Draft Tourney Group D: Baldwin, Keels, Kessler, Moore
Vote to decide who moves on to the final round
Results will be updated at the master index for the 2022 Dub Nation HQ Draft Tournament.
Your task is to select ONE of the four to move on to the final round. There is no option to “select no one” or “trade the pick” because OF COURSE everyone prefers a great trade and OF COURSE every prospect this low in the draft will be flawed. We’ve moved beyond that.
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Here is my absurdly oversimplified summary, followed by some film and longer scouting reports.
Patrick Baldwin Jr.
His physical dimensions and skill got him Top-5-hype entering college, but injuries and generally horrible play for his coach dad(!!) at a minor school has completely torpedoed his draft stock.
19 yo football-body combo guard who drives like a running back, can run the PNR and post up, but for a great HS shooter, he was a lousy shooter in college — small sample size or did improved competition expose him?
Historically good college shot-blocker and all-around giant, but his jumper is shaky and he is assumed to be future BBQ chicken for perimeter isolations.
Clever, all-around player for a strong program, but not elite at anything; long and sturdy but scouts question if athleticism is NBA level.
Longer Scouting Reports
Patrick Baldwin, Jr.
Self-comparison: Michael Porter Jr.
Why: “You never want to put a limit on yourself, first and foremost. But there are some guys that you watch film, and you pull from. I know a popular name surrounding me is Michael Porter. So that’s a popular name around circles. I think that’s a good start. But you always want to build the roof off that and continue to progress and improve each year.”
Rising prospects mean others have to fall. Brown, Baldwin and Montero sound like the most vulnerable among players who were projected to be selected in the first round. Baldwin has scouts nervous about his brutally inefficient season, historically low vertical numbers and seemingly casual approach.
Harrison Barnes, Kevin Knox, Jabari Parker
HEIGHT 6'9.25"WEIGHT 231
AGE 19.6YEAR Freshman
Theoretical mismatch nightmare with size and scoring ability, though the results haven’t necessarily been there.
Smooth shooting stroke with an unblockable release point. In the midrange, he has the body control to turn in midair to line up with the rim. He shot the ball far better in high school than he did in college, which provides some optimism that he’ll be able to improve his percentages as he gets more open jump shots in an NBA setting.
Even though the results aren’t there, he looks comfortable getting into his shot out of virtually any play type. He can pick-and-pop, run pick-and-rolls, spot up in the corner, bring the ball up, and pull up in transition. You name it. If the results someday follow, he could begin to match his high school hype.
Against a switching defense, he has the handle and size to score over smaller defenders who might be matched up on him.
Solid off-ball defender who can alter shots at the rim using his long arms.
The argument in favor of Baldwin is his NBA role will not at all resemble what he was asked to do in college. To start his career, teams will ask him to be a 3-and-D role player, not someone who runs the offense. If he can hit spot-up 3s and play hard on defense, he’ll have a chance to stick around.
Complete ball-stopper who takes far too many shots outside of the system, including heavily contested jumpers early in the shot clock. In no way did he make his teammates better. Baldwin played for his father, who was fired following the season, and he got the type of usage you would expect.
Sluggish first step limits his shot-creating ability, plus he lacks the burst and handle to get all the way to the basket consistently. He struggles to finish through contact, so he ends up settling for floaters and heavily contested jumpers.
Lacks on-ball defensive fundamentals, causing him to always be off-balance. It’s as if he thinks constant motion matters more than proper positioning. As a result, opponents drive right by him.
Suffered a left ankle injury that caused him to miss part of his senior year of high school, and has continued to hamper him.
PBJ had perfectly decent measurements at 6’10.25″ with 7’1.75″ wingspan, but his athletic testing was outright miserable.
He was at or near the bottom of every test: dead last in max vert, 2nd to last in standing vert and lane agility, 4th to last in 3/4 court sprint, and 6th to last in the shuttle run.
