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Is Jaden Ivey the Best Guard in the 2022 NBA Draft? | The Morning Dunk
After another week of top non-conference matchups, a few guards have made their mark in draft discussions but none more than Purdue's Jaden Ivey.
Happy Thanksgiving week hoops fans! This past week had some eye-popping performances from a few prospects who deserve to have their names in the lottery conversation.
From borderline first round talent to those who have cemented themselves in the lottery race for the 2022 NBA Draft, there’s plenty to go over and discuss from last week’s slate.
Just a reminder, if you didn’t listen to the second No Ceilings podcast that we released on Friday, I would strongly recommend you listen as a primer to this column. Tyler squared and I discussed some young point guard talent in the league and went over our initial thoughts on Jaden Ivey and Kennedy Chandler, who both took part in some important matchups against Caleb Love’s North Carolina Tarheels and the Villanova Wildcats.
Let’s talk about some guards, shall we?
Is Jaden Ivey the Best Guard in the 2022 NBA Draft?
Before this scouting cycle started, I was and remain very high on the G-League Ignite’s Jaden Hardy. A three-level bucket getter with craft and poise, Hardy is the type of scorer that teams have sold themselves on in the past as a top talent in the backcourt.
But the NBA has drifted away from inefficient volume scorers in favor of two-way impact guards who can make plays for others as well as themselves. In that sense, there may be a better argument for who is actually the top guard prospect overall in the 2022 class.
Purdue’s Ivey was already on my radar far before this weekend, but after seeing him once again be a deciding factor against two top college programs in UNC and Villanova, I’ve started to really question my own evaluation as to who will be more impactful in the league.
Now this isn’t to talk poorly of Hardy by any means. If I had to make a choice today, I’m likely still choosing Hardy with a top five or six pick. And even then, there are a number of intriguing forwards and bigs ahead of him with considerable upside in their own right.
What Hardy brings to the table, however, is some special shot making at range with toughness and courage oozing out of him for days. His footwork, handle and touch are hard to ignore, and over the Ignite’s last few games he’s been much better at creating separation for easier scoring opportunities and making plays with the ball in his hands.
Where Ivey’s case comes into play is how he always seems to be in a position to do whatever his team needs of him to come out with the victory.
When the Boilermakers needed a spark down in the second half against the Tar Heels on Saturday, Ivey took over as a shot maker and consistently put pressure on the rim to overwhelm North Carolina’s defense.
Not to mention his passing flair at multiple points throughout the game. Between finding teammates, scoring when needed and consistently rebounding the ball on the defensive end to encourage pace, Ivey stuffed the stat sheet like few guards can this year in all of college basketball. He finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists to just 1 turnover.
It’s one thing for Ivey to be coming into his own as a distributor on drive-and-kicks, but his patience in the pick-and-roll game has jumped off the screen to me the most. Decelerating once he gets a step on his man or turns the corner off a screen, surveying the defense and finding the open man is something that wasn’t always in his bag during his freshman campaign.
Corey did an awesome job clipping this one-minute sequence from Ivey in this game where he single-handedly took over for Purdue and put the game on ice. Watch as he bursts out ahead of everyone else with his explosive speed, turns and rockets the ball right back out for an open jumper. And then the chef’s kiss as he makes a play to contest the next shot by UNC and once again rips down the court to dish ahead for the open corner shooter.
Hardy isn’t this quick of a player in the open court, nor is he the decision maker you want with the ball in his hands in these scenarios. With how dangerous of a shooter Hardy is, you’d want him leaking out in transition and sprinting to the corner to hopefully get up an open triple.
Ivey isn’t a world class shooter, but should he be running alongside another capable transition playmaker, he can make that look if needed. But the fact that he’s also a willing passer in those situations and just plays with an energy essentially unmatched by anyone else on the floor? That type of player is so rare to find.
On the No Ceilings podcast this week, we debated whether Ivey is a point guard or is he someone you’d rather have playing more off the ball with the freedom to drive and create chaos in the paint. Honestly, I’m not worried about arguing over his projected role right now.
Ivey is a winning basketball player. If you don’t believe me, watch his performance against Villanova where he only shot 3-of-9 from the field to put 10 points on the board, but he had 7 more rebounds as well as 7 assists to once again only 1 turnover.
The only gripes I had with him all game were some of the mistakes he made on defense, biting for multiple pump fakes and getting himself in a little foul trouble late. For the majority of his minutes played, he was engaged, pushing tempo and making any sacrifices he had to in order to ensure victory for his side.
His main areas for concern offensively are spot-up shooting and jumpers off the dribble, as he ranks poorly per Synergy stats in each play type (15th and 7th percentiles respectively). But he has clutch examples on film of both, and mechanically I have reason to believe he can adjust accordingly and emphasize jump shooting improvements once he gets into the league.
Keep an eye on Mr. Ivey moving forward. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see more columns than mine making similar proclamations the morning of publishing.
Other Guards of Note From the Cheez-It Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off
Chandler had what may end up being the worst game of his college career on Saturday against Villanova in which he was 1-for-9 from the field for 9 points to go along with 2 assists to 3 turnovers.
It was a forgettable performance as Chandler was bottled up by the Wildcats’ defense on multiple occasions. Perfect timing, as I stated on our point guard pod that Chandler would likely have a few games this year where he shot poorly and skeptics would question his fit in the NBA as an undersized lead who had trouble scoring against pro defenders.
He looked nothing like the vicious playmaker that he was in Tennessee’s first two games, but bounced back in a big way on Sunday against North Carolina, leading the team to a 89-72 win with a line of 14 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds to just 2 turnovers.
We now have a four game sample size to work off of for Chandler, which is rather small but there are a few points to take away. I threw out the name Chris Paul as a player who I didn’t want to make a direct comparison too this early in the process but those were some of the “vibes” I got watching Chandler after his first few games.
Fast forward to what he did to the Tar Heels and you start to piece together a few similarities. It starts on the defensive end. Paul isn’t a plus-sized floor general but he’s sturdy and built tough to compete at the point of attack. Chandler operates the same way defensively, as he doesn’t get pushed around on the perimeter and rarely lets his man get an easy step on him.
That attitude one-on-one along with on the defensive glass sets the tone for the rest of his squad, and that to me is what playing defense as a smaller guard is all about. Yes he’s only listed at 6’0”, but as long as he competes, sits in a stance and plays with quick hands and quicker feet on the ball that’s all you can really ask for.
Offensively, he’s crafty and gets to where he wants to inside the arc. He’s deliberate in picking and choosing his spots, but when he has a free run at the rim he can turn on the jets in a hurry. Chandler has that burst in the half court you want from your lead playmaker, and put it on display on multiple drives against North Carolina.
And when he’s playing off the ball, he’s perfectly capable of getting to an open spot behind the arc and knocking down a few triples. He has range on his shot as evidenced in other performances, but at the very least he’s a confident and willing set shooter to space the floor for his teammates.
The jury is still out as far as how lethal of a shot maker he is off the bounce, but I’m sure we’ll get a better answer to that question as the season goes on.
Side note, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield is absolutely an intriguing name to watch for 2022 and prioritize for 2023 if he decides to stay in school. He reclassified to the 2022 class and even as one of the younger players for the Volunteers stands out immediately physically.
A 6’10” forward who’s built like a traditional big and has some budding touch on fades is intriguing enough; factor in the potential defensive versatility and one can see the reason why he was highly regarded coming out of high school.
Coming back around to the guard play in this event, Love also got a chance on two national television games to display growth on both ends of the floor. A 6’5” point, I’ve never been blown away by him defensively despite his plus size for the position. He can make plays on the ball when he’s engaged, but I still feel like there’s a gear missing when it comes to hounding his man on the perimeter.
Offensively, he’s still an inconsistent shooter from range and struggles to create separation off the bounce. His strength helps him finish around the basket, but an inefficient combo guard doesn’t scream definite first-round pick to me. Unless his shot selection and creativity drastically improve, I can’t see him rising up draft boards past where he was sitting before the 2021 draft, which was likely why he returned to school.
I wanted to believe in Love last year as a prospect, and am still cautiously optimistic about his NBA future. But as of right now, it appears he’s destined for a bench role as a potential early second-round pick.
Kendall Brown: Definitive Lottery Pick?
I’ll say it like this: we didn’t hear Kendall Brown’s name mentioned nearly enough before the start of the college season.
Is he a wing or a guard? The 6’8” Brown would lead you to believe he’s a wing by measurables, but his demeanor as a playmaker says otherwise.
Even though the Baylor Bears have a loaded backcourt as it is with LJ Cryer, James Akinjo and Adam Flagler, Brown has already gotten plenty of opportunities to handle the ball and distribute. He’s posted some eye-raising stat lines leaving many to believe if he’s been ranked far too low all this time by major media outlets.
In four games, Brown is averaging 15 PPG on 69.4% shooting to go along with 4 REB, 3.8 AST and only 1.8 TOV. Oh by the way, even though it’s only less than a handful of games the kid still has a 34.4 PER through those contests as a true freshman.
In an age where outside shooting is arguably the most impactful skill one can bring to the table with or without the ball in their hands, it’s a little easier to understand why Brown has likely been undervalued up till now given that was his biggest question mark out of high school.
It’s my opinion the phrase “shooting is the swing skill for him” is grossly overused in draft conversations, but I’ll allow it in Brown’s case. When you can glide to the rim, initiate drive-and-kick offense and fill the lane and finish in transition like he can, what else is left offensively?
He’s not a guard who you want to have the ball in his hands every trip up the floor to set the table for the offense. But he’s proven he’s a very capable secondary playmaker as he already has some nice tape of dishes down low and corner kicks off the move.
Brown already puts enough pressure on defenses as it is with his threat to attack both on or off the ball, but add in his court vision and willingness to pass and he can really put opposing teams in a bind.
Some of the moves he makes remind me an awful lot of Josh Giddey when I evaluated him last year, except Brown is a much more explosive driver and can finish vertically over defenders. Giddey hasn’t scored efficiently so far in the NBA, but he’s done everything else offensively at levels far above most rookies who touch the ball as much as he does.
Giddey went sixth overall in the 2021 draft which I thought was a sizeable reach at the time, but after watching him so far for the Oklahoma City Thunder I understand why they got him where they did.
Even if he turns out to be nothing more than a really valuable starter in the league, drafting a sure commodity with that label is worth a lottery selection if that’s the talent you’re getting. Brown has shown flashes that outclass Giddey at times because of his tenacity terrorizing the rim.
If Brown possibly has more upside in certain areas with enticing similarities in others, why isn’t he being talked about as a more definitive lottery grade for 2022?
I know others here at No Ceilings are immediately buying all of his available stock on the market, and I’m getting that same sense on “Draft Twitter” as well. I’m SO CLOSE to becoming a massive believer in Brown, I just want a larger sample size to further study the jump shot and properly grade out his defensive impact.
But he’s earned a spot at the heart of this Monday’s column for a reason. He’s got my attention for lottery consideration, and should I see enough evidence as to what I’m looking for, I’ll have no qualms with his name being mentioned amongst the most talented in this upcoming draft class.
Stock Watch: Keegan Murray, Marcus Sasser and Justin Lewis
I don’t want to overreact to any performances by prospects against mid-major competition that likely won’t even be in contention to make the NCAA Tournament. But Keegan Murray’s masterpiece against North Carolina Central the other night left me wanting more.
Any time a player puts up 27 points, 22 rebounds and 4 blocks, I’m going to pay attention. Iowa’s Murray was already a name to watch for potential first-round consideration in 2022, but he’s laid waste to his competition so far to start the year.
In four games, he’s averaging 25.5 PPG, 9.5 REB and 2 AST on 60.0/37.5/92.3 shooting splits. I’d venture to say there aren’t a lot of college players who can say they’ve sniffed 60/40/90 territory at any point or stretch in their careers.
Murray does everything within the flow of the offense. He feasts on whatever the defense gives him. If the opposing team isn’t hustling back in transition, Murray knows when to leak out for the easy deuce. Even when he grabs the ball and races down the court, it’s hard enough to stop a 6’8”, 215 pound forward out of the paint.
I love how he’s always looking to screen for his teammates and then relocate based on a mismatch that he generates from that action. If he gets a smaller man on him, he’s happy to take him into the post and convert at the rim. Should the defense not switch properly and leave him with a lane to the basket, he’s scoring two before anyone even turns around.
