It’s every young player’s dream to step onto the hardwood at the professional level and play in the NBA. But it’s a hard road and the competition level increases drastically from high school to college to the NBA. An NCAA study in 2020 found that less than five percent of 540,000 high school play at the collegiate level and less than two percent play professionally.
But for some players, they hit the jackpot. They hear their names announced on draft night and feel the years of hard work finally paying off. A bonus to officially being in the league is also appearing in NBA 2K. The latest draft class included a variety of highly talented college players that should make immediate impacts. These are the best overall rookies for NBA 2K23.
5 Jaden Ivey – 76
Leading up to the 2022 NBA draft, Jaden Ivey’s name flirted near the top. There wasn’t one consensus favorite for the top overall pick and Ivey’s two years at Purdue impressed many scouts. The guard was selected to the 2021 All-Big Ten team behind averaging 17.3 points and three assists per game.
Ultimately, Ivey fell to the Detroit Pistons at the fifth overall pick. Ivey’s slashing playstyle should fit perfectly with former first overall pick Cade Cunningham. The 20-year-old specializes in attacking the basket (B+) and playmaking (A-) for his teammates. Ivey factors to be one of Detroit’s best perimeter defenders (B+) and his overall game should help the Pistons return to relevance.
4 Keegan Murray – 76
The Big Ten is known to produce big-time NBA players. Keegan Murray exploded in his sophomore season, improving his points per game exponentially. He went from scoring seven points per game to 23.5 with eight rebounds. Typically, the Sacramento Kings don’t make the smartest decisions on draft night but selecting Murray might turn the tide for the franchise.
Murray’s offense is one of the most balanced among the top rookies. He’s a three-level scorer who can attack the basket (B), pull up from mid-range (B-), and drill three-pointers (B-). As a forward, Murray can defend both inside (B) and outside (B), so even if opposing teams try switching him on defense he holds his ground. Murray has the luxury to learn from veterans like De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis instead of shouldering the stress of the entire team himself.
3 Chet Holmgren – 77
Chet Holmgren only played for one season with Gonzaga, but he made the most of it. The 7'1 center was named the Defensive Player of the Year and overall best player in college basketball. However, Holmgren and the Bull Dogs were upset in the Sweet Sixteen by Arkansas, ending his short-lived collegiate career.
Holmgren’s active interior defense (A-) and rebounding (A) enticed the Oklahoma City Thunder to select him with the second overall pick. Unfortunately, Holmgren suffered a Lisfranc injury to his right foot and will miss the entire season. When he returns, Holmgren will be looked upon to anchor the defense and hopefully have more effective inside offensive moves (C+).
2 Jabari Smith Jr. – 78
Ever since trading Chris Paul and James Harden, the Houston Rockets have swiftly fallen from grace in the Western Conference. Now shouldered with young players and a bountiful of draft picks, the Rockets have started developing their next wave of great players. In this year’s draft, Houston added former Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. to the team.
By the end of this season, analysts might be saying the Rockets drafted the best player of the draft third overall. Smith Jr. enters the league as the best offensive rookie with high grades for scoring inside (B+), mid-range (B+), and beyond the arc (B+). The 19-year-old is also a solid all-around defender, making him one of the best rookies in the league.
1 Paolo Banchero – 78
Typically, fans and analysts have a fairly good idea of which player will be selected first overall before the draft. That wasn’t the case this year. Different players would rise and fall each day, never being a true consensus player for the top slot. So, when the Orlando Magic were officially on the clock, a new name surfaced: Paolo Banchero.
The Duke forward was a key player on legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final team. Banchero averaged 17.2 points and almost eight rebounds per game and was named to the All-ACC team. He’s a slashing playmaker that should gel well with last year’s rookie Jalen Suggs and create a young, offensive duo. Banchero attacks the basket (B+), while also being able to shoot the three with confidence (C+). By being the first overall pick, Banchero will have the spotlight on him throughout the entire season, constantly being compared to the other rookies. For now, Banchero sits atop the rookie class in NBA 2K23.
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