The Ongoing Mystery at No. 2 + Latest Rockets/Harden Buzz

The week of the NBA draft always generates constant rumors and gossip, and Bleacher Report has been keeping an ear on the NBA’s door.

Most of the talk we’re hearing about concerns the Charlotte Hornets and Houston Rockets: who they’re considering and what prospects are rising up the teams’ boards.

We have made significant changes in our latest lottery projectionsalthough we also keep an eye on the lower profile prospects trying to position themselves for late first and second round consideration.

Here is the latest gossip report after speaking with scouts, managers and agents.

Scoot Henderson, G League Ignite AP Photo/John Locher, File

Rival teams have speculated that the Charlotte Hornets will take Brandon Miller at No. 2. However, no source has been able to track down the origin of the rumor or whether there is any substance behind it.

It has brought back memories of last year’s draft when Jabari Smith Jr. was projected to be the Orlando Magic’s No. 1 pick — a rumor that snowballed into a perceived safety before Orlando drafted Paolo Banchero.

Sources tell Bleacher Report that there are both pro-Miller and pro-Scoot Henderson voices in Charlotte’s front office, but the majority of NBA scouting sources we’ve spoken to still prefer Henderson over Miller in a vacuum.

Both options worked out for Charlotte last week, and Miller and Henderson are expected to meet with owner Michael Jordan on Monday. All indications are that Charlotte is still debating Henderson’s fit alongside LaMelo Ball and who would be the best prospect in a vacuum.

Amen Thompson, Overtime Elite Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

For the Houston Rockets’ No. 4 pick, two names continue to pop up: Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore.

Sources close to the situation say Thompson is most likely their top player-available option. But some uncertainty surrounds James Harden’s free agency — specifically, his price tag. Whatever happens with Harden could affect how the Thompsons fit into their decision.

Whitmore, more than a year younger than Thompson, has closed the gap at the No. 4 spot during the pre-draft process. His effortless athleticism and shot-making during practice suggest both a high floor and a high ceiling.

A week before the draft, sources still say Amen Thompson has the edge with his needed play and defense next to Jalen Green.

Derek Lively, Duke Lance King/Getty Images

Of all the pre-draft risers, Dereck Lively could go the earliest. League sources say he’s getting top-10 consideration after impressing with his shooting during his pro day and practice.

Given the bond in high school when Lively played some stretch 4s alongside Jalen Duren for Team Final, teams seem more willing to buy into the 7-footer’s shooting development despite the lack of attempts at Duke.

Regardless, the interest in Lively is mostly driven by his potential to enhance a team’s defensive identity with rim protection. The Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans are all potential suitors in the lottery, a lineup we no longer expect Lively to slip out of.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Marquette Dylan Buell/Getty Images

One of the big winners of the NBA Combine, Olivier-Maxence Prosper has continued to impress multiple executives during an incredible workout run that has included visits with at least 16 teams.

League sources believe he is now receiving consideration from teams in the top 20, with a number of them suddenly high on his competitiveness, motor, defensive upside and potential to improve as a shooter. Several lottery teams remain interested, though it’s unclear if they see Prosper as more of a trade target.

He has become appealing to different types of rosters, with playoff teams intrigued by the idea of ​​adding an immediately impactful wing defender. Rebuilding teams also see value in his ability to set a tone. He brings relentless energy and an ability to influence without having to dribble.

Where he is taken may come down to the team’s faith in his shooting development. This past season, Prosper improved to make 39 threes in 36 games (33.9 percent) while making 73.5 percent of his free throws. We’re hearing he could go as early as the late lottery, though the middle to late first round seems more realistic.

Kobe Bufkin, Michigan Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images
  • While a Bradley Beal trade could throw a wrench into the Washington Wizards draft, rival teams don’t believe they’ll pass on Anthony Black at No. 8. Either way, he’s expected to be off the board when the Dallas Mavericks pick No. .8.10, whether it’s for Washington or the Utah Jazz.
  • Teams expect Kobe Bufkin to go early and no later than the Toronto Raptors at No. 13. He has participated in limited workouts and there has been silence from his camp, a sign that he might have some promise. Bufkin emerged as one of the biggest late-season upsets, checking the boxes with his shooting, passing, finishing and defensive instincts.
  • With Dereck Lively, Hood-Schifino, Bufkin and French wing Bilal Coulibaly suddenly seen as lottery picks, Keyonte George and Nick Smith Jr. out as the most vulnerable to falling into number 15-20. Both were ineffective with 2-guards, while George struggled with shot selection and defense, and Smith, 185 pounds, showed no convincing signs of any playmaking or rim pressure.
  • Scouts acknowledge Ben Sheppard’s rise after the combine is real. They just question how early a team will be willing to take him. Sources say he is a trade target for several teams in the middle of the first round, where he will receive legitimate consideration.
  • Teams and agents don’t expect the Houston Rockets to hold No. 20. This would be a spot on the board where Houston would simply be looking for a future protected first-rounder in return.
  • Rival teams believe that with Gradey Dick off the board, teams focused on adding shooting will reach for Jordan Hawkins, who we hear could go as high as No. 11 to the Orlando Magic.
  • The one non-NBA combine invite that has generated the most love: Florida’s Colin Castleton. The skilled 6’11” shot blocker is attracting interest from teams in the 40s and 50s.

Check out ours 2023 NBA Mock Draft with the latest updates and B/R information, and hit the comments with your draft nightly predictions.

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