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The 2023 NBA Draft Entrance Survey
- Updated: June 22, 2023
The biggest night of the NBA offseason is almost here. One of the most anticipated drafts in recent memory is headlined by the prodigious talents of Victor Wembanyama, but there’s a lot of intrigue and uncertainty after the San Antonio Spurs pick first. To examine what lottery surprises and trades we might be in store for, The Ringer paneled its basketball team to answer five burning questions heading into the draft.
- Which draft prospect are you irrationally obsessed with and why?
Kevin O’Connor: Taylor Hendricks has been my guy throughout this entire draft process. I’ve had him as a top-10 guy since early in the college season. It’s because he brings all the big-men traits that teams can’t get enough of. He has size and shooting prowess. He’s versatile in different defensive schemes. He hustles. Even though he’s not the flashiest player by any means and maybe not much of a shot creator, he is someone who is capable of playing key minutes on a playoff team for years to come.
Michael Pina: Jarace Walker can contribute in ways that make life easier for everyone around him. He doesn’t require the ball or designed touches. But he does rebound, protect the rim, and defend multiple positions. With footwork, touch, power, and length, what’s not to love? He can fit just about anywhere, in any system, in any lineup. He has a great deal of athleticism, versatility, skill, and composure, and there’ll be no playing Walker off the floor in a playoff series.
Danny Chau: Amen Thompson is the non-shooting hyper-athlete of my dreams. His athleticism is a spectacle that must be seen to be believed. There is no suitable one-to-one comparison, but how about this: Imagine Ricky Rubio in a young Shawn Marion’s body, and then imagine if Marion could glide around the court like a roller derby jammer and launch himself into the air at a moment’s notice like a volleyball attacker. It’s an impossible visual, and that’s the point. Amen’s overwhelming physical abilities have granted him a galaxy-brain level of creativity on the floor. He routinely makes passes that had never previously been thought up, just because he can.
My other pet comparison is Anthony Richardson, the no. 4 overall selection by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2023 NFL draft, a similarly model-breaking athlete whose issues with accuracy and inexperience echo Amen’s. But then you see Richardson do a 360 jump fake:
And you realize that with athletes of this caliber, literally anything is possible.
Tate Frazier: For me, it’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. What more do I really need to say about my reigning favorite player in college basketball? He just knows how to play the game. Jaquez’s fundamentals, footwork, and frame make me excited about his NBA potential. He’s a hooper for real, and Mick Cronin will sorely miss his impact in Westwood.
Matt Dollinger: Gradey Dick. As a headline writer, I welcome the challenge. I thrive on adversity.
Zach Kram: Sorry, Victor Wembanyama is too tall and too talented. I can’t see past him to anyone else.
- What is your dream prospect-team pairing?
Chau: Dick to the Magic. It’s been an entire lifetime since the Magic have had a shooter as good as Dick, and he’d be a perfect fit with the incredibly tall and versatile team they’ve built. Imagine the wholesome TikTok dances he’ll do with Stuff the Magic Dragon!
O’Connor: Kobe Bufkin to the Thunder would be really amazing because he’s such a high-IQ player without the ball. In Oklahoma City, he’d be surrounded by different types of shot creators like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Chet Holmgren. Bufkin could be constantly on the move as a target for SGA, or run handoffs with Giddey, or handle a pick-and-roll with Chet. And with his length on defense, he’d fit right into the versatile system being built.
Pina: Anthony Black seems like an ideal do-whatever-is-necessary prospect for the Wizards to build with before they know exactly—in their post–Bradley Beal era—who the next franchise centerpiece is that they’ll get to build around. By landing Black, a malleable, big playmaker, Washington won’t have to worry too much about fit when they add another lottery pick in next year’s draft.
Kram: Kris Murray, twin brother of Kings wing Keegan, grades as a late first-round pick. Guess which team has a selection in that range! Always root for twins to play together in the NBA.
Dollinger: Bilal Coulibaly to the Spurs. Victor Wembanyama’s teammate has skyrocketed up draft boards in recent weeks. He’s up to no. 11 on KOC’s Big Board, and he’s even receiving some top-10 buzz. Playing in Wembanyama’s shadow is like playing high school football with a 7-foot-4 Archie Manning. They’re not coming to see you, but eventually, you just might get noticed. With the Spurs rumored to be pursuing a second first-round pick, it would be pretty cool for them to draft Wemby’s teammate to speed up the assimilation process for both.
Frazier: Jaquez to the Golden State Warriors. He’s got ankle problems, and the Warriors (see: Curry, Steph) know how to handle those concerns, plus he’s the veteran play-now wing they’re looking to find in the draft. No more projects; draft some savvy four-year players like Duke used to produce back in the day, Mike Dunleavy!
- Which front office is under the most pressure this offseason?
