(#1) San Antonio Spurs
Selection: Victor Wembanyama
Despite the casuals, doubters, and pessimists, Wembanyama showed a ton of elite attributes during Summer League. It's weird how a 7-foot-5 big man shooting the ball poorly in one contest was enough fuel for folks to start (laughably) calling him a bust. Instead, let's focus on the fact that Wembanyama will enter the NBA and immediately be among the top rim-protectors in the League. There hasn't been enough emphasis from the general public on his timing, recovery instincts, and ability to properly utilize his length. Sure, he's skinny, but to think he'll be anything other than a star is shocking. Expect him to be the future of the San Antonio Spurs.
(#2) Charlotte Hornets
Selection: Brandon Miller
While the Hornets' draft choice of Miller has proven to be a polarizing choice amongst their followers, it's easy to find positives. Between the size, shooting, playmaking, and upside as a defender, there's virtually no scenario where he's a bad player. Miller has all the tools to be a useful contributor for a long time. However, it's still unclear if the 'fit' will be any better than if they would've drafted someone else (or if he'll even be better than the guys already on their roster). He'll still be a meaningful piece for Charlotte's long-term future, so it'll be interesting to watch his development alongside LaMelo Ball.
(#3) Portland Trailblazers
Selection: Scoot Henderson
Given the glimpses of greatness during Summer League (and the fact that Portland remains intent on trying to find a deal for Damian Lillard), it's clear the Trailblazers have netted their next star in Henderson. His identity as a polished, hyper-explosive floor general arguably makes him the most dynamic athlete drafted at the point guard position over the last decade. Although his toughness, balance, and array of physical traits have obvious appeal, Henderson's leadership and alpha mentality are a massive part of what separates him from other players. It's also worth noting this grade is not only due to drafting an incredible talent, but the combination of Portland's structure, aging star (Lillard), and luck with him being available at the third slot. All signs point to Henderson being simply awesome.
(#4) Houston Rockets
Selection: Amen Thompson
Although most fans (especially the younger audience) were extremely fond of this draft choice, only time will tell what to make of Thompson. Believers claim that he's a great teammate with the passing, defense, and general versatility to be a potential star. However, there are legitimate reasons to have concern about his long-term path. The shot-selection, lack of perimeter shooting (and touch), and half-court ability will all need to be addressed before Thompson can take the next step as a player. That being said, the young core and new coaching regime in Houston will have as much likelihood to access Thompson's gifts as any team in the NBA.
(#5) Detroit Pistons
Selection: Ausar Thompson
While there are a lot of similar questions surrounding both Thompson twins, it feels like the system in Detroit will allow Ausar to emerge fairly quickly. Even with the concerns, Thompson slides into a situation where he won't necessarily need to assert himself right away. He will be afforded the luxury to play alongside guys like Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and their myriad of big men'which should allow him to come along at his own pace. He's a better shooter than his brother, so that combined with the passing, defense, and open-floor athleticism should make him a quality building block for the Pistons.
(#6) Orlando Magic
Selection: Anthony Black
It felt like the Magic received a lot of criticism for their lottery selections, but Black feels like a smart, safe pick. We might collectively look back and consider the sixth pick a bit lofty, but he feels really likely to be a quality player for a long time. The other choices in this range simply didn't make sense for a team with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner as the franchise cornerstones. Perhaps Cason Wallace, but that would've only further blurred their guard situation. Adding Black gives them a smart, versatile piece with an extremely high floor. Expect him to quickly carve out a meaningful role for this group.
(#7) Washington Wizards
Selection: Bilal Coulibaly
The lowest grade in the top-ten picks is earned by Washington drafting Coulibaly. It's actually easy to appreciate the Wizards' willingness to swing for the fences and pursue a high-risk/high-reward prospect, but that's exactly what it is. We could look back in five or ten years and question how someone with this high of a ceiling could possibly fall outside the top few picks. However, the opposite is also true and could result in a scenario where his career might not even make it that long. Make no mistake, it's a smart pick for a star-less team in rebuild mode, but only time will tell if the gamble pays dividends.
