Following the Bruins’ Sweet 16 exit from March Madness, the attention has now shifted to the players and their looming decisions on whether to enter the 2022 NBA Draft.
UCLA men’s basketball (27-8, 15-5 Pac-12) returned Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Johnny Juzang from their 2021 Final Four squad and added five-star guard/forward Peyton Watson to the mix in their most recent campaign. However, after falling short compared to their lofty pre-season expectations, all three of the Bruins’ NBA prospects have been projected by one outlet or another to be drafted in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Jaquez, Juzang and Watson are eligible to return to coach Mick Cronin’s squad for the 2022-2023 season but could opt to join the professional ranks instead – foregoing their college eligibility.
Here is where analysts from around the nation have projected where UCLA players will or will not be selected:
Jaime Jaquez Jr: N/A
Johnny Juzang: N/A
Peyton Watson N/A
The possibility that the Bruins have zero NBA prospects selected is certainly a situation that could take place in June.
Juzang held preseason and midseason draft stock, but as the season transpired, the 6-foot-7 wing struggled to stay consistent from the field. Although his regular season statistics were similar in his sophomore and junior years, Juzang was unable to go out on a high note in March like he did in 2021.
Next season could very well see Jaquez and Watson return to college to increase their projected draft position, and the arrival of the former’s sister – Gabriela Jaquez – to UCLA women’s basketball’s roster may see the sibling duo prefer to both play at Pauley Pavilion before leaving for the NBA.
Jaime Jaquez Jr.: No. 40 San Antonio Spurs
Peyton Watson: No. 44 Charlotte Hornets
Johnny Juzang: N/A
In this mock draft, UCLA has two players selected and nearly back-to-back as well. Jaquez and Watson both were projected into the second round and would likely earn full NBA or two-way contracts should they be selected in that range.
The ceiling of potential that Watson carries is still high when viewing how scouts perceive his talent, but Jaquez should be seen as an all-around talent, closer to his true, final talent level.
Second-round projections can be hit or miss and either player could move higher up into the first round if they were to take part in the NBA Draft Combine.
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Jaime Jaquez Jr.: No. 53 Washington Wizards
Johnny Juzang: No. 58 Golden State Warriors
Peyton Watson: N/A
In the only one of the four mock drafts that has Juzang being selected, the Bruins’ sharpshooter could be entering a friendly starting point should it become reality.
The Golden State Warriors have been known for their 3-point excellence in the past decade – relying on the shooting prowess of Stephen Curry and Pac-12 product Klay Thompson. An environment where the green light to shoot is encouraged may allow Juzang to begin his professional career as a notable role player.
Corey Kispert is currently a part of the Washington Wizards’ rotation, either as a starter or sixth-man. If Jaquez were to join their group, the former Gonzaga 3-point specialist could face competition from the player he was matched up against in the Final Four.
Jaime Jaquez Jr: No. 52 Washington Wizards (via DAL)
Peyton Watson: N/A (To Return)
Johnny Juzang: N/A
Similar to the previous mock draft, the Wizards are projected to select Jaquez. But what For The Win’s mock draft also focuses on is a group of players they believe will return.
Kalbroksy states that Watson and four other prospects were not included in his projection. His reasoning explains the decision:
“It’s not because I’d ever expect them to go undrafted. Instead, it’s because I think they will eventually decide to use another year of their eligibility to potentially improve their draft stock.”
If Watson were to return, he could boost his profile into the first round and even as a potential lottery pick. Krysten Peek from Yahoo Sports included the Bruins’ freshman as the No. 14 overall pick in her Way-Too-Early 2023 NBA Mock Draft – showing that experts from around the nation may already look at Watson as an NBA prospect for 2023 rather than 2022.
Juzang, on the other hand, is projected to go undrafted.