San Antonio is picking first again.
The franchise that once selected David Robinson No. 1 overall, and then Tim Duncan No. 1 overall, before going on to use one or both of those eventual Naismith Memorial Hall of Famers to claim five NBA championships, won the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night in Chicago for the third time in franchise history. That meansin the 2023 NBA Draft on June 22 in New York.
Victor Wembanyama will be the pick.
The French sensation, the 7-foot-4 super-freak who has been described as the greatest teenage basketball prospect in history, learned his fate while surrounded by his family in Paris at around 2:30 a.m. local time. He seemed pleased, as he should be, because Wembanyama is now going to join one of the league's greatest and most-admired franchises and be coached by a legend in Gregg Popovich.
It's a fun pairing.
It's (arguably) the greatest NBA coach in history (presumably) winding down his career by molding somebody who could (theoretically) become the greatest NBA player in history. It's terrific for Pop, even better for Wemby, and a process that'll be a joy for all of the rest of us to watch unfold. Will it turn San Antonio into a contender for anything notable immediately? Probably not. Even LeBron James only won 35 games as a rookie. But, in a matter of, let's say, three years, Wembanyama should be ready to have San Antonio competing at or near the top of the Western Conference, provided the Spurs get enough good pieces around him, which history suggests they'll do and do well.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Wembanyama has a chance to be one of the best players in the world, and perhaps of all-time, on both sides of the ball. The 19-year-old phenom is a perfect centerpiece for a San Antonio organization that's obviously had loads of success in the past spending No. 1 picks on bigs.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Alabama • 6'8" / 200 lbs
The presence of LaMelo Ball as Charlotte's lead guard is among the reasons Miller is now considered the favorite to go second overall. He's a wing with size who made 38.4% of the 7.5 3-pointers he attempted per game while leading Alabama to the outright SEC regular-season title.
Round 1- Pick 3
If Miller goes second, odds are Henderson will go third. The G-League Ignite product has the athleticism and strength to be a franchise-changing lead guard as long as his still-developing 3-point shot eventually becomes reliable.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Thompson is a big and super-athletic guard with a unique ability to shot-create and deliver passes most prospects his age can't even see. The Rockets are still very much in a take-the-best-prospect-available mode, and this is the Thompson twin who checks that box.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Houston • 6'8" / 235 lbs
Considering nobody had better lottery odds than the Pistons, it's disappointing for Detroit to be picking fifth in this draft. That said, Walker would be a nice consolation prize as a physical specimen who exerts energy on both ends of the court and possesses the ability to play the four or small-ball five.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Arkansas • 6'7" / 185 lbs
The Magic have promising frontcourt players but could really use comparable young guards. Black has a chance to be one thanks to the fact that he has great size for his position and the ability to make incredible passes and make plays out of pick-and-rolls.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Gradey Dick SF
Kansas • 6'8" / 205 lbs
Nothing is more valuable in the NBA right now than wings who can shoot, and Dick is the best shooter in this draft. He made more than 40% of the 5.7 3-pointers he attempted per game for the outright Big 12 regular-season champs and would fit nicely alongside Tyrese Haliburton.
Round 1 - Pick 8
The Wizards should take the best prospect available, and the other Thompson twin is that guy and this point in this mock draft. He's a tall athlete just like his brother and something of a traditional driver and slasher who can guard multiple positions well.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Cam Whitmore SF
Villanova • 6'5" / 235 lbs
Whitmore is one of those prospects who just looks different. He's an incredible physical specimen capable of playing either forward position, and the type of prospect Utah executive Danny Ainge has a history of prioritizing.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Indiana • 6'4" / 216 lbs
Whether the Mavericks bring back Kyrie Irving or not, having another combo guard to play with Luka Donic isn't the worst idea in the world. Hood-Schifino has good-enough size and a more-dependable 3-point shot than what he showed in his one season at Indiana.
From Chicago Bulls
Round 1 - Pick 11
Baylor • 6'4" / 185 lbs
I have the Magic taking a big point guard with their first pick in this draft, so this is a decent spot to grab a backcourt partner. George wasn't the most consistent freshmen in the country in his one season at Baylor, but his ability to navigate pick-and-rolls, put pressure on defenses and score is undeniable.
