With the 2022 NBA Draft completed on Thursday it’s time for, well, 2023 draft talk to begin.
Jonathan Givony is considered to be the godfather of NBA Draft coverage and his mock drafts at ESPN are the industry standard for where athletes are projected to be selected. Givony just released his 2023 mock draft, which you can see here.
Down at pick 44, you’ll see a Florida Gator selected.
Alex Fudge, power forward.
This might come as a surprise to you given the fact that Fudge’s freshman season at LSU didn’t go exactly as planned. He averaged 3.3 points and 3.2 rebounds in 14 minutes per game, and in LSU’s final eleven games he only saw meaningful minutes in one of them. However, NBA scouts are projecting a huge leap and that should be exciting to Florida fans.
As a high school recruit Fudge was already getting NBA attention and it’s easy to see why. At 6’8” with long arms he has the frame that teams are looking for and offensively he flashed elite shot making capabilities that are essentially what the modern NBA is built on. Things didn’t go according to plan in his one year at LSU, but the fact that Givony has him getting drafted in 2023 suggests that perhaps at Florida we will see the Alex Fudge that had him as a fringe 5-star.
Even though he was known as a big time scorer in high school, at LSU he completely changed roles and was more of a defensive weapon utilizing his length and anticipation to be disruptive in the high-pressure defensive system the Tigers utilized. Now he’s established as a quality defender, and if he starts to flash the shot making he was known for in high school then he’ll look a whole lot like an NBA player.
All reports from camp have been that Fudge has looked outstanding which was also the word from non-Florida workouts and pickup games he attended this offseason. When you start to draft your depth charts for the 2022-23 season, perhaps it’s start time to not only factor in Fudge as a starter, but also a major contributor. Looking up and down Florida’s roster, there are proven college players that will be expected to form a solid core that will look like an NCAA Tournament team, and that wouldn’t even be factoring in the x-factor of Alex Fudge. If he becomes an NBA-caliber forward, Florida’s ceiling just became a whole lot higher.
Of course, the NBA doesn’t draft on college production. They are all about projections, and quite frankly we have seen a number of teams take chances on players that were downright ineffective in college. There is a chance that Fudge could play well, but not great, and still be drafted in the second round based on his physical gifts and touch alone. We saw this with Scottie Lewis getting drafted who never played to his full potential at Florida but was still drafted due to his physical gifts, work ethic, and pedigree as a top level high school player.
If there is one thing we know for sure it’s that there will be plenty of NBA scouts with eyes on Florida games. In addition to Fudge there has also been attention given to Kowacie Reeves as a young player that oozes potential, and of course Colin Castleton has already had multiple NBA workouts and teams will be keeping an eye on him. Riley Kugel and Will Richard could also have some NBA looks down the line, so you could see scouts in Gainesville plenty of times this season.
It also helps that the SEC is loaded with NBA talent, especially with Arkansas’ Nick Smith, Anthony Black, and Jordan Walsh all getting lottery consideration. Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston (Kentucky), Julian Phillips (Tennessee), and Brandon Miller (Alabama), will also get looks for high picks in the first round, so in most of Florida’s conference games you can bet there will be scouts in the building or at least watching from afar.
Getting an NBA draft pick early in Todd Golden’s tenure would be huge for the staff. There is a question nearly every high-level recruit asks when considering a school and it’s “what NBA players have you produced?” It was a question that Mike White had to work to get an answer for, and if Golden was able to get an NBA player in his first year it would be huge for recruiting.
Fudge getting named in the ESPN mock draft shows just how talented this Florida roster is and they might be able to make some noise in the 2022-23 season.