30. Detroit Pistons
Key Additions: Ausar Thompson (R), Joe Harris
The bottom-feeding teams across the league took strides in improving this past offseason. And, the teams that have made up this half of the ranking are a familiar bunch by this point. Detroit has been rebuilding for what seems like years now, though they have acquired a fair amount of talent along the way. The most intriguing of which, former No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, was sidelined for 70 games last season after suffering an injury early in the year. The backcourt combo is nice. Jaden Ivey played up to expectation as a rookie, and fifth overall pick Ausar Thompson starred in Summer League. Still, this team has a way to go and a ton to prove.
29. Washington Wizards
Key Additions: Jordan Poole, Danilo Gallinari, Landry Shamet, Bilal Coulibaly (R)
Could the Wizards surprise some people next season? Trading away a player of Bradley Beal’s stature certainly signals a full rebuild. However, Beal struggled mightily with his shot over the last couple of years, and was never much of a defender. Perhaps moving on from Beal will allow the team to empower players like Kyla Kuzma, Deni Avdija and Johnny Davis. That being said, replacing Beal with Jordan Poole doesn’t exactly fix any sort of issues. This is especially the case with Poole coming off a dismal year from beyond the arc with the Warriors. The Wizards could be annoying to play on the back-end of a back-to-back, but they won’t win too many games with their current roster.
28. Portland Trail Blazers
Key Additions: Scoot Henderson (R), Kris Murray (R)
As it currently stands, Damian Lillard is still on the Blazers. If Lillard plays the entire season in Portland, there’s a very minimal chance the Blazers would finish at the bottom of the Western Conference. The Blazers were a semi-respectable 27-31 in games Lillard played last year, and a terrible 6-18 when their star sat. Though, it must be considered that Lillard will not be starting next season in Portland.
The seven-time All-Star is still awaiting his trade request to be fulfilled. History indicates that star players typically get what they desire in these types of situations. With Scoot Henderson now in tow, it might be a bit more palatable for Portland to move on from their stalwart star. No matter who they get back in return (realistically), the Blazers will be a worse team after shipping off Lillard.
27. Charlotte Hornets
Key Additions: Brandon Miller (R)
There’s a small chance we could look a tad silly for this ranking in a few months. The Hornets weren’t completely devoid of talent last year — and that’s before adding No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller and the assumed return of Miles Bridges. Still, this is a team that won 27 games last year. It also hasn’t really shown any signs of consistency. LaMelo Ball taking another step (and staying healthy) could be enough to push this team back into a play-in spot, but the bottom of the East projects to be better than it has been in year’s past.
26. San Antonio Spurs
Key Additions: Victor Wembanyama (R), Reggie Bullock, Cedi Osman, Cameron Payne
The Victor Wembanyama hype is real. However, does the 19-year-old French phenom have what it takes to power the Spurs to a playoff berth in his first year? We have to pump the brakes on that notion for now. Wembanyama will be a game-changer from Day 1 — especially when you consider his defensive upside. The Spurs have some decent talent around the big man as well. Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan form a solid stable of wings that boast complementary skill-sets.
Point guard Tre Jones is among the league’s best at taking care of the ball. The team even has a handful of vets in Reggie Bullock, Cedi Osman, and Cameron Payne — who all have experience playing for top teams. The Spurs will almost assuredly take things slow with Wembanyama to ensure he doesn’t get overworked, and that could ultimately limit their ceiling for this season.
25. Toronto Raptors
Key Additions: Dennis Schroder, Jalen McDaniels, Gradey Dick (R)
On the surface, exchanging Fred VanVleet for Dennis Schroder is a downgrade. Though, Schroder did come at a far more reasonable price — and coming off one of his better seasons as a key piece for the Lakers. Still, Toronto has historically struggled on the offensive end. Losing their top playmaker for nothing will likely not help matters. The team hopes draft pick Gradey Dick can help spread the floor, but there’s only so much that can be expected out of a rookie. 2022 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes is going to have to take a huge step if the Raptors want to return to the postseason.
24. Indiana Pacers
Key Additions: Bruce Brown, Obi Toppin, Jarace Walker (R)
The Pacers are still a few pieces away from contending, but their base is strong. At the helm is star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who has quickly blossomed into of the top floor generals in the NBA. Indiana is content with building around the 23-year-old, and that means finding players who can thrive sharing the floor next to an elite playmaker. Indiana targeted free agent and NBA champion Bruce Brown with their cap space this past offseason, inking the former Denver Nuggets role player to a lucrative two-year deal. They also added Obi Toppin and Jarace Walker to aid Myles Turner in the front court. We’ll need to see this group in action, but it’s certainly an intriguing bunch under a winning head coach in Rick Carlisle.
