fbpx

March Madness Preview: NBA Draft 2023 Prospect Watch

The best month of the sports year is here, and our resident NBA Draft armchair scout is adjusting to the Kings’ new draft reality. 
By | 12 Comments | Mar 16, 2023

Iowa forward Kris Murray (24) inbounds the ball during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game against Nebraska, Sunday, March 5, 2023, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. 230305 Nebraska Iowa Mbb 051 Jpg

Welcome to the madness!

As an NBA Draft fan, this is an odd year for college basketball. There’s plenty of promising players who could make the jump to the pros this year, but most of the top tier prospects are playing basketball outside of the NCAA. Victor Wembanyama is decimating France’s top professional league. Scoot Henderson is thriving in the GLeague’s Ignite program, and twin brothers Amen and Ausar Thompson are doing the same in the Overtime Elite league in Atlanta. There are plenty of high-end lottery prospects playing for college basketball’s crown—Brandon Miller at Alabama, Jarace Walker at Houston, and Keyonte George at Baylor are all playing big roles on high seeded teams.

That said, things are a bit different in Sacramento this year. Gone is the yearly March tradition of binge-watching top-tier prospects and praying for some lottery luck. There’s one undeniable fact that makes this collegiate season the weirdest of my armchair scouting career… THE SACRAMENTO KINGS ARE GOOD! The Sacramento Kings are 3rd in the Western Conference! If the NBA Draft was held today, the Kings would have the 24th overall pick! Everytime I go to Tankathon now I have to SCROLL down the page to find the Kings on the big board!

…as you can see, the mental gear-shift from looking at the Kings as a perennial lottery squad to sitting in the 20s is taking some adjustment. While I’d certainly not trade this Kings run for anything, it does change the conversation from the last 16 years. Instead of “who do we think the Kings could take?”, the discussion should now be “who is even going to be in the Kings draft range?”

Here are a few of the NBA draft prospects I’ll be paying attention to over March Madness who may be in the Kings draft range come June. All stats come from Synergy Sports, sports-reference.com, or Tankathon.com.

Make sure to join the 3rd Annual Kings Herald Bracket Challenge on ESPN! –  the password is LightTheBeam.

Tournament Prospects for Sacramento

Kris Murray | 6’8 forward | Iowa

You may have heard of this kid. The deja-vu is strong in both Sacramento and Iowa City this season – a year after twin brother Keegan became a star for the Hawkeyes, Kris has repeated that history. Kris is averaging 20.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.2 blocks on 48% shooting from the field. He’s Iowa’s leading scorer, rebounder, rim protector, and deep-shot maker. He’s capable of spacing the floor off the catch or attacking the rim off the dribble. He bangs with bigger players for rebounds and then does a good job of handling smaller players on the perimeter.

As with any young player, he’s still figuring his defensive range and offensive limitations. He’s left-hand dominant at this point, and defenders forcing him to his right often leads to a bad shot as he tries to still get it up with his left. He’s also not as strong a deep shooter as Keegan – he’s taking a massive volume of threes (6.6 per game, over 42.5% of his shots) but knocking them down at just a 33.9% clip.

That all said, he clearly could be playing on an NBA court today, and there’s probably a bunch of NBA teams kicking themselves right now that they didn’t make him a 1st round promise last season. But when Kings fans ask the question of “should the Kings draft Kris Murray?”, I think the real question is “will Kris Murray be available when the Kings draft?” Players with Kris’ level of two-way promise, basketball instincts, and size and positional versatility are too rare for me to bet he lasts until Sacramento’s selection… which, again, will somehow be in the mid 20s?!

Murray and Iowa have one hell of a 1st round matchup against Auburn, and should they beat the Tigers we could get a contest between Iowa and Houston – aka, Kris Murray vs. Jarace Walker.

Colby Jones | 6’6 wing | Xavier 

Jones is a versatile two-way player with a strong combination of the dribble/pass/shoot skill triforce. While the Musketeers feature a balanced offense—featuring four players averaging 14 or more points—Jones initiates the offense as much as anyone, reads the floor well, and can play off the ball with no issue. While not a top-tier athlete, he’s more than quick enough to take great collegiate defenders off the bounce, has a nice floater in his game, and should be a solid role-playing scorer at the next level if he continues to work on his pull-up shot. He’s also made big improvements over his time at Xavier, most notably from deep, as he’s shot 38% from deep on 110 attempts this year. And on the defensive end, he’s regularly handled smaller guards and bigger wings at a high level. He’s helped lead this talented Musketeers squad to a 3rd seed, and I think they have a real shot to make noise in the crazy Midwest Region of the tournament.

