The 2023 NBA Draft will take place on June 22, and with March Madness in full swing, many NBA teams have their best scouts in the bleachers.
However, while many mock drafts simply attempt to find the best players available for the team picking them, the following mock draft takes into account the needs of the teams drafting in lottery and the how far those teams would be willing to go to get their guy. As a result, the following mock will feature two draft night trades that have a realistic chance of happening.
Without any further ado, here is a lottery-only 2023 NBA Mock Draft.
2023 NBA Mock Draft (Lottery Only*)
*The Spurs and Rockets have equal chances of having the second overall pick as of Mar. 18. However, strictly for the purpose of simplification, the Spurs will have the third overall pick this mock draft.
1. Spurs (trade w/ Pistons) – PF Victor Wembanyama, Metropolitans 92
If there’s any combination of a team and player that need each other, it may be the San Antonio Spurs and Metropolitans 92 power forward Victor Wembanyama.
Wembanyama, projected to be top overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft due to his superstar potential, could still be the player that the Detroit Pistons choose. However, as Wemby has a tremendous chance to follow in the footsteps of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, two other big men that became Hall of Famers with the Spurs under head coach Gregg Popovich’s tutelage. As a result, the Spurs need to do everything they can to get on the dynamic big man and have their future face of the franchise.
In trading up to have the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Spurs will surrender the third overall pick to the Pistons.
2. Magic (trade w/ Rockets) – G Scoot Henderson, G League Ignite
Similar to the Spurs, the Orlando Magic have a clear need in the NBA lottery, and that’s a guard with superstar potential. Throughout the history of the NBA, it’s routinely been proven that pairing an All-Star caliber forward with an All-Star caliber guard has been effective. So, now that the Magic have Paolo Banchero rocking and rolling in South Florida, Orlando needs to focus on the backcourt.
True enough, guards Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, and Jalen Suggs have demonstrated varying levels of value for the Magic. Nonetheless, none of them have the combination of scoring prowess, defensive potential, playmaking ability, size and athleticism that Scoot Henderson has. Besides that, both Fultz and Anthony are only under contract for one more season.
In trading up to the no. 2 spot in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Magic will surrender their two lottery picks (currently no. 5 and no. 9 overall) to the Rockets.
3. Pistons – SF Brandon Miller, Alabama Crimson Tide
Brandon Miller can pretty much do it all and that’s exactly what you want from your starting small forward. While there will be the understandable questions about Miller’s character after finding out that he was responsible for transporting the firearm that former teammate Darius Miles would give to his friend before the deadly shooting, Miller will join the right organization for him.
The Pistons have made it a point to hire Black coaches and executives, so they may have an easier time understanding Miller than other franchises, to be frank. Furthermore, Miller will be joining a team led by individuals with tremendous character in head coach Dwane Casey, point guard Cade Cunningham, and shooting guard Jaden Ivey.
In terms of his on-court fit, Miller’s 3-point efficiency will be the most valuable trait from Day 1.
4. Hornets – F Taylor Hendricks, UCF Knights
It’s time for the Charlotte Hornets to take themselves seriously as a franchise, so Miles Bridges should be on the trading block this offseason, if they aren’t already. To be blunt, Bridges should be receiving the backlash that Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant is getting, considering his comparative history. With that being said, no player may be better able to replace the vertical and floor-spacing dimensions that Bridges added to the Hornets offense.
A high-flying forward with great length, an efficient outside shot, and defensive instincts, Hendricks will make Bridges a distant memory if the Hornets look to replace him in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Notably, when asked who he compares himself to at the NBA level, Hendricks picked eight-time All-Star and 3-time block champion Anthony Davis (per Nick Crain of Draft Digest).
5. Rockets (trade w/ Magic) – G Anthony Black, Arkansas Razorbacks
The Houston Rockets could go plenty of directions in this draft, and considering the questions they have in the frontcourt, they could choose to draft the best small forward available. Consequently, it’s no wonder that the Rockets have been Alabama Crimson Tide forward Brandon Miller, a player that is arguably the best fit for a starting lineup that includes Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., and Alperen Sengun.
