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NEW YORK — Every NBA season, there are a few players who completely surpass their draft stock and some who two or three seasons later emerge as important parts of a team.
The Philadelphia 76ers selected Tyrese Maxey with the 21st pick in the 2020 NBA draft, and he cemented himself as a future part of the franchise after a strong season and an incredible performance in the playoffs. Joining the Boston Celtics in 22nd place in 2019, Grant Williams is now the first off the bench to clock 26 minutes a game in the playoffs. In the same draft class, the Golden State Warriors selected Jordan Poole as the 28th overall pick, and in three short seasons he morphed into a third Splash Brother alongside Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.
The top four players in the 2022 draft haven’t changed all season, and Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey all expect their names to come up first. This is a deeper draft than in previous years and it could see some players like Maxey, Williams and Poole sprinkled in the first and second rounds.
Here’s a look at seven players who are possible sleepers in the 2022 NBA draft.
design area: 15-35
Terry could have played the lottery in next year’s draft but decided to stay in that draft class after receiving positive feedback at the NBA draft combine. He’s a 6-foot-7 perimeter player who has big advantages as a 3-and-D prospect. Terry averaged just eight points, 4.8 rebounds and four assists in his sophomore season at Arizona and was the third scoring opportunity behind lottery winner Benn Mathurin and 7-foot-1 center Christian Koloko.
Terry’s decision to remain in that draft class prompted NBA teams to rewatch as many films about him as possible and enlist him in for a practice (he had about 10 workouts before draft week).
“I think I still get a little rest,” Terry told Yahoo Sports. “I think if I had come out next year it wouldn’t even be a question. I would be a top 10 pick. There’s a mystery as to whether or not I can shoot and everyone just wants to see it. That’s why I’ve had a lot of training over the past few weeks.
“The drafting process has been busy, but I’m having a lot of fun and it’s just been a blessing to be through this process so far. Any team that believes in me makes a player ready to work on Day 1 and I’m ready to show more of the player that I am.”
Some scouts in the league think he could climb to No. 14 with the Cleveland Cavaliers or No. 15 with the Charlotte Hornets. Terry could be the player coming out of left field and shaking up the draft.
design area: 25-35
McGowens chose to play alongside his brother Trey in Nebraska across Florida State, Oregon, Maryland, Clemson and Georgia. McGowens became the highest-ranking recruit in program history and his first five-star recruit. Now he’s the first one-and-done candidate from Nebraska’s basketball team.
A veteran, long-lived combo guard at 6ft 7, McGowens has little untapped potential at just 19 years old. NBA teams value guards with his size who can guard multiple perimeter positions, and McGowen’s fits that mold. His shot selection needs improvement (only 40% from the field and 27% from 3-point range), but that will come to NBA levels with time and development.
design area: 25-35
There are many teams intrigued by Watson’s 6ft 8 length at the shooting guard position. On paper, he hasn’t done much in his one year at UCLA — 3.3 points, 2.9 rebounds in just 12.7 minutes on the court. UCLA was a poor fit from the start, bringing back almost their entire roster from the Final Four run the season before.
Watson also experienced a somewhat stunted development of his game during the COVID-19 pandemic. California had stricter policies and mandates, and Watson missed many 5-on-5 contests in his senior year of high school.
Watson is projecting himself as a long, versatile guard a year or two away from a rotational spot on an NBA roster. He’s still young at 19 and at just over 200 pounds has room to grow into his physique.
design area: 20-35
If you watched Houston train at all during the pre-draft process, he looked like a completely different player than he did during his only season in Michigan. His 3-point vault looks smooth and effortless (having only shot 35.5% from deep during the season), and he’s added some muscle mass to his physique. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have proven time and time again that it’s a shooting league and that Houston can do it shoot. Not only that, he’s also enormous size for a wing at 6-foot-8.
Cam Thomas has been dubbed LSU’s high-volume shooter and many wondered how his game would translate to the league, but after being picked up by the Brooklyn Nets at No. 27 last year, he has shown more offense Versatility.
Houston’s only downside is his lateral quickness and lack of explosiveness in the open field. He’s far from being a defensive liability and his shooting could be enough to see him get decent minutes in the league. A team will pull him up on his own, and given the right situation, he could really blossom in a couple of years.
Patrick Baldwin Jr.
design area: 25-40
A top 10 player after high school, Baldwin Jr. chose to play for his father at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee through blue-blood programs. He’s a great height of 6’9 and is a solid ball handler and outside shooter. Unfortunately, Baldwin Jr. only played 11 games last season after suffering various minor injuries that kept him sidelined. He was one of the hardest NBA staff candidates to evaluate this season.
When Baldwin Jr. hits the gym, he looks good. Great height and length, similar to Kevin Durant and when he’s healthy he’s quite impressive. The problem (and why he’s dropping so badly) is that teams are wondering whether or not he can stay healthy for an 82-game season. If he manages to overcome those injuries that have plagued his fledgling career, Baldwin Jr. could be the steal of the draft.
Michael Forster Jr.
design area: 30-50
Foster Jr. lost 14 pounds, added muscle mass and looked incredible at the combine. His body fat percentage was 6.2% and he moved significantly better on the pitch than he did in the G-League season.
More than just a rim runner, Foster Jr. has improved his footwork on the block. In the first eight games of the G-League season, Foster Jr. averaged 13.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 blocks. At the end of the season, Foster Jr. averaged 16.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, three assists, and 2.3 blocks in his last nine games. His outside jump shot is still an area that needs improvement, but he’s a great height at 6-foot-8 and could end up being one of the biggest sleepers in the second round.
design area: 35-45
Koloko played three seasons in Arizona and finished his junior year averaging 12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 25 minutes per game. He measured the charts at the combine, coming in at 7ft 1 with a wingspan of 7ft 5. Koloko’s presence on the lane is mostly felt on the defensive side of the ball, and as a senior in the draft at 21, he can make an immediate impact on a team.
Despite his long stature, he does a surprisingly good job of keeping guard in front of the counter pick-and-roll situations. If picked by the right team, Koloko could be that secondary center, seeing early play and logging minutes with the starting unit.