Pitt star Justin Champagnie has put on the best performance of his career this season, and as a result, he has caught the attention of NBA draft analysts, many of whom envision him as a second-round pick. However, his stock appears to be on the rise, as he was ranked as the No. 24 prospect by Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated on Wednesday, placing him in the first-round conversation for the first time.
“It’s tough to ignore just how productive Champagnie has been all season, and while his shooting numbers have regressed a bit in recent weeks, he’s played his way into the first-round picture,” Woo said. “He’s an excellent rebounder on both ends, gets off the floor quickly, and finds ways to produce without needing manufactured touches.
“There’s reason for optimism that he’ll be a viable floor-spacer and potentially transition into more of a wing role in the NBA. Some scouts have expressed concern about who he’ll be capable of defending, while others view him as a switchable forward. Optimistically, Champagnie fits into smaller lineups as a useful positional hybrid who brings energy and complements a wide range of teammates.”
Currently, Champagnie is averaging 18.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, and both marks lead the ACC. As a result, he is considered the favorite to take home ACC Player of the Year honors in 2021. In addition, he has been named a midseason All-American by ESPN and earned spots on the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and Wooden Award watch lists.
It should be noted that the ranking from Sports Illustrated is not a mock draft. However, it does rank the top 60 players who could be selected in the next NBA draft, and a No. 24 ranking suggests that Champagnie would be worthy of a first-round selection by one of the NBA’s 30 teams. With that said, Woo anticipates that the first-round rankings will shift a few times between now and the draft, so some significant changes are likely on the horizon.
For now, Champagnie is one of six ACC players in the Sports Illustrated top 60 and one of five in the top 30. Duke opt-out Jalen Johnson leads the way at No. 7, with Florida State’s Scottie Barnes right behind him at No. 8 and North Carolina center Day’Ron Sharpe at No. 18. Champagnie also notably outranks Louisville backcourt duo David Johnson and Carlik Jones, who come in at Nos. 26 and 57.
Beyond the confines of the conference, Champagnie earned a higher ranking than Iowa center Luka Garza, who comes in at No. 46, and Illinois point guard Ayo Dosunmu, who sits at No. 40. Both were featured alongside him on the ESPN midseason All-America first team. That team was rounded out by Baylor point guard Jared Butler, who came in at No. 20, and Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs, who cracked the top five, coming in at No. 4.
With at least three games left on the schedule, including two against beatable NC State and Wake Forest teams, there are still opportunities for Champagnie to boost his stock this season. However, the poor play of Pitt as a whole could also hinder the potential ascent of Champagnie up big boards if it persists. But no matter how the last few games go for Pitt, the Brooklyn native has put together a strong season and will likely have an important decision to make regarding his future this offseason.