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2023 NBA Draft Superlatives
The No Ceilings crew gives their draft superlatives in the aftermath of a wild 2023 NBA Draft Night.
The 2023 NBA Draft is in the books! It was a wild night filled with excitement, twists, and surprises. For 58 men, it was the realization of a dream. Still, in the coming days, many more players will sign NBA contracts.
Draft night may be over, but now, the ramifications of the draft are here. Today, the No Ceilings crew will walk you through some of our superlatives from draft night, and what it means for players and teams going forward!
1. Who was the biggest “riser” on draft night?
Nathan: Bilal Coulibaly. To see his stock go from nowhere on draft boards preseason to ending up inside the top half of the lottery is nothing short of remarkable. Coulibaly’s development in the Espoirs U21 league stuck out to me when I was able to watch the tape, and while those flashes of on-ball scoring and playmaking exist, he also possesses a solid floor as an off-ball cutter, finisher, and multi-positional defender as a 6’8” athletic wing. Well done to the Washington Wizards for taking a swing on a player that exemplifies when growth meets opportunity!
Rucker: I’ve got to go with Kobe Brown. I thought Brown was going to be a sneaky candidate to offer some intriguing value when you got toward the middle of the second round. There were some interesting names on the board still, but the Clippers decided to go all-in with Brown. He had a fantastic season for Missouri and was an efficient force who was asked to do basically everything for the Tigers. I wasn’t surprised to see an NBA team be all-in on Brown; just seeing his name at the end of the first was surprising.
Corey: I’m stoked that the Heat took Jaime Jaquez Jr. inside of the Top 20. I’ve had Jaquez as a Top 20 guy for two years running. He’s a big badass wing that can do a little bit of everything on the floor. His agility, footwork, and feel allow him to play at his own pace and find his spots on the floor. There is no better mentor for Jaquez, both stylistically and in mentality, than Jimmy G Buckets. He is Heat Culture incarnate.
Metcalf: Kobe Brown was a big surprise for me. I liked his game, but I was skeptical about whether the shot was real or not. The Clippers taking him in the first round is a huge testament to his growth and their belief in his game. Brown was on the fence about potentially returning to school for another year, so it’s great to see that the advice he got was well worth the gamble of staying in.
Nick: There were quite a few surprise risers on draft night, but I don’t think any of them surprised me quite as much as Kobe Brown. I was not expecting him to end up going in the first round, but the Clippers clearly buy into his versatile game and appear to think that his shot is real.
Maxwell: Julian Strawther! He’s a guy that as a collective, we’ve been higher on all season. However, it seemed like he was more of a mid-to-late second-round prospect on many draft boards. Instead, Denver bucked consensus at took him in the first. It’s a tremendous pick that works wonderfully, given what Nikola Jokic brings to the table. Strawther is an adept cutter and legitimate floor spacer with NBA range who has shown that he can get it done in big moments. Yeah, he’s not the greatest athlete, and he’s not an impactful defender. But at pick #29, the Nuggets get another player ready to assume a role.
2. Who was the biggest “faller” on draft night?
Nathan: While there was a real argument for him to stay in school and not come out for the 2023 NBA Draft, GG Jackson going all the way down to #45 was an even greater fall than I had thought. At some point, you take the swing on raw talent, but Jackson’s ceiling is still very much in play, given his age and skill set. At the end of the day, not many 6’9” forwards can handle the ball and shoot off the dribble like he can despite the mixed results from an efficiency perspective. The Memphis Grizzlies zigged while everyone else zagged, and they could be rewarded for it down the line.
Rucker: Trayce Jackson-Davis, but I think it’s going to be a blessing in disguise. TJD might not have been everyone’s “cup of tea” due to him being an older upperclassman, but he also might have ended up in the perfect situation. TJD was traded to the Golden State Warriors, and it wouldn’t shock me if that ends up being one of the biggest steals in this draft. Not only was TJD a force for the Indiana Hoosiers this year, but now he finds himself ending up with a perfect team that could utilize his skills in a big way.
Corey: The popular answer will be Cam Whitmore, but I’m shocked at how far Trayce Jackson-Davis fell. Dating back to 2008, there are eight guys who have met the threshold of an eFG% of 57% or greater, a BLK% of 9.0 or greater, and a BPM of 12.0 or greater. The list is Jackson-Davis, Evan Mobley, Chet Holmgren, Mark Williams, Walker Kessler, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Brandon Clarke. Guys who produce like him have historically turned into very good NBA players. Luckily for him, he gained a massive chip on his shoulder, and he falls into an offense that can make use of his back-to-the-basket playmaking. Trayce rocks, and as he stated on Twitter, teams will regret it.
