Some things we anticipated during the 2023 NBA Draft. The San Antonio Spurs selected Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick.
Some things we somewhat predicted. The Charlotte Hornets drafted Brandon Miller at No. 2.
Some things we weren’t quite sure how things would play out. The Portland Trail Blazers selected Scoot Henderson at No. 3 instead of dealing it for an established player.
There are various things to unpack. Below are the five major takeaways from the 2023 NBA Draft.
Victor Wembanyama had a nice family moment after Spurs selected him at No. 1
Everyone knew the Spurs would pick Wembanyama at No. 1. What lacked for intrigue surrounding who would become the No. 1 pick, Wembanyama made up for with a bonding moment with his family.
Shortly after the Spurs made the inevitable outcome official, Wembanyama showed an emotional moment with his French family.
It humanized what makes the NBA Draft so special. It also served as a reminder that the draft goes beyond pick speculation, outfit attire and front office evaluations. This snapshot captures a major milestone of a prospect’s life that he’ll remember forever. For someone that has generated so much hype and attention about his generational talent, Wembanyama shows that he remains grounded and can enjoy the moment.
Beyond his distinguishable skillset as a 7-foot-3 rim protector with point-guard skills, Wembanyama has impressed talent evaluators with how much he loves the game, listens to his coaches and enjoys his teammates. Although the professional setting may eventually harden him, Wembanyama appeared genuinely moved with having the opportunity to soak everything all in with his family.
Hornets made the right call with selecting Brandon Miller at No. 2
NBA mock drafts featured varying opinions on whether Charlotte should draft Miller or Scoot Henderson at No. 2. Recently, an opposing NBA team’s executive told Sportsnaut, “I don’t see in any way, shape or form that Charlotte doesn’t take Brandon Miller.” That’s because the Hornets already have a primary playmaker (LaMelo Ball) and need reinforcements because of an injury-riddled wing (Gordon Hayward). Nonetheless, talent evaluators consider Miller more of a complete player than Henderson.
Miller has become a scoring threat both at the rim, behind the perimeter and in the post. He has become both a dependable playmaker and perimeter defender. With a young team that needs help at every position, Miller can check those boxes. He can elevate the Hornets without disrupting Ball’s play-making presence. He can give the Hornets wiggle room either to trade Hayward’s two-year contract or absorb future injury-related absences.
The Hornets couldn’t have gone wrong with selecting Henderson. But he’s at his best at the point-guard spot, a position the Hornets already have set with Ball. Although G League Ignite officials and outside evaluators believe Henderson will improve his poor 3-point shooting (21.6% his first season; 27.5% his second season), Miller is currently more polished. Regardless of need, Miller is considered a better overall player than Henderson. Kudos to the Hornets for making the right call with deliberating between two great choices.
Related: Initial 2024 NBA mock draft
Portland Trail Blazers use their No. 3 pick on Scoot Henderson instead of a trade
Technically, Portland’s selection at No. 3 simply entailed picking the other player that Charlotte also considered. Symbolically, the Blazers’ decision to draft Henderson also revealed something more significant the team’s overall philosophy.
Portland didn’t see the same urgency with pairing Damian Lillard with a more established player as perhaps Lillard wanted. Will that lead to an impasse with Lillard, who otherwise had previously stayed adamant about wanting to play his entire career in Portland? That remains to be seen. Nonetheless, Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported that Lillard hasn’t communicated recently with the front office.
That’s not to say the Blazers made a bad choice. Both G League Ignite officials and NBA talent evaluators considered Henderson to be the best guard in the draft. They also projected he could instantly impact a team with his athleticism, speed and playmaking. Lillard also has experience sharing the backcourt with C.J. McCollum, a duo that appeared in eight consecutive playoff appearances, including the 2019 Western Conference Finals.
There are some potential short-term challenges. Although he has proven both willing and effective with playing off-the-ball, Henderson has mostly thrived as the primary ball handler. Too bad that’s mostly Lillard’s job. Though G League Ignite officials and those around the NBA expect Henderson will improve his outside shot, he currently remains a work in progress.
All of which might lead to the Blazers’ success resting on Lillard playing at his absolute best just to stay competitive in a crowded Western Conference. Maybe Portland fills out more of its roster entering free agency to assuage any concerns about Lillard’s want to be on a championship-contending team. Or perhaps this finally leads toward Lillard losing patience and wanting out. Stay tuned.
Thompson twins make history in 2023 NBA Draft
After Amen and Ausar Thompson teamed up last season to win a championship with the City Reapers in the Overtime Elite League, the twin brothers confront a new challenge. The Thompsons each have an opportunity to turn around a rebuilding franchise.
The Houston Rockets selected Amen with the No. 4 pick, and the Detroit Pistons followed suit with drafting Ausar at No. 5. They became the first brothers to be drafted in the top 5 since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976. The Rockets (22-60) finished with the Western Conference’s second-worst record last season, while the Pistons (17-65) finished last in the Eastern Conference.
While Ausar has thrived as a 3-and-D player, Amen has excelled as a point guard and primary ball handler. The two are considered so close that they voted for each other to win the City Reapers’ MVP award, an honor that ultimately went to Ausar.
Expect Ausar and Amen to have competitive and playful moments when they face against each other. Otherwise, expect them to stay in touch and swap notes on both their successes and setbacks with both translating their game into the NBA and jumpstarting a rebuilding franchise.
The Pelicans avoid trading Zion Williamson…for now
Instead of trading Williamson as part of an effort to move up in the draft, the Pelicans used their No. 14 pick on Connecticut sophomore shooting guard Jordan Hawkins. It remains to be seen whether that just means Charlotte and Portland had no interest in Williamson or if the Pelicans made the decision for themselves.
Either way, Hawkins should help the Pelicans with well-needed shooting and additional floor spacing for Brandon Ingram and Williamson to operate. So, the Pelicans might just be better off staying put.
The Pelicans have maintained in past seasons a few things about Williamson. They said he showed receptiveness to his coaches and training staff. They praised him for improving his dieting and training habits. And they stressed recent hamstring injury did not stem from his body overly compensating from previous injuries to his right foot and right knee. Either way, it is telling that the Pelicans at least considered the idea after not flinching over giving him a max extension last summer.