A Rude Awakening
Every NBA Draft Class gives us dreams of joy and unlimited excitement...but there's a range in the 2022 class that is going to require a serious look in the mirror.
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” - Willy Wonka
It didn’t seem right for me to continue to write articles on this glorious Substack without at least giving the late Gene Wilder some respect. Although Wilder’s performance in Willy Wonka continues to be one of the greatest pieces of acting in the history of cinema (actual fact), there’s a lot of similarities between the character of Willy Wonka and the 2022 NBA Draft Class.
Yeah, I bet you didn’t think you were about to get THIS weird on a Wednesday did you? You probably saw that graphic and thought, “man, this thing is about to get insane.” Little did you know I was throwing a full court press at you so I could just spill my thoughts about the Draft Process.
Let’s take a moment to stretch because this conversation might be a bit of a “rude awakening” when it comes to the upcoming NBA Draft class. Personally, I have an addiction to the entire process of evaluating and dissecting prospects that are going to be taking the leap to the greatest professional sport in the world. I’m like Willy Wonka trying to perfect the recipe for the Everlasting Gobstopper.
The team at No Ceilings has done a f***ing AWESOME job when it comes to breaking down specific prospects for the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft class. If I said it once, I’ll say it 57 more times…I couldn’t be more proud of the grind that each individual is putting forth when it comes to the 2022 draft season. But after listening to the Mad Max soundtrack on repeat the other night (I’m normal I promise), I found myself realizing there’s another direction that needs to be tackled when it comes to the Draft process.
We need to talk about the mindset of teams heading into the draft.
I’m not going to sit here and try to sound like I’m someone that has a pulse on the mindset of every front office in the NBA because that would simply make me a liar and I promise to never be that to you. But my goal here is to open up your minds and alert you about potential trends when it comes to the entire NBA Draft process. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. You might look to light your torches and march in an angry mob, but this is a conversation that we all need to have.
The Rude Awakening
If you’re expecting this NBA Draft class to deliver like the last two classes, you’re going to experience a rude awakening. You can call me a buzzkill if you want, but I’m here to be your friend. The 2021 class is shaping up to be one for the ages. We have a number of players who are looking like potential stars across the league. Players such as Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, Franz Wagner and Josh Giddey have been dazzling basketball fans with their play throughout their rookie campaigns. Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Kuminga have started to buzz lately. Chris Duarte continues to make all of us “age doesn’t matter” truthers proud. The list goes on and on.
Then we take a look back at the 2020 NBA Draft class and we all really start to foam at the mouth. Anthony Edwards just dropped 40 points as I am writing this. LaMelo Ball continues to look like a potential star point guard in the NBA. Tyrese Haliburton, Desmond Bane, Tyrese Maxey, Cole Anthony…I mean you get the point. I could go on all day about how impressive the last two draft classes have been for basketball fans.
But if you’re expecting the upcoming Draft class to deliver at the same type of rate, we are going to have some problems. With the way the 2022 class is looking, there’s going to be a serious crop of talent near the top of the class. The problem is as you get to a certain range in this assortment of prospects, the questions start to get louder and louder. We know what the top three of this class is going to look like. It’s trending towards being some combination of Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith Jr. After that, players such as Jaden Ivey and Johnny Davis have started to present their resumes as being top five selections.
After that…we start to find that things are getting a LITTLE interesting.
Players such as Keegan Murray, AJ Griffin, Patrick Baldwin Jr., Bennedict Mathurin, Jaden Hardy, Jalen Duren and even TyTy Washington have all found themselves in the mix. Sure, all of us who are passionate about making Big Boards in the Draft community are going to have different rankings or players that we are willing to “bang the table” for when it comes to the process. But you need to see the bigger picture I am trying to get at when it comes to this class.
There’s a “No-Fly” zone of this class and NBA teams are looking for someone to take the leap.
That’s right folks, all of my education throughout the first half of this article has brought you to this daunting truth. We just ran down a number of prospects that have a real chance at hearing their names called within the early portion of the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery. But the bigger picture here is that the conversation after the Lottery is QUICKLY getting extremely uncomfortable. The NBA Draft has had a rich tradition of Front Offices always looking to take a bit of a swing when it comes to finding prospects later in the draft that still offer some fascinating upside. The Indiana Pacers shook things up a bit last year when they decided to take 24-year-old wing Chris Duarte with the 13th overall selection. It was a bold call by the Pacers, but Duarte was viewed as a popular “high-floor” prospect who offered the ability to come in and contribute early.
I think this is the year you all better start getting familiar with the idea of “high-floor” players.
NBA teams are going to evaluate this class and come to one common conclusion. It get’s weird in a hurry. I’m not trying to be funny here, as I am just someone that is connecting the dots. This is the year in which teams could get skeptical and try to move their first round selection to another team, even trying to package their pick in trades ahead of the February 10th trade deadline. There’s a range in this class that is going to scare teams, that’s the truth we need to face.
