2023 NBA Draft: The Twenty v2.0
Well, we have our final pool of draftable prospects. The Twenty is getting ready to enter the NBA!
The 2023 NBA Draft is on June 22, 2023, only 20 days away from the publish date of this article. In just twenty more days, The Twenty find out which NBA team has picked them off the proverbial line at the NBA’s grand metaphorical playground, and will meet the fellas with whom they’ll be spending the next few years of their professional lives. At this juncture, we have a full list of NCAAM players who have officially foregone the deadline to opt out of the 2023 NBA Draft and return to school, ensuring that they will in fact be eligible for the upcoming draft. We had one member of inaugural iteration of The Twenty return to college, our own Mr. Irrelevant down at #20, Trey Alexander. As such, we have one slot to fill, and of course there is no safety in The Twenty - you can get booted from the club on a whim or a fancy. The competition for NBA roster slots is not just a battle, but a war fought during every single rep at practice and every second of every game. Nobody is safe, but our goal here is to find the twenty guys who are SURE to succeed in the league - because a guarantee like that can never go wrong, am I right?
Without further ado, we unveil the second iteration of The Twenty.
Wemby is different than anyone else in this class. I’m also writing an article on Nikola Jokic right now, and a phrase popped up that “he doesn’t fit into a system - he creates a system”. Wemby is similar in his gravitational pull, but for a fundamentally different reason. Jokic inspires fear from his opponents in two ways - he scores at will and he always makes the open pass. That is a fear based on reputation and past experiences. That takes time, age, experience of your own - it’s why Jokic wasn’t an All-Star until year 4. All Victor Wembanyama has to do is stand beside his opponent. It reminds me of a great NBA clip, where 6’9 Tyler Hansborough looks up at 7’3 Boban Marjanovic in utter shock and horror.
Not a lot of 6’9 guys experience the sensation of feeling dwarfed, even in the NBA - Wemby will engender exactly that sensation in his opponents, especially when his 8’ wingspan helps him swat their shot a foot above the rim. On both offense and defense, Wemby fundamentally alters the geometry and the gravity of the court. On offense, you simply cannot let him get close to the basket, because even if you defend the other four guys and force a miss, Wemby will simply pluck the ball out of the air and place it in the basket while you and the Lollipop Guild swat at the ball from below. On defense, he eliminates an 8ft diameter of the basketball court in an instant in time. Within a second, he can cover the entire paint. His combination of length and agility allows him to cover vertical and horizontal space in the half-court at a speed that only the most elite athletes in NBA history have run at.
What more is there to say? Get him to San Antonio ASAP.
Victor Wembanyama (Mets 92)
While Wembanyama is the ultimate tabula rasa, Scoot Henderson follows in a long line of proven prospects. He is the Ultimate Weapon, meticulously designed to execute the role of lead guard better than any prospect of modern vintage. Wemby is like Miles Morales, otherworldly talented but still adapting to his talents and body. But Scoot is like The Prowler - he has 57 different ways to kill you and knows in this instant exactly what steps he would take to execute every single one of those takedowns.
Scoot is incredibly effective at getting to his preferred spots on the floor, either pulling up from midrange or getting all the way to rim with a controlled dribble. He can pass at any point during his drive thanks to his constant awareness, strength and balance that allows him to maintain a live dribble around pressure. Sure, he may not be the most elusive dribbler in the world, or throw the flashiest alley-oop passes - because that’s not what the Ultimate Weapon is programmed to do. Nah, Scoot is programmed to WIN. He’ll get you highlight plays, but they’ll be efficient and well-reasoned - a dunk on someone’s head? That’s a high percentage shot at the rim. A pick-six steal and downcourt assist? Simply a smart read. Scoot has spent the last two years as a professional, learning from veterans of the league he plans to dominate. Expect Scoot to have as much success as any young point guard you’ve ever seen. He’s that good.
Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite)
Now that we’re past the top two, we need to talk about The Twenty in groups. This is the Alpha Squad, the elite crop of The Twenty who are the best candidates to become major impact players in the NBA. This distinction is reserved for prospects that have one or more skills that looks to be elite even by NBA standards, or at least has a reasonable path to developing such skills. In general, these are the best athletes of the class, as they are often the safest defensive prospects, and while offense dominates the headlines, NBA teams still can’t win without excellent defense. But to be in this top-notch crew, you have to show some real chops on offense. There has to be something to latch onto, some indicator of touch and coordination that opens the door to real Two-Way potential. You’ll also note that these are all relatively large fellas - wings and forwards are the NBA’s most valuable commodity, and having a player at that size who is dynamic on offense and can defend adds significant championship equity to your team.
Jarace Walker (Houston)
Brandon Miller (Alabama)
Cam Whitmore (Villanova)
Ausar Thompson (OTE City Reapers)
Amen Thompson (OTE City Reapers)
Taylor Hendricks (UCF)
The second multi-player tier of The Twenty consists of prospects with less certainty, but an abundance of talent and pathways to excellence. These players generally have more variance due to their size or athleticism on the defensive end, but some of these prospects are even more exciting as playmakers or scorers than the elite tier. Every superhero has their fatal flaw, and these folks are no exception - will they adapt and learn to survive, or even turn their weakness into a weapon? Or will their Kryptonite cripple their career before it even begins? Getting drafted into the NBA is a life-changing accomplishment, but your roster spot is never guaranteed, and all it takes is one exposed Achilles’ heel to bring everything to a crashing halt.
Cason Wallace (Kentucky)
Anthony Black (Arkansas)
Keyonte George (Baylor)
Jordan Hawkins (UConn)
Leonard Miller (G League Ignite)
Dereck Lively II (Duke)
Kobe Bufkin (Michigan)
Gradey Dick (Kansas)
Brice Sensabaugh (Ohio State)
Jalen Hood-Schifino (Indiana)
Dariq Whitehead (Duke)
I Need One More Guy
Kris Murray doesn’t really fit with either of the previous two groups, but he belongs on this list because he’s really good at basketball. Lock it in!
Kris Murray (Iowa)
It’s unlikely that The Twenty will shift much at all from this point on; in the end I didn’t drop a single player from the list other than Trey Alexander who opted out of the 2023 NBA Draft. I added Leonard Miller all the way up at #13 due to his clear physical advantages and pretty decent track record of making fluid and coordinated plays on offense. Beyond that I did some shifting, mostly in the lower tiers. I consolidated down to two major tiers (1, 2, and 20 are in their own tier) with the top tier being real high-end gambles and the second tier being riskier bets with clear pros & cons. I don’t really see anyone else pushing too hard to make this list, but let me know if you think a prospect belongs on this list over one of the guys I have listed!