Biggest Questions Scouts Have Going into 2022 NBA Combine

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 16, 2022

Biggest Questions Scouts Have Going into 2022 NBA Combine

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    Along with 76 prospects auditioning for the draft, the NBA combine will draw general managers, high-level executives and scouts from all 30 teams. Each one will arrive in Chicago with questions that they're hoping to get cleared up by Friday.

    Teams put stock into what happens at this event, and they should. The star of scrimmaging last year was Bones Hyland, who entered the combine viewed as a second-rounder, left with first-round interest and went to become a steal for the Denver Nuggets.

    Evaluators ultimately gather in Chicago to watch players compete in games, participate in measurements and testing and go through rounds of interviews.

How Will G League Ignite, Overtime Elite Prospects Look Against NCAA Prospects?

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    Most scouts only made one trip to the G League or Overtime Elite league during the season. There will be a ton of interest in learning more about these prospects who explored new pathways to the draft.


    Dominick Barlow (Overtime Elite, PF, 18 years old)

    Scouts are looking forward to seeing Barlow based on his production in Overtime and the value tied to his archetype. At 6'8", he possesses the potential skill set to shoot, finish and defend forwards. Scouts aren't sure how to assess his effectiveness in Overtime's unconventional setting, but they should have a better idea of how he stacks up in this draft when he presumably scrimmages against big-name college players.


    MarJon Beauchamp (G League Ignite, SF, 21 years old)

    Scouts will be eager to interview Beauchamp, who's taken an interesting path to the NBA draft. They'll want to hear about his journey and decisions to pass on Division I offers, then play junior college and join Ignite. His low-usage production, efficiency, physical tools and effort earned praise from scouts this season. His jump shot remains a major swing skill, and he'll have teams lined up at the door to get him in for a workout. 


    Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite, PG/SG, 19 years old)

    Daniels is a potential lottery pick, so his activity in Chicago figures to be limited. NBA teams will be most interested in interviewing him and seeing his measurements. Versatility, defense, maturity for his age and impact have made Daniels a well-liked, popular prospect.


    Michael Foster Jr. (G League Ignite, PF, 19 years old)

    Foster put up impressive numbers for Ignite (15.6 points, 9.6 rebounds), but scouts have questioned his NBA fit, given his poor shooting (9-of-40 3PT) and lack of defense for a 6'8" power forward. He'll be expected to scrimmage to make a second-round case with his high skill level for self-creation, tough shot-making and finishing. He'll also want to show scouts that his jumper is more promising than the numbers suggest and that he's improved his conditioning and body to help with defensive mobility.


    Jaden Hardy (G League Ignite, SG, 19 years old)

    Hardy's stock has taken a serious hit in the G League while shooting 37.6 percent, so it will be interesting to see if he chooses to scrimmage and win back support. History suggests he won't, with the fear that a bad game or two further enhances skepticism.

    Hardy played against much stiffer competition this season compared to the Overtime prospects, and he still averaged 19.5 points. So there is always the possibility that one team is willing to buy his production and ignore the inefficiency. Odds are Hardy uses interviews to improve his stock instead of gameplay. Scouts will also be interested to see his athletic test results, as some have seemed surprised by how limited his explosiveness seemed.


    Jean Montero (Overtime Elite, PG, 18 years old)

    Scouts got to see Montero play against the top high school seniors at the Nike Hoop Summit. They'd love for a chance to see him scrimmage against older NCAA prospects, particularly since the level of competition he faced in Overtime was also younger. If we were to guess, he'll be advised to skip scrimmaging, especially since he ended on a high note in Portland, where he scored 23 points against the USA after an underwhelming week of practices. 


    Fanbo Zeng (G League Ignite, F, 19 years old)

    Zeng wound up joining the Ignite after originally committing to Gonzaga, though he took a backseat to the team's top American prospects. For a 6'9" forward, he's been worth tracking for some athletic ability and shooting potential (18 threes this season). He'll really need to surprise scouts during scrimmages to have a shot at being drafted, however. 

Who of the "Not Ready" Prospects Are Worth Investing in Early?

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    A group of freshmen with obvious flaws were invited to the combine. They each clearly have some level of pro potential, but they also seem far from unlocking it. It seemed more reasonable to project breakout 2022-23 seasons into the draft discussion, but it's also possible teams may want to invest early and control their development. 


    John Butler (Florida State, PF, Freshman)

    You don't typically see players who averaged around 5.9 points and 3.2 rebounds generate much confidence from scouts. They still invited Butler to the combine without him going through the G League Elite Camp first. For a 7'1" big, there is enough intrigue in his shooting (39.3 percent 3PT) and shot-blocking (7.5 BLK percentage), despite the fact he's 190 pounds and shot 43.9 percent inside the arc. Scouts will be wondering whether it's worth investing early in his valuable skill set and staying patient with his physical and basketball development. 


