Biggest Questions for Top Prospects | The Weekend Warrior
FEATURING: Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, & MORE 2023 NBA Draft Class prospects. | PLUS: 20 of My Favorite Players to Monitor this Season
With the 2022-2023 inching closer and closer, there is a slew of NBA Big Boards and Mock Drafts being published. While all of us analysts have our preconceived notions about the talent level and abilities of these prospects, we know that how we feel today will not be how we feel tomorrow—let alone several months from now. As talented as this class appears to be (I believe it will rival some of the all-time classes), each prospect comes with their own “buyer beware,” so to speak. Since you all as No Ceilings supporters are family, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
This article will serve as a philosophical piece. I am going into this season as prepared as I have ever been at this stage in terms of prospect evaluation. I have devoted countless hours to watching film, reading player biographies, and even attending live events. At this point there is only one thing left to do: watch the players play. When I watch each and every prospect I can physically and mentally manage, I am going to have areas of concern with all of them. The secret I alluded to (as you can probably assume by the title of my article) is that I am going to walk with you all through some questions I have for the Top 30 players (out of the 45) we dropped on our No Ceilings BIG BOARD.
1. Victor Wembanyama | Can He Make Others Better?
It may be hard to believe, but there are actually some aspects of the game of “The Alien” that I have some questions about. While there are a few areas of concern, the biggest one I hold for him—especially against high-end competition—is his ability to make his teammates better. I understand that it is not the role of every player to be an initiator, especially if we are evaluating Vic as a power forward or center, but when you consider the true superstars of the NBA they can all be threats by themselves or for others. There are highly-skilled players that are in the tier below that serve an important role as play-finishers or connectors, but what truly makes players “generational” is their ability to, not only raise their floor, but their teammates as well. That’s what I want to see Wemby display on a significant basis.
2. Scoot Henderson | Can He Weaponize His Jumper?
I fancy Scoot as my top prospect, but I understand there are just as many questions in his game as there are for other top prospects. One of the biggest concerns I have in Henderson’s game is his deep ball. While playing for the Ignite last season, we got to see Scoot’s ball handling and athleticism on a frequent level. This year, we’ve seen him drive aggressively, but diligently to the rim. We’ve seen his playmaking. We’ve witnessed his ability to make his teammates better and get them the ball where they like it best. We’ve even seen his willingness to let the deep ball go, but that is going to be what makes him undeniable. Similar to what we’re seeing Ja Morant do in the NBA, Scoot with a steady jumper could make him an instant-impact star.
3. Cam Whitmore | Does He Have “IT”?
Whitmore is third on my personal board and, honestly, I gave him some consideration to be the second overall player. He has an exciting combination of force and feel that helped him to stand out in several matchups against his peers and top prospects around the world. He seems to be able to get to his spots at will. My big question revolves around him being able to be THE guy. His handle isn’t as tight as I would like. His shooting has promise, but it is more of a projection than a sure thing. There are concerns as to what position he guards. His commitment to Villanova says to be that he will get the opportunity to become a better shooter, playmaker, and defender. Adding that to his physical tools is why I’m so high on him.
4. Dariq Whitehead | Can He Do It Efficiently?
There are not a lot of holes to poke in Dariq’s offensive bag, but I want to see if he can get his buckets with some efficiency. He possesses an ideal frame to be an NBA 2; he’s got the handle and strength. What will keep him within my Top 5 by the end of the season is how he can finish with consistency. How does his processing translate? Can he read the defense appropriately? When he does look to move the ball, does he see the right play? Can he avoid those silly mistakes?
5. Nick Smith Jr. | Can He Set The Table?
Following a couple of prospects that have some concerns with their shot comes a prospect that figures to have shooting in spades. Playing for my beloved Razorbacks, Smith Jr. looks like he’ll have a successful role as an off-ball shooting Guard. NBA teams love this type of player, particularly if they already have a Jumbo Creator that can get looks for themself or others. While NSJ can shoot, I would like to see if he can initiate an offense. This will be difficult to see at high volume considering Anthony Black is his teammate and is at his best setting the table for others. Smith Jr.’s evaluation in this area will require some film dissecting of the chances that he gets to facilitate for his teammates.
6. Jarace Walker | What Is His Offensive Role?
To semi-answer my own question, I believe that Walker has the ability to be a playmaking forward of sorts. He can do some fun handoff actions to be certain. However, where is his outside shot? Is the middy going to be reliable? How does post play translate? Is he going to be a “garbage man” at the next level—a player that can get his offense from sheer hustle? I am a big believer in his defense and rebounding coming into the year, but where his offense comes from is what’s keeping him from being in my Top 5 for now.