While some teams might get nervous, I think there’s a slate of prospects that could start to heat up when it comes to the NBA Draft world. These players will give NBA teams the dream of turning into early contributors with their play as rookies. For that reason specifically, I’ve decided to name this next segment…
The Dreamers of Dreams
Now let’s get back on the right track and offer some excitement to all of you reading this. My goal with this piece wasn’t to be “Professor Buzzkill” but to just open your eyes about a new slate of prospects that could be on the rise when it comes to NBA decision makers. The NBA Draft has always seen a trend of Front Offices jumping at the idea of “potential” or “upside.” While it might not be the sexiest thing, I think teams could be looking at a number of players who could offer some safety when it comes to their skillset at the next level.
Ochai Agbaji, Wing, Kansas
Senior, 6’5”, 215 LBS
21.3 PTS | 5.0 REB | 1.3 AST | 53.3 FG% | 47.6 3P%
You all need to start entertaining the idea of Ochai Agbaji entering the Lottery conversation in a hurry. Agbaji has been one of the most impressive players in college basketball this year and he’s going to get the annoying “upperclassmen” tag that has previously been the achilles heel for Draft Prospects in previous draft classes. But Agbaji is most likely going to benefit from the Chris Duarte experience, as some Front Office is going to view the senior as a potential early contributor with his outside shooting and defensive upside. I continue to stand firm on the stance that NBA teams need to draft hoopers regardless of age, and Agbaji should be a name that continues to heat up throughout the rest of the year.
Jeremy Sochan, Wing, Baylor
Freshman, 6’9”, 230 LBS
7.9 PTS | 5.9 REB | 2.0 AST | 48.4 FG% | 35.3 3P%
This is the type of player that NBA personnel will start foaming at the mouth for. NBA teams picking in a certain range are going to find themselves intrigued by the idea of adding a potential “glue-guy.” When I’m saying that, I’m not necessarily talking about a player that will keep the locker room together. I’m talking about a rotation asset that can come in early on and be a contributor with his versatility. It doesn’t need to be a player that requires a ton of shots to be effective, just someone that can make winning plays. Sochan fits the mix, as he’s been an important asset for Baylor throughout the season.
Dyson Daniels, Guard, G-League Ignite
18-years-old, 6’6”, 199 LBS
11.2 PTS | 6.2 REB | 4.3 AST | 44.9 FG% | 25.5 3P%
If you haven’t started to move Dyson Daniels up your boards already, then this is your official warning. The G-League Ignite has featured a number of impressive prospects throughout the year, but Daniels continues to be the one that is buzzing in NBA Draft circles. Although Daniels has some work to do as a consistent outside shooter, there’s plenty about his all-around game that will intrigue teams that he’s a “safe” prospect. Daniels plays with a great overall feel and has continued to show impressive awareness with his decision making.
Tari Eason, Forward, LSU
Sophomore, 6’8”, 216 LBS
16.0 PTS | 7.1 REB | 1.0 AST | 53.8 FG% | 32.5 3P%
One of the hottest names in Draft circles has been LSU sophomore forward Tari Eason. The climb has been well deserved, as Eason continues to showcase his ability on both sides of the floor for the Tigers this year. At 6’8” with some impressive fluidity on the court, Eason should be a player who could continue to rise up the ranks and cement himself as a potential early first rounder. He will need to continue to show consistency with his production, as well as showing development as a shooter from outside.
MarJon Beauchamp, Wing, G-League Ignite
21-years-old, 6’6”, 199 LBS
15.1 PTS | 7.3 REB | 2.5 AST | 57.1 FG% | 24.2 3P%
This is the type of player that is quickly gaining momentum when it comes to NBA personnel. MarJon Beauchamp has continued to impress with his play for the G-League Ignite this year, and it seems as if his performance on the court only gets stronger with each passing week. While Beauchamp will need to become a more consistent threat from outside, he’s a high energy presence who can make winning plays on both sides of the floor. Beauchamp offers the ability to become a versatile weapon at the next level, and don’t be surprised if he starts to earn some fans in the Top-20 of the draft.
Justin Lewis, Forward, Marquette
Freshman, 6’7”, 245 pounds
15.8 PTS | 7.9 REB | 1.7 AST | 43.3 FG% | 32.3 3P%
You can call me crazy (expected), but this is the name I believe that you need to start to pay close attention to in the 2022 NBA Draft world. Marquette forward Justin Lewis has all of the tools to make NBA teams quickly start to fall in love. Lewis plays the game with a physical dominance and he’s quick on both sides of the ball. What’s been most impressive about Lewis is his recent surge of play for Marquette. In his last 6 games, Lewis has gone on to average 17.2 PTS and 7.7 REB while shooting 47.0% from the field and 48.3% from 3. He’s a name that could QUICKLY start to heat up in the scouting world, especially if he continues to play at this level.
The 2022 NBA Draft class is shaping up to be another exciting one, there’s no doubt about it. While the last several classes have all of us deep in our feelings, I hope you understand that we are going to need to try to be realistic when it comes to the upcoming class. This isn’t an effort by myself to try to say “hey, this class isn’t going to be any good,” because that’s just ridiculous and the No Ceilings crew knows our motto (E.L.E).
There’s a range in this class in which NBA teams are going to have to make some tough decisions. In previous years, the idea might have been to chase potential and upside. This year, it looks as if there’s a chance that immediate contributors could be the “Darlings” of the draft haul.
To quote the legendary Willy Wonka one final time…