CHICAGO (BVM) – With the NBA season in its later stages and the NBA Draft just over a month away, it is time for many teams to start thinking about building a competitive roster for next year, or adding a piece that could take them to the top.
The NBA Draft lottery will be held on Tuesday, May 17, giving the official order for this year’s draft. At the same time, many of the draft’s top prospects will be working out to prove their talent and hopefully climb up draft boards as they look to earn their shot in the league.
While some of the top-projected picks may limit what they do in scrimmages or other drills, the combine does give guys who right now may be projected to go undrafted a chance to hear their names called in June. Last year, several guys were able to improve their stock enough to get drafted in the second round such as Miles McBride for the Knicks and Joe Weiskamp for the Spurs.
Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland was another guy who stood out at the combine and got selected in the first round of the draft by the Nuggets, contributing good playoff minutes this postseason. Meanwhile, NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes was another guy who stood out, becoming a bonafide top-five talent with sky-high potential.
For many of these future draftees, the combine is important. For fans, it gives a chance to get to know the names and games of guys that could very well be playing a big role on their team next year. Let’s look at some of the guys taking part in this year’s combine who are likely lottery picks, who could trend up in the first round, and who are hoping to showcase enough to get drafted in 2022.
Likely lottery picks
Paolo Banchero, PF – Duke
Banchero is one of several Duke stars who will be selected in the lottery or shortly after, with the likes of A.J. Griffin, Wendell Moore and Mark Williams all looking likely to go in the first round. Banchero has always been toward the top of his class, and he could very well see himself at the top again going first overall. A supreme talent who already has an NBA-ready body, Banchero showed his stuff last season, averaging over 17 points and making clutch shots time and again during Duke’s Final Four run. His upside is as high as anyone in the draft and he will likely be a difference-maker at the next level.
— Duke Men’s Basketball (@DukeMBB) April 20, 2022
Chet Holmgren, C – Gonzaga
Holmgren is another guy who has always been towards the top of the 2021 class. He still will need to put on weight to excel at the NBA level, but his talent is obvious and his length – including a 7-foot-6 wingspan – will translate well to the next level. So too will his ability to shoot the ball well from outside, as he shot 39% from deep in his only season at Gonzaga. It will be interesting to see what he can prove at the combine and if he can maybe leap over the likes of Banchero or perhaps Jabari Smith for the top overall pick.
Ridiculous game from Chet Holmgren; 19 points, 17 rebounds, 7 blocks, 5 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers. Completely dominated on both ends of the floor. Highlights, and overall talent, are absolutely insane. Highly anticipated matchup coming Saturday with Jalen Duren and Memphis. pic.twitter.com/HIKMOnIgSY
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 18, 2022
Jabari Smith, PF – Auburn
Speaking of Smith, he is another guy who just has tantalizing upside within these first few picks. His last game for Auburn in this year’s NCAA Tournament where he went 3-for-16 from the field may stick with some, but it was a true anomaly for his entire season where he averaged 17 points per game, shooting the ball well from deep but also playing strong inside. Similar to Banchero, the 6-foot-10 forward seems ready to contribute at the NBA level sooner than later compared to a guy who could be a little more of a project like Holmgren.
Jaden Ivey, SG – Purdue
The Big Ten could see multiple lottery picks with guys like Iowa’s Keegan Murray – who could potentially rise to the top five with a good combine showing – and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, another guy who could be selected in the top 10 to 12 picks. However, the flashiest of the bunch may very well be Ivey, who showed elite quickness in getting to the rim in his two years at Purdue, but also a solid jumper. What really stands out most is just his presence on the court and his ability to take over a game. That’s not something seen often at the college level, but Ivey was a true difference-maker for the Boilermakers, and a good combine could have a team taking a chance on his talent in the top five.
Shaedon Sharpe, SG – Kentucky
Many guys could be discussed still in this category such as Benedict Mathurin, Ochai Agbaji or Sharpe’s teammate TyTy Washington. But Sharpe is one of the more interesting prospects this year, and has become a fast riser up draft boards. A good combine showing will only confirm that he is a top-10, and perhaps even top-five-worthy talent. The London, Ontario native was the No. 1-ranked prospect in the Class of 2022 before reclassifying and committing to Kentucky last September. He joined the Wildcats in January, but did not play a minute of college basketball. The lack of college film could have some concerned, but Sharpe is a late-bloomer and a fast-riser in the game, and has consistently displayed athleticism and shooting ability throughout his time on the hardwood.
— NIBC (@NIBCOfficial) October 16, 2021
Potential first-round players
Tari Eason, PF – LSU
Eason transferred from Cincinnati to LSU last season, and it was a good decision as the 6-foot-8 sophomore averaged over 16 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, putting up strong performance after strong performance for a talented Tigers squad. Eason is most known for his defense, but he proved to also be a talented scorer last season with a game that fits the NBA level well. He should be one of the more fun talents to check out in Chicago, and it is feasible to think someone could select the supremely talented player with a lottery pick.
Malaki Branham, SF – Ohio State
Branham is an intriguing player who truly does have one of the best chances to move up draft boards after the combine. Like teammate E.J. Liddell, he is trying to solidify his first-round pick status, but the guard also showed flashes of becoming a potential lottery pick last season at Ohio State. Although he started out slow in the non-conference season, Branham picked up his play beginning with a 35-point effort against Nebraska in the new year, and scored in double digits in each of his last 11 games, five of which he had 20 or more. Another very young guy in this draft, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year showed the ability to take over games as a scorer last season, and that should have NBA teams intrigued.
