There were 108 college players who withdrew from the NBA Draft as the NCAA deadline approached May 31. The NBA’s early entry withdrawal date (mainly for international players testing the waters) is June 12. Since the NBA Draft Combine, major agencies have been conducting pro days for NBA personnel and flying in different players for individual workouts and meetings. Players can really help or hurt themselves in the three weeks leading up to the draft. NBA teams might be planning on either trading up or down — depending on player workouts and team need — looking to package their pick in a trade, or picking up a player in free agency.
Yahoo Sports takes a look at a few main storylines heading into the draft, plus the latest first- and second-round projections for the 2023 NBA Draft on June 22.
Note: The Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers forfeited their second-round picks in 2023 due to tampering and violating free agency rules.
Coulibaly is one of the hottest names leading up to the draft and helped lead the Metropolitans 92 to their first LNB Pro A Finals by defeating three-time defending champion (and Victory Wembanyama’s old team) ASVEL, 71-69, in Game 4 of the semifinals to take the series 3-1. Coulibaly finished with 16 points, 4 assists and 2 steals in the win and has come alive playing impactful minutes in the playoff run. After averaging fewer than 5 points and 3 rebounds during the regular season, he’s now averaging 10.9 points on 52.4% from the field and 34% from 3-point range.
Coulibaly is one of the youngest players in this draft class at 18 and has tremendous two-way upside with his 6-foot-6 frame and 7-3 wingspan. Wembanyama praised his teammate after the win, tweeting, “By now, everyone knows he deserves to be top 10. But not enough realize he deserves to be top 5.” He might not quite be in the discussion for the top five, but Coulibaly has made a case as a potential top-10 pick.
Dereck Lively II
Lively was a buzzy name after all the major pro days in Chicago and Los Angeles two weeks ago. He shot the ball well, particularly from the 3-point line in pick-and-pop drills, and showcased an improved motor. The big man had a disappointing season during his one year at Duke, averaging only 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. He dealt with a minor injury to start the season and couldn’t quite find his rhythm alongside fellow 7-footer Kyle Filipowski. After stepping into his 3-point shot confidently when he was the No. 1 player coming out of high school, Lively attempted only 13 threes during the season and connected on 2 shots from deep.
The NBA spacing and freedom cater more to Lively’s playing style, and he’s showing more of a versatile and aggressive version of himself throughout the pre-draft process.
Bailey could be getting first-round looks after a strong showing at the NBA Draft Combine and playing well during scrimmages. Bailey showed more initiative as a primary ball-handler and looked comfortable creating for others and when he got in the lane. Bailey was less successful when trying to bully bigger players at the rim and made adjustments as the games went on, finding open teammates when the defense collapsed.
Bailey was a complementary piece on a loaded veteran UCLA team this past season and made big plays down the stretch, particularly in the NCAA tournament, and averaged 11.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists during his one year for the Bruins. The 6-4 guard is not ducking any competition in the pre-draft process and it has helped his draft stock.
Can Scoot Henderson and LaMelo Ball coexist in the backcourt in Charlotte?
Henderson is only working out for the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers and looked great in a glimpse of his workout in Portland over the weekend. Henderson has been projected as a mix between a young Russell Westbrook and a healthy Derrick Rose and has already spent two years in the G League dominating competition and playing by NBA rules. Henderson is the second-best prospect in this draft class, regardless of team need.
Some may have doubts about current point guard LaMelo Ball and Henderson coexisting in the backcourt, but there are some positives to having two elite playmakers on the floor at the same time. Henderson doesn’t seem to think there would be any clashes playing alongside Ball.
“I think I can coexist with anybody,” Henderson told Yahoo Sports at the NBA Draft Combine. “I think I can fit in anywhere and I can play either the 2 or the 1, it really doesn’t matter. I can play anywhere on the floor and still find ways to impact the game.”
Henderson is too good of a prospect to pass up after Wembanyama is off the board, and he showed what he can do in big-time situations when he went head-to-head against the 7-4 French Phenom in Las Vegas last October. He makes adjustments mid-game to be an impactful offensive threat and with how comfortable he is with NBA rules and spacing. He can help Charlotte win games right away.