Kyle Filipowski | 7’0 center | Duke

Duke’s leading scorer is a tough one to evaluate. On one hand, his offensive craftiness is undeniable – he’s got good footwork, nice touch around the basket, and can take the ball off the dribble from the perimeter and attack the rim. He’s also a strong rebounder, and gives more effort on defense than I think his reputation indicates. That said, he’s not a modern-era big man – he’s neither a proven deep shooter (29.7% on 118 3 point attempts) or rim protector (0.8 blocks per game). He’s also shooting just 44.6% from the field, including 50.7% on two-point shots. He’s on the pathway to be a solid backup center at the next level, but one with both clear upsides and current limitations to his game.

Dereck Lively II | 7’1 center | Duke

Kyle’s big-man teammate could also be in consideration for a 1st Round pick come June if Lively enters the draft. Standing at 7’1 with a reported 7’7 wingspan, Lively’s physical tools and role at the next level are obvious – while he’s averaged just 19 minutes per game this year, his per-40 minutes numbers are 10.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists (with some highlight passes), and 4.9 blocks per game… as well as 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes, which is a big reason why his minute totals have been sporadic. He’s more of a project player than Filipowski, but his long-range outcome might be more enticing if his future NBA team can afford to be patient. His defensive upside is special.

Dariq Whitehead | 6’7 wing | 18 years old | Duke

It’s been a rocky season for Whitehead in Durham. The former Montverde Academy standout was widely considered a lottery talent a year ago thanks to his three-level scoring abilities, but injuries (a broken foot during an August practice, and then a leg injury in late January), inefficiency with shots at the basket, and inconsistencies across the statsheet may have dampened his draft stock. Whitehead could certainly use March Madness as a springboard back into the lottery conversation, but if he lasts long in the draft he could be a sneaky high-reward selection by a playoff team betting that his explosive high school film is closer to his real talent than his injury-plagued season at Duke indicates. He’s still shooting a ridiculous 41.1% from three on the season on 90 total attempts.

Quick Shots

Gonzaga’s Demise Has Been Greatly Over Exaggerated

Some folks foolishly wrote this year’s Gonzaga squad off months ago. The basketball gods know I’d love nothing more than seeing the Zags completely collapse, but this Bulldogs team is good, deep, and ready to roll in Drew Timme’s final run in Spokane. Their defense has improved over the season, and while they lack the draft starpower of the last few years, they have at least four dudes who should all get NBA chances. 6’7 wing Julian Strawther should absolutely be considered a 1st round prospect, and is averaging 15.1 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 48% from the field and 43% from deep. Timmie may not have the shooting ability or the defensive footspeed for a big role in the NBA, but he’ll get a shot in the pros with his touch in the paint, physicality, and offensive instincts. Senior Anton Watson has been the best defender in the WCC this year and plays the game like he’s got pogosticks for legs. And Rasir Boulton has five years of college tape to prove that he’s got the deep shot and offensive awareness to be worth a real shot in the pros.

Early warning here, but whenever Saint Mary’s super freshman Aidan Mahaney opts to try for the NBA, I’m going to be absolutely insufferable in calling for the Kings to go get him. Given his size (6’3, 180ish pounds), the poise and dynamism he’s shown as a scorer this year has been incredible for a freshman. Fingers crossed that my beloved Gaels can prove themselves on Thursday against VCU.

Upperclassmen of the Big 12

While some of the Big 12 freshmen have gotten draft hype throughout the season – Baylor chaos-guard Keyonte George, Kansas sharpshooting forward Gradey Dick, and to a lesser extent Texas project forward Dillon Mitchell – the Big 12 also has prospects for consideration throughout the draft and on two-way contracts, especially amongst the upperclassmen.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (6’8 senior) took a huge step this year and is leading the #1 seeded Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding, and is second in assists and three pointers. Kansas State wing Keyontae Johnson (6’5 senior) has been the comeback story of the season after missing most of the last two years; his ascension as a three-level scorer (including shooting 41.9% from three) has been great to see. Wilson and Johnson had some brilliant duels in the two Kansas/Kansas State matchups this year, and both players could be late 1st-early 2nd round targets by wing-needy teams. And (hat tip to newest Kings Herald’s newest contributor/TCU alumni Melissa Triebwasser) TCU’s Damion Baugh (6’3 senior) and Mike Miles (6’1 junior) have led the Horned Frogs to a 6th seed – both have the defensive chops and ability to attack the basket to get real chances in the pros if they work on their deep shots.

