Top 6 Hogs Poised to Cause ESPN Serious Regret for Its 2025 NBA Mock Draft

Trevon Brazile, Jonathan Givony, ESPN, NBA Draft, Arkansas basketball
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / ESPN

Jonathan Givony has been a busy man. As ESPN’s top NBA Draft expert, he’s been all over the biggest stories of this year’s event, from Bronny James being selected by the Lakers to the bizarre allegations surrounding Kyle Filipowski and his older girlfriend.

Needless to say, Givony might not have had as much time as usual to prepare his first in-depth preview of the 2025 NBA Draft, which included a list of the top 58 prospects.

There were few surprises at the top of the ESPN projections, with freshman phenom Cooper Flagg headlining the players to watch. However, perhaps his divided attention could be blamed for a most curious omission.

Despite John Calipari’s proven track record, no Arkansas basketball player was listed in the first round of ESPN’s mock NBA draft. Even though it has had multiple first-round picks over the last few seasons, this isn’t necessarily uncommon for the Razorbacks.

However, it would mark the first time in 18 years that Calipari, the newly appointed Arkansas basketball head coach, did not have a player taken in the first round of an NBA draft – a streak that dates all the way back to his time as the head coach of the Memphis Tigers.

It’s no secret that Calipari is coming into Arkansas with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after underperforming in recent NCAA Tournaments despite those numerous draft picks. His main priority is helping the kids that come through his programs, but when his teams win big, more of his players get drafted.

That chip-on-the-shoulder mentality will likely bleed over into the mentality of his players after seeing projections like the one ESPN released. The highly-touted freshmen duo of Boogie Fland and Karter Knox specifically weren’t even mentioned among the 58 players listed in the mock draft despite both being comfortable in the first round – and often in the lottery – in other way-too-early mocks.

Adou Thiero and Zvonimir Ivisic were both listed as second-round picks, but it’s also interesting that a few other returners are omitted entirely. Trevon Brazile was thought to be a first-round talent pre-ACL injury and DJ Wagner was one of the top recruits in his class before struggling with some consistency while playing alongside a loaded backcourt last season in which two of the guards were just selected in the lottery of the 2024 NBA Draft.

Here’s a look at the six Razorbacks who could end up making ESPN’s mock draft look silly this time next year…

NBA Draft Prospects for Arkansas Basketball

6) Adou Thiero | 6-foot-8 | Forward

Although he has a lot to prove before he’s ready to take the next step to the NBA level, Adou Thiero’s potential is certainly there. He’s grown eight inches since his junior year of high school and packed on plenty of muscle mass since entering college two seasons ago, and his athleticism has stayed virtually on par with this growth.

The junior forward has elite second-bounce ability, allowing him to be impactful both as a rim protector and rebounder on both ends of the court. During the 2023-24 season, he posted a nearly identical block rate to starting Razorback center Chandler Lawson and trailed only three players listed at 6-foot-11 and 7-foot-2 in blocks per game on the Wildcats’ roster.

The biggest question mark for Thiero is his feel on the offensive end. The same physical traits that make him a good defender also allow him to be an excellent slasher and finisher around the rim, but he’s still developing a sense of when to pick his spots, as well as consistency as a spot-up shooter. He shot 49.2% from the floor and 31.8% from beyond the arc on low volume (7 of 22).

Both of these are teachable skills, but if he’s able to showcase an improvement in both, ESPN’s projection of him going No. 32 overall could be notably too low.

5) Trevon Brazile | 6-foot-11 | Forward

After the disappointing performances and off-court rumor mill that defined last season, it’s understandable for Razorback fans to have a sour taste in their mouth about nearly any returning player.

Brazile in particular was arguably one of the bigger let-downs on the season as a whole considering the high expectations basketball fans across the country had for the bouncy big man. However, there are a few key things to keep in mind as Brazile tries to return to the level of play that had him projected as a first-round pick at times over each of the last two seasons.

During his first season at Arkansas, before he went down with a season-ending knee injury, Brazile was playing a defined role to near perfection. He was hitting spot-up shots, outrunning opposing big men in transition, making himself available as a lob threat out of the pick-and-roll and cutting from the perimeter, rebounding on both ends of the court, and providing weak-side rim protection.

All of these things made him an elite NBA prospect.

Last season, he was tasked with being more of a creator for himself and others while often playing on the perimeter more than his frame and athleticism would indicate he should. Some of this could have easily been due to a mental hurdle after coming back from a lower-body injury, but things simply never panned out for Brazile.

This upcoming season, however, Calipari has brought in plenty of guards and wings that should theoretically be able to control the ball-handling duties and create plays for others. This should free up Brazile to return to the defined role that made him so effective early in the year two seasons ago – and to an extent some towards the end of last season when he came back from time missed due to knee soreness.

He perhaps won’t again knock on the door of the lottery, especially with this now being his fourth season in college, but he could absolutely push his way into being an early-second or late-first-round draft pick in the upcoming NBA draft, despite ESPN’s omission.

4) DJ Wagner | 6-foot-3 | Guard

Wagner came out of high school as the No. 4 player in ESPN’s 2023 recruiting rankings, trailing only former teammate Justin Edwards and a pair of 2024 NBA Draft picks in Ron Holland and Isaiah Collier. Unfortunately, the former Wildcat’s draft position plummeted after a rocky season at Kentucky.

