Discover more from No Ceilings
2023 NBA Draft Grades...Well, Sort Of
Our own Tyler Rucker looks back at the 2023 NBA Draft with analysis on every NBA team's draft haul
I can’t stand Draft Grades.
Sorry folks, just have to get this off of my chest. Draft grades are fascinating, they are addicting to look up and I have the highest amount of respect for all of the talented writers out there that publish grades when it comes to each NBA draft class.
But the biggest problem I have with giving teams immediate grades is we don’t know what’s going to happen for each organization. Teams are going to look drastically different in the next couple of months, especially with Free Agency getting underway.
One of the golden rules I’ve always been taught when it comes to evaluating young players in the NBA is “give them three years, then re-evaluate.” So personally, I’ve never been a big fan to rush and try to immediately grade out a draft haul.
Let’s understand that a lot of these players are unfinished products. Let’s give them some time to find their footing and look back after a couple of years to see what went right and what went wrong.
The 2023 NBA draft has come and gone. It’s an incredible sentence for some of us to write. Personally, I slept more in the last week than I did in the previous month. After the last pick of the second round, my brain officially hit 0% and it was time to recharge the batteries.
But the Draft sickos know this feeling all too well. A couple of days after entering the “I need to step away for a bit” part of draft season, you start to get a cold sweat down your spine. As a good friend of mine texted me the day after the draft…
“What do we do now?”
Rest is always key. Family is always number one. But the draft grind never stops. It’s a rollercoaster that continues to climb before an epic dive brings us excitement and joy. Once that glorious ride finishes, a new set of passengers hop aboard and we wipe the slate clean to open our minds to another adventure.
Below are some of my personal rankings when it comes to how teams did in the NBA draft. As is tradition at No Ceilings, we like to focus on the positivity of the game of basketball. There’s a lot of intrigue with some of the moves that each team made on draft night. So let’s get into it.
“I’m Having A Great Time”
Taylor Hendricks | Forward | UCF (9th)
Keyonte George | Guard | Baylor (16th)
Brice Sensabaugh | Forward | Ohio State (28th)
Danny Ainge and the Utah Jazz Front Office are doing some dangerous things. Utah left the 2023 NBA draft with my favorite draft haul. There was plenty of buzz about the Jazz trying to be active to move up from their picks at 16 and 28, but I thought the Jazz did an outstanding job of letting the board fall into place and attacking value.
After being one of the pleasant surprises of the 2022-23 season, Utah went out and added value across the board. UCF freshman forward Taylor Hendricks is going to be a high-floor talent who will be able to space the floor and offer defensive upside early on. Once the rest of his game starts to come together, Hendricks could be a building block for years to come.
Personally, I’m much higher on Keyonte George than others might be. I think George has the offensive weaponry to be a dangerous addition to this Jazz roster. Not only did George showcase he can be a bucket-getter while at Baylor, but he also demonstrated some sensational playmaking upside. George will need some time to find his groove, but I believe the NBA game will fit his style well.
Getting Brice Sensabaugh at 28 has the potential to be an absolute steal for the Jazz. Sensabaugh was an efficient offensive force for the Ohio State Buckeyes in his freshman year. He fell in the draft due to medical concerns. If Sensabaugh can stay healthy, he can be a machine on the offensive side of the ball. The defense will need to come around, but his offense is NBA-ready.
Ausar Thompson | Wing | Overtime Elite (5th)
Marcus Sasser | Guard | Houston (25th)
Detroit is inching toward taking the next step in its young rebuild. The Front Office has done a great job of putting together some intriguing young talent with this roster. Heading into the 2023 NBA draft, the Pistons were one of the most intriguing teams to monitor on the night of the draft. After hiring Monty Williams this offseason, the Pistons have all the pieces in place to take a big step forward for the 2023-24 season.
But in order to do so, the Pistons would have to leave the draft night with another strong haul. That’s just what they did. Adding Ausar Thompson with the fifth overall pick is a tremendous addition to the versatility of this roster. Ausar projects to be a versatile swiss-army-knife on the wing with a strong feel for the game and impressive athleticism. There’s potential for Ausar to develop into a terrifying defensive talent, something that will pair beautifully alongside Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.
One of my favorite selections for the Pistons was the addition of Houston guard Marcus Sasser. The Pistons need to build depth and Sasser has the tools to be a sensational change of pace guard from this class. Detroit is building something serious. This haul was a mentality setter. Sasser’s addition cannot be understated, as the Pistons should be ready to roll with a youthful roster that is prepared to start taking the steps necessary to get back into the conversation in the Eastern Conference.
