An NBA champion has been crowned to cap off the 2020-21 season, but don't tune out of the NBA just yet.
The 2021 NBA draft is less than a week away, and mock drafts and mock trades are flying all over social media. Fans of lottery teams are tweeting at their teams begging them to pick their favorite players, while Bucks fans sit back and wait for their championship gear to arrive in the mailbox.
Four Oregon Ducks — Chris Duarte, Eugene Omoruyi, LJ Figueroa, and Amauri Hardy — will wait to hear their name called on July 29. I broke down the top three landing spots for each in the draft.
Chris Duarte - Guard
Confirmed pre-draft workouts - Hornets, Warriors, Pacers, Wizards, Knicks
Reported pre-draft workouts - Spurs, Thunder, Pelicans
1. Los Angeles Lakers - The Lakers have a ton of offseason moves ahead of them, as players like Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso, and Andre Drummond are all free agents. They struggled to shoot the ball and thrive on having defensive players, and Duarte is a natural fit.
He is a plug-and-play option that can score from all over the floor, create his own shot, and defend most positions. LeBron James would love to have a teammate like Duarte.
Duarte may not be around when the Lakers pick at 22, and the pick may be thrown around in trade offers, but the Oregon forward would be a steal for the Lakers in their quest to return to the NBA Finals.
2. New York Knicks - The Knicks may not have much of their backcourt/wing depth from their playoff team this year, as Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Elfrid Payton, and Reggie Bullock are all unrestricted free agents. Head Coach Tom Thibodeau will absolutely love Duarte and his versatility and hustle.
Duarte could give the Knicks quite the pop off the bench along with second-year players Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. The Knicks have plenty of draft capital to select Duarte or even trade up for him, as they own the 19th and 21st picks and two second-round picks.
3. Memphis Grizzlies - The Grizzlies are really close to being a contender in the West, and Duarte could be the piece that pushes them over the top. They have quite a few guards and wing players on their roster, including former Duck Dillon Brooks, but Duarte has such a well-rounded game that could easily translate to any role the Grizzlies need of him.
The Grizzlies had the seventh-best defensive rating (123.4) and the eighth-best offensive rating (115.0) in the regular season, according to NBA.com. Duarte could help both of those ratings improve and help the Grizzlies go from a good team to a great team with his shooting prowess and defensive tenacity.
Eugene Omoruyi - Forward
Confirmed pre-draft workouts - Warriors, Pacers, Wizards, Lakers
Reported pre-draft workouts - Suns, Raptors, Nets
1. Boston Celtics - The Celtics could use a guy like Omoruyi who is tough, physical, and can be a reliable scoring option. He scored in double figures in all but two games as a Duck last year and was not afraid to put his body on the line to draw a charge.
Semi Ojeleye is a free agent and Grant Williams is not much of a scoring threat off the bench, so Omoruyi could be a great fit and make an immediate impact for the Celtics. Omoruyi is also a similar player to new Celtics Head Coach Ime Udoka, physical forwards who could step out and knock down a three, and the two are both of Nigerian descent.
2. Atlanta Hawks - With the news that Onyeka Okongwu will miss six months due to shoulder surgery and the contract status of John Collins up in the air, Omoruyi could slip right into the Hawks' rotation as a rookie. The Hawks had a few scoring options off the bench, but Omoruyi would provide the physicality and defensive toughness that they lack.
3. Los Angeles Clippers - The Clippers don't have a big guy that can score consistently every night, and a number of players will be free agents, including Serge Ibaka (player option), Patrick Patterson, Nicolas Batum, and DeMarcus Cousins. They need someone who will bring energy, similar to what Bobby Portis gave the Bucks this postseason.
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LJ Figueroa - Guard/Forward
Confirmed pre-draft workouts - Lakers, Warriors, Kings
Reported pre-draft workouts - Celtics
1. Golden State Warriors - The Warriors love to add wing shooters, and Figueroa's play-style as a 3-and-D player is in high demand. He had an excellent shooting season last year, splashing 37.7% of his threes and 46.7% of his field goal attempts. If Kent Bazemore and/or Kelly Oubre Jr. walk in free agency, Figueroa will provide depth at the wing position and strengthen the Dubs' top five defense from last season.
2. Charlotte Hornets - The Hornets have a lot of unproven bench depth, and adding Figueroa would give them a boost of scoring and defense off the bench. Charlotte also had one of the worst rebounding teams in the league and could lose Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo to free agency. Figueroa led the Ducks in rebounds with 6.1 per game.
3. Boston Celtics - The Celtics had the worst defensive rating in the playoffs this year, according to NBA.com, and they could benefit from Figueroa's ability to defend multiple positions and force turnovers. They also shot poorly against a below-average Nets defense, and Figueroa is one of the most underrated shooters in the draft.
Amauri Hardy - Guard
1. Utah Jazz - Hardy may not sign with a team until the draft is over, but the Jazz need a backup point guard. While his numbers from his lone season at Oregon don't stand out, he was a reliable facilitator while Will Richardson recovered from his hand injury. Hardy's best years were at UNLV, where he showed the ability to score in bunches and hand out dimes.
2. Brooklyn Nets - The Nets are in a similar position as the Jazz, as Mike James and Chris Chiozza are restricted free agents. James, who went undrafted in 2012, provided a spark off the bench for the Nets, and Hardy could find his path to the NBA in a similar role. It is not known if Hardy has worked out with teams leading up to the draft, but Nets General Manager Sean Marks has an eye for finding talent and bringing it to Brooklyn.
3. New York Knicks - Essentially the Knicks' entire backcourt will test free agency, and Hardy could slither his way into the rotation if they lose depth. The Knicks have four draft picks at the moment and are typically active in signing undrafted free agents.
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