2022 NBA Draft Big Board: Who Are the Top 50 Prospects Entering the New Year?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterDecember 29, 2021

2022 NBA Draft Big Board: Who Are the Top 50 Prospects Entering the New Year?

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    NBA scouts should have seen enough action to start putting together their 2022 draft boards.

    This is Bleacher Report's first major update since the men's college basketball preseason. New prospects have been added, and a few high-profile names have dropped. 

    The hottest debate right now focuses on the top three and how they should be ordered. 

    Overall, scouts are sounding more enthusiastic about this class now than they did last month.    

Nos. 50-41

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    50. Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana, PF, Junior)

    49. Jaime Jaquez Jr. (UCLA, SF, Junior)

    48. Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand Breakers, SG/SF, 2003)

    47. Matthew Mayer (Baylor, SF/PF, Senior)

    46. Alex Fudge (LSU, SF/PF, Freshman)

    44. Johnny Juzang (UCLA, SF, Junior)

    44. Hugo Besson (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 2001)

    43. Christian Braun (Kansas, SG/SF, Junior)

    42. Justin Lewis (Marquette, SF/PF, Redshirt Freshman)

    41. Taevion Kinsey (Marshall, SF, Senior)

         

    Assessing Braun's breakout

    Braun's breakout deserves attention from NBA scouts. Averaging 21.3 points over Kansas' last four games, the 6'7", 218-pound junior has figured out how to use his size and body control to create easy finishing angles off cuts (99th percentile) and transition (89th percentile). Shooting will remain an obvious swing skill, and he hasn't improved much from three over the last two years. But he's still capable when left open (94 career makes, 71 games), and he's up to 80 percent from the free-throw line.

         

    Thinking long term about Fudge

    Fudge looks too far away offensively to generate serious first-round interest in 2022. But with 6'8" size and elite stock rates for a wing (5.4 steal percentage, 5.6 block percentage), plus an outstanding 13.2 offensive rebounding percentage, Fudge has an intriguing athletic and defensive profile. He could be worth reaching on for a team that sees a defensive specialist and energizer with the potential to improve his ball skill and shooting.

                    

    Lewis knocking on the door

    Lewis' 6'7", 245-pound frame makes it easier to stay patient with his skill development. Scouts still want to see more shooting consistency, though he's already more than doubled his three-point total (16) from a year ago (seven). The draw is his size and strength to guard NBA wings and forwards, and he's up to 15.7 points per game, showing he can score by attacking closeouts, playing in the post, cutting and occasionally handling the ball.

                                                  

    Jackson-Davis' inside game too good

    Jackson-Davis hasn't add shooting touch or range, but he may have become dominant enough around the basket to carve out an inside-scoring and shot-blocking role. He leads the nation in dunks and has increased his block rate six points to 10.8 percent.

Nos. 40-31

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    40. Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech, SG/SF, Sophomore)

    39. Jeremy Sochan (Baylor, SF, Freshman)

    38. Peyton Watson (UCLA, SF, Freshman)

    37. Julian Champagnie (St. John's, SF, Junior)

    36. Daimion Collins (Kentucky, PF, Freshman)

    35. Aminu Mohammed (Georgetown, SG, Freshman)

    34. Yannick Nzosa (Unicaja, C, 2003)

    33. Mark Williams (Duke, C, Sophomore)

    32. Jabari Walker (Colorado, PF, Sophomore)

    31. Christian Koloko (Arizona, C, Junior)

                       

    Figuring out Watson

    Shooting 29.8 percent on the season, Watson hasn't made a shot in four games. He's only averaging 13.8 minutes, making it difficult for the freshman to build any rhythm or confidence. Watson is still worth tracking for his defensive tools as well as his scoring and passing flashes during high school and the FIBA U19 World Cup. He'll have an interesting decision to make after the season if his role and production remain limited.

                                   

    Williams' floor

    Using a 7'7" wingspan, Williams is shooting 67.7 percent from the field, averaging 2.4 offensive rebounds and blocking a ridiculous 15.3 percent of opponents' shots. A team that is more interested in the certainty of his finishing/rim protection than finding upside could deem Williams first-round worthy. It's just difficult to get too excited over a one-position center with limited touch, ball skill or switchability. 

                     

    Shooting-specialist potential for Champagnie

    Shooting 43.3 percent on 6.7 three-point attempts per game, Champagnie is building a case as one of the draft's top shooters. He's 0-of-5 in pick-and-roll ball-handling situations and 5-of-17 out of isolation, and it's unlikely he offers any translatable creation. But it's becoming easier to picture him on an NBA floor with his 6'8" size and elite shooting numbers.

