2022 NBA Draft Final Big Board: Part 3
Tiers 6 and 5 of our final big board take us into the first round and take two types of prospects into consideration: the low-risk role players and the higher risk, high reward guys
Less than a week away, we are ready to start publishing our final version of the 2022 NBA Draft Big Board. Ours will come out in five separate installments going by tiers of talent, working our way up to the best of the best in this class.
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Part Three of this Big Board dives into the guys we have a first-round grade on but might not be lottery talents or swings we would feel comfortable making. Previous installments went into the guys knocking on the door of first round grades (Part Two) and the tail end of our Big Board with the guys who are late-round candidates.
Below you will see in-depth breakdowns of these prospects, as well as video scouting reports and an explanation of the tiers we cut our board into.
Tier 6: Role Players w/ First Round Grades
We’re at the point where there are two pathways forming. There are the higher-risk investments: the guys who have a lot of raw tools, a playstyle that is conducive to high impact if it all gets harnessed or simply not ready for NBA minutes. Then there are the more dependable role players, the guys who likely don’t have star power in the NBA and, at best, will stick as complementary pieces. They don’t have the same floor of boom-or-bust that the other higher-risk guys have.
Tier 6 guys fall into the category of the more low-risk prospect, the guys who are role players and are more likely to be guys that fill in a team around the margins. Based on our projections, these are guys who can be inside a rotation on a playoff team, or just on the fringes of that rotation, but are not starters or franchise building blocks. Valuable pieces, but not the major players to build around.
As a result, fit is really important in utilizing these prospects the best. Tiers 5 and 6 are often overlapping, with the right drafting team who needs a lower-risk piece and sees the ideal fit prioritizing a Tier 6 prospect first.
6.22 - Gabriele Procida, Fortitudo Bologna
Back-to-back international guys start off this round, out of pure coincidence. Italian wing Gabriele Procida has a great deal of upside. He’s a 40% 3-point shooter with a smooth, high stroke. He is an unbelievable athlete, and bullies less-athletic players with some imposing defense. Get him downhill or attacking the rim and he look out below! He isn’t great at finishing through contact right now, but he’s such a high-flyer that he can likely finish over the top of it.
Procida has a bit of a 3-and-D type of floor based on what he’s proven. There’s still quite a bit to clean up, especially in making the leap from his current league to NBA competition. He’s likely a bit of a multi-year prospect as a result.
What does an investing team get with Procida? An athletic 3-and-D guy with a pretty shot and even a bit of self-creation upside. Right now, Procida is all flashes and very little substance. We have a first-round grade on him and believe he is worthy of a draft-and-stash type of selection in the top-30.
6.21 - Ochai Agbaji, Kansas
Upperclassmen 3-and-D players may be overdrafted. That’s not to say that drafting Corey Kispert or Cameron Johnson in the lottery is a bad idea. But for every solid wing that gets taken top-20, there’s a guy just as impactful at his role who didn’t even sniff the top-30, like Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, Wesley Matthews, Danny Green, Garrison Matthews or Gary Trent Jr.
Agbaji may be a low-risk prospect because he’s older and has clearly-projectable strengths that everyone can clearly see how to win with. But the risk with a guy like Agbaji comes in the opportunity cost; taking a guy of his position and mold instead of an archetype that is more challenging to fill with a value pick or undrafted free agent.
Our complaints about him as a prospect center around how he plays with the ball on the floor. He puts very little pressure on the rim, isn’t a consistent passer or shot-creator and doesn’t have a polished mid-range game at his advanced age. Thinking of Agbaji as an elite defensive-stopper doesn’t quite pique our interest, either: he’s good, but not someone we’d want matched up with NBA superstars.
That leverages so much of his value on the 3-point shooting. How he gets his shots isn’t diverse enough for us to really fall in love with. If he were better and more consistent with his hips on the move, or could attack closeouts comfortably, we’d buy in a tad more to Agbaji as a lottery pick.
6.20 - Dalen Terry, Arizona
Arizona swingman Dalen Terry played a complementary role on one of college basketball’s best teams last season. He took six shots a game, played fewer than 30 minutes a night and left very few scouts buzzing about his star potential. But at 6’7” with a 7’0” wingspan and point guard skills, Terry is a do-it-all kind of role player who has a clear impact on winning. He was Arizona’s best perimeter defender, passer, and by the end of the season, turned himself into a competent 3-point threat.
That aforementioned shooting was always the missing piece of the puzzle for Terry. He thrived with the ball in his hands in transition, was slimy enough to get to the rim off the bounce, knew how to cut without the ball and provided a much-needed dose of energy on the offensive glass. Few guards were as impactful at chasing second-chance points as Terry. But the shooting… the shooting was never there. He shot 14-43 (32.6%) as a freshman, an incredibly small volume given his position and minutes played.