✅ B1G frosh of the year
✅ 3rd-Team All-B1G
✅ First OSU frosh to earn All-B1G honors since @Dloading
✅ Set OSU frosh record for points (35) in a B1G game
— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) April 27, 2022
Nikola Jovic, SF – Serbia
Some may have to look at the name twice, as this is not reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic. But similarly, Jovic is an international talent with a lot of upside. With some of the recent success from international players whether that is Jokic, Luka Doncic or Giannis Antetokounmpo, it is likely a team takes a shot at Jovic at some point in the first round. Jovic is a 6-10 big who can score at all levels and also displays solid talent on the defensive end. He may not be well-known now, but in a few years, he may be the next Serbian star in this league, and hopes to prove that point at the combine.
Jovic's combination of size, ball-handling, passing, dynamic shot-making, confidence and youth is intriguing to NBA scouts, drawing comparisons to oversized international guards like Danilo Gallinari and Deni Avdija. Highlights: pic.twitter.com/dx8tgeLCsE
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) April 11, 2022
Kennedy Chandler, PG – Tennessee
Fans who watched either of Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament games know the excitement Chandler can bring when on the basketball court, and he’s a guy who could rise up draft boards over the next month. Chandler has a smooth stroke from deep but is also a quick player who can really finish at the rim. The point guard may be a bit undersized, but he is still capable defensively as well. Although young, Chandler seems to be a quick learner who already has a fairly polished game that could take off even further at the next level.
Jalen Duren, C – Memphis
There are a lot of guys who could be selected in this mid-to-late first-round range whether it be a big man like Walker Kessler, a talented guard in Blake Wesley or some guys with G League experience already like Dyson Daniels or MarJon Beauchamp. However, Duren is a very interesting case and a guy who may have a wide range of outcomes when it comes to where he is selected, so a good combine performance will be big for him. What NBA scouts already know is that he is a tremendous defender and shot-blocker, but he does need some work on his offensive game. Duren showed just how good he was down the stretch last season, and had he avoided foul trouble, Memphis may very well have knocked off No. 1 seed Gonzaga to earn a Sweet 16 bid. He may be more of a project than some of the early picks, but certainly one that seems worth gambling on.
Alex Lomax finds Jalen Duren for the alley-oop! 😱
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 20, 2022
Looking to get drafted
Drew Timme, PF – Gonzaga
There are a lot of former college basketball stars in this section who may or may not get drafted, anywhere from the likes of Villanova guard Collin Gillespie to Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn to Timme’s Gonzaga teammate, Andrew Nembhard. Many who are projected late in the draft have also maintained their eligibility to return to college, like Timme. However, this combine is the biggest chance to show their worth, and Timme is a very interesting case. Anyone who has watched Gonzaga play over the last couple of years knows he has an elite post game. However, his shooting still needs work, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep up with some of the athleticism he will see in the NBA compared to the West Coast Conference. Nonetheless, Timme is a confident winner who plays with swagger, and showing his development at the combine could lead a team to take a chance on him.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 17, 2022
Johnny Juzang, SG – UCLA
A lot of college basketball fans are also familiar with Juzang’s name, as he led UCLA to a surprise Final Four run in 2021 and had them back in the Sweet 16 this past season. He also declared for the draft last year and got to go through the combine process, so that experience can only help him out as he looks to get taken at some point in the second round. A strong scoring ability could lead a team to take a flier on him late, especially if he shows well in Chicago. He joins teammate Peyton Watson in looking to become a draft pick from UCLA this year.
Justin Lewis, PF – Marquette
Lewis will be an interesting case and again is one of the prospects for which this combine could be very pivotal. He has the potential of a first-round talent, and his emergence in his second year was a big reason for Marquette’s surprise season in Shaka Smart’s first year at the helm. Lewis averaged nearly 17 points and eight rebounds a game, and can play inside and out which could translate well to the NBA level. A decent athlete as well, Lewis could really be a steal later in the draft if he decides to continue with that route.
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 26, 2022
Christian Koloko, C – Arizona
Koloko is another guy who is going to be really interesting to watch in Chicago, as he is big, strong and athletic, which was on full display at Arizona. The 7-foot-1 big man is not a guy who shoots the ball well, so that is something that could lead him to going undrafted. However, it’s hard to pass up a guy with this kind of size who can be a true presence on the defensive end, similar to a player like Rudy Gobert for the Utah Jazz. There is a lot of development to be seen yet in Koloko’s game, but a good combine showing would be a big step in the right direction.
Christian Koloko with BACK-TO-BACK blocks on the same play! 🖐🔥
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 21, 2022
Patrick Baldwin Jr., SG – UW-Milwaukee
Similar to a guy like Sharpe, Baldwin Jr. is a very interesting case in part due to his lack of college film. He surprised some by passing up playing with a blueblood program and playing for his dad at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Panthers had an awful season last year, and Baldwin Jr. did not perform all that well, struggling with injuries as he averaged just 12 points while playing in less than a dozen games. However, one of the top prospects in last year’s class is another guy who shows terrific athleticism and high upside. He may be a bit of a project, but one that is likely worth a pick in the second round.