NEW NBA Draft Prospect Rankings: Big Board 5.0, Part 2
John Butler, Jabari Walker and Oscar Tshiebwe are the big risers in the 20-40 range on our latest Big Board
On Tuesday we broke down the Top 20 players on our Big Board 5.0
As we move into the 20s and 30s, things get really challenging. Scouts are going to be faced with a tough choice between veteran production, but limited upside (see EJ Liddell, Oscar Tshiebwe, David Roddy) or young prospects with big upside, but poor production this season (see just about everyone else on this list that isn’t Walker Kessler or Jabari Walker).
Projecting how young players who have struggled will play in the NBA may be the hardest job there is for scouts and this year’s draft is unusually loaded with them. Rafael Barlowe and I, in our podcast on our Biggest Disappointments in the 2022 NBA Draft, both reflected on how many unproven prospects are getting first round looks this year. There’s always a handful in every draft, but this year’s draft has more than a dozen prospects like this. Many of them will likely bust. The key is finding the two or three that are really diamonds in the rough.
We’ll come back on Thursday with our final prospects 41-60.
21 WALKER KESSLER
7’1” | 245| Wingspan: 7’6”
Age on Draft Night: 20.9
2022 Draft Projection: 15-25
In Tuesday’s column, I had Mark Williams of Duke at No. 20, but Kessler and Williams remain neck-and-neck.
Kessler is the better rim protector, with a ridiculous 6.3 blocks per 36 minutes. The issue, for some scouts, is that he lacks the foot speed and overall athleticism of Williams, meaning he’s not quite at Williams’ level as far as defensive versatility and guarding guys in space.
My guess is that these two are going to have a lot of workouts against each other.
In 31 games, Kessler is averaging 16.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 6.3 blocks and 1.5 steals per 36 minutes and shooting 62.1% from the field and 21.3% from 3.
22 JOHN BUTLER
7’1” | 190 | Wingspan: 7’5”
Age on draft night: 19.6
2022 Draft Projection: 15-25
Butler is the first of two consecutive young players on this list who, on the surface, seem like major reaches. Butler plays just over 18 minutes a game, and even when you adjust his stats to per 36 minutes, they really don’t wow you.
However, 7’1” guys who stroke the basketball the way Butler can just don’t come along very often. And while his shooting at his size is the main draw, he’s also a very fluid athlete who has the agility and foot speed to guard anywhere on the floor.
Look, he’s a project. He is 30 pounds underweight, shoots just 42% from the free-throw line and needs a lot of work on his game. But I’ve had several talent evaluators tell me he could be a top-10 pick in 2023, and I’m told that he’s leaning toward returning to Florida State for his sophomore season.
If he decides to come out now, some team is going to scoop him up in the back half of the first round and hope that a year of strength training and G League experience transforms him into the lottery-caliber player he’s projected to be.
In 30 games, Butler is averaging 11.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.2 blocks and 0.8 steals per 36 minutes and shooting 42.4% from the field and 40.0% from 3.