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HomeBasketballNBA2023 NBA Draft Diary: It's Wembanyama, then everyone else

2023 NBA Draft Diary: It’s Wembanyama, then everyone else

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It’s here!

One of my favorite nights on the sports calendar: the 2023 NBA Draft.

I’ve watched the Draft religiously for about 30 years. The first Draft I can remember is 1993 when University of Michigan forward Chris Webber went first overall to Orlando and was dealt to Golden State for Memphis State wing Penny Hardaway. The road Orlando Penny jersey was one of the first I owned. I was hooked on the Draft right away.

Some kid somewhere tonight is going to get that same feeling. It means even more to the players who tonight will hear their name called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

The intrigue of this year’s Draft doesn’t start until No. 2. It’s been set in stone that French big man Victor Wembanyama will go No. 1 overall to San Antonio.

The fun starts with No. 2.

Oh, Silver’s up with the first pick.

8:11 p.m.: Silver walks out to the stage to call Wembanyama’s number. Easiest pick since Flavor Flav picked Deelishis over New York. Wembanyama will be an MVP candidate in the next three years. He can guard 1-5. He can step out and hit 3s and play in the post. By all accounts, he loves the game. It’ll be interesting to see how the Spurs build the rest of that roster. San Antonio is about $40 million under the salary cap. The free agency class isn’t great, but there are players who could push the Spurs into the West playoff picture right away. Submitting an offer sheet to Lakers guard Austin Reaves, a restricted free agent, would give them a playoff tested young player. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell are nice building blocks. I’m excited to have another generational talent in the league.

8:15 p.m.: ESPN analyst Monica McNutt, one of my favorites, greets Slick Vic (I’m calling him that from now on) and his family in French. Wembanyama has tears in his eyes. The moment means a lot to him. I like that.

8:19 p.m.: Alabama freshman forward Brandon Miller goes No. 2 to Charlotte. He’s the best college player in the Draft. He can score in a variety of ways and is a good playmaker. I don’t see Miller as a generational talent. G-League guard Scoot Henderson is a generational talent. I like Miller, but I think Henderson should have been the pick here. Doing the wrong thing has been Charlotte’s M.O., though.

8:21 p.m.: McNutt interviews Miller and his parents. I remember when people got made fun of for wearing pants like Miller’s. Kids don’t make fun of you for flooding anymore? Is he wearing capris? Miller is saying all the right things. He’ll go in and work. He’s talented. He fits a position of need for the Hornets.

8:25 p.m.: Henderson goes No. 3 to Portland. This doesn’t fit with what Blazers star Damian Lillard said he wanted this offseason. Henderson is going to be a star. He’s a gym rat. He’s fearless on the court. He’s an explosive athlete. His jumper needs work but that will improve with reps and coaching. I’m not sure he stays in Portland, though. Does this signal the end of the Lillard era in Portland, or did the Blazers draft Henderson for another team?

8:28 p.m.: McNutt talks with Henderson and his family. Scoot’s fit is…interesting. He’s got on a bedazzled black jacket and cowboy boots. Is he going to the League, or auditioning for Sly and the Family Stone?

8:33 p.m.: Houston selects combo guard Amen Thompson with the fourth pick. At 6-foot-7, 215 pounds, Thompson is a freak athlete. He tries really hard on defense. He’s quick off the dribble. Thompson gives the Rockets a crowded backcourt, adding him to Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr. and Josh Christopher. Does this pick put the “James Harden returning to Houston” rumors to bed?

8:35 p.m.: McNutt has been great tonight. She asks Amen Thompson what’s “the first thing you’re going to do now that you can tell us?” McNutt knows anything could’ve come out of Thompson’s mouth, even with his parents right there.

8:37 p.m.: The run of good fortune for the Thompson family continues as Amen’s twin brother Ausar goes No. 5 to Detroit. At 6-7, 220 pounds, Ausar Thompson has the potential to be an all-defensive selection. He’s got very quick feet and he’s a strong wing. Ausar Thompson fills a need for Detroit. The Pistons backcourt is set, with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. Detroit has a glut of big men. The Pistons need athletic wings. I’d start Ausar Thompson at the 3 right away if I were new Pistons coach Monty Williams.

8:43 p.m.: Orlando adds another with the selection of 6-7 guard Anthony Black. Black should fit well with Orlando’s solid, young front line. Black is much bigger than Orlando’s other guards. But his shooting needs a lot of work. Orlando is in dire need of shooting. The Magic last season were 25th in the league in 3-point shooting. Black won’t help that much. Maybe they’ll get some shooting at No. 11.

8:47 p.m.: The Indiana Pacers make the first splash of the evening, taking wing Bilal Coulibaly at No. 7. Coulibaly played with Wembanyama. He’s 6-7 with a 7-3 wingspan.