23. Houston Rockets
Key Additions: Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks, Jock Landale, Amen Thompson (R), Cam Whitmore (R)
We hesitate to jump the gun on too early on the Rockets. This is a team that has won 17, 20, and 22 games over the last three years (while developing some awful habits). But, it’s hard not to like the talent. A young core made up of Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun, Tari Eason, Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore is nothing to scoff at. Especially when you consider Eason is the oldest one in that group — and only just recently celebrated his 22nd birthday. Houston splurged in free agency by signing Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. Some might view both signings as an overpay (which they probably were) but both players exemplify the grittiness and toughness that head coach Ime Udoka is looking for. If Udoka can find the right combinations — and Green and Smith Jr. live up to their potential — Houston will be a playoff hopeful.
22. Chicago Bulls
Key Additions: Jevon Carter
It’s fitting that the Bulls love mid-range jump shots, because they are the epitome of a ‘mid’ basketball team. Chicago had a fairly quiet offseason, re-signing both Nikola Vucevic and Coby White while adding defensive-minded guard Jevon Carter. Perhaps adding Carter to the backcourt with Alex Caruso will bring back the defensive identity the team has been missing since Lonzo Ball has been out. But, the Bulls are likely never going to be a good defensive team when their three highest-paid players are Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Zach Lavine. The development of Patrick Williams and Dalen Terry could potentially increase this team’s ceiling, but there isn’t a lot of optimism for a Bulls team that likely should have sold everything and built anew this offseason.
21. Brooklyn Nets
Key Additions: Dennis Smith Jr., Lonnie Walker, Dariq Whitehead (R), Jalen Wilson (R), Noah Clowney (R)
The Nets did about as well as they could have with the cards they were dealt. Teams typically get worse when they trade away three generational talents in rapid succession. Even more so when one of the returns in those trades completely forgets how to play basketball (Ben Simmons). Mikal Bridges blossoming into a bonafide star surely helps matters, but the Nets’ future doesn’t look so grim. Though, they’ll be facing an uphill battle to return to the postseason. With teams likely spending more of their gameplan trying to defend Bridges, it will be interesting to see who steps up as Brooklyn’s No. 2 option in 2024.
20. Utah Jazz
Key Additions: John Collins, Taylor Hendricks (R), Keyonte George (R), Brice Sensabaugh (R)
The Jazz vastly exceeded expectations in Year 1 under Will Hardy. Can they keep up their winnings ways now that the rest of the league is prepped for them? Lauri Markannen won’t take anybody by surprise after a breakout campaign. Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji figure to play even bigger roles as sophomores. Same goes for John Collins, who is looking to prove himself after a rough stretch to end his Hawks tenure. Thy might struggle defensively outside of Kessler, but the Jazz have more than enough firepower to be one of the top scoring offenses in the league. That sort of attack could carry them to a postseason berth.
19. Orlando Magic
Key Additions: Anthony Black (R), Jett Howard (R), Joe Ingles
The Magic are entering ’24 with a ton of momentum. After a 5-20 start to last year, Orlando went 29-24 down the stretch (lost their last four) and looked a more competent team. Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner are as good of a young duo as there is in the league This is a team with a ton of pedigree. Banchero (1st, 2022), Wagner (8th, 2021), Jalen Suggs (5th, 2021), Wendell Carter Jr. (7th, 2018), and Markelle Fultz (1st, 2017) were all taken near the top of the draft. And, that’s not even mentioning Jonathan Isaac, Cole Anthony, or, their two most recent picks, Anthony Black and Jett Howard. With incremental leaps from a majority of this roster, the Magic will be at least a .500 team.
18. New Orleans Pelicans
Key Additions: Jordan Hawkins (R)
The questions surrounding the Pelicans will always come down to Zion Williamson’s health (until he’s off the team). When healthy, Williamson transforms the Pelicans into a team that could legitimately give any team out West issues. But, staying healthy has been an issue for Williamson — who played just 29 games last year after missing the entire ’22 campaign. There’s no shortage of talent across the roster. In fact, the Pelicans may have one of the deepest teams in the league. Brandon Ingram is a bonafide stud, and Trey Murphy III looks primed for a breakout year. Only time will tell if Williamson can stay on the floor.
17. Atlanta Hawks
Key Additions: Patty Mills, Wesley Matthews, Kobe Bufkin (R)
The Hawks are hoping a full offseason under Quin Snyder will help bring the team’s vision together. Snyder took over in late February, and helped guide the team to a playoff berth after a win in the play-in tournament. Getting Trae Young and Dejounte Murray on the same page will be paramount to their success — especially in situations where Murray is handling the ball and Young is off-ball. John Collins was finally dealt, opening up opportunities for guys like De’Andre Hunter, Saddiq Bey, Jalen Johnson, and AJ Griffin. The Hawks aren’t scaring anybody out East, but they have two recent All-Stars and a number of intriguing role players.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves
Key Additions: Troy Brown Jr., Shake Milton
The Timberwolves are a bit of an enigma. On paper, Minnesota should be one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Their two stars are among the best players at their respective positions (Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns). Their defense is led by a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. The rest of the starting lineup consists of a heady point guard (Mike Conley Jr.) and a defensive stopper (Jaden McDaniels). The bench isn’t even that bad when you consider the seasons Naz Reid and Kyle Anderson had last year. Yet, this is a team that struggled to get more than a couple of games above .500 all of last year. Maybe Year 2 of the Towns-Gobert pairing works out better, but the limitations of both players (Towns on defense and Gobert on offense) could also derail the season.
15. Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Additions: Davis Bertans, Chet Holmgren (R), Cason Wallace (R)
The path for the Thunder making their way into the playoff picture is clear. All-NBA First-team guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerged as a legitimate star last year, and has the ability to go toe-to-toe with the league’s best. GM Sam Presti has accumulated perhaps the best young core in basketball, and we have still yet to see No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren. The collective height and wingspan of OKC’s projected starting group is bound to give their opponents problems. Young teams typically don’t excel defensively, but this Thunder team has the tools to excel on that end of the floor.
14. Dallas Mavericks
Key Additions: Grant Williams, Seth Curry, Richaun Holmes, Dante Exum, Dereck Lively (R), Olivier Maxence-Prosper (R)
Arguably the most disappointing team in the league last year, the Mavericks need a bounceback campaign in the worst way. Dallas missed the postseason entirely just a year after making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. The trade for Kyrie Irving was supposed to turn things around, but the enigmatic star and Luka Dončić could never really figure it out. Irving was inked to a long-term deal this offseason, and the Mavericks hope a slightly retooled roster will be a better fit around Dallas’ two primary playmakers. The clock is ticking in Dallas, as another lost season could push Dončić to reconsider his place on the team.
13. New York Knicks
Key Additions: Donte DiVincenzo
Knicks fans were flying high following the team’s first playoff series win since 2013. However, the season ended on a bitter note after being ousted by the No. 8 seed Miami Heat. Jalen Brunson was everything the team could have hoped for…and more. The four-year/$100 million deal he inked last offseason seems like a bargain now. It will be interesting to see how Julius Randle responds following another dismal playoff run.
The offseason was uncharacteristically quiet for New York, though they did trade away Obi Toppin and sign Donte DiVincenzo. With how little Toppin was playing, adding a heady, defensive guard in DiVincenzo will likely be an upgrade. He and Josh Hart are ideal players in Tom Thibodeau’s system, and having both is a big boost to New York’s wing depth.
12. Sacramento Kings
Key Additions: Nerlens Noel, Sasha Vezenkov (R), Jalen Slawson (R), Colby Jones (R)
It’s fair to expect a slight dip from the Kings this upcoming season. After making the playoffs for the first time in 17 years – as a 3-seed – Sacramento is looking to make it two-in-a-row. And, while we think they will once again be in the postseason picture, expecting 48 wins and a Pacific Division title is a bit of a stretch. The Kings were the healthiest team in the regular season last year, and benefitted from a rather chaotic division.
While we do like some of the moves they made this offseason – trading for Chris Duarte and signing reigning EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov – not upgrading the Harrison Barnes spot seems like it could haunt them.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers
Key Additions: Max Strus, Georges Niang, Emoni Bates (R)
The young Cavaliers arrived last season, making the franchise’s return to the postseason for the first time since LeBron James left town. Cleveland won a whopping 51 games thanks to its dynamic backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. It also includes a jumbo frontcourt consisting of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Though, the postseason proved to be a different animal for the youthful Cavs. Cleveland was overwhelmed by a tougher, more experienced Knicks team.
In hopes of adding more perimeter threats, the Cavs went out and signed Max Strus and Georges Niang this past offseason. However, the storyline for this team will mostly surround the future of Mitchell. The four-time All-Star has yet to sign an extension, leading some to believe he could be looking elsewhere after his contract expires.
10. Memphis Grizzlies
Key Additions: Marcus Smart, Josh Christopher, Derrick Rose, GG Jackson (R)
Memphis is looking to bounceback after an embarrassing defeat to the Lakers in the first round of last year’s playoffs. How the Grizzlies navigate through Ja Morant’s 25-game suspension will be extremely telling. In the past, Memphis has exceeded expectations when their superstar point guard has sat. But, those situations were due to injury and not a planned absence. Memphis did well in solidifying their backcourt with Morant gone, adding one of the toughest guards in the league in Marcus Smart. Smart might not be the same caliber of defender he once was, but he’s an accomplished playmaker who is unafraid of the moment. With Morant out, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. will be called upon offensively.
9. Los Angeles Clippers
Key Additions: Kenyon Martin Jr.
