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Biggest winners and losers from the 2023 NBA Draft

Wemby finds his happy place, and the Rockets get away with robbery.

2023 NBA Draft Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The 2023 NBA Draft is in the books, and while we didn’t get the league-shattering drama the night potentially promised, we did see a lot of teams get much, much better.

A lack of major draft movement is a major theme of what we saw on Thursday night. There was no mammoth Damian Lillard trade, the Pelicans didn’t find a way to move up to get Scoot Henderson, and Zion Williamson is still in New Orleans. For the most part the league got trades out of their system early with Kristaps Porzingis heading to Boston, and Chris Paul being dealt to the Warriors. This meant that when the rubber met the road the draft was purely about picking players and some small movement up and down the board.

It goes without saying who the biggest winners were in this draft. Of course I’m talking about the San Antonio Spurs. This was the most no-brain decision in NBA Draft history, and taking Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick was even more clear cut than LeBron James in 2003. It’s easy to play revisionist history now, but there was legitimate debate in the ‘03 pre-draft process whether Carmelo Anthony should be the No. 1 pick after leading Syracuse to a national championship, while LeBron was a riskier selection as a high school player.

But, I digress — this is about Wemby and how easy it was for the Spurs to win this draft. This team landed the unicorn, the mythical creature we’ve been watching play basketball for the last year with mouths agape. The kind of player who doesn’t just impress basketball fans, but leaves anyone awestruck while watching him play. How can a man that big, and that long, also be such a good shooter and have such natural agility? Wemby defies everything we know, not just about basketball, but human physics.

Only the biggest Spurs hater is unable to see this whole scenario as a feel-good story. There’s the romance of Wembanyama being the next “great one” in the middle, following in the footsteps of David Robinson and Tim Duncan. He arrives on a team that basically wrote the book on international scouting and forced the rest of the NBA to play catchup. Heck, we even saw photos of young Wemby wearing a Tony Parker jersey, and now he’s playing for them.

Let’s dive in and look at the rest of what went down on Thursday night.

Winners: Houston Rockets


Sure, there were some injury concerns about Whitmore that revealed themselves on draft night — but Houston still managed to land two of the best players in this entire class. The young base the Rockets are building is unparalleled.

Prior to the draft there was a real discussion whether or not Houston would take Amen Thompson or Cam Whitmore at No. 4. They ended up with both. This gives the team the starting point guard they’ve been coveting, as well as an uber-athletic wing who adds aggressiveness and explosiveness that they’ve been lacking.

I absolutely love this for the Rockets, and I think it’s going to be so much fun to see this young team evolve. There’s a very real chance we see them make noise sooner, rather than later.

Winners: Charlotte Hornets

The decision to select Brandon Miller over Scoot Henderson is going to be a talking point for YEARS to come, especially if either player fails to live up to their billing. Or heck, even if both of them do. When the dust settled the Hornets chose fit over upside, but it’s what the team did with the rest of its night that made this a home-run class for Charlotte.

At No. 27 the team picked Nick Smith Jr., a brilliant roll of the dice that could pay off in a big way. Injury concerns pushed Smith Jr. down the board, but he had Top 10 potential before he was hurt. If he’s able to recover (and he should) then there’s a very real possibility that Smith Jr. could end up starting in the backcourt alongside LaMelo Ball long-term.

Then the team managed to take UCLA guard Amari Bailey with the No. 41 pick. Bailey was the No. 26 player on our big board, so Charlotte found value here — and added much-needed three point shooting off the bench for a team that really struggled from beyond the arc when Melo wasn’t on the floor.

All in all the Hornets finished the 2023 Draft with the No. 5, No. 16, No. 26 and No. 45 players on our board. For as disappointing as it may be for some fans to not see Scoot in Charlotte, this team more than made up for it on Thursday.

Winners: Blazers fans

This was a very, very good night if you’re a Portland fan. Not only did the draft break in a way that allowed Scoot Henderson to land in your lap, but more importantly: Damian Lillard is still on the team.

The anxiety leading up to Thursday night was palpable, and there was ample sound concern that we’d leave the draft with the Blazers in tatters, looking to rebuild around youth. Instead we’re now facing the potential that Portland might have the most electrifying backcourt in the NBA with Scoot and Dame, and while this team is still missing that veteran presence Lillard wanted, there’s a good nucleus here.

Taking Kris Murray with the No. 24 pick made a lot of sense too. He’s a high-floor player who can immediately contribute, which is what this team needs right now.

Loser: Damian Lillard

It’s pretty simple: He didn’t get anything he was looking for out of this draft. Scoot is going to be a great player down the road, but the Blazers’ inability to turn that pick into veteran gold doesn’t make things easier for them next season.

Dame has had unparalleled patience with the team building around him, and he’s loyal almost to a fault. Once more he’ll enter an NBA season without the team around him he deserves.

Losers: New Orleans Pelicans

The team poised to be explosive on draft night was a bit of a wet fart when it was all said and done. Deciding not to trade Zion Williamson is fine — those rumors seemed a little wild anyway.

However, this team did work its tail off to try and make a deal to move up for Scoot Henderson and failed. This resulted in them staying pat and picking purely for fit over everything else at No. 14. Jordan Hawkins is a lights-out shooter ... and that’s it. He offers almost nothing on the defensive end, he’s not great at creating his own shot, and he isn’t a plus-level passer.

This was one of the biggest reaches from our big board, which had Hawkins as the No. 35 prospect — and it’s difficult to really see how this team got much better through the draft. That’s a pretty disappointing end for a team that looked like major players in this draft.