If it feels like the 2021 draft just happened, and it’s way too soon to start thinking about next year, well … you’re not totally wrong. But here we go again. NBA teams have already begun preparing for the season ahead and familiarizing themselves with the upcoming draft class, and with that in mind, so have we.
Two prospects are at the forefront of the NBA’s discussion as potential No. 1 picks: Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. The top pick is a toss-up between them right now. I loosely canvassed a range of front-office personnel over the past few weeks and heard arguments for both players—suffice it to say there’s not a whole lot separating them yet, and it will be an ongoing story line to monitor throughout the season. Banchero is viewed as an unusually bankable, low-risk prospect, whereas Holmgren comes with a bit more risk but perhaps more upside. Both are oversize playmaking forwards who fill similar roles in concept, but their styles of play are extremely different, creating some fascinating contrast. Conveniently, Duke and Gonzaga meet in Las Vegas on Nov. 26, which promises to be one of the more consequential games in this draft cycle.
I can’t emphasize enough that it’s still quite early in the process. A lot will change, as it always does, so consider this initial Big Board more of a watch list than a concrete ranking of players. As always, I rely on conversations with executives and scouts around the NBA in addition to my own personal scouting work—which in the case of many prospects, dates back several years—to form these lists. With that in mind, here’s how the 2022 draft class has started to shape up.
1. Paolo Banchero, F, Duke
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Freshman
Banchero should be the centerpiece of this year’s Duke team and brings an exceptionally well-rounded skill set to the table, with an aptitude for scoring and facilitating, an improved jumper and handle, and the ability to face up defenders or play on the block. He’s worked on his frame over the past couple of years, which has made him a matchup problem: Banchero can overpower smaller players with his strength, take on bigger defenders with finesse, and make plays for teammates out of those opportunities. He’s developed legitimate perimeter skills as well, capable of creating his own shot off the bounce, and improved his range. He also moves well defensively and is an excellent rebounder, with wing-like coordination in a jumbo package.
NBA teams don’t view him as a flashy or outside-the-box No. 1–pick candidate, but Banchero is reliably solid, with a high floor as a likely starting-level player and a chance to be more than that as his game continues to expand. Teams already feel comfortable with what they’d be getting, and that may give him the inside track for the top spot at this early juncture. He is versatile and productive with a translatable skill set to today’s NBA game. It’s hard to find bigs this complete and polished at such a young age.
2. Chet Holmgren, F/C, Gonzaga
Height: 7' 0" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Holmgren may have the highest ceiling in the draft, as a megaskilled 7-footer with a legit perimeter game and an appealing level of toughness. The most unique prospect in this draft class, he is an exceptional ballhandler for his size and moves like a wing, with real passing acumen that allows him to make plays for teammates and take advantage of defensive mistakes. He’s also an efficient scorer, a natural jump shooter and a stellar shot blocker.
The whole package here is certainly No. 1 pick worthy in a vacuum, but there’s also a perception of added downside, primarily tied to Holmgren’s slight build, lack of physical strength and the durability struggles that skill-oriented, slender 7-footers tend to have in the NBA. He’ll have a huge platform to put those questions to rest at Gonzaga, where he should be highly productive. But the perceived risk attached to Holmgren likely isn’t changing—he simply will have to convince whoever has the top pick that his long-term potential is well worth it.
3. Jaden Hardy, G, G League Ignite
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19
While more of a score-first combo guard than a traditional fit at either guard spot, Hardy has been tracking for some time as one of the most offensively gifted players in this class. He has serious upside as a shotmaker, with the ability to make plays for teammates in a pinch. He’s also shown the anticipation and competitive nature that could make him a plus defender using his length.
Hardy has struggled in the past with heavy ball pressure and beating opponents downhill, making him occasionally mistake-prone and a bit more jumper-reliant than some of his peers. He’ll have to improve his handle and shot selection to succeed in the G League, and learn to add value without the ball in his hands. Hardy enters the season as a highly appealing talent, and quite likely the top guard in this draft class. A huge season could conceivably vault him into the discussion with Banchero and Holmgren.
