Shervon Fakhimi


Today marks the day of the 2022 NBA Draft. Dreams are fulfilled and teams are looking to find prospects to help them win championships. Now, no one has any idea how good any one of these guys will end up being. I especially have no clue. But I love to guess and play fake GM. So here is a mock draft of what I personally would do in these spots if I were running these teams. 

1. Orlando Magic – Paolo Banchero F Duke

I wrote more extensively here as to why I think Banchero is the best prospect in this draft. He can grow into Orlando’s premier halfcourt option as soon as he steps into the building.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder – Chet Holmgren C Gonzaga

A perfect fit next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey with Holmgren’s versatility as a floor spacer, rim roller, shooting off the bounce, and slashing ability. Don’t overthink Chet Holmgren.

3. Houston Rockets – Jabari Smith Jr. F Auburn

Jabari Smith gets called a 6-10 Klay Thompson but don’t get it twisted: that’s a really damn good player. Especially after watching him in person, Jabari Smith is exactly what teams want from their wings in today’s NBA. I just wish he could create off the bounce more.

4. Sacramento Kings – Jaden Ivey G Purdue

Jaden Ivey is simply immensely better than Keegan Murray and anyone else in this group; you could even argue Ivey is a better prospect than Jabari Smith or others in the top three. Sacramento does have a cluster of guards, though. People recommending them trading away De’Aaron Fox and his max salary to make room for Ivey is easier said than done though. But I just can’t pass Ivey up, especially after the names this franchise has passed up over the last decade-plus (Luka Doncic, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, to name a few). Take Ivey and worry about the roster clog at guard later.

5. Detroit Pistons – AJ Griffin F Duke

I wrote more extensively about Griffin here. Suffice to say, I think Griffin has more creator skills than he was allowed to show at Duke and is probably the best shooter in this draft. I LOVE the fit with Griffin and Cade Cunningham. 

6. Indiana Pacers – Bennedict Mathurin F Arizona

Perhaps no one played as well in the NCAA Tournament as Bennedict Mathurin. The idea of Mathurin and Tyrese Haliburton harassing guards all over the floor defensively is incredibly enticing. I love the fit here.

7. Portland Trail Blazers – Keegan Murray F Iowa

The Blazers finally added a wing in Jerami Grant on Wednesday. Keegan Murray isn’t a stopper defensively but can cover a lot of ground, can stretch the floor and would make for a great pick and roll tandem with Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, or Grant. Portland wants to compete now, so getting one of the most pro-ready prospects in this class makes sense.

8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Los Angeles Lakers) – Shaedon Sharpe G Kentucky

New Orleans is already a playoff team with plenty of draft ammunition in their tool kit. They’re a team that can take a risk in the top 10 so why not take the chance on Sharpe, who some say is the most talented player in this class. I love the idea of Sharpe learning from the steady professional scorer CJ McCollum. The fit around New Orleans’ two building-block stars in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson makes sense too.

9. San Antonio Spurs – Jalen Duren C Memphis

Jakob Poeltl has one year left on his contract. The Spurs have four picks in the top 40. Duren is the best center in this class with a game comparable to Boston’s Robert Williams III. They can get a guard or wing later. I like the fit here with Duren.

10. Washington Wizards – Jalen Williams F Santa Clara

Williams is a two-way wing close to the size of Paul George with the athleticism of Donovan Mitchell? I talked more about Williams after the NBA combine, but safe to say I’m a fan and that going at ten even might be too low for his potential.

11. New York Knicks – Dyson Daniels F G League Ignite

Dyson Daniels going in the top seven doesn’t make too much sense to me. He seems like someone that is solid at everything but not great at anything. 11 is much more palatable to me. He could play off RJ Barrett very well and seems very much like a Tom Thibodeau guy.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Los Angeles Clippers) – Tari Eason F LSU

At some point, the Thunder have to try to win some games, right? Tari Eason is one of the best defenders in this draft. Him and Holmgren smothering front courts with both having the versatility to defend all over the floor? Sounds good to me.

13. Charlotte Hornets – Ousmane Dieng F France / New Zealand Breakers

Charlotte needs wings and Dieng has the frame and game to excel next to LaMelo Ball as a point forward wing and also bring some much-needed defense to the Hornets. With two first-round picks, Charlotte can afford to take a shot on upside here too.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers – Johnny Davis G Wisconsin

There may not be a better fit for Davis than Cleveland. He is not a playmaker yet, but no worries because Darius Garland is already one of the best playmaking guards in the NBA. Garland isn’t a great defender, but Davis gets after it there with his 6-6 frame and athleticism. He can hit tough shots in the midrange, which would be a requirement with Cleveland’s two-big frontcourt. Cleveland should run to deliver the card with his name on it.

15. Charlotte Hornets (via New Orleans Pelicans) – Mark Williams C Duke

Charlotte needs a center as badly as Spongebob needed water when he first visited Sandy’s dome. Mark Williams instantly bolsters Charlotte’s defense and makes an awesome lob partner for LaMelo Ball.

16. Atlanta Hawks – Jeremy Sochan F Baylor

I’m not as big a Jeremy Sochan fan as others but he’s a stud defensively who just turned 19. Also, the ‘You Don’t Mess With the Sochan’ potential marketing campaigns are just sitting right there. You’re welcome, NBA teams.

17. Houston Rockets (via Brooklyn Nets) – Kennedy Chandler PG Tennessee

This might be too early for Chandler but this is what I would do damnit! I don’t want Banchero to succumb to pedestrian point guard play as he did at Duke for a large portion of their season, though Jalen Green is a good playmaker in his own right. Chandler is arguably the best pure floor general in this class with pesty defense and athleticism to go with it. He can make Green and Alperen Sengun’s life easier too. I love this fit.

18. Chicago Bulls – EJ Liddell F Ohio State

The Bulls so badly need depth on the wing. Poor Alex Caruso was sent to the wolves in the playoffs by having to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo when Patrick Williams got in foul trouble or needed a blow. Though Caruso is one of the best defensive players in the NBA, he shouldn’t have to take on that kind of assignment. Liddell is pro-ready both in terms of game and frame (6-7 240-pounds) and provides exactly what Chicago needs in terms of defense, additional rim protection, and floor spacing.

19. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jake LaRavia F Wake Forest

Jake LaRavia does many of the same things as Liddell. He isn’t as skilled an offensive player as Liddell but is a more bouncy athlete. I wrote more about him here but he’d make for a perfect fit with Karl-Anthony Towns and the Wolves.

20. San Antonio Spurs – Ochai Agbaji F Kansas

This seems low for one of the best players in college basketball last season. Agbaji helped Kansas win a national championship last year and has a game that reminds me a lot of Mikal Bridges. I think he’d fit like a glove in San Antonio.

21. Denver Nuggets – Malaki Branham G Ohio State

This seems low as well. Malaki Branham may not be the best prospect to come from St. Vincent St. Mary High School but he’s one of the best shooters and scorers in the draft. I know Denver drafted Bones Hyland to fill that role last year but getting more players who can fill Jamal Murray’s shoes if he can’t play in a given game. 

22. Memphis Grizzlies (via Utah Jazz) – TyTy Washington G Kentucky

TyTy Washington has numbers and a game eerily similar to Tyrese Maxey. I pounded the table for teams to consider Maxey higher than where he went. Teams that passed on him proved to make a big mistake. Washington is a bit more polished playmaker than Maxey coming out of Kentucky and the Grizzlies could very well lose Tyus Jones this summer. Jones was invaluable filling in for Ja Morant; perhaps Washington can take that spot.

23. Philadelphia 76ers – MarJon Beauchamp F G League Ignite

The Sixers are in dire need of a burst of perimeter defense and athleticism. Tyrese Maxey impersonated Usain Bolt when he ran compared to the rest of the Sixers roster. Beauchamp gives them that much-needed infusion of speed and defense that the Sixers sorely lack.

24. Milwaukee Bucks – Christian Braun G Kansas

I wanted to give the Bucks a bigger wing a la PJ Tucker to unlock more lineups with Giannis Antetokounmpo at the center spot, but I couldn’t find one I loved here. Christian Braun will suffice as a replacement and upgrade to what they lost in Donte DiVincenzo last year.

25. San Antonio Spurs (via Boston Celtics) – Jaden Hardy G G League Ignite

This is the Spurs’ third first-round pick. When I saw footage of Hardy I immediately thought of Jordan Poole and the jump he made for the Golden State Warriors. Hardy has a lot of rough edges to smooth over but also a ton of talent to work with. We very well could look back three years from now and wonder why Hardy wasn’t a lottery pick.

26. Houston Rockets (via Dallas Mavericks) – Dalen Terry F Arizona

Perhaps Houston uses this pick and their 17th pick to move up, but for now, we’ll have them take Dalen Terry. Terry doesn’t need the ball to make an impact, which will be important alongside Green and Banchero. Terry is a great defender and can do all the important winning plays on the edges.

27. Miami Heat – Christian Koloko C Arizona

The Heat doesn’t have another reliable big man behind Bam Adebayo that can produce in a playoff setting. Like Adebayo, Koloko is a menace switching onto guards and protecting the rim. I love the fit here.

28. Golden State Warriors – Jaylin Williams C Arkansas

Kevon Looney became a folk hero for what he did in the playoffs en route to Golden State’s fourth championship with Steph Curry. Unfortunately, running it back could mean a $400 million payroll next year. I wrote earlier about how well Jaylin Williams’ game matches Looney’s. The Warriors might be light years ahead of the league but even they have to make concessions at some point, right? Why not get the cheaper version of Looney?

29. Memphis Grizzlies – Blake Wesley G Notre Dame

Blake Wesley likely will go sooner than this. I think Wesley needs time to grow and develop before becoming a legitimate producer. Luckily, the Grizzlies are one of the best at developing their own and could use a bucket getter that can play alongside Ja Morant. With an extra first-round pick, why not?

30. Denver Nuggets (via Phoenix Suns thru Oklahoma City Thunder) – Wendell Moore Jr. G Duke

Wendell Moore is used to playing alongside star players and being productive and active without the ball. He’s a plug-and-play player on a team that rightfully sees itself as a contender.

Making choices is hard. Having to choose between a number of excellent players is even harder. There is no exact science. Seemingly surefire picks have found a way to lose their luster in the NBA before. We have no idea. Nitpicking between these guys feels very cruel too since they are all incredible at what they do. Most peg this year’s NBA Draft as a three-man duel between Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr., and Duke’s Paolo Banchero. If you want to throw Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, Duke’s AJ Griffin, Iowa’s Keegan Murray, or anyone else into this mix, be my guest. They’re all great prospects. But the best and most complete player in my opinion is Paolo Banchero. 

Defense – Good Enough

The area Holmgren and Smith best Banchero at is on the defensive end of the floor. Holmgren is already an engulfing rim protector that can switch onto guards and straight swat their shots with his 7-foot size and pterodactyl arms. Jabari Smith at 6-10 220-pounds can guard just about anybody on the floor. It isn’t as clean with Banchero. At 6-10 250pounds, he isn’t the most nimble player on the floor and is prone to get left in the dust by smaller, shifty guards.

(That lack of burst athleticism can show up at times offensively too, but I’m not overly concerned by it.)

Make no mistake about it, however: Paolo Banchero is still a damn good defender. A very versatile one at that. According to Synergy, Banchero ranked in the 94th-percentile in isolation defense, allowing 0.459 points per possession. That extends to guarding on the perimeter as well. This play is a great example. In a crucial moment against Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament up just one with under two minutes to go, Banchero sticks with Joey Hauser, throws him off-kilter with his size, and blocked his layup attempt. 

This play is probably even more impressive. He cuts off Third-Team All-American guard JD Notae’s drive off a switch, forcing him to kick the ball back out. After Duke has time to reset their defense, Banchero gets back onto his original man (Trey Wade) and blocks his dunk attempt from behind.

This play also provides a glimmer of Banchero’s potential to wreak havoc off the ball and even play some minutes at the center spot as a rim protector. His consistency in that area comes and goes enough to warrant playing a true rim-protecting center with Banchero for most of his minutes at the beginning of his NBA journey but he has the size, intellect, and athleticism to make do there. Banchero’s steal percentage (1.9-percent) and block percentage (2.7-percent) lag behind Holmgren (1.6-percent; 12.6-percent) and Smith (2.1-percent; 3.8-percent) but are still very solid. He’s not near the defender those two are but is far from a liability either.

