The 2022-23 college basketball season has yet to officially get underway, but that has not stopped the mock draft creators from taking a stab at what the 2023 NBA draft could look like.
While we can put Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson in the top two spots already, it’s anyone’s guess how things are going to shake out after that.
Gonzaga fans will certainly have a handful of names to keep an eye on this draft season, with 4-5 different players already being discussed as potential NBA draft picks next summer.
The most discussed potential 2023 draftee is Julian Strawther, who showed up at No. 23 in Sam Vecenie’s latest mock draft at The Athletic, joining the Los Angeles Lakers.
Strawther is a 6-foot-7, floor-spacing wing who can knock down shots at a high level and attack closeouts off the bounce. He needs to read defenses a bit better and be more dangerous as a passer, and he could stand to improve his defense. But floor spacing with size is always a premium skill in the NBA, and Strawther can bring that.Sam Vecenie, The Athletic
Vecenie also mentions Gonzaga’s track record of developing wings into first round talent, a la Rui Hachimura and Corey Kispert, and notes that Strawther projects on a similar path.
We’ve seen Strawther gradually slip into the first round conversation, and the recent revelation he will play more of a small-ball four role should only increase his draft stock. More opportunities around the rim and at the free throw line will afford him more chances to score, and improvements on the defensive end of the floor will be critical to his rising draft stock.
Strawther is not the only Gonzaga player in Vecenie’s mock draft. Drew Timme went No. 45 to the Atlanta Hawks, six spots behind Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe but ahead of Armando Bacot and Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Timme’s NBA future has always been predicated on his outside shooting and defensive mobility, two areas he’ll need to show improvement in this season if he wants to hear his name called on draft night.
One other WCC player showed up on Vecenie’s mock: Maxwell Lewis, a 6’7 sophomore forward from Pepperdine who went No. 40 to the Lakers, where he’d compete alongside Strawther for minutes on the wing.
Few NBA teams have leaned quite as hard into a tank as the Utah Jazz did this offseason.
Jazz GM Justin Zanik sent away defensive superstar Rudy Gobert and high-scoring combo guard Donovan Mitchell in a pair of trades this summer, acquiring a litany of draft compensation for the foreseeable future.
The deal also put Utah in a position to ‘tank’ this season in the hopes of landing the top pick in the 2023 NBA draft, where they could draft future franchise cornerstone Victor Wembanyama. Scoot Henderson, the presumed No. 2 pick, is an incredible prize himself, making this a draft worth tanking for.
Zanik and CEO Danny Ainge didn’t account for everything when putting together a tank-worthy roster, however: they forgot about the anti-tank commander, former Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk.
Two NBA teams have now rostered former Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk to help lead the tank: the Houston Rockets in 20-21, and now the Jazz. In both situations, Olynyk played the best basketball of his career, quite literally leading Utah to victory by hitting a game-winning shot on Sunday evening against the Pelicans:
Through four games this season, Olynyk is averaging 15.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. He is shooting a blistering 78.6% from three on the year, higher than his two-point and free throw percentage on the young campaign.
In 27 games with the Rockets after coming over at the 2021 trade deadline, Olynyk averaged 19 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while shooting 39.2% from deep and 64.3% on twos. It was the best stretch of his career, although the Rockets managed just a 5-22 record during his tenure with the team.
Tanking is a delicate balance. No one expects the players to not try their hardest to win every basketball game they take part in. Coaches and fans aren’t in the building to lose either, so it is about building a roster that may not win a lot of games – but will at least provide excitement or intrigue for the fans.
Utah is 3-1 and in second place in the Western Conference, behind a surprisingly excellent Portland squad that is 4-0 for the first time since 1999.
Olynyk and former Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen have been excellent so far this season for Utah. While this team probably won’t be in serious contention for a playoff spot by the end of the year, it sure looks like the frontcourt will keep them more competitive than initially expected.
Olynyk and the Jazz will take on Gobert and the T-Wolves Wednesday afternoon, starting at 6:00 PM.
Confirming the belief held by many, Gonzaga coach Mark Few told CBS’ Jon Rothstein that Julian Strawther will be deployed in a small-ball four role this season.
It will be reminiscent of how Corey Kispert, another 6’7 wing with perimeter skills, was used in 20-21 when the Zags rolled all the way into the national championship game with an undefeated record.