Los Angeles Lakers
Jalen Hood-Schifino | Guard | Indiana (17th)
Maxwell Lewis | Wing | Pepperdine (40th)
Just a really nice haul for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have been aggressive in adding pieces around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With the Lakers acquiring some great surrounding talent at last year’s Trade Deadline, this team suddenly looks like one that could have a better shot at having some consistency for the 2023-24 season.
Jalen Hood-Schifino showed some fantastic flashes throughout his freshman year at Indiana. He’s a plus-sized combo guard with a mature feel for the game and is lethal when it comes to getting to his spots on the floor. Hood-Schifino had some stretches throughout the year in which he looked like a potential top-10 selection. He missed some time with a back injury last year, but Hood-Schifino has the upside to be a sensational get at 17th overall for the Lakers.
I was a bit surprised to see Pepperdine wing Maxwell Lewis fall to 40th in the draft. Lewis was a man on a mission throughout the first half of the season for the Waves this year, putting up eye-opening numbers. After hitting a bit of a wall, scouts had plenty of questions about just how ready Lewis might be. The offensive tools are there to develop and Lewis is a late-bloomer. If the Lakers play it patiently with his development, he could turn into tremendous value down the road.
Portland Trail Blazers
Scoot Henderson | Guard | G League Ignite (3rd)
Kris Murray | Forward | Iowa (23rd)
Rayan Rupert | Wing | NZ Breakers (43rd)
Look. I understand that everyone wants to talk about Damian Lillard. But the Portland Trail Blazers had a HECK of a haul for the 2023 NBA Draft. Portland will be the topic of conversation moving forward due to the recent trade request from Lillard. After jumping up into the top 3 on lottery night, Portland found itself in a position to add a potential star for the future.
That’s just what happened with G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson falling into their laps. Henderson has the tools to be a superstar and he couldn’t have ended up in a better spot for the future. The Trail Blazers have a potential sophomore breakout candidate in Shaedon Sharpe, who was selected 7th overall in the 2022 NBA draft. Adding Scoot alongside Sharpe for the future is just awesome.
Portland wasn’t done there, adding Iowa forward Kris Murray (did you know he has a brother?) with the 23rd pick. That’s another strong addition for the Trail Blazers, getting a potential plug-and-play piece like Murray who can make an impact early on. Murray isn’t as offensively advanced as his brother Keegan, but he took strides forward this year and will be a strong connecting piece for years to come.
Getting Rayan Rupert at 43 is another awesome addition. Rupert is going to need time to develop, but he’s got the physical profile and mentality defensively to be an absolute pest as a defender. If Rupert can continue to improve his outside shot, he’s going to be another strong addition in the future.
Noah Clowney | Forward | Alabama (21st)
Dariq Whitehead | Wing | Duke (22nd)
Jalen Wilson | Forward | Kansas (51st)
Brooklyn finds itself with a roster that is still attempting to find a direction. With Mikal Bridges looking to be “the piece” to build around moving forward, Brooklyn understands it still needs to start to add pieces throughout the draft. Despite having Noah Clowney lower on my board, I thought adding him with one of their two first-round selections was a great call. Clowney has the tools to be a versatile big paired with his shot-blocking ability, but he’s going to be raw. He’s got a smooth-looking shot from outside but is going to need time for it to come around on a more consistent level. For a team that can afford to be patient with development, Clowney is a smart addition.
The real interesting addition for Brooklyn is Dariq Whitehead at 22. Coming into the 2022-23 NCAA season, Whitehead was viewed as a preseason top-5 pick. After numerous injuries, Whitehead never looked like the prospect many remembered coming out of high school. Despite the lack of explosiveness, Dariq took huge strides forward with his outside shot. Dariq had a second surgery to repair his right foot, something that was done by Nets surgeon Dr. Martin O’Malley. Whitehead could become one of the top-valued selections in this class, especially if he can get healthy with time. If Brooklyn plays the long-road vision with Whitehead, they could have a heck of an addition.
Jalen Wilson was another potentially great valued selection at 51st overall. After averaging 20.1 points per game, Wilson showcased he can be an offensive force with the Jayhawks. Wilson won’t be force-fed like he was last year, but that could present the opportunity for a sneaky addition to the rotation. He will need to get more efficient, but there’s some versatility to unlock for the talented forward.
