2022 NBA Draft Stock Report for NCAA Tournament's Top Prospects
Throughout the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, top projected NBA draft picks delivered some noteworthy performances that may stick in the minds of scouts.
It's also worth noting that some team executives may be doing their first round of live scouting.
A few interesting developments played out Thursday through Sunday, and with most of the biggest names still alive in the Sweet 16, there is still plenty of key scouting left.
Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)
Vs. Michigan State: 19 points, 8-of-14 FG, seven rebounds, four assists, 2-of-5 3PT, five TOs
Vs. CSU Fullerton: 17 points, 7-of-14 FG, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, 2-of-4 3PT
Stock report: Answering questions with range still No. 1-4
Aside from flashing well-documented scoring versatility and skill level, Paolo Banchero showed why he's arguably the draft's most complete player by playmaking, shooting and sliding defensively.
While he's had a tendency to catch and hold, that wasn't as much the case against Michigan State. He was decisive stepping into a pair of spot-up threes. He made quicker decisions and moves facing up, mostly getting downhill toward the rim, as opposed to settling in the mid-range.
And we saw his ability to see teammates off the dribble, a strength that's allowed his assist rate to reach 3.2 per game. Banchero has become a legitimate playmaking threat at 6'10", 250 pounds.
He did turn the ball over five times. His handle can get tighter, and he'll still hesitate or take too long to decide on his move. But these seem like minor weaknesses in the scheme of things, particularly when he's proved he can activate takeover mode in crunch time of a competitive round-of-32 NCAA tournament game.
Johnny Davis (Wisconsin, SG, Sophomore)
Vs. Iowa State: 17 points, 4-of-16 FG, nine rebounds, four blocks, two steals, 0-of-7 3PT
Vs. Colgate: 25 points, 8-of-20 FG, eight rebounds, 4-of-10 3PT
Stock report: Locking in to late-lottery range
A big opening-round game from Johnny Davis felt overshadowed by a rough showing in a loss to Iowa State.
Some key weaknesses were exposed while forcing drives into traffic and missing threes. Davis' green light and usage, which he took advantage of all season to average 19.7 points, worked against him in the round of 32.
He still got to the free-throw line 11 times thanks to his aggressive nature and willingness to seek out contact. His physicality as a scorer is ultimately one of his most appealing strengths.
Against Iowa State, when he hit four threes, we saw a more ideal version of Davis for the NBA.
Overall on the season, his lack of three-point volume (1.4 3PTM per 40) and preference for short, contested pull-ups (30-of-97 attempts on jump shots inside 17 feet) feels problematic. But Davis delivered enough tough finishes after contact, mid-range makes, streak-shooting performances, clutch shots and defensive plays for a prospect in the late-lottery range.
Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)
Vs. Gonzaga: Seven points, 3-of-11 FG, seven rebounds, one block, two assists
Vs. Boise State: 10 points, 4-of-11 FG, 11 rebounds, one block
Stock report: Vulnerable to slide, still projected late lottery
There wasn't much new to take away from Jalen Duren's two NCAA tournament performances. His power, length and athleticism for offensive rebounding were on display like they've been all season.
Against Boise State, he executed his favorite up-and-under move in the post. He couldn't get it off over Chet Holmgren in the Gonzaga game, however. Duren had some difficulty throughout creating uncontested finishes for himself, which had a lot to do with Holmgren's length, but also Duren's lack of advanced skill.
Foul trouble also limited him to just 19 minutes. To Duren's credit, he was aggressive offensively. And there were a few possessions at both ends where he was able to move Holmgren.
But his limitations as a scorer were evident. And though there will always be a lot to like about his defensive tools, his questionable awareness and fundamentals were exposed in both NCAA tournament games.
Certain lottery teams with a need for an inside presence still figure to show interest. And being 18 years old should help teams look past his raw offense and feel. But as we mentioned earlier in the season, in today's NBA, he'll be more vulnerable to slipping on draft night than the other big names.
AJ Griffin (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)
Vs. Michigan State: Seven points, 3-of-7 FG, 1-of-3 3PT
Vs. CSU Fullerton: 10 points, 4-of-9 FG, six rebounds, 2-of-7 3PT
Stock report: Steady, projected No. 6-10
AJ Griffin played a smaller part in Duke's two wins, a reflection of both his role on a loaded team as well as some individual limitations.
