It’s officially draft week for a handful of former Kansas basketball players hoping to get their names in Thursday’s NBA draft.
And the fear, excitement, and anticipation of it all grows every day.
Five members of KU’s national championship team have been practicing for at least one NBA team in recent weeks, and two of them — Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun — are expected to be selected in the 58-pick draft Thursday night in Brooklyn, New York.
Agbaji, the 2022 All-American and the most outstanding player at the Final Four, has been considered a first-round pick for months. Many of the most popular current bill designs predict that he will be selected in the first round in or just outside the 14 pick lottery.
ESPN.com draft analyst Jonathan Givony sent Agbaji to Cleveland in 14th place.
“The Cavs will look to add size and perimeter shooting on the wing this offseason, both freehand and in the draft,” Givony wrote. “Agbaji, one of the top shooters in the draft with a 6-10 span and a chiseled frame, projects himself as a plug-and-play 3-and-D prospect who should be ready to contribute immediately.”
Kyle Boone and David Cobb, both of CBS Sports, also pinned Agbaji at No. 14 after Cleveland.
Colleague Gary Parrish is the tallest on Agbaji. Parrish, along with The Field of 68 podcast and NBADraft.net all have Agbaji, who heads to Washington for No. 10 overall in Thursday’s draft.
“A solid NBA starter may be his upper limit, but the progression that Agabji showed from his junior to senior seasons demonstrated his unrelenting work ethic and ability to improve,” Cobb wrote in his latest mock draft.
The Sporting News (No. 15 after Charlotte) and HoopsHype (No. 16 after Atlanta) predict Agbaji will narrowly walk out of the lottery, made up of the 14 teams that missed the 2022 playoffs.
Braun’s positioning was a little more fluid. While multiple predictions throughout May had him late in the first round when he performed strongly on the pre-draft combine, the latest predictions for Braun were split between late first round and early second round.
Givony, who had long led Braun to Golden State with the 28th first-round pick, has now brought Braun to Orlando in 32nd place overall. This is the second pick of the second round. And while the difference between guaranteed money in Round 1 and a gamble in Round 2 used to be huge, many players over the past few years have shown that good money and long careers can be made after being picked early in Round 2.
However, there are still those out there who believe Braun is a first-rounder.
Cobb sent Braun to Miami in 27th place overall.
“Braun is a dynamic forward who can defend 1 through 4, take down 3-pointers and get to the basket,” Cobb wrote. “By turning down another season in Kansas where he could have been a superstar, Braun was betting on himself.”
Parrish is also high on brown. He put him in the No. 25 pick in the first round of San Antonio.
The Sporting News also sees Braun as a first-rounder and ties him to go to Denver with the final first-round pick ranked 30th overall.
“The Nuggets acquired that pick from the Thunder and I could see them targeting chord – particularly with shooters and cutters – to complement (two-time MVP Nikola Jokic),” Kyle Irving wrote in his latest update. “Braun is the type of 3-and-D player who could play off against a Nikola Jokic-caliber playmaker. … Braun does all the little things to help a team, and the Nuggets could use a player who plays basketball the way he does, as they look to start immediately when they return to full strength next season .
Kyle Boone predicts Braun will leave the Los Angeles Clippers at No. 43, and HoopsHype has Braun at No. 35, picked early in the second round by Orlando.
Agbaji was one of 20 prospects invited to sit in the Green Room at Barclays Center on draft night. Braun and his family are also expected to be in New York for the draft, which begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be televised on ABC and ESPN.
Kansas coach Bill Self believes the many mock drafts are in the right range
“CB put themselves in a position to be there towards the end of the first round and I think that’s very realistic,” Self said recently. “And Ochai (go) in the last part of the lottery, I think that’s very realistic. So yeah it would be great to see them in those positions with their names on. But those names in those positions are (not) as important as getting them to a place where they actually fit, where they can actually develop and show what they can do.
Mitch Lightfoot (Charlotte), Remy Martin (Atlanta and Los Angeles) and David McCormack (Los Angeles) have also been training for NBA teams in recent weeks. None of these former Jayhawks are expected to be drafted, but all could quickly draw level with an NBA team as free agents ahead of the upcoming NBA Summer League.