The NBA draft is always full of surprises, whether that comes in the form of trades or unexpected selections, and the 2023 NBA Draft should be no different.
In fact, this year may come with more shock and awe than most. With the number of teams that have rumored desires to move into the top three or top five plus the number of franchises that wouldn’t mind moving back or trading their pick completely for a more well-established player, it’s likely to be a fast-paced and wild night in Brooklyn.
And that movement up, down, in, and out of the top of the draft will be accompanied by the selections themselves. Teams trying to trade up for a higher pick have their gazes set on a certain prospect, while teams that trade down often have a few players clustered together on their draft boards.
Victor Wembanyama to the San Antonio Spurs with No. 1 pick is a lock. G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson and Alabama forward Brandon Miller are the next two prospects expected to be taken. Outside of those three, though, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Certain players – Overtime Elite guards Amen and Ausar Thompson, for example – have been consistently placed in the top five or six of most mock drafts since the regular season ended, but the picks at Nos. 4 and 5 remain up in the air. Depending on what happens with trades, even the third pick that currently belongs to the Portland Trail Blazers isn’t 100 percent guaranteed.
What prospects who aren’t currently thought of as sure-fire top-five picks could crash the party at the top of the draft and be one of this year’s presumably many surprises?
3 prospects who could unexpectedly vault into the top 5 of the 2023 NBA Draft
1. Cam Whitmore, Villanova
Whitmore should be a lock to go in the top five, but he’s not always mentioned in the same breath as the Thompson twins, despite arguably being the better prospect.
No one outside of perhaps Henderson can match Whitmore’s pure explosion as an athlete. The 6-foot-7 forward repeatedly blew past defenders during his lone season with the Wildcats and often finished those plays by elevating up and over defenders at the rim for vicious dunks or nifty layups.
That explosiveness and finishing ability, coupled with an eye for off-ball cuts, drove Whitmore to shoot 58 percent on two-point shots at a high volume last season.
At 230 pounds, he has plenty of strength to go along with that burst, which helps him as a rebounder, both on the offensive and defensive glass. His size, strength, and athleticism also point to defensive versatility; Whitmore should be able to guard two through four in the NBA and will be able to stick with smaller centers, as well.
He flashes the handles – specifically an advanced crossover – to shake defenders off the bounce and rise up for a jumper, although his shot creation is a work in progress. He also averaged 0.7 assists per game during his freshman campaign, so playmaking is not a forte of his, to say the least.
Still, Whitmore’s combination of size, strength, explosiveness, and handles, along with the fact that he’s one of the youngest prospects in the entire 2023 draft class, point to possible superstar upside, which should put him behind only Wembanyama, Henderson, and Miller (maybe) on draft boards.
Fits in top five: Hornets, Blazers, Rockets, Pistons