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 schoolers play at the collegiate level, and less than two percent go on to 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.
Updated January 31, 2023, by 2023世界杯买球入口 (最受欢迎体育平台排行): We've crossed over to the second half of the NBA season, so we've updated the current entries to reflect their new NBA 2K23 ratings. Also, we've added a few more prominent rookies who have played extremely well during the season.
11 Chet Holmgren - 73
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 (D+).
10 Tari Eason - 77
After spending a season at Cincinnati, Tari Eason transferred to LSU and found quick success in the SEC. Eason went from scoring a little more than seven points per game to 16.9, and greatly improved his three-point shooting. He was named the SEC Sixth Man of the Year and was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the middle of the first round.
The Rockets are the second youngest team in the NBA, but that also means the team is bursting with young talent like Eason. As a Stretch Glass Cleaner, the power forward is a sharpshooter beyond the arc (B+) on offense, while being a premium interior (B) and perimeter defender (B+) with a high motor to rebound the basketball (A-) on defense.
9 Jalen Williams - 77
The Oklahoma City Thunder continue to stockpile draft picks and develop young prospects entering the NBA. Their second selection in the first round was guard Jalen Williams out of Santa Clara. Williams spent three years at Santa Clara, and was finally named to the All-WCC team in 2021 with a career-high 18 points, 4.2 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Williams is listed as a guard but also has experience playing the forward position with the Thunder. The 21-year-old is another talented scorer for the team, capable of scoring inside (B+) and mid-range (A-), while also being a decent playmaker (B).
8 Jabari Smith Jr. - 77
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 one of the best offensive rookies with high grades for scoring inside (B+), mid-range (C+), and beyond the arc (B-). The 19-year-old is also a solid all-around defender, making him an intriguing player to watch throughout the season.
7 AJ Griffin - 78
AJ Griffin’s journey to the Association began at Duke University. In one season with the Blue Devils, Griffin was named to the All-Freshman ACC team behind 10.4 points per game and 54 percent two-point shooting. The Atlanta Hawks snatched him up with the sixteenth overall pick in the first round, and so far, he’s been a solid bench player for the team.
Griffin has shown flashes as a Three-Level Scorer, capable of putting the ball in the basket inside (A), mid-range (A-), and beyond the arc (B+). Besides his offensive talents, Griffin can hold his own on the defensive end both inside (B) and on the perimeter (B).
6 Jaden Ivey - 78
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 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.
5 Keegan Murray - 78
The Big Ten is known to produce big-time NBA players. Keegan Murray exploded in his sophomore season, improving his PPG 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 an inside-out scorer who can attack the basket (B), pull up from mid-range (C+), and drill three-pointers (A). 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.
4 Bennedict Mathurin - 80
The University of Arizona is known for developing top-notch NBA talent, and that continues with small forward Bennedict Mathurin. During his two seasons with the Wildcats, Mathurin primarily played guard but shifted when he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers. Mathurin received Pac-12 Player of the Year honors last season, as well as the Pac-12 Tournament Most Valuable Player, which propelled his draft stock.
Selected with the sixth overall pick, Mathurin has dazzled in his rookie campaign with the Pacers. Mathurin can score inside (B) and from beyond the arc (B), showing early signs of being a dominant Inside-Out Scorer. While he’s only started six games, he’s averaging nearly 30 minutes per game with 17.7 points per game. Indiana has been searching for a Paul George successor since trading him in 2017 and they might’ve finally found him in Mathurin.
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During his lone season at Memphis, Jalen Duren dominated the AAC. Behind 12 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, Duren was named the AAC Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, Duren’s collegiate career ended with a second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament by Gonzaga. Initially selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the thirteenth overall pick, Duren was rerouted to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for a future first-round pick.
The Pistons were rumored to be interested in restricted free agent Deandre Ayton, so acquiring Duren addressed that need. In his rookie season, Duren has solidified his role as the starting center, providing stability at the position for Detroit. As a Glass-Cleaning Finisher, Duren gobbles up rebounds (A+) and performs well in the interior on both offense (B+) and defense (B+).
2 Walker Kessler - 80
After the 2020 NCAA season, Walker Kessler decided to transfer from the University of North Carolina to Auburn. Many college basketball analysts were surprised by his move but Kessler wanted to continue his collegiate career closer to home. Kessler blossomed into a premier forward for Auburn, averaging 11.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, but his defense stood out. Kessler was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a spot on the SEC All-Defense team.
Kessler was drafted near the end of the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies but was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and then again to the Utah Jazz as part of the massive Rudy Gobert trade. With a hole at the center position, Kessler has settled into the role nicely. Labeled as a Defensive Anchor, the 21-year-old excels in rebounding (A+) and interior defense (A-).
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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 Orlando's youth movement. Banchero attacks the basket (A-), while also being able to shoot the three with some 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.
NEXT: NBA 2K23 Player Ratings: Best Shooting Guards, Ranked