7. Keyonte George | How Crowded Is Baylor?
George is in my Top 5 but there is real concern as to how much of a runway Keyonte has to grow as a player, as well as how much loyalty will coach Scott Drew show players like Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer. Langston Love will also be returning to the fold. In terms of his game, George will have to show he can share the sugar. But he is what I would refer to as a Total Package Scorer, who can also play physical defense.
8. Amen Thompson | Does His Shot Improve?
I was privileged enough to see Amen up close and personal at the OTE Pro Day. His size feels understated, as I consider him to be a lead ball handler. He plays with such speed and feel simultaneously. His vision isn’t “generational” at this moment in time but, make no mistake, it is a real threat. There is also some fun point of attack defense with him. The biggest question mark surrounding his game is the jumper. We’ve covered the form in a number of pieces and mediums collectively at No Ceilings—it’s just not very pretty. I’m of the belief that it will get better. The rim pressure he possesses is enough to make him a live threat today but the jumper is going to make him a completely different type of weapon.
9. Brandon Miller | Is He Everything ‘Bama Claims?
Listen. I had Miller in the late teens / early ’20s for the majority of the preseason, but the noise coming from Coach Nate Oates—as well as my No Ceilings compatriots—became too hard to tune out. It made me watch the film even more. I’m glad I did, as he is now teetering around the Top 10 range on my board. His incredible length, shooting touch, and defensive promise are there. His level of expectation is now high. Can he live up to the hype?
10. Dereck Lively II | Can He Switch on Screens?
Lively II is towards the back end of my Top 10 for the preseason, in large part due to how good he can be on offense. He is a rim-running lob threat, who has an opportunity to become a shooting threat over time. His bounce looks legitimate, which should pair nicely with some soft hands. His post defense looks fine, but his film shows a lot of drop coverage. Is that because of his enormity, or is it all he can do? If he can show switchability, his draft stock should be solidified.
11. Anthony Black | How Important Is His Shot?
I mentioned earlier that Nick Smith Jr. needs to show some primary creator reps. The success of that may be affixed to the efficiency of Anthony Black’s shot. Black will need to show some connector skills, as I don’t think (as of now) that he’ll be a point guard in the NBA. He can certainly handle some of the playmaking load, but he needs to provide floor spacing in order to truly make a difference. His size should make him positionally versatile—especially on defense—but his three-pointer will be his swing skill.
12. Ausar Thompson | 3-and-D, or Just D?
We’ve had this thought exercise a couple of times already at No Ceilings, but can Ausar’s role off of the ball make his pathway to success more realistic as opposed to Amen’s necessity to play on the ball? There is a lot to be determined as their season progresses, but Ausar’s ability to be a connector is real. What will make it undeniable is if he can be a threat from outside. His defense and slashing are real threats due to his athleticism, but a steady jumper makes him a long-time professional.
13. Gregory “GG” Jackson | How Meaningful is This Season?
That question may seem asinine but let me explain. As time moves on, more and more prospects crop up that commit to play somewhere that doesn’t work out. Though they were highly regarded, their situation does not go according to plan. This could be the case with GG reclassifying and going to a “not-so-talented” South Carolina team. He’ll get the volume and lee-way he may want now, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to display all of his talents. He might be one of those prospects that will require more of an emphasis on evaluating his pre-college film as opposed to his production this year.
14. Arthur Kaluma | Is He an Engine or Play Finisher?
Kaluma finished his year strong for Creighton. I was very proud of NBA front offices for not going all-in for strong tournament play, and looking to see if Kaluma can sustain his performance for an entire year. His team looks to be one of the most talented in the NCAA ranks. How does he look playing off of other some strong shooting teammates in Baylor Scheierman and Trey Alexander? Can he pressure the rim and kick it out to the open man? Or does he look to simply get his own? Can he play off of Kalkbrenner in a way that translates to NBA play?
15. Dillon Mitchell | What’s His Go-To?
Dillon Mitchell is a real athletic freak. One way I describe this type of player is that it’s harder for him to stay on the ground than it is for him to jump. He has the type of raw potential that can turn into something special. Or he could do to us what Kendall Brown did last season. Players like this can be scary to evaluate, as you typically have to look further down the development curve to gain an understanding as to what they will be. Effort can get him far, but there need to be significant flashes of an offensive role.
