The Charlotte Hornets have two rolls of the dice in the teens of the 2022 NBA Draft, and if they keep both picks, it seems impossible that they don’t use at least one of the two picks on a big. Mark Williams has been the more popular target in mock drafts, but that largely assumes that Jalen Duren is off the board. If Duren is available when the Hornets are on the clock, it’d be very hard to pass on his upside.
Height: 6’11” (reported)
Weight: 250 pounds (reported)
Wingspan: 7’5.25” (reported)
Physical profile, defense, passing potential
Jalen Duren is one of the most physically imposing players in this draft class. He’s nearly seven feet tall with a broad, chiseled frame and a huge wingspan. He reportedly turned in a 37” vertical at Memphis’ pro day before the start of the 2021-22 season. He’s very mobile and has the ideal physical profile for a modern NBA big.
Those physical tools make him a monster around the basket on both ends of the floor. He’s a lob threat in transition and the half court and rises up for some truly spectacular dunks.
We didn't get an official wingspan or measurement from Jalen Duren, but it's not hard to see how he uses his long arms offensively. Wild how effortless this lob is despite it being a long catch right dunk left oop. Duren uses his athleticism/length combo well on defense & offense pic.twitter.com/mRDpdLF6Ji— Mavs / Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) June 12, 2022
I'm still completely in on Jalen Duren— Draft Dummies (@DraftDummies) February 16, 2022
Just watch how fast he is end to end lol. And then to be able to gather and dunk this? The flashes are very much there pic.twitter.com/8zrs1Ano8U
The first of those above clips shows Duren’s catch radius as a lob target. The second shows how fast he is in the open floor and how adept he is at gathering himself to catch and finish.
Defensively, Duren can protect the rim authority. He blocked 3.3 shots per 40 minutes and is an imposing presence on the interior.
He has the instincts and tenacity required to get the most of his physical tools on the defensive ends. He wants to block and alter shots and has a very good motor. He’s not a world beater on the perimeter, but he can move his feet pretty well and can use his length and strength to limit guards in switching situations. He also battles on the glass on both ends of the floor—he averaged 12.9 rebounds per 40 minutes as a freshman.
Duren’s physical talents aren’t the only thing that make him a potential top 10 pick. He shows more passing ability than your typical 18-year-old big, which has drawn comparisons between him and Bam Adebayo. The Tweet below has a series of Duren’s better passing reads across the 2021-22 season.
Jalen Duren's passing is one of the traits that makes him a likely top 10 pick. His playmaking out of the post highlights the overarching theme of good vision in finding cutters, and he can pass out of the short roll. Underrated passing big man out of Memphis; 18 till November pic.twitter.com/WshRNsOCbD— Mavs / Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) June 13, 2022
He passes well out of the post and the short roll and should be able to have some offense run through him at the elbows in the NBA, much like the Heat do with Adebayo. He showed some flashes of face up jump shooting that can be built upon, but it wasn’t enough for me to consider it a true strength of his at this point.
That combination of physical dominance and advanced offensive feel are a rare combination generally speaking, and it’s even more intriguing considering Duren’s age. He won’t turn 19 until right around opening night of the 2022-2023 NBA season. There’s still a ton of room for growth even though he looks the part of an immediate contributor already.
Shooting touch, post play, playing under control
Duren isn’t much of a shooter at this stage. He hit a few faceup midrange jumpers last season, but he has a long way to go to make that a viable tool at the NBA level. He attempted just one 3-pointer (he missed it) and shot 62.5% from the line. His technique is a little disjointed—his upper and lower body don’t connect well from set to release. I also think there’s probably a bit too much arm movement as he releases the ball. There’s a decent enough foundation that a good shooting coach can make it work, but he’s going to need to make some adjustments to his form to unlock this part of his game.
Duren also doesn’t look like a player that’s going to be able to score efficiently out of the post. He struggled in this area at Memphis and it’s not an area where he looks very comfortable. He projects to get the vast majority of his offense on catch-and-finish plays as opposed to creating his own looks.
He averaged 3.5 turnovers and 4.3 fouls per 40 minutes. There are times when he plays a bit out of control, but that’s not entirely surprising given his youth. That should get cleaned up in time, but it’ll probably limit some of his court time early on.
Jalen Duren has a very clear path to effectiveness in the NBA. His profile as a prospect is very similar to that of Clint Capela with a bit more passing potential, and that’s the kind of player the Hornets have sorely needed for a long time. Duren pairs perfectly with LaMelo Ball as a lob target in the pick and roll and his ability to move the ball meshes with the rest of the Hornets stars. He would provide the rim protection and rebounding that the Hornets need and fill in the biggest missing piece on this roster.