It can be dangerous to overly invest in athletic testing since it is not always indicative of in game athleticism, but this mostly helps reconcile how he was so dreadfully bad playing low major basketball this season. He is likely too slow and too unathletic to find a niche in the NBA, and it is likely correct to let go of his top 10 recruiting hype and treat him as a likely bust with thin outs to be a useful pro.
He is currently slated as #31 in ESPN’s mock but should be a late 2nd rounder or UDFA.
Baldwin was considered the No. 5 overall recruit in his class when he made the decision to play for his father in the Horizon League over going to Duke. His year with Milwaukee was an outright disaster: his numbers were terrible, an ankle injury limited him to only 11 games, and his father was fired as head coach after a 10-22 season. While the days of Baldwin being considered a top-10 pick are over, there’s still reason to believe in his translation to the NBA. A 6’10, 220-pound forward, Baldwin built his reputation as an elite shooter at the high school level. He can be a major catch-and-shoot threat and does most of his damage on spot-ups or one-dribble pull-ups. His size also allows him to compete defensively, and he’s shown enough off-ball awareness to make some impact on that end. Of course, a pure shooter like Baldwin should hit better than the 26.6 percent from three and 41.8 percent from two-point range he managed as a freshman. The long-term health of his ankle might be a concern as well after it also cost him his senior year of high school. The Bulls simply need both size and shooting, and the best version of Baldwin checks both of those boxes if he can regain the form that once made him so highly touted.
Why He’ll Succeed
Picture perfect form on his jumper. Despite injury issues and not adapting well to huge usage at UW-M, Baldwin’s flashes as a shooter rival anyone in this class, including Jabari Smith.
Showed himself to be a thoroughly competent defender and glue guy at the FIBA U19 World Cup; a role likely much closer to his potential future NBA one.
Should be an instant threat as a spot up shooter, with some ability to attack closeouts and create off a few dribbles.
Good athlete with smooth movement skills. Seems to be a hard worker.
Why He’ll Fail
Has had nagging injuries in ways most teenagers probably shouldn’t. Hard to judge these things given the grueling AAU and workout schedules these guys play through now.
NBA Comp: You can’t make me say MPJ so I’ll say Cam Johnson instead
Pick #25. As mentioned previously, the Spurs may not actually be the team making this pick given they have four draft picks in the top 40. There’s a segment of scouts that remain mostly out on Baldwin after a heavily disappointing year, but he’s started to build back a bit of goodwill after the combine and remains one of the most intriguing shooters in the draft, factoring in his size and clean stroke. Baldwin needs to be able to stay healthy, improve his conditioning, regain his confidence and string games together, but it’s hard to imagine things can get much worse for him than they did in college. Teams will have to understand the bad context and feel comfortable with the situation to actually take the leap here, but there are only so many knockdown shooters with his type of size. Baldwin’s athleticism, defense, and lack of physicality have inspired concerns to varying degrees, but at some point he’s worth a shot.
#48. A tall wing with some perimeter skill who teases with talent in between bouts of sleepwalking, Baldwin comes from a proud draft lineage that includes Austin Daye and Kevin Knox. I don’t really see what the excitement is here, but I’m fascinated to see which team will take the plunge. The idea of Baldwin — a big wing with a 7-1 wingspan and deep shooting range — is alluring, but the reality on the court last year was borderline disastrous.
Even in a poor conference, Baldwin was a below-average player, and in ways that don’t augur well for an NBA translation. Athleticism? Heh. He had the worst standing vertical and worst sprint time of any non-center at the combine, and the worst max vertical of anyone there.
The reason to draft him is a belief that his shooting can come around. Baldwin launched 64 3s in his 11 college games but only made 26.6 percent of them; there is a belief based on his AAU play that he’s capable of much better than this. If so, there could be a stretch four hiding in there somewhere.
