Ranking the Top 15 Guards in the 2022 NBA Draft

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 26, 2022

Ranking the Top 15 Guards in the 2022 NBA Draft

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    The 2022 NBA draft will get a boost from a handful of surprising breakout guard prospects.

    There will be first-round guards from college, the G League and Overtime Elite, plus a previous top recruit who didn't play all season. 

    We ranked the top 15 guards based on NBA potential for teams interested in strengthening their backcourt scoring and playmaking. 

    This is Part 1 one of a three-part series that will follow with the top-15 wings on Thursday and the top-15 bigs on Saturday.

Nos. 15-11

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    15. JD Davison (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

    Signature strengths: Positional athleticism, playmaking

    Archetype/projected role: Athletic/playmaking spark

    Davison's identity is built around bounce and playmaking, a combination that could be enough for a bench-spark role. It's difficult to envision much scoring potential right now based on his 13.2 points per 40 minutes, limited pull-up game (9-of-36) and 30.1 three-point percentage on just 83 attempts all season.

    He did register a strong 29.4 assist percentage, showing the ability to make all types of advanced passes. His athleticism also translated to exciting putbacks and finishes, but to have a full-time role at the next level, he'll need to improve his shooting and decision-making, which led to a whopping 4.5 turnovers per 40 minutes.


    14. Alondes Williams (Wake Forest, PG/SG, Senior)

    Signature strengths: Positional athleticism, skill versatility

    Archetype/projected role: Athletic/playmaking spark

    The ACC Player of the Year, Williams came out of nowhere to average 18.5 points per game after failing to score 18 once as a sophomore at Oklahoma. He tapped into explosiveness to record 108 shots at the rim, where he finished 66.3 percent of his attempts (89th percentile).

    Williams also showcased surprising playmaking and passing skills to average 5.2 assists, and he managed to score in a variety of ways throughout the season, totaling at least 90 points in four major areas: pick-and-roll ball-handling, spot-ups, transition and isolation.

    For a player who'll be 23 years old on draft night, his lack of three-point shooting volume/efficiency (28.2 percent, 1.1 make per game) is an obvious issue. And scouts question his 3.6 turnovers per game. Is he too wild to be trusted making decisions, and is he threatening enough off the ball (24.7 percent spot-up shooting)?


    13. Ryan Rollins (Toledo, SG, Sophomore)

    Signature strengths: Self-creation, pull-up shooting

    Archetype/projected role: Reserve scorer

    Buying stock in Rollins means expecting his shooting development to eventually click. Aside from his 31.1 three-point mark, he's a smooth self-creator into jumpers and drives, with Williams having drilled 65 pull-ups, shot 43.9 percent in the mid-range and converted 40.7 percent of his runners and 58.7 percent of his rim attempts.

    He offers some playmaking ability (3.6 assists per game) as well, particularly in ball-screen situations (89th percentile). The big questions right now concern his spot-up three-ball and defense, areas NBA role players typically need to excel in. But Rollins, who's still 19 years old, has become an intriguing second-round option for his three-level scoring potential fueled by advanced creation, shot-making skill and tough finishing.


    12. Jalen Williams (Santa Clara, PG/SG, Junior)

    Signature strengths: Skill versatility, defensive tools 

    Archetype: Combo reserve

    From a 50.9 true shooting percentage and 2.3-assist average as a sophomore to 60.1 percent and 4.2 assists in 2021-22, Williams made a massive jump with his catch-and-shoot jumper, finishing and passing. His athleticism and shiftiness aren't overly exciting, which raises some doubt over his separation ability and NBA scoring potential.

    His 35.1 percent mark on pull-ups is a little disappointing, though he has one of the best floaters (25-of-50) in the draft. For a 6'6" combo with plus-defensive tools, he's developed the type of skill versatility and efficiency of an NBA role player, with Williams grading in the 86th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and 97th percentile out of spot-ups.


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

    Signature strengths: Self-creation, shot-making

    Archetype/projected role: Scoring specialist

    A 37.6 field-goal percentage, 3.4 turnovers per game and lackadaisical defense have pushed Hardy down draft boards. Still, the 6'4" 2-guard averaged 19.5 points against G League competition, showcasing some impressive self-creation moves into jumpers and the type of shot-making that can work against tight defense.

