Back when I was in college, and had exponentially more free time, I would release my NBA Big Board usually right around this time each year. From there I would break down more film and stats and make tweaks all the way up to draft night.
One thing I came to realize after going through this exercise year after year was that I really had a feel for who "my guys" were going to be as soon as the college basketball season was over. Then over the course of the next few months I would talk myself into and out of guys, moving guys I felt really strongly about, like Mikal Bridges, down and guys who I was very much out on, like Marvin Bagley, back up a bit.
That is why I decided for this year I will not be releasing a full top 30 big board, but instead I will give short breakdowns of "My Guys" for this years draft. "My Guys" can be classified as guys that I feel very strongly will be contributors on successful teams going forward. I will also go over a few prospects that will most likely be taken at the top on the draft that I am lower on than consensus. Without further ado, here are "My Guys" for the 2023 NBA Draft.
Miller is my number one prospect in this draft, more on this later, and I think he is most likely to be a star or co-star level player in the NBA. Miller has the size, length, and shooting ability to be a 2 way star in the Paul George mold, and he flashed the ability to handle the ball and get to the rim enough this past season that I could see him grow into a primary or at worst a secondary option at the end of games at the next level. Miller is by no means a perfect prospect, both on and off the court, as he still needs to improve his playmaking and at rim finishing in order to become more than just a role player at the next level. However, I feel that even if these traits never get to a star level his shooting and length are translatable enough that at worst he will be a high level role player on winning teams.
George is considered to be a fringe lottery prospect by many within the draft community right now and I honestly cannot understand why. Having played this past season at Baylor next to a veteran pair of guards, George saw the majority of his reps come off the ball as a shooter and a secondary attacker. This role he played reminded me a lot of the role that many Kentucky off guards such as Jamal Murray, Devin Booker, and Tyler Herro have played in the past for their college teams. This experience off ball for these players, after dominating the rock all throughout their teens, allowed them to develop other aspects of their games, and led to early success in the NBA. I see a similar path for George. He has a malleable enough skillset to stay off ball while also having the on ball ability to run a second unit depending where he ends up on draft night. I would be willing to take George with a top 5-8 pick in this draft and have him as the number 1 guard on my board.
I genuinely think I am higher on Hawkins as a prospect than everyone besides the UConn fanbase. Hawkins is the best shooter in this draft, and it is not particularly close. He shot 39% behind the arc on nearly 8 attempts per game and complimented that with a nearly 90% free throw percentage on 4 attempts each night. Hawkins was weaponized in Danny Hurley's offense, constantly moving off screens and hand offs that gave him a chance to show off his movement shooting. He does not offer a ton in terms of playmaking or off the dribble creation, and is a little undersized, but any shooter that high of caliber can be used by a playoff team. His lack of size means he will never be a true plus defender, but he seems to have some length and enough athleticism that he can stick on that end as long as he continues to shoot at the level in which he showed this season. Someone who can supply that kind of gravity, see Max Strus & Duncan Robinson, is worth a top 10 pick in this draft.
At 6'9" 210, and a near 40% from 3 and 80% from the line, I really like Hendricks 4/5 versatility he can bring to the league. I have the UCF former top 100 recruit as my top non-Wemby big at the minute and I do not see that changing between now and the draft. Hendricks combines his length and athleticism near the basket on both ends with a picturesque jump shot that make me very confident he will be a great role player. I do not think he will ever be a star or a leading scorer on any team, but I think he will be a player that constantly contributes to winning, and in this draft the is worthy of a top 8 pick.
Whitmore is the biggest project on this list so far, but he also has one of the highest ceilings. A size, speed wing out of Nova, Whitmore's jump shot left some to be desired this past season, but his percentages from the line were good enough that I ultimately think he will be able to shoot it at the next level. I do not think Cam will ever handle the ball or play make well enough to be a true number one option on a team, but if the shot develops as expected, I do not think that will matter. I see his ceiling as something that rivals what we currently see from Jaylen Brown, but more realistically he can be similar to an evolutionary Trevor Ariza with better athleticism, which in today's league is a winning player who should go in the top 5-10 picks.
Howard has the size, pedigree, and touch from the perimeter that all but guarantees he can at least be a regular season rotation piece for a long time. When I look at Jett I see him as someone who can jump in right away and play a similar role to what Keegan Murray did for the Kings this season, albeit with a lower ceiling. He is not an elite level athlete, similar to Murray, so he may never be a true elite 3 and D role player. However, Howard's IQ on both ends is more than enough to crack a post season rotation for a long time. That is a piece that is worth a top 10 pick in this draft.