8:51 p.m.: Coulibaly is already on the move. He’s going to Washington, and Houston big forward Jarace Walker is going to Indiana. The run on wings continues. Walker is 6-8, 250 pounds. He’s a really active defender and works well out of the dunker spot on offense.

9:09 p.m.: After Utah takes Taylor Hendricks, a forward from Central Florida, Dallas trades No. 10 to Oklahoma City. The Thunder love draft picks. OKC has 15 picks in the next handful of drafts. Dallas at No. 1o takes Kentucky guard Cason Wallace. Wildcats coach John Calipari has produced a first-round pick every year since 2008. Wallace is the latest in a long line of Kentucky guards with NBA potential, following guys like Jamal Murray, Devin Booker and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Wallace is another really good defender. He’s a solid jump shooter too. Those two traits will help Wallace stay on the floor. Wallace in the move to OKC gives the Thunder a third guard behind SGA and Josh Giddey. It’s a good position for Wallace, as OKC looks to solidify itself as a playoff team next season.

9:15 p.m.: Orlando with its second lottery pick selects Michigan guard Jett Howard with the No. 11 pick. Howard is a 6-8 guard. He’s a really good shooting 37 percent from 3 and 80 percent from the free throw line. Right now, though, that’s all Howard is giving you. He’s a scorer. He’s not a great rebounder or a very willing passer. Howard gives the Magic something it was lacking, though. Hopefully for him he adds to his game.

9:25 p.m.: Oklahoma City selected Duke center Dereck Lively, who will be rerouted to Dallas. ESPN’s Malika Andrews mentions that Lively used his NIL money to pay for a tombstone for his father. Damn. You never know what the kids will do with that money. I remember when people thought the athletes would use that money for bull****.

9:30 p.m.: Toronto at No. 13 picks Kansas wing Gradey Dick. Dick is the best shooter in the Draft. He made 40.3 percent of his 3s in his one year at Kansas. Toronto last season was 28th in 3-point shooting. He’s really good at working the baseline on offense, and can get his own shot. Why is he dressed like Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, though?

New Toronto Raptors guard Gradey Dick came to the Draft dressed to impress.

9:43: Kobe Bufkin, another Michigan guard, goes No. 15 to the Atlanta Hawks. Bufkin is a really good shooter. Michigan last season improved a lot when Juwan Howard gave the car keys to Bufkin. UM has two guys who were selected in the top 15 tonight…but they didn’t sniff the NCAA Tournament.  (I’m a Spartan, by the way.)

10 p.m.: The Lakers at No. 17 take Indiana freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino. At 6-6, 220, Hood-Schifino is a big guard who can score from almost anywhere on the court. He’s a solid playmaker in the halfcourt and in transition. He’s a willing defender who can guard 1-3. He’s a streaky shooter, though. Hood-Schifino last season had shooting splits of .417/.333/.776. The Lakers for the first half of last season had no spacing on offense. LA finished the season 27th in free throw shooting. Hood-Schifino will HAVE to improve his shooting if he’s really going to help the Lakers.

10:14 p.m.: Golden State takes Santa Clara guard Brandin Podziemski at No. 19. Podziemski is wearing a giant chain with a medallion full of diamonds. You wouldn’t think, with a name like Podziemski, that he’d be into that. Where was he radicalized?

10:20 p.m.: Villanova freshman wing Cam Whitmore slides all the way to Houston at No. 20. Whitmore was seen by some at a potential top-five pick. Leading up to the Draft, though, information came out questioning Whitmore’s motor, his shooting, and his medical records. Whitmore is a freak athlete. He can attack the basket, and could develop into a high-level defender at the next level. I know Whitmore’s night hasn’t gone the way he hoped, but he’s in a position now where he can play early and show what he can do. Whitmore, though, is added to a long list of guys on the Rockets roster who wants to have the ball in his hand.

10:25 p.m.: UCONN coach Dan Hurley joins the ESPN crew for a chat. He talks up guard Jordan Hawkins, who went No. 14 to New Orleans. Hurley mentions that Hawkins need to put on a little weight, saying that’ll be easy with all the great food in New Orleans. I know somebody who can probably tell him where all the best restaurants are in the Big Easy…

10:51 p.m.: Memphis, by way of Boston, picks Houston guard Marcus Sasser. Sasser will be moved to Detroit. Sasser was a great college player. He’s a tough guard and a pitbull on defense. But he’s really small. Sasser is listed at 6-1, 190. Yes, he gives great effort on defense, but if he gets caught in any switches next year, you can cancel Christmas. Sasser would have been a lottery pick if he were a few inches taller. He feels like a Davion Mitchell-type.

Well, the first round is winding down. Things were pretty quiet tonight on the trade front. Everything went pretty much how I thought it would, outside of Whitmore having to sit for two-plus hours.

For the draftees, the real work begins now. Hopefully they all make good choices — on and off the court. I’d hate to see any of these guys wrapped up in any BS.

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