The majority of the time, non-lottery draft picks are not expected to contribute a whole lot in their first year, but in every draft class there are a few prospects that take us by surprise.
With a multitude of trades executed after the draft, some rookies could see more playing time than what was initially expected. With that being said, here are some non-lottery draft picks that could have impactful 2022-2023 seasons.
Read more about the NBA draft.
Mark Williams, C, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets have had a problem at center for a few years and they finally addressed it with the 15th pick. (I know it’s only one pick out of the lottery but bear with me) It may take a couple of weeks into the season, but Williams should be able to secure the starting job at some point this season due to the lack of centers on the Hornets.
He’s a lob-threat that’s perfect for guard Lamelo Ball and will be a valuable rim protector, averaging 2.8 blocks per game last season. Williams still has a ways to go on the offensive end, but he’ll still provide a much-needed service to Ball and the Hornets as a whole.
Tari Eason, F, Houston Rockets
To put it bluntly, the Rockets need defense and that’s exactly what Eason will bring. Since the Rockets are such a young team and are focused on building a young core, Eason has a chance to carve out a defensive role that could blossom into something much more. His offensive repertoire is limited right now, but with the right coaching, he can build on the foundation that is currently there.
Last season, Eason averaged just under 17 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks per game for LSU. If Eason can develop a better shooting form, then he could become a valuable 3-and-D piece to what the Rockets are putting together.
Walker Kessler, C, Utah Jazz
Thankfully for Kessler, he was traded out of Minnesota where it would have been hard for him to earn any meaningful minutes. Now that he’s with the Jazz as one of their non-lottery draft picks, the path to playing time won’t be difficult, with the only center currently in his way being Udoka Azubuike. Azubuike had a few nice moments last year, but Kessler will have a good shot at the starting job unless the Jazz have plans to look externally.
At 7-foot-1, Kessler averaged 11.4 points and 8.1 rebounds last year, while being second in blocks per game in the country at 4.6. There are mobility issues with Kessler, which is a bit concerning with the perimeter defenders on the Jazz, however, he has a chance to take over the rim protection role that was left by Rudy Gobert.
Malaki Branham, G, San Antonio Spurs
Now that the Spurs decided to move on from guard Dejounte Murray and rebuild, they lack perimeter scoring outside of forward Keldon Johnson. It may be tough for Branham to carve out an offensive role as a rookie, but the opportunity is certainly there with how scarce the Spurs’ scoring depth is. Branham will provide mid-range scoring and showed in college that he can be a reliable catch-and-shoot threat from the perimeter.
Branham shot just under 50% from the field and 41.6% from three while averaging 13.7 points a game for Ohio State last season. He has scoring upside, but we’ll have to wait and see how long it takes for him to realize that potential.
Wendell Moore Jr., F, Minnesota Timberwolves
Since the Timberwolves bench was practically depleted in the Rudy Gobert trade, someone’s going to need to provide consistent minutes in that department and Moore has a good chance with his defense. His 7-foot wingspan allows him to get in more passing lanes and makes it even more difficult for guards to get around.
The Wolves are desperate for better wing defenders to surround Gobert with and Moore may be one of those guys. His offensive game still needs to grow, but it’s worth mentioning he averaged 13.4 points last year on 41% shooting from three and 50% overall.
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