Space In Spades

In my opinion, the edge Paolo Banchero has over everyone in this draft is how complete an offensive player he is. Both Smith and Holmgren hold the edge over him as shooters from three but Banchero is still solid there. On catch-and-shoot jumpers, Banchero generated 1.16 points per possession, good enough to finish in the 79th-percentile and ahead of Chet Holmgren. It adds to Banchero’s versatility and allows him to be deployed as a pop threat out of pick and rolls. 

Three-Level Scoring

But Banchero is best with the ball in his hands. This is where he can really differentiate and stand out from the rest of the field. Not only can be a threat without the ball but he can also run bully people on the block, create off the bounce, playmake in almost every situation, and whip the ball all over the floor. There really isn’t anything Banchero can’t do offensively. When he’s got a bigger-bodied defender on him he’s got a tenacious spin move (like he uses here) and is great at changing speeds to leave them in the dust.

Brady Manek is 6-9 230-pounds and is still searching for where Banchero went on that spin. He’s guarding Banchero there because he has enough to size to at least stand a chance inside against him. Manek was able to muster some stops against Banchero in their three matchups but he’s nowhere near as fleet of foot to consistently stay with Banchero, nor are a number of bigs Banchero will play against in the NBA sooner than later. If you want to take those drives away with a smaller, more lateral defender, that’s not going to work either. Banchero was a football player in high school and that physicality shows up in the post. Almost anybody is too small for Paolo Banchero, but especially the 6-8 200-pound Leaky Black.

If you put a bigger defender on Banchero and play him for the drive, he is more than happy and capable of burning you with the jumper you concede him as well.

Playmaking Wizardry

Like I said, pretty damn complete offensive player. But it’s not just as a scorer this well-roundedness of Banchero’s game pops. In a draft without a ton of excellent playmakers, you could argue Banchero might be the best passer in this draft. He reads the floor exceptionally well and can playmake from any spot or situation on the floor. Playmaking while running pick and roll? Check.

Playmaking as the roll man in pick and roll? Check.

What about passing after attacking off the bounce? Yeah, he’s got that too. Notice how Banchero sees Trevor Keels’ man sliding over to him to force Banchero to get rid of it? Well, Banchero does too and only does right when RJ Davis bites to dig on the ball, creating an all-the-more open look from three for Keels. 

What if Banchero isn’t even involved in the play? No worries. Here, he slides to the middle of the floor as Mark Williams is diving to the paint. The passing angle isn’t there for Duke’s guard to feed Williams so he swings it to Banchero, who then sets up Williams perfectly on a high-low pass to get him a dunk. 


Banchero’s playmaking and overall offensive packages are leaps and bounds ahead of Holmgren and Smith. Not that those are bad offensive players because they provide plenty of utility, but Banchero can do more than those two can. Banchero averaged 3.9 assists per-40 minutes; Smith and Holmgren averaged 2.8. Holmgren was mostly used as a roll-man and floor spacer, hence his 21.6-percent usage rate. Smith’s 27.6-percent usage rate actually bested Banchero’s, but Banchero’s shot creation ability is nowhere near up for question the way it is with Smith (I myself share some of those concerns, especially having seen Smith play in person earlier this year). Banchero can be deployed in any way those two can offensively, but neither of them has the combination of scoring and playmaking Banchero has that can carry a team.

Paolo Banchero’s versatility on both ends of the floor and ability to take over a game offensively were on full display in Duke’s run to the NCAA Tournament. While Tournament runs are hardly an indicator of NBA success, it is notable when picking the tiniest of nits that Banchero was able to keep his (flawed) team alive in ways Smith and Holmgren couldn’t. Smith and Holmgren are no slouches by any means; both should be able to help their new teams right away and warrant inclusion in the discussion for the top pick. 


But with the NBA shifting positionless and the emphasis on versatility on both ends of the floor, being able to play with other stars, and creating for yourself or others, no one threads those needles in this draft class better than Banchero. Do you need someone that can get you a bucket? Does your electric point guard need a versatile pick-and-roll dance partner to play off of to make his life easier? Do you need a small-ball center? Do you need a playmaking fulcrum at the elbow to run your offense through that can also shoot threes to clear the paint? How can you generate and expose mismatches in the playoffs when the other team knows what you want to do and trots nothing but tough, physical, rangy defenders against you? 

Arkansas Head Coach Eric Musselman was the only coach in the country who was tasked with sketching a game plan against all three of Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith. When asked in an interview with The Athletic who he would take number one overall, he said Banchero and that Paolo was ‘the hardest for us to deal with.’ I agree. Banchero is a true matchup nightmare and can answer all the questions above much more than the other Big Three candidates can at this stage of their careers. Perhaps Holmgren and Smith will improve their areas of weakness over time and make this article look foolish; it is certainly possible and I won’t put it past either of them. But for now, Banchero earns the crown of the top jewel in the 2022 NBA Draft in my eyes.

Steph Curry just won Finals MVP for the now once-again champion Golden State Warriors. Steph did just about everything imaginable on the hardwood, but he did not finish with the highest net rating during the Finals nor the highest plus-minus. No, this is not me trying to take away his Finals MVP more so than hyping up someone who did all the little things like setting tough screens, versatility defensively, and being able to keep the Golden State offensive machine humming. No, it wasn’t Andrew Wiggins either. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson did all those things too, but they didn’t finish first in those regards either. Of course, I’m talking about Kevon Looney.

Kevon Looney was +48 in 130 minutes during the NBA Finals. The Warriors boasted a +23.7 Net Rating when he was on the floor. Looney never did anything spectacular. He’s not a leaper, and you could see many players where lobs or layup attempts at the rim went begging due to his lack of athleticism. But Looney is solid in every area. He’s a good enough passer to capitalize on the advantages Steph and Golden State’s shooting provides him. If you try him 1v1 you’re probably not beating him. He held serve on the glass against Robert Williams III and Al Horford after wiping out Memphis and Dallas’ frontcourts devouring them with offensive rebounds. He knows where to be defensively protecting the rim.

Kevon Looney is just solid in so many areas. Luckily for other NBA teams who missed out on Looney in 2015 (though he is about to be a free agent), there’s a big man in the 2022 Draft who is built from a similar blueprint. That would be Arkansas’ Jaylin Williams.

Charging the Defense

Like Looney, Williams is not a vertical or explosive athlete. But he makes up for it by reading the game at a very high level. Defensively, that comes by positioning himself a step ahead of the offense. That’s how he was able to take 54 charges (as well as the block/charge rule being broken in college basketball).

You could argue some of those should be considered a block. Sometimes Williams would get blocks on plays he beats drivers to the rim but tried to get a charge instead of just contesting the shot. But there are plenty of clips of him shutting off drives or pick-and-rolls positioning himself just like that. That positioning helps him defend on the perimeter too. He finds the balance of not giving enough space to let shooters shoot while also not pressing them into blowing by him. His mobility allows him to cover a lot of ground.

Inverted Playmaking

Jaylin Williams is stout defensively, but he’s very polished offensively as well. Williams’ best skill is his passing. He averaged 2.9 career assists per 40-minutes compared to 2.3 turnovers, a fine number for a guard but a great mark for a center. His 13.3-percent assist percentage is well above the NBA average of roughly 11-percent. For added context, both of Williams’ playmaking numbers best the career playmaking numbers of Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis. Davis averaged 2.2 career assists per 40-minutes and an assist percentage of 12.5-percent. Getting guard-like passing out of your center allows for teams to open their offense and deploy that center in numerous ways to get easy looks.

That’s exactly what Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman did with Jaylin Williams. Sometimes, Williams would operate as the halfcourt fulcrum for Arkansas at the elbow while the rest of the players on the floor would look to spring a teammate free as a cutter. Williams had no problem finding those cutters. Sometimes, that meant finding someone like Justin Smith converging to the rim from the wing…

… Sometimes, Williams would find a cutter sliding from the baseline from the other side of the court, as he does here. Stanley Umude sets a flare screen off the ball on JD Notae’s man. Umude’s man doesn’t communicate with Notae’s man. By the time Notae’s man gets around Umude’s screen, Notae’s gone and Williams finds him to get Arkansas a layup.

That’s not the only way Jaylin Williams’ passing excels. In a pick and roll league, screeners need to be able to scan the floor for open shooters once the ballhandler is forced to get rid of the ball. Luckily, Williams shines there too. And here’s a good example of him doing exactly that. Third-team All-American JD Notae gets trapped so dumps it off to Williams. Williams, under control (he was great all year at staying under control on rolls and not barrelling into defenders for charges), waits until Au’Diese Toney slips to the rim as his man rotates over to Williams. Williams sees it and then slips it to Toney to get him a dunk.

Grounded Rolling

That composure on rolls feeds into Williams’ lack of explosion and overall skill in his game. He’s not going to beat defenses over the top as a lob threat like Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo but he does have a soft touch on short rolls. If the defense rotates over and doesn’t leave shooters, Williams has no problem lofting a floater over the defender. The threat of scoring unlocks kick-outs for threes or dump-offs for dunks so this is an important shot to have as a center. Williams has it.

Jaylin Williams isn’t a lob threat but he can still punch it if he’s got a head of steam on short rolls too. Paolo Banchero needs no reminders. Devo Davis got Mark Williams to bite on a shot here. Davis bails out of the shot and dumps it to Williams as he embarks on the rim. Duke’s defense behind Mark Williams so Jaylin Williams went for the dunk and threw it down on Banchero’s head.

You can see Williams’ lack of explosion in traffic, however. Williams’ touch around the rim is good and knows how to use the rim and angles to find intricate finishes near the rim on rolls or camping at the dunker spot. But, can be discombobulated by longer and more athletic bigs. This is a good example. On the move, he can’t get by Auburn’s Walker Kessler. Instead, he gets enveloped by Kessler and blocked.

Shooting in Progress

Playmaking isn’t the only area Jaylin Williams can contribute offensively. Williams is not a great shooter but he’s capable. His 25.5-percent mark from deep may not reflect it but he has good touch around the rim (as shown above), looks comfortable shooting midrange jumpers, and boasts a career 73.1-percent percentage from the free-throw line. His confidence as a shooter has yet to follow him past the three-point line. He will turn down shots in search of something better even. Sometimes, something better never comes. Other times, Arkansas got a layup or a better look. You admire Williams’ selflessness but becoming a more confident shooter would serve him very well in the NBA. When he lets it fly the shot looks pretty solid leaving his hands. He needs to improve as a shooter but there’s at least something to work with there.


Jaylin Williams may not be a top-flight athlete. He’s not the best stretch five out there. But, a lot like Golden State’s Kevon Looney, he’s just solid. He’s a very smart, well-rounded player who excels at amplifying the players around and making winning plays. It’s hard to find bigs who can stay on the floor in a playoff setting but I have none of those concerns with Jaylin Williams. The NBA is going away from bigs but having one who can contribute in those settings is and will continue to be invaluable. I recently asked Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman where Jaylin Williams could go in the 2022 NBA Draft and he speculated Williams is more likely to last until the second round. 

I think that is likely with how the center position is valued in comparison to guards and wings. But, every team in the 20s could use additional center depth and this year’s center class is not overly deep. I could see one of the teams starting with the Spurs at 20 draft Jaylin Williams and looking to fill other positions with later picks or via free agency. If that does indeed happen, Williams is more than worthy. We do all of this to be the ones holding up the trophy when all is said and done. Why not draft someone who can give a team what one of the most reliable players on a great team gave to help win a championship?

The axiom goes that an NBA team can’t ever have enough wings. It’s true, and if you don’t think so then watch any 2021-22 Los Angeles Laker game (please don’t actually, I care about you) or how puny the Brooklyn Nets were in their lone playoff series against the Finals-bound Boston Celtics. Wings that are big, long, and versatile defensively will always have a shot at cracking a playoff rotation. If they can hit threes or even make smart reads as a passer, even better. If they can create their own shot then they’re going in the lottery. But a player in the 2022 NBA Draft that likely won’t get selected in the lottery but does hit those benchmarks? Wake Forest’s Jake LaRavia


Jake LaRavia is not going to be a guy you ask to create a lot of offense; he averaged just over eight field goal attempts per game over his college career and finished with a usage rate of just 21.9-percent. But LaRavia excels in filling in the gaps as a mover, a cutter, and a floor spacer, the primary ways he was used at college. He’s always vigilant without the ball in his hands. Once he sees an opening to zip through the lane, he hits it. Playing with a true point guard in Alondes Williams helped in finding LaRavia in those circumstances.

LaRavia shot 61.6-percent on two-point shots this past year and it’s easy to see why. He knows who he is and how to get the shots he knows he can make. He’s also more than sneaky athletic so he can punch those down once he gets the ball with that head of steam.


LaRavia is also a very solid shooter. He didn’t shoot a ton of threes but he made 37.1-percent of the 132 threes he attempted over his three-year collegiate career. The stroke looks solid.

If Jake LaRavia is going to stay on the floor in high-leverage moments, he’s going to have to make shots like that. Luckily, he proved he can do so at a high level. LaRavia generated 1.5 points per possession on every unguarded catch-and-shoot jumper he shot last season, according to Zach Welch on Twitter. Excelling as a jump shooter as well as a finisher played a large role in LaRavia finishing last season with a 64.9-percent true-shooting percentage and a 60.6-percent effective field goal percentage. That he’s even somewhat close to the efficiency Chet Holmgren (69.1-percent TS; 68.1-percent eFG) posted is incredible and a testament to how well LaRavia excels at being a complementary piece. It isn’t as if LaRavia is only shooting corner threes like PJ Tucker either; he’s got NBA range and can hit shots on the move as well.



Another area of offense Jake LaRavia excels at is his passing. He reads the floor very well and especially so on the move, which will be very important in the NBA. Teams are going to force a team’s star players to get rid of the ball and force others to beat them. LaRavia can diagnose those defensive rotations on the fly and make the correct decisions to get his team a great look. This play is a great example. 

Towson traps the ballhandler. As they do, Wake Forest’s center slips to the rim. LaRavia makes himself available in the middle of the floor and sees the defender in the corner tagging Wake Forest’s roller. As he tags LaRavia zips it to the wing to create an open three. LaRavia is a smart and unselfish passer. It’s no wonder why he averaged 3.5 assists per 40 minutes (to 3 turnovers) and an above-average 17.8-percent assist percentage for his career. (For context: Karl-Anthony Towns and Thaddeus Young finished with a 17.7-percent assist percentage last season.) He has no problem manipulating a defense or making the simple extra pass. He keeps the machine humming.


The same way Jake LaRavia reads the floor offensively he also does so defensively. This side of the floor is where LaRavia’s bread gets buttered. At 6-8 227-pounds and a 6-9.5 wingspan, he can cover a ton of ground defensively. He has no issue disrupting offenses as a free safety. Watch here how he rotates from the weakside to strip the Towson roll man as he’s going up to force a turnover. 

That’s just one example of LaRavia putting out a fire off the ball. Here’s another. He begins the possession on a Towson big man. But as the ball rotates from one side to the other, a Towson guard is open on the left-wing. LaRavia sees it and zips over to make him put it on the deck, redirecting his rotating teammate Alondes Williams back to his original man. LaRavia sticks with the Towson guard and forces a wild shot as a result.


LaRavia can clearly defend in the team scheme, but he can put the clamps on people? That answer is also a definite yes. He’s got the quick feet to stick with guards and the size to stand up bruising wings. He didn’t have much of an issue sticking with two dynamic NC State scorers in Terquavion Smith and Dereon Seabron, both of whom fared well in May’s NBA Combine.

I think Jake LaRavia would probably be better deployed in more of a free safety role like a Robert Covington, but he’s definitely capable of being a point-of-attack stopper too, in my opinion. But it’s clear to me he is a plus defender. The numbers back it up too. LaRavia finished with a 12.7-percent rebound percentage, 2.4-percent steal percentage, 3.9-percent block percentage, and 4.6 defensive win shares (this stat continues to accumulate the more games you play. The more games one plays, the bigger the number. Veterans will have a bigger number than freshmen.). That is very similar to or better than a number of wings projected to go ahead of him in this year’s class. Here are how a few others that share LaRavia’s position in this class compare to LaRavia:

Jeremy Sochan, Baylor: 14.7 RB%, 2.9 STL%, 3.2 BLK%, 1.9 DWS

Tari Eason, LSU: 15.2 RB%, 4.5 STL%, 6.2 BLK%, 3.4 DWS

Kendall Brown, Baylor: 10.5 RB%, 2.2 STL%, 1.5 BLK%, 1.8 DWS

EJ Liddell, Ohio State: 13.7 RB%, 1.2 STL%, 6.5 BLK%, 3.8 DWS

Patrick Baldwin Jr., Milwaukee: 11.2 RB%, 1.7 STL%, 3.2 BLK%, 0.4 DWS

Jake LaRavia is just as good or even a better shooter than some of these guys with the defensive impact, but isn’t mocked in the top 20 the way these guys are or have previously been. I think that’s a mistake. LaRavia is right there amongst the most impactful wings in this draft whose game fits the mold of an Aaron Gordon‘s. He may be a junior but he’s still just 20 years. He’s just six months older than freshman Chet Holmgren and 12 days older than freshman TyTy Washington. There’s plenty of room for LaRavia to grow.

Jake LaRavia should be a top 20 pick in my opinion, but any team that sees themselves as a contender picking in the 20s (such as the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, and Golden State Warriors) that is low on wing depth should have no qualms taking LaRavia in the first round. He is a perfect complementary piece on the wing that can step in and help a team immediately. Every team needs players like him to get through the riggers of the playoffs to get that elusive Larry O’Brien Trophy. If you like winning players, then Jake LaRavia is your man.

Every year the NBA has held its scouting combine, and players use that opportunity to their advantage to boost their draft stock. The 2022 combine was no different. After four different scrimmages over the course of two days, here are a few guys that I am a fan of and thought did themselves a service not only competing with their contemporaries but helping their draft stock in the process to get themselves in consideration to be a late first-round pick or potential early-to-mid second-round pick.

Jalen Williams, Santa Clara

Last year, it was Josh Primo who used the NBA Combine to his advantage and skyrocketed his way all the way up to the lottery. He was mostly regarded as a fringe first-round pick, but there he was hearing his name called by the San Antonio Spurs with their 12th overall selection in last year’s draft. This year’s favorite for the Josh Primo bump is Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams. He slaughtered the combine in every which way imaginable. First is the testing aspect. Williams measured in at 6-5.75 with a 7-2.25(!!!) wingspan. He also posted a monstrous 39-inch max vertical jump and a vertical reach greater than the likes of springy big men Rudy Gobert and John Collins. Holy shit. Despite giving a couple of inches, Williams’ overall size and athleticism compares favorably to some of the best wings in the NBA.

But the NBA isn’t just about testing measurements; there have been plenty of workout warriors who get drafted too high but can’t play. Luckily, that isn’t Jalen Williams. He’s got a smooth feel and three-level scoring chops. He can play off the ball and nail catch-and-shoot threes, he can play and finish through contact, and rise for a midrange jumper if the lane gets congested. According to Synergy Sports, Williams finished in the 86th-percentile on plays he was the pick and roll ballhandler and in the 97th-percentile on spot-ups. He laid all of these skills out for everyone to see this week.

Jalen Williams is also a very savvy playmaker. He finished college with a career 2.9-1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio and had a +2 ratio in his final season at Santa Clara. He can make any read out of the pick and roll. This here is a good example. He sees the man defending his teammate on the wing tagging the roller and delivers the ball as his defender is tagging. Once his teammate attacks the open driving lane, Williams finds space along the baseline to get a dump off and finish a dunk. He essentially created a dunk for himself.

Lastly, Williams is a staunch defender. He was defending Christian Braun for much of his first scrimmage and didn’t let him do much. This play was another of many Williams made. Hugo Besson does a good job of maximizing the screen to get the big to commit. Once the big bites and steps out, Williams veers back to the roll man, got a deflection on the ball, and ultimately forces the turnover. You can’t ask for better execution than this. 

Jalen Williams typically found himself in the 40s of mock drafts and big boards. As a Lakers fan who hoped he’d slip through the cracks, this week was devastating for such hope (as was the entire season so what is new). Jalen Williams is undoubtedly a first-round pick and likely a lottery pick now. He’s going to make a fan base extremely happy.

Andrew Nembhard, Gonzaga

The West Coast Conference is getting some love today! Andrew Nembhard was awesome for Gonzaga the past two seasons. He’s as steady a point guard as any in this class. His career assist-to-turnover ratio is just under +3 (2.94); during his two seasons in Spokane, it sat at +3.2. That terrific feel and playmaking were on display from the jump. This one was my favorite from the day. Nembhard runs a pick and roll from the right side of the floor, sees the weakside man tagging the roll man, and then zips the ball all the way to the left corner to create an And-1 corner three.

The concern regarding Andrew Nembhard was whether or not he can create for himself against NBA length and size. Au’Diese Toney of Arkansas totally shut Nembhard down in Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 loss at the hands of the Razorbacks. But Nembhard quelled those concerns. He looked as cool as a cucumber hitting floaters and pulling off the bounce. He only played the second of his team’s scrimmages after sitting the first one with a quad issue. He made up for lost time and then some by finishing with 26 points and 11 assists compared to just two turnovers.

On top of that, Andrew Nembhard finished with one of the best agility times for a guard at the combine. For any team looking for a backup point guard, look no further. Seeing how Tyus Jones and Monte Morris kept their teams afloat after injuries hit their starters this season, it’s not hard to envision Nembhard playing a similar role for whoever selects him. I waivered on Nembhard after his tournament display, but I’m back in after he dominated the combine.

Christian Braun, Kansas

Christian Braun didn’t have much to improve at the combine on the floor, but he competed and showed out between the lines anyway. I loved watching Braun as a Jayhawk and he kept the National Championship momentum in Chicago. Braun is a great secondary playmaker and off-ball player who fills the gaps for whatever a team needs. He runs in transition, he’s a savvy cutter and typically makes the extra and/or right pass. He’s also a pretty damn good shooter. He was just under 38-percent for his career at Kansas from deep and 75-percent from the free-throw line. He didn’t shoot the lights out in Chicago but didn’t have a problem adjusting to NBA range.

I love the pump fake to get his man to bite before stepping up for a more open three. It’s an example of Braun’s feel and composure on the floor. 

Christian Braun also gets after it defensively. At 6-6 218-pounds, Braun can guard multiple positions and did exactly that at Chicago. This play was a great example. He gets switched onto Georgetown’s Aminu Mohammed (who himself had a nice showing at the combine) and holds his ground. More than that, he stands Mohammed’s drive up and packs him in the process, forcing a 24-second violation.

To ice his performance on the court, Christian Braun proved his athleticism was not just sneaky. He lit up the vertical testing, finishing with a 40-inch max vertical and a 33.5-inch standing vertical. He tested as one of the best athletes at the combine period. Braun was on the fringes of the first round but likely solidified himself as one this week.

Ryan Rollins, Toledo

Ryan Rollins is one of my favorite players in this entire draft. Nothing I saw in his lone scrimmage dismayed me from that train of thought. Rollins has a smooth CJ McCollum-esque game (his words, not mine); he loves getting to the elbows and flipping in floaters when he gets to the paint. He also looked very comfortable playmaking out of pick and roll scenarios, frequently making the right play whether that be hitting the roll man or finding shooters in the corners. He put all of his tantalizing offensive skills on display in his scrimmage on Thursday.

My main concern with Ryan Rollins is that he’s not the best athlete and still needs to extend to NBA range as a shooter. He actually tested pretty well and better than other guards in his draft range. But, he had a few open looks beyond the arc and I don’t remember hitting one of them. I don’t view this as a major problem; Rollins has a great touch and shot just under 80-percent from the free-throw line during his career. I believe the three-point shooting will come in due time. Ryan Rollins is a top-20 pick.

Terquavion Smith, North Carolina State

Remember when Bones Hyland lit up the combine last year? Enter Terquavion Smith.

Bones Hyland’s numbers were a bit more efficient than Terquavion Smith’s but similar nonetheless. In Hyland’s sophomore year at VCU, he averaged 19.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 3.1 turnovers, and 7.8 three-point attempts per game on 44.7/37.1/86.2 shooting splits. Smith? He averaged 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 turnovers, and 8.1 three-point attempts per game on 39.8/36.9/69.8 shooting splits. Similar enough? If you liked Hyland last year (I did), it’s not hard to like Smith. Every team seemingly has or values these roaming three-point chuckers; using a first-round pick on Hyland, Jordan Poole, and Immanuel Quickley has worked out very well over the past three years. Smith is one of them in this class. He was picking up steam before the combine and gained more this week. He likely played himself into the first round.

