On April 20, US center Kofi Cockburn of the University of Illinois announced the 2022 NBA draft. Cockburn hired an agent and said he’s “100% working now,” so there’s no chance of the star returning to college.
Cockburn is a two-time All-American and has been one of the top college players in the country for the past two seasons, but is expected to be in the second round at best, with many experts suggesting he won’t be inducted at all.
How does one go from being a 20-point, ten-rebound machine to saying goodbye to NBA? The NBA is changing, and the paintball’s dominant positions are no longer the cornerstone teams of the franchise. There is no place in the NBA for these types of players. Luca Garza was the MVP of 2021, barely behind in the J-League at Motor City Cruise. He was a similar player in college, except he could go out and drop a 3 pointer.
Cockburn is everything the NBA has tried to get away from. He can’t shoot, he can’t guard anyone on the perimeter, but he can completely control the paint on both sides of the ball. He’s the most physically intimidating player since Shaq and has a skeleton very similar to David Robinson. It is the typical center of the early 2000s. He can spread high shots and shoot wide, but don’t expect him to hit the ball like Djokic or shoot from depths like Brock Lopez.
The San Antonio Spurs could be the only team that could fit him on the list. It’s a bigger, more powerful version of Jakob Poeltl, but it doesn’t make sense to have two slow spots on the list. If San Antonio exchanges Poeltl, this adds a starting caliber center to the roster and allows either Zach Collins or Jock Landale to shoot the ball. Kofi Cockburn may be the second round project the organization will bet on.
The upside is quite clear: an even more offensively talented Rudy Gobert whose ultimate strength looks like Joel Embiid. Of course, that’s probably security thinking, and if he doesn’t show any improvement in a couple of seasons, he’ll probably catch up on a trip to play in Europe.
There is some middle ground. With his speed limitations and no outside shot, he could end up like Anis Kanter Freedom, who played 10 seasons in the NBA, albeit those seasons are forgotten. With the second-round pick, it’s hard to miss a seven-footer who would immediately be one of the heaviest and strongest players in the league.
It is a complete crapshoot game with relatively low risk but very high reward. Chances of a leftover from today’s NBA fitting past? Not the best, but if any team was right for him, it would be San Antonio.