I would venture to say he won’t have many more 20/20 games in the Big Ten and he likely won’t be able to get each of his buckets inside and completely dominate the interior on a nightly basis. But he’s clearly more than just a player who is comfortable imposing his will down low.
Murray is attentive, active, aggressive and decisive on both ends of the floor. Keep him on your radar throughout the year.
Another player who grabbed my attention this past week is Justin Lewis out of Marquette. The sophomore Lewis is currently averaging 17.8 PPG and 8 REB on efficient shooting from the field. As I said on social media, any 6’7” combo forward who can rebound on both ends, shoot from outside at an average or better rate and defend with versatility is a prospect in my eyes.
The majority of his offense has surprisingly come from outside, as per Synergy he’s registered 38 jump shots so far and has hit 14 of them, good for ranking in the 52nd percentile. His footwork on the block is solid, and his power play will likely cause quite a few mismatch problems this year for opposing defenses.
I’m not crowning him as someone I’m giving a first-round grade to quite yet, but I’d say his stock is definitely rising after some great performances this past week.
Three games for Sasser and he’s scoring 23.3 PPG shooting a ridiculous 48% on threes taking 8.3 per game. Talk about high efficiency on high volume.
He isn’t just making them with plenty of breathing room off the catch. Almost all of his looks are coming off the bounce, as he’s done a great job creating separation and even canning contested looks when the defense plays up on him.
Sasser is at his best hunting for his shot out of pick-and-roll sets, as he’s currently sitting in the 97th percentile when doing so. Factor in that he’s in the 87th percentile in pick-and-rolls including passes, and you have the makings of a dangerous shot maker in the NBA.
His 6’1” size doesn’t do him any favors when it comes to gaining traction ahead of the 2022 draft, but this prolific of shooting can’t be overlooked especially when teams can always use microwave bucket getters off the bench.
Sasser has been one of my favorite watches early on, and as one of the biggest defenders of small(ish) guards, I’ll plant my flag for him as someone to monitor as the year goes on.
5 Games To Watch This Week
11/23, 10pm EST: Gonzaga vs. UCLA: This is the first of two MAJOR matchups for Gonzaga this week as No Ceilings’ own Tyler Rucker and Albert Ghim will be in attendance for a clash of college titans. I’ll be really interested to see Johnny Juzang against a suite of guard/wing defenders who could give him trouble and push for an inefficient night from the draft hopeful. Chet Holmgren’s impact protecting the rim and shutting off driving lanes for Jaime Jaquez is also an intriguing storyline to watch in this one.
11/24, 2:30PM EST: UConn vs. Auburn: The Huskies have exceeded my expectations so far in terms of quality of play, and Andre Jackson looks the part of someone to monitor for the 2022 draft. However, Jabari Smith and co. will have something to say about UConn’s start to the season. Smith as well as Walker Kessler up front could do some serious damage on the interior and serve as what swings the game in the Tigers’ favor.
11/24, 9:30 EST: Memphis vs. Virginia Tech: Corey Taluba and I will be in attendance for this one as I will get my first in-person look at Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates. Duren in particular is coming off a performance against Western Kentucky last week in which he recorded 22 points, 19 rebounds and 5 blocks. The Hokies shouldn’t be counted out in this one though, with experience up front led by Keve Aluma to make this a fun and competitive watch.
11/25, 9:30 EST: USC vs. Saint Joseph’s: I’ve already seen USC up close this year as I was in the house for their showdown against Temple. Isaiah Mobley is still a candidate to be drafted in the second round this year, but Jordan Hall is who I want to see in a tough matchup. The versatile forward prospect is a first round sleeper for 2022, as he’s in the Kyle Anderson mold of point forward who plays at his own pace and commands the bulk of offensive responsibility for the Hawks. The better he’s able to shoot from range, the higher he’ll continue to climb up draft boards.
11/26: 10:30 EST: Duke vs. Gonzaga: There is no bigger matchup this week, maybe even across the next month, than this epic battle that will take place in Las Vegas. Holmgren against Paolo Banchero is what everyone wants to see, but I’ll also be on the lookout for another major statement game on national television from Trevor Keels. Keels gained the support of many prospects and evaluators after this strong showing against Kentucky, and if he has another impressive night against the Bulldogs he’ll have one hell of a resume come draft time.