NBA Draft recap: A fruitful day for Australian hoops

It was a fruitful day for Australian hoops at the 2022 NBA Draft, with a number of familiar faces realising the dream of having their names called by commissioner Adam Silver or deputy Mark Tatum.

Dyson Daniels and Ousmane Dieng were snapped up early as expected, while Luke Travers and Hugo Besson were each selected late in the second round.

Daniels becomes the latest Australian to become a top 10 pick, following hot on the heels of Josh Giddey from a season ago, while Dieng continues a remarkable streak for the NBL, making it three consecutive drafts that a Next Star has dropped in the lottery.

Travers' rapid rise with the Perth Wildcats has been rewarded, while Hugo Besson became an historic second draftee of the night for the New Zealand Breakers.


Dyson Daniels, G League Ignite, Guard - 8th overall pick, New Orleans Pelicans

Beginning the season as a middle of the first-round prospect, Daniels climbed the boards on the back of an impressive season with the G League Ignite.

In addition to that campaign, teams gushed over his workouts in recent weeks with not only his versatile skillset but his professionalism and communication skills proving to be well beyond his years.

There was little danger of Daniels slipping by New Orleans, with the Pelicans requiring some help at the guard position alongside veteran CJ McCollum. With an ability to play on or off the ball at the guard spot, Daniels brings a unique skillset and now joins Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones in one of the brightest young cores in the league.

The most important attribute he brings to New Orleans is his desire to defend, with the Pelicans ranking 18th in defensive efficiency last season, giving up 112.0 points per 100 possessions. While Jose Alverado provided pesky full court defence off the bench in the postseason, the 6'8" frame of Daniels is a glove-like fit for the modern game that demands an ability to defend across multiple positions.

"They made a really big step last year in making the playoffs, and did well in the playoffs, too. So I think being able to join this team, I think I can help them go further in the playoffs," Daniels said.

"And for me, I'm a winner. I love to win games. I hate losing. So, I'm going to do whatever the team needs to help them win. I think I can definitely step into some roles and contribute straightaway.

"I'm just so happy I've landed in New Orleans. They have a great coaching staff, great players. I loved it when I went there for the workout."

While the Pelicans' roster is far from set for the 2022-23 season, a legitimate role in the rotation from opening night is realistic.

Ousmane Dieng, New Zealand Breakers (NBL), forward - 11th overall pick, New York Knicks, traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA draft night can throw up some curveballs and French prospect Ousmane Dieng got caught up in the chaos.

Selected by the New York Knicks with the 11th overall pick, the Oklahoma City Thunder prearranged a trade to add Dieng to their eventual haul of three picks within the top 12.

Utilising their overflowing war chest of future draft picks, the Thunder shipped out three future first round picks to land Dieng, with the 19-year-old showing significant development throughout his one season with the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL.

ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony believed Dieng could have climbed as high as eight after wowing the Pelicans in a recent workout. With New Orleans taking Daniels, it opened the door for the Thunder to add another high ceiling developmental talent to a roster that already boasts Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander among others.

Landing in Oklahoma City appears is ideal, with the Thunder in the perfect position to offer minutes for young talent to learn on the job.

After a slow start to NBL22, Dieng averaged 14.3 points over his last six games, conceding he took some time to get used to playing against seasoned professionals.

"Honestly, I'm just excited to be part of the NBA. OKC is a young team. They have some French guys over there, so that will be cool," Dieng said.

"I will improve on my decision making because everything is faster in the NBA, and probably keep improving my shot."

While there are question marks over if/how quickly he can develop at the NBA level, he is widely viewed as one of the true high ceiling players in the lottery.

Luke Travers, Perth Wildcats (NBL), forward - 56th overall pick, Cleveland Cavaliers

Should we really be surprised that the Cleveland Cavaliers were enamoured by a hard-nosed Australian?

Luke Travers was widely believed to be right on the fringe of being drafted and fortunately for the Perth Wildcats forward, he landed on the side of being picked up with the third to last pick of the night.

You will continuously hear that Travers swing skill is his outside shooting but what he can bring to the table is a nose for the ball and good feel for the game. Like both Daniels and Dieng, Travers joins a young Cavaliers group looking to rise.

"I knew if I was going to get picked up it would be towards the end. Once it got to around 50, I was anxiously waiting and eventually got a call from my agent who told me to make sure I watched," Travers told Perth Wildcats media after the draft.

A roster spot come opening night isn't assured for second round picks, with Travers looking forward to Las Vegas Summer League in early July.

"For right now, just focusing on Summer League," he said. "I'll get over to Cleveland at the end of the month and start training with them. Just trying to put my best foot forward and go from there."

Hugo Besson, New Zealand Breakers (NBL), Guard - 58th overall pick, Indiana Pacers (pick reportedly traded to the Milwaukee Bucks)

Hugo Besson attended the draft and endured an agonising wait at Barclays Centre, finally being selected with the final pick of the night.

The Indiana Pacers made the pick, though reports suggest that the selection has been traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.

While Besson needs to get stronger to survive on the defensive end in the NBA, it's not a total surprise that an NBA franchise would want to take a closer look at a microwave scorer who can create his own shot in the half court and catch fire in explosive scoring outbursts.

"I think my ability to score is very good. I think I have to improve my body, for sure, my defence. But yeah, I think I can bring something to the team and I'm very excited to be part of this organization," Besson said.

Milwaukee have perennially struggled from long range in the postseason, with their 27.9% mark in the seven-game series loss to the Boston Celtics contributing to their elimination in the second round.

While Besson finished just 30.8 percent from deep on the season, it would be worth taking into account the role he was asked to play on a Breakers team that was decimated by injury and forced on the road for the entire season.

"I feel very grateful being picked. I've worked hard my whole career. I'm very grateful and I can't wait to get to work," Besson said.

Undrafted

Among the contingent of undrafted NBL players on the night were Kai Sotto (Adelaide 36ers), Makur Maker (Sydney Kings), Bul Kuol (Cairns Taipans) and Akoldah Gak (Illawarra Hawks).

The quartet were considered outsiders in ESPN's mock drafts heading into the night, though Sotto and Maker in particular should be in line to pick up an opportunity at Summer League.

Kuol and Gak each worked out with several teams prior to the draft but weren't expected to be picked on the night.

2022 Summer League in Las Vegas begins on July 7 and runs through to July 17 - select games will be available on ESPN.