The Kansas Jayhawks put two more players into the NBA on Thursday, June 22, when Gradey Dick was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the 13th overall pick, and Jalen Wilson was selected by the Brooklyn Nets with the 51st overall pick. This marks back-to-back years where Kansas had two players selected in the NBA Draft. Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun were both selected in the first round of the 2022 draft.
Before the draft began, Dick showed off his style with a ruby red jacket that would have made Dorothy Gale, the main character from Wizard of Oz, jealous. Dick claimed the Wizard of Oz was an inspiration for the outfit, and being a kid from Kansas, it made sense. Dick was both praised and mocked for his sparkly red custom jacket. Some folks on social media thought the look was fresh while others labeled him a cheese ball. Dick also flashed a diamond necklace with his new “GD” logo, obviously branding his name in a move that will likely see merchandise available for purchase soon.
As for the days leading up to the draft itself, Dick was all over the board in mock drafts. He was projected to go anywhere from the Indiana Pacers who had the seventh pick to the Atlanta Hawks at the 15th pick. By the time draft day rolled around, most projected him to go to the Orlando Magic at pick 11. Dick took a slight slide but was still selected in the range he was projected to go and was a lottery pick before the night was over when he landed with the Raptors.
Was this a good landing spot for Dick? The Raptors were a play-in playoff team during this past season but were unable to advance past that game after a 109-105 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Could Dick have made a five-point difference for the Raptors to keep them afloat and a potential run in the playoffs? That’s always a possibility, especially with the threat that Dick is on the perimeter, shooting over 40% from beyond the arch in his line season with the Jayhawks.
Dick will likely be an off-the-bench player to start his career but could play significant minutes off the bench and be a sharpshooter that would benefit any team, especially a team like the Raptors who need a little bump to get over the hump.
Wilson was projected to go right around pick 50 in the second round and ended up going to the Nets at 51. The Nets’ breakout star this past season, Mikal Bridges, needs some help as they finished as the 6th seed in the NBA playoffs last season but were swept by the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons is supposed to be a centerpiece of this team but rarely stays healthy. Wilson, a first-team All-American selection last season, proved to be a consistent scorer, rebounder, and defender in his final season as a Jayhawk. That will play at the next level.
Wilson, like Dick, will likely need to work his way into the rotation. He was the third pick by the Nets on draft night. The Nets picked Alabama’s Noah Clowney and Duke’s Dariq Whitehead with back-to-back picks at selections 21 and 22. The Nets did a good job of picking three guys who can do different things on the court. They’ll all have a chance to make the team, but Wilson’s work ethic and drive to be the best should put him on a trajectory to be a part of this squad from day one.
Dick and Wilson will have to earn everything they get at the next level. Dick’s upside and potential to be a sharp-shooter at the next level and Wilson’s ability to play tough defense and create in transition should give both players a chance to make an impact with their new teams. Bill Self was present at the draft and had kind words to say about both players. Understanding Wilson wanted to go higher, Self suggested in the second round it’s more about where a player can fit in vs how high he gets taken. For first-round players, there’s a financial component to being selected in the lottery, but Self also believes Dick landed in a good spot.
The Jayhawks continue to pump NBA talent out, this year with Dick and Wilson. Next year could see freshman Elmarko Jackson making the jump early if he has an excellent first season at Kansas. Hunter Dickinson, the transfer from Michigan, may opt to jump into the NBA next season despite having two years of eligibility left to his name. Since there isn’t a local NBA team for Jayhawk fans to cheer for, seeing their KU guys get drafted makes it easy to root for them individually along the way.