4. Yannick Nzosa, F/C, Unicaja Malaga (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Height: 6' 10" | Weight: 175 | Age: 17
The consensus top international prospect in this year’s class, Nzosa is one of the best all-around athletes in the draft, and a potential game-changing defender with off-the-charts length and mobility and active hands. He runs and covers ground exceptionally well, and has the quickness to gamble, recover and contest pretty much any opponent at the rim.
Nzosa plays hard and has benefited from seasoning in Spain’s ACB, and while he needs to add strength, there’s a very real chance he becomes an All-NBA-type defender who can protect the basket and switch situationally. The question here is how long that process takes, and exactly what he’ll be able to give a team on offense. Nzosa is explosive at the rim and can attack the basket on a straight line but has yet to develop a reliable jumper—if he ends up as a Clint Capela–type rim-runner on offense, that’ll be a great outcome, but if his skill level greatly accelerates, there’s some room for him to be more than that. He’s a good bet to come off the board early in the draft, and his upside may be as high as any of his peers listed here.
5. Caleb Houstan, F, Michigan
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Freshman
Over the course of an impressive high school career at Montverde Academy, Houstan developed into a consistent, well-rounded player who adds value with his size, mature approach and excellent perimeter shooting. While not an elite run-jump athlete, he projects as an extremely high-floor role player, with the NBA trending heavily toward taller, skilled players who shoot the ball and defend.
The Canadian forward makes good decisions, can pass effectively and doesn’t require heavy touches to impact a game. He’s also made strides as a scorer, and become more comfortable shooting from deep off the bounce. NBA teams will want to see Houstan’s individual offense continue to trend up at Michigan—he’s not extremely creative, nor is he an explosive finisher—but if he can flash more than just a catch-and-shoot game, it could really raise his perceived ceiling. Houstan is polished for his age and should be one of the better freshmen in the country regardless. He’s tracking as a likely lottery pick.
6. Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn
Height: 6' 10" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18 | Freshman
Smith is a gifted scorer with a fascinating combination of size, skill and significant upside, particularly considering he’s one of the younger freshmen in this class. He’s a natural jump shooter with an advanced midrange game and a projectable stroke. He also has a developing handle that enables him to create looks for himself.
Smith needs to add muscle to consistently use his mismatch at the next level, and will have to answer some questions about shot selection, playmaking and defensive consistency in college. He’s more smooth and coordinated than explosive but fits the mold of where the NBA is headed as a tall combo forward who can play on the move and make tough shots. The idea of Smith as an offensive focal point has always been obvious and appealing, and if he proves he can be an efficient, go-to scorer, he should be an early selection. The actual range of outcomes is a bit wider as he adjusts to SEC play, but his upside should be appealing in the lottery regardless.
7. Patrick Baldwin Jr., F, Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Freshman
Baldwin boasts one of the more safely translatable playstyles in this class: He’s huge, he’s a terrific jump shooter and his feel for the game is strong. While he’ll be operating outside the spotlight playing for his father at a lower level in the Horizon League, Baldwin shouldn’t be an overly complicated eval for front offices. Playing as the presumptive focal point of the offense should give him an opportunity to expand his own shot creation and playmaking skills, and while he’s not an elite run-jump athlete, he’s big enough to shoot over defenders without needing a ton of separation.
Baldwin profiles better defensively as a four than as a true wing, but as long as he continues to shoot it, his positional fit won’t be an issue. After missing most of his senior season with an ankle injury, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to get back on track. He’s an impressive prospect with starting-caliber upside and comes with a high floor as a useful role player.
8. Jalen Duren, F/C, Memphis
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 235 | Age: 17 | Freshman
The hype around Duren, Emoni Bates and Memphis will be significant going into the fall, and the former projects easily as one of the first bigs off the board in next year’s draft. Duren possesses advanced physical tools and a mature frame, and he’s a quality passer for his position who has tried to moonlight as more of a versatile forward than true center over the past 18 months or so. His strength, instincts and skill potential are highly intriguing.
Duren is still most effective within five feet of the basket than anywhere else, however, and should be functionally more of a traditional big—which begs the question of how to value him relative to the changing nature of the NBA game. He has potential to stretch the floor, and will need to show progress in that area to maximize his value in the draft. There’s plenty to like here, but Duren is already an acquired taste for some scouts, and he doesn’t always play hard. To be fair, bigs tend to take longer on that front, but in a draft class full of versatile wings and forwards, Duren has work to do and more to show to maximize his stock.
9. A.J. Griffin, SF, Duke
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Freshman
Griffin missed significant time with minor injuries during his high school career, but has been a stellar player when healthy, with a big, muscular frame and the ability to score at all three levels from the wing. The son of longtime NBA forward and coach Adrian Griffin is expected to be a key piece for Duke, and should have a strong chance at the lottery if all goes well.
Griffin is more reliant on his strength and size in lieu of elite quick-twitch explosiveness, but he’s a quality jump shooter who can take advantage of mismatches and has good overall awareness of the floor. Defensively, he has the length and smarts to be a positive, as well. He was physically mature at a young age, and his skill level is still catching up to his frame, but Griffin should be able to get back on track as long as he’s available. The hope is that the injury concerns are minimal moving forward, and that he emerges as a versatile contributor at Duke right away.
10. Jaden Ivey, SG, Purdue
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Sophomore
Ivey has been on a stellar trajectory since the end of last season, and his breakout continued into a strong showing for USA Basketball at the Under-19 world championships. Although he was a four-star recruit (and his mother is Niele Ivey, the head coach of the Notre Dame women’s team), Ivey was relatively unheralded upon landing at Purdue. But he’s gotten stronger, quicker and more explosive since then. He has become a disruptive perimeter defender and puts pressure on the rim going downhill.
NBA teams will be closely monitoring the progress of Ivey’s jump shot, which will be a major determinant in his path to the draft. He’s such a terrific athlete and defensive presence that his floor as a role player feels fairly high. Considering how much room he has to grow on offense, Ivey could come off the board pretty early.
11. J.D. Davison, G, Alabama
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Freshman
Davison will step in immediately as a key playmaker for the Crimson Tide, with elite explosiveness and open-court speed pointing to obvious NBA upside. The range of outcomes with Davison is a bit wide—he’s not a good jump shooter yet, and he’s headed for a big step up in level after dominating lesser high school competition in Alabama. But his physical tools are excellent, he’s an underrated passer with lead guard potential, and he should be a strong fit in Nate Oats’s uptempo system. He’ll need to show progress as a shooter to make the best possible case—and it’s a glaring hole for a ball-dominant guard to have—but the pieces are in place for Davison to have a strong freshman year. He’ll share ballhandling duties with Jahvon Quinerly, and a good showing could vault him into the upper part of the draft.
12. Bennedict Mathurin, SG, Arizona
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Sophomore
After opting to stay in school and bypass a likely top 40 selection in the 2021 draft, Mathurin returns to Arizona ticketed as a primary scoring option. He put together a good freshman year in a secondary role, making 52% of twos, 41% of threes and 84% of his free throws, as an athletic, scoring-minded wing with a developing handle and consistent catch-and-shoot skills. Mathurin isn’t much of a playmaker for others yet, while playing a bit upright physically, nor is he much of a defender, but he’s been trending in the right direction overall in the past year. He has improved his overall floor game significantly from his time in the NBA’s global academy program. The Canadian wing was a bit of a mixed bag over the summer at the Under-19 World Cup but flashed the scoring potential that could land him in the lottery next year.
13. Peyton Watson, F, UCLA
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 200 | Age: 18 | Freshman
UCLA should strongly benefit from adding Watson, a long, versatile, high-upside recruit, to a group that pulled off an improbable Final Four run. Watson is a capable jump shooter and smooth athlete who continues to expand his offensive game, relying more on coordination and skill than explosiveness. He’s also an above-average passer who can make plays for others, enabling him to play on and off the ball with some effectiveness.
As Watson’s frame matures, there’s intriguing upside as a perimeter scorer and switchable defender. He has the type of frame and basic strengths that are always tantalizing to NBA teams. The Bruins are returning enough talent that Watson won’t be overtaxed with carrying the load, which should ultimately be beneficial to his development. The lottery is well within reach if he can be productive in whatever role he’s ultimately tasked with. It’s worth keeping in mind that Watson was a late-bloomer and is still at a relatively early stage of his development relative to his peers. He could get a bump based on how much room he has left to improve in all facets.
