We’ve reached roughly the halfway NBA season and a little more than halfway through the college hoops season, so it’s a good time for a new mock NBA draft. The best mocks are typically intel-based. While I don’t have NBA intel per se, I decided to use this as a “what would I do?” process, allowing me to write about certain player fits I like.
Everyone knows who the top two prospects are in this draft, but after that? There seems to be a large clump of prospects from 3-18 that could ultimately fall anywhere in that range (some with higher ceilings than others and vice versa). As an evaluator, I’m still unsure how I ultimately seeing it all play out. Even in this version of a mock, some prospects went a bit too high or way lower than where they may actually end up going. Nonetheless, here is my updated January mock draft.
*all measurements via Basketball Reference
*the order was simmed via Tankathon on Tuesday January 17th
1. San Antonio Spurs – Victor Wembanyama – Mets 92 (France) – 7’3, 229 lbs – January 2004
26 years after drafting Tim Duncan, the Spurs get their next franchise-altering frontcourt player. Since breaking the internet in Las Vegas in October, Wembanyama has remained incredibly dominant, averaging 22 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks per game, while leading Mets 92 to the top of the standings.
Wembanyama has thrived in a featured offensive role. His length makes him an incredibly impressive play-finisher, but he has shown the ability to take defenders off the bounce with his handle or hit jumpers off the dribble. There is still so much untapped potential with him. I don’t love his defensive positioning, but he is so long and moves well that he’s still a dominant rim-protector. His playmaking could be a bit better, but we’re getting nitpicky here. Wembanyama is an elite prospect and the clear-cut No. 1 pick
2. Detroit Pistons – Scoot Henderson – G-League Ignite – 6’4, 296 lbs – February 2004
For the sake of this exercise, I’m glad the Pistons winded up at No. 2. Yes, they have spent their last three lottery picks on guards, but Henderson is so impressive it doesn’t matter. He is a better prospect than all of them, even Cunningham who I had as No. 1 in 2021.
I actually think Henderson’s skillset can complement Cunningham and allow him to play off the ball a bit and decrease his usage. They can both theoretically defend both guard spots and having two elite passing lead-playmakers is incredibly hard to guard.
Since returning from a facial injury, he has played extremely well in the G-League regular season. He’s got speed with the ball, elite athleticism to finish at the rim, and is a pretty sound decision-maker, especially at his age. The shooting was his biggest concern coming into the year, and Henderson is off to an 8-17 start from deep. He has all the tools to be a lead ball-handler and go-to option on an NBA team.
If the Pistons did wind up at 2, they should field offers for the pick and see if they can get someone to overpay. But if they keep it, you draft Henderson and worry about fit later. I do think Cunningham/Henderson/Jaden Ivey is playable, but Ivey, the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft, should also have some trade value.
3. Charlotte Hornets – Ausar Thompson – Overtime Elite – 6’7, 190 lbs – January 2003
The Hornets have a pretty bare roster. LaMelo Ball has the tools to be a franchise lead guard but hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. Mark Williams has shown some solid promise up front, and Bryce McGowens has looked good in the G-League. Missing out on No. 2 would be a huge bummer for them, especially when the third pick is widely considered the “start of the draft” with a bevy of choices.
I went with Ausar Thompson here, the better defensive prospect of the twin brothers. The defense will help him get early minutes, especially on a Hornets team that lacks perimeter defense. He has good instincts, is a plus athlete, and is attentive on the ball. Thompson will need to shoot to hit his highest outcome, and I don’t love the mechanics, but the numbers have been a bit better as of late. Meanwhile, Thompson should thrive in transition and attacking closeouts and as a cutter.