2023 NBA Draft Team Grades: Houston Rockets The Big Winner?

The 2023 NBA Draft is officially in the books, so franchises will now turn their attention towards free agency on June 30th. In the meantime, check out below for grades on every team’s draft performance. Trades that occurred before the draft (e.g., Kristaps Porzingis to Boston) will not be factored into grading; however, trades during the draft will be considered. Teams are alphabetically ordered within each grade, and individual scouting reports are also linked for a number of players.

No Grade

New York Knicks

  • The Knicks made no selections or trades.

Philadelphia 76ers

  • The 76ers made no selections or trades.

A+ Grade

Houston Rockets

Disregard Wembanyama, and the Houston Rockets clearly won the draft. Amen Thompson steps into the NBA as a top percentile athlete. The 6’7” point guard explodes to the basket and possesses an impressive finishing arsenal. Thompson can also orchestrate the offense in both a half-court and transition setting. Houston found their point guard of the future.

They also ended Cam Whitmore’s shocking slide at 20th overall. He ranked 5th on my Big Board, and his consensus ranking fell somewhere between 5-8. Medical concerns apparently scared franchises away, but he looked healthy during the season. The 18-year-old Villanova forward is a dynamic driver due to his 40” vertical and 235 pound frame. He can score at all three levels, operate off-ball, and develop into a defensive plus. If Whitmore stays healthy, then Houston walks away with two Top 5 prospects.

Portland Trail Blazers

Scoot Henderson was the top point guard in the draft to me with a blended NBA comparison of De’Aaron Fox and Donovan Mitchell. He’s a pick and roll savant, excellent athlete, and tremendous scorer inside the arc. His three-point shot is mediocre at the moment, but all signs indicate it will develop. His presence allows the Blazers to trade Damian Lillard should they desire since their next great point guard is already lined up. Portland has to be thrilled that Charlotte passed on Scoot.

In addition, the Blazers added an NBA-ready wing in Kris Murray (brother of Keegan Murray). Kris plays both sides of the court and can aid their championship pursuit immediately. Finally, Portland addressed their defense by selecting Rayan Rupert. He’s a long, sticky defender with excellent mirroring technique in the mold of Matisse Thybulle. Rupert’s offense is a complete mess, but Portland desperately needs his perimeter defense.

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs earned an A+ the moment they won the lottery because of Victor Wembanyama. He’s a generational interior defender with legitimate guard skills at 7’4”. In addition, they also made a nice selection at 44th by taking G League Ignite forward Sidy Cissoko. His outside shot and foul discipline remain a work in progress, but he brings excellent wing defense and finishing. Overall, San Antonio added two long-term pieces to their core, one of which is foundational.

A Grade

Charlotte Hornets

While Charlotte may regret passing on Scoot, Brandon Miller is by no means a consolation prize. He’s a tremendous three-level scorer that dominates on or off-ball. Miller’s defense is solid, and his size is desirable. For an NBA comparison, think Paul George. Miller fits perfectly next to LaMelo Ball and Mark Williams.

The Hornets also snagged three long-term pieces besides Miller. Nick Smith Jr is a 6’5” microwave scorer with playmaking chops; at a minimum, he fills the sixth man role to perfection. James Nnaji provides interior defense, rim protection, and rim-running. He has plenty of room to grow at 18-years-old, and he can back up Mark Williams for a long time. Finally, Amari Bailey is an excellent combo guard and three-point shooter. Overall, the Hornets added long-term talent at guard, forward, and center.

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas had one goal entering the draft: defense. They originally held the 10th pick, but they moved back two spots and traded Davis Bertans’ negative contract to Oklahoma City. Besides clearing his contract from the books, the Mavericks earned a $17M trade exception, which can be used to acquire a player under that mark without sending salary back. Therefore, Dallas cleared cap space, earned a valuable trading tool, and still managed to add a fantastic defender at 12th overall. Dereck Lively II is an instinctual rim protector, and his 7’7” wingspan will deter opponents from attacking the paint. He’s the best pick and roll partner that Luka Doncic has ever played with. Doncic turned Dwight Powell into the most efficient roll man in the NBA, so the sky’s the limit with Lively.