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14. Jean Montero, PG, Overtime Elite (Dominican Republic)
Height: 6' 2" | Weight: 170 | Age: 18
After leaving Gran Canaria’s development system to join the fledgling Overtime Elite program, Montero will likely be the first OTE player to hear his name called on draft night. He’s a decorated international prospect, having posted quality numbers as a teenager at lower levels in Spain, and he was a standout at the Basketball Without Borders camp in Chicago in 2020.
Montero is exceptionally tough, quick, and difficult to contain off the dribble—he is able to attack downhill, shift gears and get to the basket effectively at his size. His lack of ideal size and physical heft will pose questions, but Montero can be a stellar, pesky defender when engaged and is willing to play physically. He can fall into stretches where he shoots too much, and profiles as more of a scorer than a traditional point guard, but he doesn’t have any overly troublesome holes in his skill set. This is not an especially deep point guard class, and Montero is tracking as one of the top options.
15. Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite (Australia)
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 180 | Age: 18
Daniels is expected to be one of the primary point guards for Ignite this season after signing on from the NBA’s Global Academy program and starring for Australia at the Under-19 World Cup. He’s a highly versatile and smart player, capable of handling both guard spots and defending all over the perimeter at his size. While he needs to sufficiently improve his handle and jump shot, Daniels is widely considered one of Australia’s top up-and-coming prospects, with high-end athletic ability and an even-keeled approach.
There’s a lot to like overall here, and he projects as a high-floor prospect with a starter-caliber ceiling if his individual skills keep expanding. This is stating the obvious, but growing to 6' 6" massively shifted Daniels’s trajectory for the better. He’ll be properly tested in the G League.
16. Jaime Jaquez, SF, UCLA
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Junior
Jaquez had an impressive late-season run and was instrumental in the Bruins’ surprise Final Four trip. He’s big, crafty and skilled with an extremely impressive feel for the game, and he’ll have a big platform to play his way into the first round as UCLA faces higher expectations. Jaquez has historically been a streaky shooter, making 39% on threes at low volume last season, and just 65% of free throws. He’s not an all-world athlete. But there were times last season where it looked like he was on the verge of a real leap.
Jaquez’s noted work ethic and basketball IQ point to the possibility of a significant leap. He’s an extremely decisive scorer who reads defenders quickly and has a deep bag of moves both going downhill and creating space for his jumper. With continued improvement as a shotmaker, Jaquez’s stock could skyrocket, and the whispers out of Westwood right now are that he’s emerged as the Bruins’ go-to guy.
17. Ousmane Dieng, G/F, New Zealand Breakers (France)
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18
Dieng will leave his native France for the NBL this season, where teams will track his evolution as a perimeter creator closely. He has terrific size and burgeoning guard skills but is generally described by scouts as more of a project, noting his underdeveloped frame and overall inefficient offensive game. But it’s easy to see the idea: He’s a creative passer and has some innate shake and change-of-direction off the dribble that’s hard to defend at his size.
Dieng will presumably see plenty of opportunities to run possessions with the Breakers, and if he refines his pull-up shooting and can convince scouts of his potential as a playmaker, he should be able to solidify an early selection. But this is a situation that could go either way, as Dieng has yet to prove he can put everything together, and he’s not a freakish athlete or consistent defender.
18. Kendall Brown, SF, Baylor
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Freshman
Boasting a long frame, explosive leaping ability and rangy lateral quickness, Brown is a first-round caliber talent who should be able to step in and help Baylor immediately. He passes the eye test as an athletic slasher who can make plays in the open floor, moves well without the ball, and guards several positions at his size. The league is always hunting for malleable wing prospects.
Brown has terrific instincts on defense and is highly disruptive in the passing lanes with his physical strength and good closing speed. The primary drawback here is that Brown has never been a very good three-point shooter, nor is he a very creative ballhandler, which will relegate him to an off-ball role on offense and place even more emphasis on becoming a respectable shooter to earn big minutes. His progress in that area will be a big factor in his pathway to the draft.
19. Nikola Jovic, F, Mega Basket (Serbia)
Height: 6' 10" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18
Jovic stood out at the Under-19 World Cup, showcasing his point-forward skill set and impressive handle while finishing as the event’s third-leading scorer. He’s a well-rounded, mature player, though not an elite athlete, relying on his feel and craft to impact the game. Jovic is an excellent passer who can play in transition or initiate plays in half-court settings. He can operate on either end of a ball screen and has the instinctual ability to play out of a range of spots on the floor. Jovic’s jump shot is still somewhat inconsistent, and he will need to become a better defender over time, but prospects with his size and ball skills are tough to find. With power forward becoming an increasingly skill-focused position in the NBA, Jovic should arrive at a convenient time, and if he can refine his jumper and prove himself defensively, he’ll have real appeal as a rotation player who can do a bit of everything.
20. Daimion Collins, C, Kentucky
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 200 | Age: 18 | Freshman
With impressive physical tools and some developing ball skills, Collins will be a person of interest out of the gate at Kentucky but profiles as more of a long-term project whenever he lands in the NBA. He is a remarkable athlete, can handle the ball functionally and shoot from the perimeter, and has the ability to protect the rim at a high level. There’s likely going to be a major learning curve for him in college, however, as he arrives from a small Texas high school and will face a huge leap up in competition and physicality.
Collins needs to add a ton of strength and may be playing conceptual catch-up for much of this season, but he compares favorably to Isaiah Jackson, who left Kentucky last season and heard his name called in the 20s. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from Collins right away, but he’s capable of freaky, highlight-level plays, and it’s easy to envision him showing enough of that upside to land somewhere in the first round. A strong freshman year could see him go much higher than this.
21. Tristan Vukcevic, C, Real Madrid (Serbia)
Height: 6' 11" | Weight: 200 | Age: 18
Vukcevic is on course to be the next teenage prospect to make the leap from Real Madrid to the NBA, after breaking in with the senior team last season and holding his own in very limited playing time. The appeal with him is fairly clear: He has a terrific, projectable frame, he’s mobile and fluid for his size, and he’s an advanced catch-and-shoot player who should be able to space the floor at center. His overall feel is impressive, manifesting in sharp passing skills, screen-setting and energy plays.
He’ll need to improve as a rebounder and continue adding strength, but he is on the fast track right now and has started earning trust as a rotation player at a huge European club. With more progress, he looks like a first-round talent, offering some real versatility and good physical traits for a modern center.
22. Keegan Murray, PF, Iowa
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 215 | Age: 21 | Sophomore
Although Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp carried Iowa last season, Murray quietly emerged as the Hawkeyes’ top long-term prospect. He brings terrific size, length and defensive instincts, and should be a high-caliber team defender in short order. Murray covers ground with ease, has impressive floor awareness and takes away passing lanes. There’s room for him to develop into a useful supporting player on offense, too: Murray is a smooth athlete and smart off-ball cutter and screener, and the ball rarely sticks too long in his hands.
The NBA will closely monitor his offensive development—right now, he lacks an elite skill on that end—but he has potential to be a good set shooter, and we still haven’t seen exactly what he can do as a scorer. Murray already made a big impact for Iowa in sporadic minutes, and without needing his number called. He should be a person of interest for teams all season.
23. Kennedy Chandler, PG, Tennessee
Height: 6' 0" | Weight: 170 | Age: 18 | Freshman
Chandler should be an impactful floor leader out of the gate for Tennessee, with impressive speed and playmaking chops and the ability to make teammates better. He’s relied on his feel and change of pace to control games in lieu of ideal size for his position, which may wind up a major drawback when it comes to his draft stock. It helps that Chandler is a good shooter and willing defender, but his lack of physical tools and below-the-rim tendencies makes it a bit tough to project him confidently as a starting-caliber NBA guard at this stage. Still, he’s a first-round talent with a history of winning and strong intangibles and decision-making skills, and he could certainly wind up as a high-quality backup, at worst. Expect Chandler to be a difference-maker in college, regardless, but he’ll need a strong freshman year to assuage some of the concerns.
24. TyTy Washington, G, Kentucky
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Washington was a late riser in the recruiting cycle who initially committed to Creighton, and is expected to be a big piece of Kentucky’s puzzle as the team’s most natural backcourt scorer. Often praised for his floor leadership, Washington is a heady, competitive guard who relies on craft, changing speeds, and a good-looking jump shot in lieu of elite explosiveness and strength. He can be a bit of an overdribbler at times, which generally leads to mistakes against better competition, and at this point it’s a bit unclear whether he profiles best as a point guard or combo in the long run. Washington left a positive impression on scouts during his senior season and looks to have a shot at the first round, particularly if he emerges as a go-to player for Kentucky.
