What Every Top NBA Rookie Needs to Show In 2022 Training Camps

Jonathan WassermanSeptember 15, 2022

What Every Top NBA Rookie Needs to Show In 2022 Training Camps

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    Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren (Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Rookies should be extra motivated to make strong impressions during their first NBA training camps.

    It's an opportunity to show coaches the work they've put in since the draft, and how they can add value to the 2022-23 rotation or long-term roster.

    Depending on the team, each rookie should have specific goals during training camp to improve their chances of seeing minutes, whether it's working on a particular skill or proving they can play a certain role.

Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic, PF)

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    Paolo Banchero (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Ready for featured touches

    After finishing 29th in offense and 28th in three-point percentage last season, the Orlando Magic are banking on 2022 No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero to be the cornerstone of their rebuild.

    Orlando's rotation needs a quality No. 1 option for creation and shot-making. The Magic drafted Banchero to play that role right away, as Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs are unlikely to generate offense with enough efficiency to be effective top-usage options.

    During training camp, Banchero will have the opportunity to earn his teammates' respect and prove he's capable of effectively self-creating, hitting tough shots, winning paint battles and making others better with his standout passing IQ.

    While using training camp to strengthen his confidence, Banchero should also be looking to establish himself as Orlando's clear-cut toughest matchup—something his tools, post game, off-the-dribble shooting and playmaking suggest he should be.

    He's in the driver's seat for Rookie of the Year based on his physical and fundamental readiness, plus the projected role he'll play as the Magic's most skilled offensive player.

Jabari Smith Jr. (Houston Rockets, PF)

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    Jabari Smith (Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Off-ball scoring/three-and-D

    Jabari Smith Jr. eventually needs to add more off-the-dribble skill and tougher finishes. But entering his first training camp with the Houston Rockets, his focus should be on shot-making and defense, the signature strengths that define his current identity and drive his value.

    Regardless of how much self-creation he shows, Smith will have a tough rookie season if he struggles from three like he did in summer league.

    The Rockets offense will be running through Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun. Smith figures to spend most of his possessions either spotting up or flashing to the elbows. His best scoring opportunities will come off catch-and-shoot threes, driving lanes after closeouts and quick-decision, rise-and-fire jumpers around the post. The one-on-one stuff and physical finishing will come later.

    Head coach Stephen Silas would also love for Smith to continue showcasing his defensive foot speed and focus. The Rockets were the league's worst defensive team last year, and Sengun's heavier feet in space just add to the importance of Smith being able to consistently contain.

Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings, F)

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    Keegan Murray (Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Can co-exist with Domantas Sabonis

    Keegan Murray's first training camp should be about learning how to play and defend next to Domantas Sabonis.

    After registering a 29.7 usage rate at Iowa, Murray will now work more off the ball around the perimeter in Sacramento. Sabonis finished third in the NBA in frontcourt touches and in the top 10 in post-ups per game.

    Murray looked ready for his new role in summer league, where he was shooting off spot-ups and screens and scoring on drives from 25 feet away. He'll need more of the improved wing skills in the NBA than he did in college, though they were ultimately the driving force behind his breakout at Iowa.

    The Kings will also hope Murray catches on quickly defensively given Sabonis' shortcomings as a rim protector. Again, the rookie demonstrated an encouraging mix of activity and processing at summer league, which may be more important right now for team defense than his individual quickness guarding the ball.

Jaden Ivey (Detroit Pistons, CG)

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    Jaden Ivey (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Can adjust to off-ball role alongside Cade Cunningham

    Jaden Ivey shot just 33.0 percent last year spotting up, which accounted for only 15.6 percent of his offensive possessions. In Detroit, he'll be spending more time off the ball with the offense running through Cunningham.

    Working on basic standstill catch-and-shooting (31.0 percent at Purdue) should be a priority for the rookie entering the season. Head coach Dwane Casey will want to find ways to get Ivey the ball off momentum using dribble handoffs and back screens. But it's also on the guard to familiarize himself with Cunningham and seek out opportunities with movement and cuts.

    Decision-making out of pick-and-rolls will come with trial and error and reps over time. Efficient scoring in the half court—with Cunningham as the primary ball-handler—will be Ivey's primary challenge in 2022-23.

Bennedict Mathurin (Indiana Pacers, Wing)

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    Bennedict Mathurin (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Impact with physical tools and athleticism

    Along with Chris Duarte and Buddy Hield, Bennedict Mathurin gives the Indiana Pacers another scoring wing and confident shot-maker. But strength and athleticism separate the rookie from every other starter.

    Optimizing both for easy baskets and defense should be a primary focus for Mathurin, who is 6'7" and 210 pounds, threw down 38 dunks in 37 NCAA games and shot 60.5 percent around the basket at Arizona.

