Red Flags We Can't Ignore 3 Weeks from 2022 NBA DraftJune 3, 2022
Red Flags We Can't Ignore 3 Weeks from 2022 NBA Draft
With less than three weeks until the 2022 NBA draft, teams are digging through film, background checks and analytics to have the clearest possible picture of each prospect.
They're bound to find some red flags that should make front offices reconsider where each player—including the top prospects—should be on their respective boards.
Even our projected No. 1 pick has some question marks that the Orlando Magic need to think about.
Here, we've pinpointed red flags that might make teams hesitate on certain higher-profile prospects relative to where they're projected to go.
Jabari Smith's 2-Point Scoring Issues for a Projected No. 1 Pick
The lottery winner shouldn't have to worry about any red flags for its No. 1 overall prospect. Jabari Smith's aren't alarming enough to hint at any bust potential, but the Orlando Magic should be aware of them.
The 6'10" Smith shot only 43.5 percent inside the three-point arc during his lone season at Auburn. The only other lottery picks 6'7" or taller to shoot under 45.0 percent inside the arc were Ziaire Williams and Cam Reddish. Dropping it to 6'6" or taller, the list expands to Michael Carter-Williams, Jerome Robinson, Denzel Valentine and Klay Thompson.
Could Smith, a 42.0 percent three-point shooter on 5.5 attempts per game, be a bigger version of Thompson? It's an interesting comparison, though Thompson drilled 37 shots off screens as a freshman at Washington State. He led the NBA in points per game off screens for the fifth time this season. Meanwhile, off-screen scoring isn't currently a big part of Smith's game (8-of-24).
Smith also totaled only 14 dunks in 978 minutes. Aside from Cade Cunningham, a playmaking guard, these are the lottery picks at least 6'8" who had fewer than 15 dunks in a season: Doug McDermott, Otto Porter Jr., Cameron Johnson, Franz Wagner, Cade Cunningham, T.J. Warren, Taurean Prince, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Reddish and Williams.
In the half court, Smith took 241 jump shots to 71 shots at the rim, where he shot an underwhelming 52.1 percent (48th percentile, per Synergy).
Smith has a case as the best-shooting freshman big in NBA draft history. He even hit 42 pull-ups at a 40.0 percent clip. The fear with Smith is that he winds up becoming more of a shot-making specialist than a No. 1 option.
That wouldn't be as scary with the No. 2 or No. 3 pick in this particular draft. But given his lack of explosiveness off the dribble and at the rim and some loose handles in tight spaces for getting to the basket, Smith does have some flaws for Orlando to consider with a potential franchise-changing No. 1 pick.
Limited Scouting Opportunities on Shaedon Sharpe
Lottery teams are doing their homework on Shaedon Sharpe, and most of it has been reviewing EYBL film from last summer. He didn't play a minute for Kentucky. He rose to the top of recruiting rankings last July, but that stretch was almost a year ago and included a small sample size of AAU games.
Since then, scouts have only seen him practice and work out solo. And there is little chance that he'll participate in any group or competitive workouts before the draft.
The tape on Sharpe highlights enticing strengths—explosion, self-creation, shooting—but also weaknesses that raise questions about certain skill areas and habits.
He's a terrific shot-maker and low-percentage shot-taker. He's bouncy but prefers pull-ups over half-court finishes at the rim. His defensive tools are pluses, and his defensive effort and processing are negatives.
Talent alone will earn Sharpe consideration as high as No. 4 or No. 5 overall. But there will have to be some guesswork when it comes to assessing his ability to consistently execute a dribble-jumper-heavy shot selection, how effective his creation will be against NBA defenses, how well he'll read plays and make adjustments, and if the gambling, reaching and laziness on defense was more tied to a lack of accountability in AAU.
The scouting report's positives all indicate plenty of upside. Teams just have little to go off to determine the likelihood of Sharpe maximizing his potential.
