Early Surprises and Disappointments from 2022 NBA Draft Prospects

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterDecember 21, 2021

Early Surprises and Disappointments from 2022 NBA Draft Prospects

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    The 2022 NBA draft discussion includes surprise breakouts and high-profile prospects who've underperformed.

    In our latest mock draft, we've added a player to the top 10 who wasn't even in our first-round projections before the season. Plus, a few upperclassmen have managed to flip a switch without much warning. 

    On the other hand, a few younger prospects who entered the season with high expectations haven't come close to meeting them. 

Surprise: Johnny Davis (Wisconsin, SG, Sophomore)

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    Scouts have already started talking about Johnny Davis as a potential top-10 pick. This comes after he shot 32.1 percent at the U19 World Cup this summer and averaged 7.0 points as a freshman.

    Davis has transformed from an off-ball role player to a shot-creating lead scorer. And at 6'5" with a strong frame and explosion driving through lanes, scouts see a pro now that his ball skills and shot-making match his NBA physical/defensive tools.

    Davis' combination of burst and pull-up shooting have turned him into one of the nation's top ball-screen weapons (91st percentile). He's making 44.7 percent of his pull-ups with 21 makes (nine games), some of which are coming off more advanced, self-creation moves out of isolation.

    Averaging 22.6 points over Wisconsin's last seven games, Davis suddenly appears to possess translatable three-level scoring ability, as long as his three-ball (37.8 percent on 4.1 attempts per game) continues to show promise.

Surprise: MarJon Beauchamp (G League Ignite, SG/SF, 2001)

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    Given MarJon Beauchamp's unique journey to the draft—he passed on Division I offers before eventually playing junior college ballscouts had no expectations for him heading into the G League season. It's thus been a pleasant surprise to see him average 15.1 points on an efficient 57.1 percent shooting against a major step up in competition.

    The 20-year-old has become a hot topic within scouting circles after combining for 46 points on 30 shots in consecutive wins over the Salt Lake City Stars and Grand Rapids Gold.

    With a knack for scoring off the ball by cutting and flashing for short jumpers, Beauchamp is shooting 68.0 percent inside the arc. Contact and physicality haven't bothered him. He's only needed a 16.8 usage percentage to produce, showing a good feel for how to position himself for opportunities without requiring creation reps or many dribbles.

    His 24.2 percent three-point mark and 65.0 free-throw percentage could raise red flags. But the 6'7" wing's effectiveness against recent draft picks and understanding of how to play within an offense have led to real intrigue from scouts.

    Enough signs of shooting potential moving forward could potentially lead to some first-round interest.

Disappointment: Peyton Watson (UCLA, SF, Freshman)

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    Nobody expected Peyton Watson to come in and lead UCLA. Scouts knew his pitch would revolve around potential over production, particularly with Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. returning.

    But 3.9 points per game on 29.8 percent shooting suggests he's too far away to invest in, even if he hasn't received a fair opportunity. 

    The idea of Watson remains appealing. He's a 6'8" wing with athletic finishing ability, potential defensive versatility and high school flashes of self-creation and shot-making. But at this point, he isn't sharp enough to create quality looks or consistently threaten from three (1-of-10). 

    Unless his role suddenly increases, Watson will either need to make a new impression during workouts or as a sophomore with a more featured role.

Surprise: Wendell Moore Jr. (Duke, SG/SF, Junior)

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    There was always pro potential in Wendell Moore Jr. Once projected No. 16 on our 2020 preseason mock draft before his freshman season, he drifted away from the draft conversation after two underwhelming seasons.

    Moore is back now, looking completely revamped as a point-wing, Duke's lead initiator and a 38.6 percent three-point shooter. He also won't turn 21 until after the draft, making him the same age as many college sophomores.

    Since his freshman year, Moore has more than doubled his assist rate (28.4 percent) to become Duke's most effective facilitator. He's improved both his ball-handling skill and his passing IQ. He's also shooting an outstanding 73.3 percent at the rim, showing off strength for contact and body-controlled finishes that appear translatable to an NBA floor.

