Updated: Nov 15, 2021
After conducting over 100 interviews with a growing list of elite high school-aged basketball prospects in addition to accumulating evaluation touch points at events all over the country, Pro Insight’s senior basketball analyst Tyler Glazier spent some time compiling some musings on a group of the top prospects he’s come across, with a focus on those eligible for the 2022 NBA draft (and beyond).
With the 2021 NBA draft in the rearview mirror and the 2021-22 college/G League/OTE seasons upon us, it’s time to analyze a group of prospects that project to hear their name called on draft night, whether next June or in future years.
Let’s get right to it. Here’s a look at 18 names to know (in alphabetical order):
Patrick Baldwin, Jr.
6’9” Forward | UW-Milwaukee | 18.9 years old
A consensus top-five overall prospect in the 2021 class, Baldwin held offers from a number of high major programs such as Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan, etc. After slowly trimming his list, “PBJ” opted to put family first and stay home to play for his father at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. With his commitment, Baldwin instantly put the mid-major program on the map and became the highest-rated recruit to ever pick a Horizon League program. While the decision was a surprise to many, it’s no secret why Baldwin had his pick of the litter when looking to make the jump to the next level. Standing at 6’9” and 220 pounds, the silky smooth forward immediately captures your attention due to his blend of BBIQ, shooting touch, graceful body control, and versatility. While many of today’s top prospects generate buzz by means of power jams, brute force, and flashy handles, Baldwin is more of a silent assassin and plays with a sense of refinement that is soothing to watch on the basketball court. With versatility and shooting at a premium in the NBA, Baldwin possesses at least two projected bankable skills to be used at the next level. Pair that with his innate feel for the game, positional size, and elite agility and you have a player who will not only make a team happy on draft day, but possesses the ingredients that will likely lead to a long and successful NBA career.
By the numbers: As a rising junior, Baldwin averaged 16.2 points on 59.9% true shooting (48/35/85 splits) as part of Phenom U’s 17U EYBL team per Cerebro Sports, playing alongside Reece Beekman, Jaemyn Brakefield, and Jalen Johnson.
6’10” Forward | Duke | 18.9
Checking in at 6’10”+ and 250 pounds with a plus-wingspan, Banchero is a bonafide beast. He’s a rare breed who is fully capable of punishing defenders in the post with his strong base, broad shoulders, explosive leaping ability, and soft touch while also comfortably operating on the perimeter with the ball in his hands. While his outside shooting is still a work in progress, this past season Banchero made massive strides with his footwork, shot preparation, and efficiency in both the mid-range and beyond the three-point line. An underrated passer and legit creator, look for the Seattle native to operate on the perimeter, push the ball in transition and play the Clippers-era Blake Griffin high-post role next to sophomore big Mark Williams. However, for all of his natural talent and physical gifts, the key ingredient in Banchero’s recipe for success is his relentlessness. After evaluating him live on many occasions since he was 15 years old, one thing has remained consistent: he never takes a night off. It always takes some time to adjust to new teammates and competition, but look for Banchero to be impactful early in his Duke career and a near lock as a top-three pick in the 2022 NBA draft.
By the numbers: During 2020-21, over the course of 10 games in The Grind Session, Banchero averaged 28.1 points for BFL Prep (WA), including 41 points in a March 4 win over PHH Prep Fire (AZ).
7’0 Big | Oregon | 18.4
A lively stretch big who moves with relative ease on the court for someone his size, Bittle is the highest-rated signee in Oregon Men’s Basketball history and is another interesting freshman to monitor within the 2022 draft landscape. Gifted with legitimate positional height and length at 7’0” tall with arms for days, he possesses the necessary tools to be an immediate impact player for the Ducks. While it can be easy to pigeonhole a guy like Bittle into a stationary stretch-only role, don’t sleep on his ability to act as a lob target and efficient finisher around the basket. This combination of stretch and finishing ability allow him to be a dangerous ‘pick your poison’ pick-and-roll option at the next level. His soft touch as an interior scorer, face-up ability, and budding handle further adds to his ability to generate mismatches. Defensively, Bittle is able to hold his own on the perimeter, but it will be an area of his game that will be further tested this season against Pac-12 guards and wings. Bittle is at his best when using his long levers to patrol the paint and deter shots as an effective rim protector. With a recent renaissance of the big man, Bittle fits the mold of a modern big who can operate on the perimeter while doing damage inside on both ends of the court. Look for him to incrementally boost his stock as he calibrates to the competition and becomes more comfortable within the Ducks’ schemes throughout the season.
By the numbers: In 16 games in The Grind Session during his senior campaign, Bittle averaged 14.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks for Prolific Prep (CA), following three ultra-productive seasons at Crater (OR).
6’0” Guard | Tennessee | 19.1
Teaming up with fellow talented freshmen Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and Jahmai Mashack at Tennessee, Chandler will look to be the tip of the spear for a potent offense while filling the void left behind by current 76er and draft twitter darling Jaden Springer. An electric guard, Chandler is a whirlwind of explosive scoring offensively and a pesky opponent defensively. While he doesn’t necessarily jump off the page from a physical tools standpoint, don’t let that fool you as he’s someone who can easily punch above his listed size. Wired to score, Chandler uses his tight handle and elite athleticism to constantly put pressure on the rim while also being able to space the floor with his much improved shooting touch. While he’s not a “game manager” in the traditional sense, Chandler is capable of dictating flow by means of his off-ball activity, primary initiating and exceptional court vision while on the move. Defensively, Chandler doesn’t shy from competition and plays with a sense of fearlessness that allows him to more than hold his own against more physically imposing opponents. While he may not be everyone’s flavor of PG, expect teams looking for a microwave scorer and crafty playmaker who can function alongside other guards to hold him at a premium come draft day.
By the numbers: Chandler averaged 15.0 points and 5.7 assists (with a Floor General Score of 79.7, per Cerebro Sports) for Sunrise Christian (KS) at the 2021 GEICO Nationals, where he led his team to the championship game.
6’11” Forward | Michigan | 19.8
Perhaps one of the more underrated freshman additions in the class, Diabate has the potential to make an immediate impact for one of the strongest programs in the country. A native of Paris, France, Diabate made the move to Florida early in his basketball career to continue pursuing his hoop dreams. Touted as one of the hardest workers on the team, Diabate made incremental strides each year which resulted in numerous power 5 offers heading into his senior season. Listed at 6’11” with a plus-wingspan and a shredded 210-pound frame, Diabate is an exceptionally gifted defender both on the perimeter and the interior. His body control, lateral quickness, toughness, and high motor immediately stand out as he covers a significant amount of ground throughout the course of a game. Offensively, Diabate excels at making an impact without needing the ball by cleaning the offensive glass, putting himself in position around the basket, running the floor, and tapping into some budding ability to stretch the floor. While his overall game is still crystalizing, his motor, work ethic and ability to play next to star players project to make him a valued commodity over time at the next level.
By the numbers: As a junior in 2019-20, Diabate earned a C-RAM score of 10.9 (Gold Badge) in 4 games at the City of Palms for IMG Academy, where he averaged 10.3 points and 6.8 boards/game, per Cerebro Sports.
6’11” Big | Memphis | 17.9
Standing at 6’11” with a chiseled 250-pound frame and elite length, Duren immediately pops as a future pro and is perhaps the most physically gifted prospect on this list. Originally slated to be a senior in high school at Montverde Academy (FL), Duren opted to re-classify to the 2021 class and jump start his college career with Memphis a year early. A unique blend of elite physical and athletic tools, Duren is also gifted with coordinated footwork, touch as an interior scorer, face-up potential, and a budding perimeter skill-set as a creator and facilitator. Defensively, Duren has the rare ability to both protect the paint using his quick leaping ability and length, while just as easily cover ground on the perimeter as a switchable big due to his footspeed. Duren has all of the tools to be a force of nature and double-double machine when engaged. Look for him to be challenged early by Penny Hardaway throughout the season as the Memphis staff helps guide him toward reaching his full potential. With a recent resurgence of versatile bigs in the NBA, Duren has all of the prerequisites to be the next low-post anchor to a franchise in search of a dominant interior presence.
By the numbers: Before re-classifying to the 2021 class and committing to Memphis, Duren averaged 13.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in the 2021 17U EYBL session for Team Final, ranking fourth among all players with an 81.9 BMS (Big Man Score), per Cerebro Sports.
6’9” Forward | G League Ignite | 18.4
Foster is one of the more interesting prospects in the class of 2021 due to his unique blend of size, strength, versatility, motor, fearlessness, and instincts. Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Foster originally started out as a football player before being noticed on the court by former Hillcrest Prep (AZ) Head Coach Chianti Clay. After a few reps on the court, it quickly became apparent Foster had the natural tools to develop into a high-level prospect. Since then, Foster has grown to 6’9”+ and 235 pounds with a near-seven foot wingspan. That size paired with his ability to create his own shot, finish at the rim, break down defenses as a facilitator, operate as an inside/outside scorer, and defend multiple positions is what makes him such an enticing player. Foster had numerous college programs to choose from, but ultimately decided to go pro and sign with the G League Ignite. A tailored developmental program, top-notch coaching, and high-level competition should bode well for his mental focus, all-around polish, and night-to-night consistency as he aims to hear his name called in June.
By the numbers: As a senior for Hillcrest Prep, Foster dominated his competition, averaging 32.2 points, 18.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.1 steals, and 6.7 blocks per game in 18 games.