clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Instant grades on every 2023 NBA Draft first round pick

Let’s grade every first round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

The 2023 NBA Draft was never going to feature any drama in regards to the No. 1 overall pick. Victor Wembanyama has a case as one of the greatest prospects in the history of the sport. The 7’5 French big man learned that he’ll start his career with the San Antonio Spurs after the team somehow landed the first pick in the lottery once again. Wembanyama will be the third generational 7-footer to play for coach Gregg Popovich as he follows in the footsteps of David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

There has been debate over the next best player in the class once Wembanyama goes off the board. G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson has a blazing first step and advanced chops in the pick-and-roll. Alabama freshman Brandon Miller is a 6’9 wing who can torch the nets from deep when he gets hot. Twins Amen and Ausar Thompson are elite run-and-jump athletes who are oozing with upside despite their shaky jump shots.

Check out our final 2023 NBA Draft big board ranking the 60 best players in the class. Read our feature on the development of the Thompson twins in the upstart Overtime Elite league, too. We also compiled the best plays from Wembanyama’s MVP season in France at 19 years old. We’ll have a 2024 NBA mock draft on this site on Friday. You can bet on NBA futures at DraftKings Sportsbook.

We’re going to give out live grades on every first round pick. Keep refreshing this page all night.

1. San Antonio Spurs - Victor Wembanyama, C, Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92

Grade: A+

Wembanyama is one of the best prospects in league history. Born in suburban Paris, the 19-year-old is set to be both the tallest and longest player in the NBA next season standing 7’5 in shoes with an 8-foot wingspan. He’s an incredibly fluid athlete for his size, able to play all over the floor on both offense and defense. Wembanyama easily profiles as a dominant rim finisher and shot blocker, but also he’s shown the ability to make three-pointers and defend the perimeter. If Wembanyama can stay healthy, he’s going to be the next international superstar to hit the NBA.

2. Charlotte Hornets - Brandon Miller, F, Alabama

Grade: B

We rated Scoot Henderson as the second best player in the draft. It’s easy to make the case that Brandon Miller is a better fit in Charlotte with LaMelo Ball entrenched at point guard, but the Hornets have the weakest overall talent base of any roster in the NBA, and should not be drafting for fit. Miller is a damn good prospect in his own right as a 6’9 shooter with impressive passing and ball handling ability, but his upside may be capped a bit by his lack of elite athleticism. As long as Miller can shoot around 40 percent from three, the Hornets won’t regret this pick. If his shot slips to around league-average efficiency, it’s fair to wonder if his game is well-rounded enough to be worth this pick.

3. Portland Trail Blazers - Scoot Henderson, G, G League Ignite

Grade: A

Henderson is a super fast, super strong point guard who can put pressure on the rim as a scorer, rip mid-range jumpers, and make advanced passing reads in the pick-and-roll. Henderson will need to improve his three-point shot and play up to his physical talent defensively, but he fits the mold of the hyper-athletic point guard that has always been coveted in the NBA. The real question now in Portland is what happens with Damian Lillard. Lillard reportedly preferred if this pick was traded for a veteran star, but Portland’s front office wasn’t on the same page. Whether Lillard asks out or not, Henderson is an incredible prize at No. 3 overall.

4. Houston Rockets - Amen Thompson, G, Overtime Elite

Grade: A

Thompson is a 6’7 point guard with a 7-foot wingspan who might be the most athletic player in the NBA next year. He also might be the worst shooter of any lead guard in the league. Houston might have been the best possible landing spot for him: they already have two great shooters in their core in Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr., and badly needed a playmaking point guard. Thompson is oozing with upside because he can bend the opposite defense at will off the dribble. His historically good first step helps makes him a walking paint touch, and he’s also able to score at the rim thanks to his incredible leaping ability. Amen’s ability to play on the ball will cover up his lack of shooting to some extent, but he’ll need to develop a reliable mid-range jumper and free throw stroke at minimum to reach his ceiling.

5. Detroit Pistons - Ausar Thompson, G, Overtime Elite

Grade: B

Ausar isn’t quite as explosive as his twin brother Amen, but he might have a more well-rounded game. Ausar is a more disciplined and effective defender, a tighter ball-handler, and a superior shooter — even if his three-point stroke remains a major work in progress. This is a bit of a strange fit for the Pistons given that the team’s biggest weakness is shooting next to Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Jalen Duren. Ausar isn’t going to help them in that area. At the same time, Ausar should provide an instant injection of athleticism and connective passing while acting as a super versatile defender. Detroit is loaded with high upside talent, but Ivey and Thompson need to improve as shooters to really make the pieces fit.