“Sneaky & Smart”
Oklahoma City Thunder
Cason Wallace | Guard | Kentucky (10th)
Keyontae Johnson | Forward | Kansas State (50th)
It seems as if every year we are all fascinated about the direction that the Oklahoma City Thunder can go in on draft night. The Thunder know it’s time for this team to make a push. They are going to draw plenty of buzz and excitement as a potential playoff contender on the rise for the 2023-24 season. With the 2022 NBA draft 2nd overall pick, and potential Rookie of the Year candidate Chet Holmgren back in the mix, the Thunder are going to get a sizable boost of excitement in their lineup.
OKC struck gold last year with the selection of Jalen Williams, who has become one of the most versatile assets on the roster. The backcourt has plenty of talented stars in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. That left some wondering if OKC could pivot and look to add to another area of “need.” Instead, OKC moved up to the 10th overall selection to “Go Get Their Guy.” That turned out to be Kentucky Wildcats combo guard Cason Wallace. On paper, I understand why some might question the pick, due to the plethora of guards already on OKC’s roster. But I couldn’t love the selection more.
This Thunder roster is ready to make a big step. To do so, this team needs to build depth. You can have as talented of a starting five as possible, but to build future success you need to have a 7-8 man rotation that can offer versatility come playoff time. Wallace is an absolute gamer. He’s a relentless defender who plays the game with poise and an impressive feel. His life is going to get a lot easier in OKC with a plethora of talent surrounding him on the perimeter.
Don’t sleep on Keyontae Johnson as well. Johnson was a big-time recruit before collapsing on the court during a game while attending Florida. After being cleared to return to the court, he transferred to Kansas State and had a sensational season. Despite being older, Johnson still has the toughness and versatility to be a player who can find a way to stick in a rotation.
Julian Strawther | Wing | Gonzaga (29th)
Jalen Pickett | Guard | Penn State (32nd)
Hunter Tyson | Forward | Clemson (37th)
The Nuggets have a roster that is looking to be a force for years to come in the Western Conference. After acquiring numerous picks in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA Finals, it looked as if Denver was targeting a number of specific players in an intriguing range for the draft. Fresh off an NBA championship, Denver looks to have a potential gem in 2022 first-round selection Christian Braun.
With versatile pieces like Bruce Brown heading into free agency, Denver looked to this year's draft to attempt to find some more pieces to add to their rotation. They found one in Gonzaga wing Julian Strawther. A willing rebounder who took tremendous strides with his outside shooting this year, Strawther should be a sensational addition to the rotation alongside Braun.
Denver wasn’t done there, as they added Jalen Pickett and Hunter Tyson, two players that could groom to be high IQ players moving forward. For a championship team that is built to defend their crown during the 2023-24 season, the Nuggets are understanding the value of continuing to add throughout the draft.
Dereck Lively II | Center | Duke (12th)
Olivier-Maxence Prosper | Forward | Marquette (24th)
The Dallas Mavericks were rumored to be aggressively shopping the 10th overall pick heading into the 2023 NBA draft. While many of us assumed that Dallas could be a team to trade out of their selection for veteran help, the Mavericks shocked us with a fantastic curveball. With the 2023 class, Dallas found itself in a position in which there could be an enticing piece on the board for the Mavericks.
That’s just what happened and Dallas did a fantastic job of utilizing their positioning to improve the team’s future moving forward. Dallas would move back to 12th after a draft day trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder while unloading Davis Bertans contract in the process. They would then go on to draft Duke big man Dereck Lively II, giving them a potential anchor in the middle of the paint and a friendly lob threat for superstar Luka Doncic. Lively will need some time to find his groove, but his length and defensive upside should give the Mavericks something they’ve desperately needed.
The Mavericks weren’t done there, as they traded back into the first round to target Marquette's versatile forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper. Dallas has needed to start adding some strategic pieces around Doncic to start shaping this roster moving forward. With the additions of Lively and Prosper, the Mavericks now suddenly have two defensive-minded talents that can make an impact with their versatility on the court.
Golden State Warriors
Brandon Podziemski | Guard | Santa Clara (19th)
Trayce Jackson-Davis | Forward | Indiana (57th)
It was a strong haul for newly promoted GM Mike Dunleavy Jr. Golden State sent shockwaves before the 2023 NBA draft with the trade of Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards in return for “point gawd” Chris Paul. Despite the fact that former GM Bob Myers has moved on, this class looks to have the potential to be a statement setter for Dunleavy moving forward.
