While the Knicks try to get themselves right, it’s never too early to look ahead at what is shaping up to be an all-time draft class. 

If you are tired of Tom Thibodeau and the 2022-2023 New York Knicks, boy do I have the perfect outlet for you. College basketball is kicking off and with the Thanksgiving week tournaments, we are officially in full force. All other seasons are off and running, with this draft incorporating more alternatives than ever. Not only can you watch Scoot Henderson or Victor Wembenyama during every game on the NBA app, but you can watch the Thompson twins (Amen and Ausar) in OTE or any number of leagues around the world from an impressive international draft class.

There is a reason we are starting to talk about this draft class eight months in advance of their selection day and it’s not just because of the usual reason – the abysmal Knicks’ start. This is a generational class from the top to the bottom and while that word is cliche and overused, it is the only way to express the greatness in this class even beyond the top two prospects.

A handful of players in this class would have been hands-down the favorite to be the number-one pick at this point last year. This class is as deep as it is wide and filled to the brim with potential stars. Athleticism and length are at a premium in the modern NBA with the focal point resting on playmakers from the forward position, and that is what makes this class potentially special. This draft is just overflowing with athletic wings with this class proving the game is changing with playmaking coming from players of all shapes and sizes.

The game is not only changing in how it is being played but also where. This class is really going to put an exclamation mark on the previous conversation started by players like Jalen Green and LaMelo Ball in recent years from alternative pathways to the NBA.

With Wemby and Scoot all but locking up the first two picks of the 2023 draft and the Thompson twins looming beyond in the Top 10, it is possible that only one or two players in the top-five represent the NCAA.

So with such diversity in prospect opportunities, there are more opportunities than ever for us to be scouting and watching. That is what I am here for, to do the background work so you don’t have to.

Of course, we do not know exactly where the Knicks will be picking come June, so we are going to break prospects into a couple of different tiers. There are players throughout this class that are easy to fall in love with and exciting to watch.

Tier 1:

Victor Wembenyama- Metropolitans 92

Scoot Henderson- G League Ignite

You can probably make a case that France’s Victor Wembenyama is a tier unto his own as the 7’4 shot-creating prospect is on a very short list of the best prospects of all time. However, the G League’s Scoot Henderson is still closer to one than he is to three on my big board.

Not only are these two generational prospects being penciled in by Draft Twitter and mainstream publications alike as the top two players in this class, but they are actively being pushed by the NBA. The Thompson Twins’ Overtime Elite league signed a lucrative deal with Amazon for airing games as well as additional content, but they are nowhere to be found on the NBA League Pass App.

Conversely, you cannot open your app without seeing a promotion for the next Mets 92 or G-League Ignite game, which only speaks to the potential star power of the top guys in this class. Those are not only future cash cows, but hold enough star power at this juncture to bring attention and promotion to their streaming platform. The first matchup between these two heavyweight prospects facing off in Las Vegas felt like a massive event. Everyone who is anyone in the draft community was either there or live-tweeting the event, and neither player disappointed.

The amount of coverage these two players will get in the months preceding the draft will be nearly unprecedented – imagine the Zion Williamson Cam during Duke games but at games that would not even be covered otherwise. There will be more words written about these two than just about any other non-NBA player of all time; even Luka Doncic did not elicit games in Europe being played here with such ease and convenience.

Wemby does not play on the high-profile team that Doncic did, nor will he see success at all levels of international play in the way that Luka did. The difference, however, is that all of the success and attention for the young Frenchman is purely because of him with no other draw needed. A quarter of the teams in the NBA will be vying for Tankathon draft position towards the end of the year hoping that they will have a chance at him.

Scoot Henderson is just about the best consolation prize that I could ever imagine and will make not winning the Wembenyama sweepstakes a much more palatable process for some other lucky team.

Whether the Knicks will get things together or be in those conversations remains to be seen, but it is clear that those two players certainly make the tanking conversation more complicated. If both players are to be believed to reach potential expectations, you have a generational guard and a player with an unparalleled skillset for his size. The forecasts for these two 18-year-olds are unfathomably high if they reach even a decent-sized fraction of their projections – think “First-Ballot Hall of Famers.” Even the more realistic expectations that take into account the thousands of variables when looking at a player so young still present a lofty enough potential to make teams dream of futures with them in their jerseys.

Your mileage may vary on tanking depending on your drafting and team-building philosophy, but nobody can argue that the Knicks hitting the most important draft lottery in a long time would be poetic justice. The Knicks have had notoriously bad lottery luck since the Ewing draft and the World’s Most Famous Arena has been devoid of superstar power for quite some time. I know many fans would prefer trying to compete this year and the flattened lottery odds don’t make tanking any more enticing, but seeing one of these generational prospects in blue and orange next year would make up for a lot of bad luck the franchise has had over the years.

Tier 2:

Amen Thompson- Overtime Elite

Nick Smith- Arkansas

Cam Whitmore- Villanova

Dariq Whitehead- Duke

There are two prospects head and shoulders above the rest of the class, but what makes this class so impressive is that those are not the only two elite players being looked at. There are a handful of players in this class outside of Scoot and Wemby that you can argue would have been in the top tier this previous year or even potentially the top prospect.