Kispert had far and away the most productive season of his collegiate career in this role, averaging 18.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 62.8% on twos, 44% from deep, and 87.8% from the free throw line.
The transition to a frontcourt role saw Kispert’s rebounding numbers increase 25%, while his efficiency around the rim improved considerably, as did his number of free throw attempts.
Strawther is already a better rebounder than Kispert, averaging 5.4 boards per game last year in more of a perimeter role. He only averaged 2.4 free throw attempts per game last year, nearly mirroring the 2.5 FTA Kispert averaged in 19-20, the year before he stepped into his new role.
If Strawther can take similar production jumps as Kispert, we should see him taking closer to three free throw attempts per game, while grabbing more rebounds and finishing more efficiently around the rim – something he was already excellent at as a sophomore in 21-22.
A 4.7 points per game jump, like Kispert had, would put Strawther at 16.5 points per game. That should get him selected in the first round – especially if his advanced numbers (and defense) improve as well.
For the Zags, this move allows them to start a three-guard lineup, creating difficult mismatches for opposing teams and fostering a high-octane, transition offense.
Some combination of Nolan Hickman, Malachi Smith, Rasir Bolton, and Hunter Sallis will join Strawther and Drew Timme in the frontcourt, with Dominick Harris joining the rotation when he is fully healthy.
Anton Watson and Efton Reid will serve as the primary backups to Strawther and Timme, with Ben Gregg and Kaden Perry in tow as well.
Gonzaga’s new lineup should be on display on Friday evening against the Tennessee Volunteers in an exhibition match available on Pay-Per-View.
Gonzaga’s Drew Timme was one of two unanimous selections, alongside Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, on the preseason AP All American team.
Timme is shooting for his third All American nomination, while Tshiebwe is the first returning National Player of the Year since Tyler Hansbrough in 2009.
Joining Timme and Tshiebwe is North Carolina’s Armando Bacot, Houston’s Marcus Sasser, and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis.
There are seven players showing up on the majority of preseason All-American lists: the five listed above, as well as Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez.
College basketball has more returning starpower than usual this season, thanks to the COVID-19 extra year of eligibility, the NBA’s lack of interest in non-shooting big men, and of course NIL laws that allow college athletes to make money while still in school.
Timme and Tshiebwe will face off on November 20 when the Zags take on the Wildcats at the Spokane Arena. Although Gonzaga doesn’t have matchups with any other preseason All-Americans, the schedule is loaded with talented opponents including Baylor, Texas, Alabama, Michigan State, and potentially Duke in the PK85.
The Zags tip off with an exhibition game against Tennessee on October 28, before the first real game of the season on November 7 against North Florida.
The 2022-23 NBA season got underway this week, with the majority of teams making their season debut on Wednesday.
Six former Gonzaga Bulldogs all played their first NBA game of the season yesterday, giving Zag fans a glimpse into what their role and production might look like this upcoming season.
Corey Kispert (ankle) Andrew Nembhard (coach decision) and Chet Holmgren (foot) all watched from the bench, although both Kispert and Nembhard will play at some point this season.
Here is a look at how every Zag did in their first game of the 2022-23 season.
Check out this site for more updates on a regular basis, tracking our Zags in the NBA.
Jalen Suggs – Orlando Magic
Suggs got his season off to an incredible start, scoring 21 points on 8-11 shooting, including 4-6 from deep. He added three assists, two steals, and a rebound – although he also fouled out and had four turnovers.
Suggs still has opportunities for growth, but his efficient outside shooting is a very good sign of things to come for the second year guard.
Domantas Sabonis – Sacramento Kings
Sabonis wasn’t his usual dominant self for the Kings on Wednesday, scoring 13 points on just 5-10 shooting, along with four rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. He also had a trio of turnovers while fouling out, and going just 3-6 from the free throw line.
Better days are ahead for Sabonis, who will be counted on in a major way down in Sacramento.
Brandon Clarke – Memphis Grizzlies
Clarke was expected to start in place of Jaren Jackson Jr, but instead Santi Aldama stepped into that role and Clarke came off the bench. In 19 minutes, Clarke had eight points and six rebounds, going 4-4 on twos and 0-2 from deep.
Kelly Olynyk – Utah Jazz
Olynyk started in his Utah debut, but he only played 15 minutes thanks to foul trouble and the emergence of rookie center Walker Kessler, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds in his first NBA game.