Brandin Podziemski was one of the most impressive players in college basketball last year. The sophomore Santa Clara guard is as competitive as they come and isn’t afraid to mix it up on the boards. Podziemski has the size and shiftiness to give the Warriors an intriguing combo guard addition to their rotation.
Don’t overlook the Warriors’ addition of Indiana senior Trayce Jackson-Davis. Despite a shocking fall in the draft, TJD couldn’t have landed in a better situation. TJD has the game that the Warriors will love and personally, it’s one of my favorite “fits” from the entire 2023 NBA draft.
Jarace Walker | Foward | Houston (8th)
Ben Sheppard | Wing | Belmont (26th)
Mojave King | Wing | G League Ignite (47th)
Isaiah Wong | Guard | Miami (55th)
Indiana might not be the poster child when it comes to overall draft hauls. But this organization has done a tremendous job of putting the pieces together over the years. After striking gold with Bennedict Mathurin in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Pacers now have a dangerous backcourt duo in Mathurin and Tyrese Haliburton. But as with many teams trying to take the next step in their “rebuild”, building out the depth is the next step.
Jarace Walker has the tools to be one of the best additions to any roster in this draft. He’s a versatile asset on both sides of the floor that is going to make an impact well beyond the box scores. Walker’s shot will be the focus moving forward, but what he already offers is a tremendous feel for the game on both sides of the floor and a high work ethic. Pairing him alongside Myles Turner will give the Pacers a serious tone-setting presence in the frontcourt.
Belmont’s Ben Sheppard gives the Pacers another versatile wing who can light it up from the perimeter in a hurry. Time will tell if the Pacers look to move on from Buddy Hield, but Sheppard’s intangibles and IQ should be a big addition. Sheppard was a name that was quietly making some noise throughout the 2022-23 NCAA season and followed that up with an impressive pre-draft process.
Mojave King had some impressive flashes throughout the year with the G League Ignite. He’s going to need to be more consistent, but his impact on tape didn’t match up with his production on paper. Isaiah Wong has the tools to be a bit of a diamond in the rough. He’s an explosive ball handler with some freakish lower body burst. Wong could be a name that finds a way to stick on this roster as a change-of-pace guard.
Brandon Miller | Forward | Alabama (2nd)
Nick Smith Jr. | Guard | Arkansas (27th)
James Nnaji | Center | Barcelona (31st)
Amari Bailey | Guard | UCLA (41st)
The Charlotte Hornets went ahead and added a potential offensive force on the perimeter in Alabama freshman Brandon Miller. While plenty will wonder if Charlotte should have gone with Scoot Henderson, Miller has the tools to offer superstar upside as well. Miller was the best player in college basketball last year, impacting the game with his impressive outside shooting and desire to attack the boards. His playmaking is extremely slept on and there’s a chance that Miller could be a dream addition alongside LaMelo Ball.
Nick Smith Jr. went a bit later than some might have expected, but there’s potential for this to be a great potential grab for the Hornets. Smith should come in with expectations low, as he will be behind LaMelo Ball in the rotation. If Smith can get some confidence back, he should have the opportunity to experience some growth throughout the regular season.
After adding Mark Williams in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Hornets added another fantastic long-term big man talent in Barcelona’s James Nnaji. Still just 18 years old, Nnaji will be a force on the defensive side of the ball early. His offensive game will need PLENTY of time to develop, but he can be a sneaky addition early as a rotation big behind Williams. Amari Bailey is another strong value addition for the Hornets. He was playing some of his best basketball during the second half of the 2022-23 NCAA season and could be a solid combo guard addition to the rotation.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. | Wing | UCLA (18th)
Sometimes the NBA draft can be simple for smart teams. That’s just what the Miami Heat did with their selection of UCLA wing Jaime Jaquez Jr. with the 18th overall pick. Jaquez has an old man at the YMCA game. He’s got some of the best footwork in this entire draft and was reportedly “dominating” workouts throughout the pre-draft process. Jaquez checks a ton of boxes that the Heat are looking for. He’s a versatile player on both sides of the floor that competes at a high level and isn’t afraid to mix it up inside.
For teams looking for potential “plug-and-play” options, Jaquez was going to be near the top of the list. While his upside might not be as high as others, Jaquez has the potential to step in day one and be a boost for Miami’s rotation. He’s a high basketball IQ player who understands his strengths and limitations.