However, one could argue that the Rockets would be better off with a player that puts players like KPJ and JG4 in a better position to maximize their scoring abilities. Even further, due to Rockets head coach Stephen Silas routinely pulling out Sengun — their most reliable offensive player — because of his pick-and-roll defense, focus could be placed there as well.
From that perspective, Arkansas Razorbacks guard Anthony Black should be the pick. A connector that thrives defensively at 6-foot-7 and doesn’t mind letting other players score, Black might not be sexy pick but he is certainly practical.
6. Wizards – PG Cason Wallace, Kentucky Wildcats
Like the Rockets, the Washington Wizards could go in any number of directions in the upcoming draft. However, between Kyle Kuzma, Kristaps Porzingis, and Daniel Gafford, the Wizards actually have one of the better frontcourt units in the league. That being said, the backcourt could use some attention.
This is past the underwhelming start of rookie guard Johnny Davis, who will likely need time to hit his stride offensively. The problem also lies with starting point guard Monte Morris, an efficient and heady floor general that struggles defensively. Enter Cason Wallace, a high-level defender in the backcourt and a true point guard as well.
Wallace has a great chance to follow in the footsteps of past Kentucky guards and be a high-quality NBA player.
7. Trail Blazers – F Kris Murray, Iowa Hawkeyes
The Portland Trail Blazers still have the same problem that they have had since LaMarcus Aldridge left town in that they’ve been unable to find a reliable replacement for the future Hall of Fame forward. Not only has this made the Blazers overly reliant on All-Star guard Damian Lillard offensively but it’s caused their defense to take a step back as well.
This season, the Blazers have been closer than ever to solving their frontcourt woes, particularly with the career season veteran forward Jerami Grant is having. However, Grant is not a lock to return to Portland in free agency and the Blazers don’t need to break the bank on a player that continuously leaves situations he asked to go to (i.e. the Denver Nuggets and the Detroit Pistons).
Iowa Hawkeyes forward Kris Murray is the twin brother of Sacramento Kings rookie standout Keegan Murray and has pretty much the exact same game. A versatile and dynamic frontcourt piece, what separates Murray from the other forwards that are guaranteed to be under contract for the Blazers is his scoring potential, as he averages 20.2 points per game this season.
8. Pacers – F Jarace Walker, Houston Cougars
Houston Cougars forward Jarace Walker won’t be looked to as a scorer in the NBA but is built more in the mold of Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan, already a favorite of Popovich as a rookie. A versatile defender with playmaking potential and relatively efficient 3-point shooting,
Walker has the type of skillset that will keep him in the NBA for a long time.
Aside from that, what the Pacers need from their starting power forward is defense and versatility. They also need the type of player that won’t mind not scoring much. Due to the bevy of scorers already on the roster, including Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, Bennedict Mathurin, and Jordan Nwora, Walker will be needed for pretty much everything but that.
9. Rockets (trade w/ Magic) – SF Gradey Dick, Kansas Jayhawks
The Rockets still need a small forward to shore up their depth and versatility there. However, they also need a player that can be an off-ball threat with so many on-ball players in their rotation. Fortunately for them, Kansas Jayhawks forward Gradey Dick checks off both of those boxes.
An elite 3-point shooter that’s knocked down 40.4 percent of his 3-point attempts this season, the Kansas native may not start for the Rockets.
Nonetheless, Rockets fans can expect him to be one of their most highly utilized players because they won’t have another player as capable of being an elite off-ball player without signing one. He doesn’t just catch-and-shoot. He also runs off of screens and makes timely cuts that will add extra wrinkles to the offense.
