Every Projected Lottery Pick’s Biggest Weakness

NBA teams are in the process of evaluating 2023 NBA draft prospects’ weaknesses, assessing both their potential negative impacts on their roster, as well as the likelihood of improvement.

Even pick Victor Wembanyama has holes in his game, though the San Antonio Spurs will worry about addressing them after they pick him No. 1.

Otherwise, each of the other lottery prospects has a flaw that will make teams hesitate when projecting their NBA fit and trajectories. We broke down the biggest issue for the top-14 picks from our updated mock draft, and explained how it traditionally limits players after making the jump.

Jett Howard, Michigan Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 14 (New Orleans Pelicans)

Position: SG/SF

Year: Freshman

School: Michigan

While scouts acknowledge how Jett Howard’s shooting versatility creates an easy offensive fit, they question who he’ll defend.

He was simply too easy to beat off the dribble or play through on drives. The lack of resistance was evident. Opposing scorers were able to get to their spots against Howard without having to execute an advanced ball-handling move or explosive first step.

His footwork and effort need work, and he didn’t react well in ball-screen situations.

A 0.8 steal percentage is also unusually low for a wing, as it reflects both limited quickness and anticipation.

Putting Howard on a big doesn’t seem like an answer, either, given how easily perimeter players were able to move him backward.

Nick Smith, Arkansas Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 13 Toronto Raptors

Position: SG

Year: Freshman

School: Arkansas

Nick Smith Jr. only played 17 games this year, but history would tell teams to avoid prospects who finish below 40.0 percent inside the arc.

The two-point inefficiency was tied to a combination of average ball-handling, limited explosiveness, lack of strength and fear of contact.

He only made 18 shots at the rim with Arkansas, as struggled to get all the way there and often countered shot-blockers by trying tougher finishes. Turning the corner will continue to be a challenge that puts more pressure on his perimeter shot-making consistency.

Throw in the lack of playmaking, and scouts have started to question Smith’s fit and upside as a scorer guard who doesn’t offer much passing value or rim pressure.

Cason Wallace, Kentucky Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 12 (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Position: SG/SF

Year: Freshman

School: Kentucky

Cason Wallace lacks explosiveness from the point of attack, leading to contested layups and high-arching floaters instead of easier baskets and free throws (2.2 attempts per game).

There isn’t a ton of wiggle or burst to his game. And he didn’t show he can compensate by shooting with range off the dribble, as Wallace only made nine pull-up threes on 27 attempts.

He’s mostly a “take what the defense gives up” type of scorer, which still works and translates to efficient offense. It just leaves him vulnerable to quiet games (fewer than eight points 12 times) and makes it tougher to picture a top option.

Keyonte George, Baylor AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 11 (Orlando Magic, via Bulls)

Position: SG

Year: Freshman

School: Baylor

Confidence appears to act as shot-making fuel or Keyonte George, but it also leads to too many rushed jumpers or wild passes.

His percentages would have likely been higher if he cut down on some of the pull-ups. He struggled to make them inside the arc (15-of-51). But he even took a lot of contested spot-up threes, finishing with more than double (88) the amount of guarded catch-and-shoot attempts than open ones (40).

Aside from overconfidence, limited explosiveness around the basket was presumably behind many of his decisions and preference to settle. With a heavy 30.8 percentage usage, he only dunked three times in 944 minutes all season.

But George also made bad choices as a passer, resulting in more turnovers (95) than assists (91), which isn’t ideal for a perceived combo guard.

Gradey Dick, Kansas Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 10 (Dallas Mavericks)

Position: SG/SF

Year: Freshman

School: Kansas

Though in the discussion for top shooter in the draft, Gradey Dick struggles to create for himself.

The majority of his self-creation results in one or two-dribble pull-ups. He took just two shots out of isolation all season, showing limited burst for blowing by. Of his 174 made field goals, 150 came from spot-ups, transition, off screens, offensive boards and cuts. And there is still a path to upside as an off-ball scorer. But he won’t be much of a ball-screen option or weapon to use at the end of clocks.

When he did attempt drives, he was often forced off balance away from the rim.