“Fasten Your Seatbelts”
Amen Thompson | Guard | Overtime Elite (4th)
Cam Whitmore | Forward | Villanova (20th)
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have liftoff. The Houston Rockets have a roster that features a plethora of young talent on the rise. Year three will be a crucial one for young wing Jalen Green, as players of his mold are expected to take a sizable leap in their third season. Last year's third overall pick Jabari Smith Jr. was starting to show some serious signs during the second half of the 2022-23 season and will be ready to roll. Alperen Sengun should be in-line for a big season and the addition of Ime Udoka should shake things up in a positive way for the locker room.
Adding Amen Thompson with the fourth pick couldn’t have been a better fit for both parties. Amen is a gifted playmaker with sensational athleticism. He could be a rookie that comes out of the gates strong, especially with his ability in transition and his terrifying first step. Cam Whitmore was viewed as a potential top-5 selection weeks before the draft. After buzz surrounding some medical issues, Whitmore saw his stock fall on the night of the draft.
There will be some growing pains with Whitmore, but the talent and upside are sensational value at 20. For the Rockets to land two potential Top-5 talents in this class, it’s going to be a slam dunk of a haul. But the next challenge for Ime Udoka is finding a way to put all of the pieces together. On paper, the Rockets took a big step forward. But now it’s time to start putting together the results.
Anthony Black | Guard | Arkansas (6th)
Jett Howard | Wing | Michigan (11th)
I absolutely LOVE what the Orlando Magic did in the 2023 NBA draft. Orlando is a team that is beating down a wall to get to the next step of their rebuild. Coming into the 2023 draft, Orlando was armed with two selections in the lottery. If they hit, the Magic could quickly become an exciting team on the rise. There’s been a plethora of guards on this roster for the Magic over the last several seasons. Markelle Fultz was strong last year. Jalen Suggs has shown some flashes, as well as Cole Anthony.
But Arkansas freshman Anthony Black has the potential to be a franchise piece as a floor general. We’ve seen a wave of plus-sized ball handlers have great success at the NBA level. Black not only has fantastic playmaking and vision on the court, but he’s an underrated defender with some serious upside. Many wondered if Orlando would target shooting with their second selection in the lottery. That’s just what they did, adding Michigan freshman wing Jett Howard.
Howard was impressive out of the gate for the Wolverines this year, lighting it up from all around the perimeter. He’s a lethal catch-and-shoot weapon who has the potential to be a dream fit for the Magic. Howard played through multiple lower-body injuries throughout the year, something that can present challenges for movement shooters. Orlando adding Anthony Black and Jett Howard now suddenly gives the Magic the potential to have a gigantic starting lineup of versatility and size. I love the direction this team is heading. This could be a fun year for Magic fans.
San Antonio Spurs
Victor Wembanyama | Center | Metropolitans 92 (1st)
Sidy Cissoko | Wing | G League Ignite (44th)
It was going to be a big win for the San Antonio Spurs the moment that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made it official on stage. Victor Wembanyama is going to be the missing piece to start to get this Spurs franchise back on the rapid rise in the Western Conference. The expectations for year one will need to get a bit realistic. Victor is about to experience a rapid change in his day-to-day grind. After a favorable schedule with the Metropolitans 92, the NBA grind could present some challenging obstacles for the Spurs to monitor in his rookie season.
San Antonio is going to play it smart with Victor and he’s going to be awesome while delivering on the hype of being the first overall pick. But, let’s let him play a couple of years before we start comparing him to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Despite landing Victor, I thought the Spurs added another awesome piece in G League Ignite wing Sidy Cissoko. There was a lack of buzz around the league about Cissoko, but I still think he’s got some tremendous tools to develop for a team like the Spurs. Cissoko improved throughout the year and showed some fantastic upside with his playmaking ability. He’s got the mentality you want from a wing, as he will get downhill and attack with vicious intentions.
Andre Jackson Jr. | Wing | UConn (36th)
Chris Livingston | Forward | Kentucky (58th)
If you want to talk about a team taking some swings, then the Milwaukee Bucks are right at the top of the list. The Bucks have all of their foundational pieces in place, but adding some potential wrinkles to their rotation could install some chaos. UConn wing Andre Jackson Jr. is going to be one of the most fascinating names to keep an eye on moving forward. While the outside shot won’t be a game-changer for AJJ, he’s the definition of a game-wrecker. Jackson makes an impact in so many different ways and is a freak of nature type of athlete. If Milwaukee trusts him to let him run wild, he could be a fun wildcard on their roster.
