Way-too-early 2023 NBA Draft big board has sky-high potential

Dariq Whitehead - Nike Hoop Summit
Dariq Whitehead - Nike Hoop Summit / Steph Chambers/GettyImages
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Spurs preseason top five: wings

Brandon Miller. player. 523. . . 5. .

Many seem to be getting increasingly excited about Alabama’s Brandon Miller as the summer has progressed, and it’s easy to see why. The 6’9” forward may be the most talented scorer in his class for his size, is comfortable with putting the ball on the floor and passing with both hands, and is a very fluid transition athlete. 

While we can understand the hype around a 6’9” forward that operates like a guard (and has had success doing so), Miller is one of the more volatile players to be featured on this list. Scoring is by far his main calling card going into the season, and if he can prove that he can be a consistent scoring option at his size, which most signs are pointing to at this point, he’ll almost surely be a lottery pick. But his overall defensive engagement and off-ball instincts on offense are still big question marks going into the season, so if his scoring doesn’t translate, it’s a bit difficult to see what his alternate calling card could be.

Jarace Walker. 4. player. . . . . 450

Don’t be mistaken: although Jarace Walker isn’t currently a bit higher on this board, he’s quickly become one of my personal favorite players to watch and could quickly rise. The 6’8”, 240-pound forward undoubtedly has the best ballhandling skills for his size in his class, is a great playmaker, and is a defensive menace on and off the ball. His fit with Kelvin Sampson’s Houston Cougars is a match made in heaven and I’m very confident that it will do wonders for his draft stock going into next summer. 

We’re generally proponents of the “draft the best player available and figure out fit later” model of drafting, but at this stage, it’s a bit difficult to envision Walker coexisting with Jeremy Sochan in the same lineups. This is a small nitpick that could very quickly change if he proves to be a high-level rim protector and signs of a more reliable jump shot emerge, but the level of talent is so high among this draft class’ wings that this knocks him down a bit for now. Even so, this is far from the last time we’ll be bringing up his name in draft conversations.

Baba Miller. 435. player. . . . . 3

A name that was linked to the Spurs right up until draft night this past season was 6’10” point forward Ousmane Dieng, and if there’s any player in this class that could fit a similar mold, it’s Florida State’s Baba Miller. At a lanky 6’10”, Miller has shown convincing flashes of good ballhandling, passing, and shooting against professional competition in Spain. Florida State has had a fantastic track record with wing players with ball skills in recent years (see: Devin Vassell, Patrick Williams, and Scottie Barnes), and we think Miller could be next.

Miller could make a ton of sense for a Spurs organization that is early in a rebuild and could afford to take some big upside swings. What will determine whether or not the Spurs elect to use a lottery pick on Miller, though, is his consistency. If he can carve out a role for himself on what will likely be a vastly improved Seminoles team, I think there’s a timeline in which he’s a top ten pick.

. . Cam Whitmore. . . 2. player. 479

Cam Whitmore is undoubtedly the “Big Body” of his draft class and I’m comfortable at this point with labeling him as the best all-around athlete of the draft as well. His combination of speed, vertical pop, and brute strength put him in a different stratosphere compared to most of his competition, making him a constant threat both in the open court in transition as well as off of drives in the half court from a standstill. 

What could turn that trait from dangerous to deadly, however, are his underrated playmaking ability and noticeably improved shooting. He was particularly impressive in both of these areas in the FIBA U18 Americas Championship tournament, where he averaged 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes per game. While a very minor question of mine is whether or not Whitmore can lead a team as its primary option on offense, if he can even come close to replicating those stats and impact, this won’t be a question at all. 

During the college basketball season, I’ll be looking to see if his improved jump shot is the real deal and to see if his defensive engagement remains consistent. If those things come to fruition for him, Whitmore has top-three pick upside. 

player. 434. . 1. . . . Dariq Whitehead

I’m a sucker for players that stand out as being balanced; players whose ceilings aren’t severely capped by a lack of athleticism, yet whose floors are heightened by their fundamentals. This is a reason I was and am still incredibly high on Devin Vassell, and I think Scoot Henderson and our top big-man prospect both fit that bill. If there’s a wing player that we think could also fit that description, it’s Dariq Whitehead.

Whitehead took a massive leap in scoring after becoming the primary option at Montverde Academy in his senior year, and while his three-level scoring potential is his main draw, we think his passing, flashes of good defensive fundamentals, and touch around the rim set him apart from the pack. He has a Lonnie Walker-like smoothness to his athleticism that pops in the open court, but he also uses it to his advantage often in the half court to create space. 

Something I’d like to see more of from Whitehead at Duke is higher-level ballhandling, but considering how much I already trust his jump shot, space creation, and athletic tools, I already see him as a rare low-risk, high-reward draft prospect.