Round 1 - Pick 12
UCF • 6'9" / 210 lbs
Hendricks is an out-of-nowhere prospect who is the type of tall, athletic and a proven shooter Oklahoma City prioritizes. He made 39.4% of the 4.6 3-pointers he attempted in his one season at UCF while becoming a one-and-done lottery pick despite being ranked outside of the top 80 in the Class of 2022.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Connecticut • 6'5" / 190 lbs
The Raptors ranked 28th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, which is among the reasons Hawkins is a sensible option. He made more than 38% of his 3-point attempts this season while helping UConn win the national championship.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Kentucky • 6'4" / 195 lbs
The Pelicans have a lot of interesting pieces but still need a starter-level point guard. Wallace is a nice option at the bottom of the lottery as a playmaker who has a chance to be above average on both ends of the court given the way he enthusiastically takes on the role as an on-ball defender.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Ohio State • 6'6" / 235 lbs
Sensabaugh, like Hendricks, was a sub-80 prospect in the Class of 2022 who was surprisingly great in his one year at Ohio State. If he improves as a perimeter defender, the 6-6 wing could develop into the type of 3-and-D player everybody wants in the modern NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Jett Howard SG
Michigan • 6'8" / 215 lbs
Howard was the MVP of the Iverson Classic before his freshman season at Michigan. He can play multiple positions, make shots from the perimeter and is just, broadly speaking, a good-sized player with a well-rounded skillset, in part because he's the son of a former NBA player and high-major college coach.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Arkansas • 6'5" / 185 lbs
Smith dealt with a less-than-perfect knee all season that limited him to just 17 games, most of which he struggled in relative to expectations that accompanied him to Arkansas. That's among the reasons he won't be selected where most projected he'd go a year ago, but he should still go somewhere inside the top 20 based on the ability to score he showed when he was healthy in high school.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Kris Murray PF
Iowa • 6'8" / 225 lbs
Much like his brother who plays for the Kings, Murray projects as a combo forward who can stretch the floor on offense and guard multiple positions on defense. The Iowa alum won't be a top-five pick like his twin was last year, but he should comfortably go somewhere in the first round.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Duke • 7'1" / 230 lbs
Lively's one season at Duke got off to a rough start and was statistically unimpressive. But he showed enough as a rim-protecting big down the stretch to solidify himself as a first-round pick.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Kobe Bufkin SG
Michigan • 6'4" / 195 lbs
Bufkin didn't enter the season with first-round projections but eventually established himself at Michigan as an interesting two-way player. He made 35.5% of the 3.7 3-pointers he attempted per game, which is a respectable number for a 6-4 guard.
From Phoenix Suns
Round 1 - Pick 21
South Carolina • 6'8" / 214 lbs
Jackson is one of the youngest players in this draft, in part because he reclassified and enrolled at South Carolina a year early. He was off the radar much of the season because he played for a bad team, but the former top-ranked recruit showed enough to keep NBA front offices interested in his obvious talent.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Miller had a nice season with the G-League Ignite, averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds as a 19 year-old playing against professionals. There's still a lot of development that needs to be done, but the physical tools to make it are all in place.
From New York Knicks
Round 1 - Pick 23
Duke • 6'6" / 217 lbs
Whitehead had an underwhelming one season at Duke, where he only averaged 8.3 points per game. But he did shoot 42.4% from 3-point range as a 6-7 wing, and at this point in the draft he's worth a flyer even though he's expected to soon have another procedure performed on his injured right foot.
Round 1 - Pick 24
UCLA • 6'6" / 226 lbs
Jaquez should enter the NBA at the age of 22 ready to contribute immediately. He's not going to wow anybody in individual workouts or test off the charts, but there are a lot of reasons to believe he has the stuff to be, at worst, an impactful role player on a winning team for many years to come.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Rupert remains unreliable offensively and very much a project. But he's a 6-6 wing with a 7-3 wingspan who has all the prerequisites to be a great perimeter defender if his shooting comes around enough to make him playable at the NBA level.
From Cleveland Cavaliers
Round 1 - Pick 26
Houston • 6'1" / 196 lbs
Sasser is a combo guard who played a big role in helping Houston secure a No. 1 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. His ability to playmake and reliably make jumpers will give him a chance to stick in the NBA even if he is a little on the small side.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 27
Noah Clowney PF
Alabama • 6'10" / 210 lbs
Defensive versatility is a desired skillset these days, and it also happens to be Clowney's strongest attribute. The 6-10 forward has a 7-2 wingspan and the necessary enthusiasm to guard different types of players all over the court.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 28
Jalen Wilson SF
Kansas • 6'8" / 230 lbs
Wilson is the latest Kansas alum to develop into a legitimate NBA player after spending multiple years under Bill Self. He made a huge leap from his third season to his fourth season with the Jayhawks while earning Big 12 Player of the Year honors.
From Boston Celtics
Round 1 - Pick 29
NC State • 6'4" / 165 lbs
Smith already has a strong pull-up game and the athleticism to make big plays on both sides of the court. If he becomes a more efficient version of himself and adds strength, he'll turn out to be very worthy of a late first-round selection.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Pepperdine • 6'6" / 207 lbs
Lewis is the rare non-Gonzaga WCC player with realistic first-round aspirations. He's a 6-7 wing with a 6-10 wingspan who can shot-create and punish teams from the 3-point line, both of which are qualities NBA franchises value immensely.