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NBA Mock Draft 2023: Way-too-early look at next draft class headlined by Victor Wembenyama

Sporting News logo Sporting News 6/25/2022 Eric Fawcett

The 2022 NBA Draft has passed us by and that may have you wondering what next year's draft class looks like.

While it's way too early to truly project how prospects may shake out following next season, our 2023 NBA Mock Draft is here to give you an idea of which top players you can look forward to watching next year as they prepare to take the step to the next level.

The 2023 NBA Draft is headlined by a generational talent in French prospect Victor Wembanyama, but other prospects like G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson have already proved he can hold his own against NBA-caliber players in his first professional season this past year.

In an attempt to dissect next year's draft class, The Sporting News broke the potential 2023 prospects into tiers to give you an understanding of who the best players are going into next season.

2022 NBA Draft: Full results | Draft grades | Winners & losers

Way-too-early 2023 NBA Mock Draft

Tier 1: Consensus No. 1 pick

1. Victor Wembanyama, F, ASVEL (France)

Position: Forward

Let there be no doubt – this draft has, is, and always will belong to Victor Wembanyama. After being christened a generational talent years ago, the 7-foot-3 basketball savant has continued to meet every sky-high expectation and there is nothing to suggest he shouldn’t be the consensus No. 1 pick in this draft. He is a potential franchise and league-altering athlete.

MORE: Why Wembanyama is the likely No. 1 pick in 2023 NBA Draft

Tier 2: Potential top-five picks

2. Nick Smith, Arkansas

Position: Guard

If you were to build the perfect guard for the modern game it would look a whole lot like Nick Smith. Smith is an explosive scorer who can get to the rim and finish at will, which sets up what might be his best skill – the step-back jumper. Not just a scorer, Smith is a surgeon in ball screens who especially loves hitting the opposite corner skip pass to generate an open 3 for a teammate. In a year other than 2023, he’d have the look of a possible first overall pick.

3. Scoot Henderson, G League Ignite

Position: Guard 

An explosive point guard named Ja Morant has pushed NBA scouts to look for powerful, bouncy lead ball handlers and the player who fits the bill perfectly in 2023 is Scott Henderson. At 6’3” with long arms and trampoline leaping ability he’ll be good for highlight after highlight with the G League Ignite and he’ll enter the NBA as one of the top athletes at the point guard position from day one. He might need to quiet down his frantic style of play a bit to be a reliable NBA lead guard, but he’s got all the physical tools to entice a GM to take him near the top of the draft.

4. Ausar Thompson, Overtime Elite

Position: Wing

This year’s NBA playoffs taught us that you need skilled, physical and defensively capable wings to compete at the highest level and 6-foot-7 Ausar Thompson fits that archetype perfectly. Thompson is the kind of player who would fit into any NBA situation, playing multiple positions and using his athletic gifts to fly in transition and rip through defenders in the halfcourt on his way to dunks. Shooting is the only question mark for Thompson and if he doesn’t figure that out, he might drop a few spots. However, if the long ball starts dropping you could see him go even higher than where he’s projected now. 

5. Dariq Whitehead, Duke

Position: Wing

Another 6-foot-7 wing who can play multiple positions, it’s hard to imagine Dariq Whitehead not going high in this draft. Whitehead might not be quite as explosive as some of the other wings in this class but his jump shot is more reliable and his ball-handling is more advanced than many of his peers. Where he ends up in the draft relative to similar wings will depend on how GMs weigh athleticism and toughness against skill and offensive intuition.

MORE: NBA Power Rankings: Way-too-early look at 2022-23 season

6. Amen Thompson, Overtime Elite

Position: Guard

Brother of Ausar, Amen Thompson isn’t quite as physically gifted as his twin but he brings a different style that some teams will fall in love with. Amen is a crafty guard whose dribble combinations can mesmerize both fans and defenders alike, and he projects as a point guard who has the size to hold his own defensively and not get head-hunted by bigger wings. Thompson will need to improve as a shooter to keep defenders from sagging off him – taking away the effectiveness of his downhill attacking game – but if he starts hitting 3s he’ll look like a dangerous NBA point guard. 

