They keep their own pick if they fail to make the playoffs, and will also get the New Orleans Pelicans’ first rounder this season if it falls between the 5th and 14th overall selection. With that in mind,
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie has identified a pair of candidates for the team in his latest mock draft (subscription needed)—Memphis center Jalen Duren and Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin.
Of the 6’11” Duren, a freshman for the Memphis Tigers (projected as the 8th pick via New Orleans), Vecenie writes:
The Tigers are finally figuring out how to use him in space, in transition and out of ball screens occasionally. He’s made a couple of jumpers. It also helps that he’s a freak-show athlete in terms of power/explosiveness with a 7-foot-6 wingspan. Essentially, Duren looks like an NBA player on the court right now, and he blocks a ton of shots to showcase his long-term potential as a drop-coverage defender. He’ll likely hear his name somewhere in the No. 5 to No. 14 range on draft day, even though his skill level and overall comfort in space needs to keep taking strides over the next year.
Duren is averaging 11.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over his 25 minutes a game this season, shooting at a 64% clip from the field. He was a consensus five-star recruit out of Florida’s Montverde Academy, reclassifying after his junior season of high school in 2021.
Mathurin is enjoying a breakout sophomore season with the Arizona Wildcats. The 6’6” Montreal native has seen his scoring average rise from 10.8 points per game last year to an even 17 per night this season, in addition to 5.9 rebounds. He’s shooting 47% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc, taking 5.6 attempts from three per game, nearly half of his total attempts from the field.
On Mathurin’s NBA potential (projected as the 9th pick), Vecenie praises his offensive game but questions his defensive commitment:
Mathurin is the kind of scorer who should find success in the NBA and shouldn’t have too many problems athletically on defense. But he does need to improve his engagement and overall willingness to battle on that end. He’s not really a “3-and-D” guy right now more than a “3-and-transition-offense” guy. He has potential to be an impact player on defense if he wants to be. But it’ll take real effort and consistency that he doesn’t always show.
The 2022 NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled to take place on May 17, while the actual draft will be held on June 23.