A number of NBA rookies in recent years have made an immediate impact. There should be plenty from the 2023 draft class ready to produce right away as well.
The buzz around Victor Wembanyama's NBA debut has been building. The San Antonio Spurs figure to give him every opportunity to showcase his rare scoring fluidity for a 7'4" 19-year-old.
Meanwhile, Scoot Henderson's potential to produce Rookie of the Year type numbers will be heavily impacted by what the Portland Trail Blazers choose to do with Damian Lillard.
Taking into account each player's translatable skills, projected roles and team depth charts, we made stat predictions for every lottery pick from the 2023 NBA draft.
Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs
Projected stats: 17.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 2.2 BPG, 45.0 FG%, 28.0 3FG%
Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell are good bets to lead the San Antonio Spurs in scoring again. But Victor Wembanyama should still be expecting a high-usage role for a team with limited frontcourt depth and prospect development as its No. 1 priority.
He figures to be used often as a screener, given the unmatchable target he becomes while rolling to the rim and popping out for three. Tre Jones averaged 6.6 assists last year without a quality big man. Between his passing IQ and Wembanyama's 8'0" wingspan and mobility, the rookie should continue to fall into easy-basket opportunities without having to work too hard.
Wembanyama's length, movement and timing will naturally translate to regular shot-blocking as well, even if some centers are able to move or bully him around the low block. Walker Kessler was able to block 2.3 shots in 23.0 minutes per game as a rookie, and Wembanyama, who averaged 3.0 blocks in France's top pro league, should receive more playing time in his first season.
Wembanyama's 27.3 three-point percentage and 1.3 makes per game last year seems accurate when painting a picture of where he stands as a shooter. He should have the freedom and confidence to attempt between four and five threes per game, and he'll go through ups and downs while appearing both competent and inconsistent.
Over an 82-game season, Wembanyama should generate plenty of highlights by creating into drives and speciality shots like step-backs and fallaways. It's also reasonable to expect on-and-off execution in those one-on-one situations as a 19-year-old starter.
Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets
Projected stats: 10.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 40.0 FG%, 33.0 3FG%
Brandon Miller's role with the Charlotte Hornets figures to look different from the one he played at Alabama, where he was a top option and pick-and-roll ball-handler.
LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and even Gordon Hayward will force Miller into spot-up-heavy minutes. That's where he's currently best, drilling threes off the catch.
Miller's combination of 6'9" size and advanced shot-making should translate to buckets right away, regardless of how many chances he gets to regularly create. However, he struggled with execution in ball-screen and isolation situations last year at Alabama. While more spacing could lead to extra quality finishing opportunities, he is likely to have trouble converting half-court drives with standout burst or vertical pop.
We should see a decent amount of Miller's live-dribble passing ability, as he excels at whipping one-handers across the floor.
Hayward, a trade candidate with an expiring contact, also hasn't played more than 50 games in a season since he arrived in Charlotte. Miller's role figures to increase during the second half of the season once Charlotte is likely eliminated from the playoff picture.
Scoot Henderson, Portland Trail Blazers
Projected stats: 15.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 42.0 FG%, 30.0 3FG%
Damian Lillard's future with the Portland Trail Blazers will have a huge impact on Scoot Henderson's rookie role.
Despite no reported traction on any trades, it's still difficult to picture Lillard in Portland moving forward, especially after the Blazers just drafted a 19-year-old point guard. A world with the seven-time All-Star elsewhere (or holding out) would open a door for Henderson to put up similar numbers to the ones he put up for the G League Ignite last year: 17.6 points, 6.4 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Dealing Lillard would presumably change Portland's goals and make prospect development its No. 1 priority. That would mean putting Henderson in a starting role that's focused on building his reps as a decision-maker and facilitator while Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant and breakout candidate Shaedon Sharpe are used as go-to scorers.
At this point, it seems likely that draft picks will be the key assets Portland receives in any Lillard trade, so a deal shouldn't impact Henderson's potential to produce. His shiftiness and burst off the dribble should create plenty of playmaking opportunities, and though using him as a playmaker will also lead to a high turnover rate, he's proven enough as a passer to expect 6.5 assists per game.
Henderson should also consistently earn himself finishing and free-throw attempts with his ball-handling and explosiveness. His jumper will be erratic based on his love for the mid-range and inconsistent three-ball, but his pull-up should continue to serve as a useful weapon for three-level scoring.
Amen Thompson, Houston Rockets
Projected stats: 8.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 42.0 FG%, 25.0 3FG%
Amen Thompson's Rookie of the Year odds took a major hit when the Houston Rockets signed Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks in free agency. The No. 4 pick now seems likely to operate as an off-ball athletic specialist or a second-unit ball-handler.
The NBA's pace will naturally bring Thompson's speed and explosiveness alive and lead to consistent easy-basket chances. Despite defenses knowing about his weakness as a shooter, he's still going to have success shaking them off the dribble, getting both feet in the paint and finishing with his coordination, bounce and layup package.