The Clippers have all the talent to make a deep run in the postseason. Though, that has been the case for as long as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have been a part of the team. The pair were able to both play over 50 games during the regular season, but broke down at the end. Leonard was limited to just two playoff games, while George missed the postseason entirely. Now, the story surrounding the Clippers concerns their potential acquisition of James Harden. The Philly guard has reportedly expressed his desire to play in Los Angeles alongside Leonard, George and Russell Westbrook. As of now, there is no deal in place. But, adding a top-tier playmaker such as Harden to this group would certainly help matters.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
Key Additions: Patrick Beverley, Mo Bamba
The 76ers aren’t going to just give James Harden away. We know that considering GM Daryl Morey’s track record. Morey had no issue waiting for the right deal when Ben Simmons was being shopped around — eventually landing Harden in the deal. With Harden’s wish list dwindled down to just one team, Morey will wait as long as it takes until he gets what he believes to be fair compensation. With or without Harden, the 76ers will be one of the better teams out East thanks to reigning MVP Joel Embiid. That being said, Embiid must be growing tired of his co-stars demanding out. Perhaps his request to leave Philadelphia is coming next.
7. Golden State Warriors
Key Additions: Chris Paul, Dario Saric, Brandin Podziemski (R)
As long as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are in Golden State, the Warriors remain a threat to win the title. That was the case just two seasons ago, and the Warriors have retooled looking to make another run. The acquisition of Chris Paul gives the team an option they’ve never really had during the current era. Paul can control pace and feed Curry and Thompson easy looks. It will be interesting to see how Paul fits into the rotation, as benching either Andrew Wiggins or Kevon Looney will surely hamper Golden State’s defensive versatility. Curry has arguably never been better, and Thompson was excellent during the regular season. If Paul can find his role, this team will once again be a contender.
6. Miami Heat
Key Additions: Josh Richardson, Thomas Bryant, Jaime Jaquez Jr. (R)
The reigning Eastern Conference champions are in limbo as they await Portland’s decision concerning Damian Lillard. Everybody knows that Lillard wants to go to the Heat. The NBA even went as far as threatening disciplinary actions against Lillard and his agent after both made the superstar’s intentions public. It remains to be seen if Lillard will face a penalty, but the Heat and Blazers have reportedly discussed multiple trade options. As of now, the Heat have proven capable of beating any team in the Eastern Conference — but they still seemingly lack the offensive firepower to knock off Western contenders like the Nuggets. Don’t count Miami out, as they always seem to make a splash.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
Key Additions: Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish, Jaxson Hayes, Jalen Hood-Schifino (R), Maxwell Lewis (R)
After an unexpected run to the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers enjoyed a rather successful offseason. As opposed to previous Summer’s during the LeBron-era, LA opted to bring back most of their core while adding complementary pieces. Postseason standouts Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura return under affordable contracts. Same goes for D’Angelo Russell, coming off his best shooting season as a pro. Gabe Vincent and Taurean Prince were signed to replace Dennis Schroder and Troy Brown Jr. with Vincent coming off an impressive playoff run with the Heat. If LA’s two stars are healthy, this looks to be a 50-win team and among the top contenders out West. Of course, staying healthy could be a tall ask for the soon-to-be 39-year-old LeBron James and the oft-injured Anthony Davis.
4. Boston Celtics
Key Additions: Kristaps Porzingis, Oshae Brissett, Jordan Walsh (R)
Boston reconfigured this offseason in a big way. Shipping off Marcus Smart is a potentially risky move. Smart was arguably the team’s best playmaker and a former Defensive Player of the Year. Celtics brass believe that Kristaps Porzinigis’ offensive ability will outweigh the loss of Smart. And, they might be right. Porzingis is coming off an excellent year for the Wizards, and provides a quick-trigger from beyond the arc which will extend opposing defenses. With Smart gone, the playmaking duties will lie heavily on Derrick White, Jayson Tatum, and the $304 million dollar man Jaylen Brown.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
Key Additions: Malik Beasley, Robin Lopez, Andre Jackson Jr. (R), Chris Livingston (R)
Milwaukee is looking to shake off an embarrassing first-round defeat to the Miami Heat. The Bucks entered the postseason as the No. 1 overall seed after winning a league-high 58 games, only to be ousted from the playoffs in just five games. Their season ending on their home floor was like rubbing salt on the wound. Antetokounmpo missed most of Game 1 and all of Games 2 and 3, but the Bucks didn’t win any game he played in. Milwaukee’s top-three — Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holliday — is still among the league’s best, and the team was able to bring back Brook Lopez on a two-year deal. With Middleton healthy for a full year, and Antetokounmpo looking to reestablish himself as the league’s best, the Bucks should once again be considered the top contender in the East.
2. Phoenix Suns
Key Additions: Bradley Beal, Bol Bol, Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop, Drew Eubanks, Jordan Goodwin, Toumani Camara (R)
How is any team going to stop the trio of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and the newly acquired Bradley Beal? The Suns have as much firepower as any team in basketball, and we didn’t even mention former No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton. This team could struggle on the defensive end, and they’ll certainly have some depth issues. Though, the front office did about as well as it could in addressing the bench this offseason. Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop and Drew Eubanks are each coming off strong seasons with their respective teams. And, Phoenix is hoping defensive-minded head coach Frank Vogel will be able to devise a strong gameplan for that end of the floor. Matching up against Phoenix’s top three stars will be a nightmare for opposing teams.
