Early Evaluations of Five Top 2023 Draft Prospects
It may be the dog days of the 2022 offseason, but fans and reporters are already looking ahead to the 2023 Draft. The incoming rookie class is filled with plenty of talented prospects at each position, and some have already garnered tons of hype over others.
Here are my evaluations of five top 2023 NBA Draft prospects.
By far the most sought-out prospect, Wembanyama is the crown jewel for NBA teams looking to build their future through the draft. He has been described as Rudy Gobert on defense and Kristaps Porzingis on offense. However, scouts cannot put Wembanyama in a box, because he is truly a unique player.
For all of his strengths, Wembanyama still has a ways to go with regard to his weight — a staggering 210 pounds accompanies his 7'2" frame. Building out his body could make him an even more lethal prospect as the 2023 Draft inches closer. For now, however, fans and front offices alike will be keeping their eyes on this 18-year-old French phenom in hopes that he lands in the right situation to jumpstart his NBA career.
The 6'3" guard bypassed collegiate hoops in favor of the NBA G League Ignite. He finished the 2021–22 season with averages of 14 points, five rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game while shooting 43.6% from the field, 17.4% from three, and 77.8% from the free-throw line.
While the shooting splits may be jarring, Henderson’s overall game is still a pleasure to watch. He displays an excellent ability to set his teammates up for success while being a scoring threat from all three levels. However, his bread and butter comes inside the three-point line. He gets to the rim and plays above it with ease, dunking with authority and creating highlights nearly every time he goes up with the ball. Additionally, he absorbs contact well despite his 195-pound frame.
Despite his crafty finishing skills and playmaking ability, scouts have noted his need to improve his three-point shooting and balancing his playmaking and scoring. However, he is a point guard oozing with potential who could challenge Wembanyama for the top spot in the draft.
Whitehead is a 6'6" wing committed to Duke, and he has plenty of upside as a 3&D player. A possible one-and-done, Whitehead is a gifted scorer who showed his prowess throughout high school. During his senior year at Montverde Academy, he averaged 17.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game en route to earning Naismith High School Player of the Year honors and being selected for the McDonald’s All-American game.
His highlight video is one to behold, as he displays jaw-dropping above-the-rim plays while being a constant threat from deep, a skill he has honed on in his high school career. He also knows how to get to his spots, particularly in the paint and midrange. Defensively, he jumps lanes and starts and finishes fast breaks with a bang. He is also a solid shot blocker for a wing, having put up three swats a game, according to The Season Ticket.
Whitehead is a talented shooter from three and a standout defender who can guard multiple positions, a skill coveted in the NBA. The 18-year-old has all the tools he needs to succeed, and it will be exciting to follow his career leading up to draft day.
So far, these prospects have a theme of being above-the-rim players. Whitmore, a Villanova commit, has been described as a “powerhouse of an athlete” and “one of the most powerful dunkers in his class” by NBA Draft Room. At 6'7" and 220 pounds, the combo forward’s athleticism is clearly a plus in his game.
Beyond his eye-popping bounce is a solid two-way wing with boundless potential. The projected top-five pick can score off the dribble and has a knack for getting midrange buckets. He is also a high-motor player who gets after it on both ends of the floor. The Gatorade Maryland High School Player of the Year averaged 21.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, and 2.3 APG for Archbishop Spalding.
Whitmore most recently played for Team USA in the FIBA U18 tournament, helping his team earn gold over Brazil with a dominant 30-point, 12-rebound performance. In six games, he averaged 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and earned tournament MVP for his efforts.
Being a standout rebounder helps Whitmore’s stock in a draft class that’s dominated by guards and wings. From his high school achievements to his performance in the FIBA U18 tournament, he has plenty of momentum heading into his collegiate career. Cam Whitmore will certainly be a name to watch over the course of the 2022–23 NCAA season, as he continues to grow his game and make a name for himself.
Finally, Nick Smith is a relatively underrated prospect on the college basketball scene, but one look at his highlights and accolades will make you realize why he’s mocked as a top-five prospect. The 6'5" combo guard has a 6'9" wingspan and an array of moves that make him an offensive threat.
Originally from Arkansas, Smith earned invitations to the McDonald’s All-American game and Jordan Brand classic (where he took home the MVP award). He finished his senior year at North Little Rock with averages of 26.5 points, eight rebounds, and 7.3 assists (Team USA Profile). He also led his school to a 27–3 record and their second-straight Class 6A title.
Smith will be staying home for college, committed to the Arkansas Razorbacks and joining a program that has produced NBA talents in Bobby Portis, Patrick Beverley, and Joe Johnson, to name a few.
Smith’s high school highlights show a special scorer with a deep bag and high hoops IQ. Aside from getting his own buckets, he helps teammates get theirs with his timely passes in the half court and on fast breaks. Smith can also play off-ball and is a lob threat, a skill to look out for at the collegiate level.
Nick Smith is the total package when it comes to evaluating top guards in the upcoming draft, so it is no surprise that he is projected to be off the board early. Of course, his collegiate career will be critical in further evaluating his stock, but fans should be excited for his growth at the next level as he takes the next step to turning his dreams into reality.
These five prospects will be ones to look out for in the collegiate, G League, and international scenes. With diverse backgrounds and skill sets, we will be hearing about these guys more often as the months and mock drafts go on.