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Winners and Losers of the NBA Draft

French basketball player Victor Wembanyama, right, shakes hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs during the NBA Draft at Barclays Center on Thursday, June 22, 2023, in New York. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

With the 2023 National Basketball Association (NBA) season completed, the offseason has seen star players being shipped to other teams, including Bradley Beal getting traded to the Phoenix Suns, Kristaps Porzingis shipped to Boston in a three-team trade, and Chris Paul being traded for Jordan Poole. However, the most exciting night of the NBA offseason, the 2023 NBA Draft, occurred Thursday, June 22, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where Victor Wembanyama went No.1 overall to the Spurs, the Thompson twins drafted back-to-back, and Jett Howard being the most surprising pick. Let’s dive into the best and worst picks of draft night along with a few steals and busts of the draft. 

Best Classes: 

  • Utah Jazz -: Led by one of the best general managers in the world, Danny Aige, the Utah Jazz had the best draft performance out of any team in the league and it’s not very close. With the No.9 overall pick, they selected the two-way forward out of the University of Central Florida Taylor Hendricks. Hendricks is your prototypical 3&D forward that stands at 6 feet 9 inches. He will bring immediate shooting while also being a primary defender for the Jazz. His floor is a worse version of Bobby Portis, and his ceiling is Julius Randle. Their next pick was taking the shooting guard out of Baylor, Keyonte George. 

The No.16 pick was a former McDonald’s All-American along with a consensus five-star rating, but he struggled in parts of the season which landed him outside of the lottery. George has an elite shot making ability along with a fluidity to his game that will transfer to the NBA smoothly. His floor is Eric Gordon, and his ceiling is Damian Lillard. 

Lastly, the Jazz got a steal with their No.28 pick late in the first-round landing Ohio State guard Brice Sensabaugh. Sensabaugh is short for his position if he plays small forward but that doesn’t affect his scoring ability as he led Ohio State with 16.3 points per game while shooting 48.2% from the field. A concern with Sensabaugh is his injury history as he suffered a knee injury that ended his only college season.

Taylor Hendricks, right, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted ninth overall by the Utah Jazz during the first round of the NBA Draft at Barclays Center on Thursday, June 22, 2023, in New York. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images/TNS) TNS


  • OKC Thunder – Although the Thunder traded for Davis Bertans’ absurd $16 million-a-year contract with the Mavericks, they essentially moved up two picks to select a player I am very high on, Kentucky guard Cason Wallace. Wallace was a five-star heading into his only year with the Wildcats, and he showed his two-way ability throughout the adversity-riddled season. He averaged 11.7 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.7 RPG, along with astonishing two steals a game. Wallace fits perfectly within the Thunder rotation as he will be a key piece of the bench for the young Thunder squad. Wallace’s floor is a slightly better version of Patrick Beverly, and his ceiling is a better version of Jrue Holiday. 

The only other pick for the Thunder was the second round at the No.50 pick, and they took Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson. Johnson’s remarkable story starts at the University of Florida, where in a game in his sophomore year, he collapsed during the game and survived three days in a medically induced coma.  Johnson missed every game but the final home game, where he was applauded for his exceptional comeback. Johnson immediately transferred to Kansas State and after averaging 17.4 PPG and 6.8 RPG. The Thunder get a selfless teammate that can score at all three levels. My floor for Johnson is Gerald Green and his ceiling is Jerami Grant. 

