2022 NBA Rookie Notes: My thoughts so far
Here’s a bunch of notes I put together on 2022 NBA rookies from October to now.
- I don’t think we have to wait until the end of the season to crown Orlando’s Paolo Banchero (#1 pick) as Rookie of the Year. His offensive skillset and strength are extremely impressive, making moves with the ball in his hands like an All Star already (20.0 PPG/3.7 APG). Banchero’s versatility can be seen on the defensive end as well, guarding multiple positions at 6-foot-10.
- I’m still very confident that Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren (#2 pick) will have a solid career once he’s back. OKC has a great young core right now and are also playing an unselfish style that fits Chet’s game perfectly. Obviously his skinny body was talked about quite a bit during pre-draft, but what I saw out of him at summer league proved his game is so multi-dimensional that he should be fine if the 7-footer can simply just stay healthy.
- Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr. (#3 pick) was my #1 ranked player before the draft, but clearly hasn’t performed like it. Despite his struggles this season (39.6% FG), I’m still confident he can one day be the best player in this class. A few differences I notice between Banchero and Smith are that Banchero takes longer to make moves on offense/Smith is the better 3-point shooter, and defensively, I see more activity from Smith with winning plays like quicker rotations and meet you at the rim blocks that turn into fast break points. Paolo has a way more mature body right now too, so we’ll see how much Jabari can develop these next few years.
- Going into the draft, the pressure was definitely on the Sacramento Kings to get their #4 selection right (16 year playoff drought). The club ended up taking Keegan Murray (#4 pick) over Detroit’s Jaden Ivey (#5 pick), and by the end of summer league, Murray looked like a possible Rookie of the Year winner. The question of whether Murray was the best available pick definitely calmed down after summer league, and once the regular season started, the All Star play from De’Aaron Fox & Domantas Sabonis/new additions like Kevin Huerter & Malik Monk made Keegan not have to be that lone savior many thought Sacramento needed. In the end though, Ivey probably becomes the better player. He’s already stuffing the stat sheet more than Murray and has natural athleticism that many players wish they had.
- Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin (#6 pick) had an amazing start and was must see TV during the first few months. He scores the ball with strong/quick bursts and gets out in passing lanes the same way, but his lack of 3-point shooting (31.5% 3-PT) and playmaking (1.4 APG) could leave room for more versatile guards like Portland’s Shaedon Sharpe (#7 pick), New Orleans’ Dyson Daniels (#8 pick), Atlanta’s AJ Griffin (#16 pick), and San Antonio’s Malaki Branham (#20 pick) to possibly have better careers.
- You could arguably make the case that Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams (#12 pick) & Utah’s Walker Kessler (#22 pick) have been top 3 rookies this season. The two are playing like veterans, as their combination of efficient offense and defense that you can’t teach should translate into long/successful careers.
- Detroit’s Jalen Duren (#13 pick) and Charlotte’s Mark Williams (#15 pick) two way ability at center already fits what it takes to be starters. They both shoot a high percentage from the field, set solid screens, rebound with aggression, catch lobs, block shots, and have great attitudes.
- San Antonio’s Jeremy Sochan (#9 pick) and Houston’s Tari Eason (#17 pick) have All-Defensive Team potential in their games. The two are still learning on offense, but once they get that end down, they’re gonna be a matchup nightmare who can guard all 5 positions.
- Utah’s Ochai Agbaji (#14 pick), Christian Braun (#21 pick), Indiana’s Andrew Nembhard (#31 pick), and Oklahoma City’s Jaylin Williams (#34 pick) are playing like true pros. Agbaji’s 3&D skills, Braun’s high motor, Nembhard’s ability as a combo guard, and Williams’ basketball IQ have fit the NBA quite nicely. Toronto’s Christian Koloko (#33 pick) was making the same impact as these guys with his shot blocking, but he’s been out of the rotation for a while.
- Hopefully Washington’s Johnny Davis (#10 pick) can find a spot in the lineup next season (14 games played/4.9 MPG). He has the defense and scoring ability to make an impact, but lacks efficiency right now.
- Rookie guards who’ve shown exciting potential but need more minutes/time to develop: Chicago’s Dalen Terry (#18 pick), Blake Wesley (#25 pick), Minnesota’s Wendell Moore Jr (#26 pick), Houston’s TyTy Washington (#29 pick), Caleb Houstan (#32 pick), Max Christie (#35 pick), Dallas’ Jaden Hardy (#37 pick), and Charlotte’s Bryce McGowens (#40 pick).
- Rookie forwards who’ve shown exciting potential but need more minutes/time to develop: Oklahoma City’s Ousmane Dieng (#11 pick), Milwaukee’s MarJon Beauchamp (#24 pick), Miami’s Nikola Jovic (#27 pick), Golden State’s Patrick Baldwin Jr (#28 pick), the LA Clippers’ Moussa Diabate (#43 pick), Minnesota’s Josh Minott (#45 pick), and Portland’s Jabari Walker (#57 pick).
- Memphis Grizzlies rookies Jake LaRavia (#19 pick), Kennedy Chandler (#38 pick), and Vince Williams Jr (#47 pick) are all still finding their way in the NBA while David Roddy (#23 pick) has played the best/most out of the four 2022 draft picks.
- Undrafted rookies I’ve been impressed with: Milwaukee’s AJ Green, Miami’s Orlando Robinson & Jamal Cain, Utah’s Simone Fontecchio (undrafted in 2017), Brooklyn’s Dru Smith (undrafted in 2021), Orlando’s Kevon Harris (undrafted in 2020), San Antonio’s Dom Barlow & Julian Champagnie, Memphis’ Kenneth Lofton Jr, Sacramento’s Keon Ellis, Denver’s Jack White (undrafted in 2020), Toronto’s Ron Harper Jr, Dallas’ AJ Lawson (undrafted in 2021), and the G League’s Jamaree Bouyea (spent time with Miami & Washington).
- 2022 NBA draft picks who stayed overseas: Detroit’s Gabriele Procida (#36 pick), Cleveland’s Khalifa Diop (#39 pick), Denver’s Ismael Kamagate (#46 pick), Minnesota’s Matteo Spagnolo (#50 pick), New Orleans’ Karlo Matkovic (#52 pick), Washington’s Yannick Nzosa (#54 pick), Cleveland’s Luke Travers (#56 pick), and Milwaukee’s Hugo Besson (#58 pick).
- Injured rookies besides Chet: New Orleans’ EJ Liddell (#41 pick) has missed the whole year due to a torn ACL he suffered at summer league while Golden State’s Ryan Rollins (#44 pick) & Indiana’s Kendall Brown (#48 pick) both barely saw any action before getting season ending surgeries (Rollins- right foot, Brown- right tibia).
- Hopefully the Santa Cruz Warriors’ Gui Santos (#55 pick) & Cleveland’s Isaiah Mobley (#49 pick) can get a real chance in the NBA one day, they clearly have the talent and skills to make some noise (made the 2023 G League Next Up Game). Denver’s Peyton Watson (#30 pick) New York’s Trevor Keels (#42 pick) Atlanta’s Tyrese Martin (#51 pick) and Boston’s JD Davison (#53 pick) are impressing in the G league as well, but still need to figure out their identity as players/have to work on 3-point shooting.