As far as draft classes go, there are classes that we’ve seen dominate the league. Examples being the ‘84 draft class including Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Sam Perkins. Or the ‘96 class consisting of Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, and Marcus Camby. More recently the ‘03 class including LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony.
We’ve witnessed underwhelming draft classes that lacked star power. The 2013 draft class or the 2006 class are prime examples. Although the overall draft class isn’t great, there’s at least one pick or move that, at the time, didn’t gather much hype or buzz, but in the long run was probably the best pick of the class. An example being the 2013 NBA draft where Giannis Antetokounmpo was drafted 15th overall. In 2006, Kyle Lowry was drafted 24th overall but would go on to be one of the biggest superstars of the class.
This year’s draft class is a big question mark. With many people believing that this class isn’t much to be excited about, there are also people speculating that this draft class could very well be a special one.
Let’s take a look at the three best, but under-the-radar moves that happened on draft night this year.
Indiana Pacers drafting Bennedict Mathurin at #6
Bennedict Mathurin out of Arizona was someone who didn’t impress me as an NBA prospect at the start but is slowly becoming a favorite. At Arizona Mathurin averaged 17.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 2.5 APG, and earned Pac-12 Player of the Year and Consensus second-team All-American honors. As he’s ruled more of a ‘3&D’ wing, Mathurin plays fast with a lot of explosiveness.
With emerging star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, Mathurin fits almost perfectly in Indiana, and that backcourt duo of Haliburton and Mathurin should be a good one for years to come.
Dallas Mavericks drafting Jaden Hardy at #37
Jaden Hardy was a hidden gem in this year's NBA draft class. Coming out of the G-League with the Ignite team, Hardy averaged 17.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 3.2 APG. People also forget that Hardy was the second overall prospect in his class coming out of high school, trailing only Chet Holmgren and sitting two spots ahead of this year’s #1 overall pick Paolo Banchero.
Hardy is a guy who, when he gets going, it’s going to be a long night. He can make a quick move and slash to the basket for an easy bucket, and he can also kill you on a combo move and step back in the mid-range or three-point area. With your franchise player being Luka Doncic, and the need for more shooting and guys who can create space is apparent, Hardy was the perfect selection at #37, which was very shocking that he was still available.
Detroit Pistons trading for #13 pick Jalen Duren
The Detroit Pistons were searching for a big man, they needed one badly, and Jalen Duren was first on the list when it came to that. On draft night the Pistons had the #5 overall pick, where they took Jaden Ivey with it, which was a no-brainer, and no more first-round picks to try to snag Duren. As Charlotte took Duren with the #13 pick overall, the news broke that he would not be a hornet after all, and instead be a Piston. It was reported by The Athletic’s James Edwards III, that Duren blew the Pistons away in the pre-draft process and had some fans in Detroit’s front office.
At Memphis Duren averaged 12.0 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 2.1 BPG as a freshman. For his age, Duren’s body size is superb at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds. He can score very well in pick-and-roll situations and around the rim, as well as defend around the rim. He can put up double-doubles like it’s nothing, and with the size and young age, he could very well turn out as a Dwight Howard-type of player. Detroit found themselves a good one.