In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, we discuss some key NBA Draft storylines that have drawn our attention in the month of March. P.I.’s Senior Basketball Analyst Eric Rubenstein has had the chance to get live looks at several key prospects during conference tournament season while Basketball Analyst Alex Brown has spent the season devouring and analyzing film. Each will touch on some key storylines below:
SEC Tournament Stock-Risers
In this section, Eric Rubenstein has highlighted some of the SEC players who helped themselves the most with their performance during the 2022 SEC Tournament in Tampa, FL.
Kennedy Chandler | Tennessee | Freshman | 6’0” Guard
Event Stats (3 GP): 14.7 PPG, 5 APG, 1 TOPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG on 53% FG, 50% 3PT (2 3PM/G), 67% FT in 32.7 MPG
En route to the SEC title and tournament MVP, arguably no player helped themselves more than Chandler. He played with great pace, urgency, and toughness in all aspects of the game. He was constantly in control of the pace, running pick-and-roll with savvy and either scoring or throwing well-timed deliveries to teammates. Chandler has his limitations as it pertains to the next level but in a PG class where there is no clear leader at the top (see section below), he has a unique ability to blow-by his man and break the paint with or without a ball-screen thanks to his elite quickness. Chandler also used his quickness effectively as a cutter in this setting while showing to have really improved as an outside shooter. He was able to punish the defense for playing soft with much greater consistency and also showed an ability to convert on some more difficult jumpers, as well. Last but not least, he displayed a ton of toughness and energy on the defensive end while battling through an injury. He’s really effective with his length (6’7” wingspan) on this end and proves to be a pest who can effectively keep the ball in front, blow up actions, and make plays in passing lanes. Some of his key areas for improvement are becoming more comfortable using his off-hand and more consistency as a shooter. Chandler continues to prove doubters wrong as he has won and succeeded at every level — and we wouldn’t be shocked to see him do the same in the NBA.
Josiah-Jordan James | Tennessee | Junior | 6’6” Wing
Event Stats (3 GP): 14 PPG, 6.3 RPG (1.7 O), 3 APG, 1.7 TOPG, 1.3 BPG on 43% FG, 53% 3PT (3 3PM/G), 75% FT in 32.7 MPG
James was another Tennessee player who really improved his stock during the conference tournament. He thrived as an off-ball threat who effectively cut, spaced the floor, and made open shots. He made 9 of his 17 three-point attempts across three games and while the shot is still a bit streaky at times, it is much improved from when he first entered college. He was efficient here as a connecting piece who made quick decisions. Defensively, he showed off physicality on the wing and strong instincts both on the ball and in the help. James also did a great job of keeping the ball in front and rotating over to generate events. He doesn’t seem to give up on plays and made winning play after winning play throughout the week. He showed a willingness to compete for rebounds in a crowd and out of his area. The key areas for his improvement right now are his comfort as a creator and finisher, but he seems to have a pretty safe floor as a low-usage role player. James doesn’t do much to hurt his team while bringing some toughness and strong instincts.
Quenton Jackson | Texas A&M | Graduate | 6’5” Guard
Event Stats (4 GP): 15 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.8 TOPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 SPG on 49% FG, 33% 3PT, 72% FT (6.3 FTA/G) in 30.3 MPG
Jackson was a key cog in Texas A&M’s surprise run to the championship game. It wasn’t always pretty as he was thrust into a role with more responsibility as a ball-handler at times than he is comfortable with, but it is easy to see his tools and how they translate to a role at the next level. Jackson looks the part of an NBA player with his frame and above-the-rim athleticism. His overall polish and outside shot can use some work, but he really impressed as a high-level finisher vs. contests (with either hand) as well as being a disruptive defensive playmaker. Jackson likely won’t hear his name called in June, but I like his chances of getting a look in summer league/training camp with a chance to develop into more down the line.
Myles Stute | Vanderbilt | Sophomore | 6’7” Forward
Event Stats (3 GP): 13.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 SPG on 54% FG, 52% 3PT (4 3PM/G), 2-5 FT in 28 MPG
The D.C. native was lights out from 3 in Tampa, knocking down 12 of his 23 three-point attempts across three games for a Vanderbilt team that got into a rhythm down the stretch, this season. Stute’s blend of positional size, toughness, and shot-making really stood out. He showed an advanced ability to step into catch-and-shoot threes or threes on the move, even with a hand in his face. He didn’t do much damage inside the arc but to his credit, he stuck to his role and kept the ball moving well. He’s a sound defender who also shows a willingness to battle for rebounds and loose balls. Stute undoubtedly made some fans this week. He needs to continue to add more depth and creativity to his offensive skill set but this was certainly a string of performances for him to build on.
