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2023 NBA Draft Editor's Notes: Volume Five
Some breakdowns of prospects who have not gotten as much time in the No Ceilings spotlight this season: Bilal Coulibaly, Marcus Sasser, Terquavion Smith, Mike Miles Jr., and Toumani Camara.
The month of the NBA Draft is finally here. After many months of film deep dives, prospects testing the waters, and breadcrumbs of intel circulating around the Internet, there are now only 23 days until Adam Silver takes the stage to announce the first overall pick for the San Antonio Spurs, and the dreams of 58 young men and their families will finally come true.
We here at No Ceilings have been covering these prospects for many months now, and we’ve written in-depth profiles on nearly everyone in this draft class. While we’ve made sure to highlight every player from the anticipated top picks to players who have already chosen to stay out of this year’s draft or withdrawn from the early entrant pool, though, there are always a few players who could use a bit more time under the sun.
Earlier this season, I tried out something slightly different from my usual Sleeper Deep Dives articles, covering some prospects who haven’t gotten much time in the spotlight on No Ceilings in Volume One of Editor’s Notes, and I followed that up earlier this year with Volume Two, Volume Three, and Volume Four. With the clock ticking down on the lead-up to draft night, I figured I’d come back for one more round.
Today, I’m here to write about five more prospects who we haven’t highlighted as much on the written side. While we’ve covered all of these prospects throughout the season, I thought that all five of them deserved another moment in the spotlight.
Some of these players will be potential first round prospects who we’ve only written about a few times, while other players will be more infrequently-discussed players who are further down most draft boards but are still worthy of discussion (at least in my mind).
Simply put: I have some notes. Let’s start by talking about one of the most meteoric risers on draft boards over the past few weeks.
Victor Wembanyama might be the marquee player for Metropolitans 92, but he is not their only 2023 NBA Draft prospect—and at this rate, it seems likely that he might not even be their only first round selection. Wembanyama’s teammate Bilal Coulibaly has been quite impressive in his own right since making the jump to the senior squad.
Our own Tyler Rucker covered Coulibaly in his Around the World series less than three months ago, and it feels like Coulibaly has been winning people over since then at an incredible rate. When you watch him soaring to the rim, it’s pretty easy to see why:
Coulibaly’s numbers from his time in the senior league don’t necessarily leap off the page; putting up 5.0 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game, and just under an assist and a steal per game in 18.1 minutes per contest doesn’t exactly leap off the page.
The raw numbers, though, don’t tell the whole story. Coulibaly made the jump to LNB Pro A mid-season after walking all over the competition in the LNB Pro B for a significant portion of the season. When he got the call-up, the 18-year-old wing was an efficient (53/45/60 shooting splits, albeit on limited volume) role player on a team that finished well above expectations at second in the standings.
Coulibaly, as shown above, has wild athletic tools. His passing vision is coming along, he’s gotten more comfortable creating off the bounce, and he’s flashed some scary defensive potential at times this year.
Coulibaly earned significant minutes over the course of the season on a team that will play in the LNB Pro A semifinals on Friday, and Coulibaly will likely have quite a bit to say in that contest. His playoff numbers are already a step ahead of his regular season marks; Coulibaly has averaged 7.8 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, and 1.6 steals per game through his first five playoff games.
When Rucker penned his article a few months ago, it didn’t seem certain that Coulibaly would hear his name called in the first round; now, it seems like all but a guarantee. The question now appears to be not if he will hear Adam Silver call his name on June 23rd, but when.
Marcus Sasser surprised some people in the draft community by choosing to return to Houston for his senior season after a stellar performance at the 2022 Draft Combine following an ACL injury that caused him to miss all but 12 games in his junior season. After he put on a show for the Houston Cougars this year, that seems to have been the right decision in terms of solidifying his draft stock.
Our own Corey Tulaba wrote about the prospect chemistry for Sasser back in November, emphasizing the offensive elements of his game. There’s certainly a lot to like there; Sasser shot 38.4% from deep this year on 6.9 3PA per game—which is somehow a step back from his remarkable 43.6% three-point mark on 8.6 attempts per game in the 12 games he played in his junior year.
Some teams might knock Sasser’s 6’1” frame in a league that is trending bigger at the guard spots year by year. Some might knock Sasser as an older prospect who will turn 23 before the start of the 2023-24 NBA regular season.
The frame concerns are one thing, but Sasser is a fierce competitor on the defensive end who will do everything he can to make up for his height disadvantage. Even if the defense will be an uphill battle, though, Sasser is a serious deep threat on offense who also makes great decisions with the ball in his hands—he ranked in the 93rd percentile in possessions plus assists this season, per Synergy.
Sasser might not be the kind of malleable younger project that some teams might want, but he has the skill set to immediately become a rotation contributor for a team. He will probably be a late first round pick, or maybe even someone who falls out of the first round entirely, but whichever NBA team ends up with Sasser will be more than happy to plug him into their rotation.
