The Denver Nuggets won their first NBA championship and it’s already time to start planning for the 2023-24 season with the NBA Draft taking place next week.
French phenom Victor Wembanyama is a guarantee to go No. 1 in the draft but that’s not how we do drafts over here at the News-Leader. It’s time for our second annual NBA mock draft while only using players from southwest Missouri.
In this edition, we’re using both boys and girls basketball players from the 2022-23 season. All outgoing seniors are eligible, we’re using the draft order as of June 13, we’re not projecting trades and we’re not using players who moved out of the area or attended Link Academy.
Here are those who better get ready to meet Adam Silver on stage.
1. Kaemyn Bekemeier, Republic – San Antonio Spurs
Folks all over San Antonio were celebrating when the Spurs won the lottery and the right to land a generational player. Bekemeier is just that as she’s one of the best players to come out of southwest Missouri in years. The Republic star will help return one of the league’s great franchises back to the top of the sport.
2. Kael Combs, Nixa – Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are going to feel like they landed the prize of the draft after what Combs did for Nixa last season. The best athlete to come through the Ozarks since Aminu Mohammed is a versatile player who will be the centerpiece for the Hornets’ rebuild. He’ll fit wherever Charlotte needs him which will be important with LaMelo Ball coming off ankle surgery.
3. Kyle Pock, Bolivar – Portland Trailblazers
Will Damian Lillard stay in Portland? He might consider staying put with Pock landing with the Blazers at No. 3 overall. Pock has been one of the Ozarks’ best players for the last four seasons and he can do a little bit of everything at a high level.
4. Destiny Buerge, Carl Junction – Houston Rockets
The Rockets’ rebuild will get a nice boost by adding one of the area’s top scorers over the last several years. Buerge proved to be capable of being the best player on a winning team by leading Carl Junction on a deep postseason run this past year.
5. Ahlante Askew, Republic – Detroit Pistons
There’s a good, young core building in Detroit as Monty Williams takes over the franchise. The likes of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and, now, Askew will make this a tough team to beat in the East quicker than expected. Askew has ice in his veins and is a great leader on the court.
6. Jacob Lafferty, Sparta – Orlando Magic
Orlando is going to feel like it got a steal here with this pick as it can add Lafferty to pair up with former No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero. During his breakout season at Sparta, Lafferty made it known that he was one of the best players in the Ozarks. If he uses his final year of high school eligibility instead of going straight to the NBA, Lafferty would be in contention for next year’s No. 1 overall pick.
7. Kameron Green, Fair Grove – Indiana Pacers
After leading Fair Grove to its first state title, Indiana looks no further than Green to bring it its first NBA Finals trophy. Green was a dominant player in the post last season for the Lady Eagles and she sets a tone that is much-needed in Indianapolis.
8. Brayden Shorter, Kickapoo – Washington Wizards
There wasn’t a better area player in the postseason last season than Shorter as he put Kickapoo on his back and led it to a state championship appearance. Shorter has a great outside shot which will be paired nicely next to Bradley Beal — and he’ll be able to step into a bigger role if trade rumors surrounding Beal ever turn out to be true.
9. Raegan McCowan, Lebanon – Utah Jazz
The Jazz need some scoring and McCowan is the obvious choice here. Lebanon’s all-time leading scorer will accelerate Utah’s rebuilding process after it traded Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert last offseason when the group hit its ceiling. McCowan raises the bar immediately while looking for more postseason success.
10. Norah Clark, Nixa – Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks’ offseason will be fascinating with whatever comes from the living, breathing soap opera that’s in the form of Kyrie Irving. By adding Clark, you don’t need to worry about drama when you’re just getting a hard-working basketball player who can do a little bit of everything for your team. Clark is the type of player Luka Doncic will enjoy having around for years to come… no matter what happens with Kyrie.
11. Trae Oetting, Kickapoo – Orlando Magic
Oetting developed himself into one of the best point guards in Missouri in two short seasons starting for the Chiefs. He’s always in control and can make plays for himself and others. The Magic will love to pair that up with a young team that features Banchero and Lafferty, their No. 6 overall pick.
12. Macie Mays, El Dorado Springs – Oklahoma City Thunder
We got to see Mays be the best player on a team that went on a deep postseason run, adding to her state title from the year before. She’s a high-ceiling piece to add to Oklahoma City which should be ready to explode with the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren.
13. Logan Jones, Mansfield – Toronto Raptors
Toronto is headed in a new direction under Darko Rajakovic and a high-caliber starting point guard is what the Raptors need in order to start their climb back to the top. Jones has been one of the best at the position for several years and will hopefully convince Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam to hang around Toronto longer.
14. Tom Emerick, Mansfield – New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans is going to feel like it got a steal here with this stat-stuffing big. Emrick is athletic and should give the Pelicans one of the better frontcourts in the league… if Zion Williamson actually decides to play some season.
15. Allyssa Joyner, West Plains – Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks add one of the best girls basketball players in the Ozarks over the last several seasons. Joyner is a championship-winning playmaker who gives the Hawks an immediate plug-and-play player when they’ve had bits of postseason success over the last few years. Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter should be a fun group with Joyner added.
