2023 JBL Mock Draft - Part 1
- By Andrew Taylor, Day 200, 2022
2023 Mock Draft – Part 1
Welcome to Part 1 of the 2023 JBL Mock Draft. In Part 1 we will be looking at the lottery (1-14). In this mock draft the Bullets GM Bedouin is making the odd numbered selections while the Scorpions GM RKG is making the even numbered picks.
1. Charlotte Drones
PG Isiah Evans (North Carolina) – For the entire season it has been clear that the top pick in the draft would come down to a choice between two players; PG Isiah Evans or SF Juwan Hughes. Both players clearly have the potential to grow into future franchise players with hall of fame potential. The argument for Hughes is that the team already selected a PG (Isaiah Leonard) in the 1st round last year and that Hughes could be capable of playing the 2 alongside SF Lucas Rush, the team’s current best player. But for my money the arguments for Evans are more convincing. Evans would immediately become the offensive leader of the team and his excellent 3pt shooting is a great fit for a team that ranked number 1 for 3pt attempts. Secondly with current starting PG Joe Layton heading into FA the team will still have a clear role for Leonard especially if they allow the 6’4 Evans to play off the ball at 2 guard periodically. But for me the strongest argument for Evans is that if you subscribe to the theory that the bookend positions (PG and C) are the most important and hardest to fill, then Evans is the obvious pick to pair with C Khalen Anthony.
2. Baltimore Bullets
SF Juwan Hughes (Louisville) – With Evans off the board it is a near certainty that the second pick in the draft will be Juwan Hughes. In fact, even if the Bullets had won the lottery my sense is they would have selected Hughes over Evans anyway as Evans was a usage monster and there could be questions about how he would fit in an egalitarian motion offense. Although Hughes does not have elite measurables for a wing at 6'7 and 6'11" wingspan, the versatility which the Bullets have with SG Reggie Goodwin (6'8 with 7'4 WS) allows Hughes to play at either SG or SF. Hughes projects to be an All-Pro player, and if he reaches his full ceiling, could be a potential Hall of Famer.
3. Minneapolis Blizzards
SG/SF Donovan Mobley (Connecticut) – Donovan Mobley (DoMo) enters the draft having just won tournament MVP and leading Connecticut to the CJBL championship. He is a phenomenal athlete with a well-rounded game and whilst he needs to work on his shooting this is hardly a deal breaker. He’s a nearly perfect fit for the Blizzards where he would likely slot in at SG alongside Deleon Slay at PG. This has the potential to be strong defensive combination and the presence of Lamar Claxton, who averaged the quietest 24.7ppg in history last year, will buy DoMo some time to develop his offensive game before he needs to take on a bigger role on that side of the ball.
4. Boston Crusaders
SF Zayveon West (Duke) - As mentioned on an earlier podcast, I do think Boston should seriously consider trading down and accumulate additional picks with the 4th overall selection. If they stay here, however, then the only thing the Crusaders do not need is a PG with PG Devon Harrell having that position locked down for the next decade. I am 50-50 whether Boston will go with a frontcourt player or a wing at this spot, but ultimately, I predict Boston will take a wing because the next best players on the board are wings. SG/SF Donovan Mobley, SF Zayveon West and SG Raefael Williams II ("RWII") have separated themselves as the elite wings in this class behind SF Juwan Hughes. In this exercise, Hughes and Mobley are off the board, leaving Boston a choice between West and RWII. Although RWII is currently rated higher than his Duke counterpart, I believe Boston would take West over RWII because West appears to be a better defender with 2-way potential. I have mentioned in the past that I liken West's potential to be similar to SF Derrick Griffin as a potentially elite defender with above average offensive upside. RWII appears that he will be a great offensive player, but it is questionable whether he has the defensive ceiling that West has. As such, Boston takes West at 4th overall.
5. Mexico City Jaguars
Omari Kamga (Memphis) – The Jaguars are already a quality side of the upswing so having a pick this high in the draft is both a free swing and yet may prove crucial in determining where this team’s ceiling will end up. With much of its starting lineup for the future already set in stone we anticipate that the team will look to add talent to its frontcourt. With two members of its front court rotation, Dvoracek and Odiambo, entering free agency adding a quality big would protect the team financially from having to chase either free agent if the prices got too high. If the team elects to take a big the choice will come down to two players; Omari Kamga and Georgetown C Markese Walton. Walton is the better offensive player but I ultimately believe the team will select Kamga over Walton as Kamga’s more refined jump shot should allow him to play further from the basket giving Hooker the room to go to work.
6. New York Renegades
PG Keyon Barber (Louisville) - The two most glaring issues with the Rens are at PG and PF, as the Rens took their C and SG in the lottery last year in C/PF Rashaan Haslem and SG Marcus Dunn, respectively. It does not appear that the Rens have any plans on moving SF Jerome Bradley (although I suggest in a podcast that they should seriously consider it). Whereas the frontcourt talent in this draft appears to be bunched together, PG Keyon Barber appears to be the second-best PG in the class by a mile. Since the Rens have a later lottery pick coming up at #11 overall, they can probably wait on their PF until that draft pick and still have their selection of 2 or 3 similarly rated frontcourt prospects. As such, the sense is that the Rens will resolve their PG position now and PF position later in the lottery. Alternatively, it would be interesting if the Rens wanted to try and trade up for the #1 overall pick to nab PG Isiah Evans as they have the draft capital to get in the mix. If PG is not the pick, then PF/C Omari Kanga (if available) is the likely selection here. If for whatever reason, both of those players are gone, then I would think the Rens would really look at trading back and acquiring future picks to continue building.