Metcalf: It has to be Cam Whitmore. We had heard a lot about iffy medicals that were going to drop him out of the top five, but the fact that he fell all the way to #20 was shocking. I hate that he had to sit through that and endure it, but I think it’s an extremely fun landing spot. The Rockets will be one of the most chaotically fun teams to watch next year with their athleticism, and Whitmore will be with an excellent coach who will help grow his game.
Nick: I couldn’t honestly go with any pick here other than Cam Whitmore. I had him fifth on my board, and I was fully expecting him to be drafted in the Top 5 until the intel about possible medical concerns started flying around in the days leading up to the draft. The Rockets picking up Whitmore with the 20th pick is a huge get for them—especially since it seemed reasonably likely that he would be the pick for them at #4.
Maxwell: If you’d told me a few weeks ago that Cam Whitmore was going to go 20th, I’d have thought you were nuts. He was fourth on my board, and word on the ground was actually positive from what I’d heard as it pertained to his workouts. It seems as if a medical issue scared teams off, but at a certain point, you have to put your foot down and take this type of talent. He’ll pressure the rim and finish effectively, knock down threes off the catch, and defend multiple positions. If he hits, you’re dealing with a high-level starter who possesses skills that are meaningful in big games.
3. Who projects as the best UDFA target given how the draft fell?
Nathan: An NBA team bent on finding potential rotation-level wings who can shoot and defend needs to look the way of Landers Nolley II. I thought he was a similar level of prospect as Seth Lundy, so getting Nolley on a two-way deal should be a great get for a team right after the draft. Nolley has the chops to play in the league, rating out well in a number of priority play types per Synergy.
Rucker: I’m a little surprised to see Terquavion Smith go undrafted. He impressed last year at the NBA Draft combine and was looking like a potential late first round pick. That was until he returned for his sophomore campaign and took some notable strides forward in important areas of his game. Still, Smith came in a bit undersized and didn’t have a great showcase at the combine. He’s got the potential to be a great get as an UDFA, but he also might need some time in the G League to get his confidence cooking.
Corey: I really like Adama Sanogo. When I saw him up close at the Big East Tournament, he was one of the guys who popped. He’s got great touch around the rim, he rebounds the ball, showed flashes of outside shotmaking, and can pass a little. He’ll be able to handle NBA physicality early. He’s a productive big with championship pedigree that stylistically can operate in the Bulls offense in similar ways to Vuc. With Drummond’s future up in the air, Sanogo may have an opportunity to earn real rotation minutes.
Metcalf: Terquavion Smith was the highest-ranked on my board who didn’t get picked. After having a stellar combine a year ago and deciding to return, Smith’s draft stock plummeted despite producing similar, if not slightly improved, numbers. Smith is headed to Philly, and it could be a huge steal for them as he’s an electric scorer who improved as a passer and interior finisher.
Nick: Terquavion Smith. I thought that he made huge strides forward as a playmaker this season, even though he didn’t make the kinds of improvements as a finisher that I was hoping to see from him. Still, Smith is an electric scorer when he’s on, and there are plenty of teams that could use his scoring punch on a UDFA deal.
Maxwell: Colin Castleton. He’s a stellar passer for his size, he does a tremendous job of protecting the rim, and he plays with a level of toughness that you can’t teach. It feels like there is no way he isn’t going to hang around as a backup big man for a long time. He’s more versatile as a ball-screen defender than it may first appear, too. He runs and moves a little funny and can look robotic, but when you watch closely, he holds his own on an island and covers ground well. The dude is a pro, plain and simple. He’ll finish, make good decisions, and can defend however he’s asked. He’s plug and play, and teams picking in the later part of the second round likely overthought him. The Lakers are getting a gem, and he’s going to be more ready than most his age to contribute in big moments.
4. “Ladies and gentlemen, we got him!” Which selection screams best “fit” for its team’s fanbase?
Nathan: I’m going Jett Howard here for the Orlando Magic. There were plenty of scouts who moved off Howard during the second half of the college season as a lottery pick, but a number of us here at No Ceilings dug in and kept him there on their boards. Hats off to those who did because this fit is AWESOME. Another plus-sized wing that can dribble, pass, and shoot to play with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner? Yes please! That’s not to mention the possibilities that exist with him playing off fellow draftee Anthony Black. Orlando continues to build a unique roster similar to what the Oklahoma City Thunder are doing.