Dereon Seabron, NC State

If Terquavion Smith at 6-4 160-pounds was the lighting for the NC State Wolfpack this season, the 6-7 180-pound Dereon Seabron was the thunder. It was rare for a defender to stay in front of Seabron, and once he got by his man he roared to the basket and routinely finished through contact. Just watch how many times he bulldozed to the rim here.

Dereon Seabron may be a wrecking ball as a driver, but he also flashed playmaking chops. He has only 14 more assists than turnovers through two seasons at NC State but knew how and when to find his teammates when handling the ball. The biggest hurdle for Seabron to clear is his shooting. In two seasons, he only shot 63 threes, making 16 of them (25.4-percent). He hit just 69.4-percent of his free throws too. Seabron showed well but still seems more like a second-round pick or candidate to return to college than a first-round pick. But he put himself on more radars this week, and that’s all anyone in his shoes could ask for.

Kenneth Lofton Jr., Louisiana Tech

No one, at least from this event, improved their stock more than Kenny Lofton Jr. Everyone knew he was a burly post-up brute who can plow through just about anybody. But, his skill and feel were amongst the best in both the G League Elite Camp (for more from that event, click here). Lofton Jr. shined so much during the G League Elite Camp that he earned an invite to the NBA Combine. More of the same followed in the one NBA Combine scrimmage he participated in. He wasn’t just a low-post threat; he was also a pick and pop weapon. Lofton did not shoot a single three during his freshman season and made just four of 20 last year, but wasn’t afraid to let it fly in Chicago.

A three-ball would unlock so much more to Lofton’s game. This play is a good example. The defense runs him off the three-point line, putting Lofton in a 5v4 advantage. From there, he uses a euro step to get off a floater that he misses. But after getting the offensive rebound and a quick second jump, the ball is in the basket anyway.

Lofton’s bread is buttered in the post but it is important to show he’s got these skills in his toolbox. Teams are not wanting bigs posting up other bigs in today’s NBA, nor should they unless they’re the best of the best. But if he can play bigs off the floor stretching them out to set up his post-game, then he’s going to be an incredible offensive weapon. Because his post-game is awesome.

If he gets a smaller defender on him, then it’s a wrap. He is too powerful and too skilled. That smaller defender is going to get put in the basket.

If he gets a smaller defender on him, then teams are going to need to send help. Luckily, Lofton is a brilliant passer. Double teams don’t phase him; just look at this play. The double comes and immediately Lofton looks to pass. He sees Jules Bernard zoning up in the corner. He looks at him making Bernard think he’s throwing it to the wing, only to gift the guy in the corner a wide-open three.

The NBA is trending away from guys like Kenneth Lofton Jr., but skill is skill no matter where it comes from. Lofton had a paltry three-point percentage and a negative assist-to-turnover ratio in college, but clearly showed he can impact those areas of the game and play in the modern NBA. The defensive end of the floor will absolutely be a challenge for Lofton, especially at his 6-7 275-pound size. But, Lofton dominated every scrimmage he participated in and showed skill and feel that superseded almost, if not, all of his peers. He can start as a scoring weapon against bench units as he gets into better shape. If/when that happens, a team gifts him a strong defensive stretch five to cover for him there, Lofton can be a dynamic offensive big man in the NBA.

Good players are everywhere, you just have to know where and how to find them. Part of the where includes the G League Elite Camp, where many players have shined enough to give themselves an opportunity. Recently, that has included the likes of New Orleans Pelican Jose Alvarado, Charlotte Hornet Cody Martin, Miami Heat Caleb Martin, and Indiana Pacer Duane Washington Jr., among countless others. This is a great stepping stone for fringe prospects to catch the eyes of NBA scouts and anybody else who watched, like me. Here are a few that did exactly that.

Marcus Sasser, Houston* (* = Earned NBA Combine invite)

The roaming microwave scoring guard is a hot commodity in today’s NBA. Recently in the first round, guys like Jordan Poole, Immanuel Quickley, and Bones Hyland slid into the late first round for the ability to provide instant offense. Marcus Sasser showed he’s got that type of goods in both of his two G League Elite and NBA Combine scrimmages. Sasser started the 2021-22 season with a bang for the soon-to-be Elite 8-bound Houston Cougars, averaging 17.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.2 turnovers, and 8.6 three-point attempts per game to go with 43.7/43.7/74.4 shooting splits. He, unfortunately, suffered a foot injury that prevented Sasser from playing another game for Houston beyond December 22nd but made up for the lost time.

Marcus Sasser has deep range and isn’t afraid to show it. Give him a screen and drop coverage and you’re in for not a good time. He routinely dropped bombs from way beyond the three-point line.

Unless you have a versatile big who can defend on the perimeter, switching isn’t a great remedy either. Marcus Sasser has a tight handle and an array of moves he can string together to make bigs out of their element look foolish. Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma can tell you all about it firsthand. Just look at this filth.

Sheesh. As if that wasn’t enough, Sasser can also beat you as a passer too. He won’t fling Luka Doncic-esque crosscourt passes, but he can at least hit the roll man if you trap or find the next shooter if his man is tagging the roller.

Had it not been for his foot injury, Marcus Sasser probably wouldn’t have even been in the G League Elite Camp and garnered more buzz than he had before this week. His performance this week remedied all that. With measurables similar to Immanuel Quickley, Sasser should start getting some buzz in the late first or the start of the second round.

Jules Bernard, UCLA

There wasn’t a player I enjoyed watching more from the G League Elite Camp scrimmages than Jules Bernard. Quite frankly, I thought he was the best player in this event and was shocked he didn’t get the invite. Selfishly as a Laker fan whose roster needs help any way possible, I liked this for the chance Bernard slips through the cracks. It sucks for Bernard but he put enough great tape out there for someone to give him a shot.

Let’s start with bringing energy. Jules Bernard did that on both ends of the floor. Defensively, on the ball, Bernard is versatile and can guard multiple positions with his 6-7 210-pound frame. Sometimes guys can be hounds on the ball but coast when they aren’t directly involved in the play. That’s not Bernard. He was not only alert off the ball but routinely made plays in such circumstances. Take this play for example. Bernard fights over the screen on the dribble handoff and not only blows it up but gets the steal along the way.

This play was another good example and showcases his energy offensively too. He gets the deflection after someone tried to backcut them, forces the turnover, then turns on the jets on the other end of the floor as a cutter to ultimately earn free throws.

Transitioning further onto the offensive of the floor, Bernard flashed some ability to create too. He’s not someone you’re going to ask to run 30 pick and rolls every game, but he can do so in a pinch and did plenty during these scrimmages. He’s a stout straight-line driver. If he sees a lane, he’s pouncing on it instantly.

He can also create some pull-up jumpers in a pinch too. You’re going to rely on a steady diet of it from him, but it’s always nice to have as many players as possible that can win a mismatch or create late in the clock. Jules Bernard does exactly that here. He gets Brady Manek switched onto him and hits him with a stepback three as the shot clock expires.

Jules Bernard also has a good feel. He will make the extra pass and knows how to pass against a scrambling defense. He played on a loaded UCLA team with multiple pros, so he knows how to sacrifice for the better of the team and dial in on the little things. He’s a career 35.4-percent three-point shooter and 77.4-percent free-throw shooter. He reminds me a lot of Kelly Oubre Jr. with less bounce and more focus on the winning aspects of the game. I was a fan of Bernard’s before this event and more so after. Someone will make their team better if they give Jules Bernard a chance, whether as a draft pick or on a two-way contract.

Jared Rhoden, Seton Hall*

If Jules Bernard was my favorite player to watch from this event, Seton Hall’s Jared Rhoden was not far behind. If you like guys who play hard all the time, you’ll love Jared Rhoden’s game. I didn’t know much about him before this event, but I’m a very big fan of his now after watching him play four times. Now, if you’re looking for scoring, you’re in the wrong area of the store. But Rhoden excels at making all the right plays to help your team win, especially defensively. This was one of my favorite plays I saw someone make all week.

This is awesome. Rhoden tags the roll man and then gets back to his man Tyrese Martin (who himself earned an NBA Combine invite and had a great week). But not only does he get back, but he never overcommits, sticks with Martin on the drive, forces a contested shot that goes nowhere, and finishes it with a rebound. That’s perfect, awesome defense.

There, Jared Rhoden was off the ball, but he made plays on the ball too. This play was a great example. He navigates over the screen in pick and roll, gets back to his man, and deflects the pass, forcing a turnover. Again, awesome defense.

Jared Rhoden’s effort stuck out in every facet of the game, but especially in transition. This play was a great example of it. First, he strips his man to jar the ball loose and force yet another turnover. But then, he outruns everybody, including the guy he just stripped, to beat everyone to the floor and draw free throws. Effort is a skill and Rhoden has a lot of it.

Jared Rhoden is a tremendous defensive player who can make plays both individually and within the team structure while outhustling everybody on the floor. He is not a particularly great offensive player; creating offense for himself was a chore for him. But, versatile, long (he has a 6-10.5-inch wingspan) who can hit 43-percent of their catch-and-shoot looks will absolutely have a spot in the NBA. I didn’t know much about Jared Rhoden before this week. Now? He’s one of my favorite prospects in this entire class.

Tevin Brown, Murray State

Tevin Brown was another player whose phone didn’t ring with a combine invite. It’s a real shame because he shined during this event with a game tailor-made for today’s NBA. Brown has the rep of a shooter; he shot 38.6-percent from deep on over 7 three-point attempts per game and just under 75-percent from the free-throw line. He can hit spot-up threes or on the move. Hitting this off a dribble handoff from way beyond the three-point line is a good example.

Tevin Brown is not just a shooter, however; far from it. He has a solid feel (3.3-1.8 career assist-to-turnover ratio) and can create a shot for himself. That’s super important, especially in situations where he either gets a big switched onto him or a team wants to use him to attack a weaker defender. Murray State developed his ability to create and gave him plenty of reps as a primary or secondary creator. He’ll likely play more of the latter but the more creation on the floor, the better, and Brown provides it.

Tevin Brown is no slouch defensively either. He steps up when bigger players attack him, but he’s best sticking with guards on the perimeter. This play is a good example. Brown gets skinny when the screen comes and cuts JD Notae’s driving lane off, forcing him to kick it out.

Brown is not as big as this guy, but he reminds me a lot of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He’s a perfect role player who can provide a great blend of shooting, playmaking on the move, and defense. He and Ja Morant shared the floor together for one year at Murray State; it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Memphis’ great and smart front office looks to a familiar face to add to their depth.

Jalen Wilson, Kansas*

There’s one guy Jalen Wilson reminded me of watching him play four times from Tuesday to Friday: Kyle Kuzma. Wilson does not have the wingspan Kuzma does, but they share nearly the same measurables. Wilson checked in at 6-7.25 with shoes and 225-pounds; Kuzma is 6-9 221-pounds. Kuzma was in Wilson’s shoes back in 2017, when a strong showing matched with stellar shooting at the NBA combine prompted the Lakers to select him with the Nets pick acquired in their D’Angelo Russell trade. Wilson did not have a strong performance during the NBA combine but did during the G League Elite camp. 

Kyle Kuzma was not a very good shooter while at Utah. He only shot 30.2-percent from three on 1.8 three-point attempts per game and 63.3-percent from the free-throw line for his Utah career. That sounds… a lot like Jalen Wilson, who shot 29.8-percent from three on 3.5 attempts per game and 67.5-percent from the free-throw line. But yet, like Kuzma, that didn’t stop Wilson from letting it fly, and he looked comfortable doing so.

That’s a tough shot but Wilson made it look easy. If Wilson can improve as a shooter the way Kuzma has to the ‘good enough’ 34-percent on 5.5 attempts per game mark in the NBA, Wilson will be a legitimate NBA contributor. Wilson is a solid scorer and playmaker on the move but needs that shooting to keep defenses honest. If defenses have to honor his shot, he can make them pay.

Wilson is a slick passer too when he gets in the paint. He registered 20 more assists than turnovers in two years as a Jayhawk. He’s not going to manipulate defenses but when he sees help coming he knows how and when to dump it off to a teammate.

Lastly, Jalen Wilson is a tenacious rebounder. Any time the ball came off the rim he was right there fighting for it. Of course, you know who else is a good rebounder for his position? Kyle Kuzma, who just averaged a career-high 8.5 rebounds per game for the Wizards and averages 6.2 per game for his career. Jalen Wilson averaged 7.9 and 7.4 rebounds per game in the two seasons he registered legitimate playing time in Lawrence. Wilson needs to make strides defensively, but Kuzma did also coming out of Utah. Wilson helped himself this week and should get looks in the second round.

