The NBA Draft is inherently an optimistic endeavor. It’s all about hoping for a better tomorrow. So it is that after many months of flying, driving, sleeping (but not enough), grinding, and most of all watching, Finch is ready once again to open a window into the future. After all these years, he still believes in a place called hoop.
Who is Finch, you ask? He’s not a person, but rather an amalgam of people — seven, to be exact. That’s how many scouts I interviewed to get their opinions on 50 of the top prospects who will be among the chosen in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night. In return for brutal candor, I granted my scouts anonymity. Then I took their assessments and merged them into a single paragraph uttered by a character named Finch. That moniker was suggested by the best basketball writer of all-time, Alex Wolff, who coined the term in homage to Scout Finch, the narrator in the greatest novel ever written, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” (Don’t @ me on that one.)
I have performed this wildly popular exercise for several years now. A few thoughts before we proceed:
• Since college basketball is my beat, I have limited my pool of prospects to players who were in college last season. (Notice I didn’t say playing in college, Shaedon Sharpe.) So I did not include international players or those from the NBA G League.
• If these assessments seem overly harsh, that’s on me, not the scouts. All the players on this list are good. It was my job to prod the scouts on the players’ deficiencies and weaknesses.
• For all the speculation as to who will be selected with the No. 1 pick, there was no debate among my scouts. Every single one said they would take Jabari Smith, and all but one said they would take Chet Holmgren second. So much for draft night suspense.
• The best noun that can be applied to a prospect is “versatile.” That goes for both ends of the floor. The NBA is very much a positionless game.
• That said, unless you are a superstar, it is still better to do one thing really, really well (especially if it’s shooting) than a lot of things pretty well. Finch loves to use the word “translates.” Aside from a few superstars, every NBA player has a specific role to play. If a player doesn’t have at least one skill that “translates” to the next level, it will hurt his draft stock.
• I tried to make these write-ups representative of what the group believed. A single scout might say something really interesting, but if it didn’t reflect the consensus, I didn’t use it.
• Finally, my favorite part of these scouting reports is the way Finch compares prospects with other NBA players, present and past. Yes, everyone wants to find the next LeBron or K.D., but in this space you’ll find references to Desmond Bane, Bam Adebayo, Jae Crowder, Grant Williams, Jordan McLaughlin, Shane Battier, Marc Gasol, Javale McGee, T.J. Ford, Tobias Harris, T.J. Warren, Jalen Brunson, Rudy Gay, Reggie Jackson, Kevon Looney, Robert Williams, Mitchell Robinson, Clint Capela, and Rudy Gobert. (Those last four were applied to a single prospect.)
Come Friday morning, Finch can take a breather, but at the moment he is ready to sprint through the finish line. Don’t stop him now! He’s having such a good time, he’s having a (basket)ball.
Herewith, the Finch 50.
Ochai Agbaji, 6-5 senior guard, Kansas. “Stone-cold winner. Got better every year. He could be a Desmond Bane. My question about him is his functional athleticism. He can run and jump, but I don’t think he’s one of those guys who’s elusive and gets places. His problem is going to be his ballhandling and his play creation. I don’t think he has very much upside. He’s a finished player. He’ll be a solid NBA player, but never an All-Star.”
Patrick Baldwin Jr., 6-9 freshman forward, Milwaukee. “He was very inefficient this season. I was really disappointed when I went to see him play. He didn’t compete, he didn’t play hard. Rebounding is a big, big question. He looked awful at the combine. He was heavy and had no swag. It looked like he lost all his confidence. He’s going to have to be a small-ball five, so the question is whether he’s good enough defensively to play in multiple coverages. He can really shoot the ball. I think that will translate. I just don’t know if it’s that important to him. His jump shot looks really good, but it’s never gone in at a high clip. You question his toughness, his durability.”
Paolo Banchero, 6-10 freshman forward, Duke. “There’s a lot to like there, but rebounding is a big concern, and so is his activity as a shot blocker. You don’t see that knack for finding the ball, but you also didn’t see it with Bam Adebayo when he was coming out. He’s going to try to play the three, but he’s more of a four. He’s not a freak athlete, but he’s big and strong. I worry he’ll get seduced with showing he can handle and pass. With a body like that, he should be around the rim more. I’m not sure his upside is as high as the other guys at the top of the draft. He’s a good player, but I don’t think he’s a franchise guy. His shooting range is a little bit uncertain.”
