2022 NBA Draft Big Board
Welcome to my fifth annual NBA Draft Big Board. I do not watch college basketball and have spent little time intentionally learning anything about these prospects. I believe that this gives me the best possible perspective on the NBA draft, as the history of the draft makes it clear that people who do watch lots of college basketball are not very good at picking the best players.
These rankings are based entirely on the most important factor in evaluating draft prospects: random information that has wormed its way into my brain via The Internet. As with all prior years, it's important to note that this Big Board is a scientific document; any eventual variance from these results was the fault of the drafting teams, not of my expert analysis.
1. Paolo Banchero, Jayson Tatum's Duke University
Combining the height of a center, the scoring versatility of a wing, the social media presence of a seasoned NBA veteran, and an Italian-ness that Pat Riley could only dream of, Paolo is the closest thing to a "can't miss" prospect in this mostly "can miss" draft.
I've heard concerns with his defense. Those seem to focus on that he's not quick enough to guard wings but not long and athletic enough to be a traditional center. For those reasons he might not be a high-tier #1 prospect but the right building blocks are there and also I was hearing about him a few years ago which is usually a good sign. He's possibly a Celtics fan.
2. Jaden Ivey, Chicken & Opiates University
The most athletic major prospect in this class is a 6'4" combo-guard which is a combination of "star potential" and "role player" energies I struggle to deal with. If any of the other top prospects were shot-creating wings I'd put them above Ivey but they're not so I won't. I was forced to put Jalen Green #2 last year and didn't feel great about it; I feel worse about this. I suspect that this class isn't great.
3. Chet Holmgren, Still Never Champions Gonzaga
There's a lot to like here with a shot-blocking, three point shooting, high pedigree prospect. However, he's also named Chet and everyone in the league is going to be trying to dunk on him because he's tall and goofy looking. I'm still willing to take the risk but I'm also taking out an insurance policy on him in case Ja Morant literally kills him on the court.
4. AJ Griffin, Gryffinduke
The people who like Griffin really like him. The people who don't just seem kind of indifferent towards him. The result is that I see some people comparing him to the greatest off-the-catch shooters in league history and then others slotting him at 14 on their boards with a caption that just says "Pretty good, I guess." I'm going to mistake excitement from boosters for genuine upside and put him fourth, despite also knowing that he has a "wide base" when shooting.
5. Shaedon Sharpe, Mirror Dimension
Professional sports are in no small part about confidence in one's self. There is no act that could show this confidence more than saying that teams don't need to see you even play basketball for a year before committing millions of dollars to you for the explicit purpose of playing basketball.
To some people, that act would be a red flag. To me, a person making all these evaluations without having seen the players play, it is a bright green light.
6. Jabari Smith, Auburn
Every year I take one of the players in the top-3 and put them at six in hopes of "baiting clicks." This year, that player is Jabari Smith. Just remember, if he is a bust I never believed in him but if he succeeds, ranking someone six doesn't mean I thought he was bad!
That being said, nothing screams "intriguing but ultimately disappointing player" like the phrase "The Orlando Magic select..." If Parker were mocked to a team that plays in a real location instead of the housing development next to a theme park I would think more highly of him.
7. Keegan Murray, Iowa
What would happen if Benjamin Button visited the beach in the movie Old and he was also a 6'8" foward? All I ever hear about Murray is that he's an old prospect but as far as I can tell he's 21. There's an age above which it's dangerous to pick a player early in the draft but I think that line is 21 and 21 is not over 21. He's 6'8" and can shoot and defend and possibly dribble which will always put a player relatively high on my board.
8. Jeremy Sochan, Baylor (née Wimbledon F.C.)
A Polish-American Oklahoman from Milton Keynes who is 6'9" but can't shoot? If only Sam Presti's Fightin' Thunder had a pick slightly higher up (or lower down) where they could take this kid. Oh wait, they have every pick in every future draft and can trade up for him. They should do that.
9. Bennedict Mathurin
Using a player's name to judge them feels like a Bill Simmons rip-off but that famous LA Clippers Super Fan didn't invent nominative determinism. The scientific name for that has been around since 1994 and has been observed as a concept as far back as Roman times. Rome still exists and so we're technically still in Roman times but you get what I mean.
