Some Consensus In Latest Round Of Post March Madness Mock Drafts
With the NCAA Tournament now over -- congrats to Ben McLemore -- we will soon know which underclassmen plan on declaring for the 2022 NBA Draft. And with less than a week left in the 2021-22 NBA regular season, we'll soon have a better idea of what the draft order will be, though that won't be set in stone until the Draft Lottery, which is scheduled to be held in Chicago a little over a month from now.
So with the "who" and the "where" coming into clearer focus, it's a good time to take a loop around NBA Draft internet to see which players those who follow college basketball the closest have the Trail Blazers selecting. If the draft were held today and if the lottery didn't exist, Portland would have at least the 6th pick, which is their own, and potentially the 12th pick, which they acquired in the trade that sent CJ McCollum to New Orleans, amongst other things. However, two things there. First and foremost, if the Pelicans make the playoffs -- they have clinched at least a spot in the play-in "tournament" -- the Trail Blazers do not get the pick, so while you might want good things for our old pal CJ, you should be rooting hard for the Pelicans to be eliminated, preferably in their first play-in game versus the Spurs. Portland also does not get the Pelicans pick if it ends up one through four, so there's something else to root against should the opportunity arise.
Secondly, the Pelicans currently have the same record as both the Knicks and Wizards, so if the Pelicans do not make the postseason and end up tied with one or both teams, a tiebreaker (which I'm pretty sure is just the digital version of a coin flip in this case) will have to be conducted prior to the start of the lottery.
So with all that out of the way, here's a second stab at a 2022 NBA mock draft roundup. As will see, there already seems to be some consensus on who the Trail Blazers might select, at least with the 6th overall pick. There didn't seem to be any players who dramatically improved their stock during the NCAA Tournament -- I would argue that's a function of the 2022 Tournament being defined largely by the play of underdogs until the Final 4 -- but once draft workouts start to pick up around the end of May, the movement that we often see right after March Madness will almost undoubtably start to pick up.
• Kevin O'Connor at The Ringer has the Trail Blazers selecting Jeremy Sochan, a 6-9 freshman forward out of Baylor, with the 8th overall pick (not entirely sure why that is)...
Sochan would add much-needed wing defense next to Damian Lillard but there’s also a bit of weirdo-positionlessness to his game. Sochan is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, too, so he could help create shots for Dame. Would Chauncey Billups use Sochan as a screener or a dribble-handoff creator? Could the Blazers add a switchable big guy then use super versatile lineups? A guy like Sochan makes more possible around Dame.
Sochan averaged 9.2 points on 47 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent shooting from three, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals in 25.1 minutes per game this season for the Baylor Bears. He finished with 15 points in both of Baylor's tournament game versus 16-seed Norfolk and 8-seed North Carolina.
And with the 11th pick, O’Connor has Portland selecting Bennedict Mathurin, a 6-6 sophomore guard out of Arizona...
A backcourt featuring Dame and Benn would bring me so much joy. Mathurin is like CJ McCollum but with size. He’s a bucket-getter, but he’s also one of those guys always in the mix. Diving for loose balls. Flying in for offensive boards. Showing great defensive potential when he focuses. Portland needs size around Dame, and Mathurin can provide that in the backcourt.
Mathurin averaged 17.7 points on 45 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from three, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game this season for the Wildcats. He had one of the best individual performances of the tournament, posting 30 points, four assists and two steals in an 85-80 overtime victory versus TCU in the round of 32. However, his tournament came to an end in the Sweet 16, with Arizona losing 72-60 to Houston with Mathurin going for 15 points on 29 percent shooting, four rebounds and three assists in 37 minutes.
Also, shoutout to The Ringer for being one of the few outlets that still devotes significant resources to covering the NBA Draft. Be sure to click over to read in more detail about Sochan, Mathurin and anyone else who the Trail Blazers might end up selecting.
• Sam Vecenie at The Athletic has the Trail Blazers selecting A.J. Griffin, a 6-6 freshman forward out of Duke, with the 7th overall pick...
Griffin sticks in the top 10 and remains a bit polarizing for teams who are trying to get a handle on who he is and what his role will be at the next level. There are moments where he looks like a future shot creator at the NBA level because of his incredible touch and ability to play balanced off two feet. He had 18 points in Duke’s Elite Eight game and looked completely translatable regarding how he attacked off the catch, hit players who closed out too heavily on his shot and made shots from all three levels. What NBA evaluators are trying to figure out is Griffin’s athleticism level. Early in his development, prior to missing time due to injury in high school, he looked to have more athletic pop. Is that a matter of getting back from his preseason knee injury? Does he not get the most out of his athleticism in the half court functionally? Or is this who he is? If it’s the latter, he’s more of a late lottery guy. If there is more there, the further he gets from injury, he’s a potential top-five pick. Teams will be looking toward the pre-draft process to find out more.
Griffin averaged 10.4 points on 49 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent shooting from three, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 24.0 minutes per game this season for the Blue Devils. He had his best game of the tournament in a 78-69 victory versus Arkansas in the Elite 8 where he finished with 18 points on 78 percent shooting from the field and 67 percent shooting form three, three rebounds, a block and a steal in 26 minutes. However, he followed that up with his worst game of the tournament in the Final 4, where he scored just six points on 14 percent shooting to go with four rebounds, two blocks and an assist in 29 minutes.
And with the 11th pick, Vecenie has the Blazers selecting Dyson Daniels, a 6-6 Australian guard/forward who opted to play for the G-League Ignite this season...