What’s going to be necessary for Terry is adding any sort of scoring threat off the bounce, both from the mid-range and from 3. He’s devoid of that right now. Long and crafty enough to get to the rim, Terry didn’t need such a game to be effective at Arizona. But if he’s going to play with the ball in his hands as more of a creator in the half-court, he’ll need to be able to score his own created shots outside of five feet.
Opponents gave Dalen the Rajon Rondo treatment, going underneath every ball screen, handoff or completely ignoring him when he’d bounce. His game was so east-west within the Arizona offense that there was little penalty for doing so. Terry rarely looked at the rim, didn’t take many pull-up jumpers (only 11 attempted in the half-court, half of which were caught-in-between runners), and clearly lacked confidence in that part of his game.
We love the defense and the playmaking and believe his energy and attitude will set him up to be a career role player who does a little bit of everything. The lack of scoring gives us pause to put the ball in his hands as a primary option, but he should be a really high-value role guy.
6.19 - Christian Braun, Kansas
Our preferred Kansas prospect is actually Christian Braun, a guy whose shot we like just as much but has more diversity off the bounce and projects as a better defender.
Braun checks so many boxes without being elite in one category. He’s a career 38% 3-point shooter with a beautiful stroke and zero wasted movement. He can attack closeouts and finish at the rim. He’s an adequate passer and secondary creator, a feisty on-ball defender, a tremendous rebounder for his size, and a natural athlete.
Finding the right role for Braun comes from simply plugging him into a team where he won’t be asked to do too much. He’s a good on-ball defender but is likely more switchable across 2s and 3s than all the way 1 thru 4. He’s a good spot-up threat but not an elite movement shooter. He can handle, facilitate and score a little bit, but his best role is just picking his spots and feeding off others.
Oftentimes, the separator between guys is mental makeup: competitiveness, the willingness to sacrifice their touches for the benefit of the team, the professionalism needed to make NBA basketball their life. The outlier skill for Braun is his competitiveness. He’s right on the borderline of playing dickish, always talking to his opponents, chirping to the crowd and letting out primal screams after his rim-shaking dunks. He’s just a guy we’d hate to play against, and we’d want him on our team for that reason alone.
6.18 - Max Christie, Michigan State
Max Christie didn’t have a great year at Michigan State. He’s a very good shooter in theory: smooth stroke, high volume, the confidence to keep taking them even on cold streaks. But he did not shoot the ball well at all with the Spartans, knocking down fewer than 32% of his triples. The question hanging over Christie’s draft stock is pretty clear: does his role make him only as good as his numbers, or does the film about his process matter in predicting future impact?
We tend to be more on the process side of the equation. College is really just a 35-game sample of a player’s career. It’s an important and revealing sample, but is susceptible to numbers being thrown off by slumps, cold streaks or adjustment periods more than most.
The second watch of Christie gave us the impression that the shooting was legitimate. He’ll be 19 on draft night. As a long-armed 6’5”, he makes for a very imapctful 2 or 3-man if the shot falls above a 36% mark. He can be used on the move, has a surprising amount of tough-shot-making ability and a smooth turnaround in the mid-range for late-clock moments.
We were incredibly impressed with Christie’s on-ball defense. His mechanics, how he moves, the length of his arms, the lack of being bothered by size… he has a true future as a positive defender in the NBA. Floor-spacers of a high level who can defend and dart off screens have a great deal of role player value. Christie isn’t a certain thing by any means, but we’re pretty high on him in comparison to other role player prospects.
Tier 5: High-Upside Swings w/ Considerable Downside
Just outside of lottery or safe bet to be a starter territory, Tier 5 are the volatile, high-risk high-reward prospects. The risk is apparent to us, enough so to not put these guys in the category of starter-caliber players that is Tier 4. The downside apparent with these prospects are pretty clear: these guys could all be out of the league or rotations in four years.
Unlike other less-certain prospects, these players can turn into a legitimate franchise pillar if they hit. Whether that’s as a top-three scorer, an elite defender or a unique piece that cannot be found elsewhere due to their natural traits, each prospect brings a major high point to the table. For the right team, that production is worth the risk in the first round, which is why these prospects have first-round grades.
Without the context of a team that we are drafting for, we can value these higher upside swings a bit higher than most franchises might. As such, this tier is slightly elevated above the safer role player options in Tier 6.
5.17 - Ousmane Dieng, New Zealand Breakers
The New Zealand Breakers’ youngest prospect had an in-season turnaround of epic proportions, salvaging a nightmare of a start and reigniting interest in him as a lottery prospect.
