College basketball season is off and running, and several NBA
Draft hopefuls have already boosted their stock with meaningful
Senior NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock recently updated his
2023 NBA Draft Big Board. While the top four
candidates remain the same, Alabama freshman Brandon Miller has
jumped up to the No. 5 spot as the top-ranked men's collegiate
It's still early in the scouting season though, with plenty of
time to slide up and down in the eyes of pro teams. I checked in
with Babcock to get some of his early takeaways so far and ask a
bit about his process as an analyst.
1. The top-four remain the same in this Big Board
update. Specifically, with the Thompson twins, what makes you
confident that they remain above the collegiate
Matt Babcock: It's early in the process.
There's a part of me that would prefer not even doing big boards
this time of year because there is so much work to do between now
and the draft, and naturally, I'm expecting my big board to look
very different by the end of the season. Regarding the Thompson
twins specifically, I'm very high on both of them. Like most
scouts, I prefer Amen over Ausar, but I think it's close. But I'm
still trying to figure out just how close. So like I said, I have a
lot of work to do, and I will be heading back out to Atlanta to see
2. What strengths does Brandon Miller possess to propel
him to No. 5?
Babcock: I was in Portland over Thanksgiving
for the Phil Knight Invitational, and that first night versus
Michigan State, Brandon Miller was terrific! He's 6-foot-9 and is
such a smooth shooter and scorer. I was also impressed with his
ability to put the ball on the floor. He needs to get stronger,
which I think will help him finish better at the rim and
defensively, but he has a lot of offensive talent and upside,
3. With no centers in the top 10, how wide open do you
think the hierarchy is at that position?
Babcock: Traditional big men have continued to
lose value in recent years, so that's a big part of it. And our top
prospect this year, Victor Wembanyama, is 7-foot-4 with an 8-foot
wingspan, but is not generally categorized as a center because he
has much more of a perimeter-oriented game. The top big men
prospects this year are true freshmen Kyle Filipowski and Dereck
Lively from Duke, Kel'el Ware from Oregon, and Adem Bona from UCLA.
It's early in the season, so we don't need to come to conclusive
stances on prospects right now because there's plenty of time for
these players to develop and progress throughout this season.
4. Which draft prospect has wowed you most as an
in-person viewer so far?
Babcock: This is an easy one: Victor Wembanyama
blew me away. His combination of length and skill is exceptional.
Victor is a generational talent, and I expect him to become the No.
1 pick in the 20223 NBA Draft.
5. Which prospects have gotten off to a slow start but
should not raise serious concerns?
Babcock: Some of the freshmen are starting
slow. Dereck Lively at Duke and Chris Livingston at Kentucky have
started slow. And then Dariq Whitehead, also from Duke, and Nick
Smith at Arkansas are just getting back from injuries, so they
haven't done much yet. It's early, though; all these guys have time
to rewrite their narratives.
6. What is most valuable about scouting games in-person
vs. watching film?
Babcock: It's about seeing all the little
stuff. I do my best to ensure I have a good seat for games. The
closer to the court, the better. I want to learn about players'
physical tools and movements, and figuring out a player's skill set
is easier in person. However, the main reason for making such an
effort to see prospects in person is to learn about players'
personalities, attitudes, and coachability, for example. When
evaluating players, I ask myself questions like: Is he a leader? Is
he competitive? How does he handle physicality? Is he soft? Is he
selfish? I could list off thousands of things like that, but the
main point is that to get a firm grip on who prospects are as
people and what makes them tick, you need to see them in
7. Emoni Bates captivated social media with some of his
early games — do you think he could return to first-round pick
Babcock: I've never questioned that Emoni had
high-level talent; it's always been there from that standpoint. The
biggest questions are his maturity and reliability. I saw some
attitude issues in high school, and he has shown that he lacks
composure and maturity at times. On top of all that, he's gotten in
real trouble. So essentially, it comes down to the same question
when evaluating prospects for the draft, are they a good investment
for a team? I'm still trying to calculate the risk/reward ratio
with Emoni. So we'll see how it goes.
8. What are you most excited about in the final weeks of
Babcock: I hit the scouting trail hard in
November, so I'm shifting gears here the next couple of weeks by
attending some high school events, including HoopHall West in
Arizona and the City of Palms Classic in Florida. But I look
forward to seeing some specific teams soon, including Arkansas,
Creighton, Houston, and South Carolina.