His passing may translate better/quicker than his scoring, and his elusiveness should put him in playmaking position multiple times per game. But it will be difficult for Thompson to regularly reach 10-plus points without a reliable jump shot, particularly as a rookie in a limited role.
He won't serve much of a purpose in a spot-up role alongside VanVleet and Jalen Green unless he's sneaking free in transition or for cuts.
Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons
Projected stats: 11.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 42.0 FG%, 28.0 3FG%
The Detroit Pistons' depth chart suggests Ausar Thompson could be poised for starter minutes at the wing. While the offense will continue to run through Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, the No. 5 pick should still have enough chances to score and play-make in a simplified role as a transition weapon, play-finisher and opportunistic one-on-one player.
Cunningham's and Ivey's gravity should regularly lead to opportunities for Thompson to pick up easy baskets and work on his spot-up shooting. Regardless, he immediately projects as one of the league's fastest wings, which will lead to coast-to-coast takes and chances for Thompson to showcase his outstanding vision on the break.
He'll receive enough minutes to deliver flashes of self-creation into drives and pull-ups, though it's unrealistic to expect efficient execution right away. His defense will likely generate the most buzz, as Thompson possesses outstanding tools, foot speed and anticipation for contesting shots and making plays on the ball.
He figures to have a relatively productive season at both ends of the floor, although erratic shooting and decision-making will affect his percentages and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Anthony Black, Orlando Magic
Projected stats: 8.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 43.0 FG%, 27.0 3FG%
Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony will create a logjam for Anthony Black, but his 6'7" size, on- and off-ball skill set and defensive versatility will allow Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley to play him at other positions.
The eye test on Black's driving and passing will look more convincing than the stats by the end of the season. He'll likely always be sharing the rock with another ball-handler in Orlando, which will limit his playmaking opportunities. But his vision, feel and decision-making should still lead to at least 3.0 assists per game.
Between Black's size working off the dribble and his ability to use it as a play-finisher, he should be able to regularly score in the paint. However, limited pull-up shooting and range—plus Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr. and potentially Anthony and Suggs all operating ahead of him in the offensive pecking order—will cause Black to go stretches without putting up points. He isn't likely to be a volume scorer right away.
On the flip side, between his ability to guard multiple positions—including point guards—jump passing lanes and force turnovers, Black's defense should be a major plus. His impact just figures to feel greater than his defensive stats.
Bilal Coulibaly, Washington Wizards
Projected stats: 7.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 43.0 FG%, 31.0 3FG%
Starting from scratch following the trades of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porziņģis, the Washington Wizards won't be in any rush with Bilal Coulibaly's development. The 19-year-old figures to come off the bench for most of his rookie season behind Jordan Poole and Corey Kispert.
Coulibaly will make the most noise with his explosiveness scoring in transition, cutting backdoor, putting back misses and making plays defensively. We'll likely start to see more creation into drives during the second half of the season, similar to what happened last year with Metropolitans 92 in France. He should have more chances to handle the ball playing with the second unit.
He's currently capable of spot-up shooting, and he'll likely go through hot and cold stretches throughout the season.
Realistically, this year will be mostly about Coulibaly's flashes than his stats. Washington saw enticing long-term upside tied to his age, physical tools, two-way athleticism, shot-making and room to improve off the dribble. He's just not ready to start producing consistently.
Jarace Walker, Indiana Pacers
Projected stats: 8.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 43.0 FG%, 30.0 3FG%
Jarace Walker could be looking at a 50-50 minute split with Obi Toppin at power forward.
Likely to play mostly a spot-up role, Walker figures to use his catch-and-shoot three-ball and ability to attack closeouts often. He won't finish above league-average from deep, and he's likely to struggle converting drives like he did at Houston, but his shot-making, ball-handling in space and touch on the move are sharp enough for Walker to offer serviceable, complementary off-ball scoring.
However, given the lack of playmaking from Bennedict Mathurin and Buddy Hield, the Pacers could tap into Walker's passing more than Houston did. He averaged 3.3 assists per game during summer league and showed coaches that he's clearly advanced when it comes to his vision and being able to find teammates off a live dribble.
Otherwise, Walker should continue to finish strong around the basket, and every so often, we'll see some flashes of self-creation out of the post.
He won't put up Rookie of the Year numbers, but his offensive versatility and defensive tools should be effective enough right away for Walker to hold his own as a starter.
Taylor Hendricks, Utah Jazz
Projected stats: 7.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 BPG, 42.0 FG%, 35.0 3FG%
Missing summer league won't help Taylor Hendricks build a stronger case for early minutes, while the addition of John Collins means that the rookie's role this year will likely be limited.