Olynyk finished with eight points on 3-5 shooting, including 2-3 from deep. He also had three turnovers, one assist, and zero rebounds.
Rui Hachimura – Washington Wizards
Rui has been praised all preseason for how much growth he’s had this offseason. There were glimpses in his first game of the year, where he finished with seven points, five rebounds and a block in 24 minutes of action.
Zach Collins – San Antonio Spurs
It was a really disastrous season opener for the San Antonio Spurs, and Zach Collins didn’t do much to help. In 12 minutes, Collins went 0-3 from the field, including 0-2 from deep and 1-2 from the free throw line. He did chip in four blocks, an assist, and one steal, but he finished with a plus/minus of -20. Better days ahead.
Big East commissioner Val Ackerman discussed expansion in the wake of recent conference realignment across the NCAA.
Ackerman made it clear the conference isn’t looking to expand right now, but indicated they had informal conversations with multiple schools over the summer.
It’s safe to assume Gonzaga was one of those schools, with programs like Dayton, Saint Louis, Loyola-Chicago, and possibly Saint Mary’s in there as well.
Ackerman’s assertion that the Big East is “good at 11” may not seem like a good sign for the Zags in the short term, but the commissioner went on to say the league’s new media rights deal, which will begin on July 1, 2025, could provide a good time to make changes.
As has been the case with most realignment decisions, media money is the driving factor. The Big East doesn’t have real incentive to change anything right now, with 11 comfortable member institutions and a strong media package. The appeal of adding Gonzaga and re-negotiating a bigger deal is obvious though, with ESPN in particular showing a strong affinity for Zag basketball in recent years.
Of course, the media aspect of ‘Gonzaga to the Big East’ was never the hurdle. Instead, it will come down to making the geographic differences between the member schools work – not just for basketball but for every affiliated sport in the Big East.
Ackerman acknowledged geography during her media availability, saying it’s a factor in their decision making but that it is not an insurmountable hurdle – a promising sign for Gonzaga’s future:
For the Zags, they’ll have to decide if bringing all their sports (including tennis, volleyball, cross country, etc.) to the Big East is feasible from a financial and travel standpoint. If not, they could try to only move the basketball programs – but there is no reason the WCC would offer to house Gonzaga’s non revenue generating sports
That’s a pretty big hurdle, and one that doesn’t come with an obvious solution. Traveling small budget programs to Rhode Island and DC every year is a huge academic and financial loss, and Gonzaga would need to ensure the financial benefits of a move to the Big East outweigh the costs.
So, while Ackerman’s comments are encouraging, they don’t solve some of the challenging hurdles that still stand in the way of Mark Few’s program joining the upper echelon of basketball conferences in the country.
The Gonzaga women’s basketball program was among those receiving votes in the preseason AP top 25 poll, which came out Tuesday morning.
Lisa Fortier’s program received three votes, putting them in a tie for 38th alongside South Florida and Arkansas. BYU received four votes, despite Gonzaga being the overwhelming favorite to win the WCC this season.
Fortier’s program will get two excellent opportunities to move into the top 25 during the non-conference, facing No. 7 ranked Louisville in the Bahamas and No. 2 ranked Stanford on the road.
South Carolina received all 30 first place votes. Stanford, Texas, Iowa, and Tennessee round out the top five, with longtime powerhouse UConn coming in at No. 6.
Former Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves’ Oregon squad came in at No. 20 overall, third in the Pac-12 behind Stanford and No. 19 Arizona.
The women’s team will take on Long Beach State November 10 in the Kennel to tip off the 2022-23 season.
The Memphis Grizzlies inked former Gonzaga star Brandon Clarke to a four-year $52 million contract extension, hours ahead of the NBA rookie scale contract deadline.
Had Memphis not agreed to an extension with Clarke, he would have become a restricted free agent after the season.
Instead he secures the second largest contract ever given to a Gonzaga alumni in the NBA, behind the four-year, $75 million contract extension for Domantas Sabonis a few years back.
Clarke is expected to start for Memphis to begin the season, replacing Jaren Jackson Jr. who is out with an injury.
The 26-year-old has mostly come off the bench for the Grizzlies since they made him the 21st pick in the 2019 NBA draft. He was an All-Rookie first-team honoree after he averaged 12.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 19-20.
