New No. 1 Pick and New Lottery Picks: Big Board 3.0
Our new January ranking of the top 40 prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft
We’re now almost two months into the college basketball season and conference play is gearing up, which means it’s time for my third 2022 NBA Draft Big Board.
My Big Board is my ranking, based on intel from NBA scouts and executives, of the top prospects in this year’s draft. This is not, however, a power ranking. I’m ranking prospects not by how well they are playing, but more by how scouts see their long-term NBA potential.
This is also not a mock draft. When my 2022 Mock Draft debuts, it will project which team will select each prospect. Rather, my Big Board is essentially a consensus ranking, gathered from all of my sources.
I’m careful when it comes to moving or downgrading top prospects, especially right at the top of the draft. However, we do have a new prospect atop Big Board 3.0 — Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. — and I feel pretty safe in saying that he’s quickly becoming the consensus No. 1 guy among the NBA talent evaluators with whom I’ve been speaking.
Further down the board, you’ll see several freshmen making their debuts on our Big Board 3.0, a couple of sophomores with big rises and several international prospects continuing to slide.
Overall, scouts are not quite as bullish on the 2022 NBA Draft — this class appears to be more typical in quality, as I covered earlier this week. That’s OK. A group like the 2021 draft class comes around about once a decade.
Here’s our latest stab at the Top 40 prospects for the 2022 NBA Draft.
6’10” | 210 | Wingspan: 7’1”
Age on draft night: 19.1
2022 Draft Projection: 1-3
In early December, Smith moved up to No. 3, and we proclaimed he had “a real shot to become the No. 1 pick.” It’s more than a shot now.
NBA scouts and GMs have moved significantly toward Smith. For the first time, I’m comfortable saying there’s a consensus No. 1 pick. Smith is also our first consensus Tier 1 prospect (potential superstar) in this draft.
While not everyone projects Smith as the No. 1 pick, a significant majority of scouts and GMs see him as the prospect with the highest ceiling in this draft class, with the elite combination of size, length, shooting ability, athleticism and motor to become an NBA star.
Smith isn’t as polished as Paolo Banchero, isn’t as explosive as Jaden Ivey and doesn’t have the defensive potential of Chet Holmgren. But he has so many strengths and so few weaknesses that most of the teams that I spoke with say he’d be their choice if the draft were today.
In his first 14 games, Smith is averaging 21.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.1 blocks and 2.1 steals per 36 minutes and shooting 44% from the field and 44% from 3.
7’0” | 195 | Wingspan: 7’6”
Age on draft night: 20.1
2022 Draft Projection: 1-4
Holmgren began the season ranked No. 1, stayed there for Big Board 2.0 and drops one spot here.
I attribute Holmgren’s small slide to the rise of Smith more than anything that Holmgren has done to hurt his stock. Holmgren’s biggest weakness, his thin frame, was a known quantity. For most scouts he’s lived up to expectations as an elite rim protector with a versatile offensive game.
His upside is enormous if he finds the right spot in the NBA, but his unique qualities create a lower floor for him, meaning that some see him as a riskier pick than Smith and Banchero.
Through 13 games Holmgren is averaging 18.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 4.7 blocks, and 0.4 steals per 36 minutes and shooting 61.2% from the field and 35.1% from 3.