Victor Wembanyama in action during the Elite basketball match Boulogne-Levallois...

Victor Wembanyama in action during the Elite basketball match Boulogne-Levallois against Paris at the Palais de Sports Marcel Cerdan stadium in Levallois-Perret, outside Paris, Tuesday, May 16, 2023.  Credit: AP/Thibault Camus

There is no mystery at the top. and no local teams in the lottery this time around. But the 2023 NBA Draft is still expected to provide a bit of history, welcoming Victor Wembanyama into the NBA as one of the most hyped and heralded prospects to ever enter the league. After a season spent in France with the NBA and ESPN showing more of his overseas games than teams in the league, the formality of naming him the No. 1 overall pick is here. That pick is the easy one, but we venture at Newsday to try to fill out the rest of the first round.

1. San Antonio Spurs: Victor Wembanyama, France, 7-4, wing/center. Is he the next great big man in the NBA? Is he even a big man or really a small forward, Kevin Durant-style, in an oversized frame? Either way, he is a unicorn. He’s a step beyond Kristaps Porzingis’ entry into the league with point guard ball-handling ability, a smooth three-point shot and athleticism to get to the rim and block shots.

2. Charlotte Hornets: Brandon Miller, Alabama, 6-9, wing. NBA-ready wing with great size and not just scoring ability, but playmaking skills, too. Unfortunately, he’s gotten more attention for off-court issues after bringing a gun to a former teammate who fatally shot someone. Alabama chose not to suspend him and no charges were brought against him.

3. Portland Trail Blazers: Scoot Henderson, G League Ignite, 6-2, guard. While there may be questions about what Wembanyama will translate to on the court and what Miller is off the court, there is no mystery about Henderson. He’s an elite athlete who plays with ferocity.

4. Houston Rockets: Jarace Walker, Houston, 6-9, forward. This is more a pick for fit, providing the Rockets with a power forward who is a tough defender and projects as a versatile offensive weapon to pair with their young guards and the possibility that James Harden returns.

5. Detroit Pistons: Cam Whitmore, Villanova, 6-6, wing. Another fit spot. With Jaden Ivey and Cade Cunningham in place, the two-way wing gives Detroit another building block.

6. Orlando Magic: Amen Thompson, Overtime Elite, 6-7, guard. The Thompson twins could go even higher than this on potential with high ceilings as guards with size and skills. Amen, who is one minute older, has to improve (and maybe rebuild) his three-point shot. But in getting to the rim he’s a constant highlight film.

7. Indiana Pacers: Taylor Hendricks, UCF, 6-8, forward. Maybe the least heralded lottery pick, but a versatile big who has ability can switch onto nearly any position defensively.

8. Washington Wizards: Ausar Thompson, Overtime Elite, 6-7, guard. Like Amen, he has potential to be a versatile guard with a need to improve outside shooting. But he’s a ready-made two-guard guard for a team in need of a floor general.

9. Utah Jazz: Anthony Black, Arkansas, 6-6, guard. Playmaker and defender who could give the Jazz a young floor leader.

Black is still raw with his shot.

10. Dallas Mavericks: Dereck Lively, Duke, 7-1, center. Skinny, but has impressed in workouts and the Mavs are desperately in need of size and athleticism at center.

11. Orlando Magic: Gradey Dick, Kansas, 6-6, guard. One player who doesn’t need to develop a shot, converting 40% from three as a freshman.

12. OKC Thunder: Keynote George, Baylor, 6-4, guard. The highest-rated recruit (No. 3 by ESPN) in school history, he set a school record for threes with 77. Fundamentally-sound offensive force.

13. Toronto Raptors: Bilal Coulibaly, France, 6-7, wing. Unsung teammate of Wembanyama on the Metropolitans 92, has impressed with defensive ability and 7-3 wingspan.

14. New Orleans Pelicans: Cason Wallace, Kentucky, 6-2, guard. Hard-nosed defender who plays with an intensity reminiscent of Jrue Holiday and Marcus Smart.

15. Atlanta Hawks: Leonard Miller, G League Ignite, 6-10, forward. Intriguing prospect who was a 6-4 guard as a high school sophomore before a growth spurt that took him from no college offers to a possible lottery pick.

16. Utah Jazz: Nick Smith, Arkansas, 6-5, guard. Was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in his class before leg injuries and inconsistent play raised doubts, limiting him to 17 games. But his shooting ability at all levels is too much to resist.

17. Los Angeles Lakers: Jordan Hawkins, UConn, 6-4, wing. He’s a 39% shooter from three, his ability off the ball could be an immediate boost to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

18. Miami Heat: Jalen Hood-Schifino, Indiana, 6-4, guard. Smart, tough point guard fits the Miami Heat mold. although shooting needs to improve.

19. Golden State: Kobe Bufkin, Michigan, 6-4, guard. Explosive scoring ability seems to fit the Golden State mold.

20. Houston Rockets: G.G. Jackson, South Carolina, 6-8, forward. Youngest player in his class (18 years old), has already canceled workouts with rumors of a late-teens, early 20’s guarantee.

21. NETS: Noah Clowney, Alabama, 6-10, forward. Nets could use some size up front and with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and defensive tenacity he could contribute immediately.

22. NETS: Kris Murray, Iowa, 6-8, forward. If you liked Keegan Murray, whose smooth shooting stroke earned him a first-team All-Rookie selection, welcome his twin brother with a similar three-point touch.

23. Portland Trailblazers: Rayan Rupert, New Zealand Breakers, 6-7, wing. Missed two months of season, French product still projects as immediate defensive force.

24. Sacramento Kings: Ben Sheppard, Belmont, 6-5, wing. Point guard skills, but his calling card is shooting. 41.5% from three as a senior (yes, there is a senior who could be a first-round pick).

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Brice Sensabaugh, Ohio State, 6-6, wing. Elite scoring skills, he shot 40.5% from three but more than that he has a throwback midrange game.

26. Indiana Pacers: Jett Howard, Michigan, 6-8, wing. Son of Juwan Howard, he’s a multi-level scorer.

27. Charlotte Hornets: Colby Jones, Xavier, 6-5, Wing. Has the size for a wing, but a point guard mentality, impressing scouts with his ability to move the ball and create for teammates.

28. Utah Jazz: Marcus Sasser, Houston, 6-3, guard. Undersized, but still a tough defensive force who was the a leader for the Cougars.

29. Indiana Pacers: Dariq Whitehead, Duke, 6-4, guard. Injury questions, but worth a gamble here with multiple first-round picks as his talent is lottery level.

30. Los Angeles Clippers: Bobi Klintman, Wake Forest, 6-10, forward. Versatile defender who has shown the ability to guard almost any position.

More NBA news

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME