Drafting 23-and-under teams to build the ultimate core

Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images /
2 of 7
NBA 23-and-under
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves. Photo by David Berding/Getty Images /

Round One of the 23-and-under draft

The format of the 23-and-under draft was a snake draft, with the order generated randomly. Quinn Minnich kicked off the team, answering the question of whether any player would be more valuable than a certain French big. Each pick will come with analysis courtesy of the player making the selection.

Pick No. 1, Team Quinn – Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

For my first pick, I will take Anthony Edwards. He was a first-time All-Star last year, and really carried the load offensively for the Timberwolves. He’s going to get some run at the point guard spot, which should help his already solid playmaking. He’s a good perimeter defender, a solid shooter, and an amazing finisher. And he still has so much room to grow and could be a Hall-of-Fame player someday.

Pick No. 2, Team Dan Gilisnky – Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

With him still there, how could I NOT go with Victor Wembanyama? Sure, he’ll have to get stronger over time, and he’ll have to stay healthy for the most part in the early years for his development. Those concerns aside, the youngster is the best prospect to come to the NBA since LeBron. Wembanyama’s combination of skill level, post polish, shooting touch, shot-making potential, rim protection, length and athleticism make him the no-brainer pick here.

Pick No. 3, Team Gibson Lowenberg – Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers

Darius Garland is my pick. While there is another player I weighed heavily here, he is far healthier in comparison. He already has an All-Star appearance under his belt and there’s an argument to be made that he should have two after another strong performance last season.

He is an effortless scorer while also being one of the best playmakers in the league. The closest we’ve seen to replicating the skills of Steve Nash, the future is bright for the Cavaliers and Darius Garland.

Pick No. 4, Team Matt Fagan – Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Following suit, I’ll keep things close to home with my pick and go for Evan Mobley. Finishing his first year in the league as the rookie of the year runner-up, and last year at third place among all defensive player of the year candidates – Mobley is certainly one of those foundational pieces a team looks for to build around. He led his team in blocks and was second in boards last year, further cementing himself as a formidable defensive anchor.

That being said, his 16.2 points per game and 2.8 assists last year show he’s a force on the offensive side of the ball as well. Mobley has drawn comparisons to NBA greats like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. With a player like him in your frontcourt you can’t go wrong.

Pick No. 5, Team Alex Knodel – Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Although he comes with some notable red flags, namely his health, the upside is too tantalizing to pass up at this point in the draft. I will be selecting Zion Williamson with the fifth overall pick. Touted as a generational prospect, Zion has backed up the hype when on the court. In his 114 career games, he has averaged 25.8 points on over 60 percent shooting, absolutely punishing teams around the basket.

His elite rim finishing, in combination with his ever-evolving skill as a passer, gives him the capability to be the true focal point of an offense. His defense, while the weaker area of his game, has shown rapid growth throughout his young career and given his physical tools, there’s little reason to believe he won’t soon be a plus defender if he isn’t already. To win championships you’ve got to roll the dice, and I’d be kicking myself if I passed up on a player of Zion’s caliber and he ever put it all together.

Pick No. 6, Team Caleb Crowley – Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Similar to Zion, this player has had some unlucky bouts with injury but has tremendous upside. In a world with injuries turned off, Cade Cunningham could have a compelling case for the top spot. In his draft profile, Cunningham drew a number of comparisons to Luka Doncic as a tall, intelligent point guard. The future for Detroit is bright with Cade Cunningham at the helm. In his dozen games played last year, the emerging star averaged 19.9 points and 6 assists in 33.3 minutes a game. This came alongside 6.2 rebounds. Cunningham’s skill set is mature beyond his years. Picking Cunningham almost guarantees multiple All-Star appearances and constant contention for the Playoffs.

Pick No. 7, Team Josh Cornelissen – Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers

This is a tricky decision, because I have two Tier-3 players left on the board (I would put Vic in his own tier, and Anthony Edwards alone in Tier 2 [if I knew Zion was healthy he would be Tier 2]). I’m going to go with the more proven commodity and take Tyrese Haliburton. He’s a lead guard with exceptional passing vision and a penchant for playing up-tempo, which is my preferred approach. He shoots the ball extremely well, and locking down plus shooters is a must. He isn’t a difference-maker on defense but he has enough length and size not to be bowled over on that end. Still only 23 years old, he has a long career ahead of him.

Pick No. 8, Team Izzy Sy – Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

With my first pick I’m going to take Jaren Jackson Jr. He’s probably the best rim protector in the NBA right now and just won Defensive Player of the Year. He’s also versatile offensively and has a nice shot. He’s the perfect modern big and is a vital part of Memphis’ success. and he hasn’t even hit his full potential yet. I truly believe he can assert himself as a top-5 big in the NBA.