Ranking the Top 15 Bigs in the 2022 NBA Draft

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 30, 2022

Ranking the Top 15 Bigs in the 2022 NBA Draft

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    The 2022 NBA draft revolves around bigs. 

    There is a decent chance the first three picks are at least 6'10" and can each play power forward and some center. 

    A few more should wind up in the lottery and top 10, including a few breakout college stars. 

    This is Part 3 of a three-part series that follows our top-15 guards and top-15 wings.

Nos. 15-11

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    15. Josh Minott (Memphis, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Speciality strengths: Athleticism, passing

    Archetype/projected role: Energizer

    Playing behind DeAndre Williams, Minott only earned 14.6 minutes per game. But his impact was frequently felt (second on the team in BPM), and at 6'8", he'll be one of the draft's most explosive leapers whose athleticism translated to 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per 40 minutes. Quick processing and passing IQ stood out as positional pluses as well.

    A lack of production and shooting always pointed to Minott returning, but it might be wise for an NBA team to invest early, stay patient and help the 20-year-old develop his jumper (75.4 percent FT), which could eventually be enough to turn a high-flying, smart-passing, high-energy defender into a useful role player.

             

    14. Ismael Kamagate (Paris Basketball, C, 2001)

    Speciality strengths: Finishing

    Archetype/projected role: Finisher

    Playing in France's top league this season, Kamagate has remained productive and efficient with 6'11", 220-pound NBA size and mobility. While his offense is still predicated on finishing, he's flashed a little more shot-making and ball-handling skills than some of the other younger NCAA centers.

    He's not as strong or dominant defensively, which hurts his value as a one-position big. But between his wild reach for poster dunking (7'4" wingspan), plus his ability to use the dribble or hit off-balance jumpers, Kamagate's offensive development has become something to monitor for teams searching for hidden upside in the 20s or 30s.

          

    13. Christian Koloko (Arizona, C, Junior)

    Speciality strengths: Defensive versatility, finishing

    Archetype/projected role: Rim-runner, shot-blocker

    Koloko's game doesn't scream upside, but his tools (7'1", 7'4" wingspan), shot-blocking (career 10.2 block percentage), defensive mobility and finishing (71.5 percent at rim) create a high floor. He was also one of the nation's most efficient post players on high volume (129 points, 116 possessions), so he can offer more offensively than just easy baskets. He also improved his touch to make 73.5 percent of his free throws. While teams won't run plays for him, there is typically a reserve role for rim-running bigs who can switch, protect the rim and make foul shots.

            

    12. Walker Kessler (Auburn, C, Sophomore)

    Speciality strengths: Shot-blocking

    Archetype/projected role: Rim protector

    Kessler put together the best shot-blocking season among college players since at least 2009, when block percentage was first recorded. He's the only player to ever play at least 800 minutes and block 19.0 percent of opponents' two-point field goals.

    At 7'0", he has outstanding instincts and anticipation in rim protection. On the other hand, he's a limited scorer and athlete who isn't switchable or useful defending away from the basket. He does like shooting threes, and even though he missed 40-of-50 attempts, becoming a three-point threat seems critical for Kessler's value. 

           

    11. EJ Liddell (Ohio State, PF/C, Junior)

    Speciality strengths: Post scoring, defensive coverage

    Archetype/projected role: Stretch/defensive 4

    Liddell's breakout onto NBA radars is directly tied to his improved shooting, defense and body. While still most productive creating and shot-making from the post, he hit 46 threes and doubled his block rate (8.5 percent) from a year ago. It's still tough to see upside through his lack of big-man height (6'7"), athleticism and translatable off-the-dribble skills. However, it's easy to picture a high-floor Grant Williams type of role player who can make open shots and reads as a passer and defender.

Nos. 10-6

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    10. David Roddy (Colorado State, SF/PF, Junior)

    Signature strengths: Strength, offensive versatility

    Archetype/projected role: Small-ball offensive specialist

    At 6'6", 255 pounds, Roddy is so far out of the box that it's silly to even label him with a position. Though he operated mostly from the post at Colorado State, he's become an appealing NBA prospect for the improved shooting (43.8 percent 3PT) and face-up flashes. He graded in the 97th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (50 possessions) and the 90th percentile out of isolation (49 possessions). He shot 42.6 percent off the dribble and 71.8 percent at the rim.

    Despite his wide frame and weight, he moves well, can shake off the dribble, spin past defenders and pass on the move. He's undersized for a big, and it's tough to picture him guarding wings. But at some point, it's worth betting on outlier potential, as he's just too versatile, skilled and productive to nitpick in the late first or early second round.

          

    9. Jake LaRavia (Wake Forest, PF, Junior)

    Signature strengths: Passing, versatility 

    Archetype/projected role: Playmaking 4

    LaRavia's 31-point game against North Carolina felt like a signal to start taking the Indiana State transfer more seriously as a pro prospect. It forced scouts to go back through earlier film and pay more attention the rest of the way. His versatility comes off as an ideal fit for today's NBA. He just became one of eight players at least 6'8" to finish a season with 25 threes, a 20.0 assist percentage and a 2.5 steal percentage.