Dick’s 9.4 assist percentage and 2.5 free-throw attempts (in 32.7 minutes) highlight a lack of off-the-dribble threat and overall versatility.

Anthony Black, Arkansas Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 9 (Utah Jazz)

Position: PG/SG

Year: Freshman

School: Alabama

The combination of limited self-creation skill and shaky shooting could make it tough for Anthony Black to score in the half court.

He relied heavily on ball-screen drives and transition at Arkansas, where he converted four isolation basket and made just 17-of-54 pull-ups. There are questions about whether he offers enough elusiveness and creation for a primary ball-handler.

But aside from converting cuts, he doesn’t possess much of an off-ball scoring skill set, having shot 32.4 out of spot-ups and flashed no real off-screen shooting. Black gets little elevation on a jump shot that looks mostly flat leaving his hands. Occasionally, you can see a hitch when he rises into his release that disrupts any fluidity.

His immediate value will come in the form of pick-and-roll ball-handling, ball-moving and defense. But Black could struggle to consistently reach double-figures in scoring early.

Cam Whitmore, Villanova Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 8 (Washington Wizards)

Position: SF/PF

Year: Freshman

School: Villanova

Cam Whitmore’s 6.4 assist percentage is the lowest among NBA guards, wings or forwards in our latest mock draft.

Tunnel vision and poor reads are mostly behind that number. Whitmore seemingly has trouble multitasking with the ball. He’ll predetermine drives without countering to defenses or situations As effective as his power and explosiveness are for driving, he forces the issue too much, often barreling into traffic. He takes too long to process after the catch, allowing defenses to set, and he misses teammates to the left and right when he’s making his move off the dribble.

Once in the lane, he rarely responds to rim protection with kickouts, and instead tries to use his strength to overpower shot-blockers.

While Whitmore’s physical tools, shot-making and occasional self-creation may point to upside, there isn’t a great track record of guard or forward prospects becoming stars after registering an assist rate as low as his. The only prospects under 6’8″ to be drafted in the first round who had college seasons with an assist percentage lower than Whitmore’s, per Barttorvik.com: Kenneth Faried, Omari Spellman, Larry Nance Jr., Christian Braun, Lazar Hayward, Keegan Murray, Rui Hachimura, Josh Huestis, Shabazz Muhammed, TJ Warren and Corey Kispert.

Taylor Hendricks, Central Florida Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 7 (Indiana Pacers)

Position: PF

Year: Freshman

School: Central Florida

Taylor Hendricks could stand to expand on his self-creation, though his coveted mix of consistent shooting and defensive versatility still creates a valued archetype. The bigger concern may be his poor conversion rate around the basket when he’s not set up for an easy basket.

Hendricks shot just 44.7 percent on lay-ups, an oddly low number for a player with his frame and athletic ability. There was no finesse to his finishes off drives, with many of his attempts clanking hard off the rim or glass. Simple contests really bothered him or forced him to unnecessarily alter his shot. A surprising amount of his short-range shots were blocked this season.

Though Hendricks’ shot-making is a big draw, limited off-the-dribble skill and passing make it difficult to picture a high-usage perimeter player. He’ll have to improve at converting shots in tighter windows inside.

Ausar Thompson, Overtime Elite Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 6 (Orlando Magic)

Position: SG/SF

Age: 20

Team: Overtime Elite

Shooting is an obvious weakness for Ausar Thompson, but he’s also had encouraging stretches that hint at improvement. It’s the decision-making issues that may cause more issues early and ultimately be tougher to overcome.

He has a tendency to force the ball into tight spaces, throw up wild runners and make errand passes off the dribble. He averaged 4.9 turnovers this season, and that was with his brother, Amen, playing point guard most of the time.

Athletes don’t get much quicker, bouncier or more elastic than Thompson, yet he was an inefficient finisher. He often picked the wrong times to attack, as well as the wrong times to settle around the perimeter for contested mid-range dribble jumpers or isolation threes.

Jarace Walker, Houston
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Mock Draft Projection: No. 5 (Detroit Pistons)

Position: PF

Year: Freshman

School: Houston

Jarace Walker operated as a spot-up scorer for 35.0 percent of Houston possessions. And while he shot 40.5 percent on this non-dribble jumpers, the scouting report for defenses was clear: Close out hard and make Walker put the ball down.

