3 Gonzaga Bulldogs selected in The Athletic’s 2023 NBA mock draft

The 2022 NBA draft finished up less than one month ago, but already the 2023 mock drafts are coming out in waves.

The latest comes from The Athletic’s Sam Vecine, and he includes a trio of Gonzaga Bulldogs amongst the 59 players selected.

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Next season will be an interesting one to track for Gonzaga and NBA fans, as the team could have any number of players selected. Julian Strawther and Drew Timme both drew significant draft attention last year before opting to return to school – so both could easily be selected in 2023.

In addition, Gonzaga’s two sophomore guards – Hunter Sallis and Nolan Hickman – could each take a leap forward into the draft conversation, while Chattanooga transfer Malachi Smith could get into the mix as well.

As if that wasn’t enough, there is always a chance someone like Rasir Bolton or Anton Watson or Efton Reid pops in a significant way and jumps onto the draft radar, although that is less likely.

Here is Sam’s first pass at how the 2023 NBA draft could play out for a trio of Zags:

Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Julian Strawther: No. 23, Utah Jazz

Strawther is expected by most to be the first Zag selected in next year’s draft, and for good reason.

While he probably won’t be Gonzaga’s leading scorer next year, he could easily take a step forward as an outside shooter and shot creator – and if he also makes strides to improve defensively it’s easy to see how he could be in the first round conversation.

Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Timme: No. 45, Brooklyn Nets

Timme has been in conversation as a mid-to-late second round pick for multiple years now, and he will be in that mix again in 2023. How far he moves up the board depends significantly on two factors: his ability to knock down three point shots and move laterally on defense.

If he can show improvement in those areas, his incredible footwork and ability to finish through contact should make him a reliable backup big man in the NBA, although his style of play is more suited for earlier eras.

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Malachi Smith: No. 58, Milwaukee Bucks

The Zags have had a ton of excellent transfers over the years, including a few who have transferred to Gonzaga and performed well enough to get selected in the NBA draft, a la Dan Dickau, Nigel Williams-Goss, and recently Andrew Nembhard.

Next up could be Chattanooga transfer guard Malachi Smith, who averaged 20 per game last year while shooting 40.7% from deep.

Mark Few loves bringing in veteran guards, and while it’s unclear exactly what Smith’s role will be next season (starting point guard? combo guard? off the bench?) he has the skills to be in the NBA draft conversation – and Gonzaga has the developmental program to get him there in 2023.

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