    Streaky shooting seems inevitable for the 20-year-old. With consistent effort, Mathurin should have more control of his ability to earn transition buckets, second-chance points, frequent finishing opportunities and defensive stops.

    Compared to Mathurin, neither of the Pacers' returning wings can be as effective at the rim or have a physical advantage on defense. Training camp for the lottery pick should be about creating a mentality to attack instead of settle, sprint in transition, crash the glass and consistently lock in defensively.

Shaedon Sharpe (Portland Trail Blazers, SG)

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    Shaedon Sharpe (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Shooting and competitiveness

    Considering Shaedon Sharpe's last game was in AAU in 2021, the 19-year-old doesn't seem likely to play big minutes for a team focused on making the playoffs. His best chance for playing time as a rookie is by keeping it simple with a three-and-D mindset.

    Sharpe's training camp focus should be on convincing head coach Chauncey Billups that he can provide shooting off the bench and that he's willing to bring defensive energy to compensate for his expected mistakes.

    The Portland Trail Blazers finished 29th in defense last season, and the last time we saw Sharpe, limited defensive effort was evident, albeit in a setting where star players aren't fully held accountable. Billups will have a tough time using Sharpe if he's consistently vulnerable to defensive lapses.

    Right now, transition scoring and shot-making are the signature offensive strengths he should be focused on providing. Portland will call on him for more self-creation later into his rookie deal. In the short term, he should just want to execute as a play finisher by capitalizing in the open floor, knocking down catch-and-shoot threes and hitting the quick pull-up when defenses sag back.

Dyson Daniels (New Orleans Pelicans, CG)

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    Dyson Daniels (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Connector value

    Dyson Daniels' value to the New Orleans Pelicans is about providing the glue or connective skills between Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum.

    Versatility was his selling point out of the draft. In training camp, he'll want to showcase his fit by demonstrating how his passing, defense and opportunistic driving/shot-making will work well in a lineup that already has three featured creators.

    Daniels isn't likely to put up big numbers as a rookie, but he can be a high-impact role player for the Pelicans, similar to Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics.

    In terms of specific skill development, Daniels' shooting will be a hot topic and X-factor, both for the team and his own trajectory. His percentages have never been strong, but between the made threes over the years, plus New Orleans' renowned shooting coach Fred Vinson, there is optimism about Daniels' potential to turn a weakness into a threat.

Jeremy Sochan (San Antonio Spurs, PF/C)

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    Jeremy Sochan (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Long-term, two-way potential

    The San Antonio Spurs aren't going anywhere in 2022-23, and neither are Jeremy Sochan's numbers. He's a raw offensive player who's likely to struggle with half-court scoring. But he is in a good spot to play through mistakes and experiment.

    With no pressure to consistently score or shoot threes as a strong clip, this year is all about flashing potential and eventually building on last year's flashes.

    Goal No. 1 is to establish his defensive potential/capabilities. This is his immediate and long-term calling card—defending multiple positions, switching onto guards, making rotations, covering ground and hustling. Immediately showcasing his defensive versatility/IQ will earn him minutes, excitement (from coaches and fans) and patience when it comes to his offensive development.

    In the meantime, Sochan should just look to improve a little in each area with better shooting, more face-up drives and runners, active off-ball movement for cutting and pick-and-roll ball-handling reads.

Johnny Davis (Washington Wizards, SG)

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    Johnny Davis (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Role player traits/intangibles

    Though Johhny Davis' breakout was fueled by improved self creation and shot-making, his toughness and defensive energy should translate to the NBA more quickly.

    It wouldn't be surprising to see the high-usage college player, limited three-point shooter and mid-range-dependent scorer struggle with inefficiency as a rookie. In this veteran-heavy rotation, the Wizards may value Davis' fearlessness and aggression, rebounding and defensive intensity more than his scoring in 2022-23.

    Proving he can make spot-up threes would be a huge help to Washington. Davis hit only 37 triples in 1,060 minutes last season, but he did shoot a respectable 38.9 percent off the catch.

    He won't have the same opportunities or success on the ball creating and scoring as he did at Wisconsin, so he'll need to figure out how to make an impact as a supporting role player.

Ousmane Dieng (Oklahoma City Thunder, Wing)

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    Ousmane Dieng (Oklahoma City Thunder Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Potential, physical readiness

    Expectations for Ousmane Dieng's rookie season should be tempered. The 6'10", 216-pound jumbo wing is raw and is joining a roster without much veteran talent to play off.

    This year should just be about the rookie familiarizing himself with NBA athleticism, pace and spacing while improving his shot-making confidence, body and IQ.

    Dieng might as well try to showcase his entire bag of budding self creation, pick-and-roll passing, floaters and defensive playmaking, even if it means frequent turnovers and misses. More flashes of versatility may hint at more upside and reasons for head coach Mark Daigneault to let him play through mistakes.

