Draft Day is the most exciting day in the NBA season outside of a Game 7 in the Finals. Struggling teams can find hope in new talent, legends can be born, and stars in the making achieve their dream by making it to the NBA.
After an exciting March Madness tournament (and even more surprising NBA playoff upsets), it’s now time to look at the rookies coming into the upcoming 2022-2023 season. Who has what it takes ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft on June 23 in Brooklyn, NY? Below, I’ve rounded up the 25 top prospects.
1. Paolo Banchero (Duke)
ACC Rookie of the Year with Duke, Banchero had two massive games in this year’s March Madness tournament, scoring 22 points in the third round and 20 points in his Final Four appearance vs. UNC. The freshman power forward also stands at 6’10”, which could make him an amazing two-way player on both sides of the court. Many analysts have Banchero in the top 3 picks overall.
2. Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga)
Many sports analysts and scouts project the 7-foot freshman to get the No. 1 pick this year, especially since he shot 39% from beyond the arc in addition to his height. What worries me, however, is that he’s a lanky kid who weighs only 195 pounds, which isn’t the kind of stature that can take hits from the league’s top big men. Against his collegiate peers, he still won West Coast Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman.
3. Jabari Smith Jr. (Auburn)
Jabari led the Auburn Tigers to a fantastic 26-6 season, winning him honors such as SEC Freshman of the Year and stats like 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1 steal per game. He’s projected as a potential No. 1 pick this draft, and he has some family recognition to boot. Jabari Smith Sr., his father, played one NBA season for the Kings back in 2000, and his cousin, Kwame Brown, was labeled one of the “biggest busts” in NBA history after he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2001.
4. Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky)
Scouts love Shaedon Sharpe. He was the No. 1 player in the entire 2022 high school class according to ESPN after an impressive showing at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, and he reportedly averaged 21.4 points and six rebounds per game after transferring from Ontario, Canada, to a school in Glendale, Arizona. He was Kentucky’s first top 5 recruit since Bam Adebayo, but he didn’t see a minute of playing time throughout his freshman year due to his status as a redshirt. Declaring for the draft to essentially go straight to the NBA from high school, analysts predict that he’s worth the risk with a top 10 pick.
5. Jaden Ivey (Purdue)
Ivy, a speedy shooting guard with impressive stats in this year’s March Madness outing, averaged 17.3 points and 1 steal per game for Purdue this past season. While many teams at the top of the draft order will look to add centers and three-point shooters to bolster the talent selected at last year’s draft, Ivey sill has huge interest as a top five pick.
6. Mark Williams (Duke)
A 7-foot center and ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Mark Williams not only averaged 2.8 blocks per game but also led all of collegiate basketball in dunks this past season. Though many predict the big man to be drafted in the first round, any team would be likely to have a player with such high honors at just 20 years old. After the Draft Combine this past weekend, NBC Sports considered him “one of the best rim-protectors in this draft.” He also reportedly had the second-tallest standing reach among combine participants in the last 22 years.
7. Keegan Murray (Iowa)
Despite a disappointing first-round March Madness exit, the sophomore Big Ten MVP out of Iowa averaged an unbelievable 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, near 40% three-point percentage, and 2 blocks a game throughout the season, shattering the Midwest university’s records. Alongside Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner, many believe that the Indiana Pacers will look to nab the power-forward with the No. 6 pick overall.
8. Ochai Agbaji (Kansas)
Although he led the Kansas Jayhawks to a 2022 NCAA Championship victory, it’s rare for the winner to become a No. 1 pick. Last year’s champ, Baylor’s Davion Mitchell, was selected by the Sacramento King with 10th pick overall. Many still have an elite shooter like Agbaji projected to go in the top 10 however, especially after the 22-year-old senior became the BIG12 Player of the Year (and March Madness champion).
9. AJ Griffin (Duke)
Griffin shot 45% from the three-point line this past season, and while he could still improve as an explosive scorer, many teams will likely want to buy in early. Sites like ESPN, SBNation, and Bleacher Report agree, with some placing Griffin as high as No. 8 or even No. 5 overall. Duke also has a history of being a top school to draft from, with Zion Williamson, Jayson Tatum, and Brandon Ingram selected just within the last seven years.
10. Christian Braun (Kansas)
A promising back-up wing expected to be chosen late in the first round after the big March Madness win, Braun reportedly impressed at the NBA Combine this past weekend and could see his stock boosted. According to Sports Illustrated, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs have already expressed interest with their No. 9 slot pick.
11. Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona)
The Pac-12 Player of the Year and 17.7 points-per-game sophomore out of Arizona, he led his team to a ridiculous 33-4 record before a Sweet Sixteen upset where Houston aggressively double-teamed him. That game was immediately following his 30-point showing in the second round, fueling many brackets who had Arizona to win it all in 2022.
12. Jalen Duren (Memphis)
At 6’11” and 250 pounds, Jalen Duren has been described by many scouts as “NBA ready,” while ESPN have him as a top 10 pick and “the most physically gifted big man in this class.” He averaged a decent 12 points and eight rebounds his freshman year at Memphis, and even put up an exciting 22 points against Philly’s Temple Owls back in February. He’s predicted to be selected at No. 9, or at least in the top 15 in his draft class.
