CHICAGO — Even though spending one week at the combine can sometimes feel like an entire month, quite a bit of business got done last week as the NBA gathered for its annual pre-draft summit. And between the draft lottery, combine scrimmages, G League Elite camp and a series of agent pro days (which continue in Los Angeles this week), the big picture of the 2022 draft has started coming into focus as we enter the final month-long sprint.
I wasn’t alone in thinking that the combine scrimmages themselves felt somewhat less consequential than past years: unlike 2021, nobody who took the court felt like a surefire first rounder by the end of the week. There was no obvious Josh Primo or Bones Hyland this time around. But after watching players up close in various settings, taking the pulse of the league and reconsidering my assessments to factor in new information and intel, here’s what I’m hearing and thinking regarding a wide range of noteworthy prospects, first-round and otherwise.
Dyson Daniels, G/F, G League Ignite
If there was ever actually any doubt, we can put it to rest: Daniels is a lock to come off the board in the Top 10, and it may come sooner than you think. Daniels has occupied the No. 8 spot on my big board since its first iteration in December, and much of the NBA shares that affinity. He measured out well at 6′ 7.5″ in shoes with a 6′ 10.5″ wingspan, shot the ball better than some expected at his pro day, and was widely regarded as an impressive interview. Daniels’ positional versatility, maturity, and productive year in the G League would all seem to be excellent indicators of continued success, and he’d have a real chance to start immediately on many lottery teams.
Although some of this may be dependent on teams trading around (which makes this a more speculative notion), in my mind there are feasible scenarios where Daniels could sneak into the top five or six picks. Perimeter players with his level of size and diverse skill set are where the NBA game is going. And while he doesn’t project as a top-flight scoring option, there’s a real chance Daniels becomes an immensely valuable support piece on a winning team. Anyone who missed the boat on Tyrese Haliburton should be wary of making a similar mistake here.
Shaedon Sharpe, SG, Kentucky | Freshman
As I mentioned in Thursday’s column, Sharpe’s name continued to come up in conversation around the combine for various reasons: most of the NBA seems convinced he’ll come off the board in the first six or seven picks, it’s just unclear at this point which teams will actually be comfortable taking the plunge. Sharpe’s overall talent level is obvious, but there were mixed opinions on his pro day, and some teams were put off by the fact he spent much of his allotted time operating at a pretty casual speed. And while his time at Kentucky presumably helped behind the scenes, for better or worse, Sharpe will be the first lottery pick to make the jump to the NBA without logging a college or professional minute since Thon Maker in 2016.
There seems to be little doubt about Sharpe’s athleticism or skill level, but there’s also strong sentiment from teams that all the unknown factors with his forthcoming adjustment create substantial risk. It’s hard to see him falling very far in the draft, but I will emphasize again that where Sharpe lands will hinge heavily on how things go for him behind the scenes in individual workouts, and how his camp handles the predraft process. His unique talent and situation creates a fascinating conundrum to monitor.
Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor | Freshman
For what it’s worth, I thought Sochan had a really impressive pro day on Thursday, showcasing his physicality, skill level and energy in a setting where sometimes that’s a little bit harder to do than you think. He went hard for his entire time, looked to be in excellent shape, and moves exceptionally well for his size. There’s variance of opinion around the NBA on his jump shot, and Sochan didn’t shoot it great in that workout, but his mechanics are workable and I came away feeling fairly good about the chances that he eventually becomes a consistent threat from distance.
Similar to Daniels, Sochan is a versatile, tough player who has quietly gathered quite a bit of support around the NBA, and someone who has interviewed well and impressed on the intangibles front. If he’s a capable floor spacer who can defend multiple positions and play with his type of competitive mettle, that’s a starting-caliber player with upside as a supporting piece. His offensive game needs a lot of fleshing out, but you can squint and see how it all might work. There’s a pretty real chance he goes in the Top 10, and if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t expect him to fall much further.
Mark Williams, Duke | Sophomore
Many around the league have wondered for months whether Williams can be the first center selected in this draft and overtake Memphis’s Jalen Duren, who was penciled in there for a while. It’s an idea that’s gathered momentum over time, and right now it feels to me like things are trending that way. While Duren—whom keen observers have felt appears shorter than his listed 6′ 11″—opted not to test or measure at the combine, Williams turned out to be even larger than expected.
Already viewed by many as the top rim-protecting center in the class, Williams came in at 7′ 2″ in shoes, with a 7′ 6″ wingspan and 9′ 9″ standing reach to boot. While he doesn’t space the floor, Williams is a good athlete, and factoring in his sheer size and developing smarts from a positioning standpoint, he has more to offer than usual for a rim-running, non-shooting big. And after the top couple groups of prospects are off the board, Williams becomes a pretty appealing option.
