2023 NBA mock draft: Early projections with Victor Wembanyama heading west

It’s never too early for our first 2023 NBA mock draft. With the 2022 iteration in the books, all eyes in the scouting community will look forward to next June.

It’s going to be an absolutely loaded class with one player by the name of Victor Wembanyama from France leading the conversation. However, there’s a ton of other top-end players who likely would have been in the conversation for top-three selections in 2022.

Without further ado, here’s our 2023 NBA mock draft with the order based on Sportsnaut’s most-recent NBA power rankings.

2022 NBA mock draft: The elite 3

1. Utah Jazz: Victor Wembanyama, center, France

At 18, this 7-foot-2 France native would’ve been eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft if the league had changed it rules. That never came to fruition. Now, the talented center is considered the early No. 1 prospect for next June. For good reason.

Wembanyama boasts an absurd 7-foot-8 wingspan and displayed flashes of brilliance playing for ASVEL in the Euroleague. He averaged 13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in his final six games last season. Amazingly, he has the ability to stretch the court from three-point range and already displays an elite jump shot.

Our initial 2023 NBA mock draft lands Utah a long-term replacement for the recently-traded Rudy Gobert, one that provides much more upside on offense and is seen as a generational talent.

2. Orlando Magic: Scoot Henderson, guard, G-League Ignite

2023 nba mock draft: scoot henderson
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The 6-foot-3 Henderson actually skipped his senior season in high school (a controversial decision) and decided to play in the NBA G-League. At just 18, Henderson looked like he belonged in said league. He averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 44% shooting.

Experts believe that Henderson has an opportunity to be the No. 1 pick in the draft next June, primarily due to his explosion off the dribble and already advanced size for someone his age. Henderson translates better to the point guard spot at the next level, too.

With this selection, Orlando looks for someone to team up with Jalen Suggs in the backcourt after adding Paolo Banchero in the 2022 draft.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Dariq Whitehead, forward, Duke

nba mock draft: dariq whitehead
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Duke just continues to get the stars despite Coach K’s retirement. The No. 2 recruit of the 2022 class out of Westtown School in Pennsylvania, this wing figures to play a huge role for the Devils this season. If so, he can join the likes of Paolo Banchero in being a recent top-three pick in the draft.

At nearly 6-foot-5, he displayed absolutely elite athleticism in high school and has improved his ability to shoot from the outside. If Whitehead excels as a freshman, he could be in the conversation at No. 1 overall. OKC adds to a core group that already includes injured 2021 No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren and holdovers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as well as Josh Giddey.

2023 NBA mock draft: Others set to shine

4. San Antonio Spurs: Cameron Whitmore, forward, Villanova

The ability of Villanova to bring out the best in its players could very well be a factor in Whitmore rising the boards. That’s very much the case in our initial 2023 NBA mock draft. He was only ranked No. 21 in the 2022 recruiting class by ESPN, but the upside is certainly here.

Already boasting an NBA-ready 6-foot-7, 220-pound frame, it’s going to be all about how Whitmore performs from out on the perimeter under first-year Wildcats head coach Kyle Neptune. Either way, San Antonio needs an infusion of young talent as it initiates a long-term rebuild. Going best-player available makes the most sense.

5. Houston Rockets: Nick Smith, guard, Arkansas

2023 nba mock draft: nick smith, arkansas
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The 6-foot-4 Smith opted to stay home after starring for North Little Rock High School. He’s a five-star recruit of the Razorbacks and No. 3 on ESPN’s top 2022 recruits.

Questions will be raised about Smith’s athleticism as a combo guard, but everything else is in place for him to succeed as a centerpiece for Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman. That includes a plus-level perimeter shot and an ability to play good defense on the outside. Houston might not seem to be a great fit with Jalen Green manning the two-guard spot. But the idea of going with a three-guard lineup might be too hard for general manager Rafael Stone and Co. to pass up on.

6. Indiana Pacers: Jarace Walker, forward, Houston

2023 nba mock draft:  jarace walker
Landon Bost/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY Network-Florida / USA TODAY NETWORK

Walker stands at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds with an ability to grow into that frame as a freshman for Houston. A top-10 recruit from IMG Academy, he’s also displayed a solid mid-range game.

A good freshman season for Walker could lead to a top-five selection. We’re falling short of that in our initial mock draft due to some concerns about what frontcourt position he’ll play.