    Moussa Diabate (Michigan, PF/C, Freshman)

    At 6'11", 210 pounds, Diabate played power forward at Michigan and has been worth tracking for his finishing and defensive versatility. It doesn't seem like enough right now to get teams excited, but if he can show more shooting touch in Chicago than he did at Michigan, it wouldn't be crazy if a team saw a potential a rotational big it can get in the 40s and 50s. 


    Josh Minott (Memphis, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Minott put together some impressive flashes and stretches at Memphis, though averages of 6.6 points and 14.6 minutes seemed to indicate the freshman would try to maximize his draft stock as a college sophomore. He's going all-in early, however, and the eye test and analytics suggest Memphis may have masked some of his impact and potential.

    He shot 55.9 percent from two, clearly demonstrated smart passing IQ, registered a 3.1 steal percentage and 5.4 block percentage and finished second on the team in box plus-minus. He's likely to be near the top of the leaderboards during athletic testing in Chicago, but scouts want to know if he has translatable offensive skills or if his quickness, explosion, motor and mind are enough for an energizer role. He's also older for his class, turning 20 in November. 


    Aminu Mohammed (Georgetown, SF, Freshman)

    Mohammed's physical profile stood out early, with the 6'5", 210-pound freshman looking intriguing for his defensive tools/potential on the wing. But he finished the season shooting 39.2 percent inside the arc and 31.0 percent from three. Scouts will be looking to see just how far away he is offensively from possessing any useful NBA skill. He did flash some handles and self-creation to get himself to the rim for finishes and layups.


    Terquavion Smith (North Carolina State, SG, Freshman)

    Smith has scouts wondering whether they should brush off his 39.8 field-goal percentage. The 6'4" guard possesses the athleticism, shot-making skill and confidence for teams to picture an NBA scorer. He had a 34-point game against national champ runner-up North Carolina, drilled 96 threes (2nd in nation among freshmen) and went through a five-game stretch from February to March, averaging 23.8 points. However, he's also 160 pounds and shot a brutal 36.5 percent at the rim. 

Underperformers with Potential: Whose Inefficiency Should Scouts Ignore?

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    The 2022 draft field includes a few freshmen who were highly touted out of high school but struggled with their roles or execution in college. Long-term potential—determined by previous scouting and projecting improvement—has kept their names relevant in the draft discussion despite poor numbers. Last year, Ziaire Williams went No. 10 overall after shooting 37.4 percent in his lone season at Stanford. Who should get a similar pass this draft?


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

    It would be hard to imagine a worse season for Baldwin, who lasted 11 games, won three and shot 34.4 percent from the field. The sample size of inefficiency still wasn't big enough to negate everything scouts had seen since 2019 when he first made an appearance at USA Training Camp. Baldwin will presumably just measure, interview and work out in Chicago, so it will be difficult for teams to take much away from his time there. It wouldn't even be surprising if he skips athletic testing, considering the results aren't likely to help.

    However, Baldwin still has the potential to erase some bad memories during the predraft process, and his shooting stroke is bound to look persuasive in empty gyms. And given how long he's been on the radar, scouts know not to put much stock into his 26.6 three-point percentage at Milwaukee. Aside from wanting to see his jumper up close, teams will also be eager to get a hold of his medicals based on an ankle-injury history dating back to high school. 


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

    The stats for Christie (9.3 points, 38.2 percent FG, 31.7 percent 3PT) don't match the eye-test results, which show a fundamentally-sound shot-maker with 6'7" size. It felt like he just missed a lot of makable jumpers this season. There are definitely concerns about his burst and strength, but his shooting would help offset them. Scouts will be eyeing his jumper closely in Chicago to determine if they believe he just went through a lengthy cold streak at Michigan State because he has a clear, valued ability to drill shots off transition, spot-ups, screens and dribbles.


    Harrison Ingram (Stanford, SF, Freshman)

    Ingram quickly earned a spot on watch lists this season with a guard's or wing's skill set and the 6'8", 230-pound frame of a strong, power forward. But as the season went on, his percentages kept falling, and his lack of creation and athletic ability became more evident/worrisome. Even with those obvious limitations, the potential to shoot (36 made 3PT) and pass (3.0 assists per game) hint at an NBA connector archetype. Nonetheless, scouts will want to study his jump shot up close in Chicago and decide how problematic his lack of burst is for separating. 


    Peyton Watson (UCLA, SF, Freshman)

    Watson declaring after averaging just 3.3 points suggests he felt UCLA held him back. He showed little offensively over the past year, though it would be tough for any freshman to gain back lost confidence in 12.7 minutes per game. Watson had some promising stretches with the USA World Cup team last summer, and at 6'8", there has always been intrigue surrounding his physical tools, versatility, passing and defense. He'll be one of the main draws during scrimmages in Chicago, given his obvious talent and how little freedom he was granted in college.