1. Denver Nuggets
Key Additions: Julian Strawther (R), Jalen Pickett (R), Hunter Tyson (R)
The Denver Nuggets won their first, ever NBA Championship in ’23 — and, they made it look easy. This team has taken on the personality of their unassuming superstar Nikola Jokić. They’re never rushed or look out of control. Jamal Murray has developed into a legitimate No. 2 option, and guys like Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope fill their role immaculately. Losing Bruce Brown is surely a hit, but Denver believes Christian Braun and Peyton Watson can take that next step this season. Until a team proves they can slow down Jokić in any way, the Nuggets will be the team to beat.
2023 NBA Draft Grades
1. Atlanta Hawks: A-
Draft Picks: Kobe Bufkin (15), Mohamed Gueye (39), Seth Lundy (46)
Atlanta did really well in adding potentially two rotation pieces, along with a high-upside developmental type. Bufkin dropped slightly lower than his projected range. He gives the Hawks a creative scorer who can effectively be that of a 6th man (unless Trae Young is traded — which then would pave the way for Bufkin to start next to Dejounte Murray). Lundy is a fantastic shooter, and we know the premium teams put on that skill. Gueye is still a ways away from contributing on a high level. He needs to put on both weight and strength. With that said, the combination of length, athleticism, and skill is intriguing.
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2. Boston Celtics: B
Draft Picks: Jordan Walsh (38)
With only one pick, the Celtics took Jordan Walsh in the second round. Truthfully, we are a fan of his — and think he can play right away as an energizer off the bench. His physical tools have always been quite impressive. Walsh is a plus-athlete in terms of leaping ability and lateral quickness. These two traits could help him become a very good wing defender. However, he’s also got better-than-you-think ball skills — especially as a facilitator. Assuming he can improve his perimeter shot, the Celtics may have gotten a steal here.
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3. Brooklyn Nets: B+
Draft Picks: Noah Clowney (21), Dariq Whitehead (22), Jalen Wilson (51)
The Nets needed size (as last year’s playoff exit indicated). Noah Clowney is a high-upside kid with terrific length. He might not come in right away and start, but his best basketball is certainly ahead of him. The same can be said for Whitehead. Perpetually injured at Duke, we really didn’t get to see his full assortment of skills. Assuming he bounces back from his latest foot surgery, Whitehead could be a real difference maker. Jalen Wilson might be undersized for his position. However, he’s a winner — and guys like that are always good for your team culture.
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4. Charlotte Hornets: A
Draft Picks: Brandon Miller (2), Nick Smith Jr. (27), James Nnaji (31), Amari Bailey (41)
Hornets went for fit over potential upside when selecting Brandon Miller over Scoot Henderson. It does makes sense to pair a silky, sweet-shooting 6-foot-9 wing alongside a talent like LaMelo Ball. Miller instantly becomes one of the team’s marquee players. This draft down the line will be ultimately graded upon whether Miller turned out to be better than Scoot (or at least comparable). Nick Smith Jr. dropped in the draft — as did Amari Bailey. Both were elite talents coming out of high school a year ago. If the Hornets ‘hit’ on one of them, they’ll be elated. Center James Nnaji was an intriguing selection early in the second round. He might be a bit redundant with Mark Williams already at the five spot. With that said, Nnaji also has a high ceiling.
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5. Chicago Bulls: C
Draft Picks: Julian Phillips (35)
There’s not a whole lot to write about with the Bulls. The franchise has to figure out whether they’re going to tear it down and rebuild from the ground up…or if they’ll run it back with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine hoping for some sort of miracle. Julian Phillips is a talented player, potentially more in the realm of a ‘developmental type’ rather than a ‘help right now’ guy. Regardless, he won’t change the fortunes of this franchise either way.
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6. Cleveland Cavaliers: C
Draft Picks: Emoni Bates (49)
The Cavs are already a pretty young team. They need vets added to help in their quest to advance in the playoffs. As such, you knew Cleveland wasn’t going to add a plethora of fresh, young faces. Emoni Bates was taken late in the second round. We all know about his past exploits as a star high school player derailed by off-the-court issues and injuries. There’s certainly talent there as a scorer, though we’re a bit dubious in seeing how Bates will defend opposing wings.
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7. Dallas Mavericks: B
Draft Picks: Dereck Lively II (12), Olivier-Maxence Prosper (24)
Dallas knew it needed to improve its post defense. As such, it collected the best rim protector in the draft in Dereck Lively. Last year’s No. 1 high school prep prospect, he struggled at Duke with inconsistency and injury. Despite that, the talent is quite evident. You just don’t see players over 7-foot-1 with range out to the three-point line (in addition to elite shot blocking skills). In terms of a high-end comparison, think Tyson Chandler with a bit of Brook Lopez. If Dallas ‘hits’ on Lively, you’re looking at a guy with top-five talent. Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper was taken later in the first round after Dallas made a trade to get him. Most projections had him going in the second round. He’s a bit of a tweener, and the Mavs may have reached on him.