Nos. 30-21

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    30. Michael Foster (G League Ignite, PF, 2003)

    29. E.J. Liddell (Ohio State, PF, Junior)

    28. Ochai Agbaji (Kansas, SG, Senior)

    27. Max Christie (Michigan State, SG/SF, Freshman)

    26. Blake Wesley (Notre Dame, SG, Freshman)

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

    24. Bryce McGowens (Nebraska, SG, Freshman)

    23. Nikola Jovic (Mega Leks, SF, 2003)

    22. MarJon Beauchamp (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2001)

    21. Caleb Houstan (Michigan, SF, Freshman)

           

    McGowens' one-and-done potential

    McGowens is averaging 15.6 points per game, and that's while shooting just 24.2 percent from three. It's actually a promising sign under the assumption that his shot will eventually start falling. Entering the season, we were more concerned about his two-point scoring, given his 179-pound frame. But the 6'7" guard has had success converting inside the arc while averaging 5.9 free-throw attempts per game. 

                                     

    Patience with Christie

    Shooting just 42.3 percent inside the arc and 30.8 beyond, Christie has struggled. It's getting harder to project a one-and-done first-rounder with that level of inefficiency. 

    But I'm still buying Christie's long-term potential and the likelihood that his jumper will eventually start falling. At 6'6", he's a smooth shot-maker (based on high school performance) and slasher who may just need multiple seasons in college.

                                                           

    Wesley entering the conversation

    It's time to start taking Wesley seriously. The 6'5" freshman is averaging 14.8 points over his last eight games, showcasing a mix of pro tools, pick-and-roll play and off-the-dribble shooting (13-of-28). He delivered nine assists Wednesday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. We're not going to move him up the board until we learn more about his jumper (34.5 percent 3PT, 67.7 percent FT), but Wesley has definitely earned himself a spot on NBA teams' weekly watch lists.

Nos. 20-11

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    20. Tari Eason (LSU, PF, Sophomore)

    19. Trevor Keels (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

    18. JD Davison (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

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

    16. Jaden Hardy (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)

    15. Harrison Ingram (Stanford, SG/SF, Freshman)

    14. Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee, PG, Freshman)

    13. Keegan Murray (Iowa, PF, Sophomore)

    12. Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)

    11. Jean Montero (G League Ignite, PG, 2003)

                      

    Dropping Duren

    Despite consecutive 14-point games against Alabama and Murray State, Duren has fallen outside of our top 10. His tools for finishing and shot-blocking are attractive enough for late-lottery teams, but he's shown no translatable ball-handling skill, his shooting touch isn't close and an excellent block rate (12.8) doesn't necessarily reflect defensive awareness in pick-and-roll or off-ball coverage. 

    Where is the realistic star potential in a center who can't make jumpers or create? He'll remain in our top 15 because of his finishing, rim protection, passing flashes and age (18). 

                                  

    Buying Eason's impact

    Though there are holes in Eason's scouting/statistical profile, it's become impossible to ignore his consistent impact. He leads the nation in box plus/minus while averaging 28.0 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes

    It would be easier to slot Eason higher if he were shooting better than 8-of-27 from three. But he's still converting 79.6 percent of his free throws while consistently making plays off drives, transition, rolls and defensive reactions.

                                               

    Davison's playmaking prowess vs. scoring limitations 

    Davison arrived at Alabama known for his explosiveness, but he's been a more advanced facilitator than initially advertised. His athleticism and passing have translated to a 64.3 percent two-point rate and 8.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists per 40 minutes.

    But he's also just 2-of-13 off the dribble with eight threes in 12 games. He doesn't possess the most fitting skill set for scoring in the NBA. So far, I'm picturing more of a speciality, change-of-pace playmaker than a starting lead guard.

10. Johnny Davis (Wisconsin, SG, Sophomore)

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    Averaging 20.9 points per game, Johnny Davis has blown up into a lottery prospect by improving his self-creation skills and scoring off the dribble.

    Through nine games, he's made 21 pull-ups at a 44.7 percent clip. He's generating offense from three levels, shooting 50.0 percent in the mid-range and 37.8 percent from three.

