Auburn — The 2022 NBA draft could be historic for the Auburn Athletics.
Jabari Smith has a chance to be the first No. 1 overall pick for Auburn Basketball. If the Orlando Magic draft him, Auburn would also become the third school after LSU and UCLA to generate the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA, NFL and MLB drafts.
For basketball programming in particular, Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) will be another big step. Smith and Walker Kessler could be fourth and fifth first-round picks in the Bruce Pearl era. They will join Chuma Okeke, Isaac Okoro and Davion Mitchell, who moved to Baylor before being drafted.
Including Mitchell, seven former Auburn players will be drafted over the past four years.
This is where Smith and Kessler are projected.
Jabari Smith, 6-10 F
Mock draft height: No. 1 Orlando Magic (ESPN, The Ringer, The Athletic, Yahoo!, Sporting News)
Mock Draft Low: Oklahoma City Thunder is No. 2 (Gary Parrish, CBS Sports, USA TODAY)
buzzing: It looks more like Smith is going to Disney World. Orlando, a six-hour drive from his hometown, is a potential reward for his stellar one-time Auburn career. Smith averaged 16.9 points in 28.8 minutes per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range. Wherever he ends, his career will forever be linked to Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren, two contenders that were once considered to be a total toss-up year for the No. 1 pick. Smith has become the most popular of the trio due to his shooting and defensive versatility.
Our take: Where does he fit best? Oklahoma City Thunder. Not as glamorous as the No. 1 pick, to be clear, Smith deserves it. But the Thunder are a shrewd organization that has been rebuilding for a few years, and the pieces already in place complement Smith’s strengths and weaknesses as a prospect. Dribbling is the attribute he lacks the most. Surrounding Smith with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, while the Auburn forward could help make Oklahoma City a direct playoff contender.
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Walker Kessler, 7-1 C
Mock draft height: Round 1 (18th overall) vs. Chicago Bulls (Gary Parrish, CBS Sports)
Mock Draft Low: Round 2 (48th overall) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (USA TODAY)
Other simulations: Timberwolves (ESPN) No. 19, San Antonio Spurs (The Athletic) No. 20, Memphis Grizzlies (Bleacher Report) No. 22, Milwaukee Bucks No. 24 (Yahoo!), San Antonio Spurs No. 25 (The Ringer), No. 37 Sacramento Kings (CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone)
buzzing: After spending most of his freshman season off the bench at North Carolina, Kessler’s stock in Auburn has soared. A coveted rim protector, he won Defensive Player of the Year with a historic 19.1 percent block rate.
On offense, Kessler is an effective frontal center. At Auburn, he was a reliable pick-and-roll finisher, shooting 70.2 percent from two-point range. All he needs to add is the pick-and-pop layer. Kessler was touted out of high school for his 3-point shooting, but he lost touch in college (20% last season). His use in Auburn’s system also doesn’t lend itself to developing a low-post toolbox.
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Our take: Where does he fit best? Milwaukee. Brook Lopez won’t be around forever. If Kessler can redevelop his 3-point shooting in the final years of Lopez’s career, the Auburn star could be a reliable heir to the 34-year-old. A good rim protector and rebounder could allow star player Giannis Antetokounmpo to swim out of the paint and defend more aggressively.