    After a rough start in Australia, Dieng ultimately had a strong second half of the 2021-22 season, leading to his late charge up draft boards. His shot started falling, while his comfort level making plays off the dribble seemed to rise. He'll hope to carry that momentum over into training camp with a full year of experience playing against pros.

Jalen Williams (Oklahoma City Thunder, CG)

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    Jalen Williams (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Positional versatility

    The Oklahoma City Thunder's backcourt is set with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. Jalen Williams will want to convince head coach Mark Daigneault that he can play the wing and defend forwards.

    He graded in the 97th percentile last year as a spot-up player, the 87th percentile as a cutter and the 83rd percentile as an off-screen scorer. Though he's an excellent pick-and-roll ball-handler, Williams should have the catch-and-shoot game, patience and timing to comfortably play off two other high-usage creators.

    At 6'6" with a 7'2" wingspan, Williams certainly has the physical tools for guarding wings.

    To begin the season, the Thunder figure to use the rookie for second-unit offense. But he may also be a starting-caliber prospect, so demonstrating positional interchangeability will be key for Williams to maximize his opportunities on a roster with Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey.

Jalen Duren (Detroit Pistons, C)

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    Jalen Duren (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Defensive impact

    It will be a while before Jalen Duren offers much offensive value outside of finishing and some post passing. The draw to the 6'11", 250-pound center has always been about defensive potential. And given his chiseled frame, 7'5" wingspan and leaping ability, he does seem capable of making an early difference in rim protection.

    The addition of Duren ultimately allows the Detroit Pistons to start building a legitimate defensive foundation and identity. Despite offering no creation or shooting, he could have a case for rookie minutes by impacting games defensively in ways that Isaiah Stewart cannot.

    Maybe over time, Duren will continue to sharpen his back-to-the-basket footwork and improve his touch. For now, his value to the Pistons will revolve around shot-blocking, forcing penetrator guards into tough shots and being able to challenge/contain around the perimeter when switched out.

Ochai Agbaji (Utah Jazz, Wing)

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    Ochai Agbaji (Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Needs to show: Experimental creation/off-the-dribble flashes

    Suddenly on a rebuilding Utah Jazz team after being drafted to a playoff contender with expectations, Ochai Agbaji should have significantly more freedom to experiment and play through his rookie mistakes.

    Entering the draft, Agbaji's three-and-D skill set helped paint him as a high-floor, useful role player with translatable strengths. But now that he's in Utah, where the entire focus of the team's season will be on prospect development, Agbaji might as well start trying to add more off-the-dribble skills that can raise his ceiling/value.

    We know about the spot-up shooting and cutting, which seem likely to carry right over to the NBA. But Agbaji shot only 26.7 percent on pull-ups, 4-of-23 on floaters and 1-of-8 out of isolation at Kansas.

    There were pros to sticking in Cleveland and contributing to winning in a defined, three-and-D role. But in Utah, he'll have more chances to expand his creativity and pick-and-roll ball-handling in a no-pressure environment.

Pick Nos. 15-20

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    Dalen Terry (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    15. Mark Williams (Charlotte Hornets, C)

    Needs to show: Chemistry with LaMelo Ball, defensive impact

    Williams has a chance to push Mason Plumlee for Charlotte's starting center job. He could start building his case in training camp by developing chemistry with Ball while shutting down the paint during practice scrimmages. Williams finds himself in an ideal situation, playing with an elite setup passer for a team that needs to improve defensively.


    16. AJ Griffin (Atlanta Hawks, SF)

    Needs to show: Health, comfort level

    It's tough to picture Griffin cracking Atlanta's rotation this season, particularly after he missed all of summer league with a foot issue. He dealt with injuries throughout high school as well. Griffin's focus should be on building his confidence and comfort level, specifically as a spot-up shooter, which Atlanta may need at some point if any of its forwards have to miss time.


    17. Tari Eason (Houston Rockets, F)

    Needs to show: Perimeter skill

    The Rockets figure to be set on a Jabari Smith-Alperen Sengun frontcourt. So Eason needs to prove that his summer-league flashes weren't fluky and that he's capable of playing the 3 by continuing to initiate fast breaks, beat perimeter defenders off the bounce, pose a threat with the three-ball and guard wings away from the basket.


    18. Dalen Terry (Chicago Bulls, Wing)

    Needs to show: Glue-guy impact

    Though he's flawed with limited creation or shooting upside, Terry emerged as a hot prospect as scouts began buying his two-way versatility and intangibles for a glue-guy role. He'll want to show Bulls coaches he can make an impact—without a set position—by generating fast-break points, passing, defending multiple positions and adding a vocal, high-energy presence.