Despite some ball-handling skill, touch and an outstanding frame, he converted just 13-of-45 drives to the baskets after the catch. Walker isn’t the quickest with his first move, allowing defenders to stay attached. And despite his power and length, he has a serious tendency to stop his drive short, avoid contact and toss up a lower-percentage runners, often falling away from the hoop.

He wound up shooting just 53.8 percent on lay-ups, and his 2.2 free-throw attempts per game were not enough for a player with his physical tools and skill level.

Amen Thompson, Overtime Elite Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 4 (Houston Rockets)

Position: PG/SG

Age: 20

Team: Overtime Elite

Teams should be thinking about Amen Thompson as a primary ball-handler, mostly because of his ability to create advantages and pass, but also due to his poor shooting for a guard or wing.

Defenders chose not to close out or stay attached to Thompson when he was spotting up. Some of his misses were way off the mark. He didn’t appear to have much command/control of his jump shot.

And typically point guards need pull-ups, but Thompson doesn’t have one that looks close to being regularly threatening.

The fact that he’s a projected top-five pick despite the shooting issues tells you how special his athleticism, playmaking and defense can be. But Thompson will need the right fit with shot-making around him.

Scoot Henderson, G League Ignite Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 3 (Portland Trail Blazers)

Position: PG

Age: 19

Team: G League Ignite

Scoot Henderson’s 32.4 three-point percentage points to shooting as his biggest weakness, but it may actually be shot selection that’s the bigger issue. Only one other player during the G League regular season took more mid-range jumpers than Henderson, who shot just 34.8 percent on those attempts.

While he made 75.0 percent of his free throws and seems to have confidence pulling up, his shot selection includes a heavy diet of contested two-point jumpers.

Defenses also showed a willingness to go under screens, and eventually, Henderson will need to start shooting better off the dribble, including from behind the arc. Just 2.7 three-point attempts in 30.2 minutes reflects extremely low volume for a ball-dominant guard.

Brandon Miller, Alabama
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 2 (Charlotte Hornets)

Position: SG/SF

Year: Freshman

School: Alabama

Though one of the draft’s most productive shot-makers, Brandon Miller shot just 46.8 percent on lay-ups, ranking in the 22nd percentile among college players, per Synergy Sports.

Any bounce he showed in the open floor seemed to disappear when he was driving against a set defense. Miller often buckled against rim protection without much vertical explosion. Another issue he had was taking off at the wrong time or too early, leading to impossible angles below the rim.

Too often he’d have to jump stop and land on two feet, limiting his force and explosiveness rising up while giving his defender extra time to recover.

Miller resorted to taking a lot of runners, which he struggled to convert (12-of-37), showing limited fluidity getting into them before reaching a shot-blocker.

He did go through a nice stretch midway through the season where he started to convert with effective counter-finishes. But the struggles returned, and they will be Miller’s big weakness to watch as he tries to replicate the success of the NBA’s top-scoring big wings.

Victor Wembanyama, Metroplitans 92 Christian Liewig – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Mock Draft Projection: No. 1 (San Antonio Spurs)

Position: PF/C

Age: 19

Team: Metropolitans 92

While it’s easy to point out Victor Wembanyama’s lack of strength or physicality, a deeper dive shows a need to improve decision-making in a lead role.

It’s worth noting that no other 19-year-old is given the type of usage or responsibility that Wembayana is overseas. But the bar is higher for the eventual top pick, and the San Antonio Spurs will presumably turn him loose from Day 1.

He has a tendency to be overly casual or unrealistic with some of his passes. He can take too long to make a read of play from the post, where help defenders often swarm or sneak behind him to force turnovers. And though capable of hitting shots that rank 10-out-of-10 on the difficulty scale, some of his attempts are too ambitious, whether it’s a three-point floater, deep step-back or contested baseline fallaway.

With so much hype surrounding his never-before-seen mix of size and skill, Wembanyama has a habit of playing to the crowd and highlight reels, trying too hard to prove he’s a guard with a center’s body.

Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports-Reference.com