College Assistant Coach 8 (his team played Wisconsin-Milwaukee): He’s a capable shooter, but his feet have to be set. Coming off a ball screen, as far as offensively, he is active without the ball. He’s a smart player. You can tell he’s a coach’s kid. He knows when to cut and not to cut. You turn your head, he’ll go backdoor. He doesn’t get to the rim going left at all; he’s pulling up if he’s going left. If he’s going right, he can get to the rim. If he goes left, he’s trying to get to a one-dribble pullup. He’s 6-9, so he can shoot over the top of guys that are guarding him. He’s like a get-to-his-spot type of guy. Off ball screens, he’s not bad. He’ll come off of ball screens and turn them into post-ups. Coming off, he’ll get a switch and just turn his back and post up. He’s actually pretty good at that, which I think translates to the next level. … He doesn’t shoot it well, which I think is really, really going to hurt him. He’s going to have to become a more consistent, just spot-up shooter in general. I don’t think he’s a 3-and-D at all. Those guys are valuable, and I think that’s probably what he’s going to have to be at some point, and I don’t think he is yet. He has to get bigger and stronger, but he is young. They have him listed at 220; there’s no way. I think he’s probably closer to 205, 210, unless he’s put weight on since the season. He’s not thin, but he doesn’t resemble those NBA guys. His biggest thing is he’s a smart player.
Defensively, we were going to attack him. We didn’t think he was great laterally. They played some zone, played some man, they did some different things. And part of it was, I think, he wasn’t interested in being there that much. They weren’t very good. He was playing for his dad. He was susceptible to quicker guys, so we were going to put him in some pick-and-roll situations. He will rebound. He’s a capable and willing rebounder. I think it’s because he’s trying to rebound and push the ball up the floor. He’s one of those guys where it’s like, if I can get the ball off a rebound, I can go. He’s not a shot blocker. I do think he has the ability to guard guys that are bigger than him, because he’s strong and he’s wiry. My worry about him at the next level would be guarding pick and rolls. If he switches onto wings, I don’t think he can do it. … He’s not like a tremendous lateral athlete to me. … he’s going to have to prove he can guard.
Lu Dort minus elite defense
HEIGHT 6'3.25"WEIGHT 224
AGE 18.8YEAR Freshman
A battering ram going to the basket with strong playmaking skills, though he needs to improve his shooting consistency.
Feel for the Game
Seasoned passer who can make accurate dishes and kickouts to teammates with ease off the dribble. He’s aware of his surroundings and can use deceptive look-offs to open passing windows. Though he isn’t a lead ball handler, he can thrive off closeouts and secondary actions.
Football-player body with wide shoulders and a strong upper body that he uses as a bruising attacker off the dribble who can deliver and finish through contact.
Confident scorer who can pull up off the dribble, so if he improves his shooting ability he could have go-to upside.
Aggressive transition threat with or without the ball in his hands. He’ll sprint up the floor following a rebound or take the ball up himself.
Hard-nosed defender who started the year looking like a lockdown player. If he improves his quickness, he also has the toughness and strength to defend larger players. He could be a highly versatile defender if he puts it all together.
At Duke, he drew a ton of fouls and finished well inside, but at the NBA level he’ll need to improve his floater and his off hand. He doesn’t get much lift off the ground. To play a role similar to Bruce Brown or Gary Payton II, screening and cutting to the basket, he’ll need to improve.
Inconsistent shooter who has a solid form but hasn’t seen results from the field or the line.
He needs to get quicker laterally to stick with guards. It’s the most critical area he needs to develop, otherwise minutes will be limited early on.
Adam Spinella (excerpt)
Keels was a young 6’4” combo guard with the Blue Devils who bounced around in different roles as they needed him.
Keels immediately looked like a first-round one-and-done prospect, and the immediate reaction in draft spaces reflected that performance.
But Keels cooled off greatly and did so fairly quickly. He averaged 10 points on 34% shooting over his next nine games, disappearing for stretches. A mid-season injury hampered some comeback efforts, too. The up-and-down year ended on a poor note, as his five-game NCAA Tournament run was far less than ideal: 9.2 PPG in 23 minutes, shooting a dismal 23.5% from deep and an uncharacteristic 3 assists to 7 turnovers on the grand stage.
Keels gets lauded most for his defensive effort. As a strong, brawny 6’4”, he is very capable of out-muscling guys his age and showed some fantastic effort on that end. Non-elite athletes couldn’t get past him and his impact showed. Yet Keels struggled at the point of attack, getting blown past by faster handlers and showing some bad habits such as reaching from behind as soon as he got beat.