Patrick Baldwin Jr., F, Milwaukee | Freshman
After a year in college where pretty much nothing went right for him, Baldwin remains pretty polarizing around the NBA. There’s a segment of scouts who seem to be entirely out on him, and the fact he didn’t perform well in athletic testing threw more fuel on that fire. But after watching Baldwin’s pro day and seeing him work out in private earlier this month, I’ve come away feeling like there should be much more room for optimism. Ultimately, I think he moved the needle in a positive way at the combine, measuring at 6′ 10.25″ in shoes with a 9′ 2.5″ standing reach, showcasing his elite shooting chops and ball skills at that size at his pro day and reminding teams in that setting why he was once so highly regarded.
Baldwin is still working his way back into shape after two years of checkered health, and there’s a glass-half-full scenario here where he stays healthy, regains confidence in his body, can progress steadily and ultimately becomes a valuable contributor. You can’t throw the poor testing totally out the window, and I do worry about him a bit defensively, but players with his skill level and frame don’t come around often. There’s still significant risk attached here if his run of poor luck continues, but at a certain point in the draft, Baldwin becomes a serious value proposition. Writing him off completely would be a mistake, and I have a hard time thinking a team won’t roll the dice somewhere in the first round.
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Jalen Williams, G/F, Santa Clara | Junior
Amongst the players who actually played at the combine, Williams had one of the better weeks, showcasing his array of skills and feel for the game in the scrimmages, performing well in athletic testing, and measuring with a 7′ 2.25″ wingspan despite coming in at 6′ 5.75″ in shoes. Williams is factually more athletic than he looks on the court in certain situations, but he has sort of a boxy frame that limits his shiftiness in tight spaces, and his handle can get a little loose. There’s ultimately a lot to like here considering the need for viable wings who can handle, pass, shoot, and complement star talent. After coming into the week projected as a second-rounder, he’s separated himself a bit and likely worked his way into the 25-35 range of the draft, depending on how the rest of the process plays out for him.
Trevor Keels, G, Duke | Freshman
Keels held a late-night pro day workout that many executives stuck around for, reflecting the general level of curiosity about the 18-year-old guard after an uneven freshman year at Duke. He now faces a difficult decision on whether to turn pro—where it no longer feels like it’s a certainty he’s picked in the 20s—or return to a sizable college role and have a chance to prove himself further and improve his body. Keels has good size for a combo guard, but there was some concern about his 13.5% body fat, overall foot speed and poor athletic testing, and some scouts don’t seem entirely convinced he’s more than an average jump shooter. Keels will get drafted if he comes out, but this feels like a situation where he can actually answer some of the questions and solidify first-round status in college, rather than entering the league now and immediately start fighting to become part of an NBA team’s long-term plans.
Terquavion Smith, G, NC State | Freshman
One of five prospects profiled in my recent piece on sleepers, Smith played an excellent first half of the first day of scrimmages, struggled in the second half, then shut it down on day two, teasing scouts with his scoring ability and making some surprisingly nice passing decisions. At 6′ 3.75″ in shoes and just 165 pounds, his physical profile isn’t ideal for an NBA combo guard, but he’s an impressive athlete and has some unique instincts for making plays. There’s certainly interest in him around the league, but I also heard some concerns from teams about his maturity, and the role he plays isn’t necessarily a must-have on a winning team. The success of Bones Hyland in last year’s draft could certainly help Smith’s case, but so could returning to college and proving he can be much more efficient. He’s undeniably a unique talent, and remains in the late first-round discussion.
Leonard Miller, F, Fort Erie International Academy
In a year where so many prospects declined to play at all, the 18-year-old Miller certainly earned some respect from teams by deciding to participate in scrimmages, despite the fact he’s attempting to make a leap directly from high school in Canada. Historically, teenage prospects carrying similar levels of mystery have often chosen not to play at the combine in order to protect their stock. Miller certainly wasn’t perfect — the first day of scrimmages looked a bit too fast for him, and his shooting mechanics aren’t great — but he’s got a projectable frame at 6’10” in shoes with a 7′ 2″ wingspan and good ball-skills and passing feel at his size.
This was my first time watching Miller in person, and I came away with a better understanding of what makes him an appealing project even though he didn’t set the world on fire in the games. It goes to show that prospects don’t always need to tiptoe around playing at the combine, even though many of them always do. Miller is still a ways away from helping an NBA team, but my interest was piqued a bit, and he’s still considering G League Ignite and Arizona for next season. If he stays in, he’s draftable, although a leap of faith is required.
