By Hocine LOUKKAF on 4/14/2023

As nothing could prevent Wemby from getting picked number one, Brandon Miller’s game, despite the drama outside the court and his bad tournament, could be attractive to many teams in search of a shooting forward. Will it be enough to break the two-man draft narrative ?

#1 Victor Wembanyama, 7-5 PF/C, Metropolitans 92 (France), 2004

The only safe pick in this draft, it’s not hard but impossible to envision another selection at #1. He has been so good that we consider him having a slump when he recorded 8pts 14rbds 3as 3bl against Monaco or when he didn’t record 20pt during a three-game streak (16pts 9.3rbds during that stretch). We still have a month to know who will be lucky enough to pick him but he will be a game changer for sure…if he remains healthy.

#2 Scoot Henderson, 6-3 PG, G-league Ignite, 2004

The roster of the team which will select at #2 will have a lot of effect on the potential pick but Henderson now seems the obvious choice after Miller’s struggles in the tournament. The Ignite PG is  a physical freak but needs to improve his shooting and overall IQ. He has decided to shut down before the end of the season to focus on the draft. Houston seems the best option for him if he was to be selected at #2.

#3 Brandon Miller, 6-9 SF, Alabama, Fr

Before the NCAA tournament, Brandon Miller being a potential #2 pick had become legit. This discussion has taken a hit after the drama surrounding Miller’s alleged link to a murder case, and above all, on the basketball field, after his struggles in the tournament, with an awful 8/41 FG including 3/19 FG (1/13 3pt) in the loss against San Diego State. Yet, teams not picking #1 like Detroit or Charlotte could be intrigued enough by his upside and shooting to select him with the 2nd pick.

#4 Amen Thompson, 6-6 PG/SG, Overtime, 2003

With 17.2pts 9.2rbds and 7.2as during his team’s postseason (five games), Amen has displayed the same versatility that makes him a consistent projected top five pick. Shooting is improving a bit but still a work in progress (2/10 3pt over the final two games).

#5 Jarace Walker,  6-7 PF/SF, Houston, Fr

A polarizing prospect, Walker hasn’t solidified his status as a surefire top five pick but has displayed grit-and-grind that could make him an elite glue guy. His last games illustrate that fact as he shot 3/8 FG and 4/16 FG against Auburn and Final Four bound Miami but at the same time, combined 21rbds 7as and 10bl over these two games for only one turnover in 70min (sic).

#6 Ausar Thompson, 6-6 SG/SF, Overtime 2003

More of a 2/3 than his brother, Ausar has been the star as he scored the winning shot for OTE championship. He has improved dramatically from three with 15/34 over the last four playoff games and could lead a team searching for an elite swingman.

#7 Taylor Hendricks, 6-9 PF/SF, UCF, Fr

The high-riser at the end of the college season, mainly due to the competition’s lack of elite performances, Hendricks has an intriguing combination of length, athleticism and shooting that makes him a sought-after prospect. We can’t forget either that he also had his struggles as he recorded 5pts on 2/12 FG in the AAC quarterfinal against Memphis and 9pts on 3/10 FG in what could be his final college game against Oregon.

#8 Cam Whitmore, 6-6 SF, Villanova, Fr

Reminiscent of Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, Whitmore had his ups and downs for the rebuilding Wildcats of Villanova. He was impressive against solid teams like Xavier (26pts on 3/7 FG) but also recorded 4pts on 2/7 FG in the last season game. A lot can be improved like shooting consistency or passing and he will probably not be the first forward to be called.

#9 Anthony Black, 6-7 PG/SG, Arkansas, Fr

The best player by far of the Razorbacks in th blowout loss against UConn (20pts 5st), Black shot 38% or less in the three previous games while recording 6as for 7tos over his last four games. His mix of size and versatility is intriguing but shooting is suspect at least. Maybe the workouts could help him if he works on his jumper.

#10 Nick Smith, 6-4 PG, Arkansas, Fr

Bothered by knee issues, Smith has never been able to live up to his draft hype despite some nice performances (25pts 6as vs Kentucky). He was non-existent in the win against Kansas (0pt 1as 1rbd in 16min) and had one decent half against UConn before disappearing for the second half. He could slip far lower if teams are not happy with his medical history.

#11 Gradey Dick, 6-8 SG/SF, Kansas, Fr

Dick has had a solid year for one of the best programs in the nation, averaging an impressive 40% 3pt on 5+ attempts per game. He may lack athleticism but doesn’t lack effort as he averaged 8.7rbds over his las three games. Yet, he will need to keep improving his explosiveness and develop his versatility to not become a unidimensional shooter on offense.

#12 Cason Wallace, 6-3 PG, Kentucky, Fr

With six games with 30% or less FG over his last nine games, Wallace has really struggled to finish the season. Yet, he’s also been impressive when he was on, recording 21pts 9rbds 4as in Kentucky’s loss against Kansas State, but also displaying his passing and IQ when he was cold shooting the ball (11as 1to against Mississipi State, 5as 1to vs Vanderbilt and Providence). Definitely a guard with upside but in a team with a solid vet to help his development.

#13 Jordan Hawkins, 6-5 SG, Connecticut, So

The player who has benefited the most from the college tournament, Hawkins bounced back after the loss against Marquette in the Big East tournament (5pts on 2/11 FG) to average 16.3pts and combine 21/42 3pt in six games, helping the Huskies win a fith national title. He may be too much of a unidimensional player and will need to prove he can be a solid defender at the next level.