Dieng First Half: 4.8 PTS, 25.6% FG, 16.8% 3FG, 2.3 REB, 0.8 AST, 0.1 STL
Dieng Second Half: 13.3 PTS, 49% FG, 29.4% 3FG, 4.1 REB, 1.1 AST, 1.1 STL
At 6’10” with super long arms and fluidity, what stands out most about Dieng’s game is his feel. He’s very good off the bounce, a terrific passer and can handle in the open floor. His frame is super skinny and doesn’t have a true position to play in the traditional sense, but his combination of physical traits and skill only comes along once in a blue moon.
Which version of the team that drafts Dieng will they get? Is he going to be an offensive focal point with barely sub-30% shooting? Is his shot getting better? Can he use his length to bother opposing ball handlers the way he did with the Breakers?
Or is he more of a guy whose entire season comes out in the wash: a 27% 3-point shooter who isn’t great from deep despite solid mechanics. A skinny guy afraid of contact, thus handicapping some of his natural traits that are so appealing. An efficient self-creator whose pull-up isn’t reliable enough for NBA duty.
There’s a definite risk involved in drafting Dieng after back-to-back seasons below 30% from 3 and with such an unorthodox game for his frame. He’s a long-term investment that has major, irreplaceable upside. When going after one of those young guys before their upside is actualized, there is always going to be risk.
5.16 - AJ Griffin, Duke
Griffin finished his freshman season as an elite 3-point shooter, going an insane 44.7% from deep. He drilled step-backs and shots with a tough degree of difficulty and had the physical frame to see guys bounce off him in traffic. At this point, Griffin is an elite shooting prospect in a spot-up form and flashes isolation scoring upside.
He also rarely looked fully comfortable athletically on both ends. Productive nonetheless, Griffin enters the draft at a time where the onus is on scouts to figure out just how high of a swing he’s worth. If he can reclaim some of his athleticism and stay this consistent as a shooter, the combination of those athletic skills stand out as a top-six or seven talent in this class. Combine that with the fact he’s an 18-year-old (one of the youngest in this class) and basically didn’t have a senior year of high school competition due to COVID — and missed other key events due to injury — and taking him in the top-ten becomes defensible.
Our major issues with Griffin to keep him out of any higher tier are the risks associated with two major factors: injury/ athleticism trajectory and defensive impact. I’m not one to really believe that guys are particularly injury-prone, but do buy into the notion that the wrong injury can debilitate or hamper a player’s general athleticism. He doesn’t look the same way he did in high school, and that regression athletically really scares us.
Defensively, Griffin doesn’t have a natural position. His stocky frame and long arms make him better served guarding up (and playing the 3 or 4) than being more of a bully-ball version of the 2. But Griffin doesn’t even have a quickness advantage over many of those bigger wings and may struggle to even keep them out of the paint. We don’t know where to slot him to mitigate the lateral quickness concerns, and he’s so far behind from a defensive IQ standpoint that he couldn’t be on the floor late-game for Duke in many situations.
Without defensive concerns, Griffin likely ends up seventh or eighth on our big board. There are just so many orange flags (moderate risk indicators) that all add up to some red flags in lottery range. Clear, clear upside, but the risks may not be worth it with some of the other players available in this class.
5.15 - Jalen Williams, Santa Clara
A sleeper and riser up draft boards, Jalen Williams has become something of an internet darling — to the point where his draft stock is slightly getting overrated. Williams has a lot to buy into. His ball handling, seven-foot wingspan, 39% shooting from 3, catch-and-shoot ability, three-level upside and glimpses of positive defense are all pretty clear when you watch him play. Star player upside with legitimate role player downside thanks to the catch-and-shoot ability.
With the way we’ve constructed our tiers, Williams is — essentially — just outside of being a lottery pick. His role in the NBA isn’t overtly clear, but what is apparent is that he’s simply a good, well-rounded basketball player. He’s also a really good upside play because he’s a wiry wing still figuring out his frame (he was a late bloomer physically) that also has experience playing in the alpha role.
There are so many tools here to like, especially with his skill in the pick-and-roll. But Williams doesn’t play incredibly athletic; he’s a good athlete but doesn’t utilize it a ton in the half-court. Nor is he a dynamic shot-maker; he’s got a good volume of pull-ups, floaters and rim attacks but he isn’t either an elite space-creator or a reliably tough-shot-maker.
That leaves us slightly guessing where Williams’ best impact is on the offensive end. The fact he can shoot it well from deep — he appears to be turning into a very consistent and impressive catch-and-shoot threat — raises his floor dramatically to the point where he can still make it in the NBA without becoming a primary threat. Real high-end upside, but in comparison to some of the other high-variance names in this tier, Williams has a floor we feel comfortable with.