16. Cason Wallace | Is He a Lead Guard?
Oh, hey. Another Kentucky prospect that will have his ability to run an offense questioned. Cason will likely sound like a Trevor Keels replica this year, as he’s coming into the cycle with defensive upside and shooting promise. He’ll likely play alongside Sahvir Wheeler, being relied upon as a floor spacer and someone to guard the other team’s best backcourt player. Similar to the previously-mentioned Nick Smith Jr., Wallace’s reps creating for himself and others will be meticulously evaluated to determine his on-ball equity at the next level.
17. Terquavion Smith | What Else You Got?
Smith had enough in the draft community convinced that he would have been drafted had he decided to go last year. He has incredible shooting range, volume, and consistency, along with being a good athlete. Shooting is a premium, yes, but Terquavion has to show something else to improve his stock from last year. Is there improved strength that allows him to get to the basket easier? Is there a level of playmaking we weren’t privy to with Dereon Seabron on the roster last year? Will he be a pesky defender?
18. Jalen Hood-Schifino | Can His Shooting Accentuate His Playmaking?
It’s amazing how much buzz our guy, Jalen Hood-Schifino, is getting. Not that his talent doesn’t warrant it; it’s just cool to see how his legend has grown since my guy, Maxwell Baumbach, shouted his name from the NBA Draft mountains. He was right to do so. JHS can really create, with a unique combination of vision and feel. His dribble-cadence and unorthodox movements keep the defense on their heels while he has the rock. There are some indicators that his jumper will be fine, but there is also enough evidence to have some concern about its effectiveness. It’ll need to be respectable to make the best parts of Hood-Schifino’s game lethal.
19. Kel’el Ware | Is He One-Dimensional?
In college, the answer will likely be “no”. He’s too big to not take advantage of some matchups he’ll see in the NCAA. But when it comes to evaluating his NBA potential, I need to see if Ware will simply be a stretch big or something more. He looked like he’ll solely be a drop big on defense, and made plays just because he’s huge. We know that won’t fly as the level of competition increases. He’ll need to rotate well defensively for his offense to matter.
20. Amari Bailey | Will Mick Cronin Play Him?
We saw the season that Peyton Watson had for Mick Cronin last year. Kind of. A player that received Top 5 buzz coming into the last draft cycle, Watson barely saw the floor. Over the past few seasons, UCLA has had the fortunate problem of recruiting top prospects while looking to remain competitive for postseason success. Fellow freshman Adem Bona looks as if he’ll get real minutes, but Bailey doesn’t feel as sure of a thing. It’s a shame as Amari has real stuff to his game. He’s fast, strong, has real shooting potential, and looks like a real dimer. He just has to see the floor.
21. Marcus Sasser | Can He Round Out His Offense?
I wrote about Sasser not too long ago, outlining the ways that he can be a significant contributor to an NBA team. A large part of that has to do with his long-range ability. He’s shown nice playmaking, but can it improve with a strong team around him? Can he add more variety to his shot diet? Being a floor-spacing guard, Marcus already fills one of the most successful player types in the league, but being a trustworthy facilitator and multi-level scorer would help his stock significantly.
22. Tyrese Proctor | Does His Role Impact His Draft Stock?
The Duke Blue Devils will have yet another talented team on paper, but under a new regime with Coach Jon Scheyer at the helm. Jeremy Roach is one of the elder statesmen that will likely be looked upon for stability and for enforcing the coach’s voice. Jacob Grandison is coming over from Illinois. Proctor is part of a great crop of Freshman guards that includes the aforementioned Dariq Whitehead and Jaden Schutt. Tyrese has all of the talent in the world, and will likely make an impact when he sees the floor. I just want to see if he is in a “prove it” role for Duke’s new coach in the early part of the season.
23. Chris Livingston | How Good is His Defense?
Livingston finds himself in an interesting spot at Kentucky. Wheeler and Wallace are assumed to be the Wildcats’ starting backcourt, while Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe have the “4” and “5” locked up. Chris’s ideal role should be somewhat of a microwave “2” guard, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards this season. As a wing, he’ll likely be relied upon for spot-up looks (not my preferred role) and to play lockdown defense. There are some fun, help-defense shot-blocking tools he brings, but I want to know if he can take on someone straight up. It looks like it’ll be asked of him playing for Coach Cal.
24. Nikola Durisic | Can He Be a Multi-Level Scorer?
Durisic is an exciting international prospect. He’s got good size and feel that will have him high on Draft radars. His shooting is what makes him a standout, along with some fun passing ability. I’m not overly concerned about the consistency of his jumper, but I would like to see Nikola be able to show some ability to be a threat in any fashion when he’s chased off of the line. If he can work in a floater or side-step move into his arsenal, he’ll be able to make defenses pay for selling out on his shot.