Trevon Brazile | Missouri | Freshman | 6’9” Forward
Event Stats (2 GP): 12 PPG, 8.5 RPG (3.5 O), 1 APG, 2.5 BPG, 1 SPG on 50% FG, 1-2 3PT, 82% FT in 27.5 MPG
He’s far from a finished product, but I was really impressed by some of the flashes that Brazile showed in Tampa. He’s an intriguing long-term prospect with a nice foundation of tools to work with. Brazile is a live body big who is extremely quick off his feet and active around the rim while also displaying a budding perimeter skillset. Continuing to add strength will be a key for him as he had a hard time playing through contact for stretches. On the defensive end, he is loaded with upside thanks to his mobility and willingness to fly around. He showed off adepta timing as a help defender, regularly soaring in and breaking up plays around the rim. With Brazile having entered the transfer portal following Missouri’s coaching change, expect him to be a highly-coveted Power 5 prospect coming off of these strong performances.
Honorable Mentions: Henry Coleman III (Texas A&M), Kowacie Reeves (Florida), Au’Diese Toney (Arkansas)
Analyzing the PG Class
In this section, Eric Rubenstein will compare and discuss how the PG crop is shaping up in the 2022 NBA Draft.
There are plenty of PG prospects in the 2022 Draft who will likely hear their names called in June. That being said, each of these prospects seem to bring something a lot different to the table and it would seem as if there is yet to be a clear and consistent favorite among evaluators. Many of the point guards in this year’s draft appear to be safe bets as key rotational pieces, but few, if any, have separated themselves as anything above potential starter-level pieces who can move the needle at the highest of levels. In the following paragraphs, we will dive deeper into some of them:
As mentioned in the above section, Tennessee freshman Kennedy Chandler has boosted his stock as of late with his string of strong performances. Chandler is one of the few (if not only) PGs in this class who can get into the lane and create for himself or others without a ball screen, which holds real weight for NBA teams as they look for potential second-unit creators. He has an elite pedigree that none of his counterparts can quite match, but the key knock against him will continue to be his size. All things considered, we’re certainly fans of Kennedy in the first round and as a long-time player in the NBA.
G League Ignite guard Dyson Daniels seems to be the preferred prospect among many evaluators with his ability to impact the game in a variety of ways, thanks to his feel and defensive ability. However, he is a bit unconventional in his approach and better suited as a secondary handler than a primary one. It’s easy to see Daniels being a key piece on a winning team for a long time, but more-so as a “utility” guard than as a lead guard.
Overtime Elite’s Jean Montero is another intriguing name among this year’s PGs as he has all the tools to be a dynamic and creative lead guard who blends scoring and playmaking well at the next level. Of all of the players in the OTE program, you can just tell he’s the one with prior pro experience as he has a mature floor game with an advanced feel for when to push the tempo and when to slow it down. The shot has not been falling at a great clip, but he’s got a pure stroke with soft touch. He’s had some up-and-down performances in front of NBA evaluators this season and there are still plenty of questions, but he will have a chance to really boost his stock and gain some momentum in the coming weeks as a participant for the World Team at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, OR.
Kentucky guard TyTy Washington had some uneven performances following the return from his injury as he was never quite able to get back to full speed. He plays at a great pace and generally makes sound decisions with the ball. He has shown an ability to run an offense in the past during his Grind Session Championship run last year with AZ Compass Prep. However, his lack of explosiveness and average at best athleticism (some of which may have been a result of the injury) can leave you questioning just how effectively he’ll be able to create his own shot at the next level. Washington almost seems better suited as an off-ball threat at times as he is a knockdown spot-up shooter. He’s also quite efficient attacking closeouts to pull-up or finish with touch on floaters. He’s the type of backcourt option who can play on the ball for stretches, but may be better suited playing next to another primary handler to maximize his ability as an off-ball threat.
It’s easy to see the intrigue with Alabama freshman JD Davison as he is a dynamic and powerful athlete with eye-opening open floor speed. He really thrives in an up-tempo game and has proven to be more than just an athlete, as he shows to be quite the willing facilitator out of pick-and-roll with good touch and timing on his deliveries. All things considered, he can be a bit too unselfish for stretches. With his struggles as a jump shooter, he can have a hard time generating a ton of offense for himself against a set defense, at times. Defenses are pretty comfortable giving him some space and while he’s quick in straight lines, he’s not the shiftiest handler. He is fairly inconsistent with his willingness to call his own number as a scorer and his decision-making as a whole can use some work. Davison has a lot to work with, but will take some time as he doesn’t project as a day-one contributor at the NBA level. He’s a guy who could benefit from returning to school and having a chance to run the show on what is projected to be a talented Alabama squad — but if he does opt to turn pro, we’d expect him to hear his name called somewhere in the first half of the second round as more of a “pre-draft” candidate.