All this goes to try and figure out exactly what position or role Keels can fill on an NBA floor. If he’s best-served not defending at the point of attack, he’ll slide up the lineup into the 2/3 role, instead of a combo guard 1/2. Some of the comparative advantages he enjoys at the 1/2 (posting up smalls, perhaps more secondary PNR reps) may disappear. Furthermore, that leverages the swing skill for Keels being his 3-point shooting, a trait that many scouts swear by despite barely making more than 30% of them this season at Duke.
There are a ton of variables in Keels’ game, but beneath them all is a fairly high-IQ player who would provide first-round value if the right role is created for him at the next level and his shot falls the way many anticipate it will.
It’s important to understand who Keels was in high school — and how his role shifted when he got to Duke — to most safely project him to the NBA. At Paul VI in Virginia, Keels was an elite 3-point shooter. But he was also a fantastic playmaker, running with the ball in his hands a ton and averaging over 9 assists per game his senior season. The combination of playmaking (without turning it over), shooting and an outlier physical trait (strength) made him attractive to a high-major program like Duke.
Still, Keels was profiled as a bit of a tweener in college, and that projection came to fruition his first year, to the point where we weren’t sure if Keels would even declare.
He did wind up declaring and stands as an intriguing long-term upside play in the late-first or early-to-mid-second rounds. Keels will inspire confidence on the workout circuit by how he shoots the ball, both off the catch and off the dribble. The spot-up play is more important for teams who see him as more of a 2/3, perhaps a switchable wing defender in smaller lineups or when they want to cross-match and use length to hound an opposing point guard. There are very real and logical avenues to take Keels, despite being only 6’4”, and install him as a wing defender without completely taking away what makes him special on offense.
The trait that makes him special: secondary playmaking. Keels is a really good passer, makes sound decisions off the pick-and-roll and plays with a patience beyond his years. The physicality he can deploy helps him remain patient, and that patience helps him be a fairly mistake-free decision-maker. He shows flashes of comfort hitting mid-range pull-ups as a scoring threat out of ball screens, too.
We’d love to invest in Keels as an early-second round target, though. At his age, there’s plenty there to develop, and a lot of positional or skill outcomes to give him more versatility than most combo guards. His shooting outcome will go a long way in determining whether he’s a multi-positional backcourt piece or a tweener without a true slot.
Dean on Draft. The Weird Combo Guard: Trevor Keels (excerpt)
Keels is the one guy who is unique enough to be difficult to directly compare to anybody in this draft, because he ticks to his own beat as a prospect and it is tough to find a historical comparison for him.
On paper he seems extremely boring as an undersized SG at 6’4.75 with 6’7.25 wingspan. He also had some of the worst athletic testing for any non-big, as he graded similarly to the unathletic euro guards Hugo Besson and Matteo Spagnolo and well below any domestic guard. And he did little on the court as a Duke freshman to dispel any athletic doubts, as he finished the season with a mere 2 dunks and 2 blocks.
Let’s compare past NBA draft prospects who are somewhat similar to him with similarly low block and dunk numbers:
Pritchard has largely succeeded in the NBA because he became a 41% shooter through his first two seasons, but at the same age Keels was not far behind as a shooter. He is confident in his shooting and takes a good volume of 3PA in spite of only making 31.2%, and given how young he is he has plenty of time to become decent to good at shooting. And even if he does not shoot as well as Pritchard, he had a similar assist:TOV while scoring at a much higher rate, and his greater size gives him more potential on defense.
Herro and Kennard are not quite the same because they are such obviously better shooters, but they nevertheless have had NBA careers without being overall more productive than Keels.
Cory Joseph is a fairly juicy comparison. He was a role player who was never that valuable, but he provided a solidly above average return on a late 1st pick at #29 overall as he consistently has found significant minutes throughout his career. And when you put him side by side with Keels, it is not close. Keels was a much more efficient and productive scorer at a full year younger, and has similar potential to be a pesky defensive player with slightly more versatility given his extra 1.5″ of height and length. It does not seem right to let Keels go as late as Joseph did in a weak draft.
