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NBA mock draft 2023 2.0: Would James Harden return to Houston to play with Victor Wembanyama?

Here’s our second mock for the 2023 NBA Draft.

Levallois Met 92 v Strasbourg - LNB Pro A
Victor Wembanyama of Metropolitans 92 reacts during warmup before the Betclic Elite match between Metropolitans 92 and Strasbourg on April 08, 2023 in Levallois-Perret, France.
Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

In our first mock of 2023 NBA Draft, we saw the Trail Blazers land the No. 1 overall selection from the lottery. It’s only right to forecast other scenarios involving different teams winning the top pick. Here’s our second mock of the how the 2023 lottery and draft will go. The lottery simulation is courtesy of Tankathon.

2023 NBA Draft lottery results and picks

1. Houston Rockets - Victor Wembanyama, France

Wembanyama is going first overall in every mock draft regardless of which team wins the lottery. There are much bigger implications here, as guard James Harden has reportedly considered returning to Houston and will be a free agent. The opportunity to join Wembanyama, considered the greatest basketball prospect since LeBron James, might be too tempting to pass up. The Rockets would accelerate their rebuild tremendously with this result.

2. Utah Jazz - Scoot Henderson, G-League Ignite

The Jazz do have some intriguing backcourt pieces with Ochai Agbaji and Collin Sexton, but Henderson still makes sense here. Utah can move Agbaji to the bench in a playmaking role on the second unit, while Henderson and Sexton look to be the backcourt of the future.

3. Orlando Magic - Brandon Miller, Alabama

The Magic might consider trading this pick, especially since they have plenty of young wings and could use a veteran presence. Miller at this spot is too good to pass up, and he’ll join a loaded perimeter rotation featuring Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero. Orlando could be a team that makes the big jump in 2023-24.

4. Detroit Pistons - Jarace Walker, Houston

The Pistons are unfortunate to be put in this spot, but Walker actually does fill a need for them as a combo forward who can double as a small-ball center. Detroit is going to keep accumulating talent and deal with the fit later, so Walker is the pick here.

5. San Antonio Spurs - Gradey Dick, Kansas

This is a nightmare scenario for the Spurs, who fall out of the top 3 entirely. Dick is a versatile player who fits well in San Antonio’s system, but he’s not the franchise-changing guy the team was banking on landing in this draft. He should still be a key cog in the rotation immediately with his ability to create and shoot.

6. Charlotte Hornets - Ausar Thompson, Overtime Elite

The Hornets remain here, and we’ll give them Thompson again. The fit next to LaMelo Ball makes sense, especially for defensive coverage. Thompson will have to work on his overall offensive game but his versatility will be nice for Charlotte.

7. Portland Trail Blazers - Amen Thompson, Overtime Elite

There are several directions the Blazers can go, and they are candidates to trade this pick for a veteran. If they do stay in this spot, the other Thompson makes sense as an upside play. There are several guards Portland could take, but Thompson offers a better overall fit for the roster in the long-term vision.

8. Indiana Pacers - Cam Whitmore, Villanova

The Pacers seem to be set at the guard spots and on the interior, so adding a wing player makes sense. Whitmore doesn’t exactly come in as an immediate contributor, but he’s got the talent and potential to be a strong long-term fit with this roster.

9. Washington Wizards - Taylor Hendricks, UCF

Hendricks has been rising up draft boards and he makes sense here, despite the Wizards having a somewhat crowded frontcourt rotation. His perimeter shooting and defensive range make him a potential steal at this slot, and Washington could be making some other moves to accommodate Hendricks’ development.

10. Dallas Mavericks - Gregory Jackson, South Carolina

The Mavericks maintain their draft pick and take Jackson here. He potentially has an immediate role with Christian Wood set to enter free agency, and Dallas has a need on the interior. He’ll need to improve his efficiency offensively, but he fits the mold of the player the Mavericks hope to have around Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.

11. Orlando Magic (via Bulls) - Jordan Hawkins, UConn

At some point, the Magic are going to have to sort out their perimeter rotation and potentially make some trades. Hawkins at this spot is too good to pass up, especially given his proficiency from behind the arc. He’s an excellent fit next to Wagner and Banchero.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Keyonte George, Baylor

The Thunder are largely set in the backcourt and interior, so George might not have an immediate role in this rotation. However, he does provide some nice depth and is fluid enough to be part of three-guard lineups. He’ll need to improve his perimeter game to carve out a bigger role, especially if the Thunder maintain their competitiveness from this past season.

13. Toronto Raptors - Cason Wallace, Kentucky

The Raptors have their choice of point guards here and they decide to take Wallace, who made big strides during the last month at Kentucky. He should have an immediate role as the backup point guard and could take on more minutes if Gary Trent Jr. isn’t retained.

14. New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Black, Arkansas

The Pelicans might be getting a steal here, especially if Black can improve his perimeter shooting. The defensive potential is there and Black has the passing chops to be a strong facilitator for New Orleans’ bevy of scoring options.