The 2022 NBA Draft – hello! – is just days away. We’ve ranked the prospects, we’ve mocked their landing spots, we’ve dissected the race for No. 1 and written extensive profiles on many of them. Now’s time for the not-so-fun part (for me) and fun part (for you): putting pen to paper on some observations after devoting plenty of energy into scouting pro prospects.
I’ve scouted this class for a long time now and watched them grow over the course of the last year. I’ve followed their trajectory, some from likely No. 1 pick candidates to No. 1 pick contenders, others from off-the-radar talents to potential first-round selections. And I’ve come up with five observations – some lukewarm, some scalding hot – about the 2022 class and some specific players as Thursday’s draft approaches.
Let’s dive in.
1. Chet Holmgren is worth the risk
The list of 7-footers in the NBA who weigh less than 200 pounds right now is a very short list. The list of players who meet those qualifications over the past few decades and have been successful is perhaps smaller. But what if Holmgren, all 7-feet and 195 pounds of him, pans out?
There’s been so much gnashing of teeth over Holmgren and his frame – will he hold up, will he not? – that I don’t think anyone has fully come to grips with the star power he possesses if he indeed stays healthy. He’s got a ridiculously long wingspan, amazing timing on shot-blocking and a competitive spirit that will make him a star. He’s already arguably the best shot blocker in the draft and a good floor-spacer, and he can add so much more to his game as he matures.
There’s always a chance he doesn’t hit, of course – either because injuries or because he doesn’t quite fit into the NBA – but I think he’s a clear top-two talent in the class who turns out to be worth whatever risk he brings given his unique frame.
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2. Jaden Ivey will be an All-Star the most times
Jabari Smith Jr. (the favorite to go No. 1) and Holmgren (someone I’m on record as being a top-two talent) are both going to be difference-makers. No doubt. But I’m ready to push my chips to the table with Jaden Ivey, who I have No. 1 in this class, and predict that he makes the most All-Star teams of any prospect in this class.
Ivey’s athleticism and explosive ability to get downhill is a talent in itself. He is a creator who doesn’t need a ton to his bag – he can just blow by you and get to the cup. He’ll need to refine his game as a decision-maker, develop on defense and polish his handle but he has the most potential of any player in this class. I’d take him No. 1.
3. Take Jalen Duren over Mark Williams
Beyond Holmgren, both Duren and Williams are the clear-cut No. 1 and No. 2 center prospects in this class – in some order. Put me down as Duren > Williams.
Duren is a better athlete, more explosive, does immense damage above the rim. Can play-make and showed some shooting touch that I think will translate. Williams’ selling point is his ridiculous length – he has a wingspan pushing 7-6 – and his shot-blocking skills, though he’s more of an old school big. Williams may have a slight edge as a shot-blocker but advantage goes to Duren, who is more mobile and may be able to better defend in space.
4. Dalen Terry will perform like a lottery pick
The Arizona wing was asked last week about mock draft projections that have him as a late first-round pick. His answer was indicative of the type of confidence he carries within himself – and why (in part) I think he’ll likely outperform his draft spot.
“There’s gonna be a redraft in 10 years and it’s gonna be different,” he said.
Prospects say this kind of thing all the time so of course there’s not a lot to make from it. But Terry is someone who may be a smidge overlooked throughout this process. Most expected he’d come back to college until he didn’t. He has great size, a plus-wingspan and a glue guy skill set that has him set for success at the next level. If he doesn’t go in the lottery, I think in a few years he will have decidedly performed like a top-14 player in this class.
5. Patrick Baldwin Jr. isn’t worth the risk
Once ranked as the No. 1 prospect in his recruiting class, Baldwin Jr. has had a stunning fall from grace thanks to a season-ending injury as a high school senior that stole a year from him followed by a lackluster one-and-done season at Milwaukee.
There’s still believers in PBJ – he has great positional size at 6-9 and a smooth shooting stroke – but I am not among them. Now, is he worth the gamble in the 20s or 30s? That depends on a team’s own risk assessment, of course – in a vacuum I’d lean towards yes on the off chance he hits and fulfills his ceiling – but ultimately as one of this year’s top wild-card prospects I think he has major flop potential. For someone billed as a good shooter at his size and position he has not been that the last few years. It’s not impossible to envision a world in which he sticks given all the tools he has, but I think there will be picks taken after him that turn out to be more productive.