7. Dillon Mitchell, Texas

Position: Forward

Of any player in the projected lottery, Dillon Mitchell might have the widest range. A 6-foot-9 frontcourt player, he is as explosive as they come and he dominates defensively whether in ball screens or as a help defender swatting layups into the seats. For a team looking to establish a defensive culture, Mitchell could be a cornerstone. However, in recent years, there have been teams that have spent high picks on switchy, athletic frontcourt players who haven’t gotten bang for their buck, and for that reason, scouts are going to hope Mitchell shows some more offensive development at Texas this season.

8. Cameron Whitmore, Villanova

Position: Forward

Versatility is the name of the game for 6-foot-7 Cameron Whitmore, who can slide into just about any role. On offense, a team could deploy him as a creator or off-the-ball scorer. On defense, he could lock up a scoring wing or roam the weakside looking for blocks and steals. His frame, poise and energy level are that of an NBA veteran despite being a year from being drafted and it’s easy to imagine him being a contributor right away. Is there star potential here? The answer to that question will dictate just how high he goes. But even if a team doesn’t see a superstar, they’ll see Day 1 production and a guy who could be a perfect complementary piece to an established leader. 

9. Keyonte George, Baylor

Position: Guard


Gallery: Where every Pac-12 player landed in the 2022 NBA draft (SMG)

Keyonte George is a big-time scorer who can pull up from anywhere in the gym and be confident it’s going to fall. In a league where scorers get paid, George likely has a long career of lucrative contracts coming his way. Looking at the tough shots he takes, it would be easy to say his style isn’t going to work in the NBA but so far he’s scored everywhere he’s been. If he tears it up at Baylor, there will be NBA teams salivating at his Jamal Crawford-esque shot making ability. 

Tier 3: Potential Lottery picks

10. Dereck Lively, Duke

Position: Center

The question for every center in the 2023 draft class is essentially the same: Will they be able to stay on the floor late in big games, or will they get hunted defensively? That won’t be an issue for Dereck Lively, who is light on his feet and seems to invite the challenge of smaller guards trying to get him on an island to drive past him. Lively is a defensive anchor who blocks shots and finishes possessions with defensive rebounds by high-pointing the basketball and his ability to rifle outlet passes will also fit into the high-octane pace of NBA basketball.

11. Cason Wallace, Kentucky

Position: Guard

Watching Cason Wallace play, it’s easy to fall in love with his bulldog energy and constant desire to drive into traffic and invite contact. His fearlessness means he’ll occasionally get into trouble when doesn’t get a call or forces a tough shot, but his ability to constantly break down a defense is exactly what you want from a point guard who will be in a good situation at Kentucky to demonstrate those abilities.

12. Kel'El Ware, Oregon

Position: Center

Kel’El Ware is a fascinating big man who combines bully ball with the ability to step out from behind the arc and drill 3s. Standing at 7-feet, he’s got prototypical size for the position and teams will love the defensive potential alongside the outside shooting touch that makes him different from other centers in this class. Right now, it is defensive “potential," as he hasn’t yet shown a ton of production on that end, but his height and shooting ability will make him an intriguing target.

13. Anthony Black, Arkansas

Position: Guard

Arkansas has had recent success in rocketing big guards up draft lists and Anthony Black looks like he could be next in line for the Razorback bump. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard has a nice handle that allows him to utilize his quickness and his long first step makes him effective when attacking closeouts. For Black, like many of the off-ball perimeter players in this class, the 2022-23 season will be all about proving just how efficient his jumper can be.

14. Gradey Dick, Kansas

Position: Wing

For teams looking for shooting in the 2023 draft, look no further than Gradey Dick. Dick was near automatic from deep in high school and he can get to his shot off the dribble or sprint off screens and showcase catch-and-shoot ability. Standing at 6-foot-7, he sees over defenders and shoots as if they’re not even there, and the way he was able to drill contested shots speaks well to his game translating to the NBA level. Right now, Dick is a specialist who hasn’t shown a lot else in his game, but if he can guard his position and occasionally drive in a straight line, he’ll have a long career as a starter.

15. Brandon Miller, Alabama

Position: Forward

With the NBA currently built on big shot makers, a team will want to take a chance at 6’9” Brandon Miller who isn’t particularly fast or athletic but still finds a way to get to his pull up whenever he wants. In recent years we have seen similar big shot creators get drafted despite not showing much in college, so even if Miller isn’t productive this upcoming season you could see a team betting on a player archetype that currently dominates the league.

