NEW NBA Draft Prospect Rankings: Big Board 5.0, Part 1
Keegan Murray, Jalen Duren, Dyson Daniels, Malaki Branham and Terquavion Smith are the big risers in our Top 20 prospects
March Madness is a week away. That means it’s time for my fifth 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. Three weeks ago I released Mock Draft 2.0, which projects which team will select each prospect. Rather, my Big Board is essentially a consensus ranking, gathered from all of my sources.
The Big Board remains pretty stable at the top, with four players remaining in the mix for the No. 1 pick. After that, there is still a lot of variability, which is what we should continue to expect going forward — especially on freshman prospects with high upside but middling performances so far.
By the time we get out of the lottery, this draft is wide open, with a wide range of opinions from scouts and talent evaluators on where prospects will eventually land.
And for the first time, we’ll be going 60 deep in this edition of Big Board.
We begin today with our Top 20. Wednesday we will release players ranked 21-40. Thursday we’ll rank players 41-60.
01 JABARI SMITH JR.
6’10” | 210 | Wingspan: 7’1”
Age on draft night: 19.1
2022 Draft Projection: 1-3
We moved Smith to No. 1 for Big Board 3.0, and his grip continues to tighten on the top spot on the draft. In his last five games, he’s been especially awesome, averaging more than 25 points per 36 minutes and continuing to shoot at a white-hot pace (51.9% from 3 in his last five).
Smith’s confidence that he’s the best player on the floor every night is growing, and it’s clear he wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line. He’s also showing more energy on the defensive end. As well as he started the season, he’s gotten significantly better as the year has gone on.
There is still a case for Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jaden Ivey here, but the strong consensus right now is that Smith goes No. 1, regardless of which team gets the pick. A bad NCAA Tournament showing or injury could change that. But 6’10” athletes with Smith’s shooting ability and competitive drive don’t come along every day. He’s got a chance to be a superstar in the NBA.
Check out Rafael Barlowe’s scouting video on the case for Smith as the No. 1 pick.
In 31 games, Smith is averaging 21.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals per 36 minutes and shooting 44.2% from the field and 43.6% from 3.
02 CHET HOLMGREN
7’0” | 195 | Wingspan: 7’6”
Age on draft night: 20.1
2022 Draft Projection: 1-4
The competition for No. 2 remains a virtual dead heat between Ivey, Holmgren and Banchero. Every team I talk to seems to have its own preference, so ranking them becomes a real challenge. If I could rank them 2A, 2B and 2C, I would.
Holmgren began the season ranked No. 1 and still think he’s got a good shot at being the No. 1 pick. He’s the most unique prospect I’ve ever scouted, and I could see a team talking itself into him based on his unusual set of skills. If he hits, he’ll hit big.
Holmgren has absolutely dominated the West Coast Conference this year, though NBA scouts discount that somewhat because of the quality of his WCC competition. In his 14 regular-season conference games, he averaged 20 points, 13.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 4.6 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 62% from the field and 50% from 3 (in 4.5 attempts per game).
Holmgren’s draft stock will likely be more NCAA Tournament-sensitive than that of the other top prospects. If he dominates in the tournament against top competition, it could lift his stock enough to make him a strong competitor to Smith for being the top pick. If Holmgren falters, he could end up going No. 4 on draft night.
See Rafael Barlowe’s video breakdown on the case for Holmgren as the No. 1 pick.
Through 28 games Holmgren is averaging 19.4 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 4.9 blocks, and 1.1 steals per 36 minutes and shooting 62% from the field and 43% from 3.