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2022 NBA draft primer – Part 3: Who could be the biggest steal?

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23rd June, 2022
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The history of the NBA draft is scattered with incredible, often painful, what ifs.

Prospects that, for whatever reason, were continuously passed on, only to explode into world-changing superstars once they got their opportunity.

Kawhi Leonard dropped to pick 15. So did Giannis Antetokounmpo. Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell were both taken at 13 in their respective classes.

Then there are guys like Nikola Jokic, Draymond Green and Marc Gasol – future hall of famers who managed to plummet outside the first round!

So who will it be in this year’s class? Here are the five guys most likely to make teams go ‘what were we thinking!?’

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AJ Griffin
I have AJ Griffin ranked at four on my personal big board (behind Chet Holmgren, Jaden Ivey and Paolo Banchero). And yet most mock drafts online have him falling towards the back of the lottery, somewhere between ten and 15.

There are two main reasons for this. One is that Griffin was often overshadowed in college by his powerful bulldozer of a teammate, Banchero, who is likely a top-three pick this year, and secondly, he has a worryingly long injury history.

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However, recent NBA history shows that two-way wings who can create their own shot are the most important commodity in the league. Griffin is the best wing/forward prospect in the draft.

He can play serviceable defence (unlike Benedict Mathurin). He has a multi-faceted offensive arsenal (unlike Jeremy Sochan). He can pass and get other teammates involved (unlike Keegan Murray). And he actually played basketball this year (unlike Shaedon Sharpe).

The injuries are scary. But missing out on a prospect like this should be even scarier.

wo hands compete for a basketball at tip off

(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

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Jaden Hardy
The curious case of Shaedon Sharpe versus Jaden Hardy is a fascinating study in draft philosophy.

Sharpe was a little known prospect out of Canada, who moved to the US to play for a prestigious preschool and became, after a just a few standout games, the top-ranked prospect nationally in his class.

He declared for Kentucky, and then sat out the entire college season. As a result, very little tape exists of him playing competitive basketball. He is considered a top-five prospect in this year’s NBA draft.

Hardy was also a highly ranked high-school player, with comparable upside to Sharpe: superstar scorer, decent defender, and developing playmaker.

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But he opted to play for the G-League Ignite team, and struggled, and now sees his stock plummet. He’s expected to drop as low as the bottom of the first round, though 20-25 seems likely.

He’s an explosive, super quick, microwave scoring threat who can pull up from anywhere, and (theoretically) get his shot off against pretty much anyone despite giving up some size against forwards.

Like Cam Thomas last year, this one feels likely to bit some teams in the backside. It’s all about buckets. Hardy is a bucket.

TyTy Washington
He is a smart, versatile shot creator who fell apart at the absolute worst moment in the NCAA tournament.

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He was the best and most important player on a talented Kentucky team, but failed to show up as they fell to the low-seeded St Peters.

He was once considered a possible lottery pick, but he’s now likely to fall towards the bottom of the first round.

Washington feels like the kind of guard every team wants (as long as they don’t have to pay them too much). He’s a perfect sixth-man type guard, in the mould of an Immanuel Quickley or Jalen Brunson.

He’s smart, cerebral, tricky, and capable of thriving in a role or taking over when given the chance. He’s not a brilliant three-point shooter, but if he can extend his range he’ll play in the NBA for a decade or more.

Basketball

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Christian Braun
Think Alex Caruso. He’s a white guy, yes, but he’s also a freak athlete who can jump out of the building and looks just as comfortable powering in for a dunk as he does flying in for a block.

Braun played on the NCAA champion Kansas team. His teammate, Ochai Agbaji, shot up draft boards after being named Final Four MVP on that championship run.

But don’t be shocked if Braun ends up being even better than his more touted teammate.

David Roddy
I’ve been hurt before. I thought Justise Winslow was going to be a superstar. I thought Admiral Schofield would be awesome. The jury is still out on Grant Williams, but he’s hardly a future All-NBA player.

For whatever reason, players with this particular body type and skill set look amazing at college level and struggle to find their role in the NBA.

David Roddy is the next one, but I still believe. He’s a beefy, strong, powerful shot creator with the body of a Mack truck, who also possesses surprising passing ability, nimbleness and deft touch.

He’s a decent shooter, and if he just stay in shape, he should do well at the next level.

He’s likely to fall towards the back end of the second round, but teams should take a swing. Why not?

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