How Do the International Prospects Stack Up?

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    This class isn't known for its international talent, but seven international prospects were still invited to Chicago. While each team has at least one international scout, the majority of NBA scouts have not seen (most of) these prospects live. 


    Hugo Besson (New Zealand Breakers, SG, 21 years old)

    Besson is one of the older international prospects in Chicago and averaged 13.9 points in the NBL with a combination of shot-making and clever creativity. Between his 6'3" size, limited athletic ability, lack of playmaking and 38.6 field-goal percentage, there are enough reasons to question his NBA fit. He seems unlikely to get a first-round team to bite without standing out in scrimmages. But his production overseas, offensive skill and confidence create visions of a scoring-spark specialist, so he'll have plenty of eyes on him in Chicago.


    Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand Breakers, SG/SF, 18 years old)

    Scouts are trying to decide whether Dieng is just an idea or a legitimate NBA starter in the making. After a rough start in the NBL, he started to get comfortable in February, scoring double-digits in nine of the Breaker's last 12 games. The idea of a 6'10" wing who can handle, shoot and defend the multiple positions is obviously enticing. However, some scouts sound skeptical about his timetable and how raw he seems. They'll hope to have a better feel for Dieng after seeing him work out live, though there is almost no chance he scrimmages.


    Nikola Jovic (Mega, SF, 18 years old)

    Jovic has been considered a first-round prospect since his performance last summer with Serbia in the World Cup, but there has always been some shred of doubt or question about how well he'd be able to create and separate against NBA-caliber athletes. Scouts will be hoping that Jovic scrimmages, though it does seem unlikely. His athletic test results figure to get looked at relatively closely. Regardless, just seeing Jovic shoot and move up close will be helpful.


    Ismael Kamagate (Paris Basketball, C, 21 years old)

    Teams have Kamagate in the fringe first-round conversation after the athletic, 6'11" center averaged 11.4 points on 64.4 percent shooting in France's top league. He's still a decent candidate to scrimmage, which could give him a chance to separate himself from mostly second-round picks. While his knack for earning easy baskets seems translatable, scouts will be more focused on his skill level, which he showed may be higher than potential NCAA lottery centers Jalen Duren and Mark Williams. 


    Leonard Miller (Fort Erie Academy, SF, 18 years old)

    Scouts started taking Miller seriously after his practices and game at the Nike Hoop Summit. He's now being viewed as a potential first-round pick, and some even think he's being undervalued in the 20-35 range. At 6'9", he's more of a guard than a big who's comfortable handling the ball, using touch on the move and shooting threes, but he also earns himself easy baskets off his athleticism and motor.

    Miller has an unconventional jump-shot form with a low release, and before his showing in Portland, scouts hadn't seen much of him. Given all the recent buzz, it wouldn't be surprising if his camp holds him out of workouts and tries to create a perception that he already has first-round assurances. Regardless, Miller will be one of the names highlighted on teams' lists in Chicago. 


    Gabriele Procida (Bologna, SF, 19 years old)

    Procida earned an invite to the combine after shooting over 38.0 percent from three in consecutive seasons in Italy. For a 19-year-old, 6'7" wing, his stroke is the draw, though executing some of the self-creation in scrimmages that he flashed overseas could help Procida make a predraft jump up boards.


    Matteo Spagnolo (Cremona, PG, 19 years old)

    Spagnolo is on loan from Real Madrid and has drawn attention in Italy, playing 27.0 minutes a game and producing with an exciting mix of creativity and 44.1 percent three-point shooting. Scouts will be focused on whether he can get by anyone in Chicago, finish against NBA-caliber length or hold his own defensively. 

How Did Prospects Grow Physically?

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    You never know how accurate measurement listings are when provided by colleges. Players also grow and add weight over the course of the season. A handful of prospects will be under the microscope during measurements and testing, either because of height and weight concerns when projecting to the NBA or reported growth spurts that could change perceived trajectories.


    Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite, PG/SG, 18 years old)

    Daniels is reportedly up to 6'8", which may affect evaluations if true. He'd have an outstanding physical profile for a ball-handler and guard, plus the tools and instincts to legitimately defend four positions. A 6'8", two-way playmaker with untapped shot-making potential could be deemed top-10 worthy for teams willing to bet on his shooting development. 


    Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand Breakers, SG/SF, 18 years old)

    At the 2019 European Championships, Dieng was listed at 6'7". Some reports suggest he's now 6'10". That number being real could jumpstart scouts' imaginations about an 18-year-old jumbo wing creator and scorer. He's still one of the rawer prospects generating lottery or first-round buzz, but certain teams may be more willing to gamble on his upside if he checks in as a 6'10" ball-handler and shot-maker.


    Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)

    In 2021, USA basketball listed Duren at 6'10", 224 pounds. Memphis has him at 6'11", 250 pounds. While the numbers might not matter much, it will still be interesting to find out his real measurements, considering his game is almost entirely predicated on physical tools and athleticism. 


    Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)

    It wouldn't be shocking if Holmgren chose not to measure or even attend the combine, but lottery teams will definitely be eager to learn how much weight he put on (or didn't) during the season. At his current listing (195lbs), he'd join Aleksej Pokusevski as the only 6'11" or taller NBA players to weigh under 200 pounds. The biggest hangup on Holmgren right now focuses on his lack of strength and how much it could affect him in terms of creating through contact and walling up defensively.


    David Roddy (Colorado, SF/PF, Junior)

    Scouts sound like they'd like Roddy more if they were confident he could play and defend power forwards. Colorado State lists him at 6'6", 255 pounds, measurements that align with an NFL tight end's (Travis Kelce, 6'5", 256lbs). Roddy isn't the quickest and doesn't project well defending wings in space, so scouts will have their eyes on height, weight and agility scores in Chicago.

What Level of Prospect Is Shaedon Sharpe?

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    NBA scouts have seen little of Shaedon Sharpe, the 18-year-old who never suited up for Kentucky and remains in the top-10 discussion due to last summer's EYBL breakout.

    "We liked him at EYBL, but that was a year ago, and it's Peach Jam, you can't really carry much weight with that into the draft," one scout told Bleacher Report. "He's going to have to work out for teams, compete in the combine. Still believe he's top eight, but there are a lot of questions to answer."

    Sharpe's pro day figures to draw top decision-makers from both lottery teams and playoff teams wondering whether he's a worthy trade-up target. It's already easy to picture this narrative forming—Sharpe climbing boards after blowing evaluators away in workouts. For a 6'6" guard or wing, his effortless athleticism and shooting skills are perfectly suited to light up in a one-on-none, empty gym setting.

    The challenge for scouts is reading between the lines, seeing beyond the obvious talent and assessing his basketball IQ, maturity, work ethic, feel and killer instinct. There will be a lot of detective work and guesswork involved, assuming Sharpe doesn't participate in scrimmages or even group workouts the way teams want him to.

    It's a shared belief that Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Jaden Ivey are the top-four picks in some order. Keegan Murray is a popular name mentioned next, though the soon-to-be 22-year-old is no top-five lock. Sharpe's name floats around this tier in the No. 5-10 range based on reputation alone. His age, bounce and perimeter skills for scoring all create the perception of upside, while the mystery factor also helps make him feel a little more exciting.

    Getting face time and workouts scheduled with Sharpe figures to be a top priority for at least a dozen teams in Chicago.

What Do the Mid-Major Stars Stack Up?

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    The combine will feature three mid-major stars who scouts will get a chance to see compete against power-conference prospects. Last year, Bones Hyland showed that his production and flash at VCU shouldn't have come with an asterisk. He went off in scrimmages before shutting it down and going first round. Scouts will be hoping to have a better idea of where to slot Ryan Rollins, David Roddy and Jalen Williams after seeing them perform against mostly big names from the ACC, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten.


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

    Scouts are trying to picture Roddy on an NBA floor, and some have had trouble. Maybe it will be easier after seeing the 6'6", 255-pound forward up close in scrimmages. Even with skepticism about his defensive outlook, his offensive skill level, versatility and IQ have become persuasive. Though he spent most of his scoring possessions posting up at Colorado State, it's the improved shooting, pick-and-roll ball-handling and passing that suggest he's equipped to defy traditional scouting beliefs and thrive as an undersized 4 or slower 3.


    Ryan Rollins (Toledo, SG, Sophomore)

    Rollins is a super-smooth scorer whose advanced self-creation and three-level shot-making have caught scouts' attention. He didn't face the toughest schedule, however, and despite Rollins clearly needing a reliable jumper to have any chance at the next level, he's finished under 33.0 percent from three in consecutive years. Still, the eye test always looked more convincing than his numbers, and Rollins was dangerous from the mid-range and free-throw line (80.2 percent). He's the type of creator and crafty scorer whose three-point percentage may be easier to ignore, given his age (19) and shot-making ability. 


    Jalen Williams (Santa Clara, SG, Junior)

    Williams seems to be gaining steam during this period of film re-watching. It's tough to find a hole in his physical or statistical profile, with the 6'6" guard/wing having shot 55.1 percent inside the arc, 39.6 percent from three, 50.0 percent on runners and 59.7 percent at the rim, per Synergy Sports. He also totaled 137 assists to 69 turnovers. He just isn't too wiggly or explosive, leaving rhe question of whether he can blow by NBA defenders or create separation? You can already feel the narrative start to shift with talk about Williams becoming a sleeper first-rounder, so scouts will be hoping his camp doesn't get too cocky and keep Williams out of scrimmages.