Kenneth Lofton Jr., Louisiana Tech*

No one, at least from this event, improved their stock more than Kenny Lofton Jr. For more on how Lofton fared this week, click here to read more on him and others who shined during the NBA Combine.

After every NBA Draft, there is always a few players who either are more productive than they were in college or are used in a drastically different fashion. There are a few reasons why this occurs. Mainly, it’s that these players get better. Another is the situation they find themselves in. When teams put together stacked recruiting classes, all of the top-notch recruits need to play, and sometimes that means taking a step back from being the number one option they’ve been accustomed to during their high school and AAU days. Not every college coach has caught up to the three-point craze of today’s NBA, so many prospects are left to drive into brick walls 24-7. 

The former applies to one player in particular: Duke’s AJ Griffin. Griffin was one of three top-30 recruits to commit to the Blue Devils in 2021, along with potential number one overall pick Paolo Banchero and potential first-round pick Trevor Keels. They joined former top 100 recruits and holdovers from the previous year’s class in Jeremy Roach (19th) and Mark Williams (32nd), and Wendell Moore Jr. from the 2019 class. With a guard-laden group and a stud point-forward, all of whom would prefer to have the ball in their hands, someone from this group had to sacrifice for the betterment of the team. 

A lot of that sacrifice came by way of Griffin, most notably in the form of usage rate. Usage rate is defined as an estimate of the percentage of plays used by a player while he was on the floor. AJ Griffin’s sat at 18.8-percent, which ranked fourth on his own team. Fortunately, he has the skillset to play off-ball. Griffin averaged just under seven three-point attempts per-40 minutes and scorched nets to the tune of 44.7-percent on those attempts. He also shot 79.2-percent from the free-throw line, often times a better indicator of shooting ability when parsing college prospects. Griffin has no problem shooting on the move or relocating to open areas to let it fly.

Yeah, Griffin can really stroke it in any which way. Stats gathered by @abovethebreak3 on Twitter and his breakdown of AJ Griffin breakdown of Griffin bare it out. Griffin ranked inside of the 88th-percentile in all of these shooting categories: halfcourt possessions (99th-percentile), all offensive possessions (98th-percentile), all jumpers (97th-percentile), all three-point attempts (96th-percentile), catch-and-shoot jumpers (95th-percentile), unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers (93rd-percentile), contested catch-and-shoot jumpers (89th-percentile), off-the-dribble jumpers (95th-percentile), and around the basket attempts (88th-percentile). Good God!

AJ Griffin is a savvy cutter too. Once he sees his man’s attention away from him he zips to the basket. 


AJ Griffin is already capable of playing alongside another ace creator, but there is already a lot to work with for him in that area as well. Again, Griffin had just an 18.8-percent usage rate in his one season at Durham. For comparison’s sake, that was the same usage rate Thomas Bryant had in the NBA, and just below the likes of Talen Horton-Tucker, Jeremy Lamb, and Malik Beasley. With all due respect to those guys, none of them are in Griffin’s class talent-wise, especially when Griffin can do stuff like this:


Sheesh. AJ Griffin really likes using that hang dribble to freeze his defender and then pounce right after. Griffin can really stroke it from any which way possible, and that includes shooting it off the bounce. According to data gathered by Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, Griffin generated roughly 1.1 points per possession on pull-up jumpers in the halfcourt. Only three other players in his dataset averaged at least that many: Missouri State’s Isiaih Mosley, Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard, and Oral Roberts’ Max Abmas. Not too shabby, huh? Griffin isn’t jacking from deep either. Though he is more than capable, he’s flashed three-level scoring capability with the ball in his hands. Go under a pick and roll screen and you’re risking instant death if you can’t meet Griffin on the other side:


Even if you meet him and take away the pull-up three, AJ Griffin’s savvy, handle, and the threat from his jumper lets him get and fire anywhere he wants. Duke liked to set Griffin up in the form of give-and-go’s to buy him an advantage. They did so here. 

Brady Manek meets AJ Griffin despite going under the initial screen. But, Griffin used a pump fake to get Manek to bite as he tried and succeeded in running Griffin off the three-point line. Griffin simply takes what’s given to him and rises up for the elbow jumper.

AJ Griffin is plenty adept at stepping into jumpers on the move, but he isn’t limited to that either. The stepback three is a signature move in today’s NBA, and one Griffin has no qualm with setting up either. His explosive base and polished handle and footwork allow for him to empty that tool from his extensive bag and unleash it as well.


AJ Griffin goes back to that hang dribble to freeze his man (Brady Manek). But with Manek’s mind occupied with Griffin beating him off the bounce, Griffin takes the space given to him & simply sides back beyond the three-point line to give himself more room to fire. There aren’t many out there who are not only as versatile as Griffin in creating their own shot but do so with Griffin’s efficiency.

AJ Griffin is also great at leveraging these skills to get to the rim. Duke ran a similar give and go, but this time Griffin elected to cook a little against Manek. After Manek met him at the three-point line again, Griffin freezes him with a stepback, uses a crossover to get by him, and uses his bulky 6-6 222-pound frame to drive through him, absorb any contact and use a soft touch to finish at the rim.


AJ Griffin oozes three-level scoring upside in the NBA. Those are hard to find at any position, but especially at the wing, the most important position in the NBA. Griffin not only shot 44.7-percent from three but also 54.7-percent on twos, a very healthy number. It’s even harder to find three-level wing scorers who get after it defensively. Griffin does that. With his size, he should be able to switch 1-4 the instant he gets in the league. If you need Griffin to bang with a bigger defender, Griffin can do it.




But AJ Griffin needs to be more consistent on that end. The framework of a versatile, stout defender is there in addition to his scoring prowess, but the commitment to that end teeters up and down for Griffin. There are times when he looks like an agile brick wall defensively…


… and times when he can upsize to bang and stunt bigger players trying to score against him…

… and other times when he gets caught lacking.


The same applies to AJ Griffin’s off-ball defense too. When Griffin is active and alert, he can use his size and athleticism to put out fires away from his man. Here, for example, Mark Williams hedges high at the top of the key. Meanwhile, Armando Bacot slips to the rim with no one there. That is until Griffin rotates from the weak side and not only rips Bacot but forces the turnover along the way.

But, as I said earlier, Griffin’s consistency has work to do.


Navigating a labyrinth of screens is an issue for AJ Griffin at the moment too. He can get caught on screens and concede open looks for guards looking to escape his wrath.


It’s important that AJ Griffin lands in a spot that will hold him accountable defensively. In my opinion, I think Griffin has the capability to be an All-NBA caliber defender. The size and tools are clearly there. Sure, there are some techniques he could improve as well, but I view consistency and commitment as the primary issue. That can absolutely improve, but he needs to get to a team that values that and winning as well. Andrew Wiggins is a great example. He never was a great defender in Minnesota toiling in losing perpetuity, but he’s embraced becoming a stopper in Golden State and his defensive prowess helped the Warriors take down the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6 to get back to the Western Conference Finals.

AJ Griffin also could improve as a playmaker. Though Griffin wasn’t asked to create offense often, he only averaged 1.6 assists per-40 minutes. He frequently left opportunities on the table too, even ones that don’t directly lead to an open shot. Griffin doesn’t jack shots, but he also derails plenty of possessions by dribbling nowhere trying to beat him off the dribble before giving the ball up. If Griffin doesn’t improve as a playmaker, he may settle in as more of a secondary ballhandler like Jaylen Brown or Paul George than an alpha primary guy like Jayson Tatum or Jimmy Butler. There is no shame in that; Brown and George are great players too! But if Griffin wants to eclipse his seemingly never-ending ceiling, that’s one way he could.

Perhaps the most glaring reason why AJ Griffin is not regarded in the same tier as the likes of Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and Paolo Banchero is his medicals. In January 2020 before he stepped foot on Duke’s campus and the whole world lit on fire, Griffin dislocated his left knee during what turned out to be his last high school game. Before the 2021-22 college basketball season, Griffin sprained his right knee. Griffin did not miss any of Duke’s 39 games, but was a factor in him coming off the bench for parts of the season (Griffin started 25 of Duke’s 39 games) and not getting as hefty a workload (in addition to Griffin’s 18.8-percent usage rate, he only averaged 24 minutes per game and played 935 minutes total) as his fellow draftmates.

For that, AJ Griffin inherently carries an extra dose of risk that NBA teams may be unwilling to take, especially when Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, and Jaden Ivey are there for the taking. But once we get past those four, the next two prospects up for many (including me) are arguably the two biggest wild cards in the entire draft: Griffin and Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe. Sharpe did not play college basketball in the 2021-22 season, but Griffin did. And when he did, he flashed the capability of being the next great two-way, three-level scoring wing. If teams come away encouraged by Griffin’s medicals, he should end up in the top five of this year’s draft, where I believe he belongs. But I think Griffin has a chance to be better than that and emerge as the best player in this class when we look back at it years from now. Yes, ahead of Holmgren Smith, Banchero, and anybody else in this class. But he needs the right situation to learn and improve his game. He’ll be able to showcase more in the NBA than we got to see from him in Duke, that’s for sure. I’m excited to find out how much more that will turn out to be.

The NCAA Tournament made its triumphant return last year after the 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. While the virus is still making a dent on society, it is not as pronounced, meaning not only will the tournament truck on, but fans will be back in the stands as well. What else will be back are plenty of friends, colleagues, and so-called ‘analysts’ pretending to know everything the Longwood Lancers and the Chattanooga Mocs. I just so happen to be one of those people. So take my words for it and not anyone else’s and read how I’ve got the 2022 NCAA Tournament going down!



1 Gonzaga vs 16 Georgia State

Ron Hunter is not falling off a stool through that door and neither is his son Ron Hunter Jr. Gonzaga wins.

8 Boise State vs 9 Memphis

Penny Hardaway and his crew have righted the ship since an early struggle; Memphis has played like a top ten team since February 1st. One problem though: turnovers. They average 16.4 turnovers a game as a team, the fifth most in the country. Jalen Duren is a force defensively and a likely top-ten NBA draft pick. Memphis’ turbulent guard play could lead to a Boise State win but I’m going with the better talent coalescing as a team at the right time.

5 UConn vs 12 New Mexico State

Look, I don’t know much about New Mexico State, but I do know they’re good, are a constant in the tournament, and have a pair of excellent guards in Teddy Allen and Sir’Jabari Rice (that I totally didn’t discover off of ESPN’s Tournament Challenge blurbs for each team). But, UConn is a sturdy defensive team (35th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric) with a steady leader at the helm in RJ Cole. I think UConn’s steady hand on both ends of the floor propels them to a win. It can’t hurt they’re playing in nearby Buffalo, NY either.

4 Arkansas vs 13 Vermont Catamounts

No, Arkansas is not losing to Vermont, and if you have this upset then I punish you to walk to the nearest body of water. Can you tell I’m from Fayetteville, Arkansas, and am an Arkansas alum?

6 Alabama vs 11 Notre Dame

Alabama is perhaps the most volatile team in the tournament. They can beat anyone, evidenced by wins over Gonzaga, Baylor, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Houston. They can also lose to anyone, evidenced by Ls against Iona, Davidson, Memphis, Vanderbilt, and Missouri. The anybody they drew seems like a tough out. From Chip Jones: 45.4% of Alabama’s offense comes via transition or spot-ups. Notre Dame is good at defending both. It may have taken double overtime to beat Rutgers, but Notre Dame is in the field and has a good matchup. I’m going with the Irish.

3 Texas Tech vs 14 Montana State

Texas Tech is the best defensive team in the country in KenPom’s metrics. Their offense is not the most innovative have plenty of creators around the floor, most notably big man Bryson Williams and NBA prospect Terrence Shannon Jr. An upset would not totally knock my socks off but I think Tech wins handily.

7 Michigan State vs 10 Davidson

I’m just glad Davidson made it as an at-large despite not being in a power conference and losing their conference title game. Davidson is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country based on three-point percentage (38.6%). Michigan State is in the top half of teams in the country in threes allowed per game (22.5). On top of that, Michigan State ranks 290th in the country in points allowed per possession (1.008) on shots off screens. That *just* so happens to be a healthy portion of how Davidson gets some of their shots off. Also, there’s a revenge game on foot. Davidson’s point guard Foster Loyer was a Michigan State Spartan the four years before this season. It can’t help the Spartans that one of their own who knows how and why they play defense a certain is now on the opposition. Davidson has a de facto home game too with this game being played in South Carolina. This can go either way; I can see Bob McKillop run circles around Tom Izzo. I can also see Michigan State’s length and athleticism engulf Davidson. A few more things tilt towards Davidson though so I’ll take them.