6. Orlando Magic - Anthony Black, G, Arkansasa

Grade: B

Black is a huge 6’7 point guard with a strong lower body who offers immense defensive versatility. He isn’t yet a great shooter after hitting only 30 percent of his threes and 70 percent of his free throws during his one year at Arkansas. I’m skeptical he has enough juice off the dribble to truly be a lead guard. Orlando really needs to add some shooting now with Black joining Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. A spacing crunch will be facing Orlando unless their core pieces all improve their jump shots. Either way, Black’s connective passing and switchable defense makes him the type of player every team needs in the playoffs.

7. Washington Wizards (traded by Pacers) - Bilal Coulibaly, F, Mets 92

Grade: C+

It’s easy to see the vision with Coulibaly: he’s an amazing run-and-jump athlete with a huge 7’2 wingspan who could become a tremendous defender. He’s just not close to being NBA ready right now. Coulibaly is one of the most raw prospects in this draft, but he sky-rocketed up draft boards lately by closing the season strong alongside Wembanyama on Mets 92. The Wizards are in full teardown mode after trading Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis already this offseason, and this pick was made with a long-term view in mind. The Wizards aren’t going to field a competitive team for a long, long time.

8. Indiana Pacers - Jarace Walker, F, Houston

Grade: A+

A perfect fit for both the player and the team. Walker is a powerful 6’8, 240-pound forward with a 7’2 wingspan who offers massive defensive potential, connective passing, some spot-up shooting, and some one-on-one scoring punch. Walker will be a tremendous supplemental shot blocker next to Myles Turner while also providing some wing stopper capabilities. This is also a great spot for him offensively because Indiana has enough shooters to cover up for his developing jumper. I think Walker has more scoring punch than he showed while being asked to play a winning role on a veteran Houston team in college. The core of Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Turner, and Walker suddenly intimidating on both ends of the floor.

9. Utah Jazz - Taylor Hendricks, F, UCF

Grade: B+

Hendricks is a big 6’9 forward who can block shots and shoot threes. While he may not have huge upside as a shot creator, he’s the type of player who can unlock so many team-building strategies for a roster just starting a rebuild in Utah. I’m interested to see if Hendricks can handle real minutes at center while playing next to Lauri Markkanen, but his ability to hammer home dunks near the rim and stretch the floor will be valuable regardless of how he slots into the lineup. He may not be a superstar, but he has one of the highest floors of any player in this draft.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder - Cason Wallace, G, Kentucky

Grade: A

The Thunder moved up two spots to land a perfect complementary guard in Wallace. Wallace is an elite defender with super quick and super strong hands. While he’s only 6’3, his strong lower body and incredible discipline allows him to defend bigger players. Wallace isn’t exactly a traditional point guard, but he’s a good spot-up shooter and can act as a secondary playmaker. He’s another tough defender and capable shooter for a promising Thunder core that includes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren, and Jalen Williams.

11. Orlando Magic - Jett Howard, F, Michigan

Grade: B+

This one was a little bit of a surprise, but I really like it for Orlando. The Magic needed a shooter. Most assumed Kansas’ Gradey Dick would have been the pick here, but Howard is almost as good with his jumper while still being a superior shot creator off the dribble. The issue with Howard is he isn’t a great athlete and struggles defensively. Well, the Magic got a great defender in Anthony Black with their first pick in this draft. Howard’s size (6’8) and shooting fits right in with Orlando’s promising core.

12. Dallas Mavericks - Dereck Lively II, C, Duke

Grade: C

Lively was a top recruit who didn’t quite live up to the hype as a freshman at Duke. He was excellent as a rim protector — finishing No. 3 in the country in block rate — but struggled to score and wasn’t a plus passer or shooter. Lively could have more offensive upside if he shows the shooting promise he put on display in high school, but that wasn’t evident at Duke. I had Lively just outside the top-30 on my board, so I can’t give this pick too high of a grade. That said, Dallas definitely needed size and shot blocking with Luka Doncic and (probably) Kyrie Irving entrenched in the lineup, so this pick does make some sense.

