Our 2022 NBA Draft scouting report series pushes forward with a look at Peyton Watson, a wing out of UCLA.
As a consensus top-10 recruit in 2021, small forward Peyton Watson never quite found his footing at UCLA in his long collegiate season. Watson has elected to leave his name in for the 2022 draft, and he’s one of the more interesting wing prospects in the class.
ESPN ranks Watson as the No. 32 overall player in their best available, and as the No. 8 small forward in the 2022 class. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ranks Watson a bit lower at No. 44 overall. As a young wing likely to be in the second round to undrafted free agent market, he could be a potential target for the Hawks.
The freshman’s struggles from the field limited his ability to contribute to a veteran Bruin team. His lack of efficiency is also a big concern as he heads to the next level, but that is something that could improve with the spacing of the NBA game. Realistically, Watson is still raw and probably going to be best served by spending his rookie season in the G League getting as many reps as possible.
Despite the lack of offensive production on the court at UCLA (39.4% true shooting), Watson still has the eyes of NBA scouts.
Great to get another look at 6-8 wing Peyton Watson, who I’d expect to be a riser in the pre-draft process. The fluid 19-year-old has made great strides as a perimeter shooter and is a super underrated ball handler and passer. Fits a clear NBA prototype that’s not easy to find. pic.twitter.com/BBqplNtOd6— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 6, 2022
Watson’s profile as a big wing who has some passing and ball-handling ability will appeal to nearly if not every team in the league considering the cost. Picking up a high-upside asset like Watson with the low risk associated with a second-round pick or Two Way contract is a good move for any organization.
Was cool to see Peyton Watson remind people at his Pro Day what made him such a highly touted prospect prior to the season. Measured 6'8 with a 7'0 1/2 wingspan. Has added 33 pounds to his frame in the past 3 years and looks like he'll still pack on quite a bit more down the road pic.twitter.com/9ptU9MwE51— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 22, 2022
If given the time to develop, Watson has the potential be a rotation player down the road. If he can develop a solid three-point shot down the road, he could blossom and deliver on the elite prospect status he earned coming out of high school. As he fills out his frame, he should be able to finish with more physicality but his strengths offensively are his feel and passing at this point.
Watson was an active and competitive defender during his freshman season with UCLA, averaging 9.1 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.9 blocks per 40 minutes. His 7’ wingspan helps him make help blocks like this one:
Watson has the mobility and length to effect shots at the rim from help, while he also has the quickness to guard on the perimeter. He’s a very interesting defensive prospect, and has a real chance at being a good NBA defender once he fills out physically.
Nice defensive play & block by Peyton Watson tonight vs Oregon pic.twitter.com/Gt7kSaKuXe— Mavs / Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) February 25, 2022
Most importantly, Watson has shown promise as a good on-ball defender. He’s able to move his feet and slip through screens pretty smoothly, and his 7’ wingspan plays well contesting shots of course.
Take a look at Peyton Watson here. Active hands, skinny through screens. Absolute monster possession of on ball defense here. pic.twitter.com/TUJDRwV3N0— Larry Golden (@_LarroHoops) July 5, 2021
Defensively, there’s a lot to be excited about with Watson. Stashing him in the G League and trying to polish out his offensive game seems like a good plan for any NBA franchise.
Fit with Hawks
Watson would almost for sure not play for the Hawks any time soon under Nate McMillan, but if they could get him to College Park for a developmental year, that would be very ideal. Farming young wings is always worth the investment, as the Hawks saw last season you can never have to many quality wings. Watson’s playmaking skill set represents something the Hawks haven’t had on the wing in recent season, so if he pans out in that respect he would be a welcome addition.