Benedict Mathurin of Arizona, AJ Griffin of Duke, and Johnny Davis of Wisconsin spent last season showing off their NBA potential in front of big college-level crowds, including the NCAA Championship.
Sheldon Sharp ended up taking a different tack for next week’s draft.
He never played a second for Kentucky before it was an abrupt exit from the NBA, yet he could be the first name among that group of lottery odds.
Here’s a look at some of the best winger players in the draft:
The 6-6 year old blossomed into his second season to become ESPN’s No. 8 potential project.
Strengths: Mathurin was the second AP All-American to have an athletic over-the-edge performance and reliable jumper. He averaged 17.7 points while shooting 38.3% with three throws over two seasons. He had a big moment in March, scoring 30 points and coming in the clutch to help Arizona survive an overtime win against the TCU in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
“I took advantage of March Madness to showcase my talent,” Mathurin said on Thursday. “And I felt like there was a huge opportunity for me, for people to see what I could do.”
Concerns: While his height offers defensive potential, Mathurin could also use more consistency at the end of the floor, with ESPN College Basketball analyst Fran Fracilla noting earlier this year that Mathurin has room to grow by making readings and dealing with selection and rewinding.
The young 6-6 striker, the son of former NBA player and current Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin, offers outside shooting, length and defensive capabilities.
Strengths: Griffin, who turns 19 in August, is the No. 9 draft pick on ESPN after averaging 10.4 points. It was a great stroke, as the freshman made 44.7% of his three-pointers and scored game scores by at least 3-seconds. There were also flashes of ability to take over matches, most notably 27 points in the February competition against rival North Carolina.
Concerns: There is a limited sample size for evaluating a player who has missed most of the last two preseason seasons due to injuries. He must also develop a dribble to complete his range.
A 6-5 year old student who went from off the bench player to an unexpected star in Wisconsin.
Strength: Davis plays aggressively and solidly at both ends. Ranked as the No. 11 draft prospect on ESPN, Davis averaged 19.7 points and 8.2 rebounds to become an American first team in the AP while demonstrating his ability to create his own shot or hunt down teammates.
His overall performance of 37 in a road win was ahead of the then number one. 3 Bordeaux in January illustrated his rise, with Boilermakers coach Matt Painter describing him as ‘the definition of a two-way player’.
Concerns: Davis needs to improve his outside shot after only making 30.6% in 3 seconds, including 10 of 48 (20.8%) in the last 15 games.
The 6-5 Ranger took an unusual route to the draft after a semester hiatus in Kentucky.
Strengths: He was considered the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class prior to reclassification and registration with the Wildcats in January, with the announced plan to play the 2022-23 season. Hall of Fame coach John Calipari was impressed with Canadian athletic performance and shooting, as Sharpe showed off his ability to finish around the edge, score a dribble and hit from the outside in the prep ranks. Ranked as a No. 7 draft prospect on ESPN, he also measured nearly 7 feet of wingspan in an NBA draft pool.
Concerns: Sharp has not played since a nationally televised high school game in October, leaving little work to assess against other professional expectations after his decision to drop out of school.
Ousmane Dieng: The 19-year-old French spent last season on the A-League Basketball’s Next Stars program for the elite. Ranked #12 by ESPN, Dieng 6-10 has exciting peripheral skills as a potential lottery pick. But he must develop his outside shot (27% of the NBL’s 3-point range) and add volume (205 pounds).
– Branham Owners: The 6-5 freshman from Ohio State averaged 13.7 points while firing 41.6% from the 3-point range and 83% from the foul streak. It could be delayed in the lottery and is ESPN’s 13th potential project.
– OCHAI AGBAJI: The 6-6 player was the first AP All-American and was the most outstanding player in the Final Four as Kansas won the NCAA Championship. Agbagi raised his level last season to 18.8 points and 5.1 rebounds on average, while also proving to be a good defender, making him a potential first-rounder and ranked 16th by ESPN.
— TARI EASON: The 6- to 8-year-old and Cincinnati transition brought her 7-2 range of wingspan and versatility to defending multiple locations at LSU, which is part of the reason why he’s a first-round prospect and 17th prospect on ESPN.
– JADEN HARDY and MARJON BEAUCHAMP: Both first-round G-League Ignite development opportunities for prospects who have gone beyond college basketball.
Associated Press sports writer Gary B. Graves in Louisville, Kentucky.
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