Monday, June 27

NBA Draft 2022: 7 players to follow and which teams could pick them

The draft conversation is heating up as the combine approaches and players begin to travel across the country for workouts.

A couple of players are already making waves and attracting the attention of teams. The Los Angeles Lakers have already welcomed six more draft prospects for their sixth offseason workout.

These are some of the top players to keep an eye on.

Jabari Smith Jr

Smith’s case for being drafted first is simple: he’s arguably the best pure freshman jump shooter in years, an excellent, switchable defender, his intangibles are strong, and he’s by far the youngest of the draft’s elite prospects.

Smith’s jumper is a fantastic foundation on which to build other offensive skills, and his upside is limitless as he expands his repertoire of moves, improves his footwork, and tightens his handle. He shouldn’t have to waste many dribbles in order to score effectively, and he can be used as a pick-and-pop scorer and dangerous floor spacer right away.

Smith didn’t get to the rim very often in college, but that was partly due to Auburn’s style of play. That should change as he gains strength and matures physically.

Smith has good instincts and few bad habits, and as he expands his scoring repertoire, he could be a near-impossible cover by the time he reaches his prime. In most drafts, he’d be a legitimate first-round pick candidate. I’m not going to overthink this.

Jaden Ivey

It’s difficult not to get caught up in the possibilities that Ivey’s physical tools and explosive speed could open up in the pros, and that enticing upside should propel him to the top of the draft board.

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He’s extremely fast and strong, he puts a lot of pressure on defenses in transition, and the NBA’s style of play will open up a lot of opportunities for him. When he wants to be, he can be a powerful defender, which is something he can control.

Paolo Banchero

Banchero struggled in conference play, but his skill, size, and versatility make him a valuable commodity. He appears to be a fairly certain bet to be a very good player. Banchero has struggled with efficiency at times, but as long as his jumper improves, he should be a dangerous offensive option and a potential go-to guy who can create opportunities for others by scoring.

The main source of concern is that he is a below-average run-jump athlete by NBA standards, relying on strength and coordination rather than speed and explosive vertical play, which limits his ability to score around the rim and defend it on the other end. Banchero isn’t particularly versatile on defense, and there’s some concern that whatever he gives up there will limit his overall value.

He is, however, a high-volume player with a league-ready offensive game. His passing skills and ability to create mismatches will allow him to jump right in. If everything goes according to plan, Banchero has All-Star potential.

Chet Holmgren

Holmgren is a one-of-a-kind talent and one of the draft’s most divisive prospects. Few 7-footers can defend the basket, handle the ball, make clutch plays, and spread the floor.

The problem is that it’s difficult to separate Holmgren’s accomplishments and flaws from his slender frame, which allowed him to make a significant impact on defense in college but will present some challenges as he adjusts to playing against more experienced opponents who can negate some of his physical advantage.

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Holmgren is gifted in many areas, and his statistical case is undeniably strong, but NBA teams are putting more emphasis on how he dominated lesser teams in conference play than on how he dominated teams with quality bigs.

Shaedon Sharpe

Sharpe will hear his name called early in the draft despite never playing a college game after reclassifying to attend Kentucky a year early and then sitting out the season.

That speaks to his considerable potential: he’s an extremely explosive and smooth athlete capable of creating his own shots as well as making difficult ones. If everything goes according to plan, his strengths point to star-like results. Sharpe can easily create separation off the dribble and, if his shooting improves, he could be a dangerous offensive option and three-level scoring threat.

Sharpe has some bad habits, and he, like most players transitioning from high school, needs to mature in terms of motor and tendencies. Given that most high-level executives haven’t seen him play in person, there’s a lot of speculation.

Keegan Murray

Murray could build on his rise to the top of the college basketball rankings by becoming one of the NBA’s most productive rookies next season, displaying a mature, polished game befitting his age. He’ll almost certainly be the oldest player selected in the lottery, but his skills appear to be transferable enough that teams aren’t concerned.

Murray is a high-energy, smart player who can make an impact on the game without calling his number by crashing the glass, knocking down shots, and staying active. His ability to score in tight spaces and play off of teammates, as well as his long frame and defensive versatility, make him a safe bet to be a starting forward.

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Johnny Davis

Davis has the potential to be an elite midrange scorer, he’s a great defender and rebounder, and he’s one of the most competitive players in the draft, with the kind of intangibles that could help him reach his full potential.

Davis struggled with efficiency for much of the second half of the season due to minor injuries, but he did leave a lot of good stuff on film in the early going. He takes a lot of difficult shots, but he isn’t selfish, and he has consistently found ways to contribute to the team’s success other than scoring.

NBA teams value his dependability and everything he brings to the table, with scouts debating his upside versus other high-quality options early in the draft.

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