5 2022 NBA Draft Prospects Who Have Scouts Buzzing This Summer

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterAugust 23, 2021

5 2022 NBA Draft Prospects Who Have Scouts Buzzing This Summer

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Over the past few months, NBA scouts have had access to events that featured a number of 2022 draft-eligible prospects.

    We dove into the five who have generated the most buzz after the EYBL, Peach Jam, Pangos Camp and the U19 World Cup.

    Expect to see each in the lottery projections of our next 2022 mock draft.

Caleb Houstan (Michigan, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Having played with 2021 first-round picks Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, Moses Moody and Day'Ron Sharpe at Montverde Academy, Caleb Houstan had received secondhand attention early from NBA scouts. They'd also seen him at FIBA tournaments in 2018 and 2019. 

    But for Montverde this season, he was a top option, which helped prepare him for last month's U19 World Cup, where he led Canada to a bronze medal and finished fourth in the tournament in scoring (17.0 points per game).


    What scouts like

    Houstan's shooting stroke for a 6'8" combo forward has always stood out from an NBA scouting standpoint. Getting his shot up over defenders hasn't been challenging, and his jumper, which has few moving parts, is believable and projectable from NBA range (regardless of early percentages). 

    At baseline, he's an efficient spot-up scorer, similar to former teammate Moody, who consistently manages to produce without needing isolation touches or ball-screens. Both rely more heavily on catch-and-shoot chances, line-drives and transition. Houstan has also similarly flashed shot-making versatility, which allows him to threaten defense out of different sets and actions.

    Aside from the wing and corner threes, he can shoot off the dribble, including in transition, showing control and balance rising into his shot after dribbling half the length of the floor. He's a threat to separate into a fallaway from the post. There isn't anything fancy about his creation methods—Houstan just rises and fires with his size and shot-making skill.

    He's the type of player to put in the middle of a zone because of his jumper and decision-making.

    Houstan has also become more of a threat to put the ball down and get to the rack. Off drives, he has learned to compensate for limited explosiveness by finding ways to finish below the rim with tough scoops and ball English.

    Defensively, physical tools and IQ create obvious defensive potential. He averaged 2.3 steals last month. He'll guard position Nos. 2-4. Scouts see his defense as a plus, earning him a valued three-and-D label.


    Questions to watch for 

    Speed and explosion aren't part of Houstan's game. He can struggle to finish against a rim protector if he's walled up at the basket.

    Houstan also isn't elusive or shifty with his ball-handling. He's not an advanced one-on-one creator or playmaker. As a top option for Canada at the World Cup, he shot 35.5 percent from the field and 19.0 percent from three while averaging more turnovers (2.6) than assists (2.3)

    He should have a big role for Michigan following the departures of Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers. How efficiently will he generate offense as a top option?


    Preseason take

    Continuing to evolve from three-and-D role player to lead scorer will elevate Houstan's perceived trajectory and draft stock. The inability to explode off the bounce or create at a high level for a perimeter player makes me hesitant to put him in the draft's top tier. But Houstan also looks like one of the easiest prospects to project fitting in the NBA. Size and shot-making plus defensive tools prop up his floor. Room to improve (with a good chance he can) his self-creation and half-court scoring fuels the upside.

Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite, PG/SG, 2003)

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    Dyson Daniels looks poised to follow Josh Giddey from the NBA Global Academy to the NBA draft's first round. I saw him first at the U20 Nationals in May, though he caught most scouts' attention last month at the U19 World Cup, where he scored 18 points against the United States and averaged 14.0 points, 4.6 assists and 2.3 steals for the tournament. 

    NBA teams will have scouts assigned to watch him (plus Jaden Hardy and Michael Foster) with the G League Ignite this upcoming season.


    What scouts like

    At 6'6", Daniels has plus-size and athleticism for a 2-guard and ball-handler. He's at his best attacking downhill, often getting there off a hesitation before hitting the turbo into a blow-by. Daniels likes to initiate contact with his frame to move his man backward, creating an easier finish.

    He demonstrates soft touch around the basket with or without the glass. On drives and layups, he makes adjustments mid-air by hanging, finding angles and using his off hand. Spinning into a one-handed push shot over his shoulder has become a signature move.