Chris Livingston was an interesting prospect coming into the 2022-23 NCAA season but failed to live up to some expectations at Kentucky. He’s got the tools to be a strong developmental piece and could turn into a connecting piece in a rotation. Milwaukee found themselves leaving with two second-round “swings” that could have the potential to stick on this roster moving forward.
“You Had My Curiosity, Now You Have My Attention”
Leonard Miller | Forward | G League Ignite (33rd)
Jaylen Clark | Wing | UCLA (53rd)
If you’ve listened to the No Ceilings NBA Draft show throughout the year, you should know that myself and Tyler Metcalf were foaming at the mouth to see where Leonard Miller ended up on draft night. It’s only fitting that Miller landed with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Some speculated that Miller could be a top-20 pick heading into the draft. But the buzz around the league wasn’t as high compared to the public.
Regardless, Miller had one of the most impressive years of any prospect in terms of his development while playing for the G League Ignite. He’s an agent of chaos on the court and is an active force around the basket with a nose for being a “garbage man” on the glass. Miller will still need some time to allow things to click, but he has the versatility and skill set to be an intriguing addition to this roster.
The name to keep an eye on is UCLA wing, Jaylen Clark. He suffered an Achilles injury late in the season, something that kept him unable to perform in workouts for teams. Clark is an athletic wing who is a disruptor on the defensive side of the floor. The former PAC-12 defensive player of the year landed in a good spot and plays the game with a high motor. His defensive ability alone could find him carving out a role on this roster.
Kobe Bufkin | Guard | Michigan (15th)
Mouhamed Gueye | Center | Washington State (39th)
Seth Lundy (46th) | Wing | Penn State
The Atlanta Hawks came into the 2023 NBA draft as one of the most fascinating teams. With the 15th overall selection, there was a chance that Atlanta was going to be starring at some fantastic value. The end of the lottery is always a hot spot for value to enter the conversation. That’s just how draft night played out for the Hawks with Michigan’s Kobe Bufkin on the board with the 15th pick.
Despite having Murray and Trae Young on the roster, Bufkin is a strong addition for the Hawks who are looking to be an active team this offseason. Bufkin has the tools to be a versatile addition to the backcourt with his two-way upside and defensive ability. Atlanta’s roster still has plenty of questions, but adding someone like Bufkin is a great addition moving forward. Mouhamed Gueye has been an intriguing talent who has shown plenty of flashes during his time at Washington State. If Gueye can put the tools together on a consistent level, he could be a solid valued selection.
Seth Lundy is another big-body wing who just knows how to put the ball in the hoop. He’s a candidate to be a name that could carve out a role in the rotation earlier than expected, especially if there’s a big overhaul with this roster.
New Orleans Pelicans
Jordan Hawkins | Guard | UConn (14th)
New Orleans was another intriguing team heading into the 2023 NBA draft just because they could have gone in so many different directions with their selection. There was plenty of buzz about the team trying to be aggressive to move up for G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson. Instead, the Pelicans decided to stay put and selected UConn sharpshooter Jordan Hawkins.
The Pelicans are in a tough spot as they hope that Zion Williamson can remain healthy moving forward. The addition of Hawkins cannot be overlooked, as he gives this New Orleans team a DANGEROUS addition to their roster. Hawkins drew plenty of praise for his movement shooting, and it’s well deserved. But personally, I believe there’s much more versatility waiting to be unlocked with his game. Hawkins should pair beautifully with last year’s lottery pick Dyson Daniels to give this organization two exciting pieces to groom for the future.
Gradey Dick | Wing | Kansas (13th)
The Toronto Raptors could look much different next season, with plenty of buzz surrounding the team heading into the offseason. The rumors surrounding the future of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby will continue to fly around. Scottie Barnes should be a name that could take a serious stride forward in his third season as well.
While I thought that the Raptors could be looking to target an addition in their backcourt, I quickly got intrigued with the selection of Kansas wing Gradey Dick. The 6’8” freshman is a versatile piece on the offensive side of the ball. Gradey can be a dangerous catch-and-shoot weapon, but he’s also an intelligent player off the ball who can dice defenses up with his anticipation and cutting ability. Adding Gradey into the mix gives the Raptors some serious shooting for this roster. Regardless of what the team could look like next season, the idea of adding Gradey to this foundation is a great move for the Front Office.