(#8) Indiana Pacers
Selection: Jarace Walker
Similar to sixth pick, Indiana receives a mediocre grade by adding another guy to their roster who will only make things more confusing. Walker is a nice player and should be a useful contributor in the League, but Indiana is already loaded with solid pieces. Adding him to a group of Haliburton, Mathurin, Nesmith, Smith, Toppin, Jackson, Turner, Brown, and Nembhard means he'll immediately be fighting for minutes amidst a slew of proven NBA players. That's without even including guys like Nwora, McConnell, and Theis, who will each still warrant minutes despite being at different positions. It's not a bad pick, especially if Walker exceeds expectations, but it just feels like an uphill battle on a veteran-laden team.
(#9) Utah Jazz
Selection: Taylor Hendricks
Although the grade itself probably could be higher, it's primarily based on the fact that Hendricks will have to find opportunities with guys like Collins, Markkanen, and Horton-Tucker absorbing most of the forward minutes. He's already a useful player with an appealing combination of skill, athleticism, and flashes of versatility. Hendricks' upside is a huge part of what makes him an intriguing pick in the lottery. Additionally, he provides an insurance policy in the event that Collins gets hurt or doesn't work out. It'll likely take a few years to determine the actual value of this selection.
(#10) Oklahoma City Thunder
Selection: Cason Wallace
It appears we have a theme in the first ten selections, where teams with a ton of talent (and draft capital) are basically being forced to add more quality players into the mix'and Wallace fits that bill. His ability as an adaptable, well-rounded guard should make him a rotation piece for a long time. That being said, it will be a challenge for him to carve out anything bigger than a bench role while the Thunder have Gilgeous-Alexander, Williams, Giddey, and Dort all slated to earn starter-level minutes. Regardless, Wallace should be a difference-maker from day one.
(#11) Orlando Magic
Selection: Jett Howard
Kudos to Orlando for taking their guy and brushing aside any outside noise. However, drafting Howard remains an incredibly surprising selection with the likes of Jordan Hawkins and Gradey Dick still on the board. They desperately needed shooting coming into the draft and Howard apparently couldn't miss during his workout with the Magic, so it's easy to see their intended direction. It would've been nice to see them go with either of the aforementioned options, but Howard does have the tools to emerge as a useful piece.
(#12) Dallas Mavericks
Selection: Dereck Lively
Although Lively clearly fills an NBA archetype, he's quite far from reaching his ceiling. It's easy to see his size, timing, mobility, and athleticism, but most of it still lies within pure flashes. He should still be able to find opportunities as a lob-threat and interior defender. This would be a fine choice if this same pick were made by the Spurs, Trailblazers, or any other rebuilding team, but Dallas needs immediate contributors in the worst way. Lively has all the tools to eventually develop into a quality big man, but it’s likely that he’ll be an average to below-average player for a few years.
(#13) Toronto Raptors
Selection: Gradey Dick
While adding a much-needing burst of shooting to a team with so few perimeter threats should be graded high (especially after losing Fred VanVleet for nothing), it feels like Dick will fall somewhere between guys like Tyler Herro and Joe Harris. He has great size and is capable off the catch, bounce, or movement. Like the names listed above, it'll be interesting to see how Dick develops as a defender and playmaker. That being said, he'll still stand out as a quality shooter for the foreseeable future.
(#14) New Orleans Pelicans
Selection: Jordan Hawkins
After being the third shooter taken off the board, New Orleans receives praise for taking Hawkins'even if the fit doesn't make a ton of sense. Each person has their own preferred shooter between Hawkins, Dick, and Howard, but arguments could be made for each guy. That being said, Hawkins shot the highest percentage in college basketball on contested catch-and-shoot threes. This might seem like no big deal to some, but it's going to be the skill to immediately get him on the court. If he's able to hit shots at a similar rate and consistency, expect Hawkins to drastically outperform his draft position.