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8. Denver Nuggets: B-
Draft Picks: Julian Strawther (29), Jalen Pickett (32), Hunter Tyson (37)
Denver collected three picks between 29-37 in anticipation of losing some depth pieces off its title team (namely Bruce Brown). This strategy in getting young, cheap players with playable attributes is a smart move. Interestingly enough here, all three players taken — Julian Strawther, Jalen Pickett, Hunter Tyson — were multi-year college players. Denver surely is expecting these mature prospects to contribute sooner than later. None of them pop off the screen as potential starters down the line. Strawther was a very solid player for Gonzaga as a cutter/three-point shooter. Pickett was one of the Big Ten’s better lead guards. Tyson developed into a double-double guy at Clemson with three-point range. The upsides on each of these guys might not be through the roof. Still, you’re hoping that a couple of them can develop into solid rotation pieces down the line.
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9. Detroit Pistons: B
Draft Picks: Ausar Thompson (5), Marcus Sasser (25)
Detroit quietly continues to add quality pieces to its roster. Ausar Thompson is far from a proven commodity. His perimeter shot is a bit wonky. However, all of the other tools in his arsenal are bordering on very good to elite. He should slide in at the three immediately — giving Cade Cunningham a favored target in transition. Sasser went probably higher than people thought he would. With that said, he’s one of those guys who’ll stick in the league 10+ years due to his smarts and buy-in on the defensive end of the floor. A gritty, tough, role player in the best sense of those terms. Above all — Sasser gives Detroit a winner.
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10. Golden State Warriors: A-
Draft Picks: Brandin Podziemski (19), Trayce Jackson-Davis (57)
In the wake of the Chris Paul-Jordan Poole blockbuster, the Warriors added another wing/shooter to its backcourt in Santa Clara’s Brandin Podziemski. Most people will be unfamiliar with his game. He was a bench warmer at Illinois, transferred to Santa Clara and immediately become a bona fide NBA player. He averaged 19.9 PPG on .513 from the floor and .438 from three. He’s a plus athlete, super aggressive, and many analytics-based analysts believe he was among the top 15 prospects in this draft. At the very end of the draft, they took Indiana All-American forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. While TJD doesn’t shoot the ball from the perimeter, the lefty does everything else well. He’ll be a cheap, effective role player for this team towards the end of the bench. Also based upon where he was drafted, Jackson-Davis surely will have a chip on his shoulder.
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11. Houston Rockets: A
Draft Picks: Amen Thompson (4), Cam Whitmore (20)
Houston is fielding a roster of elite athletes. Arguably two of the top three athletes in this entire draft were gobbled up by the Rockets here in its journey for relevancy under Ime Udoka. Amen Thompson is projected as a very impressive playmaking wing with elite defensive upside. Cam Whitmore — who was projected as a top-10 pick for months — fell to pick No. 20 over health and character concerns (reportedly). If Whitmore can prove the naysayers wrong, he’ll be making a lot of NBA GM’s look foolish. The upside is there for Whitmore to be a game-changer with his powerful frame and explosive athletic ability. Credit Houston for taking a swing here for a prospect with a considerable ceiling.
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12. Indiana Pacers: B+
Draft Picks: Jarace Walker (8), Ben Sheppard (26), Mojave King (47), Isaiah Wong (55)
This was a solid draft for Indiana. Jarace Walker immediately slides into the four spot next to Myles Turner. He’s not the tallest player in the world, but makes up for the lack of height with a gigantic wingspan, high basketball I.Q., and a physical frame akin to a mound of granite. Walker’s playmaking ability and ferociousness on the boards should lead to second-chance points for Indiana’s talented backcourt. Speaking of which, the Pacers added some much-needed shooting with Ben Sheppard late in the first round. We also like the late draft selection of Miami’s Isaiah Wong (don’t be surprised if he sticks).
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13. Los Angeles Clippers: C-
Draft Picks: Kobe Brown (30), Jordan Miller (48)
The Clippers had one of the weirdest drafts on Thursday of any NBA team. Mizzou’s Kobe Brown was taken with the last pick of the first round. An undersized playmaking four, there were some mock drafts which didn’t even have Brown selected in Round 2. There’s not a lot of physical upside here, and Brown is among the oldest players in the draft. In fact, both Brown and second-round pick Jordan Miller are both already 23 years of age. Unless both become rotation guys sooner than later, there’s little reason to think the franchise can suddenly extract uncovered upside by the time these guys are into their mid-20’s.
