There won’t be any drama with who goes first in June’s NBA Draft, and most people feel strongly that the No. 2 pick will come out of the NBA G League Ignite program. But after that, it gets interesting.
Just prior to the start of the college hoops season, here’s version 1.0 of my mock draft.
1. Houston Rockets – Victor Wembanyama, 7-4, 220, C, Metropolitans 92 (France)
The 7-foot-4 Frenchman is the most tantalizing prospect to come into the NBA Draft since LeBron James came out of high school. Wembanyama has it all — the length, agility and skill, in addition to potential and production. He can shoot it from deep, put it on the floor and also finish in the paint. Defensively, he’s a game-changer due to his ability to block shots. The only concern is his body frame, but that’s not enough to keep several franchises from tanking this season.
2. Orlando Magic – Scoot Henderson, 6-2, 195, PG, G League Ignite
In basically any other year, Henderson would be the top pick. But he’s not a bad consolation prize for whoever gets the No. 2 pick. Henderson is a Derrick Rose-in-his-prime-type of player — a big, strong and athletic point guard who can explode to the basket and make his teammates better. Like Rose, Henderson’s weakness right now is his perimeter shot.
3. Brooklyn Nets – Amen Thompson, 6-7, 200, G, Overtime Elite
Thompson is an elite athlete who can really pass it at 6-7. He’s versatile enough to defend multiple positions, and is a terrific defender already. Amen is quick, explosive and can play on and off the ball, although he’ll need to become more of a threat as a perimeter shooter.
4. New Orleans Pelicans (via LA Lakers) – Nick Smith, 6-5, 185, G, Fr., Arkansas
Smith is an electric, three-level scorer that can shoot it from deep. He’s also able to put it on the floor, and can finish through contact and above the rim.
5. Sacramento Kings – Brandon Miller, 6-9, 200, F, Fr., Alabama
Miller is exactly what the NBA loves these days: A multi-dimensional forward with skill and athleticism. He’s a combo forward who can shoot it from deep, and he’s able to score from mid-range. He possesses a high IQ, which enables him to have the offense run through him. He’s exceptionally versatile and that’ll make him soar up draft boards.
6. Miami Heat – Cam Whitmore, 6-7, 230, SF, Fr., Villanova
Whitmore is a super athlete who plays above the rim and is lethal in transition. The big question is whether he can become more consistent with his perimeter shot. Whitmore is tough, plays with a motor and can defend at a high level.
7. Detroit Pistons – Keyonte George, 6-4, 185, SG, Fr., Baylor
George is a professional scorer, a guy that has the ideal size for a two-guard and can also shoot it with consistency from beyond the arc and get to the basket. George’s game is mature on the offensive end of the court, but he’ll have to work on his defense.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (via LA Clippers) – Dariq Whitehead, 6-7, 220, SF, Fr., Duke
A quick-twitch wing with good positional size who can defend, Whitehead is not a great shooter, but can get hot and make them from long range. Whitehead broke his foot in the preseason, but he’s a strong, physical player who should be able to make an immediate impact in the NBA due to his body and ability to defend multiple positions.
9. Orlando Magic (via Chicago) – Dillon Mitchell, 6-8, 205, F, Fr., Texas
The lefty is a big-time athlete who can be dominant in the open court. Mitchell plays with a high motor and rebounds well for his size, but will need to improve his shooting in order to be more than a piece in the NBA. He’s not much of a threat to score from the perimeter, yet.
10. Golden State Warriors – GG Jackson, 6-9, 215, F, Fr., South Carolina
Jackson was the top-ranked player in the class of 2023 before reclassifying and deciding to stay at home to play for the Gamecocks this season. Jackson has the size and the potential, but he’ll need to work on his shooting. Jackson’s scoring comes from penetration and also mid-range.
11. Indiana Pacers – Dereck Lively II, 7-1, 230, C, Fr., Duke
Lively is a long and athletic 7-footer who can impact the game with his ability to run the floor and block shots more than anything else right now. He needs to put on weight, but Lively isn’t just a rim-running big on the offensive end — he’s also developing the ability to make shots from the perimeter.
12. Utah Jazz (via Philadelphia) – Ausar Thompson, 6-7, 205, G, Overtime Elite
Ausar isn’t quite the level of passer and player as his twin brother, Amen, but he’s also long, versatile and has good vision. He’s a tremendous defensive player, with his weakness being he’s not able to knock down shots from long range.
13. New York Knicks (via Dallas) – Kel’el Ware, 7-0, 210, C, Fr., Oregon
Ware is intriguing due to his length and upside. The Arkansas native can run the floor extremely well and also is a big-time shot-blocker. He’s raw on the offensive end and will need to put on weight to be able to consistently score in the post. Ware is more of a “potential” guy.
14. Los Angeles Clippers (via OKC) – Jarace Walker, 6-8, 240, PF, Fr., Houston
Walker is a big, strong, long and skilled power forward who can rebound. He’s capable of putting it on the floor, and will also be able to stretch defenses. Kelvin Sampson will also make certain he is ready to defend in the NBA.
