TyTy Washington: Best PG in the 2022 NBA Draft? | The Morning Dunk
After multiple eye-opening performances from Kentucky's freshman lead guard, it's time we start evaluating his position as potentially the top PG option in the 2022 draft.
Welcome back to another edition of The Morning Dunk!
The 2022 NBA Draft is starting to become a little clearer near the top through the lottery. There’s still plenty of work to be done, however, evaluating the rest of this class’ depth.
This week I want to take a look at one guard in particular who has really made an impression on me, as well as some other sleepers and someone who (maybe?) deserves more lottery buzz in some draft circles.
Where I want to start though is in Lexington, where another potential star is blossoming before our very eyes: TyTy Washington.
TyTy Washington: Best PG in the 2022 NBA Draft?
There have certainly been debates of what the term “point guard” means in defining backcourt players over recent years.
The more traditional definition of the word refers to someone like Chris Paul: your prototypical floor general who sets the table for others to eat. That style of lead guard is still found across the league, with players like Darius Garland, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant able to balance passing responsibilities while remaining a threat to score or shoot.
While every team needs a lead guard who can do both equally at a high level, there are others who are better off as score first, pass second players. Cole Anthony is a great example for the Orlando Magic, as he’s gotten more comfortable as a pick-and-roll threat in the NBA but also loves to find ways to shoot from the perimeter first and then look to score inside the arc.
Washington feels like he falls somewhere in the middle: a combo guard of sorts who has passing chops, but not on the level of some of the best in the league.
For context, Washington is averaging 4.8 AST to 1.8 TOV, which is a better than 2:1 assist/turnover ratio. He’s not dynamic in his passing, but he can read the floor off a live dribble and dice after the initial screen up top. Per Synergy, he rates in the 92nd percentile in PnRs including passes. Even when he’s having to make a play out of isolations, he rates in the 82nd percentile there as well.
The bottom line is that Washington hasn’t looked overwhelmed within the offense since the start of the season. And in his defense, he’s had to figure out how to operate in a different role than what he had in high school.
Back before he set foot at Kentucky, Washington was his team’s focal point. He was the guard who was talented enough to demand the ball at all times. This year, however, he’s had to play a lot of minutes next to transfer Sahvir Wheeler. To Wheeler’s credit, he came up big for the Wildcats multiple times early on when Washington was still trying to figure out the nuances of the college game.
But that left plenty of room for scouts to question how Washington would fare with more offensive responsibility.
Can he make all of the reads and progress through situations within the offense? Is he capable of hitting the roll man with the well-placed pocket pass? Are skips to the corner in his bag? How about when he has to read off doubles, or when defenders collapse on him after initial penetration in the paint?
At a certain point, John Calipari started answering those questions for evaluators by doing a better job at staggering minutes between both of his “point guards”. Washington started to share the floor more with Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz, which opened up plenty of space for him to work out of 1-5 PnR with Oscar Tshiebwe.
That spacing was exactly what Washington needed more of to further unleash his lethal pull-up game. On all shots classified as “Short” by Synergy (<17 ft) Washington rates in the 100th percentile and is 19-for-25 on those looks. Between his stop-and-pop jumper and floater off the bounce, Washington can be very tough to deal with once he turns the corner and gets to his spots.
On every play type you ask Washington to contribute to in the half court, he’s at or above the 71st percentile. None of his other counterparts in this conversation can say the same, not even combo guard candidate Jaden Ivey.
Before the season, I was very curious as to where Washington would fall on the Kentucky guard spectrum in terms of NBA potential. Was he more of an Immanuel Quickley, someone who could do a few things at a high enough level but didn’t have the complete game to start full-time in the league (at least not yet)? Or could he push the envelope and move into the territory of Tyrese Maxey, who isn’t a star per se but is dynamic in enough areas and good enough defensively to start on a really good team?
OR were some of my very early inclinations correct in that his poise, maturity, and three-level scoring could lead me down the Shai Gilgeous-Alexander rabbit hole in terms of projection?
Washington isn’t the same height as SGA, but he is 6’3” with a 6’9” reported wingspan. He’s proven himself as a polished scorer all over the floor, with a slash line of 51.5/41.1/81.5. The passing isn’t next level, but he’s given teams confidence that he can play as a primary decision maker within certain sets and operate next to another ball-dominant guard.
If you believe Washington is better suited as someone who spaces the floor next to a “jumbo playmaker” and creates as a secondary or tertiary option, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you. He’s not cat-quick or explosive off a first step. There are examples on film where wing defenders who switch onto him make things difficult and keep Washington at bay on the perimeter.