“Versatility is Welcomed”
Los Angeles Clippers
Kobe Brown | Forward | Missouri (30th)
Jordan Miller | Wing | Miami (48th)
The Clippers gave some Draft diehards the first big “curveball” of the 2023 NBA draft with the selection of Missouri forward Kobe Brown. There was a buzz that Brown had plenty of fans in front offices. It’s hard to ignore just how impressive of a season he had for the Tigers last year. Brown was a versatile piece that stood out with his ability to play a wide range of roles for Missouri last year. He was an efficient force, averaging 15.8 points per game on shooting splits of 55/45/79.
Brown is going to draw the classic nod of a player that is good at a lot of areas but is he elite at one specific skill? If he can continue to showcase the versatility that was on display for the Tigers last year, then there’s no doubt the Clippers got an intriguing piece.
Jordan Miller is one of those players that looks like he’s going to figure out a way to stick in the league for a long time. He was impressive during Miami’s NCAA tournament run and could offer a nice boost in the rotation. For a Clippers team that has a lot of star power in their starting lineup, it’s clear that finding some versatile pieces to boost the rotation was a goal with this haul.
Colby Jones | Wing | Xavier (34th)
Jalen Slawson | Forward | Furman (54th)
LIGHT THE BEAM. Sacramento was a pleasant surprise throughout the 2022-23 season and will be looking to take another step forward next year. GM Monte McNair has done a tremendous job over the years of putting the right pieces together for this roster. Keegan Murray looks positioned for a big sophomore season after being selected 4th overall in 2022. The Kings could still look to be active in free agency, but the team is going to look to add strategic pieces that can carve out a role in the rotation.
Personally, I thought getting Xavier’s Colby Jones at 34 was an awesome value. Jones might not have the upside that other prospects have, but he has a mature approach to his game. He’s a talented wing with versatility who understands how to play to his strengths on the basketball court. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jones finds a way to contribute to this roster early on.
Furman forward Jalen Slawson is another interesting one to keep an eye on. Slawson had his “allow me to introduce myself” moment during the NCAA tournament, but he can play. It might take some time in the G League for him to get his groove, but Slawson has some outstanding playmaking and vision on the court for a player of his position.
Jordan Walsh | Wing | Arkansas (38th)
After the jaw-dropping trade of Marcus Smart/Kristaps Porzingis trade, the Boston Celtics found themselves picking 25th heading into the draft. After a pair of trade backs, Boston added Arkansas freshman wing Jordan Walsh with the 38th overall pick.
Walsh still has plenty of ways to go with his offensive game, but Boston is a team that understands that. This roster is going to have plenty of offensive firepower, but there’s a desire to find a defensive stopper moving forward. Walsh has the defensive tools and versatility to be a heck of an addition to this roster. The question remains just how quickly can Walsh hit the ground running? It could be a strong addition, that will take some time to find his footing, but Walsh has the NBA skills on defense that could make him a sneaky add for the Celtics.
Toumani Camara | Forward | Dayton (52nd)
I mean, what did we expect after the Bradley Beal trade? In all seriousness, Phoenix is going to have one of the most talented starting lineups in the entire league next year. But as history shows us, you need to have depth. With so much salary tied up on this roster, the Suns are going to have to be aggressive in trying to find some pieces that can step up in their rotation.
The Suns also are going to need to find some potential options that could offer some versatility on a cheap deal. Dayton forward Toumani Camara had an impressive season and was a name generating some buzz throughout the draft process. Camara has good size at 6’8” and averaged 13.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game with splits of 54/36/66.
“Let’s Swing For the Fences”
Bilal Coulibaly | Wing | Metropolitans 92 (7th)
Tristan Vukcevic | Center | Partizan (42nd)
The Washington Wizards were the talk of the town heading into the draft. After a Front Office overhaul, the Wizards have finally hit the “reset” button when it comes to their rebuilding process. The first move was trading Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns. After that, the Wizards now have some clarity when it comes to establishing a vision for the future. Despite a rocky rookie season, Johnny Davis is going to be a candidate for a sophomore breakout. Davis has shown throughout his basketball career that he can have big leaps in his game from year-to-year.
Washington is shaping to have the opportunity to let their young pieces get playing time this year, something that cannot be overlooked when it comes to developing talent. Jordan Poole was brought in via trade and the internet loves to let you know that he’s going to lead the league in scoring.
