UCLA wing Peyton Watson taken with final pick of NBA Draft first round
Many were curious what Peyton Watson’s draft night would look like when he decided to declare after just one season at UCLA. He stayed in the draft class and, in the weeks leading up to draft night, made a push up the board with his work in private workouts.
On Thursday night, Watson’s work paid off. With the final pick of the first round, the Denver Nuggets acquired Watson. (The pick initially belonged to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but was sent to the Nuggets as part of a pre-draft trade.)
UCLA's Peyton Watson (@peytonwatson_) has been selected No. 3⃣0⃣ in the 2022 @NBADraft by the @okcthunder.#GoBruins | #NBABruins pic.twitter.com/ECo8UAcJbB
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) June 24, 2022
We have agreed upon a trade with the OKC Thunder to acquire the 30th pick (Peyton Watson) and two future second-round picks in exchange for JaMychal Green and a future protected first-round pick.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) June 24, 2022
The former 5-star recruit was this draft class’ mystery man.
Watson averaged 3.3 points and 2.9 boards a game while seeing 12.7 minutes a night for the Bruins this past season, his freshman campaign. He made 32 appearances for a veteran-laden team that had its sights set on a return trip to the Final Four, but his role wasn’t exactly a consistent one.
While the offense was up-and-down—32% from the field, 23% from 3—Watson was a disruptive force on the defensive end of the floor. With length and shot-blocking instincts, the 6-foot-8 Watson gave UCLA energy and momentum-shifting plays in spurts.
But, as a first-round pick, there were always going to be questions. Watson had the talent—it’s what made him the 12th overall player in the 2021 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite—but he simply didn’t have the bank of game minutes for draft analysts to think teams would be comfortable taking him in the first round.
And yet, Denver liked what it saw.
The Nuggets finished 48-34 this past season, good for sixth in the West. Injuries to key starters made the postseason stay a brief one, but Denver should have its core back to full strength next season. It’ll be interesting to see what the Nuggets do on the wing.
The 6-foot-8 Watson entered into the college game viewed as one of the best young players in the country with a reputation as a dynamic scorer. His freshman season looked very different.
As he moves on to the NBA, the picture less clear. There is plenty of potential, though, and Denver will look to help him reach it.