10. Raptors – PG Amen Thompson, Overtime Elite
Length, athleticism, creative shot-making, passing prowess, defensive potential, and athleticism. All of these are the hallmarks of Amen Thompson, one half of the popular Thompson Twins. They also are the preferred traits of the players that Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has valued, as evidenced by his draft selections of Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, and OG Anunoby since he took over as the Raptors’ lead decision-maker.
With guard Fred VanVleet heading into free agency this summer with no shortage of potential suitors, the Raptors not only need to plan for life without FVV but try to improve on the point guard position. Although Barnes has done well in a point-forward role, he’s also the type of player that should have a lead-man setting him up for easy points in the pick-and-roll or off-ball. Plus, Thompson’s size at 6-foot-7 makes him a more intriguing fit on the defensive end.
Selecting a player from OTE is a gamble but history has shown that talented players should not be overlooked because of questions about the level of competition they faced.
11. Pelicans – F GG Jackson, South Carolina Gamecocks
It’s a travesty of sorts that the New Orleans Pelicans’ two best players — Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson — are the least reliable in terms of health and availability. With that said, their constant absence has made it clear that the Pelicans need to have a plan for success that factors in their injury history.
In terms of the frontcourt players that remain on the roster, there are multiple that have been more efficient that South Carolina Gamecocks forward GG Jackson. Jackson is only shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from 3-point range, after all. Nonetheless, Jackson arguably has more scoring potential than of the remaining frontcourt players. A more-than-capable 3-level scorer, Jacksons creativity, length, athleticism and fluidity shine on tape.
Jackson also knows how to make his mark defensively.
12. Thunder – C Dereck Lively II, Duke Blue Devils
The Oklahoma City Thunder will likely feel as if they have two lottery picks joining the rotation, as 2022 second overall pick Chet Holmgren is set to join the team after missing what was supposed to be his rookie season with an untimely Lisfranc injury. Still, the Thunder have one of the best collections of young talent in the league, and pieces are finally starting to fit together.
Starting with the head of the snake, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder can also look to playmaking guard Josh Giddey and rookie forward Jalen Williams as a franchise building blocks. With their perimeter group set, the play of Holmgren will be important to monitor moving forward. That being said, the Thunder could be best served by focusing on the center position.
Duke Blue Devils center Dereck Lively makes the most sense for the Thunder as a true center and shot-blocker, an archetype that’s still extremely valuable in today’s NBA.
13. Jazz – SF Dariq Whitehead, Duke Blue Devils
The Utah Jazz will, more than likely, be looking for a forward at this spot in the 2023 NBA Draft. While prospects such as Cam Whitmore of the Villanova Wildcats will receive sizable consideration here, and should, Blue Devils forward Dariq Whitehead is an elite shot-maker from deep and that should make all the difference for the Jazz.
A team that has a number of downhill scorers along the perimeter, Whitehead should have plenty of space and opportunity to let it rip with the Jazz. Considering that the 6-foot-7, 220-pound true freshman is shooting 43.0 percent from 3-point range this season, they should have no problem doing so.
A potential 3-and-D star, Whitehead is the perfect fit for a Jazz starting lineup that could include Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler, Collin Sexton, and Kris Dunn.
14. Lakers – G Ausar Thompson, Overtime Elite
The Los Angeles Lakers have made so many roster mistakes over the past few years that sorting them out has taken time. Unfortunately, while the Lakers made shrewd moves at the 2023 NBA trade deadline that likely kept their season alive, they will be back in a tough spot this offseason.
Not only is fan favorite Austin Reaves set to hit free agency, but swingman Lonnie Walker IV is as well. The Lakers will need to find cheap replacements for both Reaves and Walker, especially if they opt to pursue Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving in free agency this offseason. If they do, the wing is likely where the bulk of their focus will be, given that Lakers head coach Darvin Ham prefers to play AD at center.
Thompson may not be facing the level of competition that fellow guards Keyonte George (Baylor Bears) and Nick Smith (Arkansas Razorbacks) are. However, he has more potential on both ends of the floor, and could develop rapidly under the wing of a player like LeBron James.