The Sweet 16 is here!!
Yes, I’m sure you’d rather have me discuss
a specific bench altercation that prompted everyone to press the big red button recent events surrounding the Miami Heat, but not right now!
In the meantime, I shall remind you that we are about three months away from the 2022 NBA Draft, where five dozen* of the top stars across college basketball — in addition to the newly-formed G-League Unite — hear their name called to see where they will continue to fulfill their hopes and dreams as NBA players.
Barring any offseason trade, the Heat own a first-round pick this year! They will possess the worst of the three first-rounders between the Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets. With Houston slotted as one of the three teams with a 14 percent chance at securing the top-pick and the Nets as the 8-seed in the East, Miami — who sit atop the conference by 1.5 games at 47-26 — will likely own their own pick in the mid-to-late 20s.
I have identified six potential 2022 prospects (plus a wild card) that I will be keeping my eye on for the Sweet 16 and the remainder of the tournament. For this exercise, I limited it to players who I **think** Miami could take with just its first round pick and not off the undrafted pool, though you and I both know they will explore both options.
(These are not ranked in order of best-to-worst player, nor are they in the order of prospects I want Miami to select, so please don’t take the rankings as such.)
As I’ve harped on in previous spaces, overall prospect rankings and evaluators’ feelings on said prospects will be fluid up until the time of the draft. So just because they are ranked on a big board in a certain spot now, doesn’t mean it will be the same as in late June. But I digress. Without further ado, let’s jump into it!
1. Ochai Agbaji, Kansas
Guard | 6’5” | 210 lbs. | Senior | Age: 21
2021-22 stats (35 games): 19.3 PPG | 5.2 RPG | 47.0 FG% | 40.0 3P% | 59.2 TS% | 20.9 PER
Though I personally believe the award will eventually be given to Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, Agbaji, the Big-12 player of the year, is having a fringe Naismith-player-of-the-year-like season. But Ogbaji projects to be a mid-to-late first round pick, in large part due to his draft age (he’ll turn 22 in April). Full disclaimer: I don’t think he’ll be around when Miami’s up to pick. In fact, at the time of this publishing, my best guess is that he gets drafted just outside the lottery. And if he puts on a show this weekend with his superb shooting and on-ball creation, he could vault himself into the lottery as a potential top-10 pick.
Ochai Agbaji may be the JayHawks' best creator, but he noticeably looks best when Kansas is able to simplify his role. Great drive and dish here: pic.twitter.com/OdgmUUjjNa— DGC (@Itamar_17_10) March 19, 2022
Ochai Agbaji comes up right off the hand-off and hits the 3 pic.twitter.com/MNlk75JBT8— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) March 19, 2022
2. Trevion Williams, Purdue
Center | 6’10” | 265 lbs. | Senior | Age: 21
2021-22 stats (36 games): 11.9 PPG | 7.4 RPG | 3.1 APG | 55.0 FG% | 56.9 TS% | 32.0 PER
Most evaluators’ eyes will (deservedly) be glued to Jaden Ivey, one of the top prospects in this class, but I’d keep an eye out for Williams off the bench, too. Subjectively, he’s one of my favorite players to watch in this class. He’s not a traditional floor spacer, but is an elite post scorer with a soft touch around the rim. Given his mobility and burly frame, Williams, 21, cracks my personal top-10 list of college players I don’t want to take a charge from — and I’m not sure he’s No. 2-10, either. Through my (very) novice scouting eye, the 6-foot-10, 265-pound
fullback forward possesses fantastic guard skills for his size — he can handle and make essentially any pass with outstanding velocity and good accuracy — that will translate to the next level. He can initiate handoffs as well as playmake from the post and elbows...sound familiar?? Anyone?? He possesses a great motor and is very nimble. While he might not be your everyday small-ball 5, I’d absolutely take a chance on Williams if I were Miami.