A big deal will be made on lottery night about who gets the top two spots but there are quite a few players that will likely still make franchises very happy. This lottery class is as loaded as we have seen in quite some time, but there is no exact order of who will be at the top.

This class is as varied as it is talented with offensive dynamos like Dariq Whitehead looking like potential 20+-per-game scorers or uber-athletic playmakers like Amen Thompson. The third pick of the draft is very much up for grabs, as are the fourth, fifth, and sixth. This could not only make for an exciting draft and lottery night but also an extremely exciting pre-draft process.

This tier of players is not secure in those places. There are other prospects waiting in the wings that with different perspectives could be here. With much of the season still to play, this is all fluid. For the time being, there are a few players here that are looking like they have All-Star potential.

Amen Thompson is one of the best athletes that we have ever seen in the NBA draft, a true specimen of athleticism. The Overtime Elite wing is more than just a raw athlete however, he parlays that pop with shifty creativity and high-level playmaking. While there are questions about his jump shot that may make certain skeptics waver, he offers so much more on both sides of the ball that it’s hard to keep him out of the conversation for the top candidate for pick number three.

The 6’7 point-wing is one of the best passers in this class with elite vision and the ability to make difficult passes look easy. He is always going to look for open shooters and is an extremely willing passer who loves to look ahead and find or create easy buckets. His strength and athleticism allow him to grab and go, pushing the tempo with ease.

The jump shot leaves a lot to be desired but everything else more than makes up for it. Last year’s Overtime Elite prospects fell off from where they were originally projected including the Westchester Knicks’ Jean Montero, but the Thompson twins look to change that and have the draft world abuzz with what they do between now and next June.

As always: injuries play a role in the lives of these young athletes and will continue to do so between now and when Adam Silver calls their name. A few of these prospects started the year injured and it remains to be seen how they will recover and how much time they will play early in the season as they are coming back from injury. Three players that have missed the start of the season that are big-time prospects are Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr, Duke’s Dariq Whitehead and Villanova’s Cam Whitmore

Nick Smith Jr. is one of the highest recruits to ever step foot at the campus of Arkansas and is leading a very important recruiting class. Bringing in Smith along with Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh, Coach Eric Musselman has revitalized the basketball program in Fayetteville. They have high expectations there and the Arkansas native is a big reason why.

The 6’5 guard has good positional size and is an extremely fluid athlete. The craftiness and ease with which he scores from the guard position bring comparisons to players like Bradley Beal and James Harden. While those comparisons still appear hyperbolic at this point, Smith Jr is a lethal three-level scoring threat with an arsenal of offensive weapons to score off the dribble, including nasty pulls ups and a variety of dribble moves.

Dariq Whitehead missed the first few games and has just starting coming off the bench for Duke in the last couple of days. While he has gotten off to an extraordinarily slow start against the likes of Bellarmine and Delaware, he is still the marquee shot maker in this draft class. He is going to be looked at as a potent scoring threat in this upcoming draft. While he does not always take the smartest shots, he is capable of making anything he takes. He will certainly garner attention heading into the draft if he is able to get healthy and make a splash in Durham.

The Duke freshman is an offensive supernova and can beat you from every possible way on a basketball court. Even with as potent as he is with the ball in his hands, the off ball movement is so dynamic that he has a knack for finding easy buckets.

Cam Whitmore is as modern as a wing can be, coming into his freshman year with an incredibly strong frame that gives him both offensive and defensive versatility. Whitmore is a big 6′ 7 and gets after it on both sides of the floor. His skillset allows him to play with or without the ball offensively, and he is a good bet to defend multiple positions and feast on easy buckets off of cuts. Arguably the most complete player in this group but as exciting as anyone given his explosive leaping ability.

Tier 3

Ausar Thompson- Overtime Elite

Keyonte George- Baylor

Brandon Miller- Alabama

Jarace Walker- Houston

This tier is made up of a combination of guys with mainstream hype and Draft Twitter darlings. This is where this class gets complicated – there are so many variables and so many elite skills in this draft class that it remains to be seen what the lottery will look like. This group of prospects is a very intentional grouping: four players that are easy to fall in love with and see elite value in towards the back of the lottery.

Ausar Thompson is not quite the prospect as his brother but many of the things said about Amen still apply. While Amen is the better playmaker of the two, Ausar is the more natural scorer and the better shooter. That does not mean much considering the lack of shooting for both twins in the Overtime Elite program, but the scoring chops and athleticism still go a long way. Nobody will question the defensive prowess of the Overtime Elite phenom and that, along with the rebounding, give him the ability to create transition offense and push the tempo.

Keyonte George is joining a Baylor team known for its veteran guards and gritty defensive scheme under Bryce Drew. That is not the story when it comes to the Baylor freshman who is as pure of a scorer as they come at 19 years old. George will certainly make waves as he is a gifted ball handler and creates ample amounts of space to get off his own shots. Seeing the versatility of his offensive scoring in various ways while in the motion offense ran at Baylor will be an interesting variable for the young prospect.

