NEW YORK — It’s a full year until the 2023 NBA draft, but the players projected into the top five are like no other draft class in the past. Usually, NBA fans tune in to the NCAA men’s tournament to get a first glimpse of the future NBA stars who will make it into the draft stage three months later, but next year will be different.
Projected on top of the design is a player from France who plays in the EuroLeague (Victor Wembanyama), a teenager who dominates the G League for the G League Ignite (Scoot Henderson) and twins who play in Overtime’s OTE competition (Amen and Ausar Thompson† There may be only a few college players who could filter into the top five next year — Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr., Villanova guard Cam Whitmore and Texas forward Dillon Mitchell.
It’s a very unusual design with four non-university players projected to the top, since 2005, when the NBA banned players from jumping straight out of high school.
To put it in perspective, only six non-university players have been selected in the top five in the last 10 years total.
European players have usually made the jump to the NBA with quality rosters. Luka Doncic was the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft by the Dallas Mavericks, and Kristaps Porziņģis was drafted by the New York Knicks with the fourth overall pick in 2015.
Wembanyama, the 7-foot-2 point-forward from France, is the runaway favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA draft. His skills are like no other player and he is now the best contender in the world regardless of his class.
Since 2006, when the Toronto Raptors defeated Italian forward Andrea Bargnani, no European player has been selected as No. 1 overall. Wembanyama is unlike any other European player, past or present, and could be a generational talent.
“Right now it’s Wembanyama and everyone else for the 2023 draft,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “There’s always concern about someone so good, so young, but it hasn’t stopped Wembanyama from getting better over the years. He’s the closest thing to a transcendent talent the design has had since probably Zion.” seen [Williamson]And even then, feelings across the league were a lot more mixed compared to where it is now with Wembanyama.”
Directly behind Wembanyama is Henderson, who signed a $1 million two-year contract with the G League Ignite at the age of 17. In the 2021 draft, Jalen Green was the first top-3 draft pick to come out of the G League Ignite program, and Jonathan Kuminga was also a top-10 pick. Henderson is the next elite point guard to come and had NBA scouts were excited last season when he dominated grown men in the G League† he too pulled this dunk out of his pocket after summer training that’s worth checking out more than once.
Which brings us to the Thompson twins from Overtime’s OTE competition. The 6-foot-7 guards are two of the most athletic guards in this draft class and may be the first players lined up in the lottery since OTE launched in 2021.
“The Thompson twins fit the mold of the NBA and the way the game is played really well,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “Tall, athletic playmakers with high basketball IQs. You’d expect one to be better than the other, but I saw them go right after each other next year. They’re that good.”
The G League and OTE are new, lucrative options for young, talented players looking to make their way into the NBA outside of the NCAA and college basketball. The G League Ignite team offers players the opportunity to adapt to the NBA game one or two years early and compete against professionals and players who have been in the NBA or are trying to work their way up to an NBA selection. OTE has a state-of-the-art facility in Atlanta where the young players receive first-class training and nutrition, as well as a paid contract.
The old path to being a top pick in the NBA was the one-time path. Five-star recruits go to Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina or Kansas and then position themselves as a high draw. Times are changing, and NBA scouts and executives travel well to where the best basketball is played.
If the draft were tomorrow and all four non-college players finished in the top five, it would be the first time in draft history that only one college player was selected in the top five. We’re still a year away from the 2023 draft, but Wembanyama and Henderson are close to a slot at Nos. 1 and 2. If NBA fans want to study the top players coming next year, it’s time to pay attention to the EuroLeague -, G League and Overtime Elite games.