Walker Kessler’s journey hasn’t been smooth, but he’s now positioning himself to be a possible first-round pick in the NBA draft.
Kessler, a former 5-star recruit, originally began his career at North Carolina. In his freshman campaign, he played in 29 games and played just 8.8 minutes per game.
After spending a season with the Tar Heels, the 7-foot-1 center decided to transfer. After a brief stint in the portal, Kessler landed at Auburn. In his sophomore season, Kessler was a different player. He played in and started in 34 games for coach Bruce Pearl.
In those games, Kessler was a major part of the Tigers' success over the season. Paired with Jabari Smith and a host of other talented players, Kessler averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Kessler isn’t a new-age big man but is a capable big man that could provide the interior size the Thunder are missing, with the physical tools to develop into a more common NBA big man. Kessler shot better than 60% from the field at Auburn and 20% from 3-point range averaging just over an attempt per game.
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Kessler’s defense is what has skyrocketed him up the draft boards. His long frame allows him to be a dynamic shot blocker. He averaged 4.6 blocks per game last season. The Thunder were already one of the best rebounding teams in the league last season, and adding Kessler could provide the Thunder full control of the interior.
Kessler is a solid pick-and-roll option for NBA teams, the Thunder in particular, who have explosive downhill guards who require perfectly timed defense to handle. Kessler is still a work in progress, but with the Thunder’s emphasis on development, his abilities fit the mold of the organization and fill the needs the Thunder are looking for in the draft.
Kessler is not as versatile as other big men in the draft, but with the Thunder holding three picks in the first round, including the 30th pick, and 34th pick also, Kessler could sit on the OKC target list around that area with his upside.