Jalen Brunson is fascinating comparison because not only did he have 0 dunks and 0 blocks as an NCAA freshman, but he was similar to Keels with less size, a year older, and far more turnovers. His only significant advantage was in shooting. It’s crazy how well Brunson has done in the NBA– there was no clear signal of his potential statistically or athletically. In fairness he did quite a bit better than Keels in athletic testing, but there was no evidence of any athletic prowess on the court for him.
Austin Rivers is also interesting to compare to Keels, because he was essentially better at nothing as a freshman while having nearly identical dimensions to Keels and being a full year older. Rivers had a bit more volume scoring on mediocre efficiency, but Keels had significant advantages in assists and turnovers as well as more rebounds and steals while being a full year younger.
Rivers was a subpar return on #10 overall as he has never quite been useful, but he has been close enough to useful to hang around the NBA for a long career. If Keels can be a Rivers but with better efficiency, passing, and defense, that is a decent NBA player.
The big cautionary tale on the list is Tyler Ennis, who crushed with assist:TOV ratio while scoring a high volume and completely flopped in the NBA. His low athleticism likely played a role, but he also racked up stats in a dumb Syracuse offense where they jacked up a bunch of mid-range shots and then offensive rebounded them at a huge 38.1% rate. This is reflected in his 42.9% 2P and his team having the 2nd worst 2P% in ACC– it is easier to generate a high volume of offense without turning it over if you are settling for lower quality shots.
Granted, this does not completely negate his offensive production, he still had a compelling amount of output and his limited athleticism likely played a significant role in him succeeding. But as somebody who saw potential in Ennis at the time, I believe I gave his statistical production a bit too much credit given how much it centered around mid-range chucking.
Perhaps I missed a good example or two to compare, but overall this seems to be hardly a death knell. Granted, most of these guys either skipped athletic testing or scored better than Keels, but on court athletic performance should typically trump combine testing for athleticism.
And in terms of on court performance relative to age, Keels seems like he is better than all of these guys. Perhaps you could make a case for Herro or Ennis having a small edge on draft day, but Keels clearly performed better than everybody else as a freshman. And this group collectively performed fairly well relative to draft stock.
There are no huge wins who became stars, which is a reason to somewhat temper enthusiasm for Keels. But there is also no clear signal that limited athleticism should place a major pessimistic skew for young productive guards, and it would seem that with an ESPN ranking of #27 the pessimism for Keels’ athletic limitations has gone too far.
Keels is built like a tank, had a reasonably good freshman year that included a high steal rate, and his biggest weakness (shooting) is the one thing that is most fixable at the NBA level. He made 31.2 percent from 3 and 69.3 percent from the line, but I wouldn’t say his shot is broken. However, he isn’t a natural distributor either; his assist-turnover ratio from his freshman season reflects that he spent some time at the point, but once he heads to the cup he’s thinking shot. Keels also isn’t a great leaper, relying a little too much on beastball around the basket, and one wonders how that will translate as a pro.
Keels is getting some love for his defense in other descriptions I’ve seen, and I’ve gotta say … I must have been out of town for those games. Keels has a strong body, but I’m not sure he can stay in front of anyone at the next level. He didn’t really get into the ball but still gave up a ton of straight-line drives and wasn’t great at contesting shots at the end of the play either.
That said, let’s not get lost in the weeds here. He doesn’t turn 19 until August and turned in a very solid season as a starter in the ACC. He has a chance, especially if the shooting improves. Also, the Ethan Strauss Memorial Fat Is Potential In Disguise (FIPID) factor comes into play here, as Keels measured with 13.5 percent body fat at the combine.
College Head Coach No. 1 (his team played Duke): One of the youngest guys in the league so that’s always a factor when you’re evaluating. We played them early. He was not shooting a high percentage. That was the surprising thing to me. I thought he was a little like Dennis Scott. Tough kid. Good player. I worry a little bit about his body, because he’s a little doughy looking. But he’s always been that way. And he’s young. He’s got baby fat, or whatever. I like him. He’s a good competitor. Great shooter.