    In terms of projecting to the NBA, it would feel more comforting if he took more than 4.9 three-pointers per 40 minutes. But he's elevated his shot-making (14 threes) while converting 82.6 percent of his free throws. Plus, his strong physical tools, quickness and explosion suggest the 6'5" guard's effectiveness as a driver and defender can carry over.  

9. AJ Griffin (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Ben McKeown/Associated Press

    The No. 7 prospect on our preseason board, AJ Griffin remains in our top 10 despite his limited role and production. 

    In the four games he's played at least 20 minutes, he's averaged 13.8 points, and lately, it's become harder for head coach Mike Krzyzewski to keep him off the floor. Though there were some early-season sequences in which he looked a bit lost or unsure at both ends, Griffin is starting to build confidence, having finished in double figures in three of Duke's last four games.

    He's 13-of-29 from three on the season while converting 65.4 percent of his twos, using his powerful frame for initiating contact and separation. Turning 19 years old in August, the 6'6", 222-pound freshman is also one of the most physical.

    Meanwhile, his shot-making looks even sharper than we expected (albeit on limited reps), and the flashes of self-creation have been enticing.

    Aside from the projected top three picks, there aren't many prospects who possess a stronger combination of natural talent and skill.

8. Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Milwaukee, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    James Gilbert/Getty Images

    It's been easy to criticize Patrick Baldwin Jr. for his inefficiency against a weak strength of schedule. But he's had to rely on creating something out of nothing with a skill set that's far better suited for a complementary role.

    I'm betting he'll look better as an NBA rookie than a college freshman. 

    It's not worth putting much stock into Baldwin's three-point shooting numbers this early. With a proven shot-making track record dating back to early high school, he is converting 2.1 threes per game this season at 6'9", sporting a high release and convincing mechanics. Baldwin has demonstrated confidence shooting off dribbles, spot-ups and movement. 

    Limited explosiveness has made it tough for him to create separation inside the arc. And that will keep Baldwin from moving into the first half of the lottery. But even without a translatable one-on-one game, there is still plenty of value tied to his shot-making skill/versatility.

7. Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG, Sophomore)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Bennedict Mathurin added his fourth 25-plus-point game last Wednesday against Tennessee. The volume scoring outbursts feel meaningful for an explosive 6'6" shooter who scouts hope will develop into a more featureable creator.

    NBA teams will still be banking on his catch-and-shoot game and line-drive slashing. He's making 37.8 percent of his 6.2 three-point attempts per game and converting 75.0 percent of his shots around the basket.

    Just 5-of-17 pulling up and 4-of-13 on runners, Mathurin has room to improve his in-between game, which could be seen as a positive considering he's still managing 18.3 points per contest on 49.4 percent shooting from the field.

6. TyTy Washington Jr. (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    Shooting 44.4 percent off the catch, 42.9 percent on pull-ups and 47.6 percent on floaters, TyTy Washington Jr. has delivered efficient three-level scoring that should suit him well at the NBA level. 

    The eye test backs up the numbers. Washington has flashed convincing shot-making versatility for a 6'3", 197-pound scoring guard. And with 40 assists to 19 turnovers, he's shown a good feel for setting up teammates, who've converted 21 of his 35 ball-screen passes. Washington is playing a combo role alongside Sahvir Wheeler, so we haven't even seen the full extent of his playmaking.

    He just lacks a degree of explosiveness for creating separation and attacking, and at 20, he's a year older than most freshmen. But with the right scoring skills, enough passing IQ and strong physical tools, I'm picturing an interchangeable lead guard or a 2, as well as another Kentucky prospect who looks more dangerous at the next level.

5. Kendall Brown (Baylor, SF, Freshman)

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    Ray Carlin/Associated Press

    Averaging just 23.4 minutes through 11 games, Kendall Brown already has 24 dunks, tied for the ninth-most in the nation behind eight big men. Baylor doesn't even play fast (outside the top 150 in tempo, per KenPom.com), and Brown has still managed to score 5.8 points per game in transition (No. 12 in the NCAA). He's shooting 74.3 percent inside the arc.

    Brown's explosiveness (and knack for optimizing it) looks like one of the most translatable, impactful attributes possessed by any draft prospect. Second on Baylor in scoring, he's averaging 13.1 points despite receiving just eight creation reps all season between pick-and-roll ball-handling, isolation and post-ups.

    Brown creates opportunities by beating defenses down the floor, timing his cuts and driving past closeouts, a strength that should carry over to an NBA floor with more pace and playmakers.

