NBA Draft: UCLA’s Peyton Watson to Nuggets, USC’s Isaiah Mobley to Cavs

UCLA guard Peyton Watson will be on the move to Denver to join the Nuggets. He was selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 30th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, the final selection of the first round, but was rerouted to the Nuggets in a trade.

Watson was a five-star prospect out of Long Beach Poly High who earned McDonald’s All-American honors. He was ranked the No. 1 in-state prospect in the 2021 class by when he committed to the Bruins and Coach Mick Cronin.

But the 6-foot-8 freshman joined a veteran Bruins team that was coming off a Final Four appearance and deep in talent in the backcourt. So Watson accepted a reserve role, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game while shooting 32.2% from the floor. He did get some key minutes during the Pac-12 Tournament thanks to his effort on defense.

With fellow Bruin guards Johnny Juzang and Jules Bernard leaving for the draft, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for Watson to return to UCLA for his sophomore season and show his ability in a bigger role. But he decided to bet on himself by entering the draft himself, and it paid off with a first-round selection and the guaranteed contract that comes with it.

In Denver, Watson joins two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic and a team that has made four consecutive playoff appearances. Watson can provide good wing depth for the Nuggets, who were without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. for much of this past season due to injury.

USC’s Isaiah Mobley had to wait until the second round to hear his name called, but it all worked out with a fitting destination for the junior forward.

Mobley was selected 49th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, reuniting him with younger brother Evan, who was taken third by the Cavaliers in the 2021 draft.

The two brothers will get the chance to play together in the NBA, as they did at USC and Temecula’s Rancho Christian High before this.

Mobley entered last year’s draft following a strong showing during the Trojans’ run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. But he ultimately decided to return to school for his junior season.

That gave Mobley the opportunity to be the main man for USC, leading the Trojans in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots while serving as team captain for a second consecutive season. The decision to return to school paid off, earning Mobley a spot in the second round of Thursday’s draft.

In a video posted to the USC men’s basketball Twitter account, Mobley was surrounded by cheering family and friends as his name was announced.

Mobley household going UP!

— USC Men's Basketball (@USC_Hoops) June 24, 2022

Mobley is the third USC big man to be selected in as many drafts, joining Evan and Onyeka Okongwu (first round in 2020 to the Atlanta Hawks). His pick marks the fifth year in a row USC has had a player selected, the first time USC has accomplished that since 1979-1983.

Watson and Mobley were the only local college prospects selected on Thursday, with both Bernard and Juzang going undrafted after leaving UCLA early.

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