2022 NBA Draft

Top 10 Prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft

Here's a look at the 10 best players in this week's NBA draft

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Top 10 prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

It’s time to find out where the top prospects are going in the 2022 NBA Draft.

The annual event is set to be an exciting one because there’s no real consensus this year with the No. 1 overall pick. Three players have the best case to go first, but no matter how much research you do, there’s no telling how the actual draft order will play out.

So which players do you need to watch for? Here are 10 prospects projected to go early in the first round:

10. Tari Eason, F, LSU

Eason has a similar archetype to Jeremy Sochan of Baylor, though he possesses more explosive athleticism. After spending his freshman season at Cincinnati, Eason came to LSU for his sophomore year and flourished in a reserve role, another similarity to Sochan. Eason’s numbers were better, though: 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 1.1 blocks, 1.0 assists. He improved his 3-point percentage to 35.9% on 2.4 attempts and was a lethal transition scorer. He played most of his minutes at center, but measuring 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan at the NBA Draft Combine, he has the body of a forward who can hang with guards on the perimeter. Eason’s off-ball defense should also translate to the big leagues. He’ll be 21 for his entire rookie season.

9. AJ Griffin, G/F, Duke

Griffin’s numbers don’t pop out – 10.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists – but he was on a stacked Blue Devils squad, so he didn’t shoulder heavy scoring or playmaking responsibilities. His best trait, though, was how he made his shots. He can get buckets from mid-range or 3-point range in various ways, along with being a pure knockdown shooter. His 3-point percentage was 44.7% on 4.1 attempts in his lone season at Duke. At 6-foot-6 and 222 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, Griffin projects to be a high-level 3-and-D player, though ironing out his defensive abilities and awareness is on the list of skills to develop. There’s a chance Griffin could go in the top five since he’ll be turning 19 in August, giving him more time to reach his potential, but he comes in at No. 9 on this list. 

8. Bennedict Mathurin, G/F, Arizona

Mathurin continues a trend of sophomores – which we’ll get into later – who took on larger roles and flashed budding potential. Mathurin, measuring 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, could become a big-time shotmaking 2 guard at the NBA level who can defend the 3 if he adds more muscle. He averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 37 games this season, all up from his freshman campaign. He shot 45% overall and 36.9% from deep (6.1 attempts), but a good portion of his attempts were contested or difficult looks. He’s an explosive athlete who can play on and off the ball, and if he’s playing alongside a lead guard (think Devin Booker with Chris Paul), there’s plenty to admire about his potential.

7. Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite

Daniels is arguably the most intriguing prospect that has shot up draft boards in recent weeks. The 19-year-old Australian guard measured just under 6-foot-8 in shoes with a 6-foot-11 wingspan at the combine. He spent his year getting experience with the G League Ignite and posted 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.9 steals in 14 games. Having a facilitator with that size is a huge mismatch for opposing defenses, and Daniels is already a strong, versatile defender with a good IQ and work ethic.

His biggest flaw is long-range shooting, hitting just 25.5% of his 3s on 3.6 attempts. The release has promise, but fellow Australian Josh Giddey went No. 6 overall last year despite being seen as a latter-half lottery pick. If his shot comes around, that potential is really, really scary. The team that drafts him, though, will need patience with his development. 

6. Keegan Murray, F, Iowa

After the top three, the three common names who emerge in the following tier are Jaden Ivey, Shaedon Sharpe and Murray, who comes in at No. 6. After taking a bench role at Iowa as a freshman, Murray soared as a Hawkeye in his sophomore season. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals in 35 games. He shot 55.4% overall and 39.8% from deep on 4.7 attempts. He can defend multiple positions and is a safe bet to become an immediate impact player regardless of his role since he’s adept in several categories. His age – he’ll be 22 in August – is a con for a potential top-five pick, but his two-way ability at his size and position is a major plus.

5. Shaedon Sharpe, Kentucky

Sharpe, a 19-year-old guard out of Kentucky, is this year’s biggest mystery. He didn’t play his freshman year, which he confirmed was his own decision in a pre-draft news conference. Team scouts have only high school tape to study along with individual workouts he has done in recent weeks. He measured 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan at the combine, and with what he’s shown on tape, he can evolve into a team’s go-to option. He can jump out of the gym and has sharp shotmaking skills from mid-range and beyond. He’s going to be a major gamble for whichever franchise selects him, but he has all the tools of a top prospect. 

4. Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue

At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Ivey’s name pops up the most right after the consensus top-three prospects. Like fellow possible top-five pick Keegan Murray, he also improved his numbers across the board as a sophomore: 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals. Ivey’s explosiveness is what makes him dangerous, whether that’s in the open court or in half-court sets. The shot-making potential is definitely there, but he will need to become a lead guard to uncover his full power. That wasn’t always the case at Purdue, where he’d become invisible in key moments or when he’d not give effort on defense that led to easy buckets. Ivey is a common name at No. 4, but Sharpe and Murray are also strong possibilities here if none of the top three fall. 

3. Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga

Holmgren has been on the NBA radar since his high school days. The 7-foot center is not your traditional prospect at the 5. In 32 games as a freshman at Gonzaga, Holmgren averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 3.7 blocks. The other key stat? He made 39% of his 3s on 3.3 attempts. Anytime you can add a center who can shut down the paint on defense while being a versatile scorer and passer on offense, you do it. The main improvement needed for Holmgren is bulking up. He’s listed at 195 pounds, which is not the optimal size for an NBA center, especially factoring how it takes longer for bigs like Holmgren to develop and adjust to the NBA playstyle. He rounds out the top three players who could be the first prospect off the board.

2. Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn

It’s a good time to be a fan of lengthy forwards who can shoot, defend and make plays at a high level. Smith’s freshman season at Auburn was also a success. He averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks in 34 games. Smith comes in below Banchero because he can already defend and shoot (42% from 3 on 5.5 attempts) at a high level. He’s still a safe bet to become a future star in the league at 6-foot-10 who is still just 19, and don’t be surprised if he goes No. 1.

1. Paolo Banchero, F, Duke

Banchero made waves in his only season at Duke to warrant the top spot here. In 39 games, he averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks as a 6-foot-10 power forward who can put the ball on the floor and score, or find open teammates off of help defense. The upside here is his below-average 3-point percentage (33.8% on 3.3 attempts) and becoming a more consistent and engaged defender. He shot 52.6% from deep (10/19) during the NCAA Tournament that painted a better picture of his potential. He’ll turn 20 in November and is one of three players widely considered to go No. 1 overall.

Honorable mentions:

Ousmane Dieng, New Zealand: a 6-foot-10 forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan who can play the 3 or 4 and possesses guard-like ball-handling abilities with projections to be an impact defender across several positions; turned 19 in May so there’s a ton of potential with his size and talent

Jeremy Sochan, Baylor: versatile two-way big man who is reminiscent of Draymond Green and will be 19 as a rookie; he can guard down low and out on the perimeter and has flashed potential as a small-ball center

Jalen Duren, Memphis: explosive 6-foot-11 center with a 7-foot-5 wingspan; one of the youngest players in the draft who needs to add more moves to his arsenal

Malaki Branham, Ohio State: took the draft world by surprise with his freshman play; can get his own shot but needs to sustain shooting success and gradually improve passing abilities

Johnny Davis, Wisconsin: sophomore guard who prospered as a mid-range scorer; needs to add a reliable 3-point shot to become a lead guard

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