For the first time in nine years, when I ranked NBA draft candidates by tier, I paid serious attention to putting three players at the top tier. Be that as it may, the two players entered the top tier for only the third time.
Which says something about the 2022 NBA draft.
This project doesn’t look particularly strong at the top. (Caution: Draft quality ratings at the time are often wrong. However, that won’t stop me from making one rating.) As a general rule, the better the perspective, the bigger the outline.
It takes a while before there are prospects that I like in their draft slot versus the average draft. This first round draft commission won’t show it, but this draft offers a better chance of getting into the top half of the second round than usual. This group includes numerous wide/all-round forwards who are young and promising, or capable college veterans whose productivity can be taken to the next level. I obviously wouldn’t bet on them in the first round or they would have won on the first round board. But among the anomalously large number of viable secondary candidates for these ever-demanding positions, some are sure to turn out to be successful.
As far as the players I’ve ranked, here’s the methodology behind my level system:
Draft out of necessity or take the best player available?
This question is as old as the drafts themselves. Personally, I prefer an intermediate approach – a layered system. I evaluate prospects in three ways:
- Current ability
- Probability of meeting this potential
Obviously, it is not easy to evaluate these attributes. It’s really difficult.
That’s why I don’t like to pick the best potential customer – based on all three criteria – available. It’s just too hard to split opinions between players with so many variables.
But over-focusing on fit is problematic for the same reason. Lineups change, and it’s foolish to turn down a clearly superior candidate – in cases where it becomes obvious – just because he doesn’t fit the current version of the team.
So how does a layered system work?
Divide players into levels based on their value, regardless of fitness. Don’t worry about differentiating leads with almost the same values. Find natural cutoffs.
Then, at each level, rank players based on their suitability for a particular drafting team.
Theoretically, a draft can have from 1 to 60 levels. A one-tier draft would mean that all leads—from first pick to Mister Irrelevant—have the same value. A 60-level project will mean that every potential customer is clearly identifiable in value. Clearly, neither is likely.
The size of the tiers should be organic, which means that the number of tiers is also organic. Naturally, the levels tend to be smaller at the top of the draft, where the boundaries between players are clearer.
Within each level, I rank the players as if the draft teams had empty rosters. Obviously, real NBA teams will need to take into account other information when evaluating players for a certain level.
Here are 11 tiers spanning the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft:
one. Jabari Smithforward, Auburn
Smith has a perfectly even throw and at 6ft 10in he can hit anyone. He’s a fierce perimeter defender, and with his size and strength, he’s more than holding his own inside. A better choice would ideally bring more offensive creations. But Smith is positioned as an elite offensive support player with his shots and a good defensive player with his switchability. In addition, Smith, who just turned 19 last month and is the youngest prospect in the top three, may find more opportunities to influence games.
2. Chet Holmgrencenter/power forward, Gonzaga
Holmgren has a unique profile that is both exciting and nerve-wracking. He is 7ft 195lbs with a thin body which does not suggest that he will add much strength. But he makes up for it with toughness and basketball intelligence. Holmgren uses his 7ft 6in wingspan to block tons of punches, both close to the hoop and in space. He’s great with both hands – especially off offensive rebounds – and can dribble, pass and shoot from the perimeter like few players of his size.
3. Paolo Bankeropower forward, duke
Banchero is great with the ball for his size (6’10”, 250 pounds). Using his strength and control of the ball, he scores for himself and others. To reach his potential, Banchero must smooth out his erratic shooting. His departure is even further away. Bunchero was such a passive defender in Duke. His chemistry with limited and large center Mark Williams reassuring because Banchero’s defense will likely mean he has to play close to center in the NBA (another reason so much depends on his improvement in three-pointers).
four. Schaedon Sharpwing, Kentucky
Sharp decided to sit out last season, which may be the only reason he doesn’t take the top spot. Or be the reason he ranks so high! Sharpe has a crazy vertical. He’s a good shooter and has tricks to hit the perimeter. Especially for such a jumper, his first step is not as fast, which limits his ability to reach the ring on the half court. I don’t like his shot selection, court vision and defensive habits, especially since his development has been interrupted over the past year. But Sharpe’s physique (6’5″ with a 7′ wingspan), athleticism and talent give him tantalizing advantages.
