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NBA Draft Profile: Jalen Duren

Memphis center Jalen Duren is a traditional center with serious upside.

Temple v Memphis Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

The Trail Blazers’ forgettable 2021-22 season is in the books and it is time to turn our attention to the 2022 NBA Draft. Unlike recent years, Portland possess multiple picks in this year’s process. After finishing the regular season with a 27-55 record, the Blazers enter the lottery draw with the sixth-best odds in the NBA. Buoyed by those odds, the Blazers are poised to exit the draft with the rights to a marquee prospect.

Today’s profile features Memphis center Jalen Duren. At just 18 years old, Duren might be the best pure center in the entire 2022 draft class.

Jalen Duren

  • Height: 6’11”
  • WT: 250
  • Wingspan: 7’5”
  • Shooting Hand: Right
  • Position: C
  • Age: 18
  • Projected draft range: 7-12

2021-22 Statistics

  • PTS: 12.0 | Per 40: 18.9
  • REB: 8.1 | Per 40: 12.9
  • BLK: 2.1 | Per 40: 3.3
  • STL: 0.8 | Per 40: 1.3
  • FG%: 59.7
  • FT%: 62.5

Strengths

Duren is a powerful athlete in the paint on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he is a dynamic finisher. He is excellent at tracking lob passes and he can corral the ball with just his right hand when he rises up to dunk. In pick-and-roll actions, Duren is a huge target. He gets downhill quickly after setting picks. If an opposing defense hesitates at all, Duren is in position for a highlight-worthy finish. At the rim, Duren converted 74.3 percent of his attempts (per CBB Analytics).

Along with scoring in the post, Duren has shown flashes of getting others involved on the short roll. He plays with his head up, which allows him to make quick decisions when he receives the ball. Duren is a fluid runner in transition. Once a break starts, he immediately applies pressure by filling the center lane.

Duren’s defensive upside is rooted in his shot blocking prowess. Buoyed by a staggering 7-foot-5 wingspan, he is a nightmare for opponents. Duren’s shot blocking exploits go beyond just his long reach. He is incredibly quick and bouncy for a player of his stature. He is an expert at sliding into position for blocks. His leaping ability allows him to stifle shots from across the key and on trailing moves.

Duren ranks among the best rebounders in the entire class. He’s an absolute force in the paint. Even when he is out of position, he is able to overpower opponents. Of the three lottery-projected centers in the 2022 draft, Duren leads the way in offensive rebounding. His 16.3 percent offensive rebounding rate against top-level competition ranked above Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Mark Williams (per KenPom).

Weaknesses

Duren’s offense is completely paint-dependent. He attempted 236 shots last season; 184 of them came inside the paint. He connected on just 32.7 percent of the 52 shots he attempted outside of that area. Duren needs to re-tool several aspects of his shooting form, starting with his footwork. From squaring up to launching into his shot, Duren’s base is not consistent. His free throw percentage does not indicate that he is due for a leap in efficiency going forward.

In the post, Duren’s game is built almost exclusively on power. He settles for low-percentage looks if his initial attack is stopped. When he isn’t running towards the rim, his low-post offense is limited to face-up attempts. His back-to-the-basket offense is underdeveloped.

Defensively, Duren definitely hunts for blocked shots. He too often overcommits on pump fakes. His quest for blocks can also leave him out of position when he is off the ball. Due to his aggressive style, Duren often finds himself teetering on verge of foul trouble.

Center Prospects vs. KenPom’s Tier A

Player Block % Per 40 Fouls
Player Block % Per 40 Fouls
Jalen Duren 6.8 5.2
Mark Williams 10.2 4.0
Chet Holmgren 11.8 4.7
Stats via KenPom

2021-22 Season

Duren led Memphis past a bumpy start to a 22-11 record. The Tigers’ late-season rally helped them clinch a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Duren recorded a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double in an opening round victory over Boise State. In the second round, with Duren in foul trouble for long stretches, Memphis fell to Gonzaga in a tight four-point loss.

Individually, Duren earned the AAC Rookie of the Year award and a spot on the All-AAC First Team.

Overall Assessment

Duren re-classified to join Memphis a year earlier than expected, which makes him one of the youngest prospects in the entire class. Don’t let his youth fool you. He has a frame that is already built for the next level. He also has the athleticism to hold his own against NBA competition.

Duren is a ready-made rim runner. If he lands in the right situation, he could find minutes as a pick-and-roll finisher immediately. If he can control his foul rate, he has the potential to serve as rim protector as well.

Duren has a nice blend of upside and transferable skills. His rebounding and finishing at the rim should translate to the NBA with ease. Judging by his college production, it could take time for him to develop other aspects of his offensive game.

Overall Fit

The Blazers offer something that Duren did not have at Memphis: high-level guards to run with. Duren was a monster as a pick-and-roll finisher. He produced those eye-popping numbers without a consistent point guard as a running mate. Whether it is with Damian Lillard early in his career, or with Anfernee Simons in the future, Duren could reach another level of production with the Blazers.

For Portland, Duren addresses a handful of needs. He is a legitimate above-the-rim finisher and he would provide vertical spacing to the Blazers’ offense. In terms of roster construction, Duren would provide depth at center. That said, due to his age and penchant for racking up fouls, the Blazers would be wise to exercise patience with Duren’s development.