No. 7 in his class. I’m just a little skeptical that he’s willing to fully validate his lottery credentials. He needs to prove he can score consistently as he develops his potential as a playmaker – but first he needs to be solid defensively to earn Mick Cronin’s trust. 20 JJ Starling (Notre Dame)
Notre Dame gets a stallion in Starling, a combo keeper who can create on the fly, get to the basket, and most importantly, score at a really high level. His inside-out play makes him an interesting projection for the NBA as someone who can potentially act as a score initiator. 21 Kyle Filipowski (Duke)
Duke will have a full roster next season, and Filipowski will be a key part of that in the first year. He’s a 6-11 center whose scoring range extends beyond the 3-point line. 22 Jordan Walsh (Arkansas)
Walsh is a bouncy athlete who is one of *several* likely University of Arkansas first-rounders. It’s the ideal size for a wing and a smooth jumper to boot. 23 Julian Phillips (Tennessee)
At 6-8, Phillips has a great frame on a wing and has the length and athleticism to be a potential lottery pick in next year’s draft. Good slasher that can move things with or without the ball in hand. Rick Barnes will love his game. 24 Gradey Dick (Kansas)
Dick is a deadeye shooter that can be a killer spot-up threat from anywhere on the court. In Kansas he needs to show his potential to be a creator for himself and others, something that has appeared in spurts on his high school ribbon and makes me think he’s more than just a shooter. 25 Harrison Ingram (Stanford)
Ingram had an unbeatable season with Stanford but returned to school to improve his draft record. A big bodied wing, he has very interesting playmaking abilities for his size and projects well as an NBA wing if his shot can continue to improve. 26 Kris Murray (Iowa)
Keegan Murray had a breakout season for Iowa last season, and Kris Murray will have a breakout season for Iowa this season. The 6-foot-8 combo forward may have been draftable this year but came back to school and will have his place as a potential No. 1 option in Iowa next year. 27 Chris Livingston (Kentucky)
Armed with an improved knight and a great shot, Livingston is one of the true wild cards in the 2023 NBA Draft. Might be a lottery pick, might be late at first. Definitely has the physique and athleticism to be a prototypical wing that the NBA desires. He needs to get everything on a consistent footing to earn John Caliparis’ trust. 28 Marcus Sasser (Houston)
Sasser was on his way to All-American status at Houston last season before an injury derailed his season. Then he really flashed at the NBA Draft Combine, making it a tougher-than-expected stay-or-go decision from him. When he gets back to school he will be the star of a top 10 Cougars team with his elite scoring ability. 29 Nolan HickmanGonzaga
With the departure of Andrew Nembhard, Hickman anticipates a major opportunity to take the reins of Gonzaga’s high-profile offense. Hickman isn’t a top athlete, but he’s a solid leader who could really make a leap under Mark Few as a sophomore. 30 Matthew Cleveland (Florida State)
Cleveland was someone I was very pleased to meet last season at Florida State, and now he’s in a position to possibly live up to his expectations as a sophomore. His shot needs to improve dramatically but he has the frame and rebound I appreciate on the wings.

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