    He also hit 1.9 threes per game last month in Latvia, mostly as a catch-and-shooter. Daniels doesn't hesitate, and though sometimes it leads to rushing, he appears to have the range, rhythm and shot-making skill to eventually develop into a routine three-point threat.

    Playing on and off the ball, Daniels appears unselfish and capable of making traditional point-guard passing reads. He's a playmaker, and his teams rely on him for creation, though Daniels' scoring ability has held the most value to his particular lineups.

    Defensively, his hands, feet and instincts are quick. He'll guard three positions and force turnovers.


    Questions to watch for

    Daniels shot 30.2 percent from three during the World Cup, so scouts will obviously be monitoring his shooting. He doesn't have a confident pull-up. Most of them are off standstill-dribble threes when defenders go under screens and give him room and time to set up.

    Inside the arc, he opts for shots off one foot instead of stop-and-pops off two. Daniels relies on tough shots on the move that require precision and body control.

    And despite his ability to set up teammates, scouts will be deciding whether he's a true primary ball-handler or more of a combo and 2. 


    Preseason take

    Daniels' tools, backcourt versatility, defensive outlook and mature approach scream pro. It will be interesting to see how he handles the new dynamic of an Ignite team featuring other star prospects. Hardy and Foster are both aggressive shot-hunters, and it wouldn't be surprising if Daniels deferred at first.

    At this stage, he comes off as a safe, mid-first-round prospect, but improved shooting and more flashes of advanced playmaking could create a higher perceived ceiling.

Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)

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    A unique, modern skill set for a 7-footer has earned Chet Holmgren buzz and popularity since his sophomore year in high school. Now eligible for the 2022 draft, his combination of size, versatility and defensive upside has also created No. 1 overall hype.

    MVP of this summer's U19 World Cup, Holmgren made it look easy in a simplified role that didn't ask too much of him. He'll suit up at forward at Gonzaga next to center Drew Timme and an ideal, passing point guard in Andrew Nembhard to help optimize the freshman's talent.


    What scouts love

    Offensively, Holmgren operates as a 7'1" forward thanks to his open-court and face-up skills, plus impressive shooting touch.

    He just made 7-of-13 three-pointers in Latvia with a high release that's difficult to contest. However, the offensive upside starts to shine most when he's attacking closeouts and finishing with fluidity like a wing. 

    Opposing defenses start possessions at a disadvantage if Holmgren gets a defensive board or picks up a loose ball, because of his ability to immediately initiate the break with his ball-handling.

    His signature World Cup highlight: catching his man's shot attempt (via a block) and taking it coast to coast through traffic, converting a contested layup off the full-court take. 

    Tremendous passing IQ also helps separate him from a shooting big like Kristaps Porzingis. Holmgren, who averaged 3.3 assists in just over 21.0 minutes per game at the World Cup, makes smart entry passes to post players and can operate as a jumbo playmaker when in position to dish on the move. He can pick up assists from anywhere on the floor thanks to his height and vision.

    And it's still the defensive upside that might pop first at Gonzaga. He changes games with his length, mobility and nose for the ball. Quickness off the ground, timing and anticipation make him different from other shot-blockers. It's like he sees his man's finish happening in slow motion. He knows when to take an extra step (instead of reaching) or leave the ground for a swat attempt.

    And he shows promising foot speed for switching away from the basket, where he can contest jumpers in the mid-range and slide with penetrating guards turning the corner.


    Question to watch for

    The biggest questions scouts ask about Holmgren concern his body and physicality. He's rail thin and easily moved inside.

    Is he sharp and quick enough to regularly shake/execute against defenders from behind the arc? How effective will he be scoring around the basket or holding his ground defensively in the paint? Away from the hoop defensively, he could improve his discipline, as he's prone to biting on moves and fakes.


    Preseason take

    I'm not ready to suggest Holmgren is the runaway No. 1 prospect, mostly due to the questions about his frame and the fact we haven't seen Duke's Paolo Banchero recently. Still, Holmgren's skill set couldn't be better designed for today's NBA, while his defensive outlook could potentially help change an NBA team's identity. He'll start top two with Banchero and a gap between them and the third-best player.

Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)

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    Even without a McDonald's All-American Game or Nike Hoop Summit, scouts have had a decent amount of evaluation opportunities on Jalen Duren. Assessments began in 2019 with USA Basketball for training camp and the U16 Americas Championship. And before this month's decision to reclassify and commit to Memphis, scouts were allowed in to watch Duren win MVP of Pangos and the Peach Jam title.