Daniels, the Australian point guard who came to G League Ignite this past season, has maintained his position as the top Ignite prospect throughout the back half of the season. He processes the game really well and makes high-level passing reads. He’s completely unselfish, almost to a fault at times as the chaos around him in the G League unfolds. On top of that, he has a case as the best defensive guard in the draft class, a 6-foot-6 player who can guard one through three across the perimeter, get through screens with ease and fly around in rotation to blow up actions. He’s going to have to prove he can shoot to reach his ceiling, but Daniels has the high level of basketball IQ that has translated well in recent years in the NBA. Australia has done an interesting job developing and empowering big guards to succeed at the highest levels in recent years. Daniels will be next.
This is usually the part where I'd tell you what Daniels averaged this season, but if you can find individual stats for the Ignite, you're a better person than I (which you probably were anyway).
• Jon Givony and Mike Schmitz at ESPN have the Trail Blazers selecting Sheldon Sharpe, a 6-6 freshman guard who has attended Kentucky since last spring but has not played for the Wildcats, with the 6th overall pick and Mark Williams, a 7-0 sophomore center out of Duke, with the 11th pick. Here's what they had to say about Williams, who ended up on the losing end of Duke's Final Four matchup versus North Carolina...
Williams was unable to settle in and have his usual two-way impact as he picked up his second foul that forced him to sit the final 15 minutes of the first half. Williams was again forced to the bench in the second half as he collected his fourth foul with just over 10 minutes remaining. On top of that, Williams missed two huge free throws with 47 seconds remaining that would have put Duke up one. Williams never got in a true rhythm during his 16 minutes, finishing with eight points, four rebounds and zero blocks -- it was only the second time all season that Williams didn't record at least one block. Although not an elite defensive rebounder, Williams' 9-8 reach was sorely missed on the glass, as UNC chased down 17 offensive rebounds.
The 20-year-old sophomore did still have a couple highlights, hammering home four dunks off of putbacks and drop offs, bringing his NCAA total to 17 over five games. He was a mixed bag defending pick-and-roll, taking away passing angles for the ball handler several times, racking up a couple deflections in the process. It's hard to complain about his contest against Caleb Love in what proved to be a back-breaking pull-up 3 for the Blue Devils. But he was a bit too deep in drops on occasion and still gets too high in his stance from time to time.
Given the tough whistle along with his strong body of work as a lob-catching, shot-blocking, offensive rebounding center, Williams' up and down Final Four performance isn't likely to affect his draft stock as he's all but solidified his status as a top-20 prospect, with the potential to earn looks in the late lottery with a strong pre-draft process. With a reach bigger than Rudy Gobert and some stylistic similarities to centers ranging from Robert Williams to Mitchell Robinson to Clint Capela, there are no shortage of successful bigs in Williams' mold, which gives him one of the highest floors among big men prospects not named Chet Holmgren.
• Krysten Peek at Yahoo! Sports also has the Trail Blazers selecting Sheldon Sharpe out of Kentucky with the 6th overall pick. As for the pick from the Pelicans (fingers crossed), she has Portland selecting Ochai Agbaji, a 6-5 senior guard out of Kansas.
Agbaji averaged 18.8 points on 48 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent shooting from three, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 35.1 minutes for the Jayhawks this season. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2022 Final Four -- he finished with 21 points versus Villanova and 12 in the championship game versus UNC -- and is a finalist for the 2022 Wooden Award. He also has a relationship with Damian Lillard, which never hurts.
• Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has the Trail Blazers selecting Keegan Murray, a 6-8 sophomore forward out of Iowa, with the 6th overall pick.
Murray was one of the most prolific scorers in college this season, averaging 23.5 points on 55 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from three while also posting 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals in nearly 32 minutes per game this season for the Hawkeyes. Though he put up 21 points on 53 percent shooting, nine rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in Iowa’s first game of the NCAA Tournament, it wasn’t enough to avoid being bounced 67-63 by 12-seed Richmond.
As for the pick from the Pelicans, Zillgitt also has Portland selecting Ochai Agbaji out of Kansas.
• Kyle Irving at Sporting New also has Portland selcting Benn Mathurin out of Arizona, albeit with the 6th overall pick...
In my last Mock Draft, I wrote, "In my opinion, there isn't much that separates Mathurin from Duke's AJ Griffin or Wisconsin's Johnny Davis." During the NCAA Tournament, Mathurin proved he not only belongs in that next tier of wings in this draft class, but he may be the best of the bunch.
Mathurin had one of the best individual games of March Madness with his 30-point performance in an overtime win over TCU. He was the fastest and most explosive player on the floor, blowing by defenders to attack the basket. (He also threw down the poster dunk of the tournament, too.) He showed his ability to score on or off the ball, but when it mattered most, he was the one taking and making the big shots.
He still has work to be done on the defensive end but his speed and athleticism, arsenal of moves as a shot creator and NBA range as a shooter make Mathurin worthy of a top-10 pick.
As for the pick from the Pelicans, Irving also has the Trail Blazers selecting Jeremy Sochan from Baylor, though he has Portland picking 12th here...
Even though he only averaged 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks this season, Sochan has become a bit of a draft darling with his measurables and switchability as a defender. At 6-foot-9 with a reported 7-foot wingspan, Sochan can hold his own in the paint but he's also quick enough to guard on the perimeter. His activity as a cutter and rebounder makes up the bulk of his scoring on the offensive end, but he'll have to become a more consistent 3-point shooter to really carve out a role in the NBA. Sochan is still a project but he has a ton of upside potential.
• Ricky O'Donnell at SBNation has the Trail Blazers selecting Jalen Duren, a 6-11 freshman center out of Memphis, with the 6th overall pick and Johnny Davis, a 6-5 sophomore guard out of Wisconsin, with the 11th overall pick.