Pro Comparisons for Top 2022 NBA Draft Prospects in March Madness

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 15, 2022

Pro Comparisons for Top 2022 NBA Draft Prospects in March Madness

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    March Madness is loaded this year with projected 2022 NBA draft lottery picks. And many closely resemble specific pros.

    Finding comparisons is an exercise used by NBA teams to help them paint an accurate picture for how a player will fit and what his trajectory may look like.

    In some cases, a blend comparison of multiple pros was used to describe the more unique prospects.

Ochai Agbaji (Kansas, SG, Senior)

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    NBA comparisons: Desmond Bane, Quentin Grimes

    Ochai Agbaji's archetype should look similar to 2-guards like Desmond Bane and Quentin Grimes. Both pros have shown they can score early in their careers without high-level creation.

    They're elite shooters off the catch, something Agbaji has gradually become (42.0 percent catch-shoot, 40.5 percent 3PT) through four years at Kansas. He's averaging 19.7 points per game with 50.4 percent of his offense coming off spot-ups and transition.

    Like Bane and Grimes, Agbaji projects as a usable rookie with off-ball scoring skills that should fit easily with any lineup.

    However, Bane seems to already have surpassed the role-player ceiling that was attached to his name out of college. Agbaji will need to continue expanding his off-the-dribble game and creation to break free from the limiting three-and-D or shooting specialist label.

Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    NBA comparisons: Blake Griffin, Julius Randle

    At 6'10", 250 pounds, Paolo Banchero compares physically to Blake Griffin (6'9", 250 lbs), whose skill set and sweet spots are also similar.

    Just like Griffin did throughout his prime, Banchero beats defenders in the post (30-of-68) with a mix of power, footwork and shot-making. Over the years, Griffin added some point-forward passing and three-point shooting to his repertoire. And Banchero has already started to flash both with 34 assists over his last seven games and 34 total threes as a freshman.

    He isn't the same explosive leaper as Griffin. Banchero also resembles Julius Randle with his strong, wider frame and comfort level facing up in the mid-range. Banchero has been most efficient this season between 17 feet and the arc, where he's made 17-of-32 shots and showcased isolation scoring ability as a rise-and-fire shooter or driver.

Malaki Branham (Ohio State, SG, Freshman)

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    NBA comparison: Khris Middleton 

    Newer to the draft discussion after an eye-opening past month, Malaki Branham has caught scouts' attention with efficient, three-level scoring.

    Shades of Khris Middleton pop when he's rising up in the mid-range and creating separation despite lacking standout explosion or bounce. He operates at his own pace and patiently waits for the right time to stop-and-pop or attack a driving lane.

    A 42.5 percent three-point shooter, Branham has a balanced skill set for on- and off-ball scoring.

Kendall Brown (Baylor, SF, Freshman)

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    NBA comparisons: Josh Green

    Kendall Brown and Josh Green have similar athletic traits, roles and limitations.

    They're both valued mostly for their explosiveness, defensive quickness and energy. Like Green, Brown will have trouble scoring early in his career without strong creation or shooting skills. Even without them, Green has made an impact this season by capitalizing in the open floor, slashing through gaps, passing, guarding the perimeter and making hustle plays.

    That's Brown's game. He's an off-ball weapon at the rim and a quick processing ball-mover with 6'8" size and the ability to defend both wings spots. Both players' values will spike with improved three-point shooting.

Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee, PG, Freshman)

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    NBA comparison: Kira Lewis Jr., Tyus Jones

    Quickness and burst off the dribble help Kennedy Chandler draw comparisons to speedster ball-handlers like Kira Lewis Jr.

    He's closer in size to 6'0" Tyus Jones, who's valued more for his steadiness and decision-making running offense than his scoring. Like Lewis, Chandler packs more self-creation in the open floor or in ball-screen situations.

    He has also looked comfortable playing stretches off the ball, as he's been a better catch-and-shooter (39.2 percent) than pull-up threat (29.9 percent).

    There are questions about the upside of a 6'0" ball-handler, but he's also flashed enough shot-making, creativity, passing IQ and defensive peskiness to carve out a backup or change-of-pace role.

