The NBA draft is an exciting time for basketball fans, as teams have the opportunity to select the next generation of superstar talent. This year’s draft is shaping up to have several elite prospects at the top, which should make for an unpredictable and thrilling first few selections.
Who are the players expected to go in the top 5?
Based on mock drafts and expert projections, the consensus top 5 picks in the 2023 NBA draft are:
- Victor Wembanyama
- Scoot Henderson
- Amen Thompson
- Nick Smith Jr.
- Dariq Whitehead
These 5 players have stood out as the cream of the crop among this year’s draft class due to their exciting potential and upside as future NBA stars.
1. Victor Wembanyama
Victor Wembanyama is widely considered the frontrunner to be selected #1 overall in the 2023 draft. The 19-year-old French phenom is a uniquely skilled 7’2″ big man with guard-like ball handling and outside shooting abilities. He averaged 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game playing professionally in France’s top league last season.
Wembanyama’s elite physical tools and two-way versatility have evoked comparisons to all-time greats like Kevin Durant and Rudy Gobert. His unprecedented mix of size, fluid athleticism, perimeter skills and defensive impact make him the most hyped NBA draft prospect since LeBron James. He is viewed as a potential franchise cornerstone and day one impact player.
2. Scoot Henderson
Scoot Henderson is projected to come off the board second overall in most mock drafts. The 19-year-old point guard is spending this season in the NBA G League after being named G League Ignite’s youngest player ever last year.
Henderson is an explosive athlete with blurring speed in the open floor. He’s an adept scorer off the dribble who averaged 17.4 points per game last season despite being the 4th option for Ignite. Henderson is also a talented distributor and playmaker with 6-foot-3 size giving him good positional size. His physical gifts and aggressiveness make him a terror in transition.
3. Amen Thompson
Amen Thompson has risen up draft boards with his promising two-way potential and is in mix to be selected third overall. The 18-year-old small forward is the younger brother of projected top 5 pick Ausar Thompson.
Amen Thompson has excellent 6-foot-6 size and length for a wing player. He’s a skilled scorer who shot 41% from three-point range last season in Overtime Elite league play. Thompson is also an impactful defender who can guard multiple positions with his mobility and high effort level. His upside as a versatile shot maker and 3-and-D player make him very enticing.
4. Nick Smith Jr.
Nick Smith Jr. is one of the best pure scorers in this draft class and is expected to be picked in the top 5. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard was named Co-MVP of the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic high school All-Star game.
Smith averaged 26.5 points per game as a senior in high school while shooting nearly 45% from three-point range. He’s an advanced shot creator who can score off the dribble from all three levels. Smith also has underrated playmaking vision and passing ability. His size, skill and scoring prowess provide star potential.
5. Dariq Whitehead
Dariq Whitehead rounds out the consensus top 5 projections following a decorated high school career. The athletic 6-foot-7 wing was a McDonald’s All-American and won a gold medal with USA Basketball.
Whitehead is one of the best two-way prospects in this draft class. He’s a dynamic finisher and transition threat who shot 45% from three-point range last season. Whitehead is also an impact defender with the strength to guard bigger wings or forwards. His do-it-all versatility as a scorer, playmaker and defender make him extremely appealing.
How are teams projected to pick in the top 5?
Here is a look at the current 2023 NBA draft order for the top 5 selections:
|San Antonio Spurs
The draft order is determined by 2022-2023 regular season record, with the teams with the worst records getting the highest picks. The draft lottery will finalize the order, but the teams currently projected top 5 are expected to stay there barring trades.
Projected #1 – Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets finished with the NBA’s worst record last season at 20-62. As a result, they are currently projected to pick 1st overall in the 2023 draft. The consensus expectation is that the Rockets will use this pick to select Victor Wembanyama and make him the face of their rebuilding effort.
Pairing a generational talent like Wembanyama with young cornerstones like Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. would give Houston an immensely talented core to build around for the future. The Rockets rebuilding through the draft could come to fruition by adding Wembanyama and fast-tracking their path back to contention.
Projected #2 – San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are forecast to have the 2nd overall pick following a 34-48 campaign last season. The Spurs have a strong track record of draft success and player development under Gregg Popovich.
With this pick, the expectation is that the Spurs will select Scoot Henderson as they continue stockpiling young talent. Henderson’s speed and playmaking upside would be maximized by the Spurs, making this a strong pairing. An exciting backcourt duo of Henderson and Devin Vassell could emerge to lead San Antonio into a new era.
Projected #3 – Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers finished 25-57 last season, the 3rd worst record in the NBA. As things stand, this is projected to give them the #3 overall pick in the draft.
The Pacers already have a promising core centered around Tyrese Haliburton and rookie Bennedict Mathurin. With this top 5 selection, drafting a wing like Amen Thompson would make a lot of sense. Thompson’s two-way skill set would fit nicely alongside Haliburton and Mathurin as Indiana continues adding talent.
Projected #4 – Detroit Pistons
After a 23-59 season, the Detroit Pistons hold the 4th spot in the current draft order. The Pistons roster has intriguing young pieces, but there is still room to add more blue-chip talent.
Using this top 5 pick on an elite shot creator like Nick Smith Jr. could pay dividends for Detroit. Smith’s scoring prowess would add a dynamic dimension to an offense led by Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. His upside is substantial and would reinforce Detroit’s strengths.
Projected #5 – Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic round out the top 5 projected picks after finishing 22-60 last season. Orlando’s talented core of Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. is a great start.