Terquavion Smith has admittedly been a prospect who I’ve struggled to evaluate since he started his college career with the NC State Wolfpack. He has had some incredible highs on the court during that time, and also some deeply frustrating lows that left me confused about where he should land on my draft board.
Our own Evan Wheeler wrote about Smith’s potential NBA future last December, and I couldn’t agree more with Evan’s assessment of his offensive game. He has the ability to be a potential superstar sixth man—the kind of player who can jump into a game and set the arena on fire with his ridiculous arsenal of dribble moves and shotmaking talents:
Just like last season, this was an up-and-down year for Smith. On the one hand, he did take serious strides forward as a passer, jumping up from 2.1 assists per game last year to 4.1 assists per game this year without a dramatic leap in turnovers as he took over running the offense from Dereon Seabron.
On the other hand, Smith’s shooting efficiency took a step back from last season, from 40/37/70 shooting splits to 38/34/70 splits this season. Most might look at the three-point percentage dip, but I’m far more concerned about the fact that his two-point percentage fell to just 42.4% inside the arc. His at-rim finishing issues, his defense, and his frame were my biggest concerns with his game last season; while I’m confident that he will be able to fill out his rail-thin 160-pound frame at least a little bit with the help of NBA strength and conditioning coaches, and while I’m willing to bet that his defense will look better when he’s not tasked with running a team, the finishing inside the arc is still a glaring weakness in my mind.
Ultimately, I’m in pretty much exactly the same boat with Smith this season that I was last season: a priority second round pick who I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see being taken in the first round. The defensive weaknesses remain, as do the finishing concerns around the basket. His scoring game outside of that, though, is so beautiful that it gives me hope for him flourishing in the right NBA context.
Mike Miles Jr.
Mike Miles Jr. was, unfortunately, one of the more disappointing performers in this year’s combine, as our own Maxwell Baumbach detailed in his recap. Miles measured out smaller than some had hoped at 6’0.75” with a negative (6’0.5”) wingspan, and he struggled on both ends during the scrimmages.
Maxwell also wrote about Miles Jr. earlier this year. His 195-pound frame helps to make up for his relative lack of height, and he charges the lane like a bowling ball shot out of a cannon. He took 7.9 two-point attempts per game this year and knocked them down at a 56.3% clip. His at-rim finishing numbers are even crazier; Miles Jr. averaged 4.6 attempts per game at the rim and converted a staggering 67.7% of those shots.
The struggles that Miles Jr. had at the combine were certainly concerning; after all, if he can’t finish through and around bigger defenders in the NBA, he doesn’t have a clear calling card for why he should get minutes. Ultimately, Miles Jr. is a fierce competitor on both ends of the floor who showed across his three years at TCU that he can capably lead an offense. His combine performance was not exactly a career highlight, but I’m still pretty confident that his rim-pressure ability and steady presence as a floor general will earn him minutes in some NBA rotation before it’s all said and done.
Toumani Camara has not been quite as hot of a name in the last few weeks as Bilal Coulibaly, but he has certainly helped his case since the end of the college season. Our own Maxwell Baumbach scouted Camara in person earlier this season, and he also covered Camara’s breakout performance at the 2023 Portsmouth Invitational.
Camara has the kind of physical and statistical profile that will have plenty of teams intrigued with the possibilities. The 6’8” Belgian forward has elite vertical pop, runs the floor well in transition, and rebounds with the best in college basketball. He averaged 8.6 rebounds per game this past season at Dayton, and he grabbed 11.0 rebounds per game across his three Portsmouth performances.
Camara is an excellent finisher inside the arc, knocking down 60.6% of his two-pointers this past season. On the defensive end, he covers a massive amount of ground, and has the length and athleticism to cover 3’s and all but the bulkiest 4’s at the next level.
Camara has also taken big steps forward with his shot the past few years, going from 17.2% from three-point range and 62.5% from the free-throw line in his first season at Georgia to 36.3% from deep on 2.4 3PA per game and 66.9% from the stripe on 3.9 FTA per game.
That’s not to say that he’s going to be an elite horizontal floor spacer any time soon, but it is nice to see that he’s incorporated his jump shot more steadily into his game. In terms of floor spacing, though, Camara tends to prefer to space vertically—and who wouldn’t, when you can leap like he can?
Camara is far from a lock to hear his name called on draft night; he did not crack the Top 55 of the latest $DRFT rankings aggregated by our own Corey Tulaba. Still, all it takes is one team, whether in the second round or as an undrafted free agent. There are still some names ahead of him in the forward pecking order, but don’t be surprised if Camara leverages his athleticism, burgeoning shot, and two-way upside to work his way into an NBA rotation at some point over the next few seasons.