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Jarace Walker, Taylor Hendricks headline mid-major players selected in NBA Draft

Six mid-major players were picked in the first round with four more taken in round two

NBA: NBA Draft
Jarace Walker was the first mid-major player taken in this year’s draft when he was selected eighth overall.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft featured two mid-major players taken in the draft lottery Thursday night. With 10 mid-majors being selected throughout the night, which player has the best opportunity on their new team, and who will surprise the most? From bottom to top, this year’s draft had a solid group of players.

Jarace Walker (Houston) No. 8 to Washington Wizards, traded to Indiana Pacers

Coming at the eighth pick was Houston forward Jarace Walker. The 6-foot-7-inch, 230-poind big man was a key piece of Houston’ team that claimed a No. 1 for March Madness this season.

His versatility, toughness and frame were attractive to scouts, which put him high on draft boards coming into Thursday night. After being selected by the Wizards, he was shipped off to the Pacers.

Taylor Hendricks (UCF) – No. 9 to Utah Jazz

Taylor Hendricks came off the board just one pick after Walker. The 6-foot-9-inch forward from UCF has an NBA-ready body and inside-out potential. He made scouts salivate over his potential to play any spot on the court.

The Utah Jazz can only hope to capitalize on his upside by making him a crucial piece in their rebuild. Alongside Lauri Markkanen, Hendricks will flourish.

Brandin Podziemski (Santa Clara) – No. 19 to Golden State Warriors

Brandin Podziemski became just the third player in Santa Clara history to be selected in the draft. For the second straight year, the Broncos had a player taken in the first round as Jalen Williams was taken in last year’s lottery, which Podziemski cited as a reason he transferred to the school from Illinois.

A dynamic catch-and-shoot scorer, Podziemski can also distribute at a solid level for his team. He joins the already lethal Warriors scoring tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Marcus Sasser (Houston) – No. 25 to Memphis Grizzlies, traded to Detroit Pistons

Sasser’s accomplishments in college speak for themself. A consensus first-team All-American won the Jerry West Award and the AAC Player of the Year Award. Sasser had a spectacular senior season for the Cougars.

Cited as one of the most NBA-ready guards in the draft, Sasser will come into the Detroit Pistons with a full college career under his belt at the age of 22 years old.

Ben Sheppard (Belmont) – No. 26 to Indiana Pacers

After announcing during the draft that they were selecting a “Mid-Major Riser” with the 26th pick, the Indiana Pacers were almost immediately predicted to take Sheppard, and that they did.

At 21 years old, he still has a very moldable game with many promising aspects, such as a consistent 3-point shot, capable playmaking and no huge weaknesses to his game. He joins a Pacers’ roster led by Tyrese Haliburton, and his versatility will prove beneficial.

Julian Strawther (Gonzaga) – No. 29, to Indiana Pacers, traded to Denver Nuggets

Before the first round ended, Julian Strawther was one last mid-major player selected. After averaging just three points per game as a freshman, the guard poured in 16.1 points per game as a junior this season. He was named to the All-WCC First Team.

He joins the defending champion Nuggets and will fit into their rotation perfectly. Look for him to be a contributor on a really good team next year.

Second-round selections

Joining the aforementioned players were four second-round picks: Pepperdine forward Maxwell Lewis at 40, Eastern Michigan guard Emoni Bates at 49, Dayton forward Toumani Camara at 52 and Furman forward Jalen Slawson at 54.

Lewis was initially taken by the Nuggets but is reportedly being shipped to the Lakers, which seems to be an experimental pickup. Bates, who was the Gatorade National Player of the year as a sophomore in high school, was taken by the Cavaliers. Camara joins a Suns organization that needs depth, and he will provide it. Slawson brings experience and versatility to an already-talented Kings team.

Notable Undrafted Players

San Jose State’s Omari Moore, Princeton’s Tosan Evbuomwan, Utah State’s Taylor Funk and Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis headline a long list of mid-major players who did not hear their name called on draft night this year.