Illinois basketball is entering the 2022-23 campaign with a reloaded roster full of talent.
I want to see the Illini have a player picked in the NBA Draft every year. I will settle for every other year if that is more plausible. I think that could happen with Brad Underwood at the helm. This program continues to stockpile talent and when players do depart, we reload quickly.
Ayo Dosunmu was selected early in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. The 2022 NBA Draft came and went with no Illinois players selected. Kofi Cockburn was the best shot, but he would get signed quickly after the draft by the Utah Jazz.
Is there a chance any Illinois players get picked in the 2023 NBA Draft? One prominent media outlet thinks so.
Illinois basketball has two projected NBA Draft picks for 2023.
It was exciting to see Ayo get picked by the Bulls. I love that feeling of having a player I can root for at the next level. I want more of that feeling, and Jonathan Givony of ESPN thinks there is a chance more Illini players will be heading to The Association.
In an early mock-up for the 2023 NBA Draft, Givony lays out an early prediction of who will be picked in the two rounds. He doesn’t see an Illinois player going in the first round. We haven’t had that since Meyers Leonard in 2012 was taken by the Portland Trail Blazers with pick No. 11.
But Givony does have not one but two Illinois players going in the second round. The first of the two players, you may ask?
Givony has Hawkins going to the Minnesota Timberwolves with pick No. 48. Some people might be surprised with this prediction, but I absolutely love it and agree with it. Hawkins is 6-foot-10 and is built well. He can hit the three-point shot at that size, and that is what the NBA loves. I think a bigger attribute going in Hawkins’ favor is his defense. This kid transformed into a defense monster last season.
The second player out of the two Illinois players getting drafted is Matthew Mayer.
Illinois was able to snag Mayer from the transfer portal this offseason. He helped Baylor win a national title, and now he will do that for the Illini. Mayer has great size at 6-foot-9, and he can also step back and shoot the three-point shot. Illinois is going to give Mayer the chance to shine in 2022-23.
I am a little surprised that Mayer is getting the nod over Terrence Shannon Jr. in Givony’s mock draft. At 6-foot-6, I think Shannon has been more consistent and has better NBA traits than Mayer.
Don’t get me wrong, Mayer’s size is what makes him an attractive NBA option, but Shannon is a more well-rounded player. I also like Shannon’s defense more than Mayer as well.
Overall, though, it is exciting to have two Illinois players projected to be picked in the 2023 NBA Draft. The mock draft will change with time and, who knows, maybe Illinois will have more projected draft picks once the season gets underway.