Trevion Williams : 22 points on 10-13 shooting, 2-4 from the FT line & 7 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench pic.twitter.com/yHMApydDKM— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) March 21, 2022
Ridiculous Trevion Williams pass to Mason Gillis! pic.twitter.com/1f5pIImBPi— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) March 21, 2022
Trevion is such an insane luxury to have. Here is a 6'10 forward taking his guy to the block off of the dribble from the perimeter. He then gets to his spot, shimmys, and goes under for the easy layup. Some of the stuff he can do is unreal pic.twitter.com/WGgz5Sn7FB— Purdue Basketball Analysis (@PUBBallAnalysis) March 21, 2022
3. Mark Williams, Duke
Center | 7’1” | 242 lbs. | Soph. | Age: 20
2021-22 stats (36 games): 11.2 PPG | 7.4 RPG | 2.9 BPG | 71.4 FG% | 72.2 TS% | 33.7 PER
Williams, listed at 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-7 wingspan, is one of the best shot blockers in the class. The ACC defensive player of the year ranks within the top-20 across Division-I in blocks per game (2.9 bpg) and block percentage (11.9%), per KenPom. Offensively, Williams fits the traditional center build; he’s a dominant presence around and above the rim, specifically as a vertical spacer. He’s also one of the nation’s better offensive rebounders (2.6 orpg), ranking in the top-45 nationally in offensive rebounding rate (13.6%). Williams has taken nearly 94 percent (!!!) of his attempts inside the painted area, converting them at a 72.2 percent clip, but his 74.3 free-throw percentage suggests he could potentially extend his range at the next level. He will have some things to fine tune on both ends, but with Dedmon’s impending free agency, I could potentially see Miami nabbing him as a late first-round project.
Turns out having a 9-8 standing reach is pretty valuable in basketball. You draft Mark Williams for the rim protection, vertical spacing and underrated passing, but I've always left Duke practices intrigued by his shooting touch, which he showed on the late-clock Dirk fallaway. pic.twitter.com/RxbrdFp7BS— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) March 20, 2022
Mark Williams is the first Duke player with 5 blocks in consecutive NCAA Tournament games (blocks official since 1986). pic.twitter.com/ATvW5ra59A— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 20, 2022
4. Christian Braun, Kansas
Wing | 6’6” | 205 lbs. | Junior | Age: 20
2021-22 stats (36 games): 14.6 PPG | 6.4 RPG | 2.7 APG | 1.1 SPG | 50.1 FG% | 59.4 TS% | 20.3 PER
Braun might be Agbaji’s second fiddle, or the Robin to his Batman — but Braun’s developed into one of Kansas’ top all-around players as a junior. The 6-foot-6 athletic wing will oftentimes play the 4 and has never been afraid to play up with his stronger-build and above average athleticism. Braun’s the team’s top rebounder — hauling in 6.4 boards per game — leads the team in blocks (1.1 bpg), is second in block percentage (2.6%) while also sporting 50.1/39.7/74.0 (59.4 TS%) shooting splits. If Miami’s looking for another versatile wing to mold, Braun wouldn’t be the worst option available. He’s also a sneaky good playmaker, too.
Fantastic skip pass from Remy Martin to Christian Braun who hits the huge 3 for Kansas! pic.twitter.com/qETzhuE1Fe— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) March 19, 2022
I really like how Kansas makes use of their dynamic duo of Agbaji and Braun. pic.twitter.com/VhhhzhGUm7— Dennis J. (@GatheringIntel) March 17, 2022
5. Caleb Houstan, Michigan
Wing | 6’8” | 205 lbs. | Freshman | Age: 19
2021-22 stats (33 games): 10.2 PPG | 4.0 RPG | 38.5 FG% | 36.0 3P% | 53.2 TS% | 12.0 PER
Houstan is the lone freshman on this list. A former five-star recruit and top-10 prospect out of Montverde Academy, Houstan’s had a rollar coaster freshman season. In my view, he might have the “highest ceiling, lowest floor” variance among anyone on this list. The athletic swingman has showed multiple flashes of “OK, I see why he was a top recruit,” but the results have been inconsistent. He went scoreless on four attempts against Tennessee Saturday — albeit against one of the top defenses in the country — after scoring 13 points (on 11 shots) against Colorado State. Nevertheless, Houstan, 19, is a capable shooter, having netted 40.6 percent of his 5.1 3-point attempts over his last 19 games. If Miami swung for upside with its first-round pick, I wouldn’t be surprised (at all!) if it went with a Juwan Howard guy to place into their developmental system. A good game (or two, if they advance) could volley Houstan up mocks, so I’m definitely keeping my eye on him now and throughout the remainder of the pre-draft process.