Despite his clear lack of size, I really do think Sasser is worth a pick in this years first round, and you could even talk me into a selection in the 20s. Sasser is not athletic enough to be the lead ball handler on a team, but he shot over 84% from the line and 37% from 3, on 7 attempts per game, for his career, and played great defense under Kelvin Sampson for 4 years. That type of player archetype typically ends up being a useful role player in the NBA and I think that is exactly what Sasser can be. Think of him as a similar prospect to a Javon Carter or Miles McBride but a much better shooter.
I always liked the idea of having as many players with a history of being a primary ball handler on a roster as possible even if you do not plan on using them in any sort of creation role. These type of players are typically more comfortable with the ball in their hands, and they understand the game at a higher level. That is where Strawther fits in. With his 6'7" size and touch from beyond the arc, Strawther will fill a true spacer role in the league maybe even as a 4 if they can bulk him up a bit. However, his background as a primary can help him a lot in situations where he can be used as a short roller or when running DHO's. I think he could help a veteran playoff team within the next 2 years if drafted by the right one.
We have entered the piece of the list where I would not be shocked if these guys do not work out and are playing in the G League exclusively or overseas within the next 3 years. However, I would definitely take the chance on these 3 guys over the majority of this class. The first of that group is Whitehead. Selecting Whitehead is purely a bet on pedigree and shooting. Despite a multitude of injuries, Whitehead seems to still have enough size and athleticism for his shot to stick on the court. He shot 43% from 3 on almost 4 attempts per game despite not having a consistent role all season, and that alone is enough for me to say he is worth a pick within the first 20.
Brice is such an interesting case to me. On the one hand he is an incredible shot maker with unbelievable touch and beautiful form. On the other hand, he has terrible shot selection and next to zero playmaking or defensive abilities. However, Brice is someone you can mold. He is built like a house at 6'6" 235 and could probably guard some 4s in the league if he could get in a bit better shape. If a team could take him in and turn him into a floor spacing, tenacious rebounder at the 4 spot I could see him making over $20M a year in the near future. The issue is he is not nearly good enough to take the types of shots he likes to take at the next level, and at many times this past year his team looked better with him out of the lineup. At the end of the day it is up to him, and that is something I would be willing to take a risk on in the top 20.
Jackson is another example of building your roster with as many primary ball handlers as possible. He was the de-facto point guard this season for the National Champs, and at times looked like the Draymond Green of College Hoops. The issue is Jackson's jump shot is completely broken, and he is only 6'6". I think Jackson is still worth a bet in the first round, especially if you trust your shooting coach, because if he can learn how to shoot 36% from the corner on offense he could 100% be a starter on a conference finals team.
Those are my 11 guys that I feel like I would bet on to come out of this draft as successful players on good teams for their careers. Now a quick pivot to a few guys I am not as high on.
Let's start at the top. Victor Wembanyama. Now, before I say anything negative let me be clear. I think Victor is truly an incredible prospect and I could see this looking very bad in a few years. However, I do not think he is the generational talent that people make him out to be. I think he lacks the size and strength to put enough pressure on the rim to impact that piece of the game. We have seen with pre-injury Kristaps Porzingus how that can lead to difficulties in half court scoring. Additionally, I do not think Wemby is much of a playmaker. His team seemingly lets him do pretty much whatever he wants on offense which typically leads to him over dribbling and forcing touch shots. The fact that he can hit those shots at his size with that coordination is what makes people say he is generational. However if you ask me, he is far more theoretical than generational. I see him as someone who could be an incredible rim protector who can space the floor, almost like a star version of Myles Turner, but I do not think he will ever be the best player on a champion or a go to guy at the end of games.
In addition to Wembanyama, I am also lower on Scoot Henderson. I do not see him ever being an elite shooter, and I have seen far too many score first athletic freak guards with a poor jump shot fail, so until he proves he can shoot at an NBA level I am out. In addition to Scoot I also think the Thompson twins are being over hyped for the exact same reasons. Once again they are athletic freaks that have displayed no natural touch on their jump shots and will constantly be schemed against until they can fix it.
There you have it. The guys I am higher on than most in this draft class, and the guys I feel the need to pump the breaks on. Call me in 5-10 years when we figure out if I was right or not.