Jamaree Bouyea, 6-2 senior guard, San Francisco. “He’s really grown on me. The shooting piece is the biggest concern. He’s a good playmaker, runs the pick-and-roll nicely. He’s definitely a point guard at our level. I can’t see him playing off the ball. He really impressed me at the combine. He’s a tough, smart, heady guard. When you’re a small guard, you need to do something special, and he does a lot of things OK. He’s not elite at anything. He interviewed great. Just a polished kid. I see him in the G League and maybe he makes a team like Jordan McLaughlin.”
Malaki Branham, 6-6 freshman guard, Ohio State. “Really big fan. Upside guy. He just turned 19. With him the question will be defending, because he’s not a great athlete. Chasing screens and guarding his position at the next level is gonna be a challenge. His shooting percentage was good, but he’s got a flat shot, so extending his range could take some time. He doesn’t do a great job getting by people. He’s not a pure shooter, but he seems to make shots when they matter. Mid-range assassin.”
Christian Braun, 6-7 junior guard, Kansas. “He had a really good year. Solid player. I like all his intangibles. In that championship game he defended everybody on the floor except (Armando) Bacot. Better athlete than you think. He’ll be able to guard one through three. When you talk to him, he understands what his role will be. Shooting is gonna be the thing with him. He has a hard time getting his shot off over guys who are bigger. Even when he’s open he had some horrendous misses. A lot of his shots were catch-and-shoot, so he’ll have to show he can do it on the move. He can really rebound for his size and his position. Someone will take him in the second round.”
Kendall Brown, 6-8 freshman forward, Baylor. “He makes me nervous. He’s probably slipped more than anybody right now. I went to some of their games, and I’m like, did he get off the bus? Freak athlete, but he has not shown the ability to make shots, and he doesn’t handle it well enough right now to be a small forward. He’ll need to be a four at the start. People say he’s such a good passer, but I didn’t see that. The shooting piece is scary. He’s an open-court transition player, but when the game gets in the halfcourt, does he have the passing, the shooting, the basketball IQ? I don’t know if he loves the game. He looks the part more than he plays the part. Little bit of an enigma to me.”
John Butler, 7-1 freshman forward, Florida State. “He should have gone back to school. I honestly don’t know what he does that translates. He’s 7-2, 174 pounds. What NBA player looks like that? People say he can shoot, but he didn’t make a lot of 3s. He shot it well at the combine, but that’s two days. He’s only 19, he’ll get stronger. He’s gonna have a hard time defending. I don’t think he has the body frame to get bigger. He’s a good shooter, but he’s not a knockdown guy. This is not a game of H-O-R-S-E. I don’t see the toughness and rebounding. Somebody will take him in the second round. If he can’t put weight on that body, it’s gonna be really hard for him.”
Kennedy Chandler, 6-0 freshman guard, Tennessee. “If you’re ever going to take a small guard, this would be the guy. He’s got speed and quickness, and the ability to turn the corner. He had to share time with (Zakai) Zeigler at the point so he played a lot off the ball, but he’s not a combo guard. He’s a much better shooter than T.J. Ford was at this stage. He tested unbelievably well at the combine with his athleticism. His free throw percentage (60.6) scares me. Once he gets past 21 feet he looks very uncomfortable shooting the ball. I worry about him finishing in the lane in our league. If you look at Rick Barnes, all the guys he’s put in the NBA have exceeded their potential. They come in ready to play. Seeing him in person, he’s got a bigger body than I thought. He’s pretty well put together.”
Max Christie, 6-6 freshman guard, Michigan State. “I was hoping all year for more, and I never really got it. He’s a nice kid who struggles with confidence. I like his size, I like his stroke, but he didn’t make shots. With his numbers and production, I’m surprised he came out. He doesn’t create with the ball in his hands. Shooting is going to be a big thing for him, because with his body type and the speed of the game, he’s going to have a lot to get used to. He played 31 minutes a game as a freshman and still didn’t produce. He didn’t show any toughness. He’s not a point guard. I wish he would have gone back to school. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone takes a flyer on him. You gotta be patient with him.”