Selecting Dariq Whitehead here would continue adding high-upside prospects to the mix. Whitehead’s athleticism and defensive versatility would complement Banchero and Wagner nicely. Orlando could have one of the most intriguing young nuclei in the league by making this selection.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the top 5 prospects?
Here is a brief overview of the consensus strengths and weaknesses for each of the top 5 projected picks:
Strengths: Size, athleticism, versatile skill set, elite rim protection, dominant interior scoring, outside shooting potential
Weaknesses: Strength and physicality, injury risk from slender frame, average passer
Strengths: Blazing open court speed, explosive first step, ability to get to rim, pick and roll scoring, competitiveness
Weaknesses: Undersized for SG position, streaky outside shooter, average defensive effort
Strengths: Ideal wing size and length, efficient three-point shooting, defensive versatility, transition play
Weaknesses: handle consistency, passing ability, strength and physicality
Nick Smith Jr.
Strengths: Advanced scoring skills, pull-up shooting, shot creation, basketball IQ, clutch play
Weaknesses: Defensive effort, playmaking ability, finishing against size and length
Strengths: Athleticism, transition scoring, defensive upside, jump shot potential, motor
Weaknesses: Decision making, ball handling in tight spaces, positional fit at next level
Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson, Nick Smith Jr. and Dariq Whitehead have separated themselves as the consensus top 5 prospects in the 2023 NBA draft. Each player has exciting strengths that translate to star potential at the next level. Of course, they also have areas of weakness that must be refined and improved upon.
The lottery teams projected to pick in the top 5 this year have the chance to draft franchise building blocks. Adding elite young talent like this is often the quickest pathway back to contention. It will be fascinating to watch these players get drafted and then work to maximize their substantial talents over time. Their development will play a major role in shaping the league’s next era.
For basketball fans, part of the annual excitement of draft night comes from projecting how prospects like these will translate to the NBA. This year provides plenty of intriguing options at the top. Whichever teams end up selecting them will hope these players can become the types of generational stars that lift franchises to championship glory.
Here are some more key points about this year’s top NBA draft prospects:
- Victor Wembanyama is one of the most hyped prospects ever due to his otherworldly size and unicorn skill set.
- Scoot Henderson has superstar potential as an explosive point guard with blazing speed.
- Amen Thompson brings ideal physical tools and promising defense as a 3-and-D wing.
- Nick Smith Jr. is an elite shot creator who can pour in points from all levels.
- Dariq Whitehead stands out for his athleticism and motor as a dynamic two-way player.
Each member of this consensus top 5 has clear NBA lottery pick talent and upside. Landing even one of these prospects can transform a rebuilding franchise’s future.
As always, there is plenty of mystery, debate and unpredictability surrounding the NBA draft. But this year’s elite upper echelon led by Victor Wembanyama seems rock solid entering the 2023 draft process. It should make for an intensely exciting night next June when the first few selections are revealed and these prized rookies begin their NBA journeys with lottery hopefuls.
Here are some additional key points to know about the top 5 picks in the 2023 NBA draft:
- Victor Wembanyama will enter the league with massive expectations as a truly unprecedented prospect.
- Scoot Henderson has drawn comparisons to star guards like Ja Morant and Donovan Mitchell.
- Amen Thompson’s stock rose rapidly last year after reclassifying to the 2022 class.
- Nick Smith Jr. won multiple high school player of the year awards last season.
- Dariq Whitehead bounced back from injury with an outstanding senior season.
- This is considered one of the most talented drafts in recent memory at the very top.
- Each prospect would likely be the #1 pick in less stacked draft years.
- Victor Wembanyama is the clear frontrunner right now for the #1 pick.
- The lottery odds and draft order will be finalized at the draft lottery next May.
- Teams with the best lottery odds will be eagerly hoping to land Wembanyama.
As you can see, this 2023 draft class features elite generational talent up top in Victor Wembanyama. The rest of the likely top 5 picks are also outstanding prospects who will arrive in the NBA with star potential. Landing any of these players in the lottery has franchise-altering upside. It should make the 2023 draft one of the most anticipated in recent NBA history.
Whichever team ends up drafting Victor Wembanyama will be getting a truly unique and mesmerizing talent. He has received comparisons to players like Kevin Durant, Rudy Gobert and Kristaps Porzingis in terms of his otherworldly physical gifts and unicorn skill set as a big man who can handle, shoot and protect the rim at an elite level. Wembanyama looks like a future perennial NBA All-Star and potential MVP if he can fully realize his immense potential. His arrival in the league has a chance to shift the balance of power over the next decade. He is one of the most hyped draft prospects ever for good reason.
The rest of the likely top 5 — Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson, Nick Smith Jr. and Dariq Whitehead — are also extremely talented prospects in their own right. Henderson has the makings of an electric point guard who could develop into a true franchise centerpiece. Thompson brings ideal tools as a skilled and athletic 3-and-D wing who contributes at both ends. Smith is arguably the draft’s top pure scorer with his advanced shot-creating and three-level scoring ability. And Whitehead has intriguing upside as a high-motor forward who can impact games with his athleticism and physical tools.
Each member of this projected top 5 has clear star potential. This is considered one of the deepest drafts in years when it comes to upper echelon talent. Teams hoping for transformative franchise cornerstones will have strong options to choose from up top. The 2023 lottery is setting up to be one of the most anticipated ever with Victor Wembanyama leading a stacked group of elite prospects.