Detroit — With less than 24 hours until the first name is called in the 2023 NBA Draft, the transactions around the league are starting to pile up and many are wondering if the Pistons will make a move on draft night.
The Boston Celtics reportedly are closing in on a three-team trade to acquire Wizards forward Kristaps Porzingis, while sending Malcolm Brogdon to the LA Clippers. There are also reports the defending champion Denver Nuggets also made a deal with the Indiana Pacers to move into the first round of the draft.
The final few hours of the draft could be very active, but they could set the stage for more movement during draft night.
Who will be the first prospect to put on a Pistons hat after Detroit makes its selection with the fifth overall pick? One of the Thompson twins? Cam Whitmore? Jarace Walker? Maybe even Anthony Black or Taylor Hendricks?
Pistons general manager Tory Weaver said the team will evaluate every option on the table, but here is my final mock draft before the draft is held on Thursday at 8 p.m.
*Editor’s note: Some of the following analysis and intel was published in a previous mock draft.
▶ 1. San Antonio: Victor Wembanyama, 7-5, C, France. After four seasons outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, San Antonio is looking to turn things around rather quickly with the generational talent that is Wembanyama. The French phenom arrived in the United States this week and he’s already hit the ground running, from select media runs to throwing out the first pitch at a New York Yankees game. Wembanyama is getting the All-Star treatment in the Big Apple, but he’ll learn the NBA game under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich, who also coached two Spurs legends in Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
▶ 2. Hornets: Brandon Miller, 6-9, F, Alabama. If San Antonio has the easiest choice with the first pick, Charlotte’s pick is where things get interesting. If the Hornets want to draft based on need, then Miller is the obvious choice. His length, size and shooting ability would complement starting guard LaMelo Ball. Several reports throughout the league suggest Miller will be the Hornets’ choice based on his latest workout with the team. G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson also received a second workout, but the consensus was Miller emerged as Charlotte’s pick.
▶ 3. Trail Blazers: Scoot Henderson, 6-2, G, G League Ignite. If the Hornets choose Miller with the second pick, it paves the way for Portland to move forward with picking Henderson at No. 3. However, would Henderson be enough to move the needle to make Portland a contender? Probably not, but if the Trail Blazers decide to trade Damian Lillard and go all-in on the rebuilding phase, Henderson would have a clear path to usher the franchise into its next chapter. The explosive guard has all the tools and upside that could make him a future All-Star.
▶ 4. Rockets: Amen Thompson, 6-7, G, Overtime Elite. Houston has the first pick to add one of the Thompson twins to add to its roster of young talent, and after collecting some of the lengthiest players in the league, the selection of Thompson would give them a player with perhaps the highest upside not named Wembanyama. He’s more of a shot-creater than his twin brother, Ausar, and his explosiveness would bode well with Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr.
▶ 5. Pistons: Jarace Walker, 6-8, F, Houston. After general manager Troy Weaver’s comments during his pre-draft presser, the Pistons could go in a variety of directions at No. 5. The options on the table include, but are not limited to, trading the pick for a different position in the lottery or late first-round. They also could keep the pick and opt to make a deal for their second-round selection. Not much has changed for the Pistons since my last mock draft, so Walker remains the pick here. His defensive skillset would make Detroit more formidable on that side of the ball, and he has the ability to play either forward position.
▶ 6. Magic: Ausar Thompson, 6-7, F, Overtime Elite. Similar to his brother, Ausar Thompson possesses the explosiveness with tremendous upside that would bode well on a young and athletic team like the Magic. He can play at least three positions and his passing and defensive prowess makes him a good fit no matter where he lands. While I have Ausar listed with the Magic, there is a chance that Detroit takes a chance on the young wing. Of the Thompson twins, Ausar is perhaps a better fit for the Detroit and he could very much be in play on Thursday night.
▶ 7. Pacers: Taylor Hendricks, 6-8, F, UCF. The Pacers would be happy to draft Hendricks since he has defensive versatility and perimeter shooting that could complement Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner. After drafting Bennedict Mathurin last offseason, Hendricks would be a good fit.
▶ 8. Wizards: Anthony Black, 6-7, G, Arkansas. The Wizards are officially in rebuild mode after trading All-Star guard Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns. Chris Paul is reportedly going to Washington in exchange, but it’s likely that the veteran guard heads to a contender instead. With that said, the Wizards should be looking at Black as their primary target. He’s the second-best guard in the draft after Henderson due to his size, which allows him to be an excellent on-ball defender. He’s not the best shooter, but Black’s playmaking makes him an appealing target for any franchise.