25. Roko Prkacin, F/C, Cibona Zagreb (Croatia)
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18
Prkacin was searching for a first-round promise during the 2021 draft process but was unable to find a suitable guarantee in the 20s and ultimately withdrew. He has yet to turn 19 and should have a better shot next year if he can build on last season, which included promising flashes but ultimately wasn’t enough to build his first-round case. He’s not extremely explosive or quick but has strong passing ability and a solid overall skill level to build on. Prkacin needs to convince scouts he can shoot the ball consistently, as it’s unlikely he evolves into a heavy-usage worthy player in the NBA. His ability to adjust into more of a stretch big will be crucial.
26. Jabari Walker, PF, Colorado
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Sophomore
The son of longtime NBA forward Samaki Walker is a popular breakout candidate after showing some impressive flashes in a small role as a freshman. Walker was somewhat inconsistent in that context, and it’s worth noting that he didn’t make the final cut for USA Basketball’s Under-19 team over the summer. He was a late bloomer in high school who was somewhat underrecruited, so what he accomplished last season with limited minutes should be encouraging enough.
Walker has impressive physical tools and rebounding skills, and made 23 of his 44 threes as a freshman while shooting 77% from the foul line. He lacks an elite skill right now, but the hope is that Walker emerges as a viable face-up player and floor-spacer who can switch ball screens on defense, and that his eye-test ability turns into real production.
27. Allen Flanigan, SG, Auburn
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 215 | Age: 20 | Junior
After a forgettable freshman season, Flanigan took a nice step forward as a sophomore, starting every game and showcasing his potential as a perimeter scorer, but also struggling heavily with turnovers and decision-making. He’s a good athlete who did well drawing fouls and getting to the line, but his shot selection and individual defense often left something to be desired. He has deep range on his left-handed stroke and plays a very strong-hand dominant style, relying a bit too much on taking and making tough attempts to be effective. Flanigan hasn’t shown a great grasp of how to play with teammates, and will need to make a big leap in terms of feel and processing. But he has moments where he looks like a talented shooter, and he’s athletic and theoretically versatile enough to draw first-round interest.
28. Walker Kessler, C, Auburn
Height: 7' 1" | Weight: 245 | Age: 20 | Sophomore
Kessler lands at Auburn ticketed for a large role, after spending his freshman year mostly buried on North Carolina’s center-heavy roster. A pair of noteworthy performances against Florida State and Notre Dame illustrated his obvious NBA potential: Kessler is huge, pretty mobile and skilled around the basket, with plus shot-blocking skills. There’s some potential for him to eventually space the floor, which would help his case in the pros (although he attempted just four threes and made just 53% of free throws as a freshman). Kessler profiles as a bit more of a traditional center and won’t be a fit for every team, but it’s tough to find athletic bigs with his sheer size and length, and a strong season could help him work into the first-round discussion.
29. Josiah-Jordan James, G/F, Tennessee
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Junior
A former McDonald’s All-American who has yet to fully turn the corner at the college level, James should be asked to do a bit more with the ball in his hands on the offensive end this season. He was one of the more impactful defenders in college basketball, utilizing his large frame, strength and explosiveness to make plays, and is an excellent rebounder for his position. He’s also a capable secondary playmaker who can push in transition. James is just an average three-point shooter, however, and has been inconsistent finishing in the paint in his first two college seasons. There’s some innate versatility to his skill set and obvious role player potential, but his offensive production will need to turn a corner for him to make a first-round case.
30. Mark Williams, C, Duke
Height: 7' 0" | Weight: 245 | Age: 19 | Sophomore
Williams started to figure out the college game in a real way over the final six games of his freshman year, putting up impressive numbers and becoming a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable Duke season. Considering he was a late-blooming high school prospect, there’s still a ton of room left for him to improve. With legit size and a huge wingspan, he continues to emerge as a valuable shot blocker and rim protector, and can impact the glass heavily on both ends. He isn’t a stiff athletically, either, and moves his feet well for his size. His overall skill level isn’t great, as he’s primarily a catch-and-finish player with limited function beyond five feet of the rim. But if he can produce at the rate he’s capable of all season, Williams should have a good case to turn pro.
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