Temps de lecture : 5 mn 🕗
Thursday night was historic for the Oregon Ducks, as former guard Chris Duarte became just the 9th player in school history to be drafted in the NBA Draft Lottery.
Duarte was selected with the 13th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers, which was a pick earlier than many expected him to go, with many mock drafts predicting that the Golden State Warriors would take the former Duck had he been available at No. 14.
There have been many Oregon players drafted in the first round over the years, but it means a little bit more when you can say that you were a lottery pick — defined as one of the first 14 selections in the draft.
With that being said, who is the next Oregon player that may sneak into the lottery, and when will it happen? Well, with as talented as the roster is this season, there’s a non-zero chance that it happens a year from now. Here’s our ranking of the players most likely to hear their name called that early:
9. Will Richardson
This will certainly be Will Richardson’s final year with the Ducks, and while he is likely going to be the leader of the team, there may be some questions about how well his game will translate to the NBA.
As a pass-first guard who averaged over 11 points this past season with the Ducks, Richardson needs a stellar senior season at Oregon in order to up his draft stock and potentially squeak into the first round.
8. Nathan Bittle
Can you be on this list despite never having played a game at Oregon yet?
Well, if you stand seven feet tall and are listed as a five-star recruit getting set to make your college debut, you certainly can.
For Nathan Bittle, we are going to learn a lot this season as he looks to establish himself as a dominant big-man in Oregon’s rotation. It will require that he put some muscle on his body — some outlets have him listed at 175-pounds — but the scoring ability and defense that Oregon’s newest 5-star bring to the table certainly have him on our radar to make the eventual leap to the NBA.
7. Rivaldo Soares
Expectations are certainly high for Rivaldo Soares ahead of his first season in Eugene.
The former NJCAA All-American transferred to Oregon earlier this offseason, and after averaging 15.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in his final season with South Plains College as a 6-foot-6 guard, there’s a hope that he can be one of the main playmakers for the Ducks this season.
Obviously, whether or not he makes the leap to the draft next season depends on how he performs in his first taste of Division I basketball, but there’s certainly a lot of upside.
6. Jacob Young
Joe Young was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers. Could his younger brother go earlier than that?
The transfer for Rutgers definitely has a chance to be a star with the Ducks, after averaging 14.1 points per game in 2020-21 and leading his team to their first NCAA Tournament win since 1983.
At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Young would be an undersized PG in the NBA, but we’ve seen players like Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Damian Lillard all dominate despite a smaller stature. That’s not to compare Young to any of those super-stars, but providing an example that it can be done.
5. De’Vion Harmon
Much like both Jacob Young and Will Richardson, Oklahoma transfer De’Vion Harmon has a chance to be one of the more important playmakers on Oregon’s team this season, with a veteran knack for handling the ball and finding his shot when needed.
Harmon averaged over 11 points per game with the Sooners last season, and at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, he has the prototypical size to be a small PG that orchestrates the offense. Of course, if Harmon is to earn a spot in the NBA Draft Lottery, he will need to improve his three-point shooting percentage, which sits at just over 33% for his college career.
4. Franck Kepnang
Franck the Tank looks like he could suit up for an NBA team tomorrow if need be.
The 6-foot-11, 225-pound center proved himself to be a valuable big-man in the latter half of the 2020-21 season, at least on the defensive end. He may have averaged less than 3 points per game in his 17 appearances on the season, but he racked up 18 blocks and had a constant presence in the middle.
There is a lot of work to do offensively before we can seriously consider Kepnang as a first-round draft pick, let alone a lottery pick, but the building blocks for an effective big-man are certainly there.
3. Quincy Guerrier
There’s a very real chance that Quincy Guerrier ends up being the best player on the Ducks roster this season.
After transferring to Oregon from Syracuse earlier this season, Guerrier now stands as one of the most important players on Dana Altman’s roster, having averaged 13.7 points and 8.4 rebounds in his final season with the Orange. Guerrier was also named to the third-team All-ACC.
While a lot of the focus will be on a trio of Oregon big men and the ball-handlers up top, Guerrier may have a great chance to dominate on the wing and have a stellar final collegiate season.
There’s certainly a good chance that Guerrier gets drafted a year from now, but where exactly is the question.
2. N’Faly Dante
N’Faly Dante’s collegiate career has been hampered by injuries, but when he’s on the floor, it’s clear that a real impact is made. At 6-foot-11, 230-pounds, Dante has presented himself as a force in the middle of the floor, averaging over 5 rebounds per game in 2020-21 and putting up more than 8 points per game.
With Kepnang and Bittle at his side in 2021-22, there’s a real hope that Dante can find his footing and stay on the floor. If he does, there is no ceiling for this giant in Eugene.
1. Dior Johnson
If Nathan Bittle can be mentioned on this list before stepping on the floor for the Ducks, then Dior Johnson certainly can be talked about as well.
ESPN’s 15th-ranked player in the 2022 recruiting class committed to Oregon earlier this summer, and he’s set to make waves once coming to Eugene. The 6-foot-3 guard is listed as high as the No. 3 recruit in the nation, according to some outlets, and his scoring ability is unlike we’ve seen in Oregon’s history. As a freshman at Saugerties High School, Johnson averaged 30.5 points per game.
We won’t get to see Johnson until next season, so him being at the top of this list is banking on the idea that nobody from this year’s team goes into the NBA lottery in 2022. But as such a high recruit, it’s not out of the question that Johnson could come to Oregon, be a one-and-done player who finds unlimited success in college, and then makes a quick jump to the NBA.
Source: Duckswire/USA today