7. St. Louis Skyhawks
SG/SF Dominique Harmon (USC) – In a deeper PG draft the Skyhawks might be looking to select a lead guard at this spot but given the board and some of the PG talent present later in the draft (The Skyhawks also hold pick 16) I anticipate that the team will be looking to add a wing at this spot. As such the team will most likely be looking to make a decision between Duke’s Raefael Williams II and USC’s Dominique Harmon. I ultimately believe the team will go for Harmon, a likely contentious pick. The reasons for this decision are that the team already has a 6’8 SG who requires further development in Malik Phillips and that I believe Harmon is the more pro-ready prospect of the two. Secondly Harmon is a true swingman, rather than a tall SG, and the Skyhawks current starting SF Donnell Wallace is entering FA this year. Given the possibility that the bidding on Wallace could get quite rich, selecting Harmon would be insurance against this possibility.
8. Nashville Stars
SG Raefael Williams II (Duke) - The Stars luck out in a big way when the last of the 3 best wings falls to them at #8. The Stars have PG Mohammad Shakur and C/PF Brandon Weir, so a young wing seems like the best option. Taking RW2 would also allow the Stars to move SG Cameron Nix and attempt to resolve their lockerroom. If they can convince Tezele Craig to stay, then RW2 can play alongside him. If RW2 is gone at this pick, then I think SG/SF Dominique Harmon or C Markese Walton could be the pick. Walton does have offensive upside that would be a nice balance for Weir.
9. Dallas Predators
PF Zion Jeffries (Ohio State) – Whilst the Predators will be disappointed to narrowly miss adding Raefael Williams II to play alongside the height challenged Wade the team will likely be thrilled with the availability of Zion Jeffries. With the Predators likely to part ways with Robert Weekes this offseason the team will have a hole at the starting four position, a hole that Jeffries will fit perfectly. In the last draft the team selected their centre of the future in DeAndre Stackhouse, a big body that plays close to the rim. In this draft they will be able to add Jeffries, perhaps the best stretch 4 prospect in the last 3 drafts. A skilled shooter from outside, he will help address the scoring deficiencies of a team that finished last year 29th in Offensive Rating.
10. Baltimore Bullets
C Markese Walton (Georgetown) - I believe Walton would have rivaled C/Latrell Mason had he been a draft prospect in 2021, so the Bullets getting him here would be a great steal. Walton finished 2nd in the entire CJBL in PER last year, behind only generational talent SF Josiah Robinson. He may not have the defensive ceiling that PF/C Omari Kanga or C Derrick Malone have, but he has the highest offensive ceiling of any frontcourt player in this draft. C Dimitri Illic is still a work in progress, so Walton would be a nice hedge in development. I also suspect PF Zion Jeffries would receive interest here if he was still available, based on his 2-way potential.
11. New York Renegades
C/PF Deshawn Hawkins (Connecticut) – Having taken PG Barber with their first selection in this draft the Renegades will likely be looking to fill their last remaining hole; PF. Whilst Shakiem Fontaine is a capable player he is more of a center and I believe would be better served as the third big in the rotation. The team will be disappointed to miss out on Jeffries who would have fit perfectly but will be happy with Hawkins who can play both the 4 and the 5. He wins out over other likely candidates like Cooper and Harrison as he has the best outside shot and perimeter defensive skills which should help the teams spacing with Haslem staying close to home.
12. Baltimore Bullets
SG/PG Jordan Timberlake (Kentucky) - Baltimore loves to acquire players who can play multiple positions, and JT certainly seems to have that ability. At 6’8” with a 7.1” wingspan, he has the size of the wing but ball handling skills of a guard. He looks very similar to Hilton Phillips, not a traditional point guard but a player who can create mismatches on the perimeter based on his size and tenaciousness on defense. With the Bullets running a motion system, I think a traditional assist-getting PG is of a lower priority. If, however, Isiah Evans is available at #2, then I could see the Bullets going wing at this pick with either Dejuan Brooks or Demarr Wilson.
13. Las Vegas Scorpions
PF JJ Cooper (Villanova) – Although they survived their first round series against the Tritons the injury to Wesley Sherman highlighted the Scorpions’ weak depth at the power forward position. Luckily for them there are some strong big men candidates at this stage of the draft however I won’t bother listing them because one of them is JJ Cooper. Cooper went to Villanova. The end.
14. Mexico City Jaguars
C Qwan Songaila (Memphis) - At this point, I believe Mexico City takes the best player available and Qwan is a potential Top 5 talent who may slide because most of the lottery teams already have young frontcourt talent. Although Qwan does not look like an elite scorer, keep in mind that he did average 29 ppg in high school, so he may have a higher ceiling than other frontcourt players in this draft. Even though we project the Jaguars to go frontcourt with PF/C Omari Kanga at the 5th overall pick, there will still be opportunities for playing time behind Khalil Hooker because all of their other frontcourt players are free agents. Besides, Mexico City may even receive a performance bump as Kanga and Songalia are used to playing next to each other from their one year with the CJBL Memphis Tigers. Alternatively, I can see the Jaguars going wing with this pick because they are similarly thing with SF/SG Antonio Vega a restricted free agent, so they could go with Dejuan Brooks, Jevon Noble or Demarr Wilson at this pick if available.