He’s sort of in the same boat as both Thiero and Brazile, but he’s younger than both – and that matters to NBA GMs and scouts. If they have a choice between similar players but one is 20 years old and the other is 22, they have to consider how good the 20-year-old will be by the time he’s the same age as the older prospect if he has two full years in their system with NBA development and training.

While this bodes well for Wagner, it’s not the only thing he has going for him. Even with the offensive inconsistencies last season, he thrived as a defensive guard and playmaker as a true freshman while splitting minutes between a senior and two lottery picks in the backcourt.

He also showed flashes of what made him such a high recruit coming out of high school throughout the season, including multiple high-level shooting stretches. In games 4-13 last year – a 10-game stretch including games against Miami, North Carolina and at Florida – Wagner shot 38% from long range on 3.4 attempts per game. Then, late in the season, he had another 3-game stretch in which he shot 9 of 15 (60%) from long range.

Even if he doesn’t become a consistent 38% 3-point shooter – which would land right around the top 50 shooters in the country – Wagner has shown enough shooting ability to potentially push his average up from 29% to perhaps somewhere in the range of 33%-35%. Along with his already notable playmaking and defensive ability, that would certainly make him an NBA Draft prospect.

3) Zvonimir Ivisic | 7-foot-2 | Center

Zvonimir “Big Z” Ivisic is one of the more interesting prospects in all of college basketball for the upcoming season. Of course, his unique combination of size, shooting ability, rim protection and perhaps underrated vision as a passer alone would pique anyone’s interest, but it’s his unique situation that likely has the attention of scouts.

It’s widely known that Big Z joined the Wildcats midway through last season, but it’s easy to forget that this means the summer of 2024 leading up to next season will be his first in a collegiate training program. It will be the first time he can build muscle with college trainers and learn the offense months prior to the season starting.

This doesn’t guarantee that Ivisic will reach his full potential, but it can’t hurt to have extra training and preparation and experience for such a unique prospect.

The Razorbacks’ roster construction could also allow Ivisic the opportunity to really showcase his skills this season. Tennessee transfer Jonas Aidoo has been penciled in as the starting center for this group due to his All-SEC Defensive selection last season, but don’t be surprised if Big Z pushes him in terms of total minutes and perhaps even the starting role if he does truly take a step forward as an athlete and a player.

This opportunity could also easily push Ivisic much further up on the draft board than ESPN’s current projection of No. 41 overall. His limitations as a perimeter defender might hold him out of the lottery, but he could comfortably be a first-round draft pick – perhaps knocking on the door of picks No. 11-14 – should he realize more of his potential this season.

2) Karter Knox | 6-foot-5 | Guard

Karter Knox is widely considered one of the best incoming freshmen in the entire SEC. He’s a true three-level scorer with good size and length on the wing position. He projects as more of a shooting guard at the next level, but is athletic enough to play multiple positions at the collegiate level. His development and commitment as a defender could determine whether he’s a lottery pick or fringe first-rounder.

Leaving him off of the list of 58 prospects to watch next season is borderline disrespectful by ESPN..

Knox is likely used to playing with a chip on his shoulder considering he’s the younger brother of former Wildcat and current member of the Detroit Pistons, Kevin Knox. The older of the Knox brothers was drafted No. 9 overall in 2018 and is considered by all accounts to be a bust so far in the NBA.

This doesn’t mean, though, that Kevin couldn’t still push Karter to be a better player both by actually training with him and by setting a bar for his younger brother to surpass as he attempts to make a name for himself.

Knox has a legitimate chance to lead Arkansas in scoring next season thanks to his combination of size and shooting ability. He’s a good isolation scorer, but he also thrives in transition and could benefit greatly from the other incoming playmakers like Wagner and FAU transfer Johnell Davis.

Consistency, defense and playmaking will be the biggest determining factors in both Knox’s overall role on next year’s team and his stock as the 2025 NBA Draft approaches.

1) Boogie Fland | 6-foot-2 | Guard

Perhaps the biggest omission from ESPN’s mock draft – Razorback or otherwise – is incoming five-star freshman Boogie Fland. Sure, he has some things to work on like any other freshman would, such as shot selection and play creation, but Fland is an elite talent who has the chance to be a special player at any level.

The highest rated recruit in this Arkansas basketball recruiting class is capable of getting hot in a hurry from virtually anywhere on the court. He’s a relatively streaky 3-point shooter, but he can knock down shots from all over the court, including in the paint. He’s more known as a below-the-rim finisher than a freak athlete, but someone forgot to tell him that before he made this highlight reel clip at summer practice.

Even if Fland doesn’t start similarly to how Calipari brought both Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham off the bench at Kentucky last season, he has an opportunity to take the lion’s share of minutes at either guard position alongside players like Wagner and Davis. Knox is actually the only other player likely to soak up guard minutes if he plays the 2 in some lineups.

Going beyond Fland’s individual abilities, it’s never smart to count out a high-level guard coached by John Calipari. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Devin Booker, Tyrese Maxey, De’Aaron Fox, Jamal Murray, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Malik Monk, Cason Wallace, Shaedon Sharpe and several others are all examples from just the last 10 years of elite guards that have come through Calipari’s program.

John Wall and Derrick Rose both played for Calipari as well. Past pedigree doesn’t guarantee future success, but it can certainly be an indicator of which coaches and staffs are better bets to take when deciding between prospects.

Fland has a clear path to earning a spot in the lottery of next year’s draft and he’s even already being projected there in some places such as NBADraft.net. Leaving him off of the top 58 prospects to watch is an egregious oversight by ESPN to say the least.

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