Home NBA Draft Primer: Who goes after #2 after Victor Wembanyama?

NBA Draft Primer: Who goes after #2 after Victor Wembanyama?

Victor Wembanyama
(© Victor Velter – shutterstock.com)

While there may not be too many “sure things” in life, there is no doubt who will be selected with the opening pick in tonight’s NBA Draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

If you aren’t yet familiar with the name Victor Wembanyama, the 19-year-old, 7-foot-5 center from France will be the first pick by San Antonio, which won the draft lottery a few weeks back. It’s the first time that the Spurs (22-60 in 2022-23) owned the top pick since 1997, when they took a guy named Tim Duncan out of Wake Forest — and we all know that worked out pretty well.

Wembanyama played for Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, a high-level professional team in Paris which competes in the Betclic Élite League, and has drawn comparisons to LeBron James in terms of his potential to become an instant superstar upon arrival. His soon-to-be head coach, Gregg Popovich, has a long history of leading international players, and just so happens to be the winningest coach in league history, all of which makes for what could be an incredibly successful career for Wembanyama.

He averaged 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.0 blocks per game, connecting on 47 percent of his field-goal attempts (255-for-542), and 28 percent from beyond the arc (47-for-171).

Wembanyama, who has played professionally for four seasons in France, has an eight-foot wingspan, which obviously allows him to cover a lot of ground defensively, and he’s even been known to bring the ball up the floor — certainly not something you traditionally see from the center position. He will officially be the tallest player in the league, and the word is that he might not be done growing.

While Wembanyama is certain to be the first player off the board in tonight’s draft (8 p.m., ABC/ESPN), what happens from there is anyone’s guess. Charlotte (27-55) currently owns the second pick and is essentially already “on the clock,” as Hornets owner Michael Jordan recently announced he will be selling the franchise but will be involved with the draft process.

It seems that it will come down to a choice between Scoot Henderson, a talented point guard who played for G League Ignite in 2022-23, and Brandon Miller, a 6-9 small forward from Alabama, for the No. 2 pick.

Henderson is 6-4, 195 pounds, and was a 5-star high school prospect in Marietta, Ga., before deciding to make the leap into the G League, where he averaged 14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals in 21 games.

Miller was named the SEC Player of the Year for the Crimson Tide, and was a consensus All-American after putting up 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this past season.

A pair of twins could make some history Thursday night, as Amen and Ausar Thompson could be the first set of siblings drafted in the top 10 in NBA history. Amen, a point guard, and Ausar, a shooting guard, are both listed at 6-7, 215-pounds. They played for the City Reapers this season in the Overtime Elite League.

Amen put up 16.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.4 steals, while Ausar averaged 16.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.7 steals, and was named MVP of the league.

Barring any last-minute trades, the Trail Blazers (33-49) own the No. 3 pick, while the Rockets (22-60) will pick fourth. Detroit, which actually had the worst record in the NBA last season at 17-65, will pick fifth (see the entire draft order below). Orlando (34-48) is the lone team with a pair of lottery picks, Nos. 6 and 11. The Hornets, Blazers, Rockets, Pacers, Jazz and Nets each own multiple first-round picks, should they choose to hold onto them.

Also expected to be selected in the lottery (picks 1-14) is Houston power forward Jarace Walker (11.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg), who Virginia fans may remember from when he played well against the Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena in December. He had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in the top-five battle against the Wahoos, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in a 69-61 Cougars win.

Along with Walker, Villanova small forward Cam Whitmore (12.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Arkansas shooting guard Anthony Black (12.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.9 apg), Kansas shooting guard Gradey Dick (14.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Central Florida power forward Taylor Hendricks (15.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg) could all very well be taken in the top 10.

Nine other prospects received “green room” invites for Thursday’s draft, which is usually (but not always) a good bet that they’ll hear their names called in the first round.

Duke center Dereck Lively II is the lone ACC representative of the bunch. The 7-1, 230-pound center only averaged 5.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in his lone collegiate campaign, but NBA scouts are intrigued by the Philadelphia native’s size and rim protection. He was a member of both the ACC’s All-Defensive and All-Freshman teams.

Lively will be joined in the green room by the Michigan backcourt duo of Kobe Bufkin (14.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.9 apg) and Jett Howard (14.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg); Baylor shooting guard Keyonte George (15.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg);  UConn shooting guard Jordan Hawkins (16.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg); Indiana point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino (13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.7 apg); Bilal Coulibaly (5.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg), a wing from France who was Wembanyama’s Metropolitans teammate; Arkansas point guard Nick Smith Jr.