25. Kris Murray | How Much is Too Much?
I could spend time recounting how Kris’s brother, Keegan, went from having a smaller role on Iowa to being a Top 5 Pick in the NBA Draft. But I won’t. Kris is a different player and, theoretically, plays a different position. Murray demonstrated the ability to be a spot-up shooter and a quality help defender. It feels as if he’ll have more responsibility this season—perhaps even in self-creation. He had plenty of fans in regards to him being draftable last year, I just need to see if he can finish the food that’ll be on his plate.
26. Rayan Rupert | Can He Scale Down?
I love Rupert’s game. He fits the mold of a shooting wing that can handle enough to punish hard closeouts, that can also guard a number of positions. His length and speed help him to cover 1-3. I would like to see a large sample size of him on NBA-style “4s”. His frame looks like he’ll be able to add some functional strength. I believe he is skilled enough to potentially garner lottery considerations without the ability to cover “4s” on defense. He’ll be scary if he shows he can.
27. Jordan Walsh | Can He Generate His Own Offense?
Arkansas will be tremendously talented on paper, with no shortage of shot creators on the squad. With Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black, and Ricky Council IV likely to be the engines on the roster, it’s safe to assume that Jordan Walsh will be a play finisher. He’s a scrappy, madman on the defensive side that will be a terror with an open court in front of him. His athleticism is up there. The shot, seemingly, is not. That means the cutting and the diving to the rim will all have to be there for him. He’ll probably be a “garbage man” on offense, where effort equals buckets. I want to see how he can do things for himself—even if it’s sparingly.
28. Baba Miller | How Much Will The Suspension Impede His Development?
In one of the worst suspensions to date, Baba Miller will miss 16 GAMES due to a “violation” of NCAA rules. It’s dumb and it’s terrible. Miller is one of the more intriguing prospects this cycle, as he possesses tremendous size and fluidity. His feel and size fit the bill for what the NBA is moving toward in players like Franz Wagner, Evan Mobley, and Ousmane Dieng. Playing time is important to all prospects, but to project-y players like Miller, they are vital. There is a potential we may only see him play 16 games this season, which could make his evaluation a bit more difficult.
29. Jett Howard | Will He Attack The Basket?
Jett Howard has a ridiculous frame for a freshman athlete. He’s reported to be 6’8” and 215 pounds. He profiles as a wing, with his strongest skill appearing to be his shooting. As great of a shooter as he looks to be, his finishing isn’t that great. His handle doesn’t look tight enough to be an aggressive, isolation-style attacker. He does favor his strong hand—many young players do, and his shooting touch doesn’t seem to translate when playing in the trees. As much as I am coming around on his Draft stock, I want to see someone of his size attack the rim.
30. Jaime Jaquez Jr. | Is He Going To Show Us Something Different?
There was a real chance that Jaime Jaquez Jr. was going to go pro following last season but, instead, he dropped a sweet video on his decision to return. JJJ is an accomplished collegiate athlete that, thanks to the NIL implementation, can make a mint by playing for UCLA again. His on-court skillset shows some flashes of NBA-level ability. However, his three-point percentage has been up and down in college. He’s not a non-athlete, but he isn’t necessarily a plus one either. Injuries to his ankles haven’t helped there either. I’d love to see a more expansive role to help his stock rise.
Preseason Players of Interest
I want to take some time to recognize some players that I am extremely excited to monitor for the coming Draft. These players may or may not be placed highly on my personal board, but there is a certain amount of intrigue I have found they carry when I have turned on their film. There will “only” be 20 players listed—trust me, I could do more. Keep an eye on them with me, won’t you?
Sidy Cissoko | Perimeter | G League Ignite
Tyler Burton | Wing | Richmond
Kymany Houinsou | Perimeter | Washington State
Tre White | Wing | USC
Houston Mallette | Guard | Pepperdine
Maxwell Lewis | Forward | Pepperdine
Tyson Degenart | Forward | Boise State
Jalen Cook | Guard | Tulane
Langston Love | Guard | Baylor
Julian Phillips | Forward | Tennessee
Malik Reneau | Forward | Indiana
Trey Alexander | Guard | Creighton
Tucker DeVries | Perimeter | Drake
Kobe Brea | Wing | Dayton
DaRon Holmes | Forward | Dayton
Bobi Klintman | Forward | Wake Forest
Pelle Larsson | Wing | Arizona
Jalen Warley | Perimeter | Florida State
Alex Fudge | Wing | Florida
Caleb Furst | Forward | Purdue
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