15. New York Knicks (via Washington) – DaRon Holmes II, 6-10, 230, PF, Soph., Dayton
Holmes came into Dayton as a top-50 recruit and has developed even quicker than expected. He’s athletic, but also possesses no shortage of skill for a 6-10 forward. He can block shots and is still just starting to scratch the surface of what he can become.
16. New York Knicks – Tyrese Proctor, 6-5, 175, G, Fr., Duke
The Aussie guard can play either backcourt spot due to his ability to shoot it and also run a team. He reclassified, but has played high-level international competition so he’s far more advanced than most who have reclassified.
17. Toronto Raptors – Jordan Hawkins, 6-5, 195, SG, Soph., UConn
Hawkins looks the part. He’s a long, lanky wing who can slither to the basket and is also a capable 3-point shooter. Hawkins should emerge this year as a go-to guy along with big man Adama Sanogo in Storrs for Dan Hurley.
18. San Antonio Spurs (via Charlotte) – Terquavion Smith, 6-4, 165, SG, Soph., NC State
Smith averaged 16.3 points last season as a freshman and shot 37 percent from 3. The key for Smith will be strength and his ability to finish around the basket. He’s athletic and can put up points in a hurry.
19. Utah Jazz (via Minnesota) – Julian Strawther, 6-7, 205, F, Jr., Gonzaga
Strawther is a versatile forward from Las Vegas who has improved each season since arriving in Spokane. He’s a capable perimeter shooter who made 37 percent of his shots as a sophomore from long range, and has also shown the ability to put it on the deck and make plays off the bounce.
20. Charlotte Hornets (via Denver) – Cason Wallace, 6-4, 195, G, Fr., Kentucky
Wallace is a tough combo guard who loves to get after it on the defensive end. He’s big, strong and athletic, and should improve on the offensive end, where he doesn’t necessarily do one thing at an elite level. But Wallace can make shots from deep, get into the paint and make plays for both himself and his teammates.
21. Atlanta Hawks – Jalen Hood-Schifino, 6-6, 213, G, Fr., Indiana
JHS is a combo guard who can run a team. He gets to the basket and finishes, plays with poise, can defend and should continue to improve his perimeter shot. He won’t put up crazy numbers this season on a veteran Indiana team, but the NBA guys love his potential at the next level.
22. Memphis Grizzlies – Julian Phillips, 6-8, 200, SF, Fr., Tennessee
Has great size and long arms for a wing forward and can really shoot it. Phillips needs to improve on the defensive end, but has the natural ability to be a high-level defender. Stronger than he looks and can finish around the rim.
23. Los Angeles Lakers (via New Orleans) – Rayan Rupert, 6-7, 185, SG, New Zealand Breakers
Rupert has a 7-3 wingspan and is also a versatile defender who signed with the New Zealand Breakers. He’s similar to another Frenchman, Nic Batum, due to his combination of size, length and skill.
24. Indiana Pacers (via Boston) – Arthur Kaluma, 6-7, 225, F, Soph., Creighton
Kaluma is a long, strong and athletic forward who can really attack and get to the basket. He came on strong last season for the Bluejays, and had 24 points and 12 boards in the second-round loss to eventual national champion Kansas in the NCAA tourney. Kaluma will need to prove he can make shots from beyond the arc, and he’ll also need to become a more consistent defender.
25. Utah Jazz – Leonard Miller, 6-10, 210, PF, G League Ignite
The long and athletic Canadian has high upside, but is considered a project of sorts. Miller has shown the ability to rebound and block shots, but is raw offensively, especially with his ability to shoot. He put his name in for the NBA Draft a year ago but withdrew and will spend this season with the G League Ignite.
26. San Antonio Spurs – Amari Bailey, 6-5, 185, SG, Fr., UCLA
Bailey is a high-IQ wing who does a little bit of everything. He can guard on the defensive end, and is also able to put it on the floor and make shots — although that area needs to improve.
27. Chicago Bulls (via Portland) – Chris Livingston, 6-6, 220, F, Fr., Kentucky
Combo forward who may not put up huge numbers, but he’s intriguing due to his versatility and potential. Livingston is physical and athletic, and is a capable 3-point shooter. He’s already got an NBA body, and could be a nice piece for a franchise.
28. Phoenix Suns – JJ Starling, 6-4, 200, G, Fr., Notre Dame
Starling is an explosive guard who can play both backcourt spots. He can really get to the basket and score through contact due to his strength and size, but can also shoot it from the perimeter and pull-up from mid-range.
29. Indiana Pacers (via Cleveland) – Gradey Dick, 6-8, 205, SG, Fr., Kansas
He’s 6-foot-8 and is an elite shooter. Then add in the fact that he’ll be key for Bill Self’s offense this season at Kansas, and that should get him in the mix as a first-rounder.
30. Houston Rockets (via Milwaukee) – Nikola Djurisic, 6-8, 215, SG, Mega Basket
Djurisic is a Serbian wing who can really impact the game on the offensive end due to his ability to both score and pass the ball. He has good size and still needs to become a more consistent 3-point shooter, but has a great feel for the game. Though not a great athlete, he should be one of the top international players taken in the draft.