At this stage, there aren't any questions about his shooting, regardless of what his percentages are during Duke's tournament run. He's been incredibly consistent all season, plus the eye test on his makes continue to look convincing.
He doesn't receive many creation reps for Duke, which makes it tough to picture his scoring ability on an NBA floor. Against Michigan State and CSU Fullerton, he logged one total pick-and-roll ball-handling possession, one out of isolation and no post-ups. He also lacks a degree of explosion and shiftiness for creating and shaking off the dribble. A lot of his moves are east-west and not for getting downhill.
Regardless, there still figures to be plenty of interest in Griffin in the No. 6-10 range of the draft, as teams figure to really value his shooting, defensive tools and room for an 18-year-old to improve.
Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)
Vs. Memphis: Nine points, 4-of-7 FG, nine rebounds, four blocks, 0-of-3 3PT
Vs. Georgia State: 19 points, 8-of-13 FG, 17 rebounds, seven blocks, five assists, 0-of-2 3PT
Stock Report: Unchanged, projected top-three
Chet Holmgren used Georgia State to create an incredible highlight tape and pitch to the eventual lottery winner. Nobody else is capable of putting up a 19-point, 17-rebound, seven-block, five-assist stat line.
But the big test scouts cared most about came against 250-pound Jalen Duren and Memphis. On a number of occasions, Holmgren showed why concerns over his lack of strength felt overblown, as he used his extreme length and timing to compensate and contest Duren's shots. Duren did show he can use his power to push Holmgren back under the basket, but Holmgren still contributed to the Memphis big man's disappointing 3-of-11 performance. It was the most missed shots he had in a game all season.
If there is a fear with taking Holmgren over Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith, it should be tied to him not being an initiator or creator. Gonzaga's star was relatively quiet offensively against Memphis, as he's more dependent on being set up than the other projected top picks.
Still, Holmgren hit a tough fallaway and long two-point jumper. And between the elite finishing, 39.2 percent three-point shooting, high-IQ passes and unmatched defensive impact, there isn't another player who can influence a game in more ways, even if he's not the same one-on-one player as Banchero or Smith.
Jaden Ivey (Purdue, SG, Sophomore)
Vs. Texas: 18 points, 4-of-7 FG, three assists, 2-of-4 3PT
Vs. Yale: 22 points, 6-of-13 FG, one assist, 3-of-6 3PT
Stock Report: Draft ceiling rising to No. 2 overall
After the first two rounds, it feels like Jaden Ivey is now being viewed as a near equal to the freshmen bigs (Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith) who've been projected top-three picks all season.
While Ivey's identity and differentiator strength revolve around his speed and explosion, it's been the flashes of self-creation and shooting versatility that make it easier to picture a future All-Star guard.
Against Yale, he was scoring off screens. He hit a logo pull-up three and a deep step-back two. He then took over a game against Texas in which he finished with just seven shot attempts. Ivey efficiently picked his spots as a playmaker and decision-maker throughout before icing the game with a crossover move into a three that highlighted his space-creation and lead-scorer potential.
There may be some holes in Ivey's statistical profile, particularly with his shooting off the dribble and three-point consistency. But he's flashed the type of star power and enough shot-making ability for NBA teams to forget about a 19-year-old's percentages. Carrying Purdue to more March Madness wins will only continue to strengthen his case as a potential top two or three pick.
Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG, Sophomore)
Vs. TCU: 30 points, 8-of-19 FG, eight rebounds, four assists, 3-of-11 3PT
Vs. Wright State: 18 points, 7-of-18 FG, five rebounds, 4-of-10 3PT
Stock report: Moving toward top-10 lock
Bennedict Mathurin put together a pair of performances that included the exact type of plays and energy that should lead to more NBA teams buying in.
Mathurin hit four pull-ups against Wright State, showing the off-the-dribble scoring ability scouts want to see more of. He continued to look comfortable shooting off the dribble against TCU, even drilling the game-tying pull-up three with 12 seconds left in regulation.
Through Arizona's second game, Mathurin delivered a little of everything. We saw some pick-and-roll playmaking, which is a promising development for a guard whose strengths align more with a spot-up shooter's. He scored off the ball with cuts and movement shooting. And after sending the game to overtime on that ball-screen three, he came up huge with a tough offensive rebound into an and-one finish to ice the win.
He also hammered down arguably the dunk of the tournament, taking off from behind the restricted circle after just one-dribble and minimal load time. His explosiveness and shot-making are selling points, but his pull-up flashes, passing and overall intensity against TCU helped portray Mathurin as a more complete player and potential lead option.
Keegan Murray (Iowa, PF, Sophomore)
Vs. Richmond: 21 points, 8-of-15 FG, nine rebounds, 0-of-3 3PT
Stock report: Locking in to No. 5-7 range
An early departure from the tournament won't affect Keegan Murray's draft stock. Not after he averaged 23.5 points on 62.1 percent two-point shooting and 39.8 percent from three with 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals.
Iowa could have used one of his hot-shooting performances against Richmond. He'd made 22 threes over his previous seven games. Murray's shooting development will definitely play a key role in his NBA trajectory, as he's not the most convincing one-on-one ball-handler for self-creation.
But Murray has shown a special knack for optimizing his tools and finding different ways to score by cutting, sprinting the floor and attacking open lanes. And his shot-making skill, both from the post and around the perimeter, clearly made a major jump since last season.
Between his body/measurements, production and consistency, versatility and intangibles, Murray should be a lock to be one of the first names called after Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith and Jaden Ivey.
Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF, Freshman)
Vs. Miami: 10 points, 3-of-16 FG, 15 rebounds, four assists, three blocks 1-of-8 3PT
Vs. Jacksonville State: 20 points, 6-of-13 FG, 14 rebounds, four assists, 4-of-7 3PT
Stock report: Still a potential No. 1 pick but grip loosening
Jabari Smith looked like the projected first overall pick against Jacksonville State. But a game like his 3-of-16 performance against Miami also figures to keep the No. 1 overall debate alive.
In the round of 64, Smith showcased his special shooting skill, releasing with unflinching confidence and decisiveness regardless of how tight his defender played him. It looked as if he didn't even see or care about the man guarding him.
It was still a poster dunk that was the highlight for Smith, who isn't known for explosiveness. Though it was just one play, it did make you want to overlook the fact that his finishing at the rim has been relatively weak for a projected top-pick big.
It will be interesting to see how scouts take in his dud in the round of 32. It was just one, rare off game of missed shots and a struggle to assert himself offensively. But the main concern with Smith stems from his reliance on tough jumpers, while Chet Holmgren can change a game defensively and Paolo Banchero can create for himself and others more effectively.
However, Smith did total 29 boards and eight assists in two games while blocking three shots against Miami.
Overall, the biggest question when evaluating him versus Holmgren and Banchero is whether to look at Smith's 43.5 two-point percentage as a red flag or his 79 threes, 42.0 three-point percentage and elite shot-making as unique strengths that should offset his struggles inside the arc.
Malaki Branham (Ohio State, SG, Freshman)
Stock report: Moving toward lottery discussion
Branham has improved his stock as much as anyone over the past two months. Despite Ohio State's loss to Villanova, he kept his team alive with point-of-attack creation and the ability to get his own shot in the mid-range.
A versatile shot-maker and timely driver also capable of operating as a playmaker, Branham looks awfully complete for an 18-year-old. He finished his freshman year at 53.0 percent inside the arc, 41.6 percent from three and 83.3 percent from the line.
Christian Koloko (Arizona, C, Junior)
Stock report: Gaining steam entering Sweet 16
A 28-point, three-block game against TCU should bring more attention to Koloko in the Sweet 16. There isn't anything too unique or "upsidey" about his game, but if Jalen Duren can draw top-10 interest, Kokolo comes off as a value pick in the 20s or 30s with 7'1", 230-pound size, plus a live motor and athletic ability for rim running, finishing and blocking 2.8 shots in 25.3 minutes.
Blake Wesley (Notre Dame, SG, Freshman)
Stock report: Solidifying first-round status
Wesley's jumper didn't fall through three NCAA tournament matchups, but in each, he showed why NBA teams will overlook the raw and unpolished aspects of his game. The 6'5" freshmen stayed aggressive through cold shooting and put constant pressure on defenses with his quick first step, long strides and scoring tools around the paint.
He needs to improve as a finisher and shooter, but Wesley appears to possess the length, athleticism and shot-making skill worth betting on for a 19-year-old. We'd project him to go first round if he chooses to declare and stay in the draft.