The Denver Nuggets had plenty of names on their 2022 NBA Draft big board and yet, they opted to take UCLA’s Peyton Watson at pick No. 30.
After shocking the world by taking Arizona’s dynamic playmaker, Christian Braun, at pick No. 21, the Denver Nuggets sat back as Walker Kessler, MarJon Beauchamp, and Nikola Jovic all slid down the draft board. Only for all three to be drafted before the Nuggets had their turn at pick No. 30.
And yet, even with players like EJ Liddell, Jaden Hardy and Andrew Nembhard still on the board, the Denver Nuggets opted to take UCLA’s Peyton Watson with the 30th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Despite being a consensus top-ten recruit in the class of 2021, garnering multiple offers from major D-1 schools around the country, including Arizona, Michigan and Gonzaga. Peyton Watson never quite hit his stride with the Bruins last year.
Playing in 32 games over the course of the college basketball regular season, Watson averaged a measly 12.7 minutes and 3.3 points per game. Which is the lowest point total of any first-round pick in this year’s draft. Oh, and did I mention that he shot 22.6 percent from deep and 33.2 percent from the field in his lone season at UCLA?
Perhaps he was overshadowed by the play of his veteran teammates, Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Tyler Campbell. Although, even still, it’s hard to justify drafting a player in the first-round who averaged fewer than five points per game in college. Hence why most scouts had Watson projected to be a mid-late second-round pick or an undrafted free agent.
Sure, his potential is mesmerizing, as a 6’8”, 200-pound forward who’s 19 years old and oozes athleticism, with the chance to become a legitimate two-way threat in the NBA. Nevertheless, he’s an extremely raw prospect who’s undoubtedly going to take some time to develop.
More likely than not, he’s going to need to spend time with the Denver Nuggets’ G League affiliate, Grand Rapids Gold, before he’s even close to being ready to compete with the big boys.
All in all, he’s an unselfish athlete with tremendous speed, athleticism, energy and upside, specifically on the defensive end of the floor, which is certainly an area that many expected Denver would focus on.
Unfortunately, upside is the last thing Denver needs at the moment. As a team looking for those final touches to push them over the top and into championship contention, drafting a player for potential and upside rather than experience and production makes zero sense.