(#15) Atlanta Hawks
Selection: Kobe Bufkin
There was a lot of intrigue surrounding Bufkin leading up to the draft, so it was fascinating to see Atlanta select him. Although the talent, physical tools, and long-term upside are clear, it's uncertain where Bufkin will find opportunities amidst a trio of Young, Murray, and Bogdanovic absorbing majority of the backcourt minutes. Pushing him over to the wing doesn't help much either, as guys like Hunter, Griffin, Bey, and even Johnson have already established themselves as solid rotation pieces. The fit isn't ideal, but drafting someone like Cam Whitmore would've been the only way the Hawks could've swung harder for the fences with this draft pick.
(#16) Utah Jazz
Selection: Keyonte George
Throughout the Summer League, arguably no one outperformed their draft position more than George. He showcased a polished, dynamic scoring arsenal with the ability to create his own shot or play without the ball and apply scoring pressure from all levels. While the comparisons to Jordan Clarkson aren't far off, it feels like George has the chance to be even better. The Jazz have a lot of appealing pieces varying in age, but it feels like George should receive ample opportunity as a foundational building block.
(#17) Los Angeles Lakers
Selection: Jalen Hood-Schifino
Let's be clear: this grade is due to fit, not Hood-Schifino's ability as a player. Getting the Indiana product with the 17thpick is fantastic value, but it's uncertain how he fits within the Lakers structure. For starters, it's still LeBron James' (and Anthony Davis') team. This means numerous things. It means that the Lakers (generally speaking) want to have a roster with battle-tested veterans and guys who complement LeBron. Unfortunately, Hood-Schifino doesn't really fit either of those qualifications. His lack of spot-up ability from beyond the arc does pose some concerns. However, Hood-Schifino's array of IQ, defense, toughness, versatility, and fairly low-maintenance identity should allow him to find opportunities. Should LeBron retire after the next season or two, the value of this selection would increase.
(#18) Miami Heat
Selection: Jamie Jacquez
Ironically, everyone seemed to love Jacquez coming into the draft'yet he fell to the 18th pick. While most lottery-based teams aren't looking to add an immediate contributor like him, one could argue that he could've also carved out a role for any of the previous five drafting organizations. Regardless, Jacquez brings a tough, polished identity to a franchise that has consistent success with guys like him. Since his play at Summer League, it appears he actually holds more value to Portland than other young pieces in a potential Lillard trade'so Jacquez could pay dividends in different ways.
(#19) Golden State Warriors
Selection: Brandin Podziemski
Although he seemingly fits the archetype to be a successful piece with Golden State, it's going to be difficult to see him receiving many opportunities on this roster right now. Podziemski is a lethal shooting threat with feel as a playmake, creator, and off-ball piece. While the Warriors will likely throw him into the fire, it's just going to be a challenge to find minutes ahead of Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Moses Moody, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, and Gary Payton II.
(#20) Houston Rockets
Selection: Cam Whitmore
Arguably the most impressive pick value of the entire draft, Houston takes a top-tier talent in Whitmore. This isn't the first time we've seen a player unexpectedly fall way too far in the draft, even in the recent years. However, it doesn't seem like Whitmore will be presented with the same opportunities as someone like Michael Porter Jr. The Rockets' roster is full of young, talented prospects'so there is cause for concern that Whitmore will eventually get lost in the shuffle. Should he earn a fair shake, expect him to far outperform this draft position.'
