Another NBA season is in the books, and the Golden State Warriors are at the pinnacle of the basketball pyramid for the fourth time in the last eight years. While Steph Curry and company are showering their championship trophy with champagne, the San Antonio Spurs are a week from the 2022 NBA Draft and making their highest selection since bringing Tim Duncan and his fundamentally sound game to the 2-1-0.
The arrival of the decorated Wake Forest alumnus immediately turned the Silver and Black into title contenders. But fans should abstain from hoping the front office lands a franchise-altering talent with the ninth pick. There will be plenty of promising prospects for the good guys at the backend of the lottery. Perhaps PATFO will ponder the idea of using their abundance of assets to trade up for a player with fringe-All-Star upside.
Though my 2022 Big Board goes more than 60 players deep, for the sake of brevity, here is a definitive list of lottery-level prospects with a concise scouting report that should give you enough information to paint a broad picture come draft night.
Noah’s Lottery Big Board
1. Chet Holmgren | Center | Gonzaga
This discourse surrounding Chet Holmgren was divisive from the moment he set foot on the hardwood for Gonzaga, but the slender center is easily among the most distinctive prospects of the last decade. Not only can he nail three-pointers, run breaks, and deliver immaculate dimes as a seven-footer, but he is a generational rim protector. Strength and space creation are fair concerns, but an NBA staff can develop those areas over time.
2. Jabari Smith Jr. | Power Forward | Auburn
How many six-ten forwards have a velvety smooth shooting stroke off the catch, off the dribble, and on the move? Jabari Smith Jr. is the only one in this draft who fits that description, and few have those credentials across NBA history. There is untapped scoring potential, but that will only come to fruition if he improves his handle and finishing. Smith is switchable onto the perimeter, making him a thrilling two-way teenager with a high floor.
3. Paolo Banchero | Power Forward | Duke
Paolo Banchero was ahead of the pack at the beginning of this draft cycle but gradually relinquished the standing as the consensus first overall pick as others emerged. With that said, the Duke freshman is unmistakably the most polished scorer in this class. He can put points on the board with his back to the basket, out of the pick-and-roll, facing from midrange, or take defenders off the dribble. Banchero could be a foundational cornerstone.
4. Jaden Ivey | Combo Guard | Purdue
Jaden Ivey is an athletic wonder that changes pace and reaches top gear in the blink of an eye. The shifty combo guard exploded past defenders in isolation, went coast-to-coast in transition, and ranked as one of the best pick-and-roll scorers in the nation. Although teams may not ask him to act as their primary initiator, he read the court well and made a few incredibly creative passes. Adding a dependable jumper is his key to NBA stardom.
5. Keegan Murray | Combo Forward | Iowa
As a reliable floor-spacer, elite transition finisher, put-back machine, post-up powerhouse, opportunistic cutter, adept roll-man, and reliable isolation option, Keegan Murray is a seamless fit for the pace-and-space era. While he offers plenty on offense, he also projects as a lethal event creator who racks up steals and blocks with his wingspan and motor. Keegan turns 22 this season, but he might have room to develop into a three-level scorer.
6. Shaedon Sharpe | Shooting Guard | Kentucky
Considering Shaedon Sharpe will have gone almost a year without playing organized basketball by the time Summer League begins, he might be the highest risk-reward prospect in the lottery. The Canadian guard locked up the top spot on the recruiting radar after a remarkable EYBL showing with UPLAY Canada, displaying unrivaled self-creation upside. He is far from a polished product and a no-show on defense, so teams are rightfully wary.
7. Bennedict Mathurin | Shooting Guard | Arizona
You would be hardpressed to find any prospects who can match the top-tier athleticism and shot versatility of Bennedict Mathurin. The sophomore guard can nail threes moving in any direction or sprinting around screens and even showed some functionality off the dribble. He relocates well on the outside, makes brilliant cuts, and can throw down as lobs. There were periodic defensive lapses, but he should eventually be a plus on that end.
8. Johnny Davis | Shooting Guard | Wisconsin
If you need a bucket, look no further than Johnny Davis. The sophomore swingman carried a nearly unprecedented workload for Wisconsin on the way to becoming one of the greatest breakout stories of the year. Are his relative inefficiency and limited range a cause for concern? Maybe, but no one has a more refined midrange package with this blend of tough-shot-making and the willingness to defend the best opposing perimeter player.
9. Jalen Duren | Center | Memphis
Jalen Duren provides a patient franchise with the opportunity to mold the youngest player in this draft class. The 18-year-old center has strong rim-protecting instincts, an unbelievable lob-catching radius, and tremendous gravity as a roll-man. Those qualities, coupled with a league-ready frame, elite athleticism, and encouraging feel as a passer, suggest he could turn into a two-way force if the fundamentals catch up to his God-given gifts.
10. Jeremy Sochan | Combo Forward | Baylor
The primary appeal for Jeremy Sochan is his high feel as a team defender, ability to guard multiple positions man-to-man, timeliness as a cutter, and potential as a distributor out of a wide range of sets. Despite being a non-threat as a scorer and long-range shooter, the Polish forward has a route towards earning minutes as the connective tissue that moves things along smoothly on both ends. There is untapped talent, and his floor feels safe.
11. Tari Eason | Combo Forward | LSU
After a dysfunctional freshman season at Cincinnati in which the program fired head coach John Brannen, Tari Eason had an exceptional sophomore campaign for LSU. The explosive forward was among the most productive players in college basketball, creating chaos with his seven-two wingspan and slashing to the hoop. Reports say his workouts have gone poorly, but his physical tools are tantalizing in the right developmental situation.
12. A.J. Griffin | Small Forward | Duke
A.J Griffin became one of 14 freshmen in NCAA history to hit at least 44% of their three-pointers on more than four attempts per game while playing in a power-five conference. The 18-year-old forward flourished off-ball on a stacked Duke roster but showed enough flashes of self-creation to earn some looks inside the top ten. Several severe knee injuries in high school sapped his explosiveness. Can he recuperate that athleticism in the NBA?
13. Dyson Daniels | Point Guard | G League Ignite
Although Dyson Daniels began the year overshadowed by prominent five-star high school recruits Jaden Hardy and Michael Foster, the jumbo point guard steadily set himself apart as the sole lottery talent for the G League Ignite. The Australian native is one of the best perimeter defenders in this class and has a steadying presence as a game manager. If Daniels gets to line more often and develops an outside shot, his ceiling vastly raises.
14. Ousmane Dieng | Point Forward | New Zealand Breakers
A disastrous start to his NBL career with the New Zealand Breakers made scouts question what the future held for Ousmane Dieng, but the teenage forward turned things around by the end of the season. Finding guys who stand six-ten with this level of ball-handling, fluidity, defensive versatility, and live-dribble passing is rare. That medley of skills should give PATFO a reason to ponder taking an upside swing on a boom-or-bust prospect.