Bilal Coulibaly was the hottest name in the universe leading up to the draft. After spending the year playing alongside Victor Wembanyama with the Metropolitans 92, Coulibaly started to generate the intrigue of NBA personnel. He’s going to need experience, as Coulibaly is raw but has a tremendous foundation of skills that are ready to be molded. The Wizards could be a tremendous landing spot for Coulibaly, who can learn through playing experience. The talent is there, but it’s going to take some time and some patience for everything to fall into place.
Tristan Vukcevic had been generating some buzz overseas over the years with his smooth shooting stroke from deep. After an impressive showing during the NBA draft combine scrimmages, it seemed as if Vukcevic was going to get himself selected at some point. The outside shot is legit, but Vukcevic will need to develop on the defensive side of the ball if he’s going to become a rotation piece moving forward.
Gregory “GG” Jackson II | Forward | South Carolina (45th)
Tarik Biberovic | Forward | Fenerbahce (56th)
Many were wondering what direction the Memphis Grizzlies could go in on draft night. But the story of the offseason for Memphis took place even before they found themselves on the clock. The Grizzlies sent shockwaves throughout the NBA world with their acquisition of former Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart. There’s no player that could be a better fit for this Grizzlies team moving forward, as Smart will give a gigantic spark to the Grizzlies roster.
For a team that has done such a strong job of building throughout the draft, the Grizzlies jumped at an opportunity to take a HECK of a swing in this class. Gregory “GG” Jackson II has the tools to be an offensive force at the next level. He was a name that was projected to be a top-20 pick for the majority of the 2023 draft cycle. Jackson reclassified to be a freshman last year, meaning he was one of the youngest players in this entire class.
Poor shot selection and a tough pre-draft process didn’t help Jackson’s stock, but there’s a chance he could have landed with a fantastic organization for his development. Tarik Biberovic was a selection that had 99% of draft analysts going through their notes. He should be a draft-and-stash candidate.
Julian Phillips | Forward | Tennessee (35th)
Chicago came into the 2023 NBA Draft not expecting to make a selection. But that was until the Bulls made a move to go acquire the 35th pick. For a team that wasn’t expecting to make a pick, I loved the mentality of Chicago to add Julian Phillips to their roster. The Tennessee freshman forward isn’t going to wow you with his stats from his only season with the Volunteers, but Phillips could be a potential diamond in the rough in this class.
Phillips has plenty of offensive upside that was only teased last year. The defensive chops are legit and he’s got the potential to be a strong two-way force down the road. The shot will need to come around, something that I personally still believing it will continue to trend upward. For a team that didn’t have a pick, leaving the draft with Phillips, is a strong value grab, especially in the second round.
Emoni Bates | Wing | Eastern Michigan (49th)
The Cleveland Cavaliers did it. After a late workout with the Cavaliers before the draft, many wondered if Emoni Bates could be on the radar for Cleveland. Bates was one of the most hyped high school prospects before enrolling at Memphis. We all know how brutal of an experience that one season was, but Bates still showed the potential to be a unique offensive weapon during the 2022-23 NCAA season with Eastern Michigan.
Despite showing some impressive flashes during his play at the NBA draft combine, Bates is going to need to overhaul his game to stick at the next level. The talent is there to do so, but he’s not going to have the freedom that he did while playing for the Eagles last year. If Bates can become a more efficient player while unlocking some playmaking chops, there’s a chance that this could be a worthy gamble for the Cavaliers especially late in the second round.
“When Does Free Agency Start?
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks moved their 2023 first-round selection to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Josh Hart. It turned out to be a sensational move for the Knicks, as Hart became a huge piece of the puzzle for the team. The focus for this Knicks team will be looking to upgrade their roster throughout the offseason.
Philadelphia didn’t have a draft pick. James Harden says hello. The 76ers were active after the draft, adding some notable UDFAs. NC State sophomore Terquavion Smith impressed during the 2022 NBA draft combine and looked to be a name on the rise heading into his sophomore year. He showcased some promising growth in his game as a playmaker and is a bucket-getting machine. He will be a name to watch out for, especially in Summer League.
Arkansas wing Ricky Council IV is another one to monitor. Despite the questions about his outside shot, Council is tough and has some freakish athleticism. Arizona big man Azuolas Tubelis was a productive force for the Wildcats throughout his career and could be a name that could stick down the road.