The 2023 draft has a sure number 1 pick, two excellent players almost certain to be picked in the lottery, and a lot of question marks after that. A medium strength draft, without necessarily the depth of last year nor the multiple top players of next year’s. Aliyah Boston is the most sure thing since her fellow SC player in A’ja Wilson. Haley Jones and Diamond Miller are likely to be 2 and 3 in some order for me all season. 4-10? Much more up in the air. I can not wait to watch all of them play. Hopefully against each other if we as fans are lucky.
- Aliyah Boston Big 6’5″ South Carolina
Aliyah Boston could stop playing basketball right now until next April’s draft and she would be the #1 pick. There is no world in which she is not a #1 pick, if she does in fact come out. I had a silly idea before the 21-22 NCAA season that the number 2 player on my board might keep it a bit closer to Boston. But Boston quickly separated herself from the rest of the field by a wide margin. Aliyah Boston is the most complete defensive prospect since Sylvia Fowles. She can do everything one would want a defensive center to do in the modern game. She can switch onto smaller guards, play at the level, or in drop. She rarely gets herself in foul trouble and is a wonderful help defender. She is an elite rebounder who challenges shots without giving up rebounding position.
Offensively she does have a bit of work to do in scoring efficiently in the paint against the centers who can hang with her in size. As a young W player she may end up with some ugly shooting nights. But even then, she can pass, punish switches, and shoot the 3 a bit, so even if it takes her time to be a premier offensive threat, she will be able to excel next to any other offensive creator. Given her defense, she doesn’t need to be Brittney Griner or even A’ja Wilson to be impactful.
- Haley Jones 6’1″ Wing Stanford
Full disclosure, Haley Jones has been my favorite player to watch in college basketball for the past few years. However, I think she has an argument for being the #2 pick in this draft. The W has not fully leaned into big wings like the mnba, but as we saw with the Aces, the ability to surround a dominant big with multiple good wings is incredibly valuable.
Jones passes and handles like a point guard. She can defend 1-4 and many 5s. She is a force in transition with the ability to grab and go. Her main weaknesses are a reluctance to shoot 3s and a lack of an elite first step. The shooting is real, but she has shown in the biggest games an understanding that she has to take that shot if that is what the defense is giving her. And her lack of first step is overrated as an issue, since there are other ways to attack the paint. Her handle will continue to improve and her strength allows her to gain angles. Plenty of wings are effective without Kahleah Copper level athleticism.
- Diamond Miller Wing 6’3″ Maryland
If Diamond Miller returns to her sophomore form, she will push for the second pick in this draft. A 6’2” wing with elite athleticism who is already a good 3 point shooter is a lottery pick. While she isn’t the passer that Jones is, nor the defender, she can certainly do both those things. She has a better first step than Jones and can slash to the rim well for someone of her size.
Her junior year was rough, but that can be chalked up to injury. Hopefully she has a healthy and productive senior season. Things to watch will be is her shot good, or merely good enough. Is it 35% or better, or more low 30s. Can she get her assist to turnover ratio a bit better? A slightly negative assist to turnover ratio is not ideal.
- Jacy Sheldon Guard 5’10” Ohio State
Here begins the more speculative prospects. The gap between 4 and 10 at this point is simply not that big and I would not put too much stock in where I slot players at this point. Jacy Sheldon gets the spot here as a player who shot 55/37/86 with a positive assist to turnover ratio. She is an off guard, but has shown in a pinch she can take on lead ball handler duties. A good, if not explosive, athlete, Sheldon has a good upside as a solid starting guard in the W.
She shows the tools at times to be an adequate defender, though she tends to play with a few good perimeter defenders and so is not asked to do that much. This is something I will definitely be watching more closely, as my feel for her defense is not nearly as strong as it could be.
- Rickea Jackson Wing 6’2″ Tennessee
Rickea Jackson is definitely someone who could rise one spot higher or fall out of my top ten entirely. She did not play a full season last year and was more of a W prospect in theory than actuality the season before. But a 6’2” wing looks like she can shoot and has good athleticism will always deserve attention.
