NBA teams often separate prospects by positions to make it easier to picture their roles and fits:
- Primary ball-handlers run the show and dominate the ball.
- Combo guards split time playing on and off the ball.
- Wings are usually taller than 6'5", play the 2 or 3 and can typically create and/or shoot.
- Combo forwards play the 3 or 4, with both perimeter skill and the ability to score or defend around the basket.
- Bigs typically need to offer rebounding and shot-blocking, while more perimeter skill allows them to play power forward.
When teams struggle to identify the best player available, they often look at their positional rankings and draft the prospect who fits best with the roster.
Let's take a look at who ranks where among 2023 NBA draft prospects, position by position.
5. Amari Bailey (UCLA, Freshman)
Bailey's playmaking came alive after Jaylen Clark's injury, and it was on full display at the NBA combine, where he consistently and unselfishly used his handle and passing IQ to set up teammates. He'll be valued most for his facilitating early, though he should still pose a scoring threat with his pull-up and tough shot-making inside the arc.
4. Jalen Hood-Schifino (Indiana, Freshman)
At 6'4" with a 6'10" wingspan, Hood-Schifino has excellent physical tools for a lead guard, a position he's best suited for based on his pull-up game, passing skill and struggles scoring off the ball. Turnovers have been an issue, though they come with his confidence and creativity. An advanced mid-range game (42.3 percent) and 77.6 free-throw percentage highlight a shooting touch that he could use to improve from three. Some acrobatic finishes create some optimism around his inefficiency at the rim. And flashy assists and previous tape running Montverde Academy's offense suggest he will be capable of playing point guard full time.
3. Cason Wallace (Kentucky, Freshman)
Though not the most explosive or creative, Wallace still has the right skill set and instincts for a lead guard. He uses timeliness over burst to get to spots, and he can capitalize from each with his pull-up (41.2 percent), floater, finishing ability (64.2 percent) and passing IQ. Extra NBA space and freedom could wind up bringing more of his creativity to life.
2. Amen Thompson (Overtime Elite, 2003)
Ideally, Thompson lands with a team that gives him the freedom to consistently bring the ball up and make the first play. There isn't another NBA player in the 6'7" range with his quickness, handle, passing and athletic ability at the rim. He'll be less effective off the ball due to his shooting struggles; but on the ball, in transition and at the point of attack, he offers tremendous downhill scoring and playmaking potential.
1. Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite, PG, 2004)
Henderson projects as a lead guard with the ability to create advantages using explosiveness and ball-handling, and then capitalize with playmaking ability, tough finishes, floaters and pull-ups. For the Charlotte Hornets at No. 2 overall, his archetype does raise questions about how he'll fit alongside LaMelo Ball, who'd have to adapt to more of an off-ball role. But in a vacuum, Henderson possesses the type of extreme burst, change of direction and shot-making that historically translates to high-level creation and star-level scoring.
5. Brandin Podziemski (Santa Clara, Sophomore)
One of the draft's most productive players, Podziemski should offer enough shot-making skill, floater touch, passing and rebounding instincts to overcome physical and athletic limitations. Though the lack of burst and length may make it difficult to execute with the same efficiency he did against WCC defenses, it's worth betting on his range, shot-making versatility and playmaking IQ translating to functional/rotational scoring and facilitating.
4. Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas, Freshman)
Shot-making versatility and feel for cutting are the draws to Smith's scoring potential. He hasn't shown enough as a playmaker for NBA teams to trust in a lead-guard role, but his potential to connect off pull-ups, floaters, catch-and-shoot threes and movement—and still offer some pick-and-roll passing—should work well from either the starting 2 spot or a sixth-man type role.
3. Keyonte George (Baylor, Freshman)
George will be viewed as more of a scoring 2-guard than a combo, though certain lineups may value his self-creation and pull-up shooting from the point of attack. Despite an inconsistent freshman season, his shot-making skill/versatility remains highly convincing. And while he'll be valued most for providing scoring firepower and shooting, high-level passing flashes point to some untapped playmaking potential. There will be an early emphasis on improving his shot selection, which should also help raise his efficiency as a finisher.
3. Kobe Bufkin (Michigan, Sophomore)
Bufkin will look highly adaptable with his 6'4" size (socks), pick-and-roll savvy, off-ball shot-making and outstanding finishing around the basket. There is room for him to improve in each area, but he's already plenty competent with his passing reads/delivery, pull-up, catch-and-shoot game and touch shots off drives. The fact that he shot 48.9 percent on long two-point jumpers and 84.9 percent from the free-thrown also make it easy to see his 1.3 three-point makes and 35.5 percentage each rise.
1. Anthony Black (Arkansas, Freshman)
Giving Black a set position seems pointless, as he figures to split time handling the ball, moving it as a passer, playing out of spot-ups and cutting. Questions about his self-creation and shooting have had scouts question his lead-guard potential and scoring upside. But we've seen similarly limited jumbo playmakers like Black recently succeed (Scottie Barnes, Josh Giddey, Franz Wagner) using their positional height attacking, finishing, IQ and defensive tools.
5. Brice Sensabaugh (Ohio State, Freshman)
While the traditional eye test can have trouble buying a 235-pound wing and limited athlete, passer and defender, Sensabaugh's self-creation skill, shot-making versatility and outstanding efficiency are too compelling. He wound up averaging 16.3 points in just 24.5 minutes with 58.7 true shooting percentage, consistently scoring on defenses with spot-up threes, pull-ups and fallaways from the post and mid-range.
4. Dariq Whitehead (Duke, Freshman)
Injuries and a limited role kept Whitehead from looking like the same shot-creating scorer he was at Montverde Academy. The 6'6", 18-year-old wing still hit 42.9 percent of his threes, and with another upcoming surgery to repair a foot issue that didn't heal, there is a chance he gains back explosiveness for driving and finishing at the rim, where he struggled this past season.
