It’s the time of year that NBA fans clamour for, the draft. Last week, executives and scouts from every NBA team flocked to Wintrust Arena in Chicago for the 2022 NBA draft combine. Everyone took away something new from the measurements, athletic tests, and scrimmages. Teams clearly value the combine, as Josh Primo, Bones Hyland, Josh Christopher, and Quentin Grimes all went earlier in last year’s draft than they would have if they had not participated. But who made their mark? And who damaged their chances? Here’s a look at some of the prospects for the draft after the combine.
Chet Holmgren ready-made for the NBA
Holmgren’s potential as a shot-blocking, extendable big man at the next level alone makes him worth the first choice. The Gonzaga Bulldog doesn’t try to overpower his opponents but is instead patient, picks his spot and uses his superior positional play to steer them where he wants them to go. He’s at ease in areas where other big men struggle. He has plenty of offensive flexibility and can score at all three levels, whether it’s lob-catching, 3-point shooting, or anything in between. At his size, Holmgren’s sense of the game is unrivalled. One of the few bigger prospects with a good handle and great vision. His shot is fantastic, and there’s evidence to back it up with an average of 15 points a game. He is by no means the finished article with his thinner frame likely to make him an easy target for more physical defenders but he is the favourite to be picked first overall according to odds sourced by the best betting apps. Regardless of his various concerns, he’ll be a professional and immensely competitive stretch shooter at the very least.
Paolo Banchero more than impressive for Duke
Banchero has long been considered one of the best prospects for this class and with good reason. Banchero’s mix of size and skill is rare, and it perfectly complements the NBA’s ever-changing style of play. Banchero will go through periods where he does not assert himself, but if he decides to take over a game, he is practically unbeatable. Likely the most NBA-ready prospect in the top five, at 6-foot-10, 250-pounds, Banchero is a mismatch nightmare and will continue to be so at the next level. He can handle the ball well and isn’t scared of contact, which makes him a wrecking ball when he attacks the rim. Banchero can finish with both strength and elegance, but his mid-range play is a masterclass. Banchero uses his jab step like a seasoned veteran to repeatedly demolish defenders. As a defender, Banchero has some work to do. He frequently gets caught ball-watching, is inconsistent with his rotations, and doesn’t properly communicate switches. Despite that, among players in this class, few have as much potential as Banchero.
Jaden Ivy’s athleticism is unrivalled
When Ivey gets up to speed, few will be able to deal with him. Ivey’s blazing speed is most evident in transition, where he poses the most threat. He can go from end to end in a flash and has a varied scoring package. Ivey is a master of speed and rarely loses control, allowing him to contort in mid-air and decelerate to eliminate defenders. Ivey has also shown that his incredible rim pressure causes defences to collapse, allowing him to kick out passes to open shooters. Ivey has a strong right-hand dominance and rarely strikes from the left. Although stopping him from moving right is nearly impossible, NBA defenders will focus on it. Ivey has already drawn comparisons to some of the NBA’s best and deservedly so. He’s explosive, creative and has fine enough decision-making to project as a No. 1 or 2 on nearly any team near the bottom of the standings.
Jabari Smith – a revelation this season
Smith, who stands 6’10 and weighs 220 pounds, is one of, if not the best, perimeter defenders in the country. His footwork is flawless, and he can defend almost any position on the court. Smith’s lack of explosiveness limits his rim-protecting ability, but his footwork, strength, and lateral agility make him difficult to score on. Smith has a ridiculous amount of offensive potential. He doesn’t pass much, but his shooting technique, size, and release point combine to make him one of the top shooters in the country. Smith demonstrates his ability to routinely hit three-pointers, mid-range fadeaways, and closeouts. At every level of basketball, Smith’s sniper-like skills are highly sought after. His frame could enable him to become even more of an attentive isolation defender. Even if it’s not off the dribble, he gets his shots in a variety of ways: transition threes, pull-ups, and step-backs. His performances for Auburn this term have shown what he is capable of and that he can hang with the best of them at the elite level.
A.J. Griffin the best of the rest outside the top three
Griffin, an energetic and athletic sniper, may play a number of roles in the NBA. He’s big enough to score on the inside, and his outside shooting percentages are ridiculously good. Griffin has quickly demonstrated that he is one of the top shooters in this class and will provide solid outside shooting to an NBA team from day one. Griffin has also begun to show more off-the-bounce ability. He hasn’t had many chances to create off the dribble, but what he has done so far has been impressive. Despite his unusually broad base, Griffin’s mechanics are constant. He can attack close-ins, dash off screens, and shoot from a distance. Griffin hasn’t demonstrated much creativity but his shooting alone makes him a tantalizing prospect. It’s hard to imagine him falling too far in the draft when you factor in the upside with the rest of his game.