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NBA Draft Primer: WSU, UW and Gonzaga prospects in the mix

Jun 24, 2024, 7:01 PM

The 2024 NBA Draft takes place this week, and there are a handful of players with ties to Washington hoping to hear their names called.

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The draft is being held Wednesday and Thursday in New York. The first round starts at 5 p.m. at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and airs on ESPN and ABC. The second round begins the following day at 1 p.m. and airs on ESPN.

For the third consecutive year, the draft features just 58 picks instead of the usual 60. The Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns both forfeited their second-round picks due to violating the league’s tampering rules during free agency.

Here’s a look at four notable draft-eligible players from either the WSU Cougars, Gonzaga Bulldogs or UW Huskies.

Local NBA Draft prospects

• Jaylen Wells, WSU Cougars, SF

Wells appears to have the best opportunity to be selected and checks in as the highest-rated prospect from the state or one of its colleges by most publications. Wells is ranked No. 46 on ESPN’s best available players and No. 48 by NBADraft.net. He’s also one of just two players – along with WSU teammate Isaac Jones – from a school in the state to be invited to the NBA Draft Combine.

The 6-foot-7, 208-pound forward played a pivotal role in the Cougars’ historic NCAA Tournament run in his only season on the Palouse. After spending two seasons at Division-II Sonoma State, Wells averaged 12.6 points while shooting 43.6% from the field, 41.7% from 3-point range and and 81.4% from the line. He added 4.6 rebounds and started 20 of 34 contests.

Here’s the RotoWire projection on Wells as featured on NBA.com: “Based on his profile, there are some positives regarding Wells. He’s athletic, he can get the job done defensively and he is an excellent shooter. While there are multiple comparisons to him at the NBA level, given he profiles as a typical modern shooter, he might be a player worth targeting in the middle-to-late stages of the second round.”

• Isaac Jones, WSU Cougars, PF/C

Jones is another WSU player who could go in the second round after one strong season with the Cougars. Like teammate Wells, Jones started his career at the lower levels, spending his first two years at Wenatchee Valley College before playing one season in the Big Sky Conference with Idaho and then arriving in Pullman. ESPN lists Jones as it’s 57th-best prospect and NBADraft.net has him at No. 53.

At 6-8 and 235 pounds, the Spanaway native doesn’t have ideal size for his position, but he partially makes up for it with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. In his lone season with WSU, Jones earned a first-team All-Pac-12 selection while averaging 15.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

Here’s Jones’ projection from NBA.com: “Jones has been a player who has improved with each passing season, and that might not change if he makes it to the NBA. He’s a capable player on the defensive end with an above-average wingspan, and that should be his calling card at the NBA level. However, his progress and future role will ultimately be decided by how much he progresses on offense.”

• Anton Watson, Gonzaga Bulldogs, PF

Watson was a touted high school prospect coming out of Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep where he won back-to-back Class 4A state titles during his junior and senior campaigns with the Bullpups. He was the No. 41 prospect in the class of 2019, according to 247sports.com. He’s ESPN’s No. 86 player and NBADraft.net’s No. 67 in this year’s draft.

In college, Watson had a solid career, but it took him a few seasons to carve out more than just a supporting role on the Bulldogs’ talented teams. The 6-8, 233-pounder posted his first double-digit scoring average during his fourth college season, then posted career bests of 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists and earned a first-team All-West Coast Conference nod as a fifth-year senior this past season.

Watson was not invited to the NBA Draft combine, but he did participate in the G League Elite Camp.

• Keion Brooks Jr., UW Huskies, SF

Brooks was the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 21.1 points per game and added 6.8 rebounds per game while earning a first-team All-Pac-12 selection, his second straight all-league honor since transferring from Kentucky to UW. Despite having a more complete college resume in terms of individual accomplishments than the players above, Brooks is a longshot to be taken in the draft. NBADraft.net ranks Brooks as the No. 97 overall prospect.

At 23 years old, Brooks is among the older prospects, and his 6-foot-7, 211-pound frame is fairly average for his position. Brooks is another player that didn’t receive an invite to the draft combine but took part in the G League Elite Camp.

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