There’s an amazing video on Twitter of the moment Jalen Slawson was picked by the Sacramento Kings in Thursday night’s draft. It shows the uncertainty of the draft for some players who aren’t guaranteed to get picked and could go undrafted.
Slawson had broken records all season while leading the Furman Paladins team to their first Southern Conference title in 43 years. For his efforts he bagged the SoCon Player of the Year award. He then led the Paladins to their first March Madness win since 1974, and the 13th-seeded Paladins beat fourth-seeded Virginia 68-67. His 19-point, 10-rebound performance made the scouts take notice.
Slawson wasn’t done just yet because he became the first Paladins player to be drafted into the NBA since George Singleton in 1984.
Slawson’s NBA future
Slawson had five full seasons of college basketball under his belt and was 23-and-a-half-years-old on draft night, which might explain his low pick. Teams are usually wary of picking older players who have hit a certain ceiling and don’t have much upside.
His rebounding ability is one of the most consistent aspects of his game, and he’s shown an instinct for disrupting the offensive momentum of his opponents. He plays defense energetically, averaging 3.0 steals a game last season even though he lacks lateral speed.
Slawson could conceivably become a combo forward in the NBA if he simplifies his game and doesn’t turn over the ball as often as he did at Furman. His release also has to be faster while his handling on the ball could be tighter.
He will likely get limited minutes for the Sacramento Kings at first, playing second-fiddle to De’Aaron Fox but he has shown a knack for rapidly improving weaknesses in his game. Slawson cannot be counted out of being an important part of the team by the end of the season.
Strengths and weaknesses
Slawson has a couple of things that he does well and a few weaknesses that might also explain him being chosen with the No. 54 pick.
He drives very aggressively and draws fouls consistently. The fact that he’s a scorer on at least two levels means that teams have to make additional arrangements to deal with him defensively.
At 6-foot-7, he’s a unit, and he uses his body to drive and finish under the rim, but that might not always translate in the NBA ,where there are a lot of bigger guys.
Although he’s considered a big, he might best be served going up against wings once in the NBA due to his size and lack of any real speed.