Sports Business and Analytics Club Previews 2023 NBA Draft


The upcoming NBA draft has many promising prospects. Photo: John Verive.

Late May and early June mark the most exciting time of the year for basketball fans. In addition to the conclusion of the playoffs, the NBA draft is another highly anticipated event for fans.

During the draft, which will take place on June 22, each team selects players from the NCAA, Europe or other developmental organizations such as Overtime Elite and G-League Ignite. Each year, a lottery determines the order of the top 14 picks, while the rest of the picks are determined based on the inverse order of success throughout the previous season.

This draft format gives lower-ranked teams a chance to select the most highly-touted talent, therefore dominant teams must rely on high-level prospect evaluation to select a “hidden gem” who falls in the draft.

For many basketball watchers, evaluating players soon to enter the NBA is as exciting as evaluating established NBA players. Through creating their own mock draft, fans “compete” with basketball writers and NBA general managers, hoping to accurately identify the best prospects. These fans also get to see their predictions play out over time and compare their hypothetical draft scenario to the actual draft order.

Each fan uses a different ideology when evaluating the draft based on their own preferences and interpretation of historical precedent. Likewise, each member of Sidwell’s Sports Business Analytics Club (SBA) had very unique approaches to evaluating this draft class, even though the club worked together.

However, the consensus SBA reached is that this year’s collection of prospects is  stronger than previous draft classes. Members of SBA consider about 15-20 players to be at a level that would qualify them as top 10 prospects in the last few years.

Another unusual facet of this year’s draft is that the players at the top of the draft have taken unconventional routes to the NBA. The league recently implemented G-League Ignite, a professional team where young players can play to prepare themselves for the league, rather than participating in the NCAA.

Even more recently, Overtime Elite, a league for high school and college players to participate on six teams within their own league, was implemented as a new path to the NBA. Because there is so little historical precedent on prospects on these paths, evaluating the players who are coming from Ignite and OTE proved to be a challenging and unusual process.

These challenges made for an interesting procedure of evaluating the draft, which resulted in the following list of SBA’s 10 best 2023 NBA Draft prospects. The club compiled a ranking and evaluation of each prospect, which is presented below:

The projected number one pick, French center Victor Wembanyama, is every NBA fan’s top prospect. The draft has never before seen a 7’5 player who possesses the perimeter skills, jumper and quickness that Wembanyama has. His height and footwork combine to make him an unstoppable scorer, but also contribute to his elite defensive ability.

The second projected pick is guard Scoot Henderson from Ignite. Henderson has been the projected second pick for about a year due to his rare speed and burst as a point guard. G-League Ignite’s 19 year-old playmaker has created offensive opportunities for his teammates due to his advanced passing and vision, but his explosiveness gives him a unique ability to get to the rim..

Third is Brandon Miller, University of Alabama’s power forward. One of the NCAA’s top teams this season was led by the freshman, whose primary skills are his fluidity around the perimeter and accurate shooting as a near seven-footer. He can struggle to create separation from his defender, but still projects to be a quality addition to any team in need of shooting.

Tied for fourth and fifth pick are Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson, dynamic  wings for Overtime Elite. These twins are very similar prospects, both wings who have standout athletic tools. The size, strength, speed, and jumping ability of these twins is unmatched, but the biggest question for both brothers is how they will improve their weak jump shots.

SBA places small forward Gradey Dick, from the University of Kansas, in sixth place. Dick is the draft’s best shooter, capable of hitting threes at high volume and high efficiency, regardless of the spot on the court or how well defended his shots are.

Next is Taylor Hendricks, a center from the University of Central Florida. Hendricks played for Calvary Christian Academy, and his first performance in the national spotlight was when he faced Sidwell in the 2022 Sports Center Next Event. As a well-rounded big man, Hendricks will fit into an NBA offense immediately, given his ability to shoot threes and finish plays in the paint. He can also hold down the defense alone or defend next to another big man.

Eighth projected pick is Cam Whimore, a small forward from Villanova University. A Maryland native, Whitmore is a forward who thrives around the rim, using his strength to move defenders out of his way in order to generate dunks and layups.

SBA places Nick Smith Jr., a guard from the University of Arkansas, as ninth. The nation’s top recruit out of high school, Smith’s college career was derailed by an injury. However, he still showed flashes of elite shot creation, ball handling, and scoring from multiple levels during his lone college season.

Lastly, Keyonte George, a guard from Baylor University, finishes off SBA’s top ten projected picks. Although undersized, George is extremely shifty and finishes in tight windows around the rim, which makes him difficult to contain as a shot creator.

The rest of SBA’s projected top 20 picks are as follows: Jarace Walker (Houston), Cason Wallace (Kentucky), Jordan Hawkins (UConn), Maxwell Lewis (Pepperdine), Dariq Whitehead (Duke), Andre Jackson (UConn), Anthony Black (Arkansas), Brice Sensebaugh (Ohio St.), Kris Murray (Iowa), Amari Bailey (UCLA).

Even if SBA’s hypotheses do not materialize, the NBA draft this June is bound to be full of powerful players and unexpected selections. Many fans across Sidwell are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the draft.