The San Antonio Spurs hold the No. 9 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. They will look to add another key player to their long-term core. One player that’s been a common projection for the selection is former Memphis Tigers big man Jalen Duren.
Duren, 18, stands at 6-foot-11 with a staggering 7-foot-5 wingspan. He’s regarded as one of the more agile recent big man prospects coupled with having a strong frame — a combination not commonly seen.
He was a five-star prospect in high school and reclassified to play at Memphis a year sooner — making him the youngest player in this year’s draft class. He averaged 12.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in 2021-22.
More attention naturally will be placed on the two centers the Spurs have reportedly been linked to as targeting due to their interest in adding a traditional center.
NBA Draft 2022
Legendary basketball coach Larry Brown was a member of the coaching staff with the Memphis Tigers during the 2021-22 season. He was around Duren on a daily basis and was impressed with his agility for a big and his maturity.
“Jalen probably moves his feet better than any big kid I’ve been around,’’ Brown told The New York Post. “With so much switching in the NBA, he’s really capable of doing that. If he doesn’t play, he cheers for the team, doesn’t sulk.’’
Brown has seen a lot of comparisons between Duren to Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo, who is highly regarded for his overall defensive versatility and switching ability. Brown made it clear that Duren is ‘3 inches taller.’
“A lot of people compare him to Bam,’’ Brown said. “I spent time with Cal [Kentucky coach John Calipari] when Bam was there. Bam doesn’t shoot 3s either. Jalen is 3 inches taller than Bam.
“Jalen is like when I was a head coach when he had a center and power forward in the NBA. I always teased him: I wanted him to be like [rugged former Pistons center] Ben Wallace, because he can run with anybody. He really can run. And can move his feet defensively.’’
Brown does caution playoff teams seeking a day one starter since he’s still just 18. He’s coachable and could bring a significant payoff with patience and focus on his long-term development.
“If someone’s taking him to be starter on a playoff team, I don’t think it’s completely fair,’’ Brown said. “He’s 18. If you’re looking at a kid to develop and really be a factor, he’s the one you got to consider. Any 18, 19 year old kid they’re going to get may not help the team right away, but certainly he’ll have a chance to have a helluva career.
“If you draft him, he’ll be like a lottery pick in two years,” Brown said. “He’s young, long, athletic quick. He’s just got to grow and get better. He grew 2 inches when I was there. He’s that high-twitch athlete. So many NBA people have called me about him. A couple of years, you might have a diamond.’’