The wait is almost over for Jaylin Williams.
After deciding to skip his final two years at Arkansas and begin his professional career, the big man will likely hear his name called in the NBA Draft that begins at 7 p.m. CT Thursday on ESPN.
There are 58 picks in the event, thanks to the Heat and Bucks losing their second-round picks for violating league rules, with the first 30 comprising the first round. It’s widely expected that Williams will be a second-round pick.
“He’s going to get drafted — I mean, that would be all indications by what we’re hearing and the draft takes on wacky twists and turns that nobody ever expects to happen,” head coach Eric Musselman said. “I’m just hopeful that he goes to an organization that really values what he is as a player.”
The Razorbacks have had a player selected in each of the last three drafts, with Moses Moody going in the first round last year and Isaiah Joe and Daniel Gafford going in the second round in 2020 and 2019, respectively.
It will be the first time Arkansas has had a player taken in four straight drafts since it had an eight-year streak from 1978-85. Which team takes Williams to extend that streak, though, remains quite the mystery.
HawgBeat examined eight different notable mock drafts and Williams was slotted anywhere between the 27th and 49th overall picks. The only duplicate projection was the Spurs at No. 38 overall, which is where Yahoo! Sports’ Krysten Peek and Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman have him going.
Most of the projections have him going in the 34-49 range, but Kyle Boone of CBS Sports actually projected him to be a first-round pick. He has Williams going 27th overall to the Heat.
He didn’t reveal the identity, but Musselman told reporters last week that a general manager actually reached out to him directly for what he said was the first “extended conversation” he’d had about Williams. He also mentioned that two teams talked to him about possibly moving up in the draft, which were the “most significant phone calls” he’d received.
“They were real phone calls,” Musselman said. “They were not from scouts. They were not from people who don’t live in the city where the team plays. They were decision makers. I think that’s good when that starts happening.”
The range most mock drafts have him projected to be picked is also where Williams appears on several prospect big boards.
Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo, who has him at No. 49 on his list of top prospects, described him as a “weird prospect,” but said there’s still things to love about his game.
“Williams excels at the grimy parts of the game: his strengths include setting screens, taking charges, making clever passes and being a general nuisance with his size and smarts,” Woo wrote. “As a true center who isn’t particularly fleet of foot, his pathway to making the NBA is pretty narrow, but he already brings an advanced mentality to his role, and it’s easy to see teams that value what he does falling in love with him as a potential specialist.”
CBS Sports, which compared him to former Arkansas standout Bobby Portis, mentioned that he has an unproven jumper — both inside and outside of the arc — but also praised him for sever aspects of his game.
On top of being a good defender who draws charges, Williams is an “elite” defensive rebounder and decent rim-protector who can guard in space, according to CBS Sports, and Musselman believes he’s put those skills on display leading up to the draft.
“I think Jaylin has done a really good job of all the things that we got an opportunity to see him do,” Musselman said. “Now NBA people are having the opportunity to see how fundamentally sound he is, how well he plays dribble handoffs, how well he sees the floor, how much of a willing passer he is, what a great talker he is in practice when these guys are doing their 3-on-3, six-man workouts.”