2 Duke vs 15 Cal State Fullerton

Could you imagine how great it would be if Mike Krzyzewski followed up losing his last home game ever by losing another 2-15 first-round matchup? That would be unbelievable. It isn’t going to happen though. But one can dream.


1 Arizona vs 16 Wright State

Yeah, Arizona’s winning this one. 

8 Seton Hall vs 9 TCU

The line on this game is currently TCU -1. Who could’ve imagined an 8-9 matchup being a toss-up? I’ll admit I haven’t watched Seton Hall all that often but I did watch them nearly drop a game against a Georgetown team that was winless in conference, while Mike Miles and the Horned Frogs notched wins against Kansas and Texas within a week. I’m a big fan of Miles and his ability to control the pace and generate great looks on offense for his teammates. I think he’s the edge in this one.

5 Houston vs 12 UAB

Houston is the fourth-best team in the country according to KenPom and one of only five teams in the top 20 of both offensive and defensive efficiency. UAB is a dangerous team but this is a bad matchup for them. I’m taking Houston.

4 Illinois vs 13 Chattanooga

It’s rare that a mid-major could have a size advantage but that might be the case here. Illinois plays three guards frequently; of Illinois’ top 7 players in minutes per game, three of them are at least 6’6” tall and two are at least 6’10”. Kofi Cockburn (7’0” 285 pounds) is a mountain masquerading as a man but Chattanooga has former Kansas Jayhawk Silvio De Sousa (remember him? Yeah, he’s a Moc now. Sure, why not!) who stands at 6’9” 250 pounds. Yes, it’s a size advantage but I think De Sousa can hold up *enough.* Illinois forces the 37th-fewest turnovers per game in the country, which means Chattanooga won’t be running into an immovable object. I worry about Illinois’ late-game execution and if Cockburn can man the paint defensively. On top of it, I’m scarred from Illinois’ tournament meltdown last year. I’m probably wrong here but I’m rolling with the Mocs, partly because it is fun to say Mocs. Mocs!

6 Colorado State vs 11 Michigan

Here’s March Madness in a nutshell: many were skeptical if Michigan should’ve even made the tournament. They have 14 losses; Colorado State has just five. And yet, the Wolverines are 2.5 point favorites. I guess, but I still like the Rams. I very much like David Roddy, Colorado State’s point forward who reminds me a ton of a favorite former NBA player of mine: Boris Diaw. He can stretch the floor, pass out of the post, and is sturdy as a post defender despite being only 6’5”. But he’s 255 pounds; Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson is 260. If Dickinson scores over the top of him then so be it (Colorado State has another player who gets minutes in Dischon Thomas who is 6’9” 232 pounds and will get some time on Dickinson and Moussa Diabate too). Both Michigan and Colorado State have stylistic advantages to attack but I like Colorado State to plug the holes in their ship better than Michigan. I’ll take the ‘upset’ here I guess.

3 Tennessee vs 14 Longwood

Tennessee is on a heater right now. While I’m not the biggest fan of theirs, I can definitely say they will win.

7 Ohio State vs 10 Loyola Chicago

On paper, this seems like a bad matchup for Ohio State. According to Chip Jones, Loyola poses stylistic problems for Ohio State on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor. I’m taking Ohio State, however, for a multitude of reasons: 1) they have two eventual pros in EJ Liddell and Malakai Branham, and 2) I am fucking sick of Sister Jean. Sorry, America! Run something else to the ground! Ohio State notoriously lost to Oral Roberts last year in the first round, but they didn’t have Branham, a dynamic two-way guard who I’m thinking puts his name on the map during this tournament. I’m on the Buckeyes.

2 Villanova vs 15 Delaware

Sorry, Blue Hens. Villanova wins this one.


1 Kansas vs 16 Texas Southern

Rock Chalk Jayhawk baby.

8 San Diego State vs 9 Creighton

Creighton is the 18th best defense in the country according to KenPom; San Diego State is second. The Aztecs’ defense is the better unit, and I think they ride it to a win.

5 Iowa vs 12 Richmond

Props to Richmond for finding a way to win their conference tournament. The run was admirable but it ends against Iowa’s high-powered offense led by potential lottery pick Keegan Murray.

4 Providence vs 13 South Dakota State

Remember that stat about Illinois generating the 37th-fewest turnovers in the country? Well, the Providence Friars generate the 33rd-fewest turnovers. That is not great when going up against the 12th-best offensive team in the country and *the* best three-point shooting team by percentage in the country. Providence also finished 11-2 in games decided by five points or less. You could luck at that and say that’s a team that knows how to win close games, but that also is not exactly sustainable. KenPom has Providence as the luckiest team in the nation, perhaps propelling them into a seed they likely don’t deserve to be. Vegas sees through that, though, as the Friars are only 2-point favorites. According to ESPN’s Chris Fallica, no 4 seed has ever been that low of a favorite and the two that were 2.5 point favorites both lost outright. Give me all the Jackrabbits humanly possible.

6 LSU vs 11 Iowa State

Here’s a couple of things about LSU: they turn the ball over the 38th-most in college basketball and they just fired their head coach. One doesn’t seem to gel with the other. On top of that, Iowa State forces the 13th-most turnovers in the country. LSU, however, forces the fourth-most. The game is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Hilton Magic travels well. I think the Cyclones and guard Izaiah Brockington win the turnover battle and take down a struggling LSU squad. LSU’s Tari Eason can make me look very foolish, however.

3 Wisconsin vs 14 Colgate

Colgate nearly beat my beloved Hogs in the first round last year, but they won’t do the same against a Wisconsin team playing in Milwaukee, however. On Wisconsin!

7 USC vs 10 Miami

I don’t know man. I don’t really like either team here. I think if Murray State or San Francisco played either of these teams instead of each other they’d wipe the floor with them. I guess I’ll take USC. Whatever.

2 Auburn vs 15 Jacksonville State

I know Auburn hasn’t played all that well recently but they’re not losing this one… right?


1 Baylor vs 16 Norfolk State

Kyle O’Quinn is not walking through that door. Baylor (*Lee Corso voice*).

8 North Carolina vs 9 Marquette

Thank you North Carolina for winning Coach K’s last game in Cameron Indoor. But, I still don’t think you’re all that good. Marquette has a couple of pro prospects in (mostly) Justin Lewis and Darryl Morsell. Marquette beat everybody in their conference and Illinois and road wins over power conference teams like Kansas State, West Virginia, and Ole Miss. North Carolina beat… Duke just once? I’m just not that impressed by this Tar Heel team. Golden Eagles win.

5 St. Mary’s vs 12 Indiana

If you didn’t like the steady diet of post-ups in the Indiana-Wyoming play-in game (me. I didn’t like it.) well buckle up (great.). This game should be a similar style and I think it ends a similar way: by Trayce Jackson-Davis dominating and being the best player on the floor. Almost every year a team from the First Four wins at least one game. Give me the Hoosiers.

4 UCLA vs 13 Akron

I think UCLA is one of the most balanced teams in the country. They don’t fall here.

6 Texas vs 11 Virginia Tech

This is an extremely important game because it has major implications beyond this round. If you like Virginia Tech to win then Purdue is in big big trouble because Tech bombs away from deep (their 39.3% mark from three is the third-best in the country) and the Boilermakers’ defense is subpar at best in general but especially in giving up threes (they allow the 49th-most threes per game in the country at 24.6). Luckily, if you’re a Purdue fan or just want to see Jaden Ivey to destroy the tournament (like me), Texas allows the 10th-fewest threes per game in the country at just 17 a game. Anyone that has any rooting interest in Purdue should want Texas to win this game. I think Chris Beard makes the proper adjustments that Coach K didn’t in the ACC Tournament game. Relax Purdue fans… I think.

3 Purdue vs 14 Yale

Yeah… I think Purdue’s offense is extremely good and really want them to go far. I *love* Jaden Ivey. They won’t lose here, but I have major concerns about their defense going forward.

7 Murray State vs 10 San Francisco

KenPom has both of these teams as top 28 teams in the country (Murray State 28; San Francisco 21). For comparison, only one 7-10 matchup has another team inside his top 30 (Loyola Chicago; 24. Ohio State is 32nd and is Loyola’s opponent). This one is a toss-up. I have no clue but think it will be a great game. I’ll go with Murray State because Ja Morant is just that awesome.


1 Gonzaga vs 9 Memphis

Memphis’ physicality, especially Jalen Duren in the interior, could cause Gonzaga problems. Duren will likely get matched up more with Drew Timme than Chet Holmgren, a bummer for many draftniks like myself but still an intriguing matchup nonetheless. Duren can get jumpy by biting for fakes and seeking out blocks though, so he’ll still have his hands full no matter who he goes up against. If Timme and Holmgren get him in foul trouble, Gonzaga should stroll to a win. If it’s close, I like Gonzaga’s experienced and solid guard play to eke this one out. Memphis averages the fifth-most turnovers per game in the country at 16.4. Gonzaga doesn’t have those issues. Zags win.

4 Arkansas vs 5 UConn

If there’s a type of team that Arkansas struggles with, it is a physical, grimy team that drags Arkansas in the mud with them. The Hogs can revel in that muddy style of game, but also get their best offense in transition and have a harder time operating in the halfcourt. Luckily, Jaylin Williams and Stanley Umude have picked up some of the slack for third-team All-American guard JD Notae in the last couple of months. UConn has a great guard in RJ Cole who can slow Notae down and the Hogs as a team down, but Arkansas has won their share of ugly games this season and I think that experience helps squeeze this one out.

3 Texas Tech vs 11 Notre Dame

I like Notre Dame, but I think Texas Tech’s number one defense engulfs the Irish. I’m not sure where their offense will come from in this one. Red Raiders win.

2 Duke vs 10 Davidson

Remember those stats about how efficient Davidson is running shooters off screens? Well, did you see the ACC Championship game? Virginia Tech basically did exactly that and ran Duke off the floor. The athleticism and size differential will be drastic in this one, but this is an experienced team and Duke is prone to lapses in execution. Duke *should* win this game no matter who they play; they’re arguably the most talented team in the country. But I can’t trust them. If Coach K doesn’t make it out of the first weekend *again* with a roster stacked full of NBA talent, I will laugh my ass off. I’ll take Davidson and embrace the chaos but this could look extremely dumb too.


1 Arizona vs 9 TCU

I like TCU; I think they’re a well-balanced team and have the exact type of guard who can carry a team in Mike Miles. Unfortunately, Arizona has a perfect guy for him in Bennedict Mathurin. Arizona is maybe the most complete team in the tournament. They advance.

5 Houston vs 13 Chattanooga

Props to the Mocs for making it this far. If Houston can survive this long without Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark, that’s a massive God-send. I think their length, athleticism, and defense get them to the Sweet 16.

3 Tennessee vs 6 Colorado State

I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t trust Tennessee. Even with the litany of great wins they have, I just can’t do it. Maybe this is why: Rick Barnes teams are 1-11-1 against the spread and have made it past the first round once in his last nine trips, courtesy of ESPN’s Chris Fallica. I can totally see Colorado State spread them out and pick them apart with David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens. Tennessee is the better team. They have three trustworthy guards in Kennedy Chandler, Santiago Vescovi, and Zakai Zeagler. They *should* win this game. I just worry about their halfcourt offense and Barnes making the proper adjustments. I like the Rams to keep dancing and shock the Vols.

2 Villanova vs 7 Ohio State

I don’t have questions about Jay Wright, but I do have similar concerns with how Villanova piles up points on the board. Then again, KenPom ranks Villanova as the eighth-best offense in the country so I could very well be overthinking this. But I think Liddell and Branham can figure out that puzzle more than Nova can. I could be very wrong; Collin Gillespie can control a game better than any point guard in the country. I like the Buckeyes to keep rolling.


1 Kansas vs 8 San Diego State

San Diego State can really muck this game up and slow down Kansas’ offense. However, I just don’t think they’ll be able to score enough. Texas Tech is a similar team to San Diego State and Remy Martin stepped up to deliver offense the Jayhawks needed. I think he can do the same again here. Rock Chalk.