The Mavericks later used that exception to acquire Richaun Holmes and the 24th pick. Holmes is a traditional center that can be a solid backup center. He didn’t fit with Sacramento’s offensive direction, but he could still provide value in limited minutes for Dallas. The Mavericks used the pick on Olivier-Maxence Prosper, who is a stingy, versatile wing defender with shooting upside. Overall, Dallas snagged two impact defenders and upgraded from Bertans to Holmes.

Utah Jazz

What a draft for Utah! Taylor Hendricks is a monstrous defender with unreal anticipation and timing. The Jazz now possess a formidable defensive duo of Hendricks and Walker Kessler. Hendricks is also an effective three-point shooter with untapped self-creation potential. He fits perfectly next to Lauri Markkanen and Kessler, so Utah’s frontcourt is set.

The Jazz also added plenty of outside shooting as Keyonte George and Brice Sensabaugh are lethal from deep. Both can create off the dribble or act as an off-ball threat, so Utah’s offense received a massive boost here. The Jazz’s offense is now extremely versatile and dangerous at all levels. They will climb back into contention sooner than expected.

A- Grade

Detroit Pistons

Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey are cemented as the lead ball handlers for Detroit, while Jalen Duren headlines a talented but cramped center rotation. The Pistons needed to boost their wings, and Ausar Thompson obliges. He’s a defensive force at 6’7” that can also create for others as a secondary playmaker. His shooting numbers are grim, but his form isn’t broken. My NBA comparison was a blend of Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins, which would be a boon for Detroit.

They found a backup point guard too as Marcus Sasser does a little of everything. If he wasn’t 22-years-old and 6’2”, then Sasser may have cracked the top ten. Overall, the Pistons snagged two defenders and playmakers here that immediately improved the roster.

Indiana Pacers

  • Jarace Walker (8th)
  • Ben Sheppard (26th)
  • Mojave King (47th)
  • Isaiah Wong (55th)

The Pacers collected future second round picks by trading back from 7th to 8th and still selected their guy. Jarace Walker is a bruising, versatile defender that’s also light on his feet. He can space the floor and act as a quick decision passer too. Walker shares many traits with Draymond Green, who Indiana would love to have. The Pacers’ interior defense is stellar now with Walker and Myles Turner manning the paint.

Meanwhile, Sheppard spaces the court as a tremendous three-point shooter, and he’s a willing passer that makes semi-advanced reads. The defense is solid as well, so Indiana collected an impactful 3&D piece here. Finally, Mojave King of the G League Ignite steps in as an impressive athlete, decent defender and finisher, while Isaiah Wong is a combo guard with scoring chops.

New Orleans Pelicans

Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson ooze on-ball gravity inside the arc, so it’s essential to have three-point shooters stretching the floor. Trey Murphy III already accomplishes this to the highest degree, but New Orleans added yet another elite motion shooter that utilizes off-ball screens in Hawkins. He will place tremendous pressure on the three-point line and force the defense to constantly devote attention to him. Teams can never have enough shooting, and Hawkins fits this roster flawlessly. Like Gradey Dick for Toronto, Hawkins is perfect for New Orleans.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City values role-versatility, defense, ball handling, and unselfishness in their players. These traits define Cason Wallace, who fills a huge area of need as the bench point guard. Wallace is a sensational off-ball defender that can also blow up pick and rolls with ease. Plus, he spaces the court, orchestrates possessions, and owns a smooth touch around the basket. There are no exploitable flaws in Wallace’s game, which aligns with Oklahoma City’s roster construction goals. They did have to absorb Bertans’ bad contract to trade up (which knocks them down to an A-), but they can get out of it after next season and currently own plenty of cap space.

At 50th, Oklahoma City selected Keyontae Johnson from Kansas State. He provides self-creation and three-point shooting, which nicely complements their bench. Johnson would have gone far earlier in a recent draft if not for a massive health scare in 2020, but he’s been declared completely healthy. The Thunder grabbed a steal here!

Toronto Raptors

It appears as though Toronto is not tearing it down for a rebuild, so landing Gradey Dick is a boon for their roster. The Raptors are built on playmaking forwards that struggle with three-point shooting, and center Jakob Poeltl offers no outside shooting. Therefore, Dick’s off-ball gravity and movement shooting enhances their strengths and stretches the floor for them. He also stands tall at 6’8”, which is a trait that Toronto desires immensely. In addition, Dick is an opportunistic pull-up scorer and transition threat. Overall, Toronto injected their offense with a necessary burst of spacing.

B+ Grade

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets had back-to-back picks, and they wasted no time upgrading the roster. Clowney offers stifling defense, finishing around the basket, and an encouraging catch-and-shoot form. Clowney and Claxton are both big men that can thrive defending out on the perimeter, and it’s rare for a team to have two of these players.

Whitehead is a tough shot-maker and three-point sniper. The former consensus five-star recruit suffered a foot injury in the pre-season that sapped his athleticism, but there’s still hope he recovers most of it. Should this occur, then Whitehead could become a fringe All-Star scorer and complete steal at 22nd overall.

Finally, Jalen Wilson is an inside-the-arc scorer and capable rebounder. He just averaged 20.1 PPG for Kansas, but his perimeter shooting, separation, and defense are concerns at the NBA level. He may provide value as a bench scorer for Brooklyn if he addresses some of his weaknesses.

Golden State Warriors

Donte DiVincenzo likely leaves in free agency, so Brandin Podziemski can replace him as the main bench combo guard. Podziemski flourishes from three in both a catch-and-shoot and off-the-dribble role, which fits Golden State’s offensive philosophy. He’s a capable playmaker, quality rebounder, and crafty ball handler too.

Jackson-Davis offers zero outside shooting, but he’s an advanced interior scorer and dominant rebounder. His passing is excellent for a big man, which deems him a massive asset in Golden State’s system. Golden State found impactful players; however, they were knocked down to a B+ for passing on Cam Whitmore. He’s too talented (legit 25 PPG upside) to ignore at 19th despite the medical concerns.

Los Angeles Lakers

Hood-Schifino is a pick and roll magician, mid-range sniper, and lengthy perimeter defender. There are concerns about the first step, and his three-point shooting is shaky. This flaw raises questions about his fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but Hood-Schifino can certainly run the bench unit for Los Angeles. Whitmore would have been the superior selection though, especially considering Hood-Schifino’s shooting concerns.

Los Angeles brilliantly traded up seven spots to take Maxwell Lewis in the second round. He’s a first round talent that offers a 3&D skill set with realistic off-the-dribble scoring production. His playmaking is non-existent, but that’s no issue for Los Angeles’ roster.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves traded future seconds for the right to select Leonard Miller. He’s a sensational rebounder, excellent finisher, and budding ball handler and playmaker. That’s an unusual combination for a mobile 6’10” forward. Can the three-point shot develop? It will be the difference between starter and All-Star potential, but Minnesota got a steal either way as Miller ranked 13th on my Big Board.

Meanwhile, Jaylen Clark is a defensive menace on the wing but doesn’t own a clean jump shot. He also had a season-ending Achilles injury, so it’s unknown whether his athleticism remains intact. Although Clark was probably the best player available at 53rd, adding another non-shooter to a core featuring Rudy Gobert isn’t ideal.

The reason Minnesota doesn’t receive an A- is fit; the frontcourt is set. Jaden McDaniels and Rudy Gobert are locked in for the long-term, so trading Karl-Anthony Towns is essentially a must for Miller to see the minutes he deserves. If the Wolves do trade Towns , then this grade gets bumped to an A-. Otherwise, they may have been better off selecting Colby Jones to boost their guard rotation.

Washington Wizards

The Wizards traded future second round picks to move up one spot amid rumors that Oklahoma City was trying to trade up to 7th overall. Washington selected 18-year-old Bilal Coulibaly to kick off their rebuild. He’s a lengthy defensive pest that could reach an All-Defensive team at some point in his career. The 6’8” wing also has a decent shot and playmaking tools, but he’s not even close to scratching the surface on his potential yet. While Coulibaly was certainly a tantalizing prospect, there were superior options available to me. Jarace Walker and Cam Whitmore come to mind as either the best “safe” prospect or the biggest upside swing that Washington could have selected. However, Coulibaly is still intriguing, so they didn’t receive a poor grade for the pick.

Vukcevic is a three-point sniper at the center position, and he’s mobile for his size. His jumper is smooth at the mid-range too, and Vukcevic has solid touch around the basket. Can he survive on defense? Can he rebound? These are serious questions that Vukcevic must answer in order to earn a starting role because while three-point shooting centers are valuable, opponents hunt mismatches in the playoffs. Once again, the Wizards make a good but non-ideal selection here.

B Grade

Boston Celtics

  • Jordan Walsh (38th)

Jordan Walsh is a smart, sticky defender that flashed playmaking tools for Arkansas. The 6’6” forward can step into Grant Williams’ role off the bench and routinely out-hustle opponents. The pick was excellent, so why is Boston receiving a B? They held two picks in the mid 30s at one point before trading one of them for future picks. Given that they are pursuing a championship next season and the plethora of win-now players that were available, it would have been wise to make both selections. For example, combo guard Colby Jones was on the board at 34th overall, but Boston traded his rights to Sacramento.

Los Angeles Clippers

  • Kobe Brown (30th)
  • Jordan Miller (48th)

Kobe Brown is a two-way forward that displayed impressive finishing, self-creation, and playmaking skills. He was hyper-efficient from deep too at a 45.5 3PT% on 3.3 attempts per game. It’s worth noting that he shot a combined 23.7 3PT% across the previous three seasons, so it’s unknown whether he can sustain anything close to that efficiency. Even if he doesn’t, Brown still adds value around the basket and in the playmaking department.

Miller, meanwhile, is a phenomenal cutter and slashing wing that defends well. He definitely turned heads during Miami’s NCAA Tournament run. Overall, Los Angeles found two win-now wings to add to their already loaded roster.

Orlando Magic

In a vacuum, Anthony Black was a fine selection at 6th overall due to his stifling defense, playmaking, cutting, and ball handling. However, Orlando already has their ball-dominant stars in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, so guards that can shoot are a priority. That’s the exact area that Black struggles with, so spacing is an issue.

Jett Howard adds that three-point shooting, but 11th overall was a reach. Gradey Dick and Jordan Hawkins are superior three-point shooters, while Kobe Bufkin was that all-around combo guard that fits Orlando perfectly. Overall, the Magic acquired impactful players with bright futures, but there were better options based on fit and available talent.

Sacramento Kings

  • Colby Jones (34th)
  • Jalen Slawson (54th)

Colby Jones is a 6’5” combo guard out of Xavier that does everything well but nothing at an elite level. He can defend, shoot, pass, and play on or off-ball at a high level. At a minimum, Jones will thrive as a sixth or seventh man for many years. He fits perfectly with Sacrmanto’s style since they often run the offense through Sabonis at the elbow.

Slawson is an immediate defensive plus at 6’7” who can guard 2-4. He’s a phenomenal help defender that hopefully can boost Sacramento’s pitiful defense. There’s some playmaking to his game, but don’t expect much if any self-creation at the NBA level. Sacramento found one and perhaps two rotation players for next season’s playoff push.

B- Grade

Chicago Bulls

  • Julian Phillips (35th)

Phillips is a rangy defender with good on-ball anticipation and positional versatility. He recorded an astonishing 43” vertical at the combine that definitely popped on tape. He struggled mightily as an off-the-dribble scorer though, not to mention an inconsistent catch-and-shoot jumper. If he develops into a reliable spot up shooter, then the Bulls will have drafted a solid two-way player. They don’t receive a higher grade because Maxwell Lewis was on the board; he already impacts both ends of the court and has more offensive versatility than Phillips.

Miami Heat

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr (18th)

Jaquez Jr dominated as an isolation and post scorer with good court vision, passing, and rebounding. He’s an unconventional guard with subpar defensive tools, but he’s able to somewhat compensate through sheer grit and hustle. He’s a classic Miami Heat pick; however, his inconsistent three-point shot doesn’t aid an already inconsistent team. Plus, once again, Cam Whitmore was available to provide the offensive-creation and shooting they crave.

Milwaukee Bucks

  • Andre Jackson Jr (36th)
  • Chris Livingston (58th)

Milwaukee needed to add more playmaking to the lineup, and Jackson Jr obliges. He dazzled at UConn as an athletic defender that orchestrated possessions. Shooting is a massive concern, which is the reason he fell out of the first round. Given Giannis Antetokounmpo’s weak shooting, it’s unclear how effective Jackson Jr can be next to him in the long-term. For now, Jackson Jr can bring value off the bench.

Livingston was a highly-touted high school recruit that recently finished his freshman season at Kentucky. Slashing is his main weapon, and he holds his own defensively; however, Livingston struggles beyond those areas, especially as a shooter and playmaker. Again, that mold doesn’t exactly blend well with Giannis, so the long-term fit is questionable should he work his way into being a rotation player.

Phoenix Suns

  • Toumani Camara (52nd)

Camara is a decent playmaking big with a soft touch around the basket and developing three-point range. He has the tools to be a capable starter one day, but he needs more time to truly polish his game. Jackson-Davis could have contributed sooner for this all-in roster, but Camara was a solid pick.

C Grade

Atlanta Hawks

  • Kobe Bufkin (15th)
  • Mouhamed Gueye (39th)
  • Seth Lundy (46th)

Kobe Bufkin ranked 12th on my Big Board, so snagging him at 15th is value in a vacuum to me…but Atlanta? Their biggest flaw is absolutely no offensive creation from their frontcourt, and Cam Whitmore was sitting there for the taking. The Hawks also already roster Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, so this pick doesn’t quite make sense unless Murray is on the block after only one season. I’m high on Bufkin as a prospect and believe he complements Young nicely, but Whitmore had to be the pick there regardless of injury concerns. They cannot continue to trek forward with a De’Andre Hunter-John Collins duo.

Atlanta did somewhat bolster the frontcourt with Gueye, who is an extremely raw prospect. His mobility and solid three-point form at 6’11” is intriguing, but it likely takes years before he’s ready to start (if he ever makes that leap). It was too early to snag Gueye based on the available talent.

Finally, Lundy is a three-point marksman that can shoot coming off of screens. He spent four years at Penn State and really polished his offensive game, although the ceiling doesn’t extend beyond a low-level starter. Atlanta found a quality backup shooting guard here.

Denver Nuggets

  • Julian Strawther (29th)
  • Jalen Pickett (32nd)
  • Hunter Tyson (37th)

Entering the draft, Denver needed to add cheap win-now rookies that fit their system. Strawther shined across three seasons for Gonzaga as an efficient 6’7” motion three-point shooter. He doesn’t offer much beyond shooting and struggles defensively though. Next, the Nuggets attempted to prepare for Bruce Brown’s likely departure by selecting Jalen Pickett. He’s a pick and roll scorer and playmaker with an efficient outside shot. His defense is questionable though, and he’s undersized. Finally, Hunter Tyson adds three-point shooting and rebounding as a 6’8” forward. Again, defense isn’t his specialty.

It’s clear that Denver prioritized three-point shooting and experience, but they needed to add perimeter defense. It’s extremely rare to see rookie role players get meaningful playoff minutes if they are defensive liabilities. To me, the ideal draft would have been Kobe Brown (29th), Colby Jones (32nd), and Maxwell Lewis (37th): two-way guys that wouldn’t be constantly hunted during the playoffs. The Nuggets had a chance to really shore up their depth, but they missed the mark.

Memphis Grizzlies

GG Jackson was the number one prospect in the 2023 class before reclassifying and playing for South Carolina. The 18-year-old flashed isolation scoring in terms of his footwork and ability to create separation. His decision making and effectiveness off-ball is unknown, and the defensive motor was unacceptable. Jackson must improve his off-ball game because Morant, Bane, Jackson Jr, and Smart will dominate the possession. Overall, Memphis wasn’t a good fit for Jackson.

Biberovic is a draft-and-stash prospect that doesn’t help Memphis next season in the slightest. Trayce Jackson-Davis was on the board, who could have provided big man insurance for Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke.

D Grade

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Emoni Bates (49th)

Bates won National Player of the Year in high school before a subpar season at Memphis. He transferred to Eastern Michigan and found more success, but the same problems haunted him: inefficient shooting and poor defense. It’s essential that he builds muscle in order to handle the NBA physicality because he’s probably the skinniest guy in the league now. The self-creation flashes were there, but Bates doesn’t offer what Cleveland needs: a 3&D small forward.

Post
Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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