Offensively, Hendricks will mostly be good for spot-up shooting and off-ball play-finishing, as he enters the league with a good-looking three-ball and strong tools/athleticism. He didn't put the ball down often at Central Florida, and when he did, he struggled to convert drives off his own creation. It's unrealistic to expect consistent scoring from Hendricks during his first season with the Utah Jazz.
His defensive playmaking and switchability will jump out the most this year. Hendricks should surprise opposing finishers with weakside rotations and violent shot-blocking at the rim.
However, given what Keyonte George did at summer league and the team's need for more backcourt offense, he—not Hendricks—will be the rookie who makes the most noise in Utah.
Cason Wallace, Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected stats: 7.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 45.0 FG%, 34.0 3FG%
The Oklahoma City Thunder's deep backcourt will keep Cason Wallace from playing substantial minutes as a rookie. However, he should still have a rotational role as a second-unit ball-handler and combo guard with capable spot-up shooting ability.
On the ball, Wallace's game and mentality suggest he'll focus on facilitating and the let the scoring chances come to him. He should give the Thunder bench a serviceable playmaker and trustworthy decision-making.
Limited jets will affect his ability to put pressure on the rim and consistently generate kickout assist opportunities, easy baskets and free throws. But Wallace has enough shot-making competence to provide bunches of scoring with his pull-up and floater game. And as we saw in summer league, he should look comfortable shooting from range off the catch.
Still, Wallace figures to make a name for himself this year with his defensive instincts, technique and knack for picking pockets. The rookie has a chance to establish himself as the rotation's signature pest and an impact reserve who won't need to generate offense to make an impact.
Jett Howard, Orlando Magic
Projected stats: 6.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 41.0 FG%, 35.0 3FG%
Caleb Houston, Chuma Okeke and 35-year-old Joe Ingles are winnable depth-chart battles for Jett Howard. Three-point consistency and adequate defense will be his ticket for backup minutes.
At 6'8" with the shot-making skill to connect off spot-ups, pull-ups and screens, he has a body and stroke that point to a plug-and-play NBA shooter. The fact that the Orlando Magic took him ahead of Gradey Dick suggests the front office saw more to his scoring repertoire.
Still, if Howard does crack the rotation in 2023-24, he'll mostly be limited to spot-up reps and floor-spacing responsibilities. He lacks burst off the dribble to get to the basket, so the majority of his scoring will come on catch-and-shoot chances and quick dribble jumpers.
Scouts did have questions about his defense at Michigan. His ability to stay in front of ball-handlers and make rotations will be under the microscope. It's possible that some of the older, weaker offensive players on the team will be preferred options at different points.
Dereck Lively II, Dallas Mavericks
Projected stats: 5.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 BPG, 65.0 FG%
Dereck Lively II should have a chance to earn backup center minutes for the Dallas Mavericks. His reach and length can help him provide easy baskets and shot-blocking right away.
Offensively, he'll have a simplified, clear role that calls for screening, rolling and putting back misses. The majority of his field goals will be dunks, as the Mavericks aren't likely to give him many post-ups or chances to shoot threes yet. He'll be entirely reliant on being set up.
If he's going to crack the regular rotation this year, it will be due to his defensive impact covering airspace in pick-and-roll coverage and rim protection. Lively registered an outstanding 12.7 block percentage at Duke, and he should continue to have success making plays on the ball using his footwork, wingspan and processing.
It just may take time for Lively to adjust to the NBA whistle.
Gradey Dick, Toronto Raptors
Projected stats: 7.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 43.0 FG%, 36.5 3FG%
Without a clear path to the starting lineup, Gradey Dick will operate as a second-unit shot-maker for the Toronto Raptors.
He'll mostly play a spot-up role that values his floor spacing. At 6'8" with a quick release and strong fundamentals for movement and pull-up shooting, Dick's perimeter scoring should carry right over to the NBA.
While he's known mostly for his jumper, Dick should still find other ways to earn buckets with some athletic play-finishing off transition, cuts and offensive rebounds.
However, as long as Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and O.G. Anunoby remain in Toronto, Dick will have to play a smaller role off the bench. And limited creation and burst may cause him to struggle separating in one-on-one situations.
Jordan Hawkins, New Orleans Pelicans
Projected stats: 6.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 40.0 FG%, 37.0 3FG%
The New Orleans Pelicans clearly valued Jordan Hawkins' shooting for a team that already has a number of high-level creators and scorers. The issue will be getting him minutes with Trey Murphy III on the verge of blowing up, Dyson Daniels in line for more playing time and Herb Jones' defense important to the rotation.
When Hawkins does get on the floor, he'll operate as a specialist with plug-and-play shooting skill for off-ball shot-making. He won't offer any creation. The majority of his field-goal attempts will come from behind the arc, where he'll earn his money running off screens and spot-up shooting.
It just may take an injury or roster move for Hawkins to receive consistent playing time in New Orleans.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference.