The NBA Draft cycle is at a relatively calm point as we stand today. The early-entry deadline has passed and we have a grasp of who is eligible for the 2022 NBA draft. Team workouts have not started yet and the NBA combine is just a few weeks away. I decided to take a step back and look at this class from a bigger picture. What does this group collectively bring to the NBA? And what does this class lack in?
Strength: Intriguing wing bets
There seems to be a consensus on who some of the first wings taken in this draft class might be. Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky) is a real wildcard after not playing for the Wildcats this year after reclassifying up. He’s a freak athlete, getting top ten buzz and while I don’t have him No. 1, it wouldn’t completely shock me if he was the best player in this class. Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin and Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji were two of the best players in college basketball last season and project to have long NBA careers in a “three-and-D” mold.
But diving into the late first, early second round is where some boom or bust wings could be taken. Baylor’s Kendall Brown had a strong start to the year and was a five-star prospect, but some lackluster showings and shooting questions have dropped his stock a bit. Still, Brown is someone who has once receiving lottery buzz and has the body and athletic tools of an NBA wing.
Speaking of once projected lottery picks, there’s Michigan’s Caleb Houstan who had an inefficient shooting season but was a high-level shooter prior to Michigan. At 6’8, he’s someone who could bank on a shooting revival and adding weight to his frame to stick and be of value if he falls to the second round.
Michigan State’s Max Christie has one of the better combinations of shot form and preparation in this class. He’s probably a year away physically and struggled against stingier Big Ten defenses, but he’s got plus role-player potential.
Memphis’ Josh Minott is a non-shooter at this stage, and may never be a passable one, but he possesses some of the best flashes of athleticism in this class. A younger, rangy wing, Minott made a huge impact for Memphis when given minutes midway through the year. It’s super raw right now, but he could thrive as a play-finishing, short-roll passer that guards multiple positions.
UCLA’s Peyton Watson (also a former five-star) got lost in a crowded UCLA rotation and struggled to find his footing offensively, but had some elite defensive flashes. Like Minott, he’s super raw and the offense is a ways away, but he was once highly-coveted and has excellent length for a wing at 6’8.
Some of these prospects might not pan out, but there’s also a handful of older, more-productive wings that could stick in the NBA for multiple years. Duke’s Wendell Moore has constantly flown under the radar this year to me. He was arguably the best player on a team with two likely lottery picks and has a jack-of-all-trades game on offense.
Alabama’s Keon Ellis is a plus athlete who took threes at a high volume. Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams was uber-productive while being efficient from three and a good decision-maker. VCU’s Vince Williams is a bit older but had some impressive two-way flashes while also taking threes at a high volume.
Some of these prospects (I’d watch Christie and Houstan) may return to school for a second year. But for NBA teams looking to add wing depth, an archetype that is incredibly important in today’s game, there’s a handful of interesting players outside the lottery that could return value.