NEW YORK — UCLA star Jaime Jaquez had a modest celebration planned for Thursday. He would invite a few friends and family to his parents’ house, and they’d watch the NBA draft to see where in the second round Jaquez would land to start his pro career. “Just celebrating—a graduation/draft party,” said Jaquez, who did graduate with a degree in history.
Instead, he got a call on Tuesday that threw him a curveball. He was needed in New York. Turns out there was enough interest in him as a first-round pick—no, not a second-rounder—to warrant a spot in the NBA’s draft-floor Green Room.
Forget the house party. Jaquez hopped on a redeye flight to get to Wednesday’s media availability and will spend the evening sitting stageside as he waits for Adam Silver to call his name—potentially to the Warriors.
Why the sudden shift? Jaquez credits his workouts.
“I think I did well in the workouts, I went out there and showed what I can do, and hopefully teams saw what I was capable of,” he said on Wednesday. “There were question marks going into those workouts, I went into those workouts trying to answer those questions. I think that is why I got this invite here.”
Lakers, Heat, Warriors Among Potential Jaquez Spots
But which team was so duly impressed by Jaquez? It has been known around the league that the Warriors, who have pick No. 19, were impressed with the maturity and polish in Jaquez’s game. There is a chance that Jaquez is gone before that, though, with the Lakers a potential landing spot at No. 17 (and the Heat at No. 18).
Jaquez did not work out for the Lakers, he said, though that does not preclude L.A. from drafting him. He met with the Lakers during the NBA combine in Chicago in May.
Jaquez is 22 years old and averaged 17.2 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Bruins as a senior. He shot just 31.7% from the 3-point line, which is why it was a focus for him in his workouts.
He did work out for the Clippers who have the No. 30 pick—though that pick is expected to be traded to the Wizards as part of the Kristaps Porzingis-Malcolm Brogdon trade.
Still, staying at home would be a welcome surprise for Jaquez.
“It would mean a lot, my position, who I am, where I grew up, where I went to school, it would be storybook to me to be able to go play for an L.A. team, I think it would be pretty incredible,” he said. “It would be a beautiful way to end up my complete chapter as a collegiate player, now go play for a professional team in L.A. Incredible.”
Jaquez Worked Out for the Warriors in May
Then again, playing for a team two years removed from a championship would have its benefits, too. Jaquez worked out for the Warriors three weeks ago, and his combination of scoring, defense, rebounding and smarts makes him an ideal prospect to be a sooner-rather-than-later contributor for the Dubs.
Golden State has take some big swings on young players in recent years, most notably Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman and Moses Moody, and none has quite yet panned out as the team had hoped.
Jaquez, who turned 22 in February, is older than all three of those players. He understands that his maturity may be playing in his favor in this draft.
“I think it is a double-edged sword,” Jaquez noted. “I think obviously you have got great prospects here who are very young, and they are going to need a lot of work in transition. If a team needs a guy who can go in, has experience, has a knowledge of the game, played under a coach for four years (Mick Cronin) who emphasized defense and what it means to win, it is just what you are looking for.”