(#21) Brooklyn Nets
Selection: Noah Clowney
(#22) Brooklyn Nets
Selection: Dariq Whitehead
Since the Nets had consecutive picks, we will look at them together. Due to their lack of clear direction, Brooklyn has the flexibility to take chances and swing for the fences'which is exactly what they did. Clowney has gotten consistently better since his sophomore year of high school and subsequently morphed into a useful NBA piece. His combination of size, mobility, and defensive instincts should allow him to reliably backup or possibly play alongside Nic Claxton. Meanwhile, Whitehead is widely regarded as one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft from a pure talent perspective. It's unclear what his exact identity is, but the toolkit is difficult to ignore. Despite the difference in trajectory, both guys should have the opportunity to earn minutes for this Brooklyn squad.
(#23) Portland Trailblazers
Selection: Kris Murray
Although many people were a fan of this pick and his breakout season at Iowa, it feels like Murray captured a lot of attention due to the success his brother had as a rookie. He's not his brother. However, Murray still has the makings of a capable NBA contributor. His path to minutes will be similar to his brother as a skilled, shooting forward. On one hand, making this pick allows Portland to have eventual flexibility with Jerami Grant and his rich new contract. The negative side is that Murray fits the same archetype as Grant, but just isn't as good. It's unclear who else the Trailblazers could've pursued here, but it'll be interesting to follow Murray's path.
(#24) Dallas Mavericks
Selection: Olivier-Maxence Prosper
After trading Dorian Finney-Smith within the last calendar year, Dallas looks to fill his void by drafting Prosper. It's actually somewhat sad to watch the Mavericks nervously try to pick up the pieces after trading away key players to get Kyrie Irving. Regardless, Prosper has the length, athleticism, and defensive instincts to carve out a meaningful role for this group. Likely following the same plan as his predecessor, expect Dallas to do whatever it takes to make him a respectable shooting threat. His defense (like most rookies) probably won't make a huge difference early on, but expect him to develop into a stopper over the coming years.
(#25) Detroit Pistons
Selection: Marcus Sasser
Given that the Pistons already have foundational pieces in Jaden Ivey and Cade Cunningham, drafting Sasser gives them the flexibility to go with various different looks. He's a smart, polished, well-rounded guard who does everything well. Sasser showcased real scoring chops in the Summer League, but can also initiate the offense or find opportunities without the ball. His two-way identity and ability to play alongside both of the aforementioned guards should make him a useful addition to this roster.'
(#26) Indiana Pacers
Selection: Ben Sheppard
It feels like the Pacers could've easily traded this pick in a bigger move, yet they opted to draft Sheppard and further create a logjam at basically every position. He's a fine player, Indiana just has too many guys who should warrant minutes. Perhaps they have a bigger move in mind and Sheppard will be moved or put in a position to be a rotation piece for this group.
(#27) Charlotte Hornets
Selection: Nick Smith Jr.
Despite not being a massive fan of his game personally, Charlotte pulling the trigger on Smith is great value at this spot. He has a lot of tools and frequently shows flashes of appeal, but he still needs to figure out how to put it all together. Smith is one year removed from being regarded as one of the top high school prospects amongst national media outlets.
(#28) Utah Jazz
Selection: Brice Sensabaugh
Similar to a lot of these picks, Sensabaugh isn't a bad player but it's unclear how he fits into Utah's current structure. He's a polished scorer as a bigger wing/smaller forward, but the Jazz already have multiple guys who fill those positions. It'll be interesting to see how they develop him, as Sensabaugh could elevate beyond rotation-level status within the next three to five years.
(#29) Denver Nuggets
Selection: Julian Strawther
Given how Calvin Boothe has drafted since joining the organization, it's difficult to question their choice to draft Strawther. He'll likely be placed alongside their other development projects (Peyton Watson, Braxton Key, etc.), so there will be no reason to rush him into the mix.
(#30) Los Angeles Clippers
Selection: Kobe Brown
Concluding the first round, the Clippers take Brown and net themselves an intriguing long-term piece. Although he's already quite useful, it'll be fascinating to see how they utilize his identity as a big, versatile forward with a lot of skill. Of the last five picks of the first round, Brown feels like the only one who could be a difference-maker on opening night.