13. Malaki Branham (Ohio State)
Big Ten Freshman of the Year and 41.6% three-point shooter, Malaki Branham could be a great addition for a team looking to bolster their bench in the 2022-2023 season, especially after an impressive 23-point showing in the 2nd round of the NCAA championships. In a three-game stretch back in February, he put down games of 22, 27, and 31 points.
14. Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite, Australia)
The NBA has had some major Australian success this past season with Josh Giddey (selected 6th overall last year) Brooklyn’s Patty Mills, and Philly’s Matisse Thybuile. The league looks to keep the ball rolling with Dyson Daniels, an agile, 6’8″ guard who reportedly impressed scouts at this year’s NBA Combine.
15. Christian Koloko (Arizona)
Arizona’s star center, Christian Koloko also had an impressive 2nd round March Madness outing with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks. At 7’1″, 230 pounds, and awards such as Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and 2022 Most Improved Player, it’s odd that the 21-year-old isn’t turning more heads–especially since some franchises are in dire need of some defense.
16. Teddy Allen (New Mexico St.)
After the kind of tournament Teddy Allen had for New Mexico St., I assumed we would at least see his name around the top 20 picks. He was named WAC Player of the Year after scoring 35 points over two games during the regular season, and then capped off the performance with 37 points in March Madness for an upset win over the fifth-seeded UConn Huskies. At 23, teams may be afraid to buy in when they could start working on an 18-year-old, but it doesn’t seem like Teddy would come with any risks right now as he stands.
17. TyTy Washington (Kentucky)
TyTy has the marketability to become a star if it weren’t for his 2022 knee injury, but the Kentucky freshman still managed to average 12.5 points and 1.3 steals a game this past season. He shoots a floater at 57.4 percent and layups at 62.5 percent, according to Bleacher Report, and a late-lottery ball-handler that could add some mixup to a team looking to add fresh talent.
18. Walker Kessler (Auburn)
Another Auburn star–and a favorite for some to win the 2022 NCAA Championship despite 2nd-round elimination–Walker Kessler stands at an impressive 7’1″. Named SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, while he doesn’t add much in terms of scoring, he did lead collegiate basketball last season in blocks.
19. Johnny Davis (Wisconsin)
Johnny Davis scored 25 points in the first round of the NCAA tournament, securing his title as Big Ten Player of the Year and a No. 3 seed that could have made the Final Four. Wisconsin fell in the second round thanks to Davis shooting 0-7 from the three-point line to add to an abysmal 9.6% team percentage. He’s multi-talented, however, as his stats will show racking up 5 blocks, 4 steals, and 17 rebounds over both March Madness appearances.
20. Jeremy Sochan (Baylor)
The Baylor Bears, former 2021 March Madness Champs alongside Davion Mitchell, may have gone down in the 2nd round this year, but that wasn’t without impressive scoring from Matthew Mayer (22 points), Adam Flagler (20 points), and James Akinjo (20 points). These three are all in the 2022 NBA Draft class, but there hasn’t been a peep of interest. For whatever reason, everyone is interested in Jeremy Sochan, a 6’9″ freshman who only averaged 9.2 points this past season. He had 15 points off the bench in both March Madness appearances, however, with ESPN loving his “ability to defend all over the floor.”
21. Drew Timme (Gonzaga)
Gonzaga went 13-1 in the WCC collegiate conference this past season, and they mostly have the 21-year-old Drew Timme to thank. He averaged 18.1 points and 6.8 rebounds and won West Coast Player of the Year. He even scored over 25 points three games in a row during March Madness before Gonzaga’s Sweet Sixteen exit, and yet many scouts still project him to be selected late in the 2nd round (if at all).
22. Isaiah Wong (Miami)
Wong led Miami to the Elite Eight in this year’s NCAA championships, scoring over 20 points in back-to-back outings. He’s another draft hopeful not placed on ESPN, CBS, or Bleacher Report‘s mock listings, despite averaging 17.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1 steal.
23. Kofi Cockburn (Illinois)
As a big man (7’0″, 285 pounds), Kofi Cockburn was a hulking double-double for Illinois this past year, averaging 20.9 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. He previously played with the Chicago Bulls breakout 2021 selection, Ayo Dosunmu, and probably would have done better than a 2nd round elimination this year if he didn’t have to be the team’s main scorer.
24. David McCormack (Kansas)
McCormack, the 6’10” senior center who led the team with 25 points in Kansas’ Final Four match, has also declared for the draft–yet the big man (255 pounds) has seen little interest from scouts despite helping his team win the Championship.
25. Nikola Jovic (Serbian Mega Basket)
If we add Nikola Jokic to the league, a Serbian sound-alike to the two-time Nuggets MVP, my brain is gonna have an aneurysm, but the Euro-league scouts say that the 6’10” 2× champion has what it takes to hit the NBA. According to Bleacher Report, he made the all-tournament U19 World Cup alongside Chet Holmgren and Jaden Ivey (two projected top 5 picks in this year’s draft).
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.