Houston’s options at No. 4
Wembanyama, Henderson and Brandon Miller are widely thought to be the three best players in this draft class, putting the Rockets at an interesting spot with the No. 4 pick. Houston has had two top-five picks in consecutive years, drafting Jalen Green in 2021 and Jabari Smith Jr. in 2022.
There are rumors the Rockets will make a play to bring back James Harden and they just hired Ime Udoka as head coach. The organization is hoping this is the season it turns the corner in the rebuild process, and adding another player from this talented draft class is going to be instrumental.
If the Rockets are looking at the best-available prospect at No. 4, Amen Thompson has made a strong case for how dominant he was as a primary ball-handler for Overtime Elite. The Rockets could also be targeting Cam Whitmore, who brings more size and is more versatile. Whitmore doesn’t need the ball in his hands to impact the game and is a better shooter (off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations) than Thompson. Defensively, Thompson is the better on-ball defender and his athleticism is off the charts. Both players are hard-nosed guards who love to compete. It might come down to a deep-dive on film and who will potentiality fit better alongside Harden and the other current guards.
Will Detroit trade down?
The Pistons have invested in young, talented guards with their previous picks, taking Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick in 2021 and Jaden Ivey with the fifth overall pick last year. Detroit was tied for the highest odds (14%) to land the No. 1 pick and right to select Wembanyama heading into the draft lottery but fell to No. 5.
If the Rockets take Thompson and Whitmore is available at five, the Pistons could pick him up and slide him alongside Ivey and Cunningham on the wing. If Whitmore is off the table, then the Pistons have options and could trade down for a player later in the lottery. Potential targets are UCF’s 6-9 wing Taylor Hendricks with his 3-and-D upside, or they could add some 3-point shooting with UConn guard Jordan Hawkins. Hawkins was instrumental in UConn’s championship run and shot just under 40% from 3-point range on 6 attempts per game. Both players fill a gap and need for the young Pistons squad without conflicting with Ivey or Cunningham in the backcourt.
Mock Draft First Round
Ht./Wt.: 7-4, 209 pounds | Metropolitans 92 (France)
2. Charlotte Hornets: G Scoot Henderson
Ht./Wt.: 6-2, 196 pounds | G League Ignite
3. Portland Trail Blazers: G/F Brandon Miller
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 205 pounds | Class: Freshman | Alabama
4. Houston Rockets: G Amen Thompson
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 202 pounds | Overtime Elite
5. Detroit Pistons: G Cam Whitmore
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 235 pounds | Class: Freshman | Villanova
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 196 pounds | Class: Freshman | Arkansas
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 248 pounds | Class: Freshman | Houston
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 209 pounds | Overtime Elite