13. Toronto Raptors - Gradey Dick, G/F, Kansas

Grade: B+

Dick is 6’8 and might be the best shooter in the draft. He has a quick release, deep range, and impressive versatility as shooter, being able to sprint around screens and quickly square himself to the basket to hit shots. He’s played strong competition in both high school and college and has always survived defensively even if he’s never going to be a plus defender. Toronto definitely needed shooting, and they drafted for need with this pick.

14. New Orleans Pelicans - Jordan Hawkins, G, UConn

Grade: C

Hawkins is an elite shooter, but he doesn’t bring much else to the table. Yes, Hawkins is excellent at his signature skill: he’s an incredible movement shooter who can bend the defense without holding the ball. He should be a good fit on this Pelicans roster next to Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. The problem with Hawkins is that he isn’t big enough to offer defensive versatility, he’s not a plus passer, and he doesn’t have much on-ball creation upside. I don’t love drafting a specialist without good size in the lottery.

15. Atlanta Hawks - Kobe Bufkin, G, Michigan

Grade: B+

Bufkin is a 6’5 guard who can play on or off the ball. He was an amazing finisher at the rim, a good shooter from three-point range, and he impressed with his on-ball defense. He’s not an elite athlete and he’ll have to add strength to his frame, but he is one of the most well-rounded guards in this draft. Bufkin can fit alongside either Dejounte Murray or Trae Young in the backcourt, and it will be fascinating to see if all three can play together.

16. Utah Jazz - Keyonte George, G, Baylor

Grade: B

George offers some upside on- or off-the-ball. The 6’4 guard is a good all-around shooter: he can rip spot-up threes, hit tough mid-range pull-ups, and he’s nearly an 80 percent shooter from the free throw line. George is a solid defender who can hold his own against either backcourt position on the ball, but I’m not sure how much defensive versatility he has. George lacks great athleticism to get easy buckets at the rim, but he’s a well-rounded guard prospect who makes sense for Utah at the start of its rebuild.

17. Los Angeles Lakers - Jalen Hood-Schifino, G, Indiana

Grade: C+

Hood is a huge 6’6 guard who can make plays out of the pick-and-roll while offering pull-up shooting potential. He’s not a great athlete, and didn’t get many easy buckets as a freshman for Indiana, which is one reason he struggled to score efficiently at times. I had Hood-Schifino ranked outside my top-30, but the NBA teams were reportedly always higher on him. His upsides rests on him turning into a knockdown pull-up shooter off the dribble, but I’m not super encouraged by his college tape or percentages. The Lakers did need a guard and if this saves them from giving D’Angelo Russell a big contract, it could be worth it.

18. Miami Heat - Jaime Jaquez, F, UCLA

Grade: B

Jaquez had an awesome four-year career at UCLA, but never did I think he would ultimately end up as a top-20 pick. Drafting a pro-ready player does make sense for a Heat team that just made the Finals. Jaquez is an excellent mid-range shooter who will need to stretch out his range to three to have a big impact at the NBA level. He profiles as a low-maintenance wing who could hold down rotation minutes immediately if his three ball comes around.

19. Golden State Warriors- Brandin Podziemski, G, Santa Clara

Grade: B+

Podziemski couldn’t get on the floor for Illinois as a freshmen, so he transferred to Santa Clara and turned into a star. The 6’5 guard put up incredible scoring efficiency all over the floor, including a 43.8 percent three-point stroke. Podziemski is a quality rebounder and more of a connective passer than a traditional point guard, but that will fit just fine in the Bay. The Warriors needed more shooting after trading Jordan Poole for Chris Paul, and Podziemski is such a high quality shooter that he should fit in pretty quickly.

20. Houston Rockets - Cam Whitmore, F, Villanova

Grade: A+

I had Whitmore rated as the No. 4 player in the class ahead of Brandon Miller. This is a stunning fall down the draft board that no one would have predicted a month ago. Whitmore has a jacked 6’7 frame, explosive athleticism, and a projectable three-point shot. The weaknesses in his skill set is his passing and court vision, but he’s one of the youngest players in the draft, so he could improve there. I would have given Houston a great grade if they took him at No. 4 overall. To get a talent like this at No. 20 is downright incredible.

21. Brooklyn Nets- Noah Clowney, F/C, Alabama

Grade: B+

Clowney is young, raw, and oozing with upside if he can hit his ceiling. A 6’10 big man who will spend most of his time at the four but can also chip in at center, Clowney has the potential to be a floor-spacer on offense and supplemental shot-blocker on defense. While the long-term vision of him is enticing, he badly needs to add strength and continue to refine his technique at both ends of the floor.