Sample Size of Flashes Behind Ousmane Dieng's Rise
Ousmane Dieng has been on the NBA draft radar since 16 years old, so he hasn't surfaced out of nowhere. But the idea of him as a 6'9" wing has always been more compelling than his actual effectiveness or impact.
Dieng, who shot 33.3 percent overall at the 2019 European Championships, 37.6 percent during the 2019-20 season in France's third division and 33.7 percent last year in the same league, is now generating lottery buzz after a 12-game stretch (to close the season) in which he averaged 13.3 points for the New Zealand Breakers.
The Breakers lost 11 of those games.
Dieng's flashes of ball-handling and shot-making remain enticing, as they have been for the last few years. But should the small sample size of production fuel enough optimism for teams to use a lottery or mid-first-round pick on him?
While a lot can change for a 19-year-old over the next few seasons, whichever drafts Dieng will need a lot to change for the pick to pay off (if it's near the lottery). As of right now, Dieng's poor strength, burst and touch make it tough to picture him creating or scoring against NBA defenders anytime soon.
He comes off as a cliche boom-or-bust prospect. The question is whether there is enough evidence of development for teams to bet on the boom outcome.
Patrick Baldwin's Scary Athletic Testing Numbers
Athletic testing numbers are normally only tiny data points that teams can overlook in a huge scouting equation. But in Patrick Baldwin Jr.'s case, his results were difficult to ignore.
His verticals were some of the lowest ever recorded at the NBA combine, and the heavy-footed centers usually finish last, not wings. It's difficult to measure explosiveness, but both the eye test and numbers say he has close to none.
In the last 12 NBA combines, these were the only other players to jump lower than or the same as Baldwin's 23.5-inch standing vertical (no running start, off two feet): Kyle Singler, Tacko Fall, Nikola Vucevic, Dakari Johnson, Jamel Artis, Nathan Knight, Kaleb Wesson and Orlando Robinson. The only players to jump lower or the same as Baldwin's 26.5-inch max vertical were Dedric Lawson, Fall, Johnson and Vucevic.
This year, Baldwin had the second-slowest lane agility time (lateral movement, changing directions, running backward) behind Trevion Williams, who weighs 264.4 pounds. Baldwin finished with the fourth-slowest sprint and the sixth-worst shuttle run.
The main concern with Baldwin is whether he'll be able to create any separation either off the dribble or at the rim. Though he played only 11 games and didn't have much supporting talent at Milwaukee, he shot just 50.0 percent at the basket (only 11 makes in half court) and 2-of-16 out of isolation. That was against mostly lower-level competition.
Scouts assume he's a better shooter than his 26.6 three-point percentage suggests. But if he doesn't have an advantage anywhere else, the bar will be super high when it comes to his shot-making effectiveness.
Ochai Agbaji's Unprecedented Lack of Playmaking for Wing
Ochai Agbaji couldn't win over NBA scouts during his first three years at Kansas. He did this season during Kansas' championship run, and now he's viewed as a prospect who could wind up in the back half of the lottery.
So, what exactly did he add or improve to cause the sudden spike in interest? It wasn't creation or playmaking. Corey Kispert is the only senior wing who's been selected in the first round with an assist rate lower than 10.0 percent. Agbaji's 8.7 assist percentage will be the lowest. And he finished the season 1-of-8 out of isolation.
His shooting improvement is the obvious draw (40.7 percent from deep). However, even a career-best 74.3 free-throw mark seems low (career 71.4 percent) for a perceived shooting specialist. He also missed 19-of-23 floaters, which highlights some questionable touch.
Long and athletic, Agbaji was an effective cutter, but his offensive value still revolves mostly around shot-making, and he still made only 26.7 percent of his pull-ups.
These red flags aren't deal-breakers in terms of Agbaji's chances of sticking in the NBA. But using a lottery pick on a 22-year-old wing who doesn't provide any shot creation, passing or off-the-dribble scoring may mean drafting him over higher-upside or better long-term prospects.
Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Barttorvik.com