Kofi Cockburn, 7-0 junior center, Illinois. “I just don’t see in this day and age of NBA basketball how he makes it. You look at the playoffs, all the bigs got played off the floor. He’s a throwback old-school center. Big body, good rebounder, plays hard but can’t play for long periods of time. He’s gonna have a hard time defending the pick-and-roll, and he’s not a good enough scorer to make up for that. Unless he’s dunking and overpowering guys, he has no way to score. He’s got no touch around the rim. Udoka Azubuike has made it in the NBA, but he hasn’t played a lot.”
Johnny Davis, 6-5 sophomore guard, Wisconsin. “He’s just a basketball player, man. He’ll fit in with anyone. He’s ready to play now. Probably one of the most competitive kids in the draft. Not a particularly good shooter, not very efficient. His ability to create shots will translate, but he’s got a little bit of a slow windup. Thirty percent from 3 is really problematic. He’s a great scorer from 15 feet and in. Limited upside. His shooting range is concerning. Not a great athlete, but he’s functional, he’s good enough.”
JD Davison, 6-3 freshman guard, Alabama. “He’s another enigma. What’s his piece? He is very quick and he’s a good passer, but it’s hard to roll the dice on a non-shooting point guard. He’s really turnover-prone, which is a problem for your point guard. Everyone talks about what a great athlete he is, but I went to a practice and he didn’t dunk once. At times you see some real vertical athleticism, but he doesn’t play that way all the time. I struggle with his decision-making. He’s got a long way to go to polish his game offensively. He’s a second-round guy that spends some time in the G League.”
Moussa Diabate, 6-10 freshman forward, Michigan. “I was surprised he left Michigan. Really really raw. He’s another guy that doesn’t really have anything that translates. He’s good around the goal but he’s got a lot of work to do. He’s really limited as an offensive player, but he’s long and he has defensive versatility. He makes some good reads, but I wouldn’t say he has a high basketball IQ. He’s not gonna get rebounds in traffic. I’d rather see him go back to school, but he’s got big upside.”
Jalen Duren, 6-11 freshman forward, Memphis. “Man-child. Freak of nature. Eighteen-year-old kids shouldn’t look like him. His motor isn’t great and his numbers were up and down, which has to do with not being in shape. It was hard to tell because they were such a screwed-up team. Some nights he dominated the game, sometimes he wasn’t a factor. He’s a legitimate lob threat, and he can play in the short roll. He was amazing at his pro day. He was trying to rip the rim off, and he was making shots out to 17 feet.”
Tari Eason, 6-8 sophomore forward, LSU. “One of the highest upsides in the draft. He’s really really talented. Shot it well this year, although he’s got a little bit of a shotput motion. His versatility makes him appealing. Big-time athletic defender. You can put him on an island. He’s gonna struggle in the halfcourt. The 3-point shooting has got to really improve. He shoots 80 percent from the foul line, so that tells you he has a chance to be a decent shooter. He fouls too much. I question his basketball IQ. He just goes off instincts.”
Collin Gillespie, 6-3 senior guard, Villanova. “I don’t see him being an NBA player. He’s really smart, he’s really tough, but ultimately his athleticism and size, I just don’t see it for him. I didn’t think T.J. McConnell would make the NBA, but T.J. is quicker than this kid. The intangibles are what potentially get him in the door. I don’t think he gets drafted, but he can make a team. Athletically, I don’t think he can guard ones, and he’s not big enough to play the two. He really struggled at the combine. He didn’t make shots, which was an eye-opener.”
A.J. Griffin, 6-6 freshman guard, Duke. “There’s a lot to like there. Really good shooter. Strong. The question would be his ability to create his own shot off the bounce. He took a lot of catch-and-shoots. The jury is still out on him defensively. People forget he missed almost two years of high school, then he got hurt at Duke. He’s a 45 percent 3-point shooter. He’s not a put-the-ball-on-the-floor type guy. He’s a good-shot-fake, one-dribble pullup guy. The fact that he can shoot the ball is gonna have a lot of value. He’s a young kid, doesn’t turn 19 until August. Don’t ever see him being an All-Star, but he’s a solid NBA player. He’s like a Reggie Bullock.”
Ron Harper Jr., 6-6 senior guard, Rutgers. “I don’t know if he’s an NBA player positionally. He’s caught between a three and a four, and he’s not a great athlete. He had a terrific career. I don’t really know where you play him. If he goes to the G League and gets 20 a game someone will give him a shot. Anybody that has weight problems scares me. I wouldn’t take him in the second round, but someone might.”