Cason Wallace arrives prior to the first round of the NBA Draft at Barclays Center on Thursday, June 22, 2023, in New York. (Arturo Holmes/Getty Images/TNS) TNS
  • Dallas Mavericks – The other team apart from the trade for Cason Wallace, the Dallas Mavericks had an impressive draft night as second year GM Nico Harrison was able to free up $17 million as he traded Davis Bertans and the No.10 pick for the No.12 pick. The freed-up cap space. With that pick, the Mavs selected Duke center Dereck Lively. Lively was the No.1 prospect of the 2022 recruiting class according to 247sports, and he had an inconsistent lone season at Duke that proved glimpses of his greatness. Although Lively only averaged 5.2 PPG and 5.4 RPG, he averaged a team-high 2.4 BPG. Lively’s floor is a similar version of rookie Walker Kessler, a good shot-blocking center, and his ceiling is Rudy Gobert. With their other first round pick, the Mavericks addressed their defensive needs by selecting Oliver Maxence-Porsper. The forward out of Marquette will have immediate impact as he defends at an elite level while providing a fast-paced offensive game. Maxence-Prosper led the Eagles to a No.2 seed in the NCAA March Madness Tournament while also leading the Eagles to a Big East Conference Tournament Championship. He averaged 12.5 PPG while improving his shooting splits by about 9% in his three years in college. Maxence-Prosper’s floor is Dorian Finney-Smith, a former maverick, and his ceiling is a slightly worse version of Draymond Green. 
Dereck Lively II speaks with the media during the NBA Draft Combine at the Wintrust Arena on May 17, 2023, in Chicago. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images/TNS) TNS

Worst Draft Classes:

  • Orlando Magic – Out of any team, the Magic easily had the worst picks in the 2023 draft. 

With their first lottery selection, they took a pass-first point guard, Anthony Black from Arkansas. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a bad pick as Black is a good prospect, but the fit is horrible. The Magic already have a roster filled with guards, as they have Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Gary Harris, and Franz Wagner. Black will have to fight for minutes in his first season and will have a limited role in scoring while being the main ball-handler when he is in. His floor is a young Lonzo Ball, and his ceiling is a worse version of Penny Hardaway. 

Their next pick, the No.11 overall pick, is the son of former NBA star Juwan Howard, Jett Howard. Howard is one of the best shooters in the draft, however, this pick was seen as a reach since there were better prospects on the board. For example, both guards Gradey Dick and Jordan Hawkins were still on the board, and both are seen as better shooters. Howard averaged 14.2 PPG on a Michigan team that faced heavy adversity throughout the season. Howard will be a prototypical shot creator that thrives in the catch and shoot game. His floor is a better version of Luke Kennard, and his ceiling is a worse version of Devin Booker. 

  • Charlotte Hornets – With four picks in the draft, it seems impossible to have a poor draft performance, but the Hornets managed to miss on multiple picks. Similar to the Magic, the issue wasn’t necessarily the pick itself, but the value they missed with the pick. The Hornets were forced with the decision to choose between G-League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson and Alabama forward Brandon Miller. Charlotte decided on Miller, who was arguably the best player in college basketball this past season averaging 18.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, while shooting 38.4% from deep. Miller provides scoring that Charlotte hasn’t seen in years, but I believe Henderson was the smarter pick. Henderson is comparable to Rusell Westbrook, where he is freakishly athletic and very swole for an incoming rookie. On the other hand, Miller’s floor is a slightly better version of Rashard Lewis, and his ceiling is a better version of Brandon Ingram. 

Their second pick of the night at the No.27 pick as Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr. was taken. Now this wasn’t a horrible pick, but the Hornets are guard heavy, as they already have Lamelo Ball, Terry Rozier, James Bouknight, and Theo Maledon. With competition for minutes at the guard position, I don’t see Smith Jr. having the impact that some players that were taken after him like Andre Jackson and Jordan Walsh. Smith Jr. was a five-star out of high school and dealt with injuries throughout his freshman year. He returned in the NCAA tournament and led the Razorbacks to another Sweet 16 appearance. His floor is Eric Bledsoe, and his ceiling is Fred Vanvleet. 

Lastly, the Hornets had two second round picks and I believe they went half on those picks. Their first pick was the No.31 overall pick, selecting James Nnaji out of Barcelona. The Nigerian born prospect is an intriguing pick, as he has the size and frame to be a modern-day center, but he lacked consistent minutes in the Euro League. He is a project pick that could develop into a similar player as Jalen Duren, or best case, Ben Wallace. 

Their other pick was UCLA guard Amari Bailey, and I was extremely impressed with the selection. The former five-star prospect had an up and down season with the Bruins, while leading them to the Sweet 16. He is a shot creator that will have a fairly smooth transition into the NBA. My only issue with Bailey is his frame, as he is fairly skinny and weighs 190 pounds. His defense will be a question mark and he also could struggle in the paint with the NBA’s physicality.