    What scouts love

    The initial, obvious appeal to Duren stems from a physical profile that pops with 6'10" size, chiseled muscles, a 7'5" wingspan and powerful athleticism. At high school, he can impact a game without making a move, taking a jumper or using a dribble—just by tapping into his strength, length, mobility and hops for finishing, rebounding and defending. 

    Duren picks up dunks with little loading time or effort. He can make the rim look small. He takes long, unimpeded strides through contact before rising up for point-blank dunks.

    His game is mostly predicated on earning himself easy baskets by waiting for dump downs and lobs, crashing the glass or earning position. But flashes of basic post moves and mid-range touch hint at more skill potential to unlock. He's developing a short fallaway. He shows control on his over-the-left-shoulder hook shots.

    Otherwise, he's a plus-passer for the position who handles double-teams well, stays poised under pressure and can find the open man.

    Defensively, he covers ground and airspace quickly. Opposing guards feel his inside presence from the perimeter. Duren protects the rim, but he's also a threat to contest away from the basket.


    Questions to watch for

    Aside from the passing, Duren doesn't possess an advanced modern skill that creates offensive versatility. His handle isn't low or tight enough to rely on for beating anyone off the dribble. And made jumpers are rare. 

    Duren doesn't possess much shot-creation ability or shooting range. Scouts will be watching him at Memphis, deciding how far away he is skill-wise, and how realistic it is for Duren to eventually become a top-scoring option in an offense.


    Preseason take

    Given his spectacular body, winning track record and dominance in high school, Duren will be mentioned in the perceived top tier of 2022 prospects preseason. He's on track to become one of the NBA's more impressive physical talents. 

    I can also see him falling out of it if he's unable to show many signs of face-up play, more advanced back-to-the-basket moves or shooting potential. I'm picturing more of a mid-to-late-lottery pick to start, rather than an elite prospect like Holmgren or Paolo Banchero.

Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    NBA scouts haven't been able to see Paolo Banchero in live games recently. He's participated in front of them at a handful of camps along the way, however, so scouts do have an image and foundational assessment.

    But they sound more eager to get fresh eyes on Banchero than any other prospect. Word and film emerged from March's Grind Session in Phoenix, where he averaged 32.5 points through four games. New skills the NBA craves were flashed and executed. And if they're real, meaning he's ready to consistently use them at Duke, Banchero could wind up looking like the true prize of 2022.


    What scouts like

    Duke lists Banchero at 6'10", 250 pounds, with the eye test seeing mostly muscle. He's big, strong, athletic and vicious around the rim if given the space to elevate. It's still his expanding skill set for scoring and playmaking versatility that's driving all the hype.

    In Phoenix, he operated like a guard or wing, bringing the ball up, playmaking for teammates, hitting defenders with step-back jumpers and driving by them into finishes or runners.

    Though not considered a shooter, he clearly possesses touch in the mid-range and around the post, and it looks like it's starting to develop from further out. He isn't a lead ball-handler like Cade Cunningham, but he's become more advanced creating off the dribble and either separating into shots or passing on the move.

    His footwork for self-creation looked sharper than it did in 2019-20. And his jump-shot mechanics appear fluid and easy to buy.

    Up until now, it's been tough to realistically evaluate his defense, as his tools, mobility and athleticism are too overwhelming at the high school level. They translate to highlight plays on the ball and shot-blocking. 


    Questions to watch for

    He's athletic in terms of bounce and agility, but he's not overly explosive. He also hasn't always put up the rebounding numbers one might expect from a player with his physical profile.

    Scouts are curious to see where he's at with his shooting—whether he's a regular three-point threat now or more of a project shooter.

    Defensively, scouts will want to gauge his lateral quickness for defending wings, because showing he can stay attached to them around the perimeter adds another key element to his versatility and value.


    Preseason take

    From asking around, Banchero has received glowing reviews for his character, work ethic and drive to improve. I've heard he's coachable and constantly asking questions. And between his physical talent, improving skill level and modernized game, there is a case to be made that Banchero possesses as much upside as anyone while offering reduced risk compared to Chet Holmgren.