    He needs to keep shooting (0.8 3PTM) to help make up for his lack of translatable self-creation and limited athleticism. However, he uses handles and change of pace to get to his spots. And the defensive playmaking numbers and anticipation reflect signs of quick instincts. You can see easy role-player potential tied to his touch, face-up play, passing and IQ at both ends. 

          

    8. Mark Williams (Duke, C, Sophomore)

    Signature strengths: Rim protection, finishing

    Archetype/projected role: Finisher, rim protector

    Williams' 12.5 box plus-minus was Duke's highest by a wide margin, as he was a consistent impact rim protector and interior scorer. He still isn't skilled, but he used his enormous 7'7" wingspan to finish, put back misses and score over centers around the block. He also made 72.7 percent of his free throws. Continuing to build on that touch would be significant for his value, but it's still going to revolve around his rim protection and ability to be an easy-basket weapon off dump-downs, rolls and missed shots.

           

    7. Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)

    Signature strengths: Rim protection, finishing

    Archetype/projected role: Finisher, rim protector

    The appeal to Duren mostly focuses on his physical abilities, which help scouts overlook the fact that he's not overly skilled. At 6'11', 250 pounds with a 7'5" wingspan, the 18-year-old center shot 70.9 percent around the basket and blocked 2.1 shots in 25.3 minutes per game. He has a huge catch radius for lobs, and he's an easy-bucket target from the dunker's spot.

    Defensively, it's all about his rim-protection tools and ability to make plays high above the cylinder. Offensively, he's flashed some encouraging post footwork and passing for his age. However, he shot 62.5 percent from the line and doesn't appear close to offering any shooting or ball-handling. In the short term, he'll be used almost exclusively as a finisher who can find teammates from the post.

            

    6. Tari Eason (LSU, PF/C, Sophomore)

    Signature strengths: Two-way versatility

    Archetype/projected role: Two-way energizer

    Off the radar a year ago at Cincinnati, Eason emerged as a potential lottery pick with LSU by showcasing more face-up skill, shooting touch and defensive impact. He also finished third in the nation in box plus-minus, mostly coming off the bench to bring versatility and toughness at both ends. At 6'8", Eason made 28 threes and converted 21-of-38 drives past closeouts into floaters or rim finishes. He also graded in the 90th percentile in transition with 20 grab-and-go baskets.

    His handle is functional for a big, though it could be tighter in the half court. And despite the improved shooting, it was on low volume with not many off-the-dribble flashes. Still, it's easy to picture his athleticism and physicality translating to paint buckets and his ability to put the ball down working when lanes open. He was also one of two players with a steal percentage over 4.0 and a block percentage over 6.0. His defensive aggression and activity should be pluses.

5. Jeremy Sochan (Baylor, PF, Freshman)

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    Signature strengths: Two-way versatility

    Archetype/projected role: Swiss Army knife, defensive specialist

    Jeremy Sochan caught scouts' attention without special athletic ability or much production. It's his projected NBA fit, archetype and role that seem valuable.

    The 6'9", 230-pound forward spent time guarding all over the floor, with enough physical strength to match up against bigs, mobility to defend small and the IQ to make advanced reads. He's uniquely switchable from the arc to the block.

    Offensively, though still raw, his skill set remains appealing for a power forward, especially if he can keep building on the open-shooting flashes. 

    Handling the ball around the perimeter, Sochan can put the ball down and score on the move after using a mix of spin moves, deceleration and angles. His delivery is slow but effective. He's shown unteachable counter-shot-making skills around the key that you just can't practice.

    And he's a plus passer who likes to move after he dishes, which leads to easy baskets off cuts.

    Sochan isn't the most explosive in transition or creative in the half court, so he needs to keep improving his jumper, as he finished 24-of-81 from three and 58.9 percent from the line.

4. Keegan Murray (Iowa, PF, Sophomore)

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    Signature strengths: Transition, post-ups, budding shooting potential

    Archetype/projected role: Off-ball scorer

    With Iowa losing National Player of the Year Luka Garza, Keegan Murray's usage (29.7 percent) and production (23.5 points) skyrocketed this season. Given his 6'8" size, physical activity level (38 putbacks) and scoring versatility, NBA scouts have bought into the breakout. 

    He led the nation in transition points per possession, showing the ability to grab and go (30 FGM as a ball-handler) and use strength and body control to finish on the move. 

    In the half court, an improved jump shot gave Murray a key boost, as he shot 46.8 percent on spot-ups and 39.8 percent from three (4.7 3PTA). He even flashed potential as a movement shooter, having made 23 shots off screens.

    The post (99th percentile) is still his bread and butter. Murray has a knack for improvising, shielding his man and making unorthodox one-handers around the key. He did deliver some impressive glimpses of one-on-one offense on step-backs and fallaways, though he struggled to make two-point jump shots (9-of-35). 

    Defensively, Murray combined for 3.2 steals and blocks per game. He gambled often, but he showed promising mobility and athletic ability to make plays on the ball. 

