With the 10th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Wizards may have to make a difficult choice between two players at the same position. We are going through those decisions in a series of articles, continuing with two big men who could be on the board at 10: Jalen Duren of Memphis and Duke's Mark Williams.
The case for Jalen Duren
Duren is only 18 years old but by no means looks or plays like it. He is a powerful athlete, mobile and with enough bounce to throw down lobs and block all sorts of shots around the rim. Duren is big enough and strong enough to where there won't be much of an adjustment to the more physical and athletic competition at the NBA level. He's got an NBA ready body and doesn't seem like the type who will back away from the challenge of facing older, more polished players.
Duren's game is very much centered in the paint. He is an aggressive rim-runner, he rebounds and he blocks shots (2.1 bpg at Memphis). He's also been praised for his screen-setting and, given he's built so strong, he is probably going to be one of those players no one wants to run into blindly. Duren isn't a unicorn by any means, as he did not attempt a single three in college and doesn't do much off the dribble, but with pick-and-rolls dominating NBA offenses, there is always going to be room for a center like Duren. In that sense, and because he's quick up and down the floor, he fits into the modern NBA, 3-point shot or not.
The hope for any team drafting Duren would be that he fulfills that role well initially and over time develops into something more. While he may not be as mobile as Bam Adebayo, or Onyeka Okongwu for that matter, Adebayo didn't leave Kentucky as the super versatile, do-it-all big man he is now. The Heat saw his potential to be that player and developed him into that role. Maybe an NBA team will see the same upside for Duren.
The case for Mark Williams
While Duren is the physical force, Williams is very tall and has great length as a shot-blocker. And he's an even better shot-blocker, the second-best in this draft class to Chet Holmgren, who was historically good in college protecting the rim. Williams has Rudy Gobert-like dimensions at 7-foot-2 in shoes with a 9-foot-9 standing reach and a 7-foot-6 1/2 wingspan. That is going to make him a giant even on an NBA floor and it's a great sign his shot-blocking (2.8 bpg at Duke) will translate.
Williams could be an elite rim-protector at the next level while also offering some potential as a scorer. He also does not have a perimeter game to speak of, but he's fairly agile finishing around the basket. He's got a knack for getting the ball into the rim quickly off passes into the post. Williams will probably never approach averaging 20 points per game, but like Gobert he could be a threat on that end to a decent degree.
Whichever team drafts Williams will do so primarily for his defense. An ideal scenario would see him average over two-plus blocks per game in his prime while also reeling in double-digit rebounds. One good sign for his ceiling would be his improvement as a shooter year-over-year at Duke. He shot 72.1% from the field last season and raised his free throw percentage to 72.7% from 53.7% the year before.
Best fit for the Wizards:
This is the toughest call of all the Wizards Draft Decisions we have gone through because both players bring similar attributes to the table and because center is probably the Wizards' least pressing need. Technically it is a need because they currently have a spot open behind Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford (Thomas Bryant is a free agent), but spending the 10th overall pick to fill that role would mean they thought one of these guys was the best player available by a good margin. It's possible neither would get many minutes at all in their rookie season.
That said, Duren is the better fit here. As good as Williams could be as a rim-protector, Duren's mobility and potential as a screen-setter at least leaves some possibility he could play alongside Porzingis. And there also may be a higher ceiling for Duren than there is Williams in terms of two-way potential and versatility. The combination of short-term fit (sort of) and long-term potential makes Duren a more complete package for the Wizards, given where they are and the direction they are heading.
More Wizards Draft Decisions: