Mysteries of the 2023 draft
BY DAVID THORPE
Seeing is believing.
There are several prospects in the upcoming draft that we know well. Gradey Dick, for example, spent tons of time on national television this past year as a star for perennial powerhouse Kansas. We know that he comes into the league with a solid Bill Self pedigree and plenty of high-level competition under his belt. There is evidence that he could become one of the best shooters in the league and enough proof that he’s not the defensive liability that some might claim. Any team that chooses Dick knows they’ll be filling a shooting need.
The same goes for Villanova’s Cam Whitmore, an explosive wing who carries the same concerns I had last year with Bennedict Mathurin—he’s a big wing without the crazy wingspan. But Whitmore has proven he has talent attacking downhill in a straight line, and he’s very gifted at going right off his defender’s hip. Like Mathurin, Whitmore projects as a solid scorer, and his Villanova background can give teams confidence in his ability to think the game and deal with the physical grind that is the NBA season.
As I explained in my earlier draft preview, though, fog surrounds many players in this draft. For some, that haze comes from a lack of competition and accountability. Other guys are late bloomers—some so late they are only now looking like solid first-rounders despite not playing a real game in months. And then we have the guys playing outside the US not named Victor.
It’s hard to see a teen’s future when he’s playing “okay” against grown men trying to feed their families.
Here are the draft mysteries most intriguing to me:
Leonard Miller (6-10, 210)—Forward, G League Ignite
Though my concerns about the G League Ignite program are clear, I have nothing but love for the players—especially this one. There’s something truly special—at least potentially so—about players who are guards their entire lives and then, after a huge growth spurt, are suddenly big men.
Leonard Miller might be 6-10 or taller, but in his mind he’s still a guard. He makes dribble moves and attacks as if he’s a little guy—only he’s a foot taller (if not more) than when he first started doing those moves, so he’s loose with the ball. Often, Miller looks like he’s all legs, but the great news is that, in time, bodies tend to catch up to minds.
Consider Joakim Noah and Anthony Davis, who were guards as younger teenagers before their huge growth spurts turned them into centers. Neither player in his prime was cooking defenders off the dribble.