Yes, it’s way too early for this. No, I do not care. We’re going to do some quick hits on the top half of my 2022 NBA Draft outlook, specifically looking at the lottery prospects.
This will change a lot a year from now. It will change a lot 6 months from now. Hell, it’ll probably change a lot 3 months from now. Full disclosure: I still have a lot more film to catch up on and the college season is right around the corner, so expect updates throughout the year leading up to next summer.
It’ll be a very fluid situation, but the point of this is to get you familiar with the top dogs in the Draft Class of 2022. There’s also a bonus section listing the top freshman/newcomers + returners that are just on the outside looking in at this board.
Fun fact: There will only be 59 total picks in the 2022 NBA Draft due to the Milwaukee Bucks forfeiting their 2nd round pick due to their tampering punishment.
2022 Lottery Board
#1: Paolo Banchero- F, 6’10” (Duke)
Role: Wing Initiator + Two-Way Star
Banchero is going to show the world that he is too good for college basketball from day one at Duke. He is a 6’10” forward that can put the ball on the deck and excels at attacking closeouts or making plays in transition. He has outstanding basketball IQ and operates well out of the high post/top of the key whether he’s hitting cutters or creating for himself.
His off-the-dribble jumper is also coming along nicely, and once he puts it all together he has a chance to be a two-way superstar with his combination of skill and elite tier athletic profile. He figures to be more of a 4 than a 5 but could play some small-ball five in stretches as he continues to add strength.
#2: Chet Holmgren- C, 7’1″ (Gonzaga)
Role: Elite Rim Protector + Floor Spacer
Holmgren is going to dominate college basketball the same way he dominated high school basketball. He’ll be a headliner on yet another elite Gonzaga squad, and he will likely be in the mix for the number one pick all year long. The intersection of size, versatile shooting, and shot-blocking from Holmgren is unheard of, and I’m sure you’ll hear the phrase “unicorn” quite a bit next season, so prepare yourselves now.
He can put the ball on the deck and do some interesting things with it, so that overused “unicorn” phrase may be warranted. Chet is everything you want in a modern big, now it’ll just be about him adding strength so he can survive the rigors of an ultra-physical 82-game NBA season.
#3: AJ Griffin- F, 6’7″ (Duke)
Role: Slasher + Athletic Forward + Versatile Defender
AJ is the son of former NBA player Alan Griffin. He is an elite athlete that has great size and length that should translate at the next level. Just having “tools” isn’t everything, so it’s important to note that he also has skill to go with his athletic profile. There are some areas of improvement for sure and he’s still got plenty of work to do, but the flashes across the board are encouraging.
He and Banchero are going to be a ridiculously rude freshman duo at Duke, and the Blue Devils will be must-see TV. They are not your typical-looking freshmen. Expect Griffin to rise up draft boards as he showcases his astounding athletic profile.
#4: Jalen Duren- F/C, (Memphis)
Role: Elite Finisher + Versatile Big + Vertical Lob Threat
I can’t remember who said it, but Jalen Duren is like a real-life NBA Jam character when he takes off for a dunk. He recently decided to reclassify to the Class of 2022 and committed to play for Penny Hardaway at Memphis. He is a physical specimen that can rise off the floor like gravity does not exist. His motor is fairly consistent on both sides of the floor and he has a good feel for the game as well.
The passing flashes and touch around the rim lead me to believe he has a tremendously high ceiling moving forward. The off-the-dribble flashes are also very encouraging when looking at the big picture. We’ll have to see how it all comes together during his freshman campaign at Memphis.
#5: Jaden Hardy- SG, 6’4″ (G League Ignite)
Role: Elite Scorer + Tough Shot Maker
Hardy figures to be one of the most divisive prospects in this class due to his innate scoring ability. The main question with him is, will he be efficient enough on a high volume or add the proper amount of playmaking to make him the engine of your offense? I understand the caution with players that seem one-dimensional, but I believe he has a chance to be a special scorer to the point where you just can’t ignore it.