16. Kyle Filipowski, Duke

Position: Center 

The second Duke center projected to go in the first round of the 2023 draft, Kyle Filipowski is a very different player than Dereck Lively. Filipowski’s best work is done on the perimeter, something that could work well with one of the many NBA teams that play five-out offenses that could utilize his shooting and passing ability. His defensive mobility will need to improve but his offensive maturity at the center position will turn heads.

17. Julian Philips, Tennessee

Position: Forward

If you’re looking for a man of mystery who could rise up mock drafts throughout the 2022-23 season, look no further than Julian Phillips. He didn’t commit to Tennessee until late in the cycle, pondering the G League, Overtime Elite, and other options that could best set him up for the NBA. Phillips is a shooter with some height and looks like a player that could support an established star with his floor spacing.

18. Jordan Walsh, Arkansas

Position: Forward

At this point in the projected first round, you’re going to see players like Jordan Walsh get consideration. He's a run-and-jump athlete who isn't a finished product but has all the physical tools necessary to be an NBA player. Walsh’s season at Arkansas will be all about showing he’s got some offensive weapons in the arsenal and proving he can be more than a role player.

19. Jarace Walker, Houston

Position: Forward

Every year NBA teams look for versatile frontcourt pieces who can guard up and down the lineup and provide shooting and playmaking on the offensive end. For that reason, Jarace Walker will get some late lottery looks. Walker is at his best on the offensive end, working in the high post or off short roles where he’s a skilled passer and he loves to pull the trigger on a fairly smooth jumper. His angles in pick-and-roll defense show maturity and intelligence, and he takes pride in his effort on the glass.

20. James Nnaji, FC Barcelona (Spain)

James Nnaji is listed at 6-foot-10, 245 pounds but looks much bigger and he makes use of that size playing a physically dominant brand of basketball. He uses his massive frame when walling off the rim and if sheer size isn’t enough, he also has the leaping ability to meet shots at the apex and send them away. Offensively, there isn’t a ton to his game but he’s capable of taking advantage of switches with a drop step to either direction. Playing for a top-notch Barcelona team in an outstanding league, he is used to elite basketball and could play backup center minutes right away in the NBA. 

Tier 4: Potential First Round Picks 

Looking at the 2023 NBA Draft class, there is a far greater supply of wings and backcourt players than what the 2022 class has to offer. And with the way the modern game is going, the teams in the lottery will feel at ease getting to take their pick from a talented crop of perimeter players. Another storyline in the 2023 Draft is the continued trend of North American talent taking alternative paths from the traditional NCAA route and we’ll see names called from a number of different leagues and atypical programs. 

While there will be lottery players called from the G League Ignite, Overtime Elite, and overseas, don’t sleep on the stars from customary NCAA powerhouses that will likely be drafted in the back half of the first round. Amari Bailey, Chris Livingston, and Daimion Collins were high school superstars who may have something to prove with how their games will translate to the highest level of the sport. They have all dominated everywhere they have played up until this point and will fight to show why they deserve mid-first round consideration. 

Professional teams in the top European leagues continue to pump out NBA talent as well – many at the same rate as blue blood basketball factories of the NCAA. Sidy Cissoko (Baskonia–Spain), Nikola Djurisic (Mega Mozzart–Serbia), and Roko Prkacin (Cibona Zagreb–Croatia) all play against elite talent at the professional level and that experience at a young age makes their skills projectable to the NBA. Here are players that will be in consideration for first-round selections.

21. Arthur Kaluma, F, Creighton

22. Sidy Cissoko, W, Baskonia (Spain)

23. Amari Bailey, G, UCLA

24. Chris Livingston, F, Kentucky

25. Rayan Rupert, G, New Zealand Breakers (Australia)

26. Nolan Hickman, G, Gonzaga

27. Roko Prkacin, F, Cibona (Croatia)

28. Ousmane Ndiaye, C, Telekom Bonn (Germany)

29. Jordan Hawkins, G, Connecticut

30. Nikola Djurisic, F, Mega Mozzart (Serbia)

31. Kowacie Reeves, G, Florida

32. Jazian Gortman, G, Overtime Elite

33. Matthew Cleveland, G, Florida State

34. Daimion Collins, C, Kentucky

35. Taran Armstrong, G, Cal Baptist

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