#14 GG Jackson II, 6-9 PF, South Carolina, Fr

A once top 5 projected prospect, GG Jackson had multiple 20+pt games, ten to be exact, but at the same time, had multiple awful shooting games where he shot 30% FG or less with 10+ attempts. Signing for South Carolina was not the best idea as it hurts his  stock but the upside remains if he plays in the good system and keeps working.

#15 Dereck Lively, 7-0 C, Duke, Fr

More was expected from Lively, whose offensive struggles have not helped Duke during the tournament (4pts in 65min). Yet, he’s also proved he was already a great defender, combining 23rbds and 8bl in these two games. An NBA team drafting in the teens (Dallas, Toronto ?) could be interested by his defensive upside but will have to be patient with him.

#16 Keyontae George, 6-4 SG, Baylor, Fr

George came to Baylor as the next big prospect yet he has been disappointing, recording three single-digit scoring games in the last four games he played 20+min. At the end of the day, George might lack the size or elite athleticism to be more than a rotational player but still is young enough to be developed.

#17 Brice Sensabaugh, 6-6 SF/PF, Ohio State, Fr

Sensabaugh’s mix of shooting and strength makes him an intriguing prospect but also a hard player to projet as he’s a bit stuck between positions, not big enough to play the four and not athletic enough to play the three. He will probably be better suited for the SF spot with good physical training.

#18 Leonard Miller, 6-10 PF/SF, G-League Ignite, 2003

Miller has taken advantage of his G-League season to develop his toughness and agressiveness. He projects as an athletic combo forward who still has room to improve his shot and handles. A potential poor man’s Lamar Odom, which would be a nice pick in the late teens.

#19 Jett Howard, 6-7 SG, Michigan Fr

Juwan’s son was not expected to contribute that much from his freshman year but he also did that in a disappointing year for Michigan. Jett is a tall swingman who can shoot but also possesses some counter moves to score. His biggest weakness is his defense and athleticism which could cause him big troubles against elite athletes.

#20 Kris Murray, 6-7 SF, Iowa, Jr

Murray is not his twin brother as the comparison could at the same time hurt Kris’ stock or hype him. He has improved tremendously since last year, almost doubling all his averages, while still having room to be better (only 33.5% 3pt). An interesting combo forward who could come from bench and contribute offensively.

#21 Jalen Hood-Schifino, 6-6  PG, Indiana, Fr

As a 6-6 PG, Hood-Schifino’s profile is enticing. Yet, he had to improve a lot of things to be efficient, starting with his poor 41% FG (including 12 games with 33% FG or less) due to his bad shooting and average athleticism driving to the basket or his mediocre 3.7/2.8 a/to ratio.

#22 Sidy Cissoko, 6-7 SG, G-League Ignite, 2004

Another winner from the G-League Ignite, Frenchman Sissoko has slowed down recently after a streak of five games with 20pts or more, during which he shot 14/28 3pt. He has struggled shooting with the same consistency since then but his combination of size and versatility make him an intriguing do-it-all prospect.

#23 Bilal Coulibaly, 6-6 SG/SF, Levallois (France)

The main gamble at this stage, Coulibaly has seen playing time in French pro A and taken advantage of the hype surrounding Wemby. He has above average athleticsm and physical tools around which he needs to keep improving everything from his skills (handles, shooting) to his IQ. Yet, he has the upside to be better than some players who will be selected before him on draft night.

#24 Kobe Bufkin, 6-5 SG, Michigan, So

The young sophomore (still 19) has improved in all stat categories while shooting with far better percentages than during his freshman year. He has been particularly impressive at the end of the season with only one game under 45% FG over the last twelve games. A potential steal in the 20s.

#25 Rayan Rupert, 6-7 PG/SG, NZ Breakers (New Zealand), 2004

Rupert was supposed to be the next tall playmaker coming from France like Ntlikina or Dieng before him. Yet, even if his defensive potential is obvious, he has struggled more than anything offensively in the NBL (6.6pts on 36% FG and 25% 3pt). Not someone I would take too early but a potential steal in the 20s.

#26 Trayce Jackson-Davis, 6-9 PF/C, Indiana, Sr

The only senior of this mock, TJD has been dominant all year and totally out of control over his last games, with a streak of six 20+pt games, and averages of 24.7pts 10rbds 5.2as and 3bl during that stretch (sic). If only he had developped a consistent outside shot, he would be considered a lottery pick by now. Definitely someone who could be an NBA player for a long time.

#27 Colby Jones, 6-6 SG, Xavier Jr

Not the most spectacular or youngest prospect, Jones may be one of the most polished guard and has proved it in the NCAA tournament, averaging 12.3pts 9rbds and 5.7as. A good bench player with still some room to improve as he did it between last year and this year.

#28 Maxwell Lewis, 6-7 SG/SF, Pepperdine, So

Lewis has intriguing physical tools with nice length, but also good shooting and skills, despite a lack of elite athleticism. While he projects as a potential 3 and D, he could have displayed more consistency from outside. Moreover, playing for a weak team of a mid-major conference doesn’t do him any favor.

#29 Andre Jackson Jr, 6-6 SG/SF, Connecticut 

UConn do-it-all swingman Jackson Jr is one-consistent-shot away from being the perfect glue guy. A versatile defender, he can also act as a secondary ball handler. Teams will look at his profile and his NCAA tournament performance should land him in that first round.

#30 James Nnaji, 6-11 C, FC Barcelona (Spain)

Nnaji’s role for European powerhouse Barcelona has been inconsistent but the Nigerian showed on some occasions he could be useful against top-tier competition and has some elite physical tools. A rim-protecting C to develop and who could be good right away for a poor defensive team.