Hopefully, he’s able to refine the playmaking, defense, and intangibles surrounding that scoring ability as time goes on. The audacity and range he has on his jump shot are second to none… bet against him at your own risk.
#6: Yannick Nzosa- F/C, 6’11” (Malaga)
Role: Rim Runner + Rim Protector + Versatile, Modern Big
Nzosa isn’t talked about as much as he probably should be by the general consensus as a top-10 lock. He’s the clear number one international prospect in this class and figures to be a perfect fit as a modern big in today’s NBA. He is a very fluid mover for his size, has terrific instincts on both sides of the floor, and plays with an edge.
If Chet Holmgren (a historically good shot blocker) wasn’t in this class, Nzosa would be the clear frontrunner as the best rim protector. His combination of timing, instincts, vertical athleticism and size makes him an absolute menace when it comes to protecting the rim. The rim-running center should be high on many NBA front offices’ watch list this season.
#7: Jabari Smith- F, 6’10” (Auburn)
Role: Scoring Forward + Stretch Four
Auburn fans should be thrilled for next season, especially with their electric frontcourt. Smith is a bit thin and needs to continue to add strength, but his athletic profile is impressive and he figures to eventually become a certified three-level scorer. At 6’10” his combination of shooting and length is rare, as he can pin you in the post and score off turnaround jumpers or spin and attack the rim.
Jabari (from what I’ve seen) looks like a capable defender, nothing special (yet), but could certainly get there as he fills out his frame and gets defensive reps in Auburn’s program. There’s a chance he could leapfrog into the top-five with a strong freshman campaign.
#8: Patrick Baldwin Jr.- F, 6’9″ (Milwaukee)
Role: Floor Spacer + Scorer
Pat choosing to play for his father at Milwaukee over a powerhouse school is one of the most interesting storylines in college basketball in my opinion. I’m always fascinated when prospects go unconventional routes, so I’ll be monitoring that situation closely. His shooting stroke is one of the best there is and at that size (6’9″) he should be able to shoot over the top of most defenders with ease.
It will be fascinating to track his ancillary development in other valuable skills that could make the difference from him being a solid pro to him being “the guy”. The off-the-dribble shooting flashes are promising, but he isn’t the most explosive athlete and there are some questions for him to answer for scouts during his freshman season.
#9: Caleb Houstan- F, 6’8″ (Michigan)
Role: Versatile Two-Way Wing + Floor Spacer
Houstan is someone that I believe will be able to fit in numerous team contexts and should be a plug-and-play wing/forward that contributes to winning. He will be in a great situation at Michigan and figures to be a one-and-done prospect that teams will covet in the middle of the lottery.
Caleb is an advanced decision-maker and sniper from long distance. Versatile wings that can create their own offense and defend are at a premium in today’s game, so expect the Michigan product to be a lock as a lottery prospect. There’s even potential for him to rise up boards into the top-five range if some other freshmen disappoint. He, Jabari Smith, and Pat Baldwin Jr. are all in the same tier for me currently.
#10: Jaden Ivey- G, 6’4″ (Purdue)
Role: Scoring Guard + Slasher + Secondary Playmaker
I have Ivey as the top returner and believe he plays his way into the mid-lottery after a monster sophomore campaign for Purdue. Last year I picked Bouknight as a “lotto lock” returner… this year, my pick is Ivey.
Here’s our full scouting report on Ivey: Jaden Ivey NBA Scouting Report
#11: Nikola Jovic- F, 6’10” (Mega Bemax)
Role: Versatile Scorer + Transition Menace
Jovic is the second-best international prospect in this class for me, sandwiched between Nzosa and Prkacin. I could see him playing his way into the top-10 or even as early as the mid-lottery. He is a gifted scorer that can get buckets from all three levels.
Nikola plays well off the ball with decisive cuts, relocations for threes, and leak-outs in transition for easy buckets. He can also put the ball on the deck and push in transition to lead breaks himself… so what can’t he do? Well, defense. That’s the major red flag with him at the moment, both from a physical perspective and an effort perspective. If he figures it out on that end he’d be a top-five talent, but until then I can’t put him in that top-tier.
