Walker Kessler, the 2022 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, blocked nearly five shots per game for the Tigers in 2021-22. A serviceable contributor while at UNC, the former five-star recruit reached new heights in his lone year at Auburn.
UPDATE: In an unrelated move, Kessler was traded to the Utah Jazz along with four first round picks between 2023 and 2029, Patrick Beverly, Leandro Bolmaro, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley on July 1, 2022.
Duke’s Tre Jones stood out in all of his big tests in 2020, so it is no surprise that he earned 2020 ACC Player of the Year honors. The sophomore guard has a multi-faceted game that features variety on the offensive end and scrappiness as a defender. His NBA lineage is represented by his older brother, Tyus (Memphis Grizzlies). Will the former Apple Valley (Minn.) star be a first-rounder in the 2020 NBA Draft? We go inside his game during his two-year run (2016-2017) with his AAU squad, Howard Pulley, in the Nike EBYL.
Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers are up for free agency. Evans led the team in points per game and Chalmers averaged 20 minutes per night. The Grizzlies could look to add another guard to complement Mike Conley if one of their free agent guards walks. Evans may command a big contract, which will probably price him out of Memphis. The Grizzlies will probably use the fourth overall pick on a big man but if they decide to use their 32nd pick on a combo guard, Duke’s Trevon Duval is a potential option. Duval is raw but has good size for his position (6’3”), athleticism and the handle to get where he wants while setting others up.
Bagley Jr. has all the tools offensively but the one thing that could shy teams away from is his defense. Coupled with the right lineups, however, Memphis could hide some of his deficiencies.
Cap space: -10 million, 110 million
Free agents: Tyreke Evans, Mario Chalmers
The Rockets have numerous free agents but since they were so close to an NBA Finals appearance, look for them to return its core and make another championship run next season. Houston could use some more depth along the frontcourt after showing a lack of depth and resorting to seven-man rotations against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets have the 46th pick in the draft, but there’s no guarantee someone picked that low will even make the roster. Maryland’s Justin Jackson could be intriguing. Standing 6’7” with a 7’2” wingspan, Jackson has size and positional versatility. More importantly, his three-point shooting (43 percent his freshman season) is a characteristic that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey covets.
Cap space: -19 million, 119 million
Free agents: Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Tarik Black, Clint Capela, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
New Orleans Pelicans
Rajon Rondo and Ian Clark logged heavy minutes for the Pelicans during their playoff run. Rondo has jumped from team to team over the past few years and if he does the same this free agency period, New Orleans will be in the market for another guard. New Orleans has the 51st pick overall but if they decide to test the free agency market, Elfrid Payton could be a younger option. Payton came into his own offensively last year in Phoenix and would be a younger and cheaper option than Rondo.
Backup big man
New Orleans won a playoff series without DeMarcus Cousins but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better without him. Even with Cousins, New Orleans could use a backup big man. The Pelicans signed journeyman Emeka Okafor after Cousins got hurt, but he will be 36 years old by the start of next season. If New Orleans decides to use their 51st overall pick on a big man, USC’s Chimezi Metu could develop alongside Cheick Diallo to possibly provide a low post duo in the future.
Cap space: -19 million, 119 million
Free agents: DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark, Jordan Crawford
San Antonio Spurs
Above all else, the Spurs will have to figure out if they will have Kawhi Leonard on the roster after he missed most of this season with a quadriceps injury. Leonard covers so much ground for the Spurs and to lose him would be a major setback for San Antonio. If Leonard stays or leaves, look for San Antonio to still target another athletic wing, who can long minutes at both the shooting guard and small forward position since Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes will hit free agency. Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison is a name to watch for at the Spurs’ 18th pick. Hutchison doesn’t shoot the three as well as the Spurs wings that have come before him, but each season he has improved his three-point shot. Hutchison (6’7″) also has good height and can play within the Spurs offense at either the shooting guard or small forward position.
Cap space: -17 million, 117 million
Free agents: Tony Parker, Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes
The Dallas Mavericks signed Harrison Barnes to a max deal but don’t have much behind him. Doug McDermott averaged seven points and two rebounds in 20 minutes per game last season. Dallas could use another wing player that could play off the ball and defend both shooting guards and small forwards. The Mavericks could go with a big man with their fifth overall pick, but if Luka Doncic from Slovenia is available expect Dallas to take a long look at him. Doncic has a polished game for a 19-year old and has the ability to create for himself or play off the ball.
Doncic could very well be drafted in the top three picks, which means Dallas could fill another one of their needs with pick number 5. Nerlens Noel is a free agent and Dirk Nowitzki will be 40 years old by the start of next season. The Mavericks could use an athletic big ma who has the ability to play both the forward and center positions. Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. is raw but has all the physical tools, can block shots as good as anyone in the draft and showed an ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot threes during his one season in East Lansing.
Throughout his one year on Duke’s campus, Justise Winslow showcased extreme positional versatility. In fact, he scored double figures in 19 of his final 20 games as a Duke Blue Devil. We went inside the Grizzlies small forward’s game five years ago in our video spotlight leading up to the 2015 NBA Draft .