Back to back 3s from Caleb Houstan including this one in transition and Michigan takes a 4 point lead! pic.twitter.com/iO72EcRzUu— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) March 17, 2022
Caleb Houston hit a few huge 3s in the 2nd half for Michigan and helped their 2nd half comeback against Colorado State.— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) March 17, 2022
Every single one came off of a missed basket from Colorado State and Michigan pushing the pace pic.twitter.com/qNmfNwRciQ
6. Wendell Moore Jr., Duke
Guard | 6’6” | 215 lbs. | Junior | Age: 20
2021-22 stats (36 games): 13.5 PPG | 5.4 RPG | 4.6 APG | 1.4 SPG | 50.7 FG% | 41.3 3P% | 61.4 TS% | 21.9 PER
Moore has the perfect physical tools for an NBA wing, being listed at 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wing span. While most of the attention is on highly-touted prospect Paolo Banchero, Moore has been one of their most important players throughout the season. He’s a rangy, multi-positional defender who’s a capable slasher, spot-up shooter and playmaker. Moore’s been one of Duke’s most productive players who would likely be a sure-fire lottery pick on a different team with a larger role, but currently projects to be a mid-to-late first round pick. He’s tallied six double figure outings over his last seven games, sporting 50.0/46.2/95.8 shooting splits over that stretch. He will be going up against one of the best defensive teams in the nation in Texas Tech Thursday, and I think Moore’s production will be vital for his draft stock and, more importantly, for Duke’s success.
Great two-way performance from Wendell Moore Jr in Duke's convincing win over Florida St yesterday.— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) February 20, 2022
Made some really nice passes, cut without the ball, finished around the rim, and was a major disruptor in passing lanes defensively.
16 points/7 assists/5 rebounds/6 steals pic.twitter.com/Jnmzptr7Wq
Wild card: Andrew Nembhard, G, Gonzaga
Guard | 6’5” | 195 lbs. | Senior | Age: 22
2021-22 stats (31 games): 12.0 PPG | 3.3 RPG | 5.8 APG | 1.5 SPG | 46.2 FG% | 38.5 3P% | 57.4 TS% | 18.8 PER
Calm, cool and collected — a cliche phrase that perfectly describe Nembhard’s demeanor, no matter the circumstances. I’m not good at doing all of the pre-draft NBA draft comparisons for prospects, nor do I really like them — but Nembhard, 22, reminds me of Kyle Lowry in the sense that they both can impact the game without lighting up the box score. The 6-foot-5 point guard wasn’t as aggressive to begin the season, but over his last 17 games, he’s produced to a tune of 15.2 points, 6.7 assists and 1.5 steals per contest. Over that span, he’s shooting 48.7 percent, including 42.7 percent from distance and 92.7 percent from the charity stripe. Nembhard is a good spot-up and pull-up shooter, can conduct any offense and loves to push the pace whenever he gets the opportunity to. My best educated guess is Nembhard falls to the second round, but if Gonzaga makes a run at a National Title, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nembhard — along with Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme — potentially boost their draft stock in the process.
Andrew Nembhard has been touted for his stellar basketball IQ and poise but it’s the improvements he’s made as a shooter that has NBA teams looking at him with more clarity than in the past, according to @Mike_Schmitz. Full stock watch on ESPN+ >> https://t.co/7Ug4n5VkGt pic.twitter.com/L4fCJMrctX— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) March 21, 2022
This was an insanely quick split from Andrew Nembhard and then a nice dish baseline. pic.twitter.com/B3zh6oE3j2— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) March 17, 2022
Other honorable mentions:
- Trevor Keels, Duke
- Christian Koloko, Arizona
- Timme, Gonzaga
- Julian Strawther, Gonzaga
Which team, or player, are you looking out/rooting for throughout the rest of the NCAA Tournament? Comment below!