The UCLA Bruins Run Deep with Potential Pros

The UCLA Bruins hold a #2 seed thanks to their excellent defense and solid offense, and they  may have four future NBA players on this roster. 6’7 senior Jaime Jaquez Jr. is the obvious name here, averaging 17.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.4 steals a game – while there will be some obvious NCAA-to-NBA translation issues for Jaquez (who is not an explosive or quick athlete), he’s a smart, versatile player who plays with extreme effort on both ends. Big man Adem Bona is a raw freshman with NBA athleticism and NBA size (6’10 and a 7’4 wingspan), and while his playing time has been inconsistent he’s shown real flashes as a rim protector, rim runner, and rebounder. Freshman Amari Bailey can break down defenses and put pressure on the rim with his excellent athleticism, and took a huge step forward in the Pac-12 tournament offensively. Junior Jaylen Clark, who is unfortunately out for the season with an achilles injury, was excelling on defense with 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game, and is a consistent deep shot away from being a true two-way force.

All four players could be worth keeping an eye out for this draft – it wouldn’t shock me to see any of Jaquez, Bona, or Bailey get taken in the late-1st to mid-2nd round. I went on the Beam Unit podcast in early February and co-host/UCLA superfan Daily Sabonis had a lot of smart stuff to say about all four of these Bruins.

3 Tournament Prospects Out of the Kings Range

You can take the draft fan out of the lottery, but you can’t take the lottery away from the draft fan. If the Kings had followed tradition and stunk this year, here are a few guys I’m high on – as well as some of their teammates who may be in the Kings draft range.

Jarace Walker | 6’8 forward | Houston

Surprise surprise, I’m a big fan of a power wing. Walker’s defensive switchability and effort level were off the charts all season, and he’s gotten more comfortable and involved in the offense as the year went along. He’s averaged 12.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 47% from the field since the start of 2023 for the #1 seeded Cougars. Give him a watch this March, especially if Houston ends up playing Iowa and Kris Murray in the 2nd round.

Fingers crossed that his teammate Marcus Sasser is healthy for the Big Dance after suffering a groin sprain in the AAC Tournament – the 6’2 guard/ACC Player of the Year is a gritty two-way force and a capable shooter, and is another Cougar who may hear his name called in the 1st round come June.

Cason Wallace | 6’4 combo guard | Kentucky

It’s been an inconsistent season for the Kentucky Wildcats, but 6’4 guard Cason Wallace has proven a strong two-way player for much of it. Wallace is an excellent defender who is plenty strong and quick enough to defend a range of opponents, and has averaged 2 steals per contest. While his deep shooting numbers (34.7% on the year) have fallen towards the end of SEC play (even as his playmaking and assist numbers have jumped), he seems to have the set-shot and ability to attack the basket needed to be a solid secondary initiator at the next level. I hope we get a Kentucky v. Kansas State, Wildcat v. Wildcat matchup in the Round of 32 so we can see Wallace v. Keyontae Johnson.

Jalen Hood-Schifino | 6’6 guard/wing | Indiana

Hood-Schifino and the Indiana Hoosiers have become one of my more favored squads to check out over the last month. The 6’6 freshman has had some huge games against big-time opponents, including a 35 point, 7 rebound outing against #1 seeded Purdue. He’s versatile on offense, with a promising ability to shoot off the bounce, attack the basket, and lead an offense or play off other high-usage teammates. He also plays with more poise and effort on defense than many freshmen. At his size, there aren’t a ton of players with his level of potential two-way versatility.

Meanwhile, his teammate Trayce Jackson-Davis has been one of the best players in college basketball this season, averaging an absurd 20.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.8 blocks with a 59.8% true shooting percentage. The 6’9 senior developed strong chemistry with Hood-Schifino in the pick-and-roll and on dribble hand-offs, and Coach Mike Woodson has given NBA scouts some clear evidence that both Jalen and Trayce can work with other creators at the next level.

Even while Jackson-Davis has no deep shot at the moment (0-3 from three across his whole Indiana career, and just 68.6% from the free throw line this year), his touch around the basket, fluidity and quickness, and creation ability at his size could earn him 1st round consideration. He could be a guy for Kings fans to keep their eyes on – his combination of self-creation, playmaking abilities, rim protection, and general basketball smarts could make him a strong reserve behind Domantas Sabonis.

