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 /
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NBA 23-and-under
Paolo Banchero (L) and Franz Wagner (R), Orlando Magic. Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images /

Round Two of the 23-and-under Draft

The second round reverses, giving Team Izzy the first pick to pair with Jaren Jackson Jr.

Pick No. 9, Team Izzy – Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers

With my second pick, I’m going to take Tyrese Maxey. I’ve been on the Maxey train since he was drafted in 2020 and I love his game. He is very exciting to watch and has a very versatile offensive game. He has a great handle and can easily get to his spot and score with ease. He is also efficient and has made strides as a playmaker. With Harden’s uncertain future, I believe he will assert himself as an All-Star guard in the East and become a 23-25 point-per-game scorer and earn himself a max deal next offseason.

Pick No. 10, Team Josh – Scoot Henderson, Portland Trail Blazers

I’ll stay true to my board and take Scoot Henderson with my second pick. He has everything you could want in a lead guard prospect, with a tight handle, a confident jumpshot, plenty of athleticism and shake and a fine defensive floor. In the scant minutes we saw of him in Summer League he was confident, in control and looked like the best player on a floor he shared with a host of other first-round picks. He looks like a perennial All-Star.

The fit with Haliburton isn’t the absolute best defensively, but Haliburton has enough size at 6’5″ with a 6’8″ wingspan to guard up a spot as needed, and their passing can be a force multiplier for the offense we are building. Haliburton is a high-level shooter off-the-catch so he can play off-ball in the halfcourt; in transition both players can take it and run, keeping defenses off-guard.

Pick No. 11, Team Caleb – Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

Orlando is just a step away from competing in the post season. Last season’s Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero played no small role in this transformation. Admittedly, Banchero has somewhat poor efficiency currently, but his prospective talent is undeniable. His 6-foot 10-inches frame with solid ball handling set him apart from his draft class counterparts. He averaged 20 points and 6.9 rebounds, and his future development is inspiring. With Banchero leading the young core, the Magic are building toward an entertaining future for the Orlando faithful.

Pick No. 12, Team Alex – LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

To pair with Zion, I am selecting the second youngest All-Star in NBA history, LaMelo Ball. LaMelo’s passing creativity and up-and-down style will fit like a glove next to Zion’s high-flying athletic ability. Listed at 6-foot-7, LaMelo has great size for a lead guard and is one of the more entertaining players in the league to watch.

In addition to his brilliant passing, LaMelo displays great touch and has become a prolific three-point shooter, hitting nearly 38% of his 8.9 attempts per game for his career. His biggest areas for growth are on the defensive end, where his effort and general awareness both need to improve, and his finishing at the rim, which has held down his efficiency from inside the arc. Still, there are few players who offer the combination of playmaking flair and scoring craft like Ball, making him an outstanding addition to the squad.

Pick No. 13, Team Matt – Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

I believe there is still a guard available to build my back-court. They might not be the flashiest player but they definitely have elite level upside. Enter, Josh Giddey – the 20 year old guard from the OKC Thunder. Last year the Thunder were one of the league’s most promising young teams, due in part to Giddey’s performance. This past season he put up an average stat line of 16.6 points per game, coupled with 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game.

While he is primarily a guard, Josh Giddey also plays like a frontcourt player at times. Specifically, his ability to score off cuts, and find opportunities in the paint. At just 20 years old Josh Giddey still has so much time to develop his game, however I believe the young guard has already demonstrated an impressive array of talent. Giddey could fit really well with Evan Mobley in my opinion. If Giddey acted as this team’s point guard, he could facilitate the ball to Mobley with ease. In turn, Mobley could be that defensive anchor setting up screens and keeping opposing defenders off of Giddey while he cuts to the basket. If Giddey had to slide into a forward position for some reason, he could also fit well with Mobley. Josh Giddey’s potential and versatility land him my second pick.

Pick No. 14, Team Gibson – Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons

With my next pick, I pick Jaden Ivey. While the high-flying phenom struggled early in the season in areas like three-point shooting and making plays with the pass, he greatly improved by the end of the season. No other rookie last season saw the type of improvement from day one to the end of the season that Ivey had. His speed and jumping ability pair perfectly with my previous selection.

Pick No. 15, Team Dan – Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic

With my second selection, I’m going with Franz Wagner. Wagner has demonstrated big-time two-way upside and looks to be a cornerstone player for the Magic. He had splits of 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals per outing in Year 2 in 2022-23, with a true shooting rate of 58.9 percent.

Wagner’s ability to affect games in a variety of ways on both ends, both on and off-ball, would make him an excellent fit with Wemby. Wagner has sky-high potential in his own right as a scorer/creator, and is another frontcourt playmaker with a great feel for finding his teammates.

Pick No. 16, Team Quinn – Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder

This might me an unpopular pick, but I want to go with Chet Holmgren. He looked amazing in both of his summer league appearances and has an immense amount of potential. He’s still raw, but is a terrific rim protector, and can also stretch the floor. I believe he can be a sneaky pick for Rookie of the Year this season.