22. Brooklyn Nets - Dariq Whitehead, G, Duke

Grade: B+

Whitehead was supposed to be a top-five pick coming into Duke, but an early-season foot injury slowed his momentum. While he didn’t look like the athletic rim-attacker he was supposed to be as a recruit, Whitehead remade his game as a shooter. The three-point shot was considered a question mark for Whitehead heading into college, but he knocked down 43 percent of his threes as a freshman. Whitehead just had another foot surgery which is really scary, but if he can regain his explosiveness this is a great upside pick by the Nets.

23. Portland Trail Blazers - Kris Murray, F, Iowa

Grade: B

Murray is the twin brother of Keegan Murray, who went No. 4 overall in last year’s draft. Kris Murray had a similar breakout year at Iowa once his brother bolted for the NBA, and he projects as a solid 3-and-D wing at the next level. Murray is a little less prolific as a shooter than his brother, and he looks slightly less athletic, too. Still, this is a high-floor pick who should be able to stick in the league for a long-time as a rotation wing.

24. Dallas Mavericks - Olivier Maxence-Prosper, F, Marquette

Grade: A-

O-Max was the big winner of the combine after impressing with his measurements and his play in the scrimmage. Maxence-Prosper has great size for a forward, a developing but projectable three-point shot, and plays with awesome energy on both ends. He’ll contribute as a rebounder and wing stopper right away for a Dallas team that really needed a big forward. This a perfect fit for the Mavs.

25. Detroit Pistons - Marcus Sasser, G, Houston

Grade: B-

This feels like a surprising pick for Detroit after trading up with Boston. The Pistons are already built around two guards in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, and just drafted another big guard in Ausar Thompson at No. 5. Sasser brings volume shooting and tough defense, but he’s a bit small for an NBA guard going with a top-25 pick. Detroit could have used a wing shooter here, and there were some good ones still on the board.

26. Indiana Pacers - Ben Sheppard, G, Belmont

Grade: B

Four-year guard and high-IQ player who can hit spot-up threes, play with energy in the open floor, and defend his position. Sheppard blew up on draft boards at the combine after testing well athletically and putting up impressive showings in the scrimmages. He’s a nice fit in a young Pacers core that has a lot of shooting and ball handling.

27. Charlotte Hornets - Nick Smith Jr., G, Arkansas

Grade: A

Smith was thought to be the best freshmen in college basketball coming into the season at Arkansas. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury just before the season started and never really looked right. At his best, Smith is a speedy ball handler with a deep bag of scoring tricks: he has a deadly floater, he can hit three-pointers off movement, and he’s developing as a passer. Smith is a small guard and will face questions defensively, but if gets fully healthy this could end up looking like a major steal.

28. Utah Jazz - Brice Sensabaugh, G, Ohio State

Grade: A

I had Sensabaugh rated as a lottery pick, but he fell on draft night because teams were reportedly worried about the health of his knee in addition to his spotty defense. Sensabaugh is not exactly a well-rounded prospect, but he is one of the very best shooters in this class. A strong 6’6 off-ball guard, Sensabaugh can rip three-pointers with volume and accuracy, and also has a deadly pull-up mid-range game. If Sensabaugh gets fully healthy, the Jazz landed a great talent with one of the last picks in the first round.

29. Denver Nuggets - Julian Strawther, F, Gonzaga

Grade: A

Strawther is a 6’7 junior from Gonzaga who was one of the best shooters in the country this past season after hitting 40.8 percent of his threes on 5.3 attempts per game. The Nuggets targeted this pick in a trade to add a win-now contributor on a cheap contract, and Strawther can be exactly that. He won’t create much with the ball in his hands, but getting a knockdown shooter with size is a great idea for a team led by Nikola Jokic.

30. Los Angeles Clippers - Kobe Brown, F, Missouri

Grade: B

Four-year player who emerged on NBA draft boards as a senior after making a big leap as a shooter. Brown is absolutely massive at 6’8, 250 pounds with the skill to play on the perimeter and the size to bang inside. He went from a 25 percent three-point shooter to a 45 percent three-point shooter as a senior. If that progress holds, he should be a stretch forward with offensive versatility who will be a load to handle in the paint.