Clarke’s performance dipped in his second season, with a kink in his mechanics contributing to a sharp decline in his outside shooting numbers. He still averaged 10.3 points and 5.6 boards, however, and nearly replicated those numbers exactly this past season – averaging 10.4 and 5.3 while playing a career-low 19.5 minutes per game.
Clarke did see his playing time increase during the playoffs last year, and he made the most of it. In 24.7 minutes per contest, Clarke averaged 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds – including a pair of 20 point showings against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Now he’ll get a nice chunk of change and a chance to prove his performance in an increased role this April wasn’t just a fluke.
Somehow I doubt it was.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs almost secured the preseason No. 1 ranking for a third consecutive season, but will have to settle for No. 2 behind the North Carolina Tar Heels after Monday’s AP poll release.
The Tar Heels were the national runner-up last year, and they return Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, Leaky Black, and R.J. Davis while adding high-profile transfer Pete Nance.
As expected, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Houston, Kentucky, and Baylor were the top five, although the order was anyone’s guess. Houston returns Marcus Sasser and has a high profile recruiting class. Kentucky has a pair of superstar freshman joining John Calipari’s squad, while Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears continue to reload with freshman guard Keyonte George.
While this breaks the streak of being the No. 1 ranked preseason team, Gonzaga’s streak in the top five now extends to 51 weeks – the third largest streak in AP Poll history.
The only longer streaks are Kansas (61 from 1995-1998) and UCLA’s ridiculous run of 149 weeks, spanning nine years between 1967-1976.
Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule looks even more impressive following the poll reveal. The Zags will face No. 4 Kentucky (11/20) No. 5 Baylor (12/2) No. 12 Texas (11/16) and No. 20 Alabama (12/17). They also have No. 11 Tennessee on Oct. 28 in a scrimmage, and could face No. 7 Duke in the PK85 championship.
The Zags will also face either Purdue (receiving votes) or West Virginia in the second round of the PK85, and face a dangerous Michigan State team on November 11.
Mark Few clearly doesn’t want any excuses this season, and a rigorous non-conference slate, with many of the games happening early in the season, will test this team’s resolve right out of the gate.
Whether that leads to a more polished, prepared unit in March remains to be seen, but this team will have already endured a tournament-like stretch of games when the big dance gets underway. Hard to imagine that doesn’t help them when the time comes.
The Memphis Grizzlies waived former Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie on Saturday. Tillie appeared in 54 games for Memphis the past two seasons, averaging 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds. He initially signed a two-way contract which converted to a standard NBA contract on January 1.
That puts the 24-year-old Frenchmen on the open market; just four days before the start of the 2022-23 NBA season.
The timing is really poor, but Tillie’s size (6’10, 220 pounds) and skill as an outside shooter and defensive player should land him back in the association before the year is up – although he may have to go through the G-League first.
While every team could use a 6’10 sharpshooter like Tillie, some teams have more of a need than others – including the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland’s depth in the frontcourt is, to put it simply, questionable. Jusuf Nurkic and Jerami Grant is a solid starting core, but after that it gets dicey.
Trendon Watford had a productive year last year as an UDFA, averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds while playing about 18 minutes per night for a Blazers team that had long thrown in the towel.
Drew Eubanks has a similar story, averaging 14.5 points in 22 starts toward the very end of the season. Eubanks and Watford each benefited from Portland’s lost 21-22 season, and while they are each deserving of their rotation spots – they could use reinforcements.
The reinforcements at present are Olivier Sarr, Greg Brown, and Jabari Walker. Sarr is the only one with much of an outside shot, and he is currently on the shelf with a wrist injury. Brown is a high level athlete who showed flashes as a rookie in 2021 – but he only shot 31.1% from deep and is still very raw.
Walker was an outstanding scorer and rebounder while at Colorado, but his outside shooting is still in question and he’s not expected to have a huge role as a late second round pick this past year.
Portland has a solid group of young talent with high upside, but Tillie has more NBA experience than every non-starter in Portland’s frontcourt. It’s a no-brainer for coach Chauncey Billups and the staff to kick the tires on Tillie, especially considering this group’s lack of outside shooting.
Portland currently has a two-way spot available, although they do not have a G-League affiliate which complicates things. They could add Tillie on a two-way deal and send him out to the G-League, but not having their own team makes it more difficult.
Tillie won’t be on an NBA roster when the season tips off next week, but he should find himself back in the league before the end of the season – if he doesn’t take a lucrative deal overseas.
Portland, time to pick up the phone.