    Based on his high school tape, it's likely his 30.9 three-point percentage was fluky low. But that will have to be the case for Hardy to have success at the next level because for an on-ball guard, he lacks explosion for finishing and drawing fouls (2.7 attempts per game), and he's not a natural playmaker.

    If his shot gets back to where it was, Hardy could offer the type of firepower to fill a scoring-specialist role for a team that needs more offense.

Nos. 10-6

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    10. Bryce McGowens (Nebraska, SG, Freshman)

    Signature strength: Positional height, creation, foul-drawing

    Archetype/projected role: Scoring specialist

    A 6'7' guard, McGowens averaged 16.8 points, splitting time as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and spot-up scorer. He only finished at 40.3 percent from the floor because of inconsistent shooting and a 179-pound frame that led to struggles at the rim.

    McGowens still gave defenses trouble with his shiftiness and footwork, which allowed him to lead all freshmen with 6.3 free-throw attempts per game. Despite an underwhelming 27.4 three-point mark, he made 40 triples while showing off touch on runners (12-of-25) and foul shots (83.1 percent).


    9. Jean Montero (Overtime Elite, PG, 2003)

    Signature strengths: Quickness, creation, playmaking

    Archetype/projected role: Playmaking spark

    Quick, shifty and skilled off the dribble, Montero will be valued for his creation and playmaking IQ. A thin frame and lack of explosion make it difficult for him to finish against length near the basket. As a scorer, Montero is more of a shot-maker than a shooter (27.7 percent 3PT).

    He's been inconsistent from deep over the years, though he's also demonstrated the ability to catch fire (four 3PTM at Nike Hoop Summit) and hit tough jumpers. With some questions about his projected scoring efficiency and defensive outlook, it seems more reasonable to picture a bench spark who's used to liven a stagnant offense or bring a team back from a deficit.


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

    Signature strengths: Physical/defensive tools, first step, shot-making versatility

    Archetype/projected role: Two-way scorer

    Long at 6'5", Wesley was used in 206 pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions, where he showcased burst for attacking, secondary playmaking skills and some ability to shoot off the dribble from the mid-to-long range.

    He's able to create a lot of opportunities for himself at the rim with his first step and athleticism, though he's very raw in terms of knowing how to convert in traffic or after contact (41.4 percent at rim, 13th percentile). And he still has a ways to go as a shooter, having shot 30.3 percent from three and 65.7 percent from the line. Wesley is a project but with advantageous tools for attacking and forcing turnovers, while the flashes of shot-making and passing hint at room to grow as a scorer and creator. 


    7. Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee, PG, Freshman)

    Signature strengths: Speed, pick-and-roll ball-handling, defensive peskiness

    Archetype/projected role: Change-of-pace backup

    At 6'0", 171 pounds with some questionable shooting numbers (31.1 percent pull-ups, 60.6 percent FT), Chandler could have a tough time reaching NBA starter status. However, his speed, ball-handling and passing should still translate to creation and pick-and-roll offense.

    Despite underwhelming tools, he finished 58.1 percent of his attempts around the basket, showing impressive craft and coordination. He also averaged 2.2 steals per game with pressure defense and playmaking instincts. Chandler finished at 38.3 percent from three on relatively low volume. Improving his off-the-dribble shooting and floater (32.4 percent) will be key, though being an effective spot-up shooter (43.4 percent) should be beneficial. 


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

    Signature strengths: Touch, playmaking IQ

    Archetype/projected role: Lead combo

    Before suffering an ankle injury versus Auburn on January 22, Washington was averaging 14.2 points and 4.6 assists on 50.5 percent shooting and 40.4 percent from three. In his final 12 games since returning, he shot 36.2 percent and had a tougher time creating and making shots. Regardless of whether leg discomfort limited him, questions about his athleticism and separation ability were already there.

    He only attempted 64 free throws in 905 minutes. On the other hand, he demonstrated a high skill level and feel as a shot-maker, finisher and playmaker, which helped alleviate concerns over his burst. The eye test on Washington's shot looked more convincing than his 35.0 three-point mark, as he hit 43 pull-ups and showed plenty of range. He'll also enter the draft as one of the most efficient finishers, having made 57.4 percent of his runners and 62.5 percent of his rim attempts.

    It's still worth questioning his low-volume three-ball (3.3 attempts per game) and ability to get all the way to the rack. But there are enough reasons to buy his playmaking (120 assists, 51 turnovers), as he looked confident running offense and making the right passing reads.

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

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    Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

    Signature strengths: Two-way versatility, defensive playmaking

    Archetype/projected role: Connector/Swiss Army knife/high-end role player

    While there isn't a signature skill or trait that hints at Dyson Daniels having star-guard potential, his positional tools, versatility and mature approach make it easy to picture an NBA fit and valued role player.

    He operated as a 6'8" jack-of-all-trades in Ignite's backcourt, showing strong passing IQ for playmaking (4.7 assists while splitting point guard reps), athleticism and body control for attacking and paint touch to score off drives and miscellaneous finishes. He loves the short, over-the-shoulder hook shot where he uses his body to shield off his man.

    NBA coaches won't worry about what position he plays. They'll use him in a connector role between creators and shot-makers to move the ball, make good decisions and capitalize when the defense gives up an open look or lane.

    Daniels fits the mold of non-label, impact glue guards/wings like Alex Caruso, Isaac Okoro, Marcus Smart, Ayo Dosunmu, De'Anthony Melton or Donte DiVincenzo.

    Defense is a key plus on Daniels' scouting report as well, particularly after his growth spurt. He did an effective job staying attached, navigating through screens and reacting with speed to make plays on the ball (2.0 steals, 0.7 blocks per game).

    He didn't shoot well overall in the G League, finishing 30-of-100 from three and a head-scratching 53.3 percent from the line. Daniels also doesn't project as an isolation scorer, as he relies on drives, open floor and some back-to-the-basket stuff.

    But he did look more comfortable from three in February and March, having hit 13 of his last 28 attempts. And last summer, he made 13 threes in seven U19 World Cup games. There does seem to be key some shot-making potential, which could ultimately unlock enough versatility for Daniels to develop into a long-term NBA starter.

4. Johnny Davis (Wisconsin, SG, Sophomore)

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Signatures: Shot-making versatility, defensive toughness 

    Archetype/projected role: Two-way scorer

    After not starting a game as a freshman, Johnny Davis broke out to average 19.7 points in a super high-usage role (32.5 percent).

    How well will he respond to being a supporting player again early in his NBA career? Scouts are trying to decide if he's built to resume being a top option at the next level. He's developed some promising skills that suggest he can, including a dangerous pull-up game and overall shot-making versatility. Davis hit 60 shots off the dribble, 15-of-29 off screens and 16-of-39 from the post. He improved in the self-creation department, and though he doesn't always create a ton of space, he's shown he hasn't needed it to convert in the mid-range (45.1 percent)

    Davis also thrived as a physical, downhill driver, as he handled contact around the rim and got to the free-throw line 6.3 times per game. 

    However, the 6'4" guard took a lot of contested shots around the key, where he missed 67-of-90 short jumpers inside 17 feet. He lacks some explosion in traffic, and he didn't love shooting the three ball, having only attempted 3.9 attempts (30.6 percent 3PT) in 34.2 minutes.

    While it's worth questioning how well Davis' scoring will translate (18-of-53 out of isolation), it's still easy to picture an impact player who'll put pressure on opponents with his offensive fearlessness, shot-making confidence and defensive toughness. He's strong and competitive at both ends of the floor, while consistent clutch play late in games highlighted a killer instinct and leadership NBA coaches will love.

3. Malaki Branham (Ohio State, SG, Freshman)

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Signatures: Three-level scoring, ball-screen weapon, efficiency

    Archetype/projected role: Secondary scorer

    A 35-point game against Nebraska in January earned Malaki Branham a spot on watch lists. And then he averaged 20.2 points on 56.6 percent over Ohio State's last 10 games, a stretch of scoring efficiency that helped validate the earlier flashes of seemingly translatable creation and three-level shot-making.