College Head Coach No. 2 (his team also played Duke): Hard one to tell. He’s got a ready-made (pro) body, but he’s an average athlete. As far as a shot creator for himself, I think he’s going to struggle a little bit. Against these college guys, he’s putting them in the basket. He’s driving them in there, and bodying them up and making plays around the basket. I can’t see him doing that (in the NBA), because he’s an average athlete. And I don’t know how really good a shooter he is. I wasn’t, because I understand it, but I could have seen him coming back. He’s going to be borderline, in my opinion. I don’t know if he’s going to go first round or not. I do think he’s got a ready-made body. He can handle the ball. His athleticism and explosiveness would scare me a little bit.
College Head Coach No. 3 (his team also played Duke): He’s like a linebacker playing football. He shot the hell of it against us. I know for the season he had some inconsistencies. But he’s another guy that can play off of the ball. He can handle it, get you into stuff. I do think he’s got a good upside. He’s competitive. On both sides, he’s competitive. Very rarely do you see a freshman who’ll be competitive on the defensive end, but I thought he did a good job of that.
Compared himself to: Rudy Gobert on defense, Brook Lopez on offense. Why: “I cover pick-and-roll better. I move my feet quicker.”
Jarrett Allen, Jakob Poeltl
HEIGHT 7'0.25"WEIGHT 256
AGE 20.9YEAR Sophomore
Massive interior force with elite shot-blocking and finishing skills. Developing his shot would be the cherry on top.
At 245 pounds with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, he blocks 4.5 shots per game, swatting everything in sight around the rim while avoiding fouls. He’s so big and yet so nimble, fluidly changing directions to act as a deterrent. Opponents don’t even bother testing him. Factor in his discipline and IQ, and he has a chance to become one of the game’s best defenders.
He’s primarily a drop defender in the pick-and-roll but has shown the agility to get stops on the perimeter. He’s comfortable sliding his feet away from the basket and has elite body control, slamming the breaks then pivoting directions to stay with attackers.
Competitive rebounder who boxes out on defense. When he gobbles up defensive boards he does a nice job of locating his outlet with a pass.
Good finisher inside with soft hands and the leaping ability to clean up around the rim. He’s so smooth off the catch, there’s never any wasted motion to allow a defense the time to strip the ball.
Sets solid screens and has a good feel for a big’s responsibilities, utilizing dribble handoffs and passing to cutters inside.
A modern big with chops as a ball handler and playmaker thanks to his training. Bigs are now raised doing guard drills. By no means will he run an offense, but he can make plays when needed.
Comes from a basketball family—his brother played in college, his dad played overseas, and his uncle played four years in the NBA.
Has shot just 21.6 percent from 3 and 57.6 percent from the line in college. He was a better shooter in high school, though never a knockdown threat.
He’s not an incredibly explosive player and has struggled in some matchups against physical and lengthy defenders.
Lacks an advanced set of post moves.
Perhaps the galaxy brain take is that while Duren + Williams are perfectly solid prospects, it is pointless to take them lotto with Walker Kessler lingering in the 20’s. He is a bit weirder and less attractive as the not as athletic white guy, although you would never be able to tell by looking at the stats.
Kessler is only slightly behind Duren + Williams in dunks and rebounds, but dwarfs them in steals and blocks as he set the record for D1 block rate among players who played at least 400 minutes. He blocks almost everything, and is decently mobile for a 7′ rim protector. Offensively, he has the worst FT% of the 3, but is the only one of the group who regular attempts 3’s as he shot 10/50 as a sophomore, attempting 1.5 3P per game. Otherwise he is hyperefficient with an elite 70% 2P and microscopic TOV rate, much like Williams.
There is quite a bit of goodness in Kessler’s profile, and not really anything to strongly dislike. He seems to be getting the short end of the stick due to assumptions that he is a big white stiff, but he does not look stiff on the court and he has a unique intersection of strengths.
Ultimately I tend to agree with consensus ranking of Duren > Williams > Kessler, but disagree with the space between them in mock drafts. It seems pretty close to a three way coinflip between these guys, as any of them could be the best of the bunch or the worst.
Kessler being underrated should not be a huge knock on Duren and Williams, but he is indicative of the bigger trend that teams are averse to heavily investing in non-elite bigs, and it is an easier position to play moneyball since obviously good ones can fall through the cracks in the draft like Kessler. Duren + Williams both seem like reasonable top 10 picks, but given the market value of bigs, is it really necessary to draft them that high? It’s not clear.
Why He’ll Succeed
Absurdly dominant rim protector at the NCAA level. Blocks or changes basically every single shot in the paint that he sees. Huge with decent footwork and great timing.
A terrific dunker spot player. Decent lob threat just because of his size and timing, but almost impossible to stop roaming the baseline.
Decent FT shooter who can occasionally stretch out for spot up jumpers.
Can stick with lesser guards and wings on the perimeter fairly well.
Why He’ll Fail
Fairly slow footed overall, will fall victim to bad switches in the NBA for sure.
Has a low-ish release point for such a tall player. Sort of slings the ball over one shoulder like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Will have a very hard time shooting over real closeouts from similarly tall players.
High center of gravity. Good rebounder but mostly because few college players are physically capable of getting underneath him. May be boxed out of the play more often in the NBA.
Generally not a scorer; can’t do much with the ball in his hands. His defense and intelligence could make him a spot starter in the NBA but barring huge improvements in his shooting form, unlikely to be any kind of star. Should still be an easy fit for contending teams who need more rim protection off the bench in the short term.
NBA Role: Drop defense rim protection specialist/occasional pop shooter
Pick #26. The Mavericks need to upgrade their supporting cast around Luka Dončić and could use some additional size with Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber entering contract years. Kessler was the most prolific shot-blocker in college basketball last season and figures to be the third center off the board after Jalen Duren and Mark Williams, but his range is a bit wide in the back part of the first round, with his fit a little bit more situational. His sheer size coupled with solid athleticism gives him legitimate potential as a rim protector, and if he gets more comfortable shooting the three, Kessler could return good value in the 20s.
Kessler is a legit 7-footer with a 7-4 wingspan, and he blocked everything in sight. A 19.1 percent block rate in the SEC? And 10.0 blocks per 100 possessions? Are you kidding me? Kessler can get to shots with his left or right hand, and sometimes got them with two hands. He wasn’t as comfortable defending in space but he was still pretty good and Auburn was clearly okay with him switching — the dribbler needs to clear a ton of space to get out of his flight path, but Kessler doesn’t change directions fluidly so sometimes he got cooked.
The more vexing part is finding an offense role for him. I don’t see a major threat as a rim runner, but that’s probably his best role; he also dabbled in 3-point shooting but only made 10 of his 50 attempts. Between that and the fact that he plays the least valuable position, it’s hard to get too excited about him in the top part of the board. But he is a freaky shot blocker, and that’s worth something.
Josh Green, Josh Hart, Gary Harris
HEIGHT 6'4.25"WEIGHT 217
AGE 20.7YEAR Junior
Playmaking wing who got off to a slow start in college, but has emerged as a do-it-all player in his junior season who could fill a number of different NBA roles.
Smooth ball handler who’s at his best when straight-line driving against a rotating defense. He runs ball screens with patience and limits turnovers, and he’s a selfless passer with vision and accuracy. He ran Duke’s offense by initiating the pick-and-roll, bringing the ball up the floor, inbounding, and feeding post players. In the NBA he likely projects as a secondary ball handler, but still brings tremendous value.
Crafty finisher with both hands and has a sturdy frame that can handle contact.
Intelligent cutter who understands how to use fakes or the angle of a screen to get himself open going toward the basket.
Moore shoots an easy ball, especially from off the catch. He was a limited spot-up shooter until his junior season, though he’s always shown touch from floater range and the line. His shot used to look rushed, but now it looks calm and controlled.
You’ll often see him fly out of nowhere to crash the boards.
With a near-7-foot wingspan, he has the versatility to switch across positions. He’s even strong as a post defender. When he’s engaged on defense, he appears to take pride in getting stops by focusing off-ball.
Lacks the explosive first step or advanced handle to regularly penetrate deep into the paint, which caps his upside.
Equipped with the handling and shooting touch to become a guy who can hit jumpers off the bounce. His percentages at Duke were not great, though, and he often passes on shots he should take when defenders sag off him in the pick-and-roll.
A chunk of his turnovers, an issue for him in the past, occur on charges because he lacks the shake to get around a defender. He still occasionally commits some face-palm-worthy mistakes, which speaks to his trajectory as a secondary but not primary ball handler.
Since college was a big adjustment for him, the NBA could be too because of his athleticism. He still needs to prove he can sustain success as a shooter after just one strong season at Duke.
Defensive intensity comes and goes. Playing a more minimal offensive role on a winning team would help him learn how to thrive as a high-level role player.
For perspective, there is a similar player to Jalen Williams who has not been building hype currently projected at #36: Wendell Moore. Let’s compare per 100 statistics:
Both are long armed guards who had junior breakout seasons. Wendell is 0.25″ shorter at 6’5.5 and 1.75″ less length at 7’0.5″, and does not create as much offense at the rim but had slightly more assists and offered better rebounding + defense.
Both guys have similarly good FT% and 3PA rate, but Wendell likely gets the edge in shooting based on career FT% (81.4 vs 78.5) and 5 months of youth advantage.
Last and perhaps most significantly, Wendell was a 5* recruit playing for one of the best teams in the country against a major conference schedule. Santa Clara had an excellent mid major season in a good conference, but played a notably weaker schedule and is a much weaker source of NBA talent than Duke.
While Williams has a couple of advantages over Moore and is a fun prospect with a unique distribution of talent, Moore is likely the safer bet being slightly more well rounded coming from a more proven source of NBA talent.
Williams had a good showing at the combine and rightfully deserves some hype for his performance, but it’s worth noting that a slightly better sleeper is currently building no hype and should be available in late round 1 or early round 2.
This is not meant as a slight on Williams since I would also rate Moore above Johnny Davis who is currently slotted at #10 overall, rather an interesting comparison of guys who fall in a similar category of long armed guards who do a bit of everything offensively.
The Warriors tend to value their first-round selections as opportunities to cultivate talent, but they’ll presumably try and integrate James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody into the rotation more next season, creating some hypothetical clutter depending on which veterans they bring back. Moore has an ideal complementary skill set, offering defensive versatility, playmaking skills and the ability to play with and without the ball. He doesn’t profile as a volume scorer, but his unselfish passing, transition play and improving jump shot point to a long-term future as a role player. Moore had a terrific junior year, and his efforts often went underappreciated, but he's a winning player with the type of well-rounded game that can fit in anywhere without creating roster duplication.
Moore kind of got lost as scouts focused on Banchero and Williams at Duke, and he played a more limited role on a talented offensive squad. However, he had a good junior year and won’t turn 21 until September, and his ability to pass, defend, make open shots and score in the open court all make him a strong candidate to become a plus role player as a pro.
Moore could likely stand to improve his finishing and overall scoring package inside the 3-point line, but his rates of rebounds, assists and steals all are among the best of any shooting guard prospect this year, and those indicators usually point toward pro success more than scoring averages. Additionally, he shot 41.3 percent from 3 and 81.5 percent from the line and usually guarded the opponent’s best player. The 3-and-D archetype is pretty clearly there, and in a fairly athletic package that might be able to go up another notch with some conditioning gains.
He has enough length and leaping ability to alter shots when he goes up to contest them, and when he did get beat off the dribble, he had a good chase-down gear to block opponents from behind. He can get a little upright, and it looked like he was trying a bit too hard to avoid fouling; changes of direction also sometimes sent him veering into a ditch. It seems he’s more likely to get picked in the second round, but he has starter upside to go with a pretty high floor.