Kram: The Clippers rank second in our All In-dex rankings, behind only the Warriors, who parlayed their all-in approach to a 2022 title. The Clippers haven’t experienced nearly that level of success, with just one playoff win—that’s a single game win, not a series win—over the last two seasons. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George aren’t getting any younger or healthier, and the rest of the roster isn’t getting any cheaper. Expect some sort of consolidation or shake-up—who’s up for a Chris Paul reunion?—this summer.
Pina: Houston is in a pressure cooker. After a three-year rebuild that yielded several high-upside prospects but no progress toward another playoff appearance, the Rockets need to reestablish themselves as a respectable franchise. If they land more than one marquee free agent and are able to keep all or most of their young talent, all the better. But winning matters now. Which means patience is thin.
Chau: The Trail Blazers. Joe Cronin is facing a crossroads as he’s presented two conflicting futures for Portland. How do you trade one of the franchise’s most important players months after his best season? How do you not, given the team’s flatlining trajectory? There is no right answer, and every possible outcome seems … underwhelming. I imagine that the call will be made while the Blazers are on the clock. I’m glad I won’t be the one making it.
Dollinger: With the Hornets telegraphing their intentions at no. 2, all eyes are on the Blazers with the third pick. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. The other lottery franchise stuck in the wrong spotlight is the Mavericks, who need to do something magical with the no. 10 pick to reverse the narrative (and please that Luka guy) after their disastrous finish to the season.
O’Connor: It’s the Pistons with the fifth pick because this is the selection that’ll determine how quickly they can accelerate into winning mode around Cade Cunningham. Could they find a talent that’s just as good as or better than him? Or will they trade down to gather multiple picks? If they whiff on this decision, they’ll still have a bright outlook, but if they hit, they’ll have an amazing one.
Frazier: The Pelicans went from darlings of the NBA after trading for CJ McCollum to a complete social media debacle after the Zion Williamson drama played out on our timelines. Their next move needs to be their best move to maximize the winning window of Brandon Ingram, McCollum, Trey Murphy III, and Grand Theft Alvarado.
- What trade do you want to see on draft night?
Pina: Damian Lillard to the Nets for Ben Simmons, Patty Mills, Cam Thomas, and five unprotected first-round draft picks (via the Suns and Mavericks). A Lillard, Mikal Bridges, Nic Claxton, Cam Johnson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Spencer Dinwiddie nucleus can make legitimate noise in the Eastern Conference, while Portland would get more than enough draft capital to reboot around Shaedon Sharpe and whoever they select with the no. 3 pick.
Frazier: Portland trades the no. 3 pick to the Pelicans for the services of Zion Williamson. Nike, who owns the Jordan brand, needs one of its most important marketable products close by to maximize his career ceiling. The clock is officially ticking …
O’Connor: I’d love to see the Blazers make a big move, whether it’s acquiring Williamson from the Pelicans or sending Lillard somewhere he has a chance to compete for a championship. Rather than the two timelines approach of not making a move at all, one of these big moves would give the Blazers a direction. Either they’re all in, or they’re building around their existing young talent with Sharpe, Anfernee Simons, and whoever they take with the third pick.
Kram: On Tuesday, Yahoo’s Jake Fischer reported that the Trail Blazers are “preparing what the team believes to be a compelling package for Miami to part with All-Defensive centerpiece Bam Adebayo.” Do I actually think the Heat would part with the All-Star center who helped lead them to a surprise Finals run, even for a package that could include the no. 3 pick, Simons, and Sharpe? Of course not. But do I think such a blockbuster would produce incredible takes and discourse? Friends, I do indeed.
Dollinger: I’d love to see the Pacers consolidate their three first-round picks and trade up for whichever Thompson twin is still on the board. Rooting for the lesser-known twin feels like our destiny.
Chau: Just about any trade that brings Scoot Henderson to Toronto. I’m serious.
- Give us one random draft-night prediction.
Chau: Five of the 25 green room invitees will sadly endure the Rashard Lewis Experience. (For reference, 24 of the 25 invitees from the 2022 draft were drafted in the first round.)
O’Connor: Someone surprising will drop out of the lottery into the mid-to-late teens. It’s just a numbers game because there are often one or two guys who get taken earlier than expected. Last year, it was AJ Griffin, who was mocked in the seven to 12 range but landed with the Hawks with the 16th pick.
Kram: Casual NBA fans probably haven’t thought much about Indiana in a while—certainly not since Tyrese Haliburton was injured last season. But I expect the Pacers to wheel and deal on Thursday because they hold pick nos. 7, 26, 29, 32, and 55 but probably don’t want to add five rookies to Rick Carlisle’s roster.
Frazier: The Spurs take the entire five minutes on the clock before predictably selecting French phenom Wembanyama no. 1 overall. Nice way to provide a little levity and some comedy from Pop and San Antonio to kick off the big night.
Dollinger: Will Woj really be able to resist tipping picks? Can you sit on that kind of intel on national television and not say anything? Are we about to be fed cryptic bread crumbs for five hours? Something tells me he’ll get creative.
Pina: The Suns will trade Deandre Ayton to the Mavericks for JaVale McGee, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, and a future second-round pick.