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By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Denver Nuggets select UCLA's Peyton Watson in the first round


George Laase

USC's Isaiah Mobley was drafted in the second round by Cleveland.

To the surprise of many, UCLA Bruins freshman basketball forward Peyton Watson was selected with the No. 30 overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft. Watson was the last pick of the first round of the NBA draft that was held last Thursday, June 23rd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Watson became the Bruins' 42nd all-time former player to get chosen in the NBA Draft's first round. UCLA leads the Pac-12 in total NBA Draft picks (122) and most first-round selections (42). Watson, a 6-foot-8 athlete from Long Beach, California, played his high school ball at Long Beach Poly high school. He has the versatility to play guard as well as forward.

Watson was rated a five-star player coming out of high school and he was chosen to the McDonald's All-American team. For the Bruins, he was a five-star performer defensively. Offensively, he struggled. In 32 games this past season, Watson averaged 3.3 points per game, shot 32% from the field and only played 12.7 minutes per game. That was the lowest point total of any of the first-round picks in this year's draft.

The NBA loves Watson's potential and upside. He is an athletic wing with a wingspan of over 7 feet. Watson will make an impact on defense. At UCLA, he was a good on-ball defender and moved his feet well. He was a good rebounder. He just needs to work on his jump shot.

UCLA Bruins head coach Mick Cronin was ecstatic over Watson's selection in the first round. "Our program is thrilled for Peyton Watson to be selected in the NBA Draft's first round, landing with such a strong organization in the Denver Nuggets," said Cronin. "Peyton has a high ceiling and Denver is getting a young player with a ton of potential. We can't wait to watch him thrive in the Mile High City, and we wish him all the best as he gets his NBA career underway."

As a Denver Nugget, Watson will be playing with center Nikola Jokić, the NBA MVP the past two seasons. Jokić is the best passing big man in the game today and Watson should get plenty of open looks playing with the Nuggets big man. That is another good reason for him to improve his job shot.

As a first-round draft pick, Watson will earn a guaranteed contract for the first two years. Rookie NBA contracts last for four years, the last two being team-option years. Based on the salary scale of 2022-2023 NBA first round picks, Watson will make about $1.82 million in salary in his first NBA season.

Bruin guard Johnny Juzang went undrafted in the two round NBA draft but did sign two-way contract with the Utah Jazz. Two-way contracts allow players to spend time in both the NBA G League and not more than 45 days with their NBA team. Two-Way players are paid a corresponding daily amount based on the number of days they play in each league. They are considered the 16th & 17th players on a 15-man NBA roster.

The Jazz did not have a draft pick in last weeks draft, so Juzang is like a draft pick for them. There is a chance that Juzang could make the 15-man roster if he plays well in the summer league and in training camp. He would then be rewarded with a standard NBA contract. Juzang was a Pac-12 first team All-conference pick in 2021-2022, and a second team pick in 2020-2021 for the Bruins.

The six-foot-six guard was the star of the Bruins Final Four run in 2021, earning the most outstanding player of the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Bruin guard Jules Bernard also went undrafted but signed a contract with the Detroit Pistons. The terms of that contract were unknown.

George Laase

UCLA's Peyton Watson was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets.

Watson can learn some valuable lessons from a former Bruin who was also selected with the last pick of the first round. Kevon Looney was selected with the 30th pick in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft. Through perseverance and determination, Looney has played seven years in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors and has been a key contributor on three NBA Championship teams. Watson may have been a surprise pick in the first round, but as Looney has shown, anything is possible if you work hard.

A USC Trojan was also drafted this season in the second round. Isaiah Mobley was the 49th player chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last year Clevland chose his younger brother, Evan in the first round and Evan had a very productive season las year.


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