Where Memphis’ Jalen Duren is projected to go in the NBA Draft

If things go as planned, the University of Memphis will pick a player in the first round of the NBA draft for the second time in three years.

Tigers center Jalen Duren has long been predicted to be the lottery pick in Thursday’s (6:30 p.m. CT, ABC) NBA draft, and his performance as a freshman last season didn’t change that. Duren led the Tigers in points (12.0) and rebounds (8.1) while leading the American Athletic Conference in blocked shots (61). His production helped earn him Memphis’ third straight AAC Freshman of the Year.

In 2020, former Tigers James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa were grabbed by the Golden State Warriors (No. 2 overall) and Miami Heat (No. 20) in the first round.

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While Duren doesn’t fit the mold of the modern NBA big man, the 6-foot-11, 250-pounder is still coveted by those who will be making lottery picks next week. Eleven of the 12 mock designs examined by the Duren Commercial Appeal project are made within the first 14 selections.

C Jalen Duren

Wrong draft high: Round 1 (No. 7 overall) to the Portland Trail Blazers

Wrong draft low: Round 1 (No. 18 overall) to Chicago Bulls

The Buzz: At 18, Duren is one of the youngest players in this year’s draft. “Young talent with big assets,” is how he is partially described by NBA.com. The general consensus among mock draftsmen is that Duren will go somewhere between the ninth and eleventh picks to either the San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards or New York Knicks.

Which makes the most sense

Spurs are reportedly on the hunt for a traditional center and there are indications the team are looking to find one in the draft. Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren have more to offer than the traditional greats – not that they’re even available in 9th place. That leaves Duren or someone like former Duke 7-footer Mark Williams. Duren has the physical tools to jump right in as a rebounder and rim protector. Everything else takes time to fine-tune. Spurs have the luxury of being patient.

Reach sportswriter Jason Munz at jason.munz@commercialappeal.com or on Twitter @munzly.

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