While the 2023 NBA draft seems destined to go down as the Wembanyama draft, here’s an early look at the top prospects on our draft expert’s radar.
We’re two months removed from the 2022 draft and hurtling straight into 2023, where Victor Wembanyama lies in wait atop an intriguing group of incoming freshmen, college returners and international prospects.
Now that I’ve had sufficient time to watch film, do research, canvas some early opinions around the NBA and clear my head (and not necessarily in that order), our first Big Board for the 2023 draft class is ready to go.
While it’s important to keep in mind that this is more of a watch list than anything else, given how far away we are from June and how quickly things will shift as soon as the season starts, I actually feel more optimistic than originally expected about next year’s draft.
I’ve had an opportunity to see most of these players live at various junctures during their careers to this point and spent a lot of time digging back into old games to try and make this list as responsibly as possible. Projecting most things with certainty this early in a draft cycle is often folly, but it’s still fun to think about.
Boasting electric athleticism comparable to that of his twin brother and a more aggressive mentality as both a defender and scorer, Thompson presents plenty of upside in his own right. He also shares similar weaknesses at this stage: His handle can get a bit loose going into traffic, and his jumper remains inconsistent despite a higher release point.
Thompson is an elite mover with glide to his step and gets off the floor quickly, allowing him to impact the flow of the game with energy around the rim and making him quite difficult to score on in space.
Whitehead has been on the NBA’s radar for some time and enters college as one of the youngest prospects in this draft class. While he doesn’t boast any one elite skill at this stage, he’s an advanced, well-balanced player who understands team basketball and has good-but-not-elite size on the wing. He’s also a plus defender, with good anticipation and quick lateral movement skills.
Whitehead is more smooth than he is explosive, and he’s a pretty streaky shooter who can be over-reliant on tough jumpers.
Walker has taken an estimable step forward over the past year, and now couples his enormous frame and above-average coordination with an improved mentality and ball skills. He still needs to build better habits, but the NBA is always searching for huge players who are good at a lot of things, and Walker fits that bill: he’s an efficient, opportunistic scorer who doesn’t need his number called to be effective, he can function on the perimeter as a terrific passer and improving shooter, and he’s long and strong enough to potentially moonlight at center in smaller lineups.
After a good spring on the All-American circuit, Whitmore broke out at the FIBA Under-18 Americas, where he paced Team USA on its way to gold. He’s a powerful athlete with a developing floor game whose name has gathered momentum in scouting circles this summer. However, I do think there are some yellow flags here.
Whitmore relies on his strength and first step to get into the paint and attack the rim, but doesn’t excel at getting defenders off-balance with his handle. He’s on the young end for a freshman and has always had a physical advantage against his age group at a well-built 6’6”, but doesn’t have game-changing size or length by NBA standards.
Expect Wallace to inevitably garner comparisons to Jrue Holiday and Marcus Smart, two stylistic forebears that offer an optimistic blueprint for how his career might optimally evolve. While he’s a bit smaller than his listed height, he brings quite a bit to the table for a combo guard, playing a tough-minded, utilitarian style that lends itself to team success.
While not exceptionally fast or quick, Wallace has a strong frame, good length, and a terrific instinct for blowing up plays on the defensive end. He’s smooth with the ball, rarely gets sped up, and enters college with a developed floater and a pretty reliable jump shot.