3. Gradey Dick (Kanas, Freshman)
In the second half of the lottery, teams will start ignoring upside and valuing Dick's ability to provide instant value with his shooting, play-finishing and IQ. He'll begin his career as a plug-and-play, spot-up shot-maker, and he figures to gradually add more pull-up scoring and ball-screen offense to his game as his role and confidence expand.
2. Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite, 2003)
Thompson will earn consideration as high as No. 4 overall based on his unbeatable athletic traits, ball-handling for self-creation, defensive upside and correctable shooting. Though the team that drafts him will have to stay patient with his decision-making (shot selection, turnovers) and inconsistent jumper, he still figures to offer value early as an easy-basket weapon, wing stopper and secondary playmaker.
1. Brandon Miller (Alabama, Freshman)
The combination of 6'9" size, three-point volume, shot-making versatility, live-dribble passing and defensive playmaking has scouts picturing one of the league's next star wings. Becoming one will mean having to improve his handle and burst for creation and finishing adjustments. But the strengths all seem likely to translate, given Miller's positional size, shooting accuracy off the catch and dribble and the eye test on some of his one-handed assists.
5. Kris Murray (Iowa, PF, Junior)
Though Murray may not offer much creation outside of post-ups, his shot-making off spot-ups and screens, cutting, offensive rebounding and transition offense point to plug-and-play, off-ball scoring. His game and age (22) aren't historically synonymous with upside, but he figures to look like an easy fit and rookie contributor for the majority of teams in the mid-to-late first round.
4. GG Jackson (South Carolina, PF, Freshman)
Shooting versatility and self-creation flashes fuel enticing scoring potential for Jackson. Certain teams may see the draft's youngest prospect and show more willingness to look past his 41.9 two-point percentage, poor assist-to-turnover ratio and weak defensive awareness. At this point, the ball-handling and tough shot-making separate Jackson and drive his offensive value. He'll need to use his first few years in the league improving his decision-making, execution converting drives and defense.
3. Taylor Hendricks (Central Florida, Freshman)
Hendricks offers a valued, translatable mix of shooting and defensive versatility. His physical tools, jump shot, athletic plays at the rim and foot speed scream high floor and easy fit. The challenge for teams is assessing the likelihood of Hendricks adding more off-the-dribble skill and improving his finishing touch off self-creation.
2. Cam Whitmore (Villanova, Freshman)
While Whitmore's size and scoring flashes may point to an NBA wing, teams may want to use him at power forward, where he can match up physically (235 lbs), exploit bigs off the dribble and not hold as much playmaking responsibility. Regardless of position, his explosiveness and power should instantly translate to easy baskets, steals and blocks. And he's flashed enough of a first move off the dribble and shot-making to sporadically score off drives, spot-up threes and step-backs.
1. Jarace Walker (Houston, PF, Freshman)
Aside from Victor Wembanyama, Walker has the most impressive mix of physical tools and skill versatility, a combination that stretches scouts' imaginations. At 249 pounds with a 7'2½" wingspan—numbers that highlight strength and length for overpowering around the basket and smothering defensively—he's a threat to hit threes, attack closeouts, use floaters, pass off the dribble and occasionally execute self-creation into jump shots. He just has to improve at finishing his own drives and containing wings better in space.
5. James Nnaji (Barcelona, C, 2004)
The appeal to Nnaji stems strictly from his physical tools, motor and instincts for finishing and defending—strengths that appear translatable to a simplified role considering they're earning him minutes in Euroleague at 19 years old. It's just difficult to picture exciting upside with a center who doesn't handle, shoot or score from the post. Teams interested in Nnaji figure to value the idea of adding a depth and a role player with a pick in the Nos. 20-40 range.
4. Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana, PF/C, Senior)
Improved passing and shot-blocking should create enough versatility for Jackson-Davis to justify minutes, after he entered the season as mostly a post scorer and finisher. His future NBA team will still value him most for his ability to create playing back-to-the-basket, convert rolls and putback misses. He'll have a better chance at seeing early minutes alongside a stretch 4 or 5.
3. Noah Clowney (Alabama, PF, Freshman)
The potential value tied to Clowney's mix of physical tools and shooting will have NBA teams willing to look past his raw offense and lack of consistency at Alabama. A patient team could be rewarded in a few years with a stretch 4/5 and effective play-finisher, active rebounder and shot-blocking presence, though he'll need time on the bench and reps in the G League to improve his range, post skill and comfort level defending away from the basket.
2. Dereck Lively II (Duke, C, Freshman)
Lively's 12.7 block percentage ranks as one of the highest among recent one-and-done freshmen, and his length and mobility suggest the interior defense is translatable. He also made encouraging improvement throughout the year anticipating and reacting in rim protection and pick-and-roll coverage. The high school tape showed more shooting potential than he was able to flash at Duke. Until the range reappears, he'll serve as an easy-basket finisher and shot-blocker.
1. Victor Wembanyama (Metropolitans 92, PF/C, 2004)
As a 7'5", 19-year-old, Wembanyama's shooting range, ball-handling for self-creation, shot-making versatility, elite finishing and defensive range have resulted in NBA teams wondering if he is the best prospect in 20 years. The fact that it hasn't just been flashes—it's been consistent production and impact that have the Metropolitans 92 in the LNB Pro playoff semifinals—makes his case even more unique and convincing. The San Antonio Spurs will instantly become tougher to defend and score on in 2023-24 with Wembanyama expected to receive featured touches and protect the rim alongside Jeremy Sochan.
Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports-Reference.com