7. Portland Trail Blazers: Keyonte George, guard, Baylor

2023 nba mock draft: keyonte george
Landon Bost/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY Network-Florida / USA TODAY NETWORK

Experts look at George as someone who can already score at all three levels with an ability to use his 6-foot-5 frame to dominate smaller defenders. This should continue at the college level in the Big 12. If so, the Florida native will continue to skyrocket up draft boards. He’d make sense for a Blazers team that has made it clear that the perimeter game is important after selecting Shaedon Sharpe in 2021.

8.Charlotte Hornets: Anthony Black, guard, Arkansas

Eric Musselman had himself a hell of a recruiting class with three top-15 players. While Black might rank the lowest among the trio, he has the upside to succeed at the next level. A 6-foot-7 point guard with plus-level passing ability and an improving shot, he fits the modern NBA. We’d absolutely love the fit with LaMelo Ball in Charlotte.

9. Sacramento Kings: Terquavion Smith, guard, North Carolina State

2023 nba mock draft: terquavion smith
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Smith is the first prospect with actual college experience to go in our initial 2023 NBA mock draft. For good reason. The 6-foot-4 guard was absolutely stellar for North Carolina State as a freshman — averaging 16.3 points and 4.1 rebounds. However, he’ll need to improve his shooting (40% in 2021-22) to be taken in the top 10. It’s not yet known how the De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell dynamic is going to work in Sacramento. But after picking up a forward in Keegan Murray in the 2021 NBA Draft, going backcourt seems logical.

10. Detroit Pistons: Kel’el Ware, center, Oregon

A surprising top-eight recruit that actually landed with Oregon, Ware seems to have all the skills to be seen as a top-end big prospect. He already boasts a solid 7-foot, 215-pound frame and is seen as someone who can actually hit the outside shot and protect the rim in the low-post. Likely to be featured for the Ducks next season, he could rise the boards even more.

11. Washington Wizards: Arthur Kaluma, forward, Creighton

2023 nba mock draft: arthur kaluma
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Kaluma played a pretty big role for a Bluejays team that nearly defeated Kansas in the Round of 32 last season. He averaged 10.4 points and 5.4 rebounds on 44% shooting as a freshman. If he can find a perimeter game to match his rebounding ability, this forward is going to be big time at the next level.

12. Orlando Magic (from Bulls): Dillon Mitchell, forward, Texas

nba mock draft:  dillon mitchell
Landon Bost/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY Network-Florida / USA TODAY NETWORK

Mitchell already stands at 6-foot-7, which is crazy for someone wh can handle the ball while displaying elite athleticism and an above-the-rim mentality. The only question here is just how much of a perimeter game he’ll develop and whether he’ll be a 3-and-D wing at the next level.

13. New Orleans Pelicans (from Lakers): Leonard Miller, forward, G-League Ignite

NBA: Draft Combine
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

This 6-foot-10 forward from Canada opted to join the NBA G-League for next season rather than go to college. It’s a risk. But one worth taking. Despite some questions about shooting, the skill-set is there. In reality, he could see a rise similar to Jonathan Kuminga leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft. The Pelicans could use that.

14. New York Knicks: Ausar Thompson, guard, Overtime Elite

The higher-ranked of the two Thompson twins, Ausar translates into being a big guard at the next level. He stants at 6-foot-7 and boasts a ridiculous 6-foot-11 wingspan. It’ll be interesting to see this kid develop during the pre-draft process.

2023 NBA mock draft: Non-lottery picks

15. Los Angeles Lakers (from Pelicans): Dereck Lively, center, Duke

16. Toronto Raptors: Amen Thompson, guard, Overtime Elite

17. New York Knicks (from Mavericks): Amari Bailey, guard, UCLA

18. Memphis Grizzlies: James Nnaji, center, Spain

19. Atlanta Hawks: Jordan Walsh, forward, Arkansas

20. Indiana Pacers (from Cavaliers): Cason Wallace, guard, Kentucky

21. Brooklyn Nets : Matthew Cleveland, guard, Florida State

22. Utah Jazz (from 76ers): Chris Livingston, forward, Kentucky

23. Charlotte Hornets (from Nuggets): Caleb Love, guard, North Carolina

24. Utah Jazz (from Timberwolves): Harrison Ingram, guard, Stanford

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Jalen Warley, guard, Florida State

26. Phoenix Suns: Kyle Filipowski, forward, Duke

27. Miami Heat: Jaden Bradley, guard, Alabama

28. Indiana Pacers (from Celtics): Nikola Durišić, guard, Serbia

29. Houston Rockets (from Bucks): Hunter Sallis, guard, Gonzaga

30. Golden State Warriors: Armando Bacot, center, North Carolina

Let us know what you think about our initial 2023 NBA mock draft in the comments secion below.

This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.

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