16. Lauren Luebbert, Marshfield – Utah Jazz
After adding McGowan with their first pick, the Jazz continues to strengthen their roster with Luebbert who has one of the highest ceilings in the draft. Luebbert has been one of the area’s best over her sophomore and junior seasons and could very well be a top-five pick if she was to go back to school and be a part of the 2024 draft. Marshfield is one of the best in the Ozarks and Utah would feel like it’s on its way to being one of the best in the West with this pick.
17. Cole Griesemer, Hillcrest – Los Angeles Lakers
There’s no doubt that Griesemer would have been a lottery pick if he played the entire 2022-23 season but LeBron James would be somewhere doing a TikTok dance if Griesemer was to land in L.A. Griesemer showed the ability to take over games and be the best player on a team that turned into one of the area’s best at the end of the year. Griesemer immediately gives LeBron some help, especially when Anthony Davis gets injured.
18. Elsie Larsen, Strafford – Miami Heat
Why do teams keep allowing great, young players to fall to Miami? Coming off a remarkable NBA Finals appearance from the eight-seed, Larsen is the bright, young star that Miami covets. The Heat need point guard help with the aging Kyle Lowry being paid way too much. She’s a prospect who is going to develop into one of the area’s best before it’s all said and done and Erik Spoelstra is the perfect coach to get that out of her.
19. Bre Hurd, Waynesville – Golden State Warriors
Age finally seems to be catching up with the Warriors after falling in the Western Conference semifinals this past season. Adding a potential superstar in Hurd could be what keeps Golden State relevant moving forward. Hurt puts up big numbers on a nightly basis for Waynesville and would give Stephen Curry a different style of forward than he’s had with Draymond Green.
20. Amare Witham, Glendale – Houston Rockets
We might be calling Houston the winner of the draft after this pick. Witham is supposed to be the “next big thing” as a high-scoring point guard coming off a standout freshman season. Houston already added Buerge with the No. 3 overall pick and the Rockets will land a potential No. 1 overall pick down the line here with pick 20.
21. Curry Sutherland, Logan-Rogersville – Brooklyn Nets
Sutherland slipped a little bit in the draft when teams started to hear that his heart may be on the baseball diamond instead of the basketball court but the Nets didn’t want to let him get away. The Log-Rog grad proved to be one of the best basketball players in the area this past season and the Nets had to take him to pair up with Mikal Bridges.
22. Sara Mendel, Ava – Brooklyn Nets
The Nets needed a sure thing with their following pick after taking a potential high pick in the MLB Draft and Mendel is perfect for the job. Mendel has put together multiple great seasons for Ava while averaging nearly a double-double this past season. She adds to a great, young Nets team following the departures of Kevin Durant and Irving.
23. All Wright, Joplin – Portland Trailblazers
The Trailblazers will be a team that many will consider the winner of the draft after landing Pock with the third pick and by adding maybe the best 3-point shooter in the area here. Wright gives Portland another dangerous weapon from the outside when Lillard is already one of the greatest shooters of all time. The Blazers turned into a good team really quickly with this draft.
24. Jay Baxter, Stockton – Sacramento Kings
Baxter has been one of the state’s top bigs for the last couple of seasons and the up-and-coming Kings would love to add him to their frontcourt. Baxter averaged a double-double last season and would be another great young piece to a team that should be lighting the beam for years to come.
25. Cody Voysey, Strafford – Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis is a strange team heading into next year when it has the talent to be a championship contender but its young superstar can’t seem to get out of his own way off the court. No one will have to worry about Voysey if the Grizzlies were to take him because they know they’re getting a hard worker and one of the best shooters in the area. He’s a need when Ja Morant is on the court and he’ll be a standout when Ja’s not.
26. Ellie Smith, Walnut Grove – Indiana Pacers
The Pacers added Green with their first pick and they’re getting a younger high-ceiling player with this pick. Smith has been one of the area’s best in her first two seasons of high school basketball and Indiana couldn’t afford to pass on her here. With one more pick to go, it’s OK for the Pacers to go after a potential superstar with this selection.
27. Jacie Gavisk, Walnut Grove – Charlotte Hornets
Smith’s teammate had a breakout season for Walnut Grove this past year and she’s not getting away from Charlotte. The Hornets take a young star who averaged a double-double this past season and match her up with Ball and Combs, who they took with their second pick.
28. Elias Govan, Parkview – Utah Jazz
Utah added McCowan and Luebbert earlier in the first round and it will cap its three-pick haul off with Govan, one of the brightest young stars in the area. Govan has already developed into a standout with much more room to grow following a sophomore year. Govan has great size and is a great athlete who will only continue to get better.
29. Nick Burri, Greenwood – Indiana Pacers
Indiana added Green and Smith earlier and now it will go with Burri who will put up big numbers for the Pacers. He averaged nearly 20 points per game and showed great growth over the course of his career which should continue into the league. After this draft, Indiana should quickly find itself as a team contending for playoff position in the East.
30. Mikayla Pilley, Kickapoo – Los Angeles Clippers
Pilley lands at a perfect spot for her in Tyronn Lue’s system out west. This team has underachieved with superstars who can’t seem to stay on the floor. Pilley immediately enters as a versatile player who can adapt to whether Khawhi Leonard and Paul George are on the floor or hurt. She’s a great, young player who can help the Clippers take the next step that they’ve desperately needed with this core group of players.
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at email@example.com or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL.