NBA Draft

NBA Draft: Who came next after Wembanyama?


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NBA Draft: Who came next after Wembanyama?

NUMBER TWO. Alabama's Brandon Miller (right) poses with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected second by the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft.

Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The Hornets opt for Alabama's Brandon Miller, guard-heavy Blazers land Scoot Henderson, while Thompson twins Amen and Ausur went back-to-back in the top five

The least surprising part of the 2023 NBA Draft was the first overall selection.

The San Antonio Spurs confirmed the least protected secret in sports when they chose French phenom Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday in New York.

Wembanyama, 19, is considered the most coveted draft prospect since LeBron James in 2003.

“This is accomplishing something that I have been dreaming of my whole life,” Wembanyama said on ESPN’s broadcast.

“Hearing that sentence from (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver, I’ve dreamed of it so much that I have to cry, man.”

Listed at 7-foot-4, Wembanyama is expected to be an immediate difference-maker in the NBA. He has strong floor play, likes to shoot from outside and is effective in the interior.

But who came next after the French phenom?

Alabama forward Brandon Miller went No. 2 overall to the Charlotte Hornets, and G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson went third to the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Thompson twins went back-to-back to round out the top five selections. Amen Thompson went to the Houston Rockets at No. 4 and Ausar Thompson went fifth to the Detroit Pistons.

THOMPSON TWINS. Both Amen Thompson (left) and Ausar Thompson land in the top five of the 2023 NBA Draft. – Reuters

The Overtime Elite products are the first brothers to be selected in the first round of the same draft since Markieff Morris (13th to the Phoenix Suns) and Marcus Morris (14th to the Rockets) in 2011. 

They are also just the second set of brothers to be selected in the top five, joining Lonzo Ball (No. 2 to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017) and younger brother LaMelo (No. 3 to the Hornets in 2020).

Torn between Miller and Henderson

Charlotte was torn between choosing Miller or Henderson. The Hornets ultimately went with Miller, who is a better fit with point guard LaMelo Ball.

“I think I kind of fill in a place for him,” Miller said of Ball. “He’s a great vet now and he has the most experience. I know he will be the big brother for me away from home.”

Miller was the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year during his one college season. He was the Crimson Tide’s top scorer (18.8 points per game) and rebounder (8.2 per game) while contributing 2.1 assists per contest.

The 6-foot-9 forward, who said he models his game after Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, led Alabama to 31 wins and a No. 1 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. 

PORTLAND’S PICK. The Portland Trail Blazers select Scoot Henderson third overall. – Reuters

“Obviously there were two players that were heavily considered,” Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said Thursday night without referencing Henderson.

“It wasn’t the easiest of decisions. Brandon was our favorite all along. A lot of spirited discussion in the last three or four days, which I welcome.”

Shooting death

Kupchak said he wasn’t aware of fans at the draft reacting to the Hornets’ pick with boos. He said six teams showed “strong interest” in trading up to select second, but Kupchak never felt compelled to move the pick.

More scrutiny could follow for Kupchak and Miller, as Ball’s contract status is on the list of Hornets’ concerns. Ball will be eligible for restricted free agency in July 2024.

Miller also can expect to face continued questions about an alleged connection to the shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris on January 15 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Darius Miles, formerly an Alabama basketball player, and Michael Davis were charged with capital murder in the shooting. Police testimony included allegations Miller answered Miles’ request to bring him the weapon ultimately used in the shooting. 

Miller has not been charged, and police said no charges are being considered.

Pure point guard

The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t blink when the 19-year-old Henderson, rated as the best pure point guard in the draft, was available with the third overall pick.

Henderson averaged 16.1 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game in two seasons in the G League.

“They’re getting a dog that’s gonna come in and be hungry,” Henderson said stage-side in an ESPN TV interview. 

“I’m young, but I’ve got a mature mindset, and that’s to work and to come in and make a real impact, not just the basketball side, but the community. So they’re getting a special player, a special person.”

Special would also apply to the Blazers’ collection of backcourt talent.

All-Star Damian Lillard is 33 but said he is committed to remaining with the team. The Blazers drafted guard Shaedon Sharpe at No. 7 overall in 2022, and shooting guard Anfernee Simons, the No. 24 overall pick in 2018, averaged 21.1 points and 4.1 assists last season.

Thompson twins make history

Amen Thompson, a 6-6 guard, averaged 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.3 steals last season, his second with Overtime Elite.

“I’m excited to be a Rocket… just playing with these athletic guys,” Amen said. “I feel like my best brand of basketball is running. We’re a young team.”

Ausar Thompson, a swingman, averaged 16.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 2.4 steals last season.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Ausar said of being drafted in the top five along with his brother. “It feels nice to make history with Amen.”

POWER SUIT. Taylor Hendricks reacts after being selected ninth by the Utah Jazz in the first round. – Reuters

At No. 6, the Orlando Magic chose Arkansas guard Anthony Black. The Indiana Pacers followed by picking French forward Bilal Coulibaly, who was a teammate of Wembanyama on the Metropolitans 92. The Washington Wizards took forward Jarace Walker at No. 8.

Minutes later, Indiana traded Coulibaly to the Wizards for Walker and two 2028 second-round draft picks.

UCF forward Taylor Hendricks went No. 9 to the Utah Jazz. The Dallas Mavericks chose Kentucky guard Cason Wallace to round out the top 10, then traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with forward Davis Bertans for No. 12 pick Dereck Lively II, a center from Duke.

Juwan Howard’s son

The other lottery selections were Michigan guard Jett Howard at No. 11 to the Orlando Magic, Kansas guard Gradey Dick at No. 13 to the Toronto Raptors and UConn guard Jordan Hawkins at No. 14 to the New Orleans Pelicans. Hawkins starred during the Huskies’ run to the national championship.

The Atlanta Hawks chose Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin at No. 15 as he and Howard became the first set of top 15 Wolverines’ draft picks since 1994.

Juwan Howard, the current Michigan coach and father of Jett, went fifth overall to the then-Washington Bullets that year, and Jalen Rose was selected 13th by the Denver Nuggets.

The Jazz selected Baylor guard Keyonte George at No. 16, the Lakers tabbed Indiana guard Jalen Hood-Schifino at No. 17, and the Miami Heat chose UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. at No. 18.

At No. 19, the Golden State Warriors picked Santa Clara guard Brandin Podziemski. Villanova forward Cam Whitmore, projected by some draft prognosticators as a top-five pick, finally went off the board at No. 20 to the Rockets.

Late first round

Among the late first-round selections, Iowa forward Kris Murray was chosen by Portland at No. 23. Murray is the twin brother of Keegan Murray, who set the NBA rookie record for three-point baskets (206) last season.

Houston guard Marcus Sasser was selected 25th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies and is expected to be dealt to the Pistons. He was the Cougars’ first consensus first-team All-American since Hakeem Olajuwon (1983-84 season).

Gonzaga guard Julian Strawther was picked at No. 29 by the Pacers, and he is expected to end up with the NBA champion Denver Nuggets. 

The final pick of the first round was Missouri forward Kobe Brown, chosen by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Collapsed on court

In the second round, the Thunder selected Kansas State guard/forward Keyontae Johnson with the 50th overall pick. 

Johnson, then playing for Florida, collapsed on the court during a game in December 2020 and was in a medically induced coma for three days. He returned to action last season at Kansas State, and last month an NBA panel cleared him to play in the league.

Kansas first-team All-America forward Jalen Wilson went at No. 51 to the Brooklyn Nets.

UCLA guard Jaylen Clark, the Naismith Defensive Player of Year who stayed in the draft despite tearing his right Achilles tendon in March, got selected 53rd overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Another first-team All-American, Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, got picked by the Wizards at No. 57.

Kentucky center Oscar Tshiebwe, the National Player of Year in 2021-2022, and UConn forward Adama Sanogo, the Most Outstanding Player at the 2023 Final Four, went undrafted. –

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