Professional basketball is a lot different than it is at the college level. A player can dominate and be the best player in the league, and then not even get drafted in the 1st round of the draft. Kofi Cockburn of the University of Illinois is in that exact same situation as the 2022 NBA Draft rolls around.
Cockburn, the dominant center, is projected anywhere in the middle to late part of the 2nd round of the draft with the potential to be undrafted. The consensus first-team All-American averaged 20.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, and shot 59.3% from the field. He was a problem for the entire NCAA, but the 22-year-old Jamaican is not going to be a first-round pick.
After turning down one of the highest NIL packages that would have been had he stayed for his senior year, a lot of people questioned Cockburn’s decision to leave the Fighting Illini. At the combine, the big man measured at 6’11” without shoes and 7’0.25” in shoes, while weighing 300 pounds. His wingspan measured just over 7’4” as well.
Important to note as well, there are only 58 picks in this year’s draft, worsening Cockburn’s odds of him getting drafted. If he can become a better defender on the switch in the NBA and improve his game outside of the post, any team will be lucky to have him.
The Houston Rockets just made a questionable trade with the Dallas Mavericks, sending their star center Christian Wood and are now presented with some question marks. They could use some depth in the post, and Cockburn could be the answer.
Houston is rebuilding, but they do have three first-round picks this year. Without a 2nd rounder, they have to hope the former Illini goes undrafted and attempts to sign Cockburn to a summer league contract. The Rockets are among the few teams he could make the opening day roster on.
Having DeMarcus Cousins is also risky for a team looking to contend. You never know which version of him you are getting or if we will even be healthy enough in the first place. Getting more depth at the center position is a must this offseason for the Nuggets, as Jokic cannot do it all. Cockburn will not be an immediate day one guy for this team, but he could be a two-way player in his first or second year.
Denver does not have a second-round pick, so they will also have to hope Cockburn goes undrafted. That would not be a huge surprise when looking at the mock drafts, and if that is the case, Cockburn could find a home near the Rocky Mountains.
To rebuild or not to rebuild, is the question in Portland. Either way, they are depleted at the center position. They do not have a backup center on the roster. Well, they do, but Drew Eubanks is not the answer.
Portland, with the 2nd to last pick in the draft, will come in and prevent Cockburn from being undrafted. He can have a dominant showing in the summer league, earn a G League spot, and eventually could see NBA action as a rookie for a team that could really use him.
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