▶ 9. Jazz: Cam Whitmore, 6-8, F, Villanova. The biggest surprise in recent weeks is the intel that Whitmore, an explosive wing from Villanova, was dropping on most team’s big boards due to unimpressive workouts. It remains to be seen whether it’s a smoke screen for a specific team to grab him in the late lottery, but Whitmore would fit well in Utah. Grabbing Whitmore at No. 9 would mark a successful start to the draft for the Jazz, who hold three first-round picks.
▶ 10. Mavericks: Bobi Klintman, 6-10, F, Wake Forest. The Mavericks could be in risk of losing Kyrie Irving in free agency, which could cause a decline in Luka Doncic’s window with the franchise. That said, perhaps the Mavericks go into a different direction and draft a big with potential. Klintman could be that guy, especially if his two-way skills translates to the NBA.
▶ 11. Magic (from Chicago): Gradey Dick, 6-8, G, Kansas. One of the best shooters in the draft, Dick knocked down 40% of his 3-pointers at Kansas last season. His toughness and perimeter scoring will bode well in Orlando with Ausar Thompson and Paolo Banchero, who earned the Rookie of the Year award.
▶ 12. Thunder: Kobe Bufkin, 6-4, G, Michigan. Bufkin is one to be on the lookout for toward the top of the draft. The sophomore guard had impressive workouts with several teams since the NBA Draft Combine. He also had a late-season burst at Michigan. Bufkin possesses the two-way talents needed to play either guard position in the NBA. He’s a left-handed shooter, who can knock down a variety of different shots, but his strength is getting to the basket and scoring at the rim.
▶ 13. Raptors: Jalen Hood-Schifino, 6-6, G, Indiana. According to several draft experts, Hood-Schifino produced a bevy of fruitful workouts ahead of Thursday’s draft that could propel him into the lottery. He possesses the ability to run an offense and he’s sold on the defensive end, which would bode well if he’s on the floor with the Raptors’ lengthy wings. Also, if Fred VanVleet doesn’t re-sign with the team, Hood-Schifino would be a solid player to fill some of the void.
▶ 14. Pelicans: Jordan Hawkins, 6-5, G, UConn. Hawkins is coming off a national championship, and he could bring that pedigree to a young Pelicans team looking to assert themselves in the Western Conference. His 3-point shooting would add versatility to New Orleans’ backcourt, which includes CJ McCollum and Jose Alvarado.
▶ 15. Hawks: Cason Wallace, 6-4, G, Kentucky. As one of the smaller players in the draft, Wallace has the potential to thrive as a playmaker for Atlanta’s frontcourt of John Collins and Clint Capela. He’s a catch-and-shoot threat and he also has the intangible ability to out-hustle his opponents, which is instinctual and rarely taught.
▶ 16. Jazz (from Minnesota): Keyonte George, 6-4, G, Baylor. With three first-round picks, the Jazz can instantly become one of the most active teams on draft night. George would bring a shot-creating presence to Utah. He has the upside to become a prolific scoring guard since he has the ability to stop on a dime and pull up or use his ballhandling to score inside the paint.
▶ 17. Lakers: Jett Howard, F, 6-8, Michigan. The Lakers likely will look to free agency to improve their roster, but the draft would be a good start to their offseason. Howard, the son of Wolverines coach Juwan Howard, would be a nice addition to Los Angeles’ roster due to his size and feel for the game. The Lakers also could package this pick in a trade to add a veteran player who’s ready to make an impact.
▶ 18. Heat: Nick Smith Jr., 6-5, G, Arkansas. After falling in five games to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals, the Heat desperately need to add more talent to their roster to complement Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo. In my initial mock draft, I pegged Smith to go to the Pelicans at No. 14. However, there’s a chance he could slip depending on what happens in the lottery. Smith has the ability to score in bunches, particularly from different areas of the floor. He needs to be more consistent from beyond the arc, but the Heat has the shooting to complement Smith.
▶ 19. Warriors: Derrick Lively II, 7-1, C, Duke. The Warriors were upset by the Lakers in the conference semifinals and they’ll look to retool by selecting Lively with their first-round pick. The 7-1 center has similar physical attributes to former Warriors center James Wiseman, who was traded to the Pistons last season. Lively is a fierce rim protector who can also work well in pick-and-roll situations. That asset alone would work well with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, if he remains with the team after declining his player option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
▶ 20. Rockets (from LA Clippers): Olivier-Maxence Prosper, 6-8, F, Marquette. Nearly every major mock draft lists Prosper as the choice for the Rockets at No. 20. He’s one of the late risers in this draft class, and he has the ability to be a tenacious disruptor on the defensive end. He has a 7-1 wingspan and his game in the pick-and-pop stoof out the most at the NBA Draft Combine.