Other Prospects to Watch

  • Jordan Hawkins | 6’5 wing | UConn
  • Terrence Shannon Jr. | 6’6 wing | Illinois
  • Julian Phillips | 6’8 forward | Tennessee 
  • Terquavion Smith | 6’4 guard | NC State
  • Trey Alexander | 6’4 guard | Creighton
  • Noah Clowney | 6’10 forward | Alabama
Patreon Membership
* indicates required


To prevent spam, our system flags comments that include too many hyperlinks. If you would like to share a comment with multiple links, make sure you email [email protected] for it to be approved.

12 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
RobHessing
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Author
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Author
March 15, 2023 2:42 pm

comment image

Klam
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
March 15, 2023 3:57 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

We’ve graduated from looking at our ping pong ball odds to the big boys league after 16 years.
comment image

Kingsguru21
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
March 15, 2023 4:43 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

“It does when determining where the Kings draft pick falls.”

Hippity_Hop_Barbershop
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
March 15, 2023 2:52 pm

Kris Murray. All in. They can even switch numbers for fun halfway through the season. Let’s go!

Mike120
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
March 15, 2023 3:25 pm

Gives you 12 fouls to use.

Hobby916
Comments
Vote Up
Comments
Vote Up
March 16, 2023 8:32 am

Getting Kris Murray would be fun. They might have to trade on draft day for him, and I would do that.

eddie41
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
March 15, 2023 3:20 pm

Thanks for this list. A lot of intriguing names there. Seeing how Kessler Edwards impacted the Suns game by guarding Booker, I’d like to know if any big man prospects can do something similar at the backup center position. Want to take another look at Adem Bona and compare him to international prospect James Nnaji.

Adamsite
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
March 15, 2023 4:56 pm

I know he’s not in the tournament, but I just want to drop his name now…Bilal Coulibaly, s’l vous plaît.

SacReligious
Original Member
Original Member
March 16, 2023 9:56 am

I’ll take one of each, please.

RobHessing
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Author
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Author
March 16, 2023 9:57 am

Not all of these guys are in the tourney, but here are a few guys that have caught my eye during the season, along with where they might be available:

Kel’El Ware, C, Oregon (late 1st or early 2nd): As a lineup piece he probably lands behind Queta right now, so definitely not a pick for next season’s rotation.

Zach Edey, C, Purdue (2nd round): Hey, if he’s there when the Kings pick in the 50s, why not? I’d take him over Drew Timme, for example.

Noah Clowney (Alabama) and Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana), PFs (2nd round): Davis would be the better bet (though still a long shot) to make a meaningful contribution next year.

Max Lewis, SF, Pepperdine: I think that he could be a viable 1st round pick for the Kings. A wing that can shoot and move the ball. As a rookie he’d probably be around Edwards and Ellis level.

Jalen Wilson, SF/PF, Kansas: A senior, he might be able to contribute sooner than later. He’d be a 2nd round pick.

Keyontae Johnson, SF, Kansas St.: Another senior, another potential 2nd round pick.

Emoni Bates, SF, Eastern Michigan: This would be a late 2nd round flyer. He was a #1 prospect coming out of high school and has fallen off a cliff. Notable players that have done this in the past include Byron Mullens (who?) and Gerald Wallace (hmmm), though not to the level that Bates has fallen. A true Stockton pick.

My preseason crush was on Taylor Hendricks out of UCF, but he has probably played his way out of the late 1st round and into the lottery.

eddie41
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
March 16, 2023 12:48 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Trayce could be a backup center.

andy_sims
Vote Up
Comments
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
Vote Up
Comments
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
March 16, 2023 10:18 am

Mahaney’s rock-pounding would make John Salmons blush. A sub-optimally athletic player with a high schooler’s body is not someone I’d look at in the first round, and realistically, not in the second, either. I don’t believe that he could be an effective scorer or player in the NBA, where teams don’t defend one-on-one as terribly as Gonzaga. His frame doesn’t lend itself to adding strength, and people don’t just become quick enough to stay in front of NBA guards. Maybe he becomes such a good shooter in the next couple of years in school to warrant a look, but I think his odds are a lot better to become a superstar in China, like other slowi-sh guards have.

There are some interesting prospects that you’ve detailed at wing and center, and in the mid-twenties, you can grab a guy who will need a couple of years to become an NBA player.

Isn’t it nice to know that the next season isn’t completely reliant on your draftee to play at starter-level caliber?

Badge Legend

Patreon Supporter Patreon Supporter   Registered On Day 1 Registered On Day 1   Published Post Published Post  Published Post Nostradumbass
Comment Up Votes 200 Up Votes   Comment Up Votes 500 Up Votes    1,000 Up Votes    3,000+ Up Votes

Comments 50 Comments   Comments 100 Comments    250 Comments    500 Comments    1000+ Comments