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14. Los Angeles Lakers: B+
Draft Picks: Jalen Hood-Schifino (17), Maxwell Lewis (40)
The Lakers got terrific value with both of their picks in this draft. There were multiple mock drafts seeing Jalen Hood-Schifino going in the top-10. The Lakers nabbed him at No. 17 — giving LA another young, talented backcourt asset (which is also cover should D’Angelo Russell or Dennis Schroder leave). JHS is a combo guard with very good mid-range skills. He’s also a willing defender (garnering comparisons to Malcolm Brogdon). Maxwell Lewis — a local product from Pepperdine — is a plus-athlete with fast-twitch quickness and exceptional length. The Lakers spent over $4 million in cash to trade up and grab him here. Other mock drafts had Lewis potentially going late in the first round. At 6’7″, Lewis could crack the wing rotation immediately as a scorer off the bench.
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15. Memphis Grizzlies: D
Draft Picks: GG Jackson (45), Tarik Biberovic (56)
This wasn’t a great draft for Memphis. Picks were traded away in the Marcus Smart trade, which led to Memphis’ first pick coming at No. 45. GG Jackson reclassified in order to play in college a year early. His talent is immense, but his motor doesn’t always run hot. Being among the youngest players in the draft, we have a hard time seeing him enter a preexisting frontcourt rotation featuring Steven Adams, Brandon Clarke, Jaren Jackson Jr., Kenneth Lofton, David Roddy, and Xavier Tillman.
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16. Miami Heat: A-
Draft Picks: Jaime Jaquez Jr. (18)
The Heat only had one pick in this draft…but it was a good one. Universally, the Heat were praised for taking UCLA star forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. Dating back to his freshman year, the Southern California native exuded toughness, character, intelligence, and a will to win. He can score on all three levels, and has proven that on college basketball’s biggest stage repeatedly. Jaquez might not ever be a star. He’ll have to improve his three-point percentage, and uber-athletic players could give him issues off the dribble. With that said, if you’re looking for a guy who can help you win at all costs…it’s the guy they often refer to as triple-J.
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17. Milwaukee Bucks: B
Draft Picks: Andre Jackson (36), Chris Livingston (58)
Without financial flexibility or high-end draft capital, title contending teams must get creative when filling out their rosters. In this case, the Bucks did well in adding two second-rounders with nice upside. Both Andre Jackson and Chris Livingston are rangy wings with good defensive potential. Jackson is a freak athlete, and showed some impressive playmaking skills during UCONN’s title run. Livingston got lost in the chaotic Kentucky shuffle this year. While still raw, the tools are there for him to be a solid role player one day. For both prospects, the most important area of improvement would be working on their perimeter shots.
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18. Minnesota Timberwolves: B
Draft Picks: Leonard Miller (33), Jaylen Clark (53)
The Rudy Gobert trade led to Minnesota having only second round picks to play with. Both guys selected are far from sure-things — though each are intriguing prospects in their own rights. Leonard Miller is a jumbo wing with some real scoring ability. He’s still raw, but the size (6-foot-10) and athleticism is worth the gamble early in the second round. Jaylen Clark out of UCLA was selected late in Round 2. From a defensive instincts standpoint, he’s unparalleled with anyone in this draft. Clark has ridiculously quick hands, a long wingspan, and an intuitiveness one simply cannot teach. He’s coming back from an Achilles injury, and does struggle to shoot the ball with consistency. However, if he can come back healthy, Clark could be the next Bruce Brown — a versatile defender offering terrific energy and toughness.
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19. New Orleans Pelicans: B+
Draft Picks: Jordan Hawkins (14)
New Orleans hit it out of the park with this pick. Hawkins might be the most pure shooter of the entire draft. He’s excellent coming off screens for wide-open looks. However, Hawkins has even higher percentages when shooting contested 3’s. His ability to stretch the floor should work quite well with the current construction of New Orleans. He has to get bigger and stronger on the defensive end, but the shooting tool is undeniably great.
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20. New York Knicks: N/A
Draft Picks: none
The Knicks did not make any selections in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Their first-round pick from this year was given away in the Josh Hart deal. Based upon what Hart ended up meaning to the franchise, we have a hard time believing that a pick in the 20’s would’ve brought the same value to the Knicks comparatively speaking to Josh Hart.
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21. Oklahoma City Thunder: A
Draft Picks: Cason Wallace (10), Keyontae Johnson (50)
Oklahoma City continues to stockpile two-way players who will contribute to the team right away. After swapping spots with Dallas, the Thunder snagged Kentucky guard Cason Wallace. He’s a perfect fit alongside OKC’s core. Just like previous players drafted under the current regime, Wallace is an excellent defensive player who can also handle the rock. Pairing him with Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gives the Thunder a malleable core of two-way athletes. At the tail-end of the second, OKC added Kansas State standout Keyontae Johnson. While he’s a bit of an older prospect, Johnson has translatable skills which include a strong outside jumper and the ability to punish smaller defenders at the rim.
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22. Orlando Magic: B+
Draft Picks: Anthony Black (6), Jett Howard (11)
With two more lottery picks in hand, the Magic had some pressure entering the 2023 NBA Draft to add quality players around Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. We think they did just that. Anthony Black is one of the best playmakers in the class — a 6-foot-7 point with defensive versatility. He has a great feel for the game, and is already a quick processor. Some might see Jett Howard as a reach with pick No. 11, but he’s another player with size and deep range on his jumper. Black, Howard, Banchero, and Wagner are all above 6-foot-7 — and have strong playmaking ability. It’s going to be fun watching this Magic team grow together.
