Jaime Jaquez Jr. NBA Mock Draft projection: Will UCLA senior be a 1st-round pick in 2023?

UCLA is marching into the Sweet 16 for the third time in as many years and senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. is once again leading.

Jaquez has been an engine for the Bruins for years. The 22-year-old has continued to improve throughout his college career, playing his best basketball for UCLA this season. After averaging career highs of 17.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game, Jaquez earned Second Team All-American honors and took home Pac-12 Player of the Year.

The 6-7 forward is an NBA-sized scoring machine, but he’s a marginal first-round pick in the 2023 NBA draft.

Why isn’t Jaquez a consensus first-rounder despite being one of the most prolific players in the country? The Sporting News dives deeper into his game below.

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Strengths of Jaime Jaquez Jr

Jaquez’s greatest strength is his size as a 6-7, 225-pound scorer. The UCLA forward relies on physicality, using his large physique to his advantage on post-ups and drives to punish defenders. He has fast, clean footwork and smooth back-to-basket shot contact, knocking over turnaround jumpers or going up and down to land through contact on the rim.

MORE: Ranking of every team in the Sweet 16: Where did UCLA end up?

A threat from midfield, Jaquez has improved this season notably as a goalscorer outside of dribbling. He will place the ball on the ground to create his own shot or try to get closer to the edge where he can push his opponent back and get back to his office. He seems a step faster than in years past, getting past defenders in space for layups or dunks.

As described so far, it’s no surprise that Jaquez is a goalscorer, but he’s able to read quickly to find open teammates when the defense is too focused on him.

He works tirelessly on the glass and defense end where his exertion and IQ try to compensate for his athletic limitations.

Jaime Jaquez Jr weaknesses

Jaquez’s first step in potentially pursuing a role in the NBA is to become a consistent 3-point shooter. In four seasons at UCLA, Jaquez shot 32.8 percent of 3 on 350+ attempts. There was only one season when he averaged more than a 3-point mark per game.

He shot 23.7 percent on catch-and-shoot threes this season, according to InStat — a number that would need improvement to stay in an NBA rotation.

MORE: March Madness best bets for the Sweet 16

On defense, Jaquez is a bit of a tweener for the NBA level. He has primarily defended frontcourt players at UCLA, and while he has the size and strength to hold his own, he lacks the vertical athleticism needed to keep NBA bigs from hitting the edge. However, he’s also not fast enough laterally to keep up with the NBA’s faster guards and wings.

Putting down threes and being able to defend on the edge will be paramount for Jaquez in the NBA.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. NBA Mock Draft Projection

Mock Draft projection: Late first, early second round

Jaquez brings a proven winning mentality, a desirable trait for competitive teams in the back end of the first round. He would also bring equalization to young teams looking for a safer prospect in the early second round.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. NBA Player Comparison

Plays like: Tobias Harris

Jaquez is 6-7, 225 lbs. with a range of 6-10. Harris is listed as 6-7, 226 lbs. with a range of 6-11.

Their frames are almost identical and the fact that Harris is a frequent league top forward as a forward suits their playstyle. Harris wasn’t a great 3-pointer when he came into the NBA, but he’s steadily improved and given Jaquez a blueprint to follow. While not an all-star, Harris is certainly no slouch. Given how he earned a five-year, $180 million contract, a Harris-level player would make Jacquez an absolute steal if he’s able to fulfill his potential.

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