Top 10 prospects in the 2022 NBA draft

The top 10 prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Time to find out where the top prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft go.

The annual event will be an exciting one because there is no real consensus on the No. 1 pick this year. The best-case scenario is three players go first, but no matter how much research you do, you don’t know how the actual draft order will play out.

So which players should you follow? Here are 10 leads expected to be made early in the first round:

10. Tari Eason, F, Louisiana State University

Ethan shares a similar archetype to Baylor’s Jeremy Sokhan, although he has a more explosive athleticism. After spending his freshman season in Cincinnati, Eason came to LSU as a sophomore and thrived on the bench, another similarity to Sochan. Eason’s numbers are better, though: 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 1.1 blocks, 1.0 assists. He improved his 3-point percentage to 35.9 percent on 2.4 attempts and was a lethal transition scorer. He plays at center most of the time, but at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan in the NBA Combined Draft, he has a body that can hang on the perimeter with guards. Eason’s off-ball defense should translate to the big leagues as well. During his entire rookie season, he will be 21 years old.

9. AJ Griffin, Underground, Duke University

Griffin’s numbers aren’t showing up — 10.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists — but he’s in the Blue Devils’ lineup, so he’s not taking on heavy scoring or playmaking responsibilities. His biggest feature, though, is the way he shoots. He can shoot from mid-range or 3-point range in a variety of ways, while also being a pure knockout shooter. In his lone season at Duke, he attempted 4.1 attempts and shot 44.7 percent from beyond the arc. At 6-foot-6, 222 pounds, and with a 7-foot wingspan, Griffin plans to be a high-level 3-and-D player, although developing his defense and awareness is one of the skills to develop. Griffin has a chance to make the top five as he turns 19 in August, giving him more time to reach his potential, but he’s No. 9 on this list.

8. Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona Underground

Mathurin continues the trend of sophomores — we’ll get to that later — who take on bigger roles and show budding potential. Mathurin is 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, and if he adds more muscle, he could become an NBA-caliber shooting No. 2 guard who can guard No. 3. He is averaging 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 37 games this season, all higher than his freshman season. He’s shooting 45 percent overall and 36.9 percent from 3-point range (6.1 attempts), but most of his attempts are controversial or ugly. He’s an explosive athlete who can play with and without the ball, and if he plays with a defender (think Devin Booker and Chris Paul), his potential has a lot to admire place.

7. Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite

Daniels is arguably the most intriguing rookie to storm the draft committee in recent weeks. The 19-year-old Australian defender stands just under 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan at the combine. He spent a year in G League Ignite, putting up 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.9 steals in 14 games. An assister of that size is a huge mismatch for opposing defenses, and Daniels is already a strong, versatile defender with a good IQ and work ethic.

His biggest weakness is his long-range shooting, where he’s only hitting 25.5 percent of his 3.6 three-point attempts. That version was promising, but fellow Australian Josh Giddey finished sixth overall last year despite being seen as a second-half lottery pick. That potential is really, really scary if he shoots. Still, the teams that draft him will need to be patient with his development.

6. Keegan Murray, F, Iowa State

After the top three, the next three common names that came up were Jaden Ivey, Shaden Sharp and Murray, who came in at No. 6. After serving as a backup as a freshman at the University of Iowa, Murray soared during his sophomore season with the Hawkeyes. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals in 35 games. He’s shooting 55.4 percent overall and 39.8 percent from 3-point range on 4.7 attempts. He can guard multiple positions, and regardless of his role, he’s a safe bet because he excels in multiple categories. His age — will be 22 in August — is a headwind for a potential top-five pick, but his two-way ability for his size and position is a major plus.

5. Shaedon Sharpe, Kentucky

Sharp, a 19-year-old guard from Kentucky, is the biggest mystery of the year. He didn’t play his freshman year, which he confirmed in a pre-draft news conference was his own decision. Team scouts have only high school tapes to study with the individual workouts he’s been doing in recent weeks. He was 6-foot-5 at the combine with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, and based on his performance on tape, he could evolve into the team’s first choice. He can jump out of the gym and has a keen shot from the mid and long range. He’ll be a big gamble no matter which team chooses him, but he has all the tools of a top prospect.

4. Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue University

At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Ivey’s name came after the consensus top three. Like likely top-five pick Keegan Murray, he improved his numbers across the board as a sophomore: 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals. Ivey’s explosiveness makes him dangerous, both in the open court and at halftime. The shooting potential is definitely there, but he needs to be a guard to get the most out of him. That wasn’t always the case at Purdue, where he became stealthy in crunch time, or when he didn’t play hard on defense leading to easy scoring. Ivey is a common name at No. 4, but Sharp and Murray are also very likely here if none of the top three finish.

3. Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga

Holmgren has been on the NBA’s radar since his high school days. The 7-foot center isn’t your traditional prospect at the 5. In 32 games as a freshman at Gonzaga, Holmgren averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 3.7 blocks. Another key figure? He attempted 3.3 attempts and shot 39 percent from beyond the arc. Anytime you can add a center who can close the paint on defense while being a versatile scorer and passer on offense, you can. The main improvement that Holmgren needed was an increase in volume. He’s 195 pounds, which isn’t the ideal size for an NBA center, especially considering that a big man like Holmgren takes longer to develop and adjust to the NBA’s style of play. He listed the top three players who could be the first prospect.

2. Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn

Now is a great time to be a long forward who can shoot, defend and play at a high level. Smith also had a successful freshman season at Auburn. He averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks in 34 games. Smith ranks lower than Banchero because he can already defend and shoot at a high level (42% on 5.5 attempts). He’s still a safe bet to be a future star in the league, and at 6-foot-10, he’s still only 19 years old, and don’t be surprised if he’s No. 1.

1. Paul Banchero, forward, Duke University

Banchero made waves in his only season at Duke, guaranteeing the top spot here. In 39 games, he averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks, and as a 6-foot-10 power forward, he can put the ball on the floor to score, It is also possible to find open teammates while helping the defense. The upside here is his below-average 3-point shooting (33.8 percent on 3.3 attempts) and being a more consistent and engaged defender. During the NCAA Tournament, he shot 52.6 percent (10/19), which better paints a picture of his potential. He will turn 20 in November and is one of three players widely considered to be No. 1.

Honorable Mention:

Ousmane Dieng, New Zealand: 6-foot-10 forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, can play at the 3 or 4, has guard-like ball-handling abilities, and is expected to be an impactful defender at multiple positions; turns 19 May years old, so he has a lot of potential for his size and talent

Jeremy Sokan, Baylor: Versatile two-way big man reminiscent of Draymond Green, a 19-year-old rookie; he can defend low on the perimeter and shows potential as a small-ball center

Jaren Durham, Memphis: Explosive 6-foot-11 center with a 7-foot-5 wingspan; one of the youngest players in the draft and needs to add more movement to his arsenal

Malachi Branham, Ohio: He surprised the draft world with his freshman performance; can shoot on his own but needs to keep shooting and improve his passing ability

Johnny Davis, Wisconsin: Second-year guard who shines as a mid-range scorer; needs to add solid 3-point shooting to lead guard

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