9. Utah Jazz: G Nick Smith Jr.
Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 185 pounds | Class: Freshman | Arkansas
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 210 pounds | Class: Freshman | UCF
11. Orlando Magic: G Gradey Dick
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 205 pounds | Class: Freshman | Kansas
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 220 pounds | Metropolitans 92 (France)
Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 195 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Connecticut
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 185 pounds | Class: Freshman | Baylor
15: Atlanta Hawks: G Jalen Hood-Schifino
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 215 pounds | Class: Freshman | Indiana
16. Utah Jazz: C Dereck Lively II
Ht./Wt.: 7-2, 215 pounds | Class: Freshman | Duke
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 185 pounds | Class: Freshman | Kentucky
18. Miami Heat: G/F Maxwell Lewis
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 209 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Pepperdine
Ht./Wt.: 6-4 195 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Michigan
20. Houston Rockets: G/F Leonard Miller
Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 215 pounds | G League Ignite
21. Brooklyn Nets: G Jett Howard
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 215 pounds | Class: Freshman | Michigan
22. Brooklyn Nets: G Rayan Rupert
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 192 pounds | New Zealand Breakers
23. Portland Trail Blazers: F Kris Murray
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 220 pounds | Class: Junior | Iowa
24. Sacramento Kings: F Noah Clowney
Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 210 pounds | Class: Freshman | Alabama
25. Memphis Grizzlies: F G.G. Jackson
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 220 pounds | Class: Freshman | South Carolina
26. Indiana Pacers: G Ben Sheppard
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 190 pounds | Class: Senior | Belmont
27. Charlotte Hornets: G/F Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 225 pounds | Class: Senior | UCLA
28. Utah Jazz: G Amari Bailey
Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 185 pounds | Class: Freshman | UCLA
29. Indiana Pacers: G/F Bobi Klintman
Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 225 pounds | Class: Freshman | Wake Forest
30. Los Angeles Clippers: G Dariq Whitehead
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 220 pounds | Class: Freshman | Duke
31. Detroit Pistons: G/F Brice Sensabaugh
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 235 pounds | Class: Freshman | Ohio State
32. Indiana Pacers: F Trayce Jackson-Davis
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 245 pounds | Class: Senior | Indiana
33. San Antonio Spurs: G Julian Strawther
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 205 pounds | Class: Junior | Gonzaga
34. Charlotte Hornets: F Keyontae Johnson
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 230 pounds | Class: Senior | Kansas State
35. Boston Celtics: G Terquavion Smith
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 165 pounds | Class: Sophomore | NC State
36. Sacramento Kings: G Brandin Podziemski
Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 205 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Santa Clara
37. Orlando Magic: G/F Sidy Cissoko
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 200 pounds | G League Ignite
38. Oklahoma City Thunder: F Olivier-Maxence Prosper
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 230 pounds | Class: Junior | Marquette
39. Charlotte Hornets: G Jalen Wilson
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 225 pounds | Class: Junior | Kansas
40. Denver Nuggets: G Andre Jackson Jr.
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 210 pounds | Class: Junior | Connecticut
41. Charlotte Hornets: C James Nnaji
Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 200 pounds | Barcelona
42. Washington Wizards: G Julian Phillips
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 198 pounds | Class: Freshman | Tennessee
43. Memphis Grizzlies: G Marcus Sasser
Ht./Wt.: 6-2, 195 pounds | Class: Senior | Houston
44. Portland Trail Blazers: C Tristan Vukčević
Ht./Wt.: 7-0, 230 pounds | KK Partizan (Serbia)
45. San Antonio Spurs: G Ricky Council IV
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 205 pounds | Class: Junior | Arkansas
46. Atlanta Hawks: G Emoni Bates
Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 170 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Eastern Michigan
47. Los Angeles Lakers: G/F Kobe Brown
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 250 pounds | Class: Senior | Missouri
48. Cleveland Cavaliers: G Isaiah Wong
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 185 pounds | Class: Senior | Miami
49. Los Angeles Clippers: G Colby Jones
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 205 pounds | Class: Junior | Xavier
50. Oklahoma City Thunder: G Seth Lundy
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 220 pounds | Class: Senior | Penn State
51. Brooklyn Nets: F Ąžuolas Tubelis
Ht./Wt.: 6-11, 245 pounds | Class: Junior | Arizona
52. Phoenix Suns: G/F Nikola Đurišić
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 214 pounds | Mega Basket (Serbia)
53. Minnesota Timberwolves: G Adam Flagler
Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 185 pounds | Class: Senior | Baylor
54. Sacramento Kings: G/F Jordan Walsh
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 205 pounds | Class: Freshman | Arkansas
55. Indiana Pacers: G Jordan Miller
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 195 pounds | Class: Senior | Miami
56. Memphis Grizzlies: F Mouhamed Gueye
Ht./Wt.: 6-11, 210 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Washington State
57. Forfeited pick
58. Forfeited pick
59. Washington Wizards: F Oscar Tshiebwe
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 260 pounds | Class: Senior | Kentucky
60. Milwaukee Bucks: G/F Toumani Camara
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 220 pounds | Class: Junior | Dayton
Source: Yahoo Sports