5 Iowa vs 13 South Dakota State

Get ready to hammer the over in this one. Both teams rank in the top 11 of KenPom’s offensive efficiency metric (Iowa 2; South Dakota State 11) and neither are enthused with the notion of defense. Another Jackrabbit upset would not blow my socks off; both teams want to win a shootout. Iowa has Keegan Murray, however, so they get my nod by a hair. Get it? Hair. Hare. Rabbits. Whatever.

3 Wisconsin vs 11 Iowa State

So, star All-American guard and potential lottery pick Johnny Davis has been dinged with an ankle issue. He wasn’t himself in the Big Ten tournament where Wisconsin lost to Michigan State after the Badgers ended their regular season with an L against Nebraska. Eww. Perhaps he’s healthy now, but we can’t know for sure. Iowa State forces a ton of turnovers and is a top ten defensive team according to KenPom. They’re ranked 46th in his database; Wisconsin is 34th. An upset doesn’t sound crazy, especially if Davis isn’t right. An 11 seed has made the Sweet 16 in six of the past seven tournaments per Chris Fallica, so why not make it seven of eight. Let’s take the Cyclones.

2 Auburn vs 7 USC

Evan Mobley is not walking through that door. I don’t think either USC or Miami has much of a chance against Auburn and their talent. I don’t love Auburn but they stroll into the Sweet 16.


1 Baylor vs 9 Marquette

File this under the something to ponder folder: no defending champion has advanced to the Sweet 16 in the last four tournaments, per ESPN’s Chris Fallica. Now, I’m not saying a trend will dictate Baylor stumbling here, but I am saying Baylor will lose here. They’re another team that has had trouble scoring in the halfcourt. Baylor is stacked with solid guards and super versatile defensive wings like Jeremy Sochan, Kendall Brown, and Matthew Meyer, but neither are guys you’d ask to get a bucket. It can’t help that Marquette’s coach Shaka Smart just played Baylor once or twice a year multiple times while at Texas. Marquette has a couple of pros in their own right and ranks in the top 59 of both offensive and defensive efficiency. Smart burned me and many others with a first-round meltdown last year, but this seems like a prime bounceback spot. I’m taking Marquette. Watch them lose to North Carolina.

4 UCLA vs 12 Indiana

Unlike in the First Four and the first round, Indiana cannot get by relying solely on Trayce Jackson-Davis, especially with Cody Riley being big enough to bang with TJD. Great for Indiana and Mike Woodson to make it this far, but I think UCLA rolls in a battle of college basketball royalty.

3 Purdue vs 6 Texas

Remember how I said Purdue backers should want Texas to win and how Purdue gives up a ton of threes? Well, Texas only has one player that plays double-digit minutes per game and shoots it over 36% from 3. That player has only shot 20 3s on the season. This is not an offensive juggernaut that will stress Purdue’s defense all that often. I think Purdue is on major upset alert if Virginia Tech wins; I think they sail by Texas if that’s their opponent here.

2 Kentucky vs 7 Murray State

This would feel sweet for the Racers to get a shot at the big brother in the state. Tevin Brown is a legit pro prospect, Justice Hill is a steady hand at point guard, and KJ Williams can carry them offensively on the block. They can give Kentucky a big run for their money. But I can also say the exact same for Kentucky with TyTy Washington, Sahvir Wheeler, and Oscar Tshiebwe. Big Blue Nation wins a close one.



1 Gonzaga vs 4 Arkansas

I love Arkansas. I’ve loved this bounceback run since January 15th when they beat LSU in LSU. I think Gonzaga is a terrible matchup for them. They’ve struggled with physical bigs (Walker Kessler and Tari Eason stick out); enter Drew Timme. Chet Holmgren has at least five inches on Stanley Umude. They have a ton of guys to throw at JD Notae. I would love to be wrong here more so than anywhere on my bracket, but I don’t see it happening. Zags roll.

3 Texas Tech vs 10 Davidson

If the athleticism and length gap haven’t caught Davidson by now, it will in this round. Tech’s number one defense would likely swarm Davidson and all their off-ball action. Without a bucket-getter, I don’t see how they score here. Steph Curry is not walking through that door. Red Raiders win. (I like them to beat Duke as well if that’s who they get here.)


1 Arizona vs 5 Houston

This is where not having Marcus Sasser and Travon Mark could really come back to bite Houston. With an extremely good and versatile defensive team led by Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko, and Dalen Terry, I don’t see how Houston scores here. Houston can drag this game into the mud but Arizona can play that style too if need be. Arizona keeps on rolling.

6 Colorado State vs 7 Ohio State

Am I the only person that has this matchup? Let’s go nuts! Why not! These two teams are almost carbon-copies of each other. I think Ohio State’s two-man game and supporting cast just barely edge out Colorado State’s. Liddell and Branham outlast Roddy and Stevens. Great run, Colorado State, but Ohio State avenges last season’s disappointment with an Elite 8 appearance.


1 Kansas vs 5 Iowa

I had a hard time with this one. The Murrays can pose a problem for any team they go up against, but I think the Jayhawks can crack the code. Jalen Wilson and David McCormack I think can hold up well enough against them; Wilson likely gets the Keegan assignment. I could (and think we will) see Self downsize here and have Ochai Agbaji get his cracks at Keegan as well, which would be awesome from a draft perspective. Iowa can very well shoot their way to an even deeper run, but I think their leaky defense catches up with them here. Kansas wins this one, but this could very easily go the other way.

2 Auburn vs 11 Iowa State

I guess the state of Iowa can’t have nice things. Maybe Iowa State can coax Auburn into plenty of turnovers, but the talent gap is too big to ignore here. I think Auburn rolls here.


4 UCLA vs 9 Marquette

Justin Lewis and Darryl Morsell have gotten them this far, but UCLA has answers for both of them and a lot of creators on their side. I think their talent and balance catapult them to another Elite 8 appearance. 

2 Kentucky vs 3 Purdue

We need to keep tracking how well an opponent shoots from three against Purdue. Only two players on Kentucky shoots it above 35% that play double-digit minutes: Kellan Grady and Jacob Toppin. Grady is a dead-eye high-volume (204 attempts) shooter; Toppin has only shot 10 threes all year. Davion Mintz and TyTy Washington (who Purdue needs to be most attentive defending) just missed the cut but still aren’t exactly the Splash Brothers either. Kentucky still has plenty of offensive creators, but I don’t think Kentucky’s offense is high-powered enough to outgun Purdue. Trevion Williams and Zach Edey battling with Tshiebwe, Toppin, and Keion Brooks would be very fun, as well as the anticipated Jaden Ivey – TyTy Washington matchup. I like Ivey and Purdue to keep rolling.



1 Gonzaga vs 3 Texas Tech

Tech is physical, but Gonzaga’s already dealt with physical teams. I don’t think Tech has enough offense in the tank to take down Gonzaga and the almighty Chet Holmgren. An upset isn’t impossible either, but I like the Zags to get back to the Final Four.


1 Arizona vs 7 Ohio State

Many have Ohio State losing Round 1; I have them in the Elite Eight because I’m a sicko. I think their run ends here. With a defense that ranks 130th in the country, it’s a miracle they’ve made it thus far (and probably should make me rethink how they’re this far in the first place!). Arizona is more complete and has answers for any problem Ohio State throws at them. I like the Wildcats.


1 Kansas vs 2 Auburn

My one chalky Elite Eight matchup. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again with Auburn: I just don’t think anybody can match their talent. Jabari Smith is inevitable, Walker Kessler is a tree with legs, and they’re stacked with athleticism on the perimeter. If Auburn is still alive here it is because KD Johnson and Wendell Green Jr. have done their job running the offense, creating good shots for themselves and others, and don’t turn it over. If that happens, Auburn gets to the Final Four, which is what I’m picking here. If not, they’re probably not even in this discussion. A relatively easy draw did Auburn many favors here, and helped get them back into the Final Four. Luckily, they won’t see Jack Harlow AKA Kyle Guy this time around.


3 Purdue vs 4 UCLA

Unfortunately, this is where the path ends for Purdue and my beloved Jaden Ivey. UCLA has three players in their rotation that shoot at least 36% from three and two above 40%. That doesn’t even include another favorite of mine in Jaime Jacquez Jr. and Jules Bernard, who are solid creators (Jacquez more so than Bernard). UCLA just has too many options for Purdue to capably defend all of them and guys to throw at Ivey, Williams, and Edey. I like the Bruins to return to the Final Four.


1 Gonzaga vs 4 UCLA

A rematch from last year’s epic Final Four game. I think it ends in a similar fashion based on one question: who is supposed to guard Chet Holmgren? I don’t think the Bruins have an answer for him. It’ll be close again, but I think the Zags find a way.

1 Arizona vs 2 Auburn

Arizona is one of the few teams that can match Auburn’s talent. Koloko can handle Kessler in the interior and Dalen Terry has shown he’s up for a big moment. I think he can do enough to slow down Jabari Smith. Arizona ekes out a nailbiter to get to the natty.


1 Gonzaga vs 1 Arizona

Chalky I know but I believe these are the two best and most complete teams. This one really is a toss-up. I don’t know. I guess Gonzaga. I’ve ridden Chet Holmgren this far; why stop now? Gonzaga wins and Mark Few gets his first national championship coaching against his apprentice Tommy Loyd. The master always reminds his apprentice what time it is. This matchup is no different.

Well, that’s a wrap! Nearly 11 pages and 4800 words likely will probably be rendered useless by Saturday. Have fun with the tournament everyone!

Over a week ago, the number one ranked Auburn Tigers strolled into Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. Electricity radiated throughout Bud Walton Arena. Voices drained after two-plus hours of shouting. The hardwood looked like a running of the bulls after thousands raced to it as if it were a dancefloor to celebrate. I’ve been to many basketball games over my lifetime, but there was not an atmosphere more exciting to witness than that one. It was incredibly cool to witness.

However, there was a basketball game to watch. The atmosphere is great and all, but it is another thing when the actual game lives up the hype. No number one ranked team had ever made the trek to Bud Walton Arena, so it’s easy to see how Auburn-Arkansas garnered the pub it got. But the game delivered with a lot to dissect. 

The headliner of that night came in the form of Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. The Fayetteville, Georgia native is in contention with the likes of Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Duke’s Paolo Banchero, and Purdue’s Jaden Ivey. Smith put his tantalizing abilities to the test on the big stage. He ended the night with 20 points on 6-16 shooting from the field (including 3-8 from 3 and 5-5 from the free-throw line) and nine rebounds. Smith’s sublime shooting was as advertised.

Jabari Smith’s shooting is the hallmark of his game and what most appeals to NBA teams. Five of Smith’s 11.7 shots per game come beyond the arc, where he’s shooting just under 40-percent (39.7-percent). Advanced numbers paint Smith’s shooting in a great light as well. As of January 25th, he was generating 1.1 points per possession on all of his jump shots, which ranks in the 82nd-percentile of all college players. This is a good time to remind you all that Smith is a 6-10 220-pound freshman shooting amongst the best in the entire country. That’s nuts! But that isn’t all. As of January 25th, he was also generating points from catch-and-shoot situations at a 1.2 point per possession clip, and according to Brian Hamilton of ‘The Athletic,’ Smith generated 1.347 points per possession out of spot-up opportunities and 1.083 out of post-ups (those numbers courtesy of Synergy Sports). Suffice to say: yes, Jabari Smith is an outstanding shooter. Smith’s shooting nearly gave Auburn a chance to steal the game at the end. I remember saying to myself that Arkansas defenders needed to pick him up to prevent him from stepping into a pull-up three to cut Arkansas’ lead in half with 30 seconds to go in overtime. He ended up drilling that shot anyway and then hitting a step-back just as preposterous seconds after.

Yeah, those are NBA-level shots. Jabari Smith’s shotmaking is going to make him arguably the most malleable player in this draft. He doesn’t need the ball to make an impact offensively; his shooting and his gravity are already more than enough. He can defend multiple (all?) positions, which he did against Arkansas; there was one possession against Arkansas’ Stanley Umude where Umude tried to drive to his left but Smith stayed in front of Umude and ended up forcing a turnover. Smith’s 2.7-percent steal-percentage and 4.2-percent block percentage. Steals and blocks are not the end-all-be-all when it comes to measuring a good defender, but a player having percentages above 2.5-percent is above average and typically tends to indicate that player knows what they’re doing on that end of the floor. NBA teams are dying for 6-10 wings who can defend across the floor and hit shots all over the court the way Jabari Smith can. The baseline of a very good, long-time starting wing is already there.