    19. Jake LaRavia (Memphis Grizzlies, PF)

    Needs to show: Shooting

    LaRavia's hustle and IQ should translate to the NBA quickly. But Memphis likely moved up to draft him at No. 19 in part because it believed in his shooting. Twenty of his 29 field-goal attempts in summer league were threes, and it wouldn't be surprising if he played a similar spot-up role once the regular season started. LaRavia isn't the quickest creator/scorer off the bounce, so shooting will be key.


    20. Malaki Branham (San Antonio Spurs, SG)

    Needs to show: Separation ability, scoring effectiveness

    The Spurs drafted Branham for his efficient, three-level scoring, though a fear with his NBA outlook concerned his ability to create enough separation. He relied on frequent contested mid-range jumpers in college. Showing he can still cleanly get those shots off and convert—while continuing to efficiently make catch-and-shoot threes—could allow him to compete for the Spurs' starting 2-guard job.

Pick No. 21-25

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    MarJon Beauchamp (Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

    21. Christian Braun (Denver Nuggets, Wing)

    Needs to show: Shooting

    Improved finishing, ball-screen playmaking and defense propelled Braun into a first-round NBA prospect. But he'll have a tough time finding minutes in Denver if he can't convince the coaching staff that he can consistently make spot-up threes. He shot 3-of-24 from deep in summer league after averaging just 3.3 attempts in 34.3 minutes as a junior at Kansas.


    22. Walker Kessler (Utah Jazz, C)

    Needs to show: Overcome athletic limitations

    Kessler should be looking at plenty of minutes regardless, but he'll earn extra confidence from Utah's coaching staff if he shows that his shot-blocking from Auburn can translate. He's all length and anticipation with little athletic pop. Proving he can still protect the rim—and flash the potential to eventually start making catch-and-shoot threes—will make Utah look good following the Rudy Gobert trade.


    23. David Roddy (Memphis Grizzlies, F)

    Needs to show: Defense

    At 6'6" and 255 pounds, Roddy has an unorthodox basketball body that's raised questions about his defensive position. Proving he isn't a liability and that he can either body up with bigs (while undersized) or slide his feet away from the basket will give him a shot to see the floor while Jaren Jackson Jr. is sidelined. It wouldn't hurt to show last year's 43.8 three-point percentage wasn't fluky, either.


    24. MarJon Beauchamp (Milwaukee Bucks, Wing)

    Needs to show: Off-ball/two-way impact

    Play finishing and defense are Beauchamp's calling cards. Showing he can score off the ball with little usage—by running the floor, cutting, spot-up shooting and crashing the glass—while adequately guarding wings could give him a chance to earn a rotation role as a rookie.


    25. Blake Wesley (San Antonio Spurs, SG)

    Needs to show: Potential

    Wesley is a total project, but his flashes of potential should give him some room for error and keep coaches patient. The ups will outweigh the downs. Although he shot only 30.0 percent in summer league, there was still a lot to like about his aggression, athletic plays, playmaking and shot-making.

Nos. 26-30

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    TyTy Washington (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

    26. Wendell Moore Jr. (Minnesota Timberwolves, SG/SF)

    Needs to show: Versatility

    Moore has to shoot better than he did in summer league, but it also wouldn't hurt to show Minnesota coaches that he can facilitate like he did when he led Duke in assists. The Timberwolves' second unit doesn't have a classic point guard, so Moore's passing could possibly give him an edge for rotation minutes.


    27. Nikola Jovic (Miami Heat, F)

    Needs to show: Defense

    Jovic has always been intriguing for his shot-making and passing for a 6'10" forward, even if the creation never translated. His defensive outlook raised more questions. Showing he can either physically handle 4s or stay attached to wings will give him his best chance to see the floor in 2022-23.


    28. Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Golden State Warriors, F)

    Needs to show: Three-and-D

    If Baldwin gets minutes this year, his role will look completely different than it did at Milwaukee. His focus should be strictly on catch-and-shoot attempts and holding his own defensively for the Warriors, whereas last year, he was a No. 1 option and opposing defenses' primary target.


    29. TyTy Washington (Houston Rockets, PG)

    Needs to show: Facilitating

    The Rockets' rotation could use a setup man, and Washington demonstrated promising feel last year for playmaking. He had to split ball-handling duties at Kentucky, but as a potential backup NBA point guard, he'll have a good chance to run Houston's second unit and showcase his value as a passer/facilitator.


    30. Peyton Watson (Denver Nuggets, F)

    Needs to show: Defensive potential

    The Nuggets didn't draft Watson with the intention of using him much in 2022-23. All he could do right now is establish his defensive value as a forward with the potential to guard multiple positions and smother guards and wings away from the basket.

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports.

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