Two veterans who aren’t currently getting enough credit are Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard and Villanova’s Collin Gillespie. Both may not be the flashiest prospects and each have their share of limitations, but Nembhard is a safe bet to find his way as a backup game manager from the PG position while Gillespie is not someone you’d feel comfortable betting against carving out a role with his skill, feel, and competitive nature. There is always more to the second round that meets the eye, but we expect both to ultimately hear their names called on draft night.
Lastly, Mike Miles is another guy to keep an eye on in the latter part of the draft as he has consistently impressed teams with his toughness. While he was quite productive as a freshman, he has made some noticeable improvements to his game over the past year. There are still some question marks here, but he’s another guy we wouldn’t bet against as an eventual NBA player.
Big Ten Tournament Stock-Risers
Alex Brown, Pro Insight’s resident Big Ten expert, chimes in on the Big Ten players who upped their game during conference tournament week.
Keegan Murray | Iowa | Sophomore | 6’8” Forward
Event Stats (4 GP): 25.8 PPG, 9 RPG (3.5 O), 2.5 APG, 1 BPG, 1.5 SPG on 55.9% FG, 14/26 3PT, 92.9% FT in 33.47 MPG
Leading the charge for the Big Ten Tournament champions, Keegan Murray was a near unstoppable force for the Hawkeyes. Despite the notable effort put forth by each team to mitigate one of the most productive players in the country, Murray finished the tournament shooting a blistering 53.8% from deep, ~67% in the restricted area, as well as drawing 17 fouls. Murray continued to showcase his improved mechanics and comfort off the catch, highlighted in an incredible 32-point outing against Indiana where he buried 8 of his 10 three-point shots. Furthermore, he was able to get it done from the perimeter in multiple ways, including shooting off pin-downs, pulling up off movement, and quickly firing standstill catch-and-shoot threes from NBA distance. His handle, functional strength, and defensive containment could use further improvement, but overall Murray is a safe bet as an impactful forward in the modern NBA who can play off the ball with some creation upside. For a player who’s widely expected to go in the top 8-10 picks, Murray’s offensive performance was dominant enough to push his name further towards the earlier side of the lottery in the upcoming draft.
Pete Nance | Northwestern | Senior | 6’10” Forward
Event Stats (2 GP): 12.5 PPG, 5 RPG (0.5 O), 5 APG, 0.5 BPG, 0 SPG on 55.6% FG, 2/4 3PT, 60% FT in 26.12 MPG
Perhaps the most underrated big in the Big Ten, Pete Nance, the younger brother of Larry Nance, Jr., has been flashing NBA potential all year. Shooting 45.2% from 3 (nearly 100 attempts) at 6’10” with playmaking chops, Nance is a different breed of big man compared to the multiple 7’0”, interior bruisers of the Big Ten. Against Nebraska, Nance had a stellar outing with 14 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds, and 2 three-point makes, using his vision and perimeter skill set to take over the game as the hub. Nance is intriguing as a late second round/UDFA target who provides teams with a modern offensive skill set for a perimeter-oriented big. He buys in and is coachable, and if he can sharpen up his defensive mobility and add some more functional strength, he could be a sneaky bet to play in the league for a good number of years.
“Nance has a very unique skill set that translates well to the professional game. He has not only proven that he can knock down catch-and-shoot threes, but also take and make a one-dribble pull-up over any defender. Northwestern used Nance as a Delay/5-Out trailer, which was an excellent system for his skill set. Like Nance’s older brother, Larry Jr., Pete also has elite level athleticism. Although he is less built physically than Larry Jr., Pete has an ideal frame for a stretch 5 in the modern NBA.”
- Source within Northwestern’s Basketball Program
Trayce Jackson-Davis | Indiana | Junior | 6’9” Big
Event Stats (3 GP): 25.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG (1.7 O), 2.3 APG, 2.3 BPG, 0.7 SPG on 66.7% FG, 0/0 3PT, 61.5% FT in 36.17 MPG
While non-shooting, undersized centers that don’t handle the ball can be a tough fit in the modern NBA, it is hard to ignore the production and efficiency around the basket that “TJD” has brought to the Hoosiers. A smart interior scorer who picks his spots well, TJD was able to capitalize on the post-heavy style of Big Ten play with some unique quickness, finesse, and ambidextrous finishing against the likes of bruising bigs like Kofi Cockburn, Hunter Dickinson, Zach Edey, and Trevion Williams. He plays drop coverage particularly well, showing off strong footwork, instincts, timing, and positioning.
After leading Indiana to the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament as well as an NCAA Tournament berth against tough competition, TJD should be in line to get a Summer League deal as well as two-way looks in UDFA. He should garner plenty of international interest as well, but with his strong performances as of late, it is more likely he continues to push for an NBA roster spot initially. Regardless, he helped himself in the conference tournament.
