Victor Wembanyama headlines thrilling 2023 NBA Draft
New York, New York - Victor Wembanyama, widely considered the best NBA draft prospect since LeBron James in 2003, was as expected the top pick that opened Thursday's draft at Barclays Center in New York.
Wembanyama is expected to blossom into a superstar in San Antonio and follow in the footsteps of fellow number one overall picks Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
With the first pick a foregone conclusion, the intrigue heading into the draft was focused on NBA G-League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson and Alabama forward Brandon Miller.
The Charlotte Hornets ultimately opted to take Miller with the number two pick, pairing a scoring forward with point guard and 2022 All-Star LaMelo Ball.
Henderson, who has previously said he was best player in the class, was selected third by the Portland Trail Blazers. The addition of a highly regarded point guard prospect is sure to ramp up the widespread trade speculation surrounding Damian Lillard.
The Thompson twins, products of Overtime Elite, followed by being selected back-to-back, with Amen Thompson going number four to the Houston Rockets and Ausar Thompson picked fifth by the Detroit Pistons.
The pair becomes the second set of brothers to both become top-five draft picks in the common draft era, following Lonzo Ball (number two, 2017) and LaMelo Ball (number three, 2020).
Mavs and Thunder strike notable trade
Only one of the top five picks played NCAA basketball on their road to the NBA, the fewest since 2001, when players could be drafted directly from high school.
Heading into the draft, many pundits projected conditions ripe for a night full of trades, but teams mostly picked where they were slated.
One notable trade occurred when the Dallas Mavericks traded the number 10 pick and Davis Bertans to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the number 12 pick, freeing up cap space for the Mavs via the traded player exception. Dallas used the 12th pick to select Duke center Dereck Lively II as the team continues to try to build a contender around Luka Dončić.
The Mavs used the newfound roster flexibility almost immediately, acquiring big man Richaun Holmes and the 24th pick (Marquette forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper) from the Sacramento Kings.
French basketball shines on Draft night
While all eyes were on Wembanyama at the draft’s onset, he wasn't the only victory for basketball in France.
Forward Bilal Coulibaly, Wembanyama's French League teammate on the Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, was picked seventh overall by the Indiana Pacers but was promptly traded to the Washington Wizards.
The Orlando Magic, who picked Paolo Banchero first overall in last year’s draft, added to their young core by selecting Arkansas guard Anthony Black at number six and using the 11th pick on Michigan swingman Jett Howard, son of former All-Star Juwan Howard.
Fresh off their second NBA Finals appearance in four years, the Miami Heat used the number 18 pick four-year UCLA product Jaime Jaquez Jr.
The NBA champion Denver Nuggets acquired the number 29 pick to select Gonzaga forward Julian Strawther.
Cover photo: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect