24. Denver Nuggets – R.J. Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers
Hampton was a five-star recruit out of Dallas who decided to follow LaMelo Ball’s path to the NBL. The 6’5 guard has a nice mix of length and athleticism to go with an aggressive mindset at both ends of the floor. While he’s not a natural floor general or a knockdown shooter just yet, Hampton offers some upside for Denver to groom long-term behind Jamal Murray.
25. New York Knicks – Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky
Quickley had a breakout sophomore year at Kentucky by developing into one of the best shooters in the country. Quickley hit 42.8 percent of his three-pointers and 92 percent of his free throws as he transitioned from point guard to an off-ball role. This pick was surely influenced by Kenny Payne, the assistant coach the Knicks hired away from Kentucky a few months ago. For all of Quickley’s shooting skill, he struggles to create off the dribble, get to the rim, and defend stronger and faster players. Desmond Bane would have been a better pick as a 3-and-D prospect at this spot.
26. Boston Celtics – Payton Pritchard, G, Oregon
Pritchard was one of the best players in America as a senior for Oregon this past season, but there are major questions about how his game will translate to the NBA. If there’s one thing the 6’2 guard can be expected to do in the league, it’s shoot: he hit 41 percent of his threes and 82 percent of his free throws. The questions with Pritchard centers on everything else. He doesn’t have a ton of juice to create of the dribble and will likely struggle to stay in front of faster and stronger NBA guards. It felt like there were better options on the board for Boston.
27. Utah Jazz – Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
Azubuike is a massive center at 7-foot, 270 pounds with a reported 7’6 wingspan. ‘Dok’ was the most dominant physical presence in college basketball this season as a senior at Kansas, getting buckets at will as an inside scorer and improving his defense in the middle. For as good as Azubuike was in college, it feels like his game doesn’t fit the modern NBA. Teams will target him in pick-and-rolls and force him to defend in space. His post scoring also won’t be as en vogue in the league. Despite the C grade here, Azubuike is huge and strong and has soft touch close to the rim, so there is some upside here for Utah.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
McDaniels couldn’t live up to his high school hype as a five-star recruit at Washington. The skinny 6’10 wing struggled to score efficiently with 51.5 percent true shooting and finished the season with 100 turnovers to 65 assists. There were better bets at this point in the first round, but the Wolves are obviously weighing pre-college sample more heavily than what happened in college for both McDaniels and No. 1 pick Edwards. McDaniels has some upside because of his size and scoring instincts, but we thought there were better players on the board.
29. Toronto Raptors – Malachi Flynn, G, San Diego State
Flynn isn’t the biggest or fastest guard, but he’s so tough and skilled and should be a perfect fit for the Raptors. In his first year with San Diego State after transferring from Washington State, Flynn emerged as one of the best players in America and helped lead the Aztecs to a 30-2 season. He has great instincts in the pick-and-roll as both a passer and scorer, flashed pull-up shooting ability, and is a smart and active defender. The Raptors helped turn Fred VanVleet from a great college player to a very good pro, and Flynn could very well follow the same path.
30. Memphis Grizzlies – Desmond Bane, G, TCU
A year ago, the Grizzlies traded back into the first round to take Brandon Clarke, a player anyone paying attention knew was going to be an impactful pro. They just did it again with Bane. The senior guard from TCU is one of the best shooters in this class, knocking down threes off movement and spot-ups. He’s also a smart passer and defender, projecting as the type of role player who impacts winning without needing the ball in his hands. There are plenty of teams picking the 20s who will wish they took Bane a few years down the road.