Basketball players

NBA Mock Draft 2022: Where UCLA Basketball Players Could End Up

No Bruins have been named in the NBA Draft since 2019, but that is expected to change Thursday night.

UCLA men’s basketball has a pair of players likely to be selected in the 2022 NBA Draft in guard/forward Peyton Watson and guard Johnny Juzang. Watson is the Bruins’ first successful player under coach Mick Cronin, while Juzang has been the team’s leading scorer in each of the past two seasons. The two opted to skip combined scrimmages but have spent the past month training with numerous NBA teams.

With both players in or around draft range, Daily Bruin senior staffer Jon Christon has made his choice as to where both players will land.

Peyton Watson goes up for a shot. (Esther Li/Daily Bruin Staff)

G/F Peyton Watson
Statistics 2021-2022: 12.7 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.6 LPG, 0.6 SPG, 32.2/22.6/68.8%
Official measurements: 6’8″, 203.4 lbs, 7’0.5″ wingspan
Rookie Scale consensus big board: No. 37 (updated June 21)

Peyton Watson is arguably the biggest unknown in the draft.

At 6’8″ with a wingspan of over 7ft, the wing has the physical tools of a lottery pick, but he looked far off during his time at Westwood.

A five-star rookie from Long Beach Poly High School, Watson scored just 12.6 minutes per night in his only season with the Bruins. Most of his struggles came on offense, where he tallied a meager 3.3 points per game on 39.7% true shooting.

Watson’s offensive future in the league hinges on his jump shot. His shooting mechanics require a lot of work – he holds the ball too low for too long when it ends to shoot – and results have been poor with UCLA, connecting on a team-worst 22.6% clip from the depth.

It is imperative that Watson develops into a usable 3-point catch-and-shoot shooter to the next level. He does little in the half court, and his abysmal numbers at the rim suggest future liability on offense if he can’t expand the ground.

The majority of Watson’s impact is on defense. At UCLA, he translated his long frame into remarkable deflection numbers, averaging nearly two interceptions and two blocks per 40 minutes. In fact, his 5.5% block percentage ranked in the 99th percentile at his position, as did his combined steal and block percentage.

It’s unclear whether Watson will ever have the lateral speed or strength to be a lock-on-the-ball defender, but all the metrics put forward point to him being a threat in rotations on the assist side.

So where does that leave Watson?

NBA teams love drafts, and Watson certainly fits that billing. Most fictional drafts move him through early to mid-round two, and there are two teams in that lineup that often play with picks like these.

The Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic draft 33rd and 35th respectively, and each has shown a willingness to go for length at the expense of offensive polish.

With most high-potential plays coming off the board in the top 30 picks, expect NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum to say Watson’s name early in the second round.

Christon’s Pick: No. 35, Orlando Magic

(Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin Staff)
Johnny Juzang waves to his teammates as he is introduced to the crowd during a match. (Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin Staff)

G Johnny Juzang
Statistics 2021-2022: 32.1 MPG, 15.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 43.2/36.0/83.5%
Official measurements: 6’6.5″, 208.6 pounds, wingspan 6′ 11″
Rookie Scale consensus big board: No. 65 (updated June 22)

Around this time a year ago, Juzang’s NCAA Magic Tournament nearly catapulted him into the first round.

Now he will be lucky to hear his name called on Thursday.

This change, however, has little to do with his play on the pitch. His scoring numbers between his sophomore and his junior years are incredibly similar after beating the Bruins with 15.6 points per game in 2021-22. He also played much of the same role in both years as a catalyst for UCLA’s half-court offense.

This role allowed Juzang to showcase his skills, but it also gave him nowhere to hide.

He is largely a difficult shooter who needs the ball in his hands to be effective. It looked great when he was scoring over 20 points a night in March 2021, but probably drove the scouts crazy when he fired one contested midrange jumper after another the following regular season, underscoring a lack of growth after its exceptional second season.

Juzang relies heavily on his pulling shot, especially from 10-20 feet. The midrange is too often described as dead by analysis-hating NBA watchers, but that description seems apt here: Juzang just isn’t efficient enough to warrant high usage in this area at the next level.

Instead, Juzang will have to focus on shooting to find a niche at that end of the floor – something that will likely translate given his 52.4% on 3 turns in 2021-22.

But even if Juzang can provide enough attack in an ancillary role, the other end of the court is still a whole different ballgame.

Juzang’s defense has always been a question mark. His 6’6.5″ frame and sub-par athleticism put him in a strange tween position: too slow to contain perimeter guards and too small to guard big forwards. He’s competitive enough to defend the ball and his long wingspan helps him, but he often loses focus while navigating screens.

Some of his defensive lapses can be attributed to his heavy use in attack, but he will need to show more at this end of the field to warrant a selection on Thursday.

While it’s not impossible for a team in the 50s to take a flyer on him, it’s more likely that Juzang will try his luck with undrafted free agency where he can choose his situation.

And what could be more appealing than playing for the purple and gold of your hometown?

Juzang trained with the Los Angeles Lakers in early June, and the team desperately needs to shoot to surround its three dominant stars with the ball. They’ve bet on big-school names in the past with Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves and Texas Tech’s Mac McClung in 2021, and Juzang’s LA star status would be icing on the cake.

Christon’s pick: Undrafted two-way deal with Los Angeles Lakers