▶ 21. Nets (from Phoenix): Bilal Coulibaly, 6-7, F, France. Brooklyn has back-to-back picks in the first round and its first selection is Coulibaly, Wembanyama’s teammate on Metropolitans 92. He’s a versatile wing who has a long wingspan that serves him well on the defensive end. He’s an explosive finisher who would mesh well with Mikal Bridges’ shot-making ability.
▶ 22. Nets: Jaime Jacquez Jr., 6-7, G, UCLA. Jacquez was one of the best players in college basketball last season and he’s a low-cost addition that would be able to fit in a variety of roles, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
▶ 23. Trail Blazers (from New York): Noah Clowney, 6-10, F, Alabama. After selecting Henderson with the third overall pick, Portland shifts gears and goes big with Clowney. He’s one of the most multifaceted young big men in this cycle. He can spread the floor with his 3-point shooting and could pair well with Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic.
▶ 24. Kings: Kris Murray, 6-8, F, Iowa. Sometimes, the best thing to come from the draft are the storylines. What would make a more interesting story than the Kings pairing Kris Murray with his brother, Keegan Murray, the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Aside from the family reunion, adding another versatile wing with perimeter shooting to Sacramento’s budding roster would bode well for a team that clinched the third seed in the Western Conference.
▶ 25. Grizzlies: Brandin Podziemski, 6-5, G, Santa Clara. Now that it’s clear that Ja Morant will miss a minimum of 25 games to start next season, the Grizzlies will need another guard to stay afloat in the meantime. Podziemski averaged 22.1 points and 4.1 assists last season and established himself as one of the standouts at last month’s NBA Draft Combine.
▶ 26. Pacers (from Cleveland): Sidy Cissoko, 6-6, F, G League Ignite. This could be the most diverse draft pool with talent coming from overseas, college, Overtime Elite and the G League, where Cissoko showed his defensive prowess on a nightly basis. He can match up one-on-one or play on the weakside and deter shots. He also has a nice feel for the game that would make him a great fit with Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner.
▶ 27. Hornets (from Denver via New York and Oklahoma City): Ben Sheppard, 6-6, G, Belmont. After taking the versatile Miller with the second pick, Charlotte looks to fill its depth at the guard position with the addition of Sheppard. The senior guard can stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting after knocking down 41.5% of his 3-pointers last season.
▶ 28. Jazz (from Philadelphia via Brooklyn): Rayan Rupert, 6-7, G, New Zealand. I previously tabbed Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh to go to the Jazz at No. 28, but we’ll revisit his new team soon. Rupert is 19 years old with a 7-3 wingspan, which makes him a sensible option for the Jazz. His strengths don’t lie on the offensive end, but instead, Rupert’s defensive abilities would help the Jazz in the backcourt.
▶ 29. Nuggets (from Pacers via Boston): Trayce Jackson-Davis, 6-8, F, Indiana. The recently crowned champions reportedly acquired the Pacers’ 29th and 32nd pick in a trade on Wednesday, looking to add more players to ensure a longer championship window. With this selection, the Nuggets could look to add another big to backup Nikola Jokic. Jackson-Davis fits the bill of a player who will prioritize the defensive end, but can also serve as a high-flying lob threat on the interior.
▶ 30. Wizards (from LA Clippers via Milwaukee via Houston): Dariq Whitehead, 6-8, G, Duke. The Clippers reportedly traded their No. 30 pick in a three-team trade on Wednesday and the recipeinet of that pick was the Washington Wizards. I initially had Whitehead listed as a lottery pick in my last mock draft, but Whitehead’s abbreviated season at Duke could cause him to be a late first-rounder. He had injury troubles as a freshman, but he’s a pretty good 3-and-D player when healthy. With Washington in a full rebuild, there wouldn’t be any immediate pressure to perform.
▶ Second round, No. 31: Pistons: Brice Sensabaugh, 6-6, G/F, Ohio State. The Pistons drafted a wing in the first round, but you can never have too many perimeter players. Sensabaugh gives Detroit another shooter who made 40.5% of his 3-pointers as a freshman at Ohio State last season. Walker’s defensive prowess, combined with Sensabaugh’s shooting, addresses the two areas where Detroit needs to improve going into next season.