5. Jayden Iveysecurity, Purdue
Ivy has an amazing explosion when attacking the basket. He has a great first step, great speed and a great ability to get up quickly and finish over the ring. With all the attention he’ll be getting as a racer, he doesn’t need to be a great passer to be an effective passer, but his court vision is still too weak. His jump shooting has improved a lot, but he still has room to improve. Ivey is fickle defensively, making a few encouraging chances, but failing to deliver on his mission game after game.
6. Benedict Maturinwing, Arizona
Mathurin’s appeal begins with his versatile three-point shot. He moves in his kick and then regains his balance so quickly. He is an excellent athlete – both fast and jumpy, although he does not rise from one foot to two (the problem of his frequent trips). His defensive basics are quite disappointing, but his physical tools at 6ft 7in are a definite plus. He improved as a passer.
7. Keegan Murrayforward, Iowa
Murray, who turns 22 this summer, should be more polished than his lottery peers – and he is. Some of his unwanted ratings may not be translated. But he’s a stunning 3-point shooter with a clean shot. His offensive rebounds show the ability to see the floor and handle the ball. Murray competes defensively, making good use of his strength and fitness, although speed can be a disadvantage. He is neither an outstanding passer nor a multi-position defender, two skills a player often uses to help his team become more than the sum of its parts. I see a pretty big drop in the quality of leads after it.
eight. AJ Griffinwing, duke
In today’s NBA, 3-point shooting is a very important skill, and Griffin is damn good at 3-point shooting. Finding fault with his specialty, his wide shooting stance raises questions about his ability to fire on the move. It has a good size (6’7″ with a 7′ wingspan) and strength. Griffin is comfortable driving. But he has poor lateral mobility in defense. He suffered knee and ankle injuries as a high school student. The key question is: did they take away his flexibility in the long run, or explain a temporary problem that will be solved when he recovers?
9. Dyson Danielswing, G League Ignite
At 6’7″ and with a wingspan of 6’11”, Daniels is a quality multi-position defender. In addition to his impressive ball handling, he makes his presence felt as an assistant defender and on the passing lines. Daniels keeps the ball moving with accurate and accurate passes. Sometimes it seems that even before he has received the pass, he is in position for the best angle to make the next pass. He also helps by pushing the ball forward in the transition. His jumper is under development.
ten. Jeremy Sochanforward, Baylor
Sochan is dangerous in defense. He is aggressive on and off the ball and can switch to any position (although if a nominal center, he is not a perfect rim defender). He is 6ft 9in with a 7ft wingspan and physique. However, he is not an explosive player and is facing an adjustment after playing just 25 minutes per game coming off the Baylor bench. Sochan may be a better shooter than he showed at Baylor (30% on 3-pointers, 59% on free throws), but even so, he still has a long way to go with this near-critical skill. He has shown some ability as a ball carrier and passer.
eleven. Great Branhamshooting guard, Ohio State
Branham creates a valuable shot with the ball in his hands. He works best at knocking defenders out of rhythm rather than picking up the ball for mid-range jumpers. It can get to the rim without bouncing. He can also dribble in a threesome or release the ball quickly from behind the arc. At 6’5″ tall and with a wingspan of 6’10”, Branham has a good build for the position. But he has to fix his bad defense or his NBA coach won’t play him.
12. Tari Easonforward, LSU
Eason is an overly aggressive whirlwind of tools with high growth potential. He is 6’8″, strong and physical. He can defend several positions and get off the ball, but he fouls too many. He is a good dribbler for his position/style but lacks court vision to take advantage of his ball possession. While he has improved overall from his freshman year at Cincinnati to last season at LSU, he must continue to build up his 3-point shot to get closer to his potential.
13. Blake Wesleyshooting guard, Notre Dame
Wesley moves quickly on his feet, sliding the ball all the way to the edge or sticking with his mate/using his 6ft 9in swing to break passes. In attack, he shines with a great explosion and fast…