Drafting 23-and-under teams to build the ultimate core

Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images /
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NBA 23-and-under
Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images /

Round Three of the 23-and-under Draft

The third round is when fit begins to make more of an impact on each team’s philosophy, although the driving principle is still taking the best player available. Who goes off the board next?

Pick No. 17, Team Quinn – Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves

With my next pick, I will go with Jaden McDaniels. He’s really talented on the defensive side of the ball, as he’s one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. He’s still young and has a lot of room to grow offensively. An All-Defense appearance could be in his cards in the next few seasons, and I would not be surprised to see an All-Star team, either.

Pick No. 18, Team Dan – Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder

For my third selection, I’m going with another upside play, in Jalen Williams. The former Santa Clara star had an outstanding rookie season with the OKC Thunder, and in a similar light as Wagner is an impactful two-way wing with huge upside.

Williams is not the quickest or most vertically gifted, but he is another high IQ player who can self-create at all three levels, make plays in PnR and is multi-positional defensively. Something to keep in mind here is while Williams is not necessarily monstrous for NBA standards on the wing at 6-foot-6, he has quite the plus wingspan at 7-foot-3. His length as a shooter, creator, passer and defender all combined with his overall feel make him suitable to feature in a number of different roles moving forward.

Pick No. 19, Team Gibson – Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons

My next pick was the youngest player in the league last season, Detroit center Jalen Duren. At 18 years old to start last season he is already one of the most physically imposing players in the league. He stands at 6-foot-ten with impressive verticality and is also one of the strongest players in the league. He isn’t slow getting back on defense either. His physical attributes would make him a great fit next to my backcourt selections in the first and second rounds.

His defense will only continue to grow as his timing gets better and he learns more. His potential on that end is through the roof. He also has a soft touch and has shown potential as a shooter, especially in this year’s summer league. It would not surprise me if he becomes one of the best players at his position someday.

Pick No. 20, Team Matt – Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets

I’m going with another big man on my list to compliment Evan Mobley and complete my team’s front-court. With my third pick, I’m taking the Houston Rockets’ Alperen Sengun. Houston has a very promising young core, and a lot of that rests confidently on Sengun’s shoulders. Alperen Sengun has displayed some innovative playmaking throughout his first two years in the league. Averaging 3.9 assists per game last year, this playmaking big has drawn some comparisons to Denver’s Nikola Jokic. His ability to create innovative ways for his teammates to score and misdirect opponents makes him a solid addition to any team.

Sengun will also help Josh Giddey when the guard plays off-ball and cuts to the basket. Sengun and Mobley make up a frontcourt of two bigs that can pass the ball and facilitate their teammates when needed. Although his defense might be lacking in some areas, he has improved in both defensive rebounds and blocks per game from his rookie season. Last year he averaged 9.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game. Mobley can make up for any of Sengun’s potential defensive shortcomings if the need arises. Alperen Sengun has a lot of untapped potential, and if he’s utilized correctly – he could become one of the league’s most successful players at the center position.

Pick No. 21, Team Alex – Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans

If I was making this selection based purely on upside, Amen Thompson would warrant strong consideration but when taking fit into account, I’ve landed on one of the most portable young players in the NBA. With this pick, I am selecting Trey Murphy III of the New Orleans Pelicans. Entering the league with a reputation as the prototypical 3-and-D wing, Murphy has already flashed a much higher ceiling.

He is an elite shooter from the outside and a versatile defender, utilizing his length and quick feet to corral shifty ball handlers. Perhaps even more encouraging is the jump Murphy took this past year as a 2-point shooter, raising his percentage from 41.8 his rookie year all the way to 61.1 percent. At worst, he’s an extremely high-level role player, but if the flashes are any indication of what’s to come, Murphy may be capable of raising his game to an All-Star level.

Pick No. 22, Team Caleb – Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

Next up is someone who has maybe been underrated after a sophomore slide season. Scottie Barnes has a fantastic skillset, able to play any position from 1-4 with impressive competency. He is still developing his overall game, and his second season left his rookie season accolades behind. This is not abnormal for any newer player, and there is plenty of reason to stay optimistic after his Rookie of the Year campaign.

In both seasons Barnes averaged 15.3 points, and his assists and rebounding numbers improved in year 2. His scoring efficiency fell, but with an overall increase in versatility and productivity, adding Barnes to any team is a solid foundation for the future. Give him the time to develop and play alongside the right people, and Scottie Barnes is going to thrive.

Pick No. 23, Team Josh – Jeremy Sochan, San Antonio Spurs

At this point in the draft, my top two players remaining are both on-ball backcourt players, and I already have two of those in Tyrese Haliburton and Scoot Henderson. That leads me to my next group of players, with four frontcourt guys all in a tier. I need defensive versatility and size, so I’ll go with Jeremy Sochan here.

He’s 6’9″ with a wingspan Elastigirl would envy, making him the perfect fit with my small backcourt. He’s not only the best option to guard wings and forwards, but he has already shown great off-ball defensive instincts and weakside rim protection. He is a good finisher and excellent passer, giving my team the potential for playmaking nirvana. The shot needs to come along, but if it does he’s going to be a monster

Pick No. 24, Team Izzy – Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

I am a little surprised that this guy is still here but to complete my backcourt I’m going to take 2022 sixth man of the year Tyler Herro. Even with his uncertain future, he’s been one of the most consistent shooters in the league the past few years as he’s shooting 38% from three since he came into the league. He’s also diversified his offensive game and has become more of a complete scorer, averaging 20 PPG two years running. He’s also improved as a playmaker and I like the fit with Maxey because he spaces the floor and can get his own bucket as well. I think Herro is only scratching the surface of how good he can really be.