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2022 NBA Draft: Six potential Heat prospects to monitor in Sweet 16

Which of the potential 2022 NBA Draft players still available in the first round could the Heat select?

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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.

*There will be 58 picks instead of 60 this year, because the Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks had their 2022 second-round picks revoked due to tampering allegations.

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

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Creighton vs Kansas
Ochai Agbaji (30) dribbles against Creighton Bluejays guard Rati Andronikashvili (21) during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Purdue vs Texas
Trevion Williams (50) looks to pass the ball against Texas Longhorns forward Brock Cunningham (30) during the first half in the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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

Syndication: The Greenville News
Mark Williams (15) dunks near Michigan State University forward Joey Hauser (10) and Michigan State University forward Marcus Bingham Jr (30).
Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

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.

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

Creighton v Kansas
Christian Braun #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts in the second half of the game against the Creighton Bluejays during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

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.

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

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Purdue
Juwan Howard talks with forward Caleb Houstan (22) in the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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

Michigan State v Duke
Wendell Moore Jr. #0 of the Duke Blue Devils shoots over Marcus Bingham Jr. #30 of the Michigan State Spartans.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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.

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

Memphis v Gonzaga
Andrew Nembhard #3 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs dribbles the ball passed Alex Lomax #10 of the Memphis Tigers.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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.

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!