Gonzaga's Anton Watson ready for 2024 NBA Draft: 'If I get my foot in the door, I'm gonna stay there'

'I definitely feel like I should be one of the picks just based on what I've done at GU and just my growth since I've been there,' Watson said.
Photo by Erik Smith, Myk Crawford

Anton Watson hasn’t really had time to take in everything that comes with the NBA Draft process. The now-former Gonzaga men’s basketball standout has been too busy traveling to just about every corner of the United States.

From Boston to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, Watson has gone through pre-draft workouts with 13 NBA teams in the span of about three weeks. All while the 6-foot-8 Spokane native recovered from an ankle injury he suffered during a scrimmage at the NBA G-League Elite Camp back in May.

“It was kind of hard, because my ankle ... I didn't really have too much explosiveness, but you only get an hour to show what you can do,” Watson said. “It feels good right now. It kind of took a while to get back to feeling like 100% because I didn't really have too much time to recover, but right now, like a couple of days ago, it started feeling a lot better.”

Despite the unforeseen wrinkle, Watson is still on pace to reach his goal of 16 workouts with different teams in preparation for next week’s NBA Draft. He held separate workouts with the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets prior to the injury, and since then he’s been hopping from workout to workout. In order, Watson had pre-draft workouts with the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers and the Minnesota Timberwolves heading into this week.

One minute, Watson was in Orlando with the Magic. The next, he was on a plane to Dallas right after the Mavericks had fallen to the Celtics in the NBA Finals. On Wednesday, Watson worked out with the Atlanta Hawks before flying out to Toronto for a workout with the Raptors.

“Once you just get into that mode of, you’re just flying to a different state every single day, it's like you got to ... really dig deep,” Watson said. “And taking care of your body, you know, just focusing on what you need to do better. So, yeah, I think I learned a lot through the whole process and figuring out what works for me.”

Watson has run into some familiar faces throughout his travels, including two-time National Player of the Year Zach Edey during a workout with the Jazz. The 7-foot-4 Purdue star was on the winning side of three matchups against Watson’s Zags over the last two seasons, including an 80-68 final in the Sweet 16 this past March. 

Edey is far from the only prospect Watson has seen up close during his time at Gonzaga. He became quite familiar with UConn’s Donovan Clingan, who’s likely to go in the top three of the draft, as well as his teammate and surefire lottery pick Stephon Castle during their time in Storrs, Connecticut. Watson saw Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard (No. 2 player on Tankathon’s draft board) and Rob Dillingham (No. 9) as well as Kansas’ Johnny Furphy (No. 18), USC’s Isaiah Collier (No. 20) and plenty more from basketball experiences outside of Gonzaga.

“Just looking at the draft, I played against a lot of these dudes, and even dudes in the NBA,” Watson said. “Growing up, I played against a lot of them, like Jaden McDaniels [at Federal Way High School], Paolo [Banchero] … I played against all those dudes and held my own.”

Watson’s last stop before the NBA Draft (and more workouts, surprise) will take him back home to Spokane, where he’ll likely have a watch party with his family. Though most mock drafts don’t have any team choosing Watson with one of the 58 picks, it’s worth noting many teams reach out to undrafted free agents with two-way contracts shortly after the draft ends. As was the case for Drew Timme, who signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Milwaukee Bucks after going undrafted last year.

Watson isn’t sure how next Wednesday will go, though he doesn’t like to set his sights too far into the future anyway. Regardless of the outcome of the draft and the aftermath from it, Watson hopes for an opportunity to show his skills in the NBA Summer League down in Las Vegas next month.

“I definitely feel like I should be one of the picks just based on what I've done at GU and just my growth since I've been there,” Watson said. “I feel pretty confident knowing that if I get my foot in the door, I'm gonna stay there. There's definitely a place ... I just got to get there. ... We'll see how the draft goes. But I think summer league is gonna be huge for me.”

Cole Forsman


Cole Forsman is a reporter for Gonzaga Nation, a member of Sports Illustrated’s FanNation network. Cole holds a degree in Journalism and Sports Management from Gonzaga University.