    Scouts still question how well his game will translate, mostly because of concerns over his half-court handle for self-creation, reliance on strength and lack of explosion. Murray finished just seven of 20 drives past closeouts. He doesn't get very low off the dribble, nor is he shifty. He was also extremely ball-dominant at Iowa, and he didn't deliver many assists (1.9 per 40 minutes). 

    Murray also turns 22 in August, making him around the age of juniors or seniors.

    There shouldn't be much to worry about if the shooting is real, and it does feel real when he's releasing off the catch. It's just more reasonable to expect an off-ball scorer who'll produce off fast breaks, cuts, offensive rebounds and spot-ups rather than a top or isolation option. 

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

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    Signature strengths: Finishing, shot-blocking, shooting potential

    Archetype/projected role: Stretch rim protector

    Chet Holmgren became the only NCAA player with at least 40 threes, 100 blocks and 60 assists, and he did it playing just 26.9 minutes per game as a freshman.

    We've never seen a player enter the draft with this combination of shooting skills, defensive tools/instincts and passing IQ. He also shot 73.7 percent inside the arc, and at 7'0", he recorded a remarkable 19 field goals as a transition ball-handler.

    While it's tough not to get hung up on Holmgren's 195-pound frame, it won't stop him from making threes, pushing the break, finishing high above the rim, finding teammates and protecting the basket, particularly given his 7'5" wingspan, mobility and awareness. 

    It is worth questioning whether it's worth using a No. 1 overall pick on a big who doesn't project as a half-court creator. He's still somewhat slow and choppy making moves against a set defense. 

    And despite the incredible shot-blocking numbers, his lack of strength was exposed at times against stronger bigs who seemed determined to use their power to play through him. 

    The physical questions are real, but they shouldn't be alarming enough to negate Holmgren's unprecedented versatility and its projected value in today's NBA.  

2. Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF, Freshman)

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Signatures strengths: Shot-making, shooting, defensive versatility

    Archetype: Three-and-D big, elite complementary scorer

    Jabari Smith has a case as the best shooter among 18-19-year-old big prospects we've ever seen. The only other freshman or sophomore at least 6'10" to make 70 threes was Syracuse's Donte Greene, who wasn't nearly as accurate (34.5 percent) or capable shooting off the dribble (31.4 percent).

    Smith, who's still 18, just made 42.0 percent of his 5.5 three-point attempts per game. But at 6'10", he also hit 42 half-court pull-ups at a 40.0 percent clip. Aside from being an appealing catch-and-shoot floor-spacer, Smith also flashed unusual fluidity creating jumpers for himself with decisive dribble moves and a high release. He scored 75 points out of isolation, mostly as a one-on-one shooter off pull-ups and step-backs. 

    Smith's shot-making also showed in the post, where he can quickly turn over either shoulder and knock down off-balance looks.

    Defensively, though he isn't known for shot-blocking, NBA coaches will see a switchable big who can get low and slide his feet with wings. Incredibly, opponents shot just 4-of-28 against him on two-point jumpers and 26.0 percent against Smith deep.

    However, Cam Reddish and Ziaire Williams were the only top-10 picks we found with a lower two-point percentage than Smith's 43.5 during their predraft season. He lacks explosive pop around the basket (52.1 percent), and he doesn't have the tightest handle to get there. 

    To some scouts, Smith is the favorite at No. 1 for his unprecedented perimeter game, defensive versatility and room and time to improve based on his age. But taking him before Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero will mean not worrying about Smith's current reliance on making difficult jumpers. Worst case, he plateaus as one of the game's elite three-and-D bigs.

1. Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Signature strengths: Physical tools, creation, shot-making versatility

    Archetype/projected role: Scoring, playmaking 4

    Widely viewed as the most skilled big, Paolo Banchero also creates, scores and passes at 6'10", 250 pounds. 

    He's physically built for the pros from Day 1, while his ability to maneuver off the dribble, hit different types of jumpers and make plays should be problematic for opposing bigs. 

    He generated 239 points between isolation, post-ups and pick-and-roll ball-handling. Banchero shot 43.8 percent in the mid-range with 45 made jumpers off the dribble. His shot-making versatility stood out all season, whether he was falling away, crossing over into a pull-up or stepping back from three, where he connected 44 times in 39 games. 

    A key late-season development highlighted valuable playmaking potential, with Banchero showing the ability to facilitate in ball-screen situations or throw accurately placed entry passes and darts to cutters. He averaged 4.1 assists over Duke's last 14 games.

    Defensively, Banchero was up and down, with the lows mostly tied to poor effort. He fell off too easily trying to chase penetrating guards and had some lazy closeouts and forgettable moments off the ball. An interesting stat shows that the other top-five picks who similarly had block percentages below 5.0 percent (during predraft season) were Ben Simmons, Marvin Bagley, Thomas Robinson and Scottie Barnes.

    But there were also possessions where he did a nice job of sliding his feet and reacting to shots quickly. 

    Offensively, he lacks some explosion around the basket. He passed on spot-up threes for low-percentage contested jumpers. Still, no prospect in this draft appears more polished both physically and fundamentally. There will surely be teams that see him as the safe pick at No. 1, even if they're willing to admit that Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith could have the more unique and valuable best-case outcomes. 

        

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports Reference.

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