#12: Peyton Watson- F, 6’9″ (UCLA)
Role: Versatile Wing + Upside Swing + Active Defender
Watson is a gifted scoring wing with upside that is through the roof without a doubt. Maybe I picked some bad games of his to watch, but it seemed like he was far rawer than expected and could be a few years away from any significant impact at the NBA level. I came away impressed with his defensive flashes, using his length and athleticism to overwhelm opponents, but the offense was too hit-or-miss for me to get really excited.
I do watch a ton of Pac12 basketball, so I should have a better impression of him as time goes on next season. Lottery-level talent that I’m skeptical of at the moment, but we shall see. UCLA is going to have an awesome trio that will feature Watson, Juzang, and Jaquez.
#13: Bennedict Mathurin- W, 6’6″ (Arizona)
Role: 3&D Wing + Versatile Wing
Mathurin is my second-favorite returner just behind Jaden Ivey, and I believe he plays his way into the late lottery after returning for his sophomore season at Arizona. He had an extremely production freshman season at Arizona and should be poised for a larger workload and breakout season for the Wildcats.
Here’s our full scouting report on Mathurin: Bennedict Mathurin NBA Scouting Report
#14: Roko Prkacin- F, 6’9″ (Croatia)
Role: Versatile Playmaking Forward + Slasher
Prkacin deciding to withdraw from the 2021 NBA Draft caught many off guard, as he was viewed as a late-1st round pick by many. Apparently, he wanted more security on his first contract and decided to bet on himself as a 22′ lottery pick.
I think there’s a decent shot he’s able to play his way into the mid-1st/late lotto range. The returning class isn’t super strong from a depth perspective and there will always be a handful of disappointing freshmen that he figures to surpass along the way so it could be a worthwhile gamble for him to give it another year.
Honorable Mentions: Freshman + 1st Year Eligible w/ 1st Round Talent
- Jean Montero- PG, 6’2″ (Overtime)
- Dyson Daniels- SG, 6’5″ (G League Ignite)
- Kendall Brown- F, 6’7″ (Baylor)
- Matthew Cleveland- W, 6’6″ (Florida St.)
- Osumane Dieng- F, 6’9″ (NZ Breakers)
- TyTy Washington- G, 6’3″ (Kentucky)
- JD Davidson- PG, 6’2″ (Alabama)
- Kennedy Chandler- PG, 6’1″ (Tennessee)
- Michael Foster- F, 6’8″ (G League Ignite)
- Daimion Collins- F, 6’9″ (Kentucky)
Honorable Mentions: “Returners” to watch w/ 1st Round Talent
- Mojave King- SG, 6’5″ (Adelaide 36ers)
- Jabari Walker- F, 6’8″ (Colorado)
- Terrence Shannon Jr.- W, 6’6″ (Texas Tech)
- Allen Flanigan- SG, 6’5″ (Auburn)
- Julian Champagnie- F, 6’7″ (St. John’s)
- Marcus Bagley- F, 6’8″ (Arizona St.)
- Keegan Murray- F, 6’8″ (Iowa)
- Caleb Love- PG, 6’4″ (UNC)
- Jaime Jaquez- W, 6’6″ (UCLA)
- Andre Curbelo- PG, 6’1″ (Illinois)
- Kadary Richmond- G, 6’5″ (Syracuse)
- Will Richardson- G, 6’4″ (Oregon)
- Jahvon Quinerly- PG, 6’2″ (Alabama)
- Jordan Hall- F, 6’8″ (St. Joe’s)
- Marcus Willaims- PG, 6’2″ (Texas A&M)
- Kevin Obanor- F, 6’8″ (Texas Tech)
- Azuolas Tubelis- F/C, 6’11” (Arizona)
Stay tuned for plenty of 2022 NBA Draft Coverage in the coming months, and check out our NBA Draft Zone page to stay up to date.