2023-24 contenders that helped themselves in the NBA Draft

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The rich got richer with the 2023 NBA Draft 

The 2023 NBA Draft might be remembered for guys like Victor Wembanyama, Brandon Miller, Scoot Henderson and Amen Thompson changing the fortunes of their respective organizations. However, in recent years some of the league’s contenders have been able to boost their rotations without having top-10 picks. These are winning franchises that identify value and draft players that can help them win immediately — while also giving them some long-term upside. With that in mind, keep reading to see how some of the top teams in the league helped themselves in the draft. 

 

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Denver Nuggets (+475 to win title / +250 to win Western Conference)

The Nuggets are fresh off a dominant title run in which the team won the first NBA championship in franchise history. With that in mind, Denver probably doesn’t want to be thinking much about the offseason right now. But basketball never stops, and the Nuggets had to turn around and quickly prepare themselves for the 2023 NBA Draft. And I think they knocked it out of the park with some of their additions.

Denver used the 29th pick on Gonzaga wing Julian Strawther, who is listed at 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan and averaged 15.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season. Strawther did that on 46.9% shooting from the floor and 40.8% shooting from deep. He also finished in the 97th percentile in college basketball in spot-up shooting last year, according to Synergy Sports. He shot 45.0% on spot-up triples, making it easy to figure out how he’ll fit next to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

Denver also drafted Jalen Pickett with the 32nd pick in the draft. Pickett has an unconventional game, but he should be ready to take over as the team’s backup point guard rather quickly. At 6-foot-4, he has great size for the position while also possessing tremendous feel as a pick-and-roll ball handler. On top of that, the Nuggets added another sniper in Clemson forward Hunter Tyson, who shot 40.5% from 3 on 6.0 attempts per game. He’s also a very good rebounder for a shooter, as he averaged 9.6 rebounds per game last year.

It remains to be seen whether the Nuggets will find a way to bring Bruce Brown back in free agency. But Denver is going to feel good knowing that it drafted three guys that can contribute sooner rather than later. 

Golden State Warriors (+1300 to win title / +650 to win Western Conference)

The draft hasn’t been all that kind to the Warriors in recent years, but they’re going to feel good about landing Brandin Podziemski with the 19th pick and Trayce Jackson-Davis with the 57th selection.

Podziemski transferred from Illinois to Santa Clara after barely playing as a freshman in the Big Ten. That move did wonders for the 6-foot-5 guard, as he averaged 19.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game last season. Podziemski also shot 43.8% from deep in his first season with the Broncos. The 20-year-old just looked the part of a special offensive player last year, and he should fit in very nicely with this Golden State team. The only concern with Podziemski is whether he has the athleticism to guard at the next level. But the Warriors should be able to do a decent job of hiding him defensively, and what he brings on the offensive end might make up for it anyway.

In Jackson-Davis, the Warriors just might have nabbed themselves the steal of the draft. Jackson-Davis is an unbelievable athlete that can finish at the basket and be relied on to play hard every night. He’s also a remarkable passer for a big man and he is a very good defender. He should eventually be a nice rotational piece for the Warriors, who need all the depth they can get around their aging core.

Los Angeles Lakers (+1200 to win title / +750 to win Western Conference)

It seems like the Lakers are helping themselves in the draft a lot these days, whether it’s in the draft itself or in undrafted free agency. This year’s class is no exception to that, as Los Angeles brought in quite a bit of talent.

The star of the show for this year’s group is Indiana’s Jalen Hood-Schifino, who Los Angeles picked 17th overall. Hood-Schifino is a big guard that can really kill opponents with his mid-range jumper. He’s also a better playmaker than he is given credit for, while also being a good defensive prospect. Hood-Schifino should immediately give the Lakers a spark off the bench, as he’s ready to contribute right now. But he also possesses some untapped potential, which will come in handy when LeBron James is no longer around.

The Lakers also did well to add Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis with the 40th pick in the draft. Lewis is a 6-foot-7 wing that looks like he has the potential to be a very solid 3-and-D player. He made the All-WCC Second Team last year and is the exact type of player you want to add to a winning organization.

Los Angeles also brought in Florida center Colin Castleton and Missouri guard D’Moi Hodge as undrafted free agents. I’m personally very high on Castleton as a bench option at the next level, as he has great size and energy while also having good instincts on both ends of the floor. And Hodge is just a sniper from the outside, where he shot 40.0% from 3 on 7.1 attempts per game last season. He’s far from a sure thing to make an impact in the pros, but great shooting gives you a chance.

Miami Heat (+1400 to win title / +600 to win Eastern Conference)

The Heat only had one pick in this year’s draft, but I think they made it count. Miami used the 18th pick on UCLA wing Jaime Jaquez Jr., who was the Pac-12 Player of the Year and a consensus second-team All-American in 2023. Last season, Jaquez averaged 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game for the Bruins. And it’s hard to think of a player that exemplifies “Heat culture” the way he does.

Jaquez is tough as nails on both ends of the floor, which should make him one of Erik Spoelstra’s favorites immediately. But he also has a ton of game. Jaquez has some of the craftiest footwork you’ll see out of a perimeter player, which is something that I believe will do wonders for him as an isolation scorer in the NBA. He’s also improving as a shooter and has shown great feel as a mid-post passer. Jaquez is just a very versatile offensive player, and he should be a great defender, too. He was a menace on that end of the floor at UCLA and competes his tail off.

Don’t be surprised if Jaquez is an immediate rotation player for Miami, and I think he can potentially start for the Heat later in the season. Miami also signed some talented players as undrafted free agents, which has been a staple for this organization in recent years. The Heat brought in Villanova guard Caleb Daniels, Washington State guard Justin Powell and USC wing Drew Peterson, among a few others. I’m particularly high on Peterson. He’s a 6-foot-9 forward that plays more like a guard. Peterson can really shoot the basketball and he also has some good playmaking ability. Don’t be surprised if he’s the next Miami rotation player to come out of nowhere.

Dallas Mavericks (+2000 to win title / +1200 to win Western Conference)  

The Mavericks really needed to find a way to bring in some talent this offseason, and I think they did really well with what they had to work with in the draft. Dallas has been lacking a legitimate center for quite some time now, but the team was able to draft Duke big man Dereck Lively II with the 12th pick in the draft. Lively is probably the second-best rim protector in this entire class, and he also has the foot speed to guard on the perimeter. That’s rare in today’s NBA. And Lively should excel as a pick-and-roll finisher for both Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. He’s very athletic and that’s what will help him contribute offensively right away. Lively also happens to have an emerging 3-ball. That could take his game to new heights.

Dallas used the 24th pick in the draft on Marquette forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper. Prosper is an extremely versatile defender, which should allow him to play big minutes right off the bat. Prosper could also do some damage on the offensive end, as he’s athletic and can finish at the basket. Prosper is also improving as a shooter, which is the final piece of the puzzle for him. He’ll be one of the more dangerous 3-and-D players in the league if he can start knocking it down with consistency. But overall, he’s the exact type of player you want next to guys like Doncic and Irving.

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that the Mavericks got Davis Bertans off the roster and brought Richaun Holmes in. Holmes is a high-energy big and should be a nice piece for this Dallas team. He’s a good finisher around the basket and plays hard every night. His activity on both ends of the floor will leave Jason Kidd no option but to play him. 

I also liked Dallas adding TCU guard Mike Miles as an undrafted free agent. It’s always hard to stick as an undrafted player, but he displayed a lot of shot making prowess at the collegiate level. He’s also a very feisty player and that makes him the type of guy you want to bet on.