Sub 30% from 3 and 55% from the free throw line in her last full season is concerning, but her shot does not look broken and as Jackie Young and Gabby Williams show, teams will take chances on wings who can’t yet shoot 3s in the hopes they add that. Jackson would likely be an upside pick, not someone who will walk in and contribute right away.
- Charisma Osborne Guard 5’9″ UCLA
I don’t get Pac 12 network so I did not watch Charisma Osborne nearly as often last season as I would have liked to. But what I saw was promising and I saw more of her as a sophomore. Sub 40% from 2 is tough, but a good free throw shooter makes me optimistic about her future shooting. A good assist to turnover ratio and she is a good athlete. She seems like someone who may be able to play either guard position in a pinch, though she is more of an off ball guard.
Always read Em Adler at the Next, but definitely read Em talking about Osborne on the defensive end in her draft board. A theme for me in watching guards this year is focusing a bit more attention on their defense. Typically, offense is more important for guards, but they do have to be able to stay on the floor and good point of attack defense is valuable.
- Ashley Owusu Guard 6’0″ Virginia Tech
At her best plays like Chelsea Gray. Like Gray, lacks straight line speed, but is a big strong guard who can make tough shots. Someone who will benefit from spread pick and rolls at the next level, since she has the passing and good feel, but needs assistance in generating advantages. First two seasons at Maryland averaged 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio.
Low volume on 3s and only one season of being accurate, but something she can potentially add. Defensively would do better in a switching scheme where she can use her size and strength to defend up. Can struggle to defend quicker, shiftier guards.
- Ashley Joens Wing 6’1″Iowa St.
In college, Joens is a 4 who uses her size and strength to score down low. In the pros, she will likely have to play more like Jackie Young or Bridget Carleton, a wing with good size who occasionally uses that size when she has an advantage. Joens as limited upside, so there are certainly players with higher upside I have after her, but this range becomes fairly speculative and I think she would be a good pick for an already good team.
The way Joens plays in college and how she will have to play in the pros are totally different and that makes projection difficult. But a player with her size and strength who shot high 30s from 3 on 7 attempts per game is worth a look. Can she be a good enough team defender to overcome lack of foot speed on the perimeter? How much is that even an issue? Would love to see her get to guard someone like Texas’ Shaylee Gonzalez, to see how she holds up defending on the perimeter, but may not happen much.
- Elizabeth Kitley Big 6’6″ Virginia Tech
Elizabeth Kitley is a dominant offensive center at the college level. At 6’6” with a high release and good touch, she is very hard to stop. 55% effective field goal percentage while barely shooting 3s is impressive. That is roughly where A’ja Wilson was. Offense should be her reason for making the next level.
Defense is going to be the big question. Like with many college centers, they are not asked to guard in space the they will be in the pros. Her performance against Florida Gulf Coast in the tournament last year showed this as she scored 42 but VT lost as they struggled with the five out FGCU offense.
- Zia Cooke Guard 5’9″ South Carolina
Zia Cooke has the athleticism to shine at the next level. The questions come regarding how real is her shooting, good some years not others, and ca nshe improve upon her negative assist to turnover ratio. Cooke is hurt by the at times archaic offensive spacing that South Carolian plays in. South Carolina should be favorites for the championship again, so it works, but it doesn’t highlight a player like Cooke’s offensive skills.
With Destanni Henderson off to the W, Cooke may get the opportunity to run the offense more as well. She has tended to have an even assist to turnover ratio. Improving that is important, as she is a bit undersized for the off guard position, so the ability to run a team would be helpful.
Possible entrants to the top 10
Some players who could join my top ten are Ajha Blackell, Grace Berger, and Shaylee Gonzalez. Can Blackwell show more perimeter skill, can Berger improve her 3 point shooting, can Gonzalez remain an effective slasher against a higher level of competition? Sedona Prince is someone to keep in mind as well. She will unfortunately miss the year with an injury, but she could have the size and smarts to play a Mercedes Russell type role. Better shooter, maybe not quite the passer Russell is. Dyasha Fair is a player who I have not seen at all, so will be paying attention to how she does at Syracuse as she moves up in competition.