That isn’t to say Jabari Smith doesn’t have areas to improve upon. Smith can create for himself offensively but isn’t asked to do so often. Part of it is because Auburn has a plethora of guards who run the show, but they just didn’t ask Smith to create outside of post-ups or face-ups on the elbows. Granted, Smith is good at scoring from there simply by rising over the top of his defender, but he’s going to need more of a handle to get access to easier looks. These shots are great when they go in, and Smith is very good at hitting these, but they aren’t going to go in every night.

Bruce Pearl and his staff do a great job at getting Smith the ball in these spots with either a mismatch to his disposal or going downhill with a head of steam. If Smith gets paired with a dynamic guard, there’s no reason a team couldn’t just spam these types of shots and play to Smith’s strengths much more often than not. But I didn’t see Smith stress the Arkansas defense as a primary ballhandler or a driver attacking the rim. Whenever he tried, he did not get all that far (Stanley Umude defended Smith the most among the Razorbacks and did as good a job as anybody could ask). The numbers back that up too. From the time of ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz’s article about Smith that was published nearly a month ago, Smith shot 38-percent on two-point attempts that are not dunks and layups (courtesy of Torvik). That’s not very good. Smith also isn’t the most stellar of rebounders and has more turnovers (45) than assists on the season (43). Now, I believe this will improve with time in these aspects of the game as Smith gets stronger and attuned to NBA coaching and player development, but it will bear monitoring as the college season progresses and Smith’s NBA career begins.

Luckily for Jabari Smith, most of these skills are ones that can improve over time. The playmaking could be the most prescient regarding whether Smith hits his ceiling, but even if he never becomes a great playmaker, there is still a lot to work with here. Because of this, I don’t see a scenario where Smith flames out. He’s already too good a shooter and defender to not find a niche in today’s NBA. Smith is going to be a very good starting forward for years to come at the very least. I can see multiple All-Star games in his future as well. Safe to say we’re going to be hearing from Jabari Smith Jr. for a very long time.

Getting cozy bundling under a blanket to watch a great game on television is always fun. Actually going to games in person, however, is a different exhilarating thrill. Everything sticks out and pops much more in person than it does on screen. Rare is the time you can do so twice in a week, however. Fortunately, I was able to check out the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City on Saturday and then my hometown Arkansas Razorbacks take on the South Carolina Gamecocks on Tuesday. Here are some notes and observations I took away from those two games.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Oklahoma City Thunder

All-Star Garland

There were a lot of points that stood out during this game, but Darius Garland’s star was what shined the brightest to me. To see how quickly and efficiently Garland problem solved every coverage the Thunder threw at him was incredibly impressive. Garland made quick work of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl on switches early in the game as a scorer and forced the Thunder to scrap that look early. Oklahoma City pivoted to cutting off driving lanes and converging on the rim to make the Cavs beat them from deep. Timely shooting from Lauri Markkanen, Kevin Love, and Dylan Windler, as well as the freakish catch radii of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, gave Garland all he needed to drop dimes all over the place.


Darius Garland finished the game with 18 assists; the Thunder as a team combined for 17! Garland added 27 points of his own on 11-20 shooting. The most impressive of it all might be that Garland only handed the ball to the other team twice. According to Synergy, Garland scored or assisted on 65 of Cleveland’s 107 points that night. All after dropping 32 points and 8 assists the night before in San Antonio. That’s LeBron and Jokic type of stuff. I’ve been to a few NBA games in my lifetime (probably between 10-20); Garland’s performance might just be the best one I’ve ever seen in person.

That game was another feather in Garland’s case to make the All-Star game. Their length and size are overwhelming, but Garland’s playmaking flare is what allows the Cavs to play their style of ball. Garland was +9 in Cleveland’s five-point win. Their offense was 20.8 points per 100 possessions better when Garland was on the floor. That’s been a trend all season. For the year, the Cavs’ offensive rating drops from 111.8 points per 100 possessions to 103.5 according to Basically, the Cavs go from the sixth-best Phoenix Suns offense to the third-worst Orlando Magic offense when Garland sits. Cleveland is hosting the All-Star game this year. It seems like Jarrett Allen is the favorite between him, Garland, and Evan Mobley to snag a spot if only one makes it. Allen has been great this season, but if only one Cavalier can earn a spot on the team, Garland should be the one to get there.

Pogo Stick Mobley

Potential Rookie of the Year Evan Mobley was everything as advertised that made me love him as a prospect before the draft. The waves of Cleveland’s length and size overwhelmed the Thunder. Jarrett Allen is a big part of that but so is Mobley.  He just looked so much taller and longer than anybody else on the floor. Any time he switched onto a perimeter player he engulfed their drives to force either a turnover, a shot that had no chance, or a pass out to someone else to try anything else other than attempting to score on a pterodactyl. Scoring anywhere near Mobley defensively was an adventure all night and few OKC players were successful in their endeavors.

Offensively, you could see Mobley still has work to do but is already so damn good there too. He has trouble forcing contact but doesn’t mind finishing through it. He has great chemistry with Garland on lobs either as a roller or a cutter. Sneaking by the Thunder defense on the baseline is what helped the Cavs ice the game late in the fourth quarter.

Evan Mobley already is a star in the league and could already be an All-Star. I liked Cade Cunningham slightly more than Mobley coming into the draft but loved them both. The Cavs haven’t had a franchise anchor since LeBron James left; they’ve got one now.

Silky Smooth Shai

If you were to describe Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s game using one word, mine would be slippery. He’s so fluid with his movement and handle that he can gain separation on just about anybody that defends. Isaac Okoro and Lamar Stevens, two sturdy wing defenders, were tasked with guarding Gilgeous-Alexander and there were multiple possessions where SGA made them look silly. This play right here is a great example.

So smooth. That Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 22.4 points per game in this climate with such little shooting and playmaking (aside from rookie Josh Giddey) is a testament to how gifted a scorer he is. His efficiency is not great by any means (46.3-percent effective field goal percentage; 52.9-percent true shooting percentage) but he’s their lone hope towards competent offense. The Thunder have an offensive rating of 104.3 points per 100 possessions with Gilgeous-Alexander on the floor, according to That number dips down to 96 when he’s off it. Part of the reason for such a drastic drop-off is who all is playing in the lineups without him but that he has the biggest discrepancy and that his off-court number is the lowest on the team shows there’s just too much on his plate. Here’s hoping Sam Presti (who did pop up below our seats adjacent to the Thunder tunnel) finds some more shooting and scoring on this roster to make SGA’s life easier.

MLK Day Game Ops

I kid you not, the Oklahoma City game ops did this. They had the ‘Thunder Girls’ dance to Stevie Wonder ‘in honor’ of Martin Luther King Jr. But that was not the pinnacle of the proceedings. The in-arena DJ decided it was a good idea to try a horrible DJ Premier impersonation and cut up Martin Luther King Jr.’s notorious ‘I have a dream’ into a beat for fans to dance to for the sake of equality. We’ve cracked the code on how to end racism, guys: dancing!

Giddy for Giddey

As I said earlier, our seats were to the left of the Thunder tunnel. I was not expecting (but also wasn’t surprised), however, to have my ears pierced by a group of girls yelling at the top of their lungs: ‘JOSH!!!’ Josh, of course, being Aussie dish rookie point forward Josh Giddey, drafted fifth overall by Oklahoma City. Here’s your reminder to not watch Thunder games with your significant other around (if they’re into this sort of thing) or else they’ll hit you with the ‘hey, what’s good?’ once they get their eyes on Mr. Steal Your Girl NBA Chalamet.

As for the basketball side of things, Josh Giddey did not play his best game. His trademark playmaking was disrupted by Cleveland’s length. Giddey’s three assists were marred by his six turnovers. Giddey’s scoring ability is under construction at the moment but did manage to fling in a few floaters over Cleveland bigs. It was a bit disappointing not to get the full picture of Giddey’s sensational feel as a playmaker but the Cavs are a tough matchup for anybody, let alone a rookie. He’s gonna be a very good pro, but I’m not sure how good quite yet.

South Carolina Gamecocks vs Arkansas Razorbacks

Putting the Clamps On

The Hogs have finally figured out the style they should be playing. Offense is a treacherous adventure for this team. They only have two players on their roster shooting above 33-percent from three, and those two (Trey Wade and Au’Diese Toney) have only shot 18 times from deep this season. The half-court offense is a struggle, but their transition offense isn’t. But in order to get in transition, they have to get stops first, and now they’re doing so. Inserting Trey Wade into a starting lineup with JD Notae, Stanley Umude, Au’Diese Toney and Jaylin Williams has made has turned the Hogs into a brick wall. It was on display in the second half. After scoring 40 points in the first half, the Gamecocks did not make a field goal in the second half until the 11:41 mark. Arkansas had already scored 18 points in the second half at that point. The Hogs held South Carolina to 19(!) second-half points. They’ve held their last three opponents to no more than 59 points, including shutting down LSU to 58 points in their building. Arkansas now ranks 49th in Kenpom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. I’ve clamored for the Hogs to go all-in on defense to play to their strengths in transition and now they’re doing so. That’s their ticket to a successful season this year.

Jaylin Future Pro Williams

Jaylin Williams is Arkansas’ best player. I thought he could take that mantle before this season started, but it’s clear now. He was the driving force in the season-saving victory in LSU and a big reason for Arkansas righting the ship. He’s one of the few players you wish would shoot more, but aside from that, he is solid across the board. His defensive positioning, mobility, and instincts are fantastic. He uses college referees’ obsession with calling charges to his advantage. He’s a very good and necessary playmaking hub Arkansas can run their offense through on a team short on shooting and playmaking. Williams is only seven assists away from doubling his assist-to-turnover ratio, exceptional for any college position, let alone a center. He and JD Notae have great chemistry in the pick and roll. He reminds me of Marc Gasol at the latter stages of his career. He is a future NBA player even with his reluctance to shoot and offensive shortcomings. I have no doubt about that. It’s only a matter of time before he’s in the league. 


JD for MVP

Normally, the gunner scorer is not the one people would most associate as the most important force towards winning. JD Notae is an exception to that rule. Arkansas does not have another perimeter creator at Notae’s level. Devo Davis is a favorite of mine, but that’s mostly for his defensive and passing chops (though he can be loose with the ball at times). Chris Lykes has been a bit of a disappointment so far with his scoring ability muted for most of the season (he did not play in the second half against South Carolina). Notae is all Arkansas has as a perimeter creator, and he’s been great keeping this team afloat offensively. His percentages don’t reflect how good he’s been this season because of how big a load he has to carry. He’s shot the ball 274 times this season; the next most on the team is Devo Davis with 154. Even crazier is that Notae missed a game this season, a game Arkansas lost by 13 against Mississippi State. It’s not like Notae is shooting bad shots every time he touches it either. He’s hitting 53-percent of his two-point shots this season, using a slick handle and creative finishes to either get to the free-throw line or finish with traffic around him. He’s also averaging a career-high 3.4 assists per game with a career-high 1.36 assist-to-turnover ratio. Multiple times against the Gamecocks he’d get by his man and deliver slick dump-off passes to teammates to finish. It’s not always going to be pretty with Notae, but Arkansas has to ask a lot out of him this season, and he’s delivered so far. They can’t afford to have anything happen to him.

Watch Out for Stanley

Stanley Umude is one of my favorite players on this Hog team to see in person because he looks like he’s chiseled from stone. He is BUILT. It really shows up defensively. He stonewalls just about anybody he guards with his length and strength. He’s got an NBA body and the skills defensively to guard multiple positions. His defense is going to warrant a look from NBA teams, but his jump shot is the make-or-break piece in his game. He’s a 33.7-percent career three-point shooter and 74.1-percent free-throw shooter over his five-year college career. If he can make the jump from a decent to a good shooter, not only would it be a big boom for Arkansas’ offense to give Notae and crew more room to operate, but his pro prospects would warrant deeper looks from NBA teams. I’m curious if Arkansas looks to him more as a half-court scoring option because it seemed like they did against South Carolina and could use an offensive boost anywhere they can find it. He’s hit double-digits in the points department in four of Arkansas’ last six games, including 28 to keep Arkansas alive against Vanderbilt. Umude might be Arkansas’ biggest x-factor over the course of the season.