Rucker: “Go Get Your Guy.” That’s just what the Oklahoma City Thunder did with Cason Wallace. Everyone’s first reaction might have been: “another guard?” But the Thunder clearly have a type. They are adding tough-minded players, regardless of position, that can offer them some versatility on the court. Regardless of what the roster looks like, the Thunder got themselves one of my favorite players in this entire class.
Corey: Shout out to OKC for getting a guy that was tailor-made to play Thunder basketball. The Thunder value length, versatility, and feel. Cason brings all of those things in spades. Wallace was rarely mocked to the Thunder, but he seems like a very cerebral pick by their front office. He’s going to be another guy who will benefit from the Kentucky bump.
Metcalf: Jarace Walker is a dream fit for the Pacers. His defensive versatility is tremendous, he’s a perfect frontcourt pairing with Myles Turner, and his playmaking and ball-handling will provide a tremendous amount of versatility to their offense. I’m not sure I could love a pick more.
Nick: I love the Jett Howard pick for the Orlando Magic. They desperately needed shooting heading into the draft, and after taking Anthony Black at #6, they were going to be in the market for a shooter with the 11th pick. Howard’s combination of shooting and playmaking off the bounce will work wonders next to Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, and Black.
Maxwell: How about Rayan Rupert in THE SECOND ROUND for the Trail Blazers? On our stream, I’d highlighted him as someone I thought the Blazers would target, given their roster construction. Personally, I was lower on him. But by passing on him in the first only to nab him in the second? Love that. He’ll be on a cheaper contract with less pressure. He can take his time playing for their new G League affiliate while developing his scoring arsenal. If his shooting ever comes around, he’ll be a wonderful addition to their exciting young core.
5. Which team had the best overall haul on draft night?
Nathan: I love what the Indiana Pacers did. Everyone at No Ceilings had Jarace Walker valued higher than where the team got him in a one-pick swap, and then they picked Ben Sheppard and Jalen Pickett to add some real backcourt juice for flavor. I get that this team needed some combo forward depth past Walker, but Sheppard and Pickett were two of “my guys” in this class who were experienced and could add real depth (oh, and Isaiah Wong is pretty good to get in the back end of the second round too) in the backcourt. The Pacers should be firmly in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference next season.
Rucker: Utah. What a sensational haul for Jazz fans. Taylor Hendricks is going to be a sensational get, especially with his game on the rise. The Jazz also left with two offensive bucket-getting machines in Keyonte George and Brice Sensabaugh. For a Utah Jazz team that needed to take another step forward in their young “rebuild” here, Utah accomplished that with an impressive haul.
Corey: This was easy for me considering Utah landed three players inside of my personal Top 10—evidence that Danny Ainge may, in fact, be a huge fan of the Draftdaq NBA Draft Show. In a league that puts a premium on shooting, the Jazz drafted three of the top shooters/shot-makers in the class: high potential, high floors, and high entertainment. Let’s hope that they don’t have to don those ugly highlighter jerseys for too long because they’re going to one of the more fun league pass teams.
Metcalf: It’s tough to not be excited about what the Portland Trail Blazers did on draft night. After getting Scoot Henderson, someone I would have #1 in most drafts, they followed up with Kris Murray and Rayan Rupert. Henderson is clearly the superstar you dream about building around, but the other two wings are perfect fits on modern NBA teams. Murray is an excellent rebounder, reliable spot-up shooter, and versatile defender. Rupert has scary defensive upside; the shot needs a lot of work, but it did improve this year. The Blazers just took a lot of steps towards building a really well-rounded, versatile young team.
Nick: The Houston Rockets had pick #4 and pick #20 in this draft, and they got the fifth and sixth-ranked players on my board, so it’s hard for me to go anywhere else here. Honorable mentions in my mind for Utah and Indiana, who both got awesome value for their respective draft hauls, but the Rockets picked up two potential superstars with their two first round selections. I don’t think that anyone else did better than that on draft night.
Maxwell: It’s Houston. They got the fourth and fifth-ranked players on my board at #4 and #20. With Amen, they get a paint-touch generator, a facilitator, and someone who will selflessly set up his teammates. Also, he’s one of the best athletes on the planet. He has a stellar group of tools and traits, and they fill a need for a young Rockets core where the ball tends to stick. Conversely, Cam Whitmore has been knocked for making the ball stick. However, he was in a primary role at Villanova. As a second-side guy and play finisher, the game will be simplified for him. He’s like a Mack truck when he’s driving the lane, he has some touch, he’ll get after it on the glass, and he can contain multiple different types of opponents. They get two high-upside players with All-Star potential. How can you not call that the best haul of the draft?