Bennedict Mathurin is not going to score at the NBA level which is a problem because that seems to be his primary skill as a prospect. However, Ben Mathurin can score at the NBA level and so I'm willing to draft him and then instruct my local announcers to simply call him that. This might not work beyond the first round of the playoffs where all games switch to only national broadcasts but beyond the top picks you can't expect to get players who can contribute deep into the playoffs, anyway.
10-11. Dalen Tari Eason, Louisizona
Commonly referred to as "The Homonym Twins" in scouting circles, these two 6'7" wings are known for their defense and hustle which is shorthand for "crappy offense." The league needs guys who are 6'7" and run around a lot and that's not an infinite resource so I'm high on both of this guy. Anyone who misses out on them should trade for Aaron Nesmith who is also 6'6" and runs around a lot.
12. Dyson Daniels, Gatorade League Ignite Presented by Coinbase.eth or Something
Daniels showcased his size, defense, and passing in the G-League (I assume, having not watched him). He also showed his complete inability to shoot. I heard someone say he shot like 60% from the FT line? And he's a point guard? I want to have him higher because he sounds cool but I can't deal with watching missed free throws.
13. Jalen Duren, Memphis
I've seen him compared to Robert Williams. Also I think he's super young. That's a start.
My guess is that the comparisons to Robert Williams are just shot blocking and probably dunking and not the passing or supreme coolness. If I believed he had all those things I'd have him in the top-5. As it stands he should probably be lower because it's hard to draft project centers high up in the draft but I don't like this class so whatever.
14. Nikola Jovic, MEGA BASKET
I constantly hear people say that he's not Nikola Jokic. While I want to believe them I also know that's exactly what someone would say if they were trying to sneak Nikola Jokic back into the draft under the cover of darkness. You reach a point in the draft where it's simply worth the risk that he actually is Jokic (or possibly a Jokic clone raised using the principles of bonsai horticulture to produce a smaller varietal).
15. TyTy Washington, University of Making High Level Guards Look Bad
Kentucky specializes in taking highly rated guard prospects and then making them look like mid-to-late round picks and then having them turn out good once they hit the NBA. Knowing that I should have Washington higher up my board but I only just discovered that he went to Kentucky and now it's too late for me to change things.
16. Ousmane Dieng, New Zealand Breakers
Tall and funky but can't shoot. The classic high ceiling / low floor archetype. I'm running out of things to say here. I know we're earlier in the draft than that normally starts to happen but did you hear that the Celtics were playing in the NBA Finals just a few days ago? I haven't had as much time to not watch film as I usually do.
17. E.J. Liddell, THE Ohio University of State
He's 6'7" and strong and can shoot spot-up jumpers and rebound. You could have five guys who fit that description just on your bench and feel pretty good about your team. There's very good role player pedigree here.
18. Ochai Agbaji, Kansas
What if E.J. Liddell were a bit older?
19. Johnny Davis, Wisconsin
We're firmly into "let's get some role players" territory here. I'm downgrading Davis behind Liddell and Agbaji for the cardinal sin of being a little bit more talented than them. I expect those two to know what they are right away. It might take Davis a while to figure out that he's a role player, too.
20. MarJon Beauchamp, Ignite!
I saw someone say he got that dog in him which is an extremely 2022 thing to say. Regardless, there's no way someone named MarJon Beauchamp doesn't end up playing in New Orleans or throwing energized playing cards with the X-Men.
21. Jalen Williams, Steve Nash School for the Performing Basketball Arts
He's 6'6" and can dribble and shoot but probably not defend despite having long arms? That's a tough player type to fit in but it can be useful coming in off the bench. If it turns out he can defend you've really got something but at the very least you have a player who your fans will watch highlights of and swear can play and should not be traded.
22. Mark Williams, Also Duke
23. Jake LaRavia, Wake Forest via Larry Bird's Indiana State
The best NBA height is 6'8" and there aren't a lot of guys who are exactly that height in this class. Depending on who you ask, LaRavia might be 6'8". A good-but-not-great shooter at 6'5" doesn't have much value but one who is 6'8" has a chance to be something. Also he went to Indiana State for a while.
24. Jacob Gilyard, Richmond
A sub-6', fifth year senior point guard? What could go wrong! Not an analytics darling as much an analytics oddity. He's the NBA's all-time steals leader (the concept of time being defined by how long that stat has been tracked) and steals are super valuable, as we *crying* saw in the NBA Finals *crying*.
25. Christian Braun, Kansas
What if Jake LaRavia didn't go to Larry Bird's Indianan State for a while?
I can't make it to 30. I tried but I just can't do it.