(12.5 ppg) and Kentucky point guard Cason Wallace (11.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.3 apg).

Other players who have been projected as potential first-round selections include a few more international prospects: SG Rayan Rupert (France), SF Leonard Miller (Canada/G League Ignite) and C James Nnaji (Nigeria).

Duke shooting guard Dariq Whitehead, another guy that UVA fans are familiar with, could be the only other ACC player to be taken in the opening round. Whitehead, who averaged 8.3 points in 28 games as a Blue Devil, scored 10 points (including a couple of big 3s) at JPJ in February, but only registered 2 points on 1-for-4 shooting in the ACC Tournament win over the Hoos.

A few other bigger-name former college players who could realize their NBA dreams Thursday include: Jaime Jaquez Jr. (UCLA); GG Jackson (South Carolina); Marcus Sasser (Houston); Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana); Jalen Wilson (Kansas); Adama Sanogo (UConn) and Oscar Tshiebwe (Kentucky).

Aside from the aforementioned Blue Devils, there aren’t many more ACC players expected to be drafted Thursday night, according to rookiescale.com’s Consensus Big Board, which compiles expert rankings from ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, Bleacher Report, The Athletic and other sources.

The only others in their current top 58 are NC State’s Terquavion Smith (No. 41), and Miami’s Isaiah Wong (No. 52) and Jordan Miller (No. 55).

A lot of that is due to the fact that several star players decided to return to school for one more year, including UNC’s Armando Bacot, Duke’s Kyle Filipowski, Miami’s Norchad Omier, Syracuse’s Judah Mintz and Virginia’s Reece Beekman, among others.

A few of Beekman’s former Cavalier teammates — point guard Kihei Clark, shooting guard Armaan Franklin and power forward Jayden Gardner — each went through pre-draft workouts for NBA teams with hopes of catching onto a Summer League roster, signing as a free agent and getting their chance to make the big-league roster or secure a G League spot in the fall.

Clark recently worked out with the Wizards, Hornets, Hawks and Lakers, while Franklin worked out with the Magic, Hawks, Hornets and Pacers, and Gardner worked out with the Wizards. Additionally, former UVA forward Ben Vander Plas has signed with an agent and hopes to continue his playing career as well.

Here is the current order for each round of tonight’s draft, picks 1 through 58:

2023 NBA Draft Order

First Round

  1. San Antonio Spurs
  2. Charlotte Hornets
  3. Portland Trail Blazers
  4. Houston Rockets
  5. Detroit Pistons
  6. Orlando Magic
  7. Indiana Pacers
  8. Washington Wizards
  9. Utah Jazz
  10. Dallas Mavericks
  11. Orlando Magic
  12. Oklahoma City Thunder
  13. Toronto Raptors
  14. New Orleans Pelicans
  15. Atlanta Hawks
  16. Utah Jazz
  17. Los Angeles Lakers
  18. Miami Heat
  19. Golden State Warriors
  20. Houston Rockets
  21. Brooklyn Nets
  22. Brooklyn Nets
  23. Portland Trail Blazers
  24. Sacramento Kings
  25. Memphis Grizzlies
  26. Indiana Pacers
  27. Charlotte Hornets
  28. Utah Jazz
  29. Denver Nuggets
  30. Los Angeles Clippers

Second Round

  1. (31) Detroit Pistons
  2. (32) Denver Nuggets
  3. (33) San Antonio Spurs
  4. (34) Charlotte Hornets
  5. (35) Boston Celtics
  6. (36) Orlando Magic
  7. (37) Oklahoma City Thunder
  8. (38) Sacramento Kings
  9. (39) Charlotte Hornets
  10. (40) Indiana Pacers
  11. (41) Charlotte Hornets
  12. (42) Washington Wizards
  13. (43) Portland Trail Blazers
  14. (44) San Antonio Spurs
  15. (45) Memphis Grizzlies
  16. (46) Atlanta Hawks
  17. (47) Los Angeles Lakers
  18. (48) Los Angeles Clippers
  19. (49) Cleveland Cavaliers
  20. (50) Oklahoma City Thunder
  21. (51) Brooklyn Nets
  22. (52) Phoenix Suns
  23. (53) Minnesota Timberwolves
  24. (54) Sacramento Kings
  25. (55) Indiana Pacers
  26. (56) Memphis Grizzlies
  27. (57) Washington Wizards
  28. (58) Milwaukee Bucks



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