Could Wizards draft a center like Jalen Duren?


The Washington Wizards have the 10th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2022 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Profile: Jalen Duren

School: Memphis

Position: Center

Age: 18

Height: 6-11

Weight: 250

Wingspan: 7-5

2021/22 stats: 29 G, 12.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.1 bpg, 59.7 FG% (4.9/8.1), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.1), 62.5 FT% (2.2/3.6)

Player comparison: Clint Capela, Tristan Thompson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 9th, Sports Illustrated 10th, Ringer 11th, Athletic 11th, ESPN 7th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 9th

5 things to know:

-Duren is considered by most evaluators to be the best interior big man in the draft. He is a physical force at 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, still only 18 years old and with room to grow into his already formidable frame. Duren looked like a man among boys in college, bumping hapless defenders out of the way for rim-rattling dunks. In addition to his strength, he can jump and has excellent instincts for catching passes around and above the rim.

-He is one of the best shot-blockers in this draft class, having averaged 2.1 blocks in just 25.3 minutes per game last season at Memphis. Duren had four games with four blocks or more, including a career-high six blocks against Saint Louis and a five-block, 19-rebound outburst against Western Kentucky. He has a reported 7-foot-5 wingspan plus the timing and instincts to maximize his physical gifts. Duren appears likely to be an above-average rim protector at the NBA level.

-Duren has a high ceiling as a rebounder if he can establish more consistency. In addition to his 19-rebound game, he had one with 20 rebounds against UCF in the conference tournament. He also had 21 points, two blocks and two steals in that game. Duren can fill up a box score, especially when he has a clear physical advantage in the frontcourt.

-His offensive game is currently limited to plays around the rim and on the glass. He doesn't have an outside shot, as evidenced by his one 3-point attempt all season, and he's a shaky free throw shooter. Duren's long-term ceiling will be determined by how much he can add to his offensive game. But regardless, he should be able to carve out a solid career if he can block shots and rebound at a high level.

-Duren's age is worth highlighting, as he is expected to be the youngest player drafted in the first round this year. He's only 18 years old and won't turn 19 until November, after his rookie season begins. The fact he's so young will be factored in by teams looking for a player with long-term upside. Despite his age, Duren has an NBA-ready body but may also be very early in his basketball development.

Fit with Wizards:

It's possible Duren is not available by the time the Wizards are on the clock with the 10th pick, as mock drafts put him in the range of 7-12. But it's also very realistic that he will not only be on the board, but one of the best prospects available and that could lead to an interesting decision for the Wizards. The Wizards have two centers signed to multi-year contracts in Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford, with Gafford offering a similar skillset to Duren.

At a minimum, Duren might have trouble finding minutes as a rookie if he were drafted by Washington. Certainly, there could be a place for him long-term, but center is not a short-term need for the Wizards. If they drafted Duren, it would clearly be a matter of them taking the best player available, regardless of their depth chart.

That is generally a smart approach by NBA front offices, but it's also fair to wonder if there is a scenario where Duren would be the type of player they couldn't pass up. He has a chance to be a very good shot-blocker and rebounder, but hasn't displayed the offensive versatility that could lend itself to stardom, at least not yet. The Wizards would need to do quite a bit of projecting to reach that conclusion.

If Duren was the pIck for the Wizards, it could mean Gafford becomes expendable. But they also do have room for a third center and could maybe justify the pick because of that, plus Porzingis' ability to slide over to the four and the fact they need a lot of help on the defensive end. If defense is what they want to fix more than anything and Duren is the best defender on the board in their eyes, you could see the reasoning. Still, it seems like they would likely go in a different direction if given the choice.

2022 NBA Draft profiles:

Jabari Smith Jr., Auburn

Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga

Jaden Ivey, Purdue

Paolo Banchero, Duke

Keegan Murray, Iowa

Shaedon Sharpe, Kentucky

Johnny Davis, Wisconsin

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