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Underwhelming 2023 NBA Draft

No Massive Trade

In theory, this could have turned into one of the more exciting drafts, but instead, it was pretty straightforward. Maybe that should have been expected when NBA picks had Victor Wembanyama locked into the first overall pick going to the San Antonio Spurs.

NBA news had been hyping up this draft for weeks with trade rumors. The biggest was the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers wanting to trade back in the draft, while the New Orleans Pelicans loved Scoot Henderson, wanting to move up from the 14th pick.

Underwhelming 2023 NBA Draft
Victor Wembanyama looks on prior to the first round - Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP

None of the excitement that NBA predictions rumored came true. The two trades in the lottery were marginal changes to where teams drafted. The Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers swapped the seventh and eighth picks. Then, the Dallas Mavericks moved from 10 to 12, with the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a salary dump move.

On top of that, outside a few picks, none were that surprising. Jett Howard at pick 11 to the Orlando Magic was a surprise to most NBA odds, but the team needs shooting, and he can fill that. The slide of Cam Whitmore might be the biggest shock of the entire draft, with many believing him to be a top 10 talent, falling to the Houston Rockets at pick 20.

The biggest name that most people speculated could be traded was Damian Lillard, and it still seems possible, given the Trail Blazers drafted a point guard, Henderson, with the third overall pick. Furthermore, there were more trade rumors around the Atlanta Hawks looking to be active or the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors possibly making a massive deal. Nothing happened, with the NBA draft seemingly going as planned.

However, many teams did get better. Here are some that could have increased their NBA playoff odds and others that made head-scratching decisions.

Everything Is Bigger in Texas

There are three NBA franchises in Texas, between the Spurs, Rockets, and Mavericks, each having a good draft. While no team massively shifted their NBA title odds, they all made smart decisions, drafting impact players for the 2023-24 season.

Let’s start with the Spurs, who had the most excitement heading into the draft. They drafted Wembanyama with the first overall pick, officially getting the franchise’s new building block. He is undeniably the top prospect this year and has been projected to be an all-time great in the league. While that is a lot of pressure on a 19-year-old, Wembanyama seems to have the talent to live up to it.

In the second round, the Spurs would draft another Frenchman, Sidy Cissoko, who played for the G-League Ignite team last season. He is a long and skilled defender, with many believing he was a first-round talent.

Next, the Rockets have quietly had one of the best and most skilled drafts. With the fourth overall pick, they selected Amen Thompson, a player that will fit right in the Rockets’ backcourt. Houston needed a pass-first-shot creator who could be an impactful defender, which is what Thompson offers.

On top of that, the Rockets snatched up Whitmore with the 20th pick. He was rumored to be sliding down draft boards due to poor workouts and medical issues. However, no one expected him to still be around after the lottery, making him a steal for the Rockets. Whitmore’s offensive game is ready for the NBA, and while the rest needs improvement, his physicality makes this a great pick.

Finally, the Mavericks were the most active team on draft night. They made two trades in the first round, one with the Thunder to move back two spots, and the other was to get the 24th pick from the Sacramento Kings. Dallas rebuilt its big room by drafting Dereck Lively II, the top true center of the draft class, while also moving off of Davis Bertans’s expensive contract.

Then, the Mavericks acquired Richaun Holmes in the Kings trade, adding another center to the rotation. The Mavericks used the 24th pick to select Olivier-Maxence Prosper, a clear 3-and-D player, something this team has been lacking.

Magic, Thunder Don’t Take Leap

In the 2022-23 season, the Magic and Thunder seemed to be turning from a rebuilding team to possibly trying to make the playoffs in 2023-24. The Magic had a solid second half of the season, with Paolo Banchero winning Rookie of the Year. The Thunder made a play-in game and lost, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was named in the All-NBA 1st Team, averaging 31.4 points per game.

Despite each team’s promise, none seemed to capitalize during the draft. With the sixth pick, the Magic selected Anthony Black. While he is an excellent player, his size, defense, playmaking, and lack of shooting for a point guard are redundant skills on this roster. Then with the second pick in the lottery, at 11, Orlando selected Howard, which seems to be a reach, especially with Gradey Dick available, seemingly a better shooter.

The Thunder, who have a lot of cap space, decided to shrink that by taking on Bertans’s contract. Then with the 10th pick in the draft, they selected point guard Cason Wallace. Again, he is not a bad player, but with how many good guards the Thunder have, it is hard to see where his minutes will come from. Wallace does add a defensive effort others don’t have, but there are still at least three names ahead of him on the depth chart. On top of that, Oklahoma City did not do much else in the draft besides selecting Keyontae Johnson in the second round, having the most assets available to trade for a star player.

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