As the 2023 NBA Draft approaches, only being 24 hours away at the time of writing this article, I wanted to analyze where all the local guys who could hear their names called tomorrow and where they'll end up at. Plenty of stars from Kansas, Missouri, and Kansas State have all entered their names into the NBA Draft pool and could potentially become stars when all is said and done. Let's have a look at where I foresee these guys ending up:
Gradey Dick, Kansas: Round 1, Pick 11 to the Orlando Magic
I'm not going to go against the grain here with this one. Basically, every pundit and sports news outlet have Dick going at #11 to Orlando, and considering he's hovered between 9-12 ever since the first mock drafts were coming out, it only makes sense. Orlando needs a shooter and Dick can provide that. The 3rd ranked small forward in the draft, Dick averaged 14.1 PPG, 5.1 Rebounds/game, 1.7 assists, and a FG% of 44.2%, 40.3% for 3pt field goals (ESPN) Gradey lacks muscle compared to other small forwards in the league and his defense leaves a little to be desired, but that can easily be fixed. Gradey has the tools to become an excellent player at the NBA level and if he can harness them, he can bring the Magic some much needed well...magic.
Jalen Wilson, Kansas: Round 2, Pick 44 to the San Antonio Spurs
The Texas kid could find his way (somewhat) back home here with this pick. The Spurs are in need of size and have BEEN in need of size ever since Tim Duncan left, and while Jalen Wilson is certainly not the biggest forward in the draft, he's pre-built like an NBA forward. At 6'8", 225 lbs, he has the size, but with 20.1 PPG, 8.3 Rebounds/Game, 2.2 assists, and a 43.0 FG%, he also has the skill to become a steal in the 2nd round. He only further improved his draft stock in the combine where he showed out, and some draft boards have him as high as pick 32 to the Pacers, a mere two picks off the 1st round. I only have him this low because I think it would be cool to see the Texas kid make a bit of a homecoming and because the Spurs are fiending for forwards. We could potentially see him sneak into the 1st even depending on team needs and who all is off the board, but Wilson has a ton of potential and any team that gets him will be getting I think at the very least a key role player.
Kobe Brown, Missouri: Round 2, Pick 45 to the Memphis Grizzlies
(I promise I did not put Wilson ahead of Brown to spite Mizzou fans, as far as they know at least. They play two different positions anyway come on!)
Anyway, Kobe Brown showed his stuff in droves last year when he led Missouri basketball to a great comeback season. Averaging 15.8 PPG, 6.4 Rebounds/game, 2.5 assists, and a 55.3 FG% last year, he was a key piece in a turnaround season for the Tigers. The question is, can he be a key piece for an NBA team? Considering Memphis is close to Columbia, Brown has the maturity, shooting, and passing skills to make a significant impact on any team he goes to, and this certain team I have him going to is severely lacking in any sort of leadership, maturity, and overall guard play (at least for the first 25 games, perhaps beyond depending on how Ja Morant can come back) I think the Grizzlies are a perfect fit. Brown is a bit big and slow for a guard at 250 lbs, but again, like Gradey Dick, size is an easy fix for NBA players so long as it isn't in the height department. I think whoever goes and gets Brown will be getting a leader, a shooter, and an overall great player that will I think at least provide a key bench asset. For Memphis, that is a must this year.
Keyontae Johnson, Kansas State: Round 2, Pick 46 to the Atlanta Hawks
Again, I did NOT mean to put 3 local guys back to back to back. It's just how it worked out and how it's working out on MOST draft boards to be honest. Seriously, go look up some other ones. Gradey is the only outlier, that and depending on which ones you look at, Markquis Nowell. More on him later though, let's talk about the other Kansas State star. Keyontae Johnson led the Wildcats to a historic season where they bounced back after a couple years of mediocrity and made the Elite 8 after projected to not even make the tournament at the beginning of the year. Johnson averaged 17.4 PPG, 6.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and a 51.6 FG% last year. Standing at 6'6" and clocking in at 230 lbs, he's also got a decent build for the NBA. There are some concerns regarding his heart health, mind you he collapsed on the court and almost died during the 2021-2022 season at Florida. However, doctors say he is cleared to play and should be alright. The Hawks need to find someone that can complement Trae Young well and need forwards that can score. Johnson offers both those things, being a complement to Markquis Nowell last year and being able to score well too. Overall, I like Johnson as a potential role player guy that could blossom into a great NBA player if put in the right situation.
Markquis Nowell, Kansas State: Undrafted
I truly hate doing this, but a guy that is on the NBA draft board at 69th overall (60 players are drafted in the NBA Draft, for reference) and a guy that only stands 5'8", I just don't see how Nowell will be drafted. Oscar Tshiebwe is projected to be the final pick of the draft, if that tells you anything, but I wouldn't lose hope on Nowell potentially having an NBA career. Plenty of undrafted players, specifically guards, have gone on to make great careers. Brad Miller, who was a 2-time All-Star and part of the Kings team that made the Western Conference Finals in 2002. Fred VanVleet, the Wichita State star that is now an All-Star, NBA Champion, and a leader for the Toronto Raptors. Finally, John Starks is another name I wanted to mention. The former New York Knick was an All-Star, 2nd team All-Defense, and 1997 NBA 6th Man of the Year. I see a lot of people compare Nowell to Muggsy Bogues or Isaiah Thomas (Not the former Piston) due to his height, and I think that's unfair. I like the John Starks comparison more. Undrafted out of the Big 12, a stealing machine, complements strong bigs well, and can create scoring chances on a whim describe both Starks and potentially Nowell, it's what he was at the college level at least. Averaging 3 steals a game, locking up some of the Big 12's best guards even at his size, having Keyontae Johnson to throw inside passes to, and averaging 17.6 PPG will certainly get you the Bob Cousy Award and 1st Team All-Big 12 both overall and all-defense. Unfortunately, it doesn't get you drafted to the NBA, of which it's really only his size I've seen that people are worried about. I think someone should take a chance on Nowell, whether or not he should be drafted I think is a different conversation to be had, but I think you could get a gem. It's what I thought about Frank Mason too though...
What are your thoughts on the NBA Draft though? Think any of the local prospects could go higher than I projected? Lower? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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