Chet Holmgren, 7-1 freshman forward, Gonzaga. “He could potentially change the game. The concern is the body, obviously, but he’s got toughness to him. You can elbow him and he’s coming back at you. He does literally everything. He can shoot, can pass, handles well for his size. He’ll get a lot of clean looks from three because he’ll be guarded by fours and fives. He’ll shoot in the pick-and-pop and get a lot of trail 3s. There haven’t been a lot of guys that look like him physically, so you worry about his durability. Tiny hips, tiny shoulders, so I don’t know how much his body will fill out. Guys never seem to get a clean hit on him. He shot 73 percent from 2 and 39 percent from 3. What he does defensively is unprecedented. He’s an unbelievable weak side shot blocker.”
Caleb Houstan, 6-8 freshman forward, Michigan. “Should have gone back to school. He didn’t have a good year. He was overwhelmed at times out there. He doesn’t have one thing that really jumps out at you. He just doesn’t have the foot speed yet and he’s got a slow shot. He’s not a great athlete, a little heavy-legged. I love his stroke, it looks great, it just never goes in. I watched him three times this year and he never played well. He’s missing the toughness piece. He’s a basketball-IQ and high-character guy. I wonder about his competitiveness. He has a very scary lack of confidence in his shooting.”
Jaden Ivey, 6-4 sophomore guard, Purdue. “Best athlete in the draft. He has an explosiveness like Russell Westbrook or John Wall. He’s gonna be able to get downhill at will. He was able to bail himself out at the college level, although I’m not sure that works up here. He puts so much pressure on the defense with his speed. He’s not a great shooter, but he’s improved. People want to know if he can be a full-time point guard because he played a lot off the ball. The one concern would be lack of ball skills. He’s not a point guard, but man, he’s so athletic. Those guys succeed. He’ll be a better NBA player than college player.”
Johnny Juzang, 6-6 junior guard, UCLA. “I see him as an overseas player. The three weeks he had in the NCAA Tournament two years ago turned out to be the best he ever played. He’s never gotten to be a great shooter. He doesn’t move well laterally and doesn’t stay connected through screens. He just has a ceiling. I don’t think he’s the toughest kid in the world. Sometimes you run out of talent. Everybody got in his ass last year, and he couldn’t make shots. He doesn’t compete hard enough for me. He doesn’t make anybody else better.”
Trevor Keels, 6-5 freshman guard, Duke. “I thought he should have gone back. Didn’t do anything great this year, but I think he’s got a good feel defensively and he understands where to be. Gritty, tough kid. His perimeter shooting has to improve for him to make it. His body fat at the combine was awful. What’s up with that? His shot’s not great, but it’s not broken. He can get to the hole and finish, but to me, that’s not enough at this point. I’ll give him this, though, whenever they had a big game, he showed up. He performed. He’s got a good blend of IQ and toughness. He’ll have a rough adjustment, but this is a guy you want to go to battle with.”
Walker Kessler, 7-1 sophomore center, Auburn. “Big-time defender. He did a really good job of guarding the rim, and that is really coveted right now. He’s a little insecure at times. He has a chance to be a good shooter. It happened for Marc Gasol. I’m not sure about the toughness piece. I think he has a chance to become a 3-point shooter, but he hasn’t proven it yet. He says he can shoot it, but let’s see. He’s a slow-twitch guy. He’s not gonna be the switchable defender that people like, but he’ll protect the rim. From watching his workouts, I think he’s gonna be able to shoot the 3. I wish he had a little more nasty to him.”
Christian Koloko, 7-1 junior center, Arizona. “Ten years ago, he’s a lottery pick. He’s an unbelievable runner/athlete for a guy his size. He has a high center of gravity, so he’ll get pushed around a little bit. He doesn’t block as many shots when his own guy has the ball. He has average feel, but he’s a pretty good lob threat. His IQ has gotten better, but I worry about his skill level. He’s not a great rebounder. Doesn’t have a lot of pop off the ground, not a good second jumper. But a good shot blocker with good timing. Maybe he can stretch to 15 feet, but you’re never going to run your offense through him. Offensively, what do you do with him? Can he be JaVale McGee? He’s got to get grittier. How will he fight through adversity?”
Jake LaRavia, 6-9 junior forward, Wake Forest. “Could be the biggest sleeper in this draft. He’s cocky in a good way. I think he’s a better athlete than people give him credit for. He’s a little bit of a tweener. He’s not strong enough to guard fours. He has a soft body. He’s intriguing because he’s skilled. They posted him a lot offensively, but playing against other bigs in our league will be a concern. He can make shots, but I don’t know if he can guard you. He’s a skilled, high-IQ guy. Good size. When they played a tough, athletic team, you saw his warts. Defensively, I don’t know where he fits. He could sneak into the first round.”
Justin Lewis, 6-7 sophomore forward, Marquette. “I would have loved to see him go back for one more year. Good athlete, but not a great athlete. He can be a four-man in the Jae Crowder mold. He’s got a big body and some really big legs. I don’t know if he has that basketball toughness about him. Complete long term, upside play. He doesn’t run that hard, he’s not a true professional in that sense, but the body and flashes of brilliance are there. I don’t think he can pass at all. I don’t think he handles it well. There were games this year where he kind of gave up and disappeared. Grabbed eight rebounds a game, which is pretty good. I got close to him in Chicago, and I was shocked how big he was. He’s a good value in the mid-second round.”
E.J. Liddell, 6-7 junior forward, Ohio State. “Solid player. Shooting is the biggest hurdle for him, although his numbers say otherwise. He’s got kind of a push shot. He knows how to play and understands how to win. He’s a Swiss army knife at the four who does a lot of productive things. Defensively is where he will make his mark. He’s active as a shot-blocker and on the glass. He’s gonna be like a Grant Williams. An all-time great kid. He had 12 percent body fat at the combine, which is worrying. I don’t know who he guards at the four and five. He’s not bouncy, but he can really rebound and has great timing defensively.”
Bennedict Mathurin, 6-6 sophomore guard, Arizona. “Not a ton of weaknesses there. Really good shooter. He’s gonna be able to fly off screens and be a really good catch-and-shoot option. He’s going to have to work on his play creation and his ballhandling. He’s not awful with the ball, but he’s not electric. He’s what our game likes, which is a big wing. He’s a streaky guy. He’s great in transition, but I’d be nervous about him in the halfcourt. I’m concerned that emotionally he gets too up and down. The way he shoots it reminds me of Ray Allen.”
Bryce McGowens, 6-7 freshman guard, Nebraska. “This dude’s got scoring chops, but he doesn’t make plays consistently yet. His body type is gonna need some time. He’s long, but he’s real skinny and frail and has a hard time creating enough space on his shot. He’s gotta play harder consistently. His lack of toughness worries me. He shies away from physicality. I don’t think he makes anyone around him better. Decision-making is an issue. He plays like it’s a pickup game. He has some upside for sure. I think he spends time in the G League and makes it in the NBA.”
Josh Minott, 6-8 freshman forward, Memphis. “He has unbelievable confidence for a guy that only played 11 minutes a game. It was hard to evaluate him because that team was so messed up. I don’t know what he does that translates. He’s a good athlete, he’s active, but his lack of feel for the game is concerning. I saw him at his pro day, and he had all the physical tools. Love his upside. Of all the guys at Memphis, I thought he at least tried to play the right way. Not the most physical kid, but not a complete softie. Ultimately, he’s in the 30-to-45 range. He’s a project. That’s why you have a G League team.”
Isaiah Mobley, 6-10 junior forward, USC. “He can really pass, got a great feel, but he lacks athleticism. He’s soft and kind of chubby. I don’t know defensively where you play him. He’s a smart player and does a lot of things well, but doesn’t do anything great. He’s talented, but he’s never in shape. I just don’t see any one thing that jumps out. It’s gonna be a little bit of a journey for him. I think he goes undrafted.”
Wendell Moore Jr., 6-5 junior guard, Duke. “He finally started to figure it out this year. I don’t think he has any weaknesses, but he doesn’t do anything phenomenal either. I don’t trust him as a shooter, but he’s improved, and he does all the other stuff. He’s a utility guy who handles the ball. It all hinges on his shooting for me. He’s got experience, he’s got size, he can defend well enough. Very solid, limited upside. He was inconsistent in his decision-making. He’ll be in that 25-to-40 range.”
Keegan Murray, 6-8 sophomore forward, Iowa. “Boy, I love that kid. He’s ready to play now. He can go inside and out. He’s a better athlete than people think, and he can really stroke it. He scores like a pro. Big-time shooter, efficient basketball player. He’s gotta get stronger because he’s probably better served at the four, but he had one of the more flawless seasons of anyone. He’s sneaky athletic. He’s almost 22, so that will be an issue for some organizations. He’s a smart defender. His ballhandling has to tighten up. He’s like a Tobias Harris or T.J. Warren.”
Andrew Nembhard, 6-5 senior guard, Gonzaga. “Not very athletic or quick, but he’s unbelievably smart. He was hurt the first day of the combine, but on the second day he dominated. I think he finds his way. He’s got a low release point on his jumper. Not a great athlete, but I thought the same thing about Jalen Brunson. As the year went on, he grew on me. Guarding NBA point guards would be a problem for sure. He’s got great size. He knows how to make others around him better. If his jumper goes in he’s a totally different player. He’s played in big games, which helps.”
Orlando Robinson, 6-11 junior center, Fresno State. “I watched him at the combine, and he wasn’t athletic. He’s a slow-twitch guy, but he’s so long, very skilled. Nice kid. He does a lot of things OK. I don’t think he does any one thing at an NBA level. He needs to get physically stronger. I worry about his foot speed. They ran a lot of offense through him, but that won’t happen in the NBA. I worry about him defensively in our league. I don’t trust him as a shooter, although his shot doesn’t look broken. He’s an undrafted guy.”
David Roddy, 6-5 junior guard, Colorado State. “He’s built to play in the NFL, but he’s not a two in this league. He’s not a great ballhandler. I’m not a believer in his shooting. He’s super, super bright. Really undersized for his position. He has some intangibles, but the lack of athleticism and height at the four is concerning. He might be a Grant Williams type. His weight is an issue at times. He didn’t make shots in Chicago, but he’s made ’em his whole career. He can’t play the three. He handles the ball OK. At the combine he struggled with the NBA 3. The line is too deep for him. He had a hard time getting his shot off. I don’t know how he translates to the NBA with his size and skill.”
Shaedon Sharpe, 6-6 freshman guard, Kentucky. “He’s a risk. If you watched his pro day, you’d think he was top three. He didn’t miss, and he took some tough shots. I love his size, I love his athleticism. He’s a great kid with high character. I wonder if he’s too nice. He’s an elite athlete and really good shooter. Those usually make for good NBA players. He and Jaden Ivey are the two best athletes in the draft. Somebody will pick him high because he was the No. 1 player in his class. You can look at the history of those guys, and very few of them have failed. If you’re a GM who’s not worried about getting fired, he’s worth the gamble.”
Jeremy Sochan, 6-9 freshman forward, Baylor. “Good player. Checks a lot of boxes. Perimeter shooting is a concern, but he can switch out on defense. He has a lot of what the NBA is looking for. Love his versatility. His shot isn’t mechanically dysfunctional. High IQ guy, very good defender. I think he can defend wings. His free throw percentage is terrible (59 percent), so that’s scary. If he was a great shooter he’d be among the top four players in the draft. He reminds me a little of Shane Battier. You can play him three through five.”
Jabari Smith, 6-10 freshman forward, Auburn. “If Orlando doesn’t take him, they’re stupid. Best upside of anyone in this draft. He’s not even close to being developed yet. From everything I’ve heard, he’s probably the best blend in this draft of character and skill set. When he wasn’t making shots he still defended his ass off. His weakness would be his shot-blocking and rebounding. He likes to float on the perimeter. He’s not as bouncy as some people would like to think. He moves his feet great defensively. He’s a super competitive player. He took his pregame stuff really seriously. He’s in a full sweat all the time. A professional mindset. He’s gotta become a better ballhandler. The only question would be if maybe he ends up being like Rudy Gay, who averaged 20 points in his career and never really won much.”
Dalen Terry, 6-7 sophomore guard, Arizona. “Really big fan. Lacks shooting but he’s a good passer and a good athlete. Plays with a lot of energy. A versatile defender. If he shot it better he might be in the lottery. He’s one of the smartest defenders in the draft. His anticipation jumps off the screen for me. He’s a good intangible guy. Body needs to mature. When (Kerr) Kriisa went out, he played the point, and they didn’t miss a beat. He’s not a great athlete, but he’s good enough. Of all the interviews we did, his competitiveness came through the most.”
TyTy Washington, 6-3 freshman guard, Kentucky. “I think he’s gonna slip in the draft. He was at 12 percent body fat at the combine. He slept walked through his pro day. There’s way too many questions. He’s not a blow-by guy. I love his IQ, he’s a good basketball player, but he hasn’t helped himself in this process. He’s a combo guard, but he’s better with the ball in his hands. He was just OK shooting the ball, but he’s got good mechanics. I don’t think he’s a great athlete, so turning the corner or going downhill is an area of concern. His shot selection was messed up, which knocked his percentage down. But you’ve seen that Kentucky bump in the past where those guys do really well in the league. That thing is real. He’s probably a decent backup.”
Peyton Watson, 6-8 freshman forward, UCLA. “I don’t know much about him because he hardly played this season, and he didn’t play at the combine. I know he’s long, athletic, can run, jump and rebound. I’ve got him undrafted, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone takes a chance on him. UCLA was a tough situation for him because they returned five players that went to the Final Four. Not a great 3-point shooter but gets to his midrange stuff really well. Defensively, I think he competes.”
Blake Wesley, 6-5 freshman guard, Notre Dame. “He’s helped himself as much as anyone the last two months. He’s got size, length, speed, quickness. Plays with a high motor. Gotta improve his shooting. He shot in the low 30s (from 3). That’s not nearly good enough for a guard in this league. He’s long and has good mobility, so he should get better defensively. If he came back to school next year, he might be like Jaden Ivey. Doesn’t shoot it, but he’s athletic, he gets downhill, he gets to the rim. He’s a Reggie Jackson-type combo guard. His competitiveness and toughness is off the charts. He’ll be able to come into the NBA and defend right away. A pretty good package of stuff to work with for a young kid.”
Alondes Williams, 6-5 senior guard, Wake Forest. “Good passer, but he tries to thread the needle a little too much. He’s built like a truck. The question is whether he can translate to being a point guard at the next level. He had a great year, but he’s not a big-time athlete, and he doesn’t shoot it. You look at his background, he’s always been a winner. He’s just got so many warts. I don’t see the commitment defensively. His visits with teams have not gone well. He has shown in his workouts that if you put a good defender on him with length, he has a tough time. He’s a late second-rounder, maybe.”
Jalen Williams, 6-6 junior guard, Santa Clara. “He really helped himself at the combine. I didn’t think he was very athletic, but he was one of the more athletic guys there. He did the same things he did at Santa Clara, but against better competition. This guy is gonna have a long NBA career. His IQ is unbelievable. I love that he’s gotten better every year. His body is gonna get better. He’s a little doughy. He’s been blowing people away in workouts. The background on him is glowing. Really good poise, good size, plays with the ball but can make plays for others. He’s gonna be a first-round pick.”
Jaylin Williams, 6-10 sophomore forward, Arkansas. “I just don’t know if he has enough offensively. He led the SEC in charges taken so he knows how to sacrifice his body, but I don’t know how well that stuff is gonna translate. He’s not a great athlete. He can guard the two, three or four. He can be a small-ball five. Bigs that can really pass get my attention. He’ll have to make it being a connector on the floor. He’s not as big as Kevon Looney, but he’s similar. In time he’s gonna have to make 3s. He’s got short legs and a long torso, so he’s a little off balance. He’s an undersized five. He’s going to be a solid big for a long time. He’s a winner. He’s borderline first-rounder.”
Mark Williams, 7-0 sophomore center, Duke. “He guards the rim, man. Rebounds, blocks every shot, runs hard. Big guys aren’t playing in the playoffs, but you still gotta play 82 games to get there. He’ll get you rebounds, he blocks shots, he has a high IQ. He’s got all the intangibles. He’s a more mature version of Robert Williams. I love him. From what I’ve heard, just an absolutely amazing kid. Defensively, he played in the drop a whole lot so they couldn’t play him late in games. It doesn’t hurt him that he’s not a shooter. There are a lot of guys in the league who are finishers — Mitchell Robinson, Clint Capela, Rudy Gobert. Those dudes have a lot of value in the league. My question is, how much does he want it? If he works hard he’ll be a starter, but at the worst he’s a backup big.”
Trevion Williams, 6-10 senior center, Purdue. “The odds are against him, but if he can guard a small-ball five, he has a chance. He was really productive playing limited minutes. Really good passer. Defense is a concern because of his lack of athleticism. He has a lot working against him but he does rebound at a high clip. You talk about passing, this dude is elite. His feet are so good, which he needs because he’s undersized. There are questions about his work ethic. I don’t like the weight issue. The speed of the game is gonna hurt him.”
(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic); photos: USA Today)