Michael Foster, F, G League Ignite
Foster left a nice impression in two days of combine scrimmages and seriously aided himself by showing up in incredible shape: I was told he’s dropped 14 pounds since the season ended (he weighed in at 236), and the transformation in his body has made him a lot more mobile. He looks like he may have a chance to defend on the perimeter now, and teams were impressed by the serious commitment he showed to losing the weight. If he can stay in this type of shape and continue to play with the type of energy he showed in the scrimmages, teams will be much more willing to live with the occasional mistakes he’s going to make along the way. Foster’s shot selection remains a bit questionable, but he also made several really impressive passes and displayed a better understanding of his role than many of the other project bigs. At 6′ 9.25″ in shoes with a 7′ 0.25″ wingspan, his physical profile and upward trajectory should help him get drafted, and certainly helped me rethink where his development might be headed in a positive way.
Marcus Sasser, PG, Houston | Junior
Sasser was terrific at G League Elite Camp, earned a callup to the combine, and also had an excellent showing at his pro day, creating some real momentum considering he had foot surgery in December and missed the majority of his junior year at Houston. He’s a terrific shooter and tough defender with a good build for his size, measuring at 6′ 2.75″ in shoes and a 6′ 7″ wingspan. He projects as a pretty solid backup point guard with some potential for more, and I deeply regret leaving him off the last Big Board entirely due to the uncertainty over his health. He’s back in playing shape, and from a college basketball standpoint, Sasser may have the most consequential stay-or-go decision to make: if he returns, the Cougars should be a Final Four-caliber team. He’s done enough now to make teams seriously think about drafting him this year.
John Butler, F/C, Florida State | Freshman
I mentioned Butler in Thursday’s column, and was pleasantly surprised by him in both combine scrimmages: he’s uniquely built to say the last at 7′ 0.75″ in shoes and 174 pounds, but he found a way to impact the game with his length and spot-up shooting, and can handle the ball and operate a bit better than he showed in college. Butler can still return to Florida State, but there’s a case that he might be better off developing immediately in the pros, where a team can help oversee him gaining strength and play him in a more translatable role as a perimeter-oriented big. Butler clearly has a bit more feel than was evident in college, but it’s also possible that his narrow frame never improves all that much, which would make him pretty limited in the NBA in the long run. Regardless, he’s unique enough to where someone might want to take him in the second round and find out what they have.
Tyrese Martin, G/F, Connecticut | Senior
Another player who earned a call-up to the combine from G League Elite Camp, I recently highlighted Martin as a sleeper to watch, and he gained some traction this week with reliable play across four scrimmages. He measured surprisingly well at 6′ 6.75″ in shoes, and looks the part as an older plug-and-play rookie and ideal candidate for a two-way contract, at the least. Martin is a tough, physical player who shoots and passes better than some expected, and can toggle between multiple positions on both ends of the ball. While the upside here may not be immense given he’s already 23 years old, he was among the more advanced players to take the court in Chicago, and helped himself out on the whole.
Andrew Nembhard, PG, Gonzaga | Senior
Nembhard missed the first day of combine games with a minor quad injury, but recovered enough to play on Friday and turned in arguably the best individual performance of the week, with 26 points and 11 assists as the lone point guard on a shorthanded roster. He’s sometimes a bit forgotten in the draft conversation and is a bit of an acquired taste with scouts: some really value his feel and playmaking, while others aren’t convinced by his jumper and are concerned with his athleticism. But Nembhard has had a pretty steady progression and was a major reason Gonzaga had success this year. He’s probably a backup at best in the NBA, but teams looking for immediate help in that regard will likely have some interest in a relatively thin point guard draft. His experience and maturity at 22 years old help him when pitted against his peers, but the next step will be separating himself relative to the rest of the backup point guard market, which is always deep with professional veterans young and old.
Darius Days, F, LSU | Senior
Days also fared well at G League Elite Camp and worked his way into the combine, making a difference with his energy and helping resuscitate his prospect status. Days is undersized for a power forward at 6′ 7″ in shoes, but has gotten in better shape, improved as a shooter, and plays quite hard, leaving hope that there may be a pathway for him as a PJ Tucker type of complementary player who can space the floor, rebound, and supply some toughness. Sticking in that role is a tall task for any player to accomplish, but Days looks like a viable two-way contract candidate after becoming a somewhat forgotten man at LSU this year.
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