    He doesn't project as an initiator or lead scorer, but for an 18-year-old, his flashes of passing instincts (10 assists against Nicholls State) and touch (5-of-10 3PT, 73.1 percent FT) suggest he'll offer some connector skills and not just athletic plays.   

4. Jaden Ivey (Purdue, SG, Sophomore)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    A Jaden Ivey breakout this season seemed obvious after his freshman flashes and his U19 World Cup performance over the summer. But he's made an even bigger skill leap than expected, leading scouts to believe he's on his way into the top five of the draft. 

    In 12 games, Ivey has matched his three-point total (25) from last season. He made all six of his attempts against Butler, including four off the dribble. Pull-up shooting is still an area of weakness, with a low-release shot that isn't the most conducive to shooting off the bounce. But his explosiveness has seemingly reached another level and reduced the need/importance to stop-and-pop.

    Explosiveness remains Ivey's most translatable strength to an NBA floor. Teams should have an easy time picturing him as a transition weapon and threat to blow by in ball-screen and close-out situations. 

    But he's suddenly become a live-dribble passing weapon (3.3 assists) and a 44.6 percent shooter from deep after making just 25.8 percent of his shots from beyond the arc in 2020-21. If his improvement this offseason represents a sign of more to come, his creation and shot-making flashes hint at a potential star-caliber ceiling, with his high floor propped up by his athleticism and defensive energy.

3. Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF, Freshman)

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    There isn't a consensus No. 1 prospect, which now has to do with Jabari Smith making it a three-man conversation. 

    His early flashes of pull-up shooting and speciality shot-making can't be considered just flashes anymore. He's pulling those plays off regularly, demonstrating special fluidity and control for a 6'10" 18-year-old while getting into his jumpers. 

    A year younger than Chet Holmgren, Smith is now averaging 16.2 points while making 45.2 percent of his 5.2 three-point attempts per game. He's made 13 jump shots off the dribble and 8-of-16 pick-and-pops.

    We want to see more before officially moving him to No. 1, especially as a two-point scorer and finisher (56.0 percent at rim). He could be stronger with the ball in tight spaces, both in attacking and finishing.

    But at this point, there isn't anything substantial separating him from Paolo Banchero or Holmgren, and continued consistency throughout conference play could give him an edge.

2. Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Paolo Banchero continues to give defenses trouble with his mid-range package of pull-ups and post-ups. 

    He's had success with his ability to face up and attack, shoot off the dribble or improvise off one foot using both hands. Though he tends to take two-point jumpers, he's sharp around the key, having converted 11 of 18 shots from 17 feet to the arc and 45.8 percent of his isolation possessions. His 82.5 free-throw percentage highlights his encouraging touch.

    He's averaging one three-point make per game, which is promising, but the eye test still says he has a ways to go before looking consistently comfortable from NBA range.

    Banchero has still flashed a high-enough skill level for teams to picture him as a featured scoring option who can create his own shot from different spots on the floor. And he's had games in which he's done a nice job of exploiting his gravity to find open teammates.

    Banchero figures to remain in the No. 1 overall discussion all season, but low-volume three-point numbers and sparse shot-blocking (0.7 per game) could allow two other names to jump ahead.

1. Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    No. 1 on our preseason draft board, Chet Holmgren has looked as advertised, shooting 77.0 percent inside the arc and 37.1 percent from three while ranking fourth in the nation in blocks per game (3.6) while averaging 25.3 minutes.

    His easy finishes, use of his left around the basket, quick low-post moves, high-IQ passing and defensive impact have consistently popped. But drafting him first overall means banking on his flashes of grab-and-go ball-handling, shooting and drives past closeouts to become regular occurrences and threats to opponents.

    In the last game against Northern Arizona, he had two sequences of pulling in a defensive rebound, taking it up the floor and drilling a transition pull-up three. He's hit 12 threes over Gonzaga's last eight games. Holmgren appears to be getting more comfortable and confident in executing the guard skills that could make him a one-of-a-kind offensive player.

    Games like his two-point effort against Texas and five-point showing against Texas Tech may make some question his No. 1 overall potential. And it does highlight the fact that he's currently more of a complementary weapon than go-to creator. But the limited-scoring performances can also be attributed to his role on a loaded Gonzaga roster.

    Otherwise, there is virtually nothing to question about his defensive projection and the likelihood he'll make an NBA team tougher to score on. Holmgren's 7'6" wingspan, mobility and obvious instincts will continue to disrupt, regardless of how skinny the 7-footer stays.

                  

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports-Reference.com

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