Auburn – The 2022 NBA draft could be historic for athletics in Auburn.
Jabari Smith has a chance of becoming Auburn’s first general basketball pick. If selected by the Orlando Magic, Auburn would also become the third school to produce the first pick in the NBA, NFL, and MLB drafts, joining LSU and UCLA.
For the basketball program specifically, Thursday (7 p.m. Cairo time, ESPN) will be another significant step. Smith Walker Kessler could become the fourth and fifth picks in the first round of the Bruce Pearl era. They will join Chuma Okeke, Isaac Okoro and Davion Mitchell, who moved to Baylor before they were recruited.
Including Mitchell, there will be seven former Auburn players recruited in the past four years.
Here is where Smith and Kessler are expected.
Jabbari Smith, 6-10 F
phantom draft height: #1 overall for the Orlando Magic (ESPN, The Ringer, The Athletic, Yahoo!, Sports News)
Low dummy project: 2 overall for the Oklahoma City Thunder (Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, USA TODAY)
commotion: Looks like Smith is going to Disney World. A six-hour drive from his hometown, Orlando is the potential reward for his distinguished career in Auburn. Smith averaged 16.9 points in 28.8 minutes per game, shooting the third indicator at 42%. Wherever it ends, his career will be forever linked with Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren, other contenders in what was believed to be a full year in the first selection. Smith has emerged as the most popular of the trio due to his versatility in both defensive and shooting.
Our view: Where does it fit best? Oklahoma City Thunder. Not quite as charming as Public Choice #1, which Smith totally deserves just to be clear. But Thunder is a smart organization that has been rebuilding for a few years, and the pieces already in place complement Smith’s strengths and weaknesses as a possibility. Dribbling is the most important feature it lacks. Surround Smith with Shay Gilgus Alexander and Josh Gede, and the Auburn forward could help make Oklahoma City an instant contender in the playoff.
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Walker Kessler, 7-1 c
phantom draft height: Round 1 (#18 overall) to the Chicago Bulls (Gary Parrish of CBS Sports)
Low dummy project: Round Two (48th overall) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (USA TODAY)
Other models: No. 19 to Timberwolves (ESPN), No. 20 to San Antonio Spurs (The Athletic), No. 22 to Memphis Grizzlies (Bleacher Report), No. 24 to Milwaukee Bucks (Yahoo!), No. 25 to San Antonio Spurs (The Ringer), #37 to the Sacramento Kings (CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone)
commotion: After spending most of the freshman season on the North Carolina bench, Kessler’s stock in Auburn soared. He’s been coveted as an edge protector, having won the National Defensive Player of the Year with a historic block rate of 19.1%.
On the offensive end, Kessler is an effective standoff center. He was a reliable pick-and-roll player in Auburn, with 70.2% on two throws. What needs to be added is a layer of pick-and-pop. Kessler was reprimanded out of high school for the 3-point shooting, but lost his touch in college (20% last season). Its use in the Auburn system also did not make room for the development of a toolbox for deployment movements.
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Draft Resolution:Walker Kesler Naismith Award for Best Defensive Player comes at a time
Our view: Where does it fit best? Milwaukee. Brooke Lopez won’t be around forever. If Kessler can redevelop his triple pointer during the final years of Lopez’s career, the Auburn star could be a solid heir to the 34-year-old. A premium layer of protection and a mod allows star player Giannis Antetokounmpo to roam away from the paint and guard with more force.