Brandon Miller and Jarace Walker are two of the biggest reasons that this article is being written. I am not worried about people being aware of Scoot or Wemby, or even players like Dariq Whitehead at powerhouse programs like Duke. While Houston is a powerhouse in its own right, they are not going to get the mainstream attention as the traditional Blue Bloods. Even when you are looking at the Houston Cougars you are going to be talking about Marcus Sasser or more broadly about the defensive schemes implemented by Kelvin Sampson. Alabama is another school that may get some attention but will hardly highlight the specifics within that system.

Brandon Miller is a big wing with playmaking potential and elite size and athleticism. His draft stock is rising and there will be plenty of buzz on the depths of Draft Twitter singing the praises of his playmaking and creation ability. Whether it is for his playmaking or for his defense, there are many things to love about Miller. Expect to hear that name and see him rise as someone with idyllic modern skills to be a potential switchable small-ball big who can create as a point forward.

Jarace Walker is another player that is currently only raising his stock with his play. Similar to Miller he brings versatility on both sides of the ball and compounds it with additional playmaking from positions you don’t typically see it. He is a mountain of a man: 6’8, 220 pounds, and just as strong as an ox. He creates mismatches offensively because of that strength but conversely can guard 1-5 at the college level because of that strength along with his quickness. He is a smart player with a high IQ who gives additional passing and distribution with high-level vision and decision-making chops that add to what he can bring to an offense. When you parlay that IQ and playmaking with raw power that can decimate defenders on a given play, you get a very dangerous prospect.

Tier 4

Arthur Kaluma- Creighton

Anthony Black- Arkansas

Cason Wallace- Kentucky

Terquavion Smith- NC State

This group of players is different than the first three for a couple of reasons. While these players all still have the potential to rise and grow as prospects, they have a couple of different things going for them. Two of them, Kaluma and Smith, are the first returning prospects I have mentioned and likely the first two that will hear their name called in the NBA draft. The other two, Wallace and Black, are not the biggest names on their own teams.

Arthur Kaluma is a broad-shouldered big wing at Creighton who returned for his sophomore year and who, with improvements, should be a lottery pick. Kaluma is one of the better athletes in the class and arguably the best defensive wing as well. He is an older prospect at 21 but he projects to be a good role player with his body and tools. If he can be more consistent offensively with the jumper, he can jump to another level.

We have seen a new archetype of prospect taking shape over the last few years and they are shaped around the mold of Lonzo Ball. Last year’s number seven pick, Dyson Daniels, was one such prospect. This year it’s Anthony Black, a long, versatile, defensive-minded playmaker. There will be questions about his jump shot and his blow-by athleticism, but nobody will question his playmaking or vision as he is one of the better passers in the class. Along with his playmaking chops, he is a versatile defender that can guard multiple positions and interrupt passing lanes with his length. Offensively, along with the transition opportunities, you get a combination of old- and new-school moves; he likes to use his size to post up smaller guards and finish with a bevy of floaters and finishes in the paint.

You are rarely ever going to hear Cason Wallace’s name mentioned without eliciting comparisons to Jrue Holiday. While comparing anyone to a consensus Defensive Player of the Year finalist like Holiday may be a little hyperbolic, that is the kind of toughness and dynamic that Cason Wallace brings to the table. He is as complete as any guard prospect not named Scoot Henderson and brings defensive tenacity, with insanely quick hands and great instincts that will have teams thinking about how he can help their team defenses.

Terquavion Smith was someone who was written about a lot last year before his shocking decision to return to Raleigh and go back to NC State for his sophomore season. While he would have been a first-round pick in the ’22 draft, he is hoping to keep his rising stock and get into the lottery in 2023. He needs to continue to work on his body and improve his strength for the sake of his defense. Offensively there are few questions about what Smith brings to the table because he is an elite isolation scoring guard that reminds many of players like Jordan Poole and Tyler Herro.

Others To Watch

Dillon Mitchell- Texas

Jett Howard- Michigan

Dereck Lively- Duke

GG Jackson- South Carolina

Kel’el Ware- Oregon

Jordan Walsh- Arkansas

There are plenty of players to watch in this draft class and I imagine you can talk to 10 different “experts” and get 10 different big boards. Many things will change between now and the eternity that passes before June 22, 2023. There is a palpable buzz when it comes to this draft class that is already drawing comparisons to elite drafts like 2003 or 1996.

While that is a potentially unrealistic expectation for a very unproven group of young basketball players, with Wemby and Scoot anchoring the top, there are few questioning the star power of this class. That much versatility and variety will mean plenty of guys rising and falling on boards over the next few months who can be potential stars in their own right.

We do not know where the Knicks will be drafting but in and out of the lottery alike, we know that there will be talent all around with potential stars. When it comes to the draft, Leon Rose has been as aggressive as any front office in basketball in his tenure with the Knicks and this year certainly looks like as good a year as ever to make moves to get your guy.

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