But I fully support drafting smart, crafty guards who can get theirs and play within the offense while also holding their own defensively (63rd percentile in terms of total defense). And when Washington is on, he’s ON. In two of his most recent contests, he had 17 assists to just 2 turnovers as well as a 28-point effort on 66% shooting from the floor.
I still think there’s untapped upside with Washington and plenty of room to grow his game on all fronts. He’s one of those guards who does things that I can’t always put well into words. I felt the same way with SGA when he came out of the draft.
Shai wasn’t overly explosive or dynamic off the dribble either, but he was slippery in navigating through defenders and knew how to lull defenders to sleep to get to his spots. I see some of those similarities in Washington’s approach.
I’m not ready to declare Washington the NBA’s next star point guard, but I’m higher on him now than I’ve ever been. It’s foolish sometimes to overthink the player who can dribble, pass and shoot at a high level. For me, he’s far and away the best amongst his peers in the position group this year.
Give me any TyTy stock you’re selling because I’m buying it all.
Why Harrison Ingram is Gaining Lottery Buzz
Standing at 6’8”, Ingram has the size and length to contend on the wing with the build to guard up a spot and play the 4 in smaller lineups.
Nowadays, players with his measurables (especially when you factor in where he excels on the floor) are valued over the more traditional center or small point guard.
But Ingram isn’t a jump-out-of-the-gym athlete or a lightning-quick one. He’s a methodical forward who can handle the ball and make plays for others while providing enough scoring punch and craft inside the arc to keep defenders honest.
Ingram’s passing is one of his main selling points, as the ball doesn’t stick in his hands. He’s careful in his decision-making and does an excellent job at reading defenses to keep the ball moving and hopefully assisting on a made bucket. Ingram isn’t playing with a top-shelf offensive unit, but having a connector to bring balance and calm is an important role every team needs filled.
The issue with Ingram is that even though I mentioned he can keep defenses honest, he hasn’t been as efficient as I’d like to fully jump on a lottery bandwagon.
Per 40 minutes, he’s averaging 4 assists to 2.6 turnovers. His assist percentage of 20.4% is pretty good for someone who doesn’t dominate the ball, but the turnovers need to be cut down on.
As mentioned above, his turnovers within the offense aren’t due to a lack of vision or understanding. Ingram makes some really smart plays in the half court. But he isn’t a great ball-handler and not being able to better get around quicker defenders definitely hurts when he’s forced to operate on an island.
Ingram is the type of player who’s best at making quick decisions with the ball and scoring when he’s open to do so. He’s not that takeover forward who can make something out of nothing at all times no matter how the defense schemes against him.
That being said, those types of players are valuable to a team’s success so long as they can connect on open looks. Ingram only shooting 41.3% from the field and 33% from three doesn’t help, although he does rate in the 66th percentile on catch-and-shoot looks.
Defensively is really where he brings some intriguing value once you get outside of some of the more obvious top picks. I have a few wings/forwards I’m a little higher on defensively, but Ingram does rate out in the 74th percentile.
He’s “Excellent” defending in PnR as well as off screens and hand-offs. Ingram doesn’t get caught fighting through screens and leverages his strength to his advantage, especially when he gets switched onto smaller ball handlers. He slides his feet well enough laterally and uses his length to contain drives. Ingram is built well so he doesn’t get pushed off his spots easily on defense either.
Ingram contests shots well off the dribble, and can hold his own defending around the basket. That type of versatility is demanded heavily in the NBA where it’s all about scaling toward certain matchups in the playoffs.
And when you look at some of these prospects through a playoff lens, that’s where Ingram’s case stands out. He’s not projected as a star player, but high IQ role players who can defend multiple positions, make others around them better, and hit shots from different areas on the floor always find ways to contribute in the postseason.
Not all rookies play right away in the league, let alone in May and June. But in time, Ingram could be a valuable weapon for a good team in the right situations.
Drafting Ingram isn’t a question for me personally. I’ve had him near the back end of the first on my board for a while. But there’s been some buzz on social media as to whether he deserves to be in lottery consideration.
He hasn’t been particularly consistent offensively to the point where he would have a clear-cut case amongst the top 14 picks. However, in looking at the bigger picture and what he could offer down the road, it’s hard to not want to take a flier on him, especially considering the potential lack of depth behind him in this class.
There are a number of prospects who are interesting bets to pan out and become something more than a fifth starter or option off the bench. I tend to err on the side of drafting a player who seems to be more of a “sure thing” especially when they fall into a more playoff-friendly archetype.
Ingram is trending toward lottery status on my board, so I’ll agree that the conversation within draft circles is justified.
More Potential Sleepers
Over the last few weeks in watching college hoops, I’ve tried to pay attention to some more “sleeper” prospects who stand out to me.
In doing so, I’ve also tried to do a better job of highlighting some of those players in this column and started such coverage last week.
Here are a few more names I want to add into that category who have caught my eye of late.
Alondes Williams, Wake Forest: It’s fair to say Williams has had one heck of a journey to get to where he is today. His most notable playing destination before this year was Oklahoma, where he spent the last two seasons in not even close to the role he has now. For what it’s worth, the 6’5” senior guard has put the scouting world on notice with a high-usage, high-efficiency lead role for the Demon Deacons. On the year, Williams is averaging 20.3 PPG, 6.8 REB, and 4.9 AST while shooting 54.2% from the field overall. He’s not the most efficient shooter from deep at 31.9%, but he is taking enough of them per game, not to mention the difficulty of some of those looks as well. Williams’ explosiveness driving to the basket or in the open court is something to behold, as he’s vicious when attacking and getting downhill. He’s become a much better spot-up shooter, operates out of PnR, and rates no lower than the 55th percentile in any play type he’s registered enough possessions in to qualify. Defensively he’s a little more of a mixed bag, but he isn’t fundamentally weak in any one particular area. To me, his biggest weaknesses are his inability to properly challenge defenders at the rim and finish through contact offensively, his defensive consistency reading where the ball is going, and his timing on closeouts and shot contests away from the basket. Williams isn’t a perfect prospect by any means, but he’s improved drastically on high volume in a number of areas to the point where he’s going to make a team very happy come draft night in the second round.
Malaki Branham, Ohio State: I’ve actually seen Branham at the end of the first round in some mock drafts over the last week and a half. He’s certainly had a few standout performances for the Buckeyes after getting some more playing time as of late. In two of Ohio State’s last four contests, he’s had scoring outbursts of 35 and 24 points while shooting 68.4 and 62.5% from the field in each respectively. Against Nebraska where he had his 35-point performance, Branham was also 6-for-10 from three. A confident shooter away from the basket, Branham has been able to hit open shots from deep throughout the year and has gotten more comfortable pulling up inside the arc as well. He rates in the 70th percentile on all jump shots and the 86th percentile in terms of catch-and-shoot looks. I’m not jumping on board to say the 6’5” freshman is definitely a name for the first round in 2022, but he’s put himself in the conversation of draftable players for me and is someone I would have circled to monitor closely should he choose to come back to school.
Gabe Brown, Michigan State: Speaking of players who stand out to me when trying to evaluate in a playoff lens, Brown popped off the screen in Michigan State’s win over Nebraska. The 6’7” senior forward combined for 6 steals and blocks while also chipping in 14 points and hitting on 2-of-5 threes. Through 17 games, he’s only had one game where he didn’t finish in double figures scoring and projects well as someone who can cut to the basket, finish in transition and knock down open jumpers. He’s not dynamic with the ball in his hands, but he’s active enough in finding teammates for open shots when he sees the read. But more so than his impact offensively, it’s his activity on defense that looks the part of an NBA role player. Even though he’s not always creating a ton of turnovers each game, he’s consistently keeping his head on a swivel and making the right rotations. He has the size and length to make life miserable for certain players on switches, and to compete around the basket when guarding against bigger matchups. I’m not highlighting him to loudly proclaim he needs to be drafted. However, on his best nights, his game looks reminiscent of Herb Jones, who is doing a ton of damage right now for the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s not nearly as polished on either end of the floor, but when his motor runs hot he can look just as disruptive. There’s a chance someone takes a flier on him in the second round, but even if not he’ll get a call early on to suit up for a Summer League roster.
Max Christie, Michigan State: Christie has been looking good of late, as he’s started to figure out how to better impact the game on both ends of the floor. The 6’6” guard has remained competitive on the defensive end over the course of the Spartans’ season, but he’s been able to contribute more regularly in box score categories recently, particularly with his scoring. In 3 of his last 5 games, Christie has had outputs of 17, 21, and 16 points while picking his three-point mark up to 33.8%. Scouts have been asking up through now whether he’ll actually declare for the 2022 draft if he’s not guaranteed a selection mid-first round or higher. If he continues to show ability hitting shots off the bounce, finishing near or around the basket, and competing on the perimeter defensively, then he’ll have an argument to break back into that portion of the draft. Consistency is the number one thing evaluators are looking for from the group of “underperforming freshmen” and it’s good to see Christie getting back on track.