Marcus Bingham, Jr. | Michigan State | Senior | 7’0” Big
Event Stats (3 GP): 12.3 PPG, 7 RPG (1.7 O), 0.33 APG, 2 BPG, 1 SPG on 51.7% FG, 1/5 3PT, 66.7% FT in 19.35 MPG
Marcus Bingham is still raw for a senior, but should have the attention of NBA teams looking to fill a summer league slot with a potential exhibit-10 target. Bingham has clear intrigue as a role player who can stretch the floor at an increasingly promising rate, block and alter shots from the strong or weak side, rebound, and catch lobs in the halfcourt. While he struggles to stay on the floor due to his propensity to foul, Bingham did have one of his best performances of the season against a tough Wisconsin team. He put up 19 points, 10 boards, and 3 blocks in just over 20 minutes, using his length and mobility to change the game on both ends. Although he struggled later on with fouling against the far more physical Zach Edey and Trevion Williams of Purdue, Bingham showed some positive signs of being a potential role player worth looking deeper into during the pre-draft process. If he can continue to improve as a floor stretcher, add functional strength, and defend without fouling, he could find himself working through the G-League and having a chance at cracking an NBA roster in time.
Jalen Pickett | Penn State | Senior | 6’4” Guard
Event Stats (3 GP): 18 PPG, 6.3 RPG (0.3 O), 5 APG, 0 BPG, 1.3 SPG on 60% FG, 6/11 3PT, 66.7% FT in 38.50 MPG
Jalen Pickett led the Nittany Lions to two victories in the Big Ten tournament before falling by single digits to Purdue. Pickett had three of his more efficient games of the season during these highly competitive matchups, which should leave a strong impression after a rather inefficient season overall. Pickett is far from traditional when it comes to guard play, but the Seina transfer certainly helped himself in Penn State’s three conference tournament games this March. Pickett is a methodical, crafty guard who plays at his own pace, preferring to operate out of hostage/jail dribbles in pick-and-roll and get buckets anyway he can off the dribble (including out of the post). He employs a wide variety of touch shots, floaters, and push shots that he can get to seemingly at will when he gets his defender on his hip. When defenses crowd him down low, he’s comfortable bringing it back out for off-the-dribble threes (which statistically, has not been a strong point this year at ~32%), making him an increasingly dynamic offensive threat during the tournament. Furthermore, he capitalized on that consistent advantage creation and scoring gravity to occupy multiple defenders and make plays for others, often finding open shooters or his dump down man. What was most impressive about Pickett’s offensive attack was how well he owned his space in pick-and-roll as well as how he controlled the pace with the ball in his hands. He competed on the defensive end as well, often playing with toughness and engagement against high-level matchups such as Jaden Ivey and Malaki Branham. If he can continue to improve his off-ball game, play with more emphasis on efficiency, and find a more scalable scoring impact, he could be a very interesting piece to add to a G-League squad or Summer League roster.
Similar Names, Different Games
Santa Clara guard/wing Jalen Williams and Arkansas center Jaylin Williams are both legitimate NBA prospects in their own right. We have had the chance to evaluate both of them up-close and in-person over the last few weeks and thought it would be fun to highlight each of them in this section.
While JALEN is the go-to-guy for his Santa Clara team, JAYLIN serves as more of a utility guy for the Razorbacks. Jaylin won’t necessarily put up a ton of points in the scoring column, but he will do a little bit of everything to contribute to winning. Meanwhile, Jalen is a crafty scorer who is equal parts a threat to drive it and finish with either hand, pull-up on a dime from the mid-range, or rise up for catch-and-shoot threes in rhythm. He is also a high IQ cutter without the ball in his hands. Both prospects show an advanced feel for the game with high IQ and creativity as passers. Jaylin thrives playing out of the high-post and off the elbow where he has a ton of patience in reading the defense and finding cutters/shooters. He’s a unique post prospect who can comfortably handle vs. pressure and make quick decisions. On the other hand, Jalen has great feel running pick-and-roll and threading the needle with well-timed deliveries using either hand. He likely won’t be a high-level scoring option at the next level, but he can serve as a secondary ball-handler who makes sound decisions as both a scorer and a playmaker.
On the defensive end, Jalen stands out as a tenacious on-ball defender while Jaylin makes his presence felt as a sound help defender. Jalen is quite physical at the point of attack. He does a great job of containing his man, keeping the ball in front, and fighting over screens. He also shows off strong instincts to break up plays in passing lanes and in help. Jaylin serves as the anchor of the Arkansas defense, calling out coverages and protecting the paint. He generally seems to be in the right position and while he’s not a vertical rim-protecting presence who gets up to swat shots away at a high clip, he has great timing and fundamentals to wall-up and contest shots at the rim.
And let’s not forget Auburn’s Jaylin Williams — the lefty had some key performances off the bench for the Tigers to close out their season!