5 Players drafted ahead of Mavs rookie Dereck Lively II that he's already outplayed

Nov 19, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II
Nov 19, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
3 of 5

3. Jarace Walker

Original Draft Position: 8th

Unlike the previous two players on the list, Jarace Walker was a top-10 recruit out of high school. The Houston product ranked as the highest recruit in Cougar basketball history.

Despite the immense pressure, Walker delivered. On a veteran-laden Houston squad, the big man averaged 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game. The athletic forward also shot 34.7 percent on 2.8 3-point attempts per game, displaying an in-and-out game.

Walker's feel for the game, athleticism, hustle, and shot-making were too much to pass up for the Indiana Pacers. Additionally, adding a big made sense for the Pacers.

Indiana was already flush with guards upon entering the offseason. Thus, the power forward spot was prioritized in the draft and in free agency. After selecting Walker in the top 10, the Pacers turned to the trade market to acquire another power forward, Obi Toppin, from the New York Knicks.

The Toppin trade occurred just one season after Indiana decided to acquire former lottery-pick, Jalen Smith, from the Phoenix Suns. In the span of a year, two power forwards made their way to Indiana via trade.

Indiana still felt the need to select Walker with the eighth overall selection to ensure a promising future at the forward spot. Coincidentally, the former Cougar has yet to find his niche in the NBA.

Walker has only appeared in four contests thus far. He's totaled 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and two steals across those contests. However, in his sole G League appearance, the athletic big went off for 30 points on 12-of-23 shooting.

The 6-foot-8 forward has the ability and may make a difference for Indiana sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, he has yet to crack the Pacers rotation.