    Moore hit all four of his threes Thursday against Appalachian State, which marked the sixth time in Duke's first 10 games that he made at least two. Shooting is his obvious swing skill.

    But if he can continue making outside shots and convince scouts that his shot will be a threat, Moore will possess enough versatility for NBA teams to picture an easy fit.

Disappointment: Yannick Nzosa (Unicaja, C, 2003)

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    Known for special defensive mobility since he was 16 years old, Yannick Nzosa started to flash enticing glimpses of skill last year in Eurocup and Spanish ACB play. He just hasn't built on those flashes this season.

    It's tough to fall in love with a 7-footer who's shooting 38.6 percent, even if there is plenty to like about his ability to cover ground, slide in space and sprint the floor.

    Billed as a potential top-10 pick to start the season, Nzosa has been removed from our latest first-round mock draft, with the assumption he's too far away skill-wise and physically. 

    NBA teams will continue to track him, though. He's still only 18, and he has NBA tools and unteachable movement for a rim-running, switchable shot-blocker. 

Surprise: Christian Koloko (Arizona, C, Junior)

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    At this time last season, the only draw to Christian Koloko was defensive tools. Now, he's an offensive threat and one of the nation's top rim protectors.

    Koloko recorded only one field goal out of the post as a sophomore. So far this season, he's 19-of-31, showing far more confidence, skill and patience.

    Koloko is also finishing at a much better clip, shooting 73.8 percent at the rim. He's already scored in double digits eight times after getting there only twice last year.

    Still, defensive potential is Koloko's primary selling point, particularly now that's he's blocking an astounding 14.9 percent of opponents' shots when on the floor (3.5 per game). Given his numbers, mobility and tools at 6'11", he won't have a difficult time convincing scouts that his defensive effectiveness (No. 2 in nation in defensive box plus-minus) can translate.

Injury Disappointments

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    Andre Curbelo (Illinois, PG, Sophomore)

    Ayo Dosunmu leaving for the NBA was supposed to open a door for Andre Curbelo to fully showcase his creativity. But the sophomore had a lot of trouble handling full-time, lead-guard duties before asking to sit out games while he recovered from the effects of a preseason concussion. 

    Curbelo was shooting only 30.2 percent from the floor and 2-of-12 from three before prior to sitting. His decision-making was equally cringe-worthy, with the 6'1" ball-dominator having turned the ball over 16 times in four games.

    There appeared to be first-round potential tied to his exciting playmaking and passing if his shot improved to some degree. But based on his start, it's tough to feel optimistic. 


    Marcus Bagley (Arizona State, SF/PF, Sophomore)

    Bagley flashed an appealing package of strengths as a 6'8" shot-making combo forward last season. But he didn't do enough to gain scouts' trust, having played only 12 games and made just 34.7 percent of his threes.

    There was hope that he'd return a more assertive player with added creativity to his game. But after a week, he re-injured his knee and hasn't played since. 

    There is still time for Bagley to come back and build his draft case. But for a perimeter player who doesn't create, his margin for error is small. 

Surprise: E.J. Liddell (Ohio State, PF, Junior)

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    E.J. Liddell has made notable strides in morphing into more of a modern big from an old-school one. 

    Post scoring (91st percentile) is still his bread-and-butter, but after improving his body and perimeter skill, he's become a legitimate spot-up (94th percentile) threat and fastbreak weapon. He's shooting 42.9 percent off the catch and 8-of-17 shooting off the dribble with 23 transition points in 10 games. Last season, he made six pull-ups and recorded 27 transition points all season. 

    The difference in Liddell's defensive playmaking may still be the most staggering. The 6'7" "big man" has more than doubled his block rate to 10.5 percent (3.0 per game). It may help NBA teams picture a 240-pound small-ball 5 who can create for himself around the block and eventually stretch the floor if his shooting continues to improve (35.3 percent 3PT). 

    Averaging 20.6 points on 56.0 percent from the floor, Liddell has been dominant to start his junior season. Between his impact, how advanced he is in the post, signs of a more mobile, confident face-up player and the wild defensive numbers, scouts don't sound as worried about whether he's fit in today's NBA.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports-Reference.com