    Though not a point guard, Branham received 114 pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions as a freshman. He generated 1.04 points per possession (94th percentile), showing maturity using patience and pace to pull up or attack. Off ball screens, he converted an outstanding 22-of-28 drives to the basket and 19-of-40 shots off the dribble. 

    A 61.4 percent finisher at the rim, Branham didn't rush or make bad rim attempts. He often took an extra dribble to separate further and go up for a more balanced look. Branham also showed a knack for creating separation into pull-up jumpers (43 makes, 43.6 percent) by timing his rise to catch defenders on their heels.

    He proved to be effective off the ball as a 43.5 percent catch-and-shooter, a promising sign when trying to picture him fitting in at the next level with fewer ball-handling reps.

    Though he doesn't project as a high-assist guard, he should add secondary playmaker value as a well, given some of his smart passing reads and feel handling in pick-and-roll sets.

    Branham isn't the shiftiest or most explosive, and he only attempted 89 threes in 32 games. So it's reasonable to question how real the creation and shooting are in terms of translatability. But for a 6'5", 18-year-old who carried Ohio State at times and finished 53.0 percent on twos, 47.6 percent on runners, 61.4 percent of shots at the rim and 41.6 percent from deep, the tools and skill set feel legitimate.

2. Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Signatures: Bounce, shot-making, perimeter self-creation

    Archetype/projected role: Scoring 2-guard

    Declaring for the draft without playing a minute all season, Shaedon Sharpe will draw a heavy presence of scouts and executives to his pro day. EYBL tape showed the summer's leading scorer in EYBL take over with a mix of shot-making skill, self-creation flashes and highlight-reel bounce around the rim. 

    For a 6'6", 18-year-old, the physical tools/athleticism, built-in jumper and ability to get his own shot will look awfully enticing over the next two months.

    On one hand, Sharpe tends to settle around the perimeter. On the other hand, it's easy to picture his pull-up and step-back game translating based on an eye test that approves his positional height, fluidity, aggression and the number of made jumpers we've seen him hit. 

    Shot-making efficiency, plus how much he improves his off-the-dribble game in terms of using it to get easier baskets, free throws and assists, could be the difference between Sharpe plateauing into a role-playing scoring specialist or developing into a top option an offense can run through. 

    He figures to look very persuasive in an empty gym during predraft workouts. While it's tough to imagine a team passing on Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith for a player general managers haven't seen play, it wouldn't be shocking if teams start to view Sharpe as the next-most tempting gamble in the draft. 

1. Jaden Ivey (Purdue, SG, Sophomore)

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Signatures: Explosiveness and speed, streak shot-making, downhill playmaking

    Archetype/projected role: Combo guard/athletic weapon 

    Unless Shaedon Sharpe blows scouts away with persuasive shooting during workouts, Jaden Ivey remains the best bet to be the first guard drafted. 

    Scouts see star potential fueled by the type of explosiveness that sets Ja Morant apart from other ball-handlers. Aside from scoring 156 transition points in 36 games, Ivey managed 70 half-court baskets at the rim despite either 7'4" Zach Edey or 255-pound Trevion Williams clogging the lane. 

    It's not just straight-line speed that allowed Ivey to put so much pressure on the rim. His handle looked tighter changing directions on the move. 

    Still, it's the improved shot-making and playmaking that's led to scouts having an easier time buying his development and picturing a star. Though streaky, he improved to 1.8 threes per game on a respectable 35.8 percent. While he still needs to get better pulling up (29.7 percent) and shooting off the catch (34.8 percent), there were enough instances of spot-up threes and step-backs out of isolation to feel encouraged by the 19-year-old's year-to-year jump.

    The newer combo label comes from Ivey's 3.1 assists per game. The blow-buy burst creates advantages and playmaking opportunities, and he's shown he can capitalize as a kick-out passer who's also capable of making ball-screen reads, especially to rolling bigs. 

    Questions about Ivey concern some passive stretches and limited confidence in his pull-up, which resulted in either tougher floaters or open looks being passed up. 

    In the immediate future, he figures to be most useful as an athletic weapon attacking open floor and ball screens. But the signs of self-creation into jumpers and setting up teammates point to an eventual imitator and top option.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports Reference.


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