Christian Braun, Kansas: Welcome to the party, Mr. Braun! The 6’6” junior wing has been steadily rising up boards all year and is starting to find fans in the late first/early second-round portion of the draft. While his offensive outputs haven’t been as consistent as some of his peers projected to go ahead of him, he’s been one of the two foundational pieces for the Jayhawks along with Ochai Agbaji, who has been red hot in his own right during his senior campaign. Braun’s competitiveness on the defensive end, improved playmaking off the dribble, and open shot making have propped up his case in 2022. He’s only shooting 32.7% from three, but he’s well over 50% from the floor and has maintained a free-throw average of 81.1%. While not the sexiest athlete in the class, he’s underrated in that category and makes things happen on both ends. A smarter player than some would give him credit for, he’s been a great glue guy for Kansas while stepping up when needed in a bigger way. Players who can fit in and affect a game’s outcome in a positive way regardless of flash and flair are always worthy targets in the second round, especially if they rate out in the 87th percentile offensively. With the race for first-round status as open as it’s ever been, Braun can continue to make up ground over the rest of the year.
Trevion Williams, Purdue: Williams missed the cut of making it onto the No Ceilings Consensus Board 2.0 by a hair. The senior big man has been that good for the Boilermakers, and at times the best option the team can turn to offensively. His playmaking out of the post has really opened things up for a number of players on the team, and Ivey has figured out how to mesh off the ball to take advantage of Williams’ dime dropping. He does quite literally whatever he wants in the post at this level, and if Purdue is going to win deep into the tournament it will be because Williams has maintained his stellar level of play on the interior. He palms the ball like no other player I’ve seen in the country, which lets him whip it back up top or to the opposite corner in a split second. The velocity on his passes is absurd at times, and he’s one of the more gifted offensive players when you factor in his touch, footwork, and shooting ability from range. While he’s not a tremendous athlete for his size and there are concerns about how impactful he can be defensively, Williams has started to gain serious traction in the draft community because of how translatable his offensive package looks. Post scoring isn’t of dire importance in the NBA, but guys who can get their own shot against second units while keeping the rest of the team afloat with his passing are valuable for any team to have. A late first-round selection isn’t out of the question, but at the very least, he seems like a priority candidate to be taken in the second.
5 Games To Watch This Week
1/17, 12pm EST: Purdue @ Illinois: Ivey and Williams are the main names to keep an eye on for the 2022 draft, but Kofi Cockburn for Illinois is no joke. The 7’0” center is one of the most efficient bigs in the country averaging 21.9 PPG and 12.3 REB. It will be an interesting matchup for someone like Williams to see if he can have the same impact on the interior.
1/18, 9pm EST: Duke @ Florida State: Matt Cleveland has quietly put together an interesting stretch of games from an offensive efficiency standpoint. He and fellow potential prospect Caleb Mills may have a tough time against this Blue Devils defensive front led by Mark Williams and Trevor Keels. Griffin has also been much better defensively as the year has gone on.
1/19, 7pm EST: LSU @ Alabama: The continued defensive impact of Tari Eason and Alex Fudge should be interesting to monitor here against an Alabama team that can go off on any given night. Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Schackelford man the starting guard spots but there’s still a contingent of scouts who remain enamored with JD Davison especially after his highlight dunk last week on Auburn.
1/19, 8:30pm EST: Kentucky @ Texas A&M: Another game for the Wildcats to continue to improve as they move through the SEC schedule. However, the Aggies aren’t pushovers and are led by Duke transfer Henry Coleman. The athletic 6’7” forward is averaging 19 points and 9.1 rebounds per 40 minutes.
1/22, Time TBD: Kentucky @ Auburn: Not too long after the aforementioned contest in College Station, Kentucky gets their toughest matchup of the year on the road in Auburn. Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler form arguably the best frontcourt in the country, giving the Tigers the best chance in stopping double-double machine Oscar Tshiebwe. Washington will have to once again be a difference-maker to come away with the upset.
BONUS GAME - 1/22, 8pm EST: North Carolina @ Wake Forest: If you haven’t seen Williams in action yet for the Demon Deacons, this is an excellent game to tune in to. Caleb Love has helped the Tar Heels maintain relevancy in the ACC and has had a breakout sophomore campaign. Whether he’s a first-round pick or not remains to be seen, but the 6’5” guard has shot the cover off the ball of late. That matchup of guards is a fascinating watch.