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23. Philadelphia 76ers: N/A
Draft Picks: none
The 76ers passed on this year’s draft, as GM Daryl Morey has never been one for looking towards the future. The team’s first round pick was sent out in the deal for James Harden. And, their second rounder was forfeited after the team was slapped with a tampering violation during their acquisitions of PJ Tucker and Danuel House.
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24. Phoenix Suns: D
Draft Picks: Toumani Camara (52)
This is going to be the last Phoenix Suns draft pick for a long, long time. Phoenix essentially surrendered their next seven drafts in the trades for Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal. The team’s current core of Durant, Beal, and Devin Booker had better work out, because tanking is no longer an option for the Suns. With their lone pick this year, Phoenix drafted Dayton’s Toumani Camara — a defensive specialist who improved as a spot-up shooter during his senior year. The Suns need all of the depth they can get, and Camara could see instant playing time as a result.
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25. Portland Trail Blazers: A
Draft Picks: Scoot Henderson (3), Kris Murray (23), Rayan Rupert (43)
When Charlotte’s pick was announced, the Blazers basically rushed to the podium with their selection. The team was never passing up Scoot Henderson — regardless of Damian Lillard’s future with the team. Henderson may very well have been the No. 1 pick any other year. His upside is tremendous, and he plays with a high level of power and ferocity. Later in the first round, Portland snagged Kris Murray — the brother of Kings forward Keegan Murray. The Iowa product improved in several areas during his final season on campus, making him a candidate to earn early minutes for the Blazers. France’s Rayan Rupert had a first-round projection from some publications, and it’s easy to see why given his frame (6-foot-7 with a long wingspan) and defensive instincts.
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26. Sacramento Kings: B
Draft Picks: Colby Jones (34), Jalen Slawson (54)
Adding to its wing depth was a clear mission for this Kings front office. Sacramento traded with Charlotte to acquire the 34th pick, opting to take Xavier’s Colby Jones. Jones was the engine for a Musketeers team that finished second in the Big East. He’s a do-it-all type player who became a knockdown shooter in his final collegiate season. Jalen Slawson from Furman was certainly an intriguing pick. The burly forward shot .394 from three last season and was one of the most productive defenders in the draft (1.5 BPG and 1.5 SPG).
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27. San Antonio Spurs: A+
Draft Picks: Victor Wembanyama (1), Sidy Cissoko (44)
What’s there more to say about San Antonio’s draft? We knew they were taking French sensation Victor Wembanyama from the moment it was announced the Spurs won the lottery. Touted as a generational talent, Wembanyama will contribute immediately and could very well become the best player in the league at some point. Can’t ask for much more than that with the first overall pick. Of course, now it’s San Antonio’s job to fill out the roster around its star — and second-round pick Sidy Cissoko figures to be part of the plans. An opportunistic ball-hawk with playmaking chops, the 19-year-old Cissoko could be a potential steal at pick No. 44.
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28. Toronto Raptors: A-
Draft Picks: Gradey Dick (13)
Kansas’ Gradey Dick looks like he prepared to be drafted by the Raptors, sporting a snazzy red suit which certainly caught the attention of viewers. With only one pick in the draft, Toronto addressed its most obvious problem: Scoring. Dick put up 14.1 PPG as a freshman at KU — and it could have been far more if the team wasn’t so stacked with talent. He’s an excellent shooter and a good athlete who should be able to defend both 2’s and 3’s.
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29. Utah Jazz: A
Draft Picks: Taylor Hendricks (9), Keyonte George (16), Brice Sensabaugh (28)
This was a monster draft from the Jazz. Taylor Hendricks was one of the fastest risers on the board. He fits an archetype that every team is looking — a big wing (6-foot-9) with defensive versatility and an outside shot. He will be perfect alongside Lauri Markkanen at the forward spot. Next, Utah took one of the purest scorers in the draft in Keyonte George. His game is a bit reminiscent of Jamal Murray, and he should benefit greatly from NBA spacing. To wrap up their night, the Jazz selected Brice Sensabaugh — a stout, stretch-four who shot .405 from three as a freshman.
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30. Washington Wizards: B+
Draft Picks: Bilal Coulibaly (7), Tristan Vukcevic (42)
Washington selected two of the most interesting prospects of the entire draft. France’s Bilal Coulibaly gained momentum leading up the draft — buoyed by a stamp of approval from his former Met92 teammate Victor Wembanyama. While not many expected him to go seventh overall, the pick makes a lot of sense for the Wizards. He fills two clear roles — wing defender and offensive connector. He has great feel for the game, and will be a building block for a rebuilding Wizards group. In the second round, Indiana took a swing on Serbian big Tristan Vukcevic — a 6-foot-11 shooter who can put in the floor a bit and create.
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