Steals of the draft:

Julian Strawther – The No.29 overall pick provides elite shooting and effort on the defensive end. Strawther helped Gonzaga to the Elite Eight with his game-winning three against UCLA. He spent three years at Gonzaga and improved his PPG total by at least four points every season. In his final season, he averaged 15.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, while shooting 40.8% from three. I believe Strawther will have an immediate impact for the Nuggets as they look to repeat for the NBA Championship. His floor is De’Andre Hunter, and his ceiling is a worse version of Klay Thompson. 

GG Jackson – Gregory Jackson, the forward from the University of South Carolina, was selected with the No.45 pick to the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis got a steal with this pick along with one of the youngest players in the draft, as the 18-year-old reclassified into the 2022 recruiting class. Jackson averaged 15.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, with low 30% shooting splits. He will need a year or two to develop but when people look back at the 2023 draft, they will say GG Jackson was a steal. He can score the ball efficiently while 

Andre Jackson – Another second-round steal! The No.36 overall pick was silently another scary addition for the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jackson, the 6-foot-6 forward, offers a defensive presence the Bucks need. With Giannis and Lopez already anchoring the paint, Jackson provides excellent perimeter defense while being a glue guy hustling for rebounds and being a smart passer. Offensively, Jackson is solid in the paint and at the mid-range mark but needs to work on his outside shooting ability. His three-point percentage this past season dropped 8% as he shot 20 more threes than the year prior. Other than working on his offensive craft, I see Jackson getting a bulk of bench minutes while learning a new system with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Jackson’s floor is Jarred Vanderbilt, and his ceiling is a worse version of modern-day Andrew Wiggins. 


Ausar Thompson – Now I might get some hate for this one, but I was not fond of the Detroit Pistons No.5 overall pick, Ausar Thompson out of the Overtime Elite League. Thompson, the proclaimed boom or bust prospect, spent the last two seasons with OTE where he averaged 16.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 6.1 APG, and 2.4 SPG. These stats look great on the outside, but I am very skeptical about the OTE League. The age range of the league is 16-22 so there is a wide variety of ages in the developmental league. I believe Thompson will need at least two years to adjust to the NBA, and even if he does adjust, I don’t see him having the same impact as some players drafted behind him like Jarace Walker and Taylor Hendricks. Thompson’s floor is a slightly better version of Grayson Allen, and his ceiling is Mikal Bridges. 

Amen, left, and Ausar Thompson of Pine Crest are the South Florida Sun Sentinel Broward County boys basketball Players of the Year for small schools on March 12, 2021. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS) TNS

Jett Howard – As previously mentioned, Howard was a reach at the spot he was selected at. The former Wolverine is a talented prospect, but I question the fit, especially since there were better prospects available. Howard is a premiere shooter that the Magic need, but he occasionally lacks effort on the boards and the defensive side which will negatively affect his playing time. This seems like a bailout pick on a player they feel will either boom or bust. 

Jett Howard, middle, with Juwan Howard, top right, prior to the first round of the NBA Draft at Barclays Center on Thursday, June 22, 2023, in New York. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images/TNS) TNS

Brandon Miller – Lastly, this take will be slightly different than the other two prospects I believe will be busts. With Miller, I believe he will be a solid player in the league that could scratch the surface as an all-star, but they missed out on a player that I believe could be a hall-of-famer. The debate between Scoot and Miller was a hot topic prior to the draft, but there should have been no debate. I get Miller was one of the best scorers in college basketball last season, but Scoot is a game-changer in the backcourt and the Hornets would’ve thrived with the one-two punch of Henderson and Lamelo Ball. I believe Miller will be known as a bust because he didn’t live up to the No.2 pick standards along with being in Henderson’s trail legacy wise. Only time will tell if the Hornets regret this decision or not.

Brandon Miller, right, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted second overall by the Charlotte Hornets during the first round of the NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 22, 2023, in New York. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images/TNS) TNS
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