Busting Brackets

NBA Draft 2022: Final Big Board of top 60 overall prospects

Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports /
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NBA Draft
Purdue Boilermakers guard Jaden Ivey NBA Draft Gainbridge Fieldhouse In Indianapolis /

The NBA Draft is coming this week and while there seems to be a consensus top-3 at the top, the talent level from 4-20+ doesn’t have much difference. But who are the players most likely to end up drafted? Here’s a look at the 60 best players in the 2022 NBA Draft.

1. Jabari Smith Jr. – Auburn – Forward – 6’10, 220 lbs – May 2003 – Freshman

Smith put together an incredibly productive season for the SEC-Champion Tigers. Despite being 18 years old the entire season, and possessing a slender frame, Smith’s selling point is as a shooter. Smith has an effortless release, shooting with a high-release point. Combined with his 6’10 figure, it makes his jumper incredibly difficult to block.

Smith’s lack of a handle made it difficult to bend defenses. He dribbles upright and loses his handle rather frequently. When he did create advantages, Smith had some passing flashes. With his height and the gravity he should draw as a shooter, I feel confident that Smith will ultimately create for others. Even if Smith doesn’t develop a shifty handle, he also has a pathway to add strength and separate from guys with post-ups, freeing him up to shoot over defenders.

Smith has become underrated as a defender, in my eyes. He moves well laterally, and has good hip flexibility allowing him to slide well on drives. Smith didn’t guard centers in his lone season at Auburn, nor did he block a ton of shots (to his credit, he played next to two plus shot-blockers). Smith will be tasked with fours and bigger wings to start his career, but as he gets older and stronger I think there’s a real pathway for him to guard anywhere from 3-5. Teams are looking to play smaller at the five in the playoffs, and that’s a role Smith could really excel at.

Ultimately, if Smith doesn’t hit his high-end outcomes (which would likely stem from the handle not allowing him to tilt defenses), I think he will still be a very good player. Considering his age, and the flaws he has, it’s impressive how productive he was as a freshman in the SEC. Seeing him in person, the jumper and movement fluidity popped and it’s what a No. 1 pick looks like.

2. Paolo Banchero – Duke – Forward – 6’10, 250 lbs – November 2002 – Freshman

Banchero used a mix of strength, face-up moves, counters, and some shooting to have a really productive season for one of the top teams in the country. He’s maybe the most-polished player in this class on the offensive end. Banchero can back down smaller fours, or take slower bigs off the bounce in isolation situations. At his size, his handle and footwork is an elite skill given he can operate in pick-and-roll or attack off a standstill.

Banchero was billed as a plus passer entering college, struggled to playmake early, but rediscovered those chops halfway through the year. I do think Banchero has a tendency to be a ball-stopper, and I don’t fully trust him to be a primary creator, but I think there are plenty of avenues to use his passing. He can be put in short-roll situations, attacking closeouts on the weak side.

His three-point shot was inconsistent, as he finished sub 32% from deep in conference play. Banchero showed he can hit contested jumpers, shoot off the dribble, and create his own shot, which makes it odd he struggled as much as he did to actually make shots. The indicators suggest he will be a good shooter at the next level, but I don’t think he ever becomes an elite one. Defensively, Banchero should be fine guarding fours. He likely doesn’t offer enough rim protection to guard the five and lacks some foot speed and awareness to scale down on defense.

On the surface, Banchero feels like an easy NBA fit. The ball skills and general smoothness on offense at that age and size are uncommon and can be scaled into any system. But, my deeper concerns about his shooting upside, and ball-stopping tendencies have him just a ring below Smith for me. He may not be a full-time primary in the NBA, but Banchero’s offensive skills should ultimately make him a top 2-3 bet in this class.

3. Jaden Ivey – Purdue – Guard – 6’4, 200 lbs – February 2002 – Sophomore

Ivey’s rise to projected-lottery pick has been filled with tangible, linear growth. Ivey broke out the last month of his freshman year with some impressive outings. He carried that to the U19 World Cup last summer where his athleticism and lead guard skills were on display. He carried that into a breakout sophomore season, cementing himself as a lottery pick.

Ivey is the best athlete in this class, for my money. His north-south speed with the ball is ridiculously good, coupled with quick-twitch leaping ability, he’s a terror getting to the rim. Ideally, Ivey is your team’s lead guard. He spent some time on and off the ball at Purdue. Ivey’s handle needs improvement, but he’s so fast with the ball and has some patience in the pick-and-roll. The playmaking and decision-making also need to improve. He misses open shooters and needs to do a better job of manipulating defenders, but Ivey draws in so much gravity that easy reads are available.

There are some concerns about the jumper, but his release looks higher-up in person than on film. He showed off some deep-range, and off-the-dribble shooting. He was 62nd percentile in open half-court jumpers.

Despite all the tools and a largely productive season, something always left me wanting more with Ivey. Purdue’s defense was, objectively, terrible and Ivey didn’t make too much of an impact on defense. He has the tools to be a plus-defender, but bad habits inhibited him. Purdue’s system was big man based and didn’t always give Ivey the tools to shine, but he still would drift from games occasionally. Ivey has all the tools to be a future All-Star and even if he doesn’t hit that outcome, he should be a starting lead guard.

4. Chet Holmgren – Gonzaga – Forward – 7’0, 195 lbs – May 2002 – Freshman

The most discussed prospect in this class, Holmgren had a strong season, especially from an analytical standpoint. Holmgren had the second-highest box plus/minus in the country at +14.1. Despite his lack of strength, Holmgren was still an elite rim protector. He blocked just under four shots a game but altered a handful of attempts. It got to the point where some guards wouldn’t even look at the rim in his vicinity.

Holmgren uses tools and understanding of angles to counter his length of strength. Yes, he would be pushed off of spots, and he will be at the next level, but Holmgreen has the length to recover. He’s not going to switch 1-5 on the perimeter, but he can be a plus pick-and-roll defender given his lateral movement skills and spatial awareness. Holmgren will get targeted in the NBA as a rim protector, but I think he’ll hold up and eventually be very good in that aspect.

My concerns with Holmgren come on the offensive end. He shot the ball much better the second half of the season but still was trigger-hesitant for someone whose “strength” was floor spacing. Holmgren’s length gives him the potential to be a lob threat, but he doesn’t have the quickest leaping ability. I think his dribbling and ball-skills are more theoretical than applicable. He’s not someone I project being able to run offense through. Holmgren is a good passer and there are ways to utilize that skill in actions, but I wonder what his offensive ceiling is as a scorer.

The discourse around him has been wide-ranging, but I do think it’s fair to point out his games against top-level competition. More physical teams like Arkansas, Texas Tech, and Duke did hold him back offensively. Ultimately, the defense and shooting give him a high floor, but I don’t think he has All-Star level upside on the other end.