Johnny Davis (Wisconsin, SG, Sophomore)

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    NBA comparison: Josh Hart

    Johnny Davis resembles Josh Hart with similar physical tools and scoring styles. Neither is wildly explosive or has the easiest time creating separation. But both Davis and Hart can still beat defenses with strong drives and tough three-level shot-making.

    Three-point shooting accuracy hasn't been a major strength of Hart's throughout his career. And at this stage, Davis, who only takes 3.6 threes in 34.0 minutes per game, figures to be more comfortable in the NBA as a two-point weapon off drives, post-ups and mid-range pull-ups.

    Still, flashes of shooting confidence and passing IQ suggest Davis has room and time to improve his range and playmaking—just as Hart is doing now in Portland, where he's averaging 2.1 threes and 4.2 assists.

Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)

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    NBA comparisons: Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan

    At 6'11", 250 pounds, Jalen Duren's identity and value revolve around his physicality and athleticism near the basket. 

    Like Andre Drummond and prime DeAndre Jordan, Duren will make his money by giving guards an enormous, easy-basket target and high-percentage finisher above the rim. Defensively, he's closer to Jordan at his peak, when he was able to shut down the paint with his combination of absurd leaping ability and length. Duren, who's averaging 2.2 blocks in 25.3 minutes, figures to offer some of the toughest rim protection in this draft.

    Duren should be a better passer than both, and occasionally he flashes post moves that suggest he could eventually offer more scoring potential. But he's too far away skill-wise (62.0 percent FT, 62 turnovers to 34 assists) for any Bam Adebayo comparisons.

Tari Eason (LSU, PF, Sophomore)

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    NBA comparisons: Patrick Williams, Al-Farouq Aminu

    Defense, scoring versatility and consistent production have helped Tari Eason draw NBA interest during a breakout sophomore year.

    Physically, the 6'8", 216-pound combo forward reminds of strong combos like Patrick Williams and Al-Farouq Aminu.

    Offensively, he's closer to Williams with his ability to handle, attack closeouts, pass on the move and make open shots. Eason isn't a shooter yet, but he's capable with 27 three-point makes and a 79.6 free-throw mark. Even if his offense doesn't fully translate, he could stick for a long time (the way Aminu did) by guarding bigs and wings and inserting a degree of toughness into the lineup.

AJ Griffin (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    NBA comparison: Saddiq Bey

    Still just 18 years old, AJ Griffin has plenty of time and room to evolve. But a safe projection for the 6'6", 222-pound freshman is Saddiq Bey, a 6'7", 215-pound wing who'll make his NBA money off three-point shooting.

    So far, that's Griffin's signature strength. He has shot 46.7 percent from deep, working as a spot-up weapon on 46.2 percent of his possessions for Duke. He and Bey similarly operate as complementary scorers who are best suited to play off other creators. 

    Both can shoot off the dribble and slash to the rim, but neither is an advanced one-on-one scorer or explosive athlete.

Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)

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    NBA comparisons: Evan Mobley

    Only four NCAA players have totaled at least 40 threes and 100 blocks in a season, and Chet Holmgren has done it (as a freshman) in 200 fewer minutes than each of the other three. There isn't anyone who checks the same boxes in terms of 7'0" size, shooting and defense, plus ball-handling ability, passing IQ and elite finishing.

    Evan Mobley is the closest. Like Mobley, Holmgren can play the 4 or 5 and initiate fast breaks and pull up off the dribble. Defensively, they both offer a full package of rim protection, switchability and IQ.

    Offenses aren't likely to run through either, yet they can still make significant impacts with shooting, off-ball scoring efficiency and defensive versatility.

Jaden Ivey (Purdue, PG/SG, Sophomore)

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    NBA comparisons: Dejounte Murray, Ja Morant

    Just like Dejounte Murray's and Ja Morant's game, Jaden Ivey's is predicated on speed and explosion. He should quickly become one of the league's fastest end-to-end guards with the ball. 

    Similar to Murray, who entered the league known more for scoring than passing, Ivey has also shown growth as a playmaker with his ball-handling and vision off the dribble. Continuing to make strides here could allow Ivey to evolve into more of a lead guard than combo.

