NBA Draft, June 23.

Here’s your chance to get to know the top prospects. Today, we look at the big men.


Strange as it may sound, the Mavericks have a first-round pick in the upcoming 2022 draft.

It has seemed for the past few years like all of their draft assets were sent away, mostly in the 2019 trade for Kristaps Porzingis. And they were.

But this is an even-numbered year and while last year’s pick went to the Knicks and next year’s pick (most likely) will end up in New York’s hands, the Mavericks are blessed with the 26th overall pick in this year’s first round.

It’s a crapshoot, for sure. The draft is two weeks from Thursday and it has some good talent, although when you pick that far down, there is more luck involved than if you are in the top 10 where only a few teams have the ability to sabotage your draft strategy by picking the player you thought might be there for you.

For instance, the Mavericks have an obvious need in the middle. They lacked size and rebounding, deficiencies that were exploited in the playoffs. They need a more traditional big man that can augment their small lineups that usually were quite effective.

However, as general manager Nico Harrison said when asked if he could find an impact big man in the draft or whether it would have to come via free agency: “There’s definitely (strong big men) in the draft. But when you look at our position where we’re at, we’re not in control of who we draft. There’s 25 people in front of us. And so, we’ll have our homework done. But we’re not in control. Maybe that (player) goes 24, you know? So when you’re at 26, I don’t think you control your own destiny.”

With the 26th pick, going with the best available player usually is a smart play. But if all things are equal, the Mavericks likely would lean toward a big man.

Knowing that, we’ll start our draft series with a breakdown of the top big men who will be in the draft on June 23. We’ll follow this with a look at the swingmen and point guards next week, then break down who might be available for the Mavericks when they pick.

First up, the top-10 big men:

Jabari Smith, 6-10, Auburn freshman.

It’s entirely possible that the top three picks of this draft will be big men. At least, big in the sense of today’s NBA. At a listed 220 pounds, he still qualifies as a big man these days. To get an idea of his NBA preparedness, look at his five March games at Auburn, when stakes were highest. He averaged 19 points and 10.8 rebounds in those five games. Those are numbers that would make any team happy and his game should translate well to the next level. He would make Orlando and coach Jamahl Mosley very happy. Think John Collins or Rashard Lewis, according to some mo

Chet Holmgren, 7-0, Gonzaga freshman.

He checks a lot of boxes. Even as skinny as he is, he finds way to be a big-time rebounder and with a 7-6 wingspan, he’s a phenomenal shot-blocker, or as they call it these days, rim-protector. Anybody who dominates as a freshman like he did (14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 blocks) has the ability to step right in and contribute in a big way. If his shot can stretch out to NBA distance without slipping too much, he’s going to be a load – and a great fit in OKC.

Paolo Banchero, 6-10, Duke freshman.

The son of former NBA player Rhonda Smith-Banchero, he’s a rare combination of size and offensive skills. He’s not necessarily a standout shooter, which is what probably will keep him from going in the top two. But he was truly consistent for the Blue Devils, scoring 16 points or more in 10 of their last 11 games and also averaging 3.6 assists per game in the NCAA tournament. Too much upside to get too nitpicky about some holes in his game.

Jalen Duren, 6-11, Memphis freshman.

He’s got oodles of untapped potential and was pretty good in his one year in college, averaging 12 points and 8.1 rebounds, along with 2.1 blocks. He certainly has the physical tools to step right in at the NBA level. To show how much room he may have for improvement, he won’t turn 19 until after opening day in the 2022-23 season. One strike against him is that he doesn’t figure to ever be a long-distance shooter.

Keegan Murray, 6-8, Iowa sophomore.

Averaged better than 23 points last season, but he’s not bankrupt defensively. In fact, his length and defensive awareness are possibly even better lures for NBA talent scouts than his offensive abilities, which are considerable. He’s efficient at that end. And his 3-point shooting is more than respectable. He’s clearly below Banchero, Holmgren and Smith, but he’ll be 22 when next season starts and could be more NBA ready from a maturity standpoint than the others.

Jeremy Sochan, 6-9, Baylor freshman.

He was the Bears’ sixth man, but he still put up numbers with a high motor and a tendency to show up big when the stakes grew. In the Big 12 tournament and NCAA tournament games he played, he averaged 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds, including 15 points and 11 rebounds against North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tourney.

Mark Williams, 7-2, Duke sophomore.

He should be a low-post force at both ends in the NBA. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year and among the national leaders in blocks. Also has a good flair for offensive rebounds and contributing second-chance points for either himself or teammates. Made more than 72 percent of his shots as a sophomore. He’s His sister went to Duke, was the fourth overall pick in the WNBA in 2015 and is a standout in that league.

Ismael Kamagate, 7-0, France.

We’re getting into players who could be there if the Mavericks keep their 26th overall pick. The previous seven figure to be off the board by the mid-20s. Kamagate projects as a traditional low-post player. He’s not a 3-point flinger. He has NBA girth and is aggressive around the rim with good hops. He’s not a particularly strong rebounder so far in his career, and he’s going to be closing in on 22 years old when the NBA season opens. Still could take some time to blossom.

E.J. Liddell, 6-7, Ohio State junior.

At roughly 240 pounds, he’s going to be an undersized power forward, at least in terms of height. But he improved his 3-point shooting markedly during his three years in college and he’s got some Draymond Green in him in that he’s a competitive defender and also an improved ballhandler. And he was always there as he scored in double figures in the last 43 games he played for the Buckeyes.

Walker Kessler, 7-1, Auburn sophomore.

Stepped up big as a sophomore after transferring from North Carolina to the talent-laden Auburn squad. He averaged 4.6 blocks to go with 11.4 points and 8.1 rebounds. He’s athletic enough that he had a pair of triple-doubles last season, the only collegian with more than one. Included was a 12-point, 12-block, 11-rebound effort against Texas A&M. His father, the late Alec Kessler, was a first-round draft pick in 1990.

Also in the mix: Jaylin Williams, Arkansas; Christian Koloko, Arizona; Dominick Barlow, Overtime Elite League; John Butler, Florida State, Patrick Baldwin Jr., Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Twitter: @ESefko

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