The Next Thunder? 2023 NBA Draft Prospects to Watch
Every year, I compile a few names that I think Thunder fans could be interested in for Daily Thunder. I don't want to be too boring and mundane and only include the top guys of every mock draft, so I'll go out of my way to include some sleepers and potential later-round guys to watch. Oklahoma City won't likely have the necessary pick to get some of these guys, but we never know what's going to happen and who falls where, so I find the exercise fun regardless.
OKC is projected to win the fourth-fewest games in the NBA this season (tied with three other teams), with a win total set at 23.5 games per DraftKings Sportsbook. If the books are right, the Thunder will once again be at the top of the draft, for possibly the last time in a while, and will have one more chance at adding a potential star prospect to their already talented yet young nucleus. This upcoming 2023 draft is one of the most anticipated in years and, if I had to say right now, it is a draft that rivals classes like 2021 and 2018 in overall talent.
College basketball kicks off this week, with the other leagues and teams mentioned launching during this period as well. There is plenty of time for things to change and for prospects to fluctuate, but here are some of the players I think you should keep track of for this upcoming draft cycle.
Big: Metropolitans 92
The biggest name and the presumptive number one overall pick of this class, Victor Wembanyama, is who every tanking NBA team will be trying to get next June. Wembanyama is one of the more hyped prospects in the last decade, and for good reason. Wembanyama stands at 7'4 barefoot and has an 8'0 wingspan (which would be the longest wingspan in the NBA) and is a complete freak of nature in every sense of the word. He handles the ball in transition, shoots threes off of screens and movement, and is a nightmare defender in the interior.
In the summer of 2021, Wembanyama competed in the FIBA U19 World Cup for France and completely dominated throughout the tournament despite being a year younger than most participants. In the finals versus Team USA, he matched up with the older Chet Holmgren and put on a clinic. In 27 minutes of action, he put up 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 blocks in a classic game against many future NBA players that ended with him fouling out on some very ticky-tacky calls.
Wembanyama is one of the best defenders in recent draft history. While I don't think he has the same instincts (right now) as Holmgren or Evan Mobley did on the defensive end as prospects, the additional size just allows him to swallow up shots in the paint and gives him a larger margin for error. He can be outmuscled or out-leveraged, but his enormous arms and towering height are enough to compensate for almost any deficiencies he has on that end. On offense, he's been a pretty poor three point shooter up to this point but has been a solid 70+ percent FT shooter in his career. The expectation that a 7'4 18-year-old big man is supposed to be a dynamic shooter instantly is just absurd. That isn't even taking into account the difficulty of some of his shot attempts; as I said at the top he legitimately takes three pointers off of screens. Wembanyama is an incredibly fluid athlete who can handle the ball in transition and make passes in the halfcourt as well. The potential for a player who has shown all the skills and built the youth career resume that Wembanyama has is unreal. We would be looking at a future Hall of Fame player here if everything hits: he looks a little like Ralph Sampson with a three point shot to me.
If the Thunder are lucky enough to get the first overall pick, the idea of Wembanyama and Holmgren in the frontcourt together is that of a fever dream. It is truly hard to imagine how dominant those two could be together as a duo on the defensive end of the floor. They could be the next superstar Twin Towers duo like Ralph Sampson/Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson/Tim Duncan were before them. I will be speaking it into existence this whole season.