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Potential sleeper prospects in 2023 NBA Draft

Here’s some of the players we think will outperform expectations in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Eastern Michigan Eagles forward Emoni Bates (21) against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second half at Colonial Life Arena. Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 22. The draft starts at 8 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN. Everybody knows Victor Wembanyama will be the No. 1 pick to the San Antonio Spurs, but there is some debate about what the next teams like the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers will do.

The nature of the draft makes it an unpredictable event, and prospects tend to get labeled with expectations based on where they are drafted. Here are five 2023 prospects we feel will outperform their draft slot and NBA projections.

NBA Draft 2023 top sleeper prospects

Bilal Coulibaly (France) - 5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, 53.2 FG%, 45.2 3p%, 59.5 FT%

Coulibaly has flown up draft boards over the past few weeks and has a chance at becoming a lottery pick, but many are still sleeping on him. He played with Wembanyama on the Metropolitans 92 and that helped him get some attention. While he has great ability getting to the rim and finishing, his offensive skills are raw. However, he does have All-NBA Defensive Team upside. He’s an aggressive defender, and his play on that end of the floor will get him immediate playing time.

Tristan Vukcevic (Serbia) - 5.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.9 apg, 55.2 FG%, 37.3 3p%, 80 FT%

There is great upside with Vukcevic with his ball handling and ability to stretch the floor. While he is 7-foot, he shoots the ball well and has a guard-like game. Teams will want to add some strength to him and develop more of an inside game, but he has what a lot of big men coming out of college lacking. His first few years will be developmental, but he has the real chance to be a starting forward in the NBA.

Emoni Bates (Eastern Michigan) - 19.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 40.5 FG%, 33 3p%, 78.2 FT%

There was a ton of hype around Bates coming out of high school as he was one of the top recruits in the country, but things didn’t go well at Memphis. He decided to return closer to home and play for Eastern Michigan, where he was great. He had a real ability to show off his skills. Bates is being mocked in the second round, which would be a steal given the thought of him being a lottery pick a few years ago.

Terquavion Smith (North Carolina State) - 17.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.1 apg, 38 FG%, 33.6 3p%, 70.1 FT%

Smith’s numbers aren't extremely efficient, but he showed some skill at NC State. His ability to create his own shot and shoot from NBA distance intrigues scouts. He’s projected to be a second-round pick, but there is good upside in him. He shot the ball so much in college, so there are questions with how good he’ll be as more of a role player. I could see him being a guy able to give you 10-15 points per game off the bench in his first few years.

Azuolas Tubelis (Arizona) - 19.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2 apg, 57 FG%, 31.3 3p%, 76.4 FT%

There is a chance Tubelis goes undrafted, but that would be a mistake. He’s one of those stretch forwards with inside game as well. He was Arizona’s best player this year and he showed improvements in every year at college. He shoots the ball well and moves well for his size. He has some Nikola Jokic in his game. If he is to go undrafted, it may be the best scenario for him. If Tubelis goes to a team who needs a four with the ability to stretch the court, he could make an impact in his first year.