    His shooting mechanics and numbers closely mirror's Morant's. Ivey also has a low-releasing push shot, and as a sophomore, he's hit 58-of-163 threes (35.6 percent), awfully similar to Morant's 57-of-157 as a sophomore at Murray State.

E.J. Liddell (Ohio State, PF/C, Junior)

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    NBA comparison: P.J. Washington

    At 6'7", 240 pounds, E.J. Liddell isn't far off physically from P.J. Washington (6'7", 230 pounds), who's similarly stronger and longer than most players his height. 

    Like Washington, Liddell has developed into a shooting threat (37.6 percent 3PT), making it much easier for scouts to envision an NBA 4 or small-ball 5.

    Neither is an explosive leaper or dynamic ball-handler, but they're skilled scorers and passers from the post, have three-point range and can block shots.

Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG, Sophomore)

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    NBA comparisons: Buddy Hield, Terrence Ross

    A projected lottery pick, Bennedict Mathurin is averaging 17.4 points off a combination of explosiveness and shot-making.

    Athletically, he's closer to Ross, but Mathurin's perimeter scoring seems closer to Hield's. Both are dangerous catch-and-shooters who can use one-to-two-dribble pull-ups or step-backs.

    Mathurin could stand to improve his overall creation and passing to become more versatile. Right now, he projects as more of a Hield-like complementary scorer with some streakiness and an ability to catch fire.

Keegan Murray (Iowa, PF, Sophomore)

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    NBA comparisons: Jerami Grant, Kyle Kuzma

    Comparisons for Keegan Murray are changing as his game keeps evolving.

    After making 16 threes on 29.6 percent last season, the breakout sophomore is 66-of-163 (40.5 percent) from deep, making it easier to picture an NBA scoring forward like Jerami Grant or Kyle Kuzma.

    Murray doesn't possess the same shiftiness or face-up game as Grant, but he similarly uses a combination of shot-making versatility and physical tools. Murray is currently more functional finding ways to score off the ball, like Grant was out of Syracuse. But the Iowa star is gradually flashing more self-creation.

Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF, Freshman)

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    NBA comparisons: Jaren Jackson Jr., Michael Porter Jr.

    The list of 6'10" college players to make more than 70 threes in a season is short. Jabari Smith is one of a kind with his unique mix of size and shooting. 

    He could resemble Porter Jr. offensively with his shot-making skill and ability to just rise and release over defenders. Neither is an explosive ball-handler, but they can score in volume by drilling jumpers in various ways.

    While Porter is more of a big wing, Smith's sweet spots and defensive tools closer resemble Jackson Jr.'s. Both can operate from the elbows, pick-and-pop, block shots or switch.

Jeremy Sochan (Baylor, PF/C, Freshman)

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    NBA comparisons: Nicolas Batum, Chuma Okeke

    Scouts have become drawn to Jeremy Sochan's versatility and archetype as a 6'9" forward with a potential shoot-dribble-pass skill set and ability to guard multiple positions. 

    He could look like prime Nicolas Batum or Chuma Okeke if he improves his three-ball. With the same body type, Sochan will play a similar role as an interchangeable forward or big who can work on and off the ball. He's not a go-to scorer, but he takes what defenses gives him as a driver, demonstrates plus playmaking IQ for the position and puts himself in position to score off cuts.

    And it will still be Sochan's defensive smarts and switchability that his NBA team will value most.

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

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    NBA comparison: Derrick White, D'Angelo Russell

    Well-rounded and competitive defensively, TyTy Washington Jr. can look like Derrick White, an easy fit for any lineup with his on- and off-ball skills and the ability to guard both backcourt positions. But Washington may have more lead-guard potential and shooting prowess, which could allow him to look like D'Angelo Russell.

    Comparisons to White and Russell also stem from the fact that neither is a standout athlete. If there is a fear with Washington, it's over his ability to create enough separation.

    But Washington compensates for limited explosion with shooting versatility, floater touch and finishing craft. And he flashes the type of passing skill that should help convince teams he can be their primary ball-handler.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports Reference.