Year after year, tracking breakouts is a prime task of draft evaluation. Glossing over the 2021 first round as a brief example, at least 10 prospects were not in the NBA Draft picture a here prior. The long-term highly touted five-stars in the previous class aren’t included here — but rather a group of names I can see making a leap onto the NBA radar.
Freshman || 6-11 & 210 pounds || Washington State
Surpassing Klay Thompson, Mouhamed Gueye enters his stint in Pullman as the highest rated recruit in program history. Formerly with Prolific Prep, Gueye chose the Cougs over Kansas and UCLA. Measurements are relatively uncertain, but Gueye is near 7-0 and has been listed with a 7-5+ wingspan. Playing alongside five-stars Nate Bittle and Adem Bona last season, Gueye was able to fill a perimeter role and display that enticing spot up skillset. The handle and consistency with touch are the constant questions with this archetype, and while time will tell, the Senegalese-born wing appears extremely fluid and natural as a spot up threat. Productivity as a cutter, smooth shot preparation and creativity driving to the rim. Growing the toughness around the rim, sharpening the handle and monitoring the shooting development will be the keys early on at Washington State, but Gueye should quickly become more well-known on the NBA Draft front.
Sophomore || 6-7 & 210 pounds || Gonzaga
Outside of Jalen Suggs and likely Hunter Sallis and Nolan Hickman, the Zags rarely play Freshman in large roles. Gonzaga projects as one of the top rosters in the nation once again, and tracking how Julian Strawther fits in is a major draft storyline for me. Strawther’s U19 FIBA film with the Puerto Rican national team provides strong context as to what we might see, as opportunity should see an uptick. Formerly a top 75 prospect in America, Strawther is an extremely fluid off-guard with strong change of pace, toughness attacking the cup and what I think winds up as a strong perimeter shot. An intriguing floater game, a developing handle and his activity as a perimeter defender are the key pieces of the high upside trajectory I see. Ideally filling a Corey Kispert spot up scoring role, Strawther is my leading candidate to fly up boards in Spokane. The rising Sophomore brings two-way production, but will need to carve out a role in a competitive rotation in order to cement himself as a 2022 prospect.
Freshman || 6-9 & 220 pounds || Tennessee
Originally a five-star in the class of 2022, Huntley-Hatfield made the reclassification leap and will join the fold in Knoxville this season. In terms of his potential fit in the NBA, there is a lot of early intrigue as Huntley-Hatfield is ultra-productive on both ends as a versatile forward. A mature screen setter with fantastic footwork as a roll man and a sturdy, set jump shot. Extremely long arms, quick off the ground and shot blocking instincts with a variety of switchable defensive tools. A powerful finisher with wide shoulders and a much better than advertised playmaking ability. The context with B Maze Elite over the last few Summers have been key in projecting Huntley-Hatfield as more of a stretch scoring centerpiece. Motor and consistency are two of the swing traits in my eyes, but BHH has the tools to dominate the glass early on. Playing off of Kennedy Chandler is an optimal opportunity for the dual threat forward. The IMG product lines up as one of the youngest prospects in the 2022 Draft field if things pan out as I project they do.
Sophomore || 6-7 & 200 pounds || Arizona
Crowding a playmaker to the pedigree of Dalen Terry with spot up shooting and athletes is an extraordinarily enticing situation to track. Terry has long been a dynamic, heady passer, but struggled to gain traction on a prominent role with the Wildcats last season. Gonzaga-esque scheme and spacing now potentially aligned Tucson via Tommy Lloyd should serve benefit, as well as another year of experience under his belt. Between the additions of Pelle Larson and Shane Nowell as well as another year of Bennedict Mathurin, Kerr Kriisa and Azuolas Tubelis, Terry has a plethora of floor spacers surrounding him. Playing with pace, embracing contact around the rim and tracking the perimeter shooting volume will be the development to keep tabs on. A wildly talented playmaker off the dribble with passing versatility, size and a smooth intermediate game should be on further display as Terry and the Wildcats take a step forward. NBA evaluators will likely love Dalen Terry’s combination of size and creativity.
Freshman || 6-6 & 182 pounds || Florida
It might not all be pretty this year with Florida, but Kowacie Reeves has stunted tools previously that could put him on the NBA radar rather quickly. A knockdown perimeter shooter with explosiveness as an athlete combine to likely produce some extremely enticing flashes in year one. I’d project some inefficiency and some weak spots as a ball handler with the output that Florida lost, but I hope to see Reeves receive high volume and sort through the offensive tools. The fluid spot up shooting with a high release and confidence against closeouts made him one of the best perimeter prospects in the 2021 cycle in terms of NBA scale in my eyes. Defensively, Reeves length and activity are extremely disruptive, and he’ll have the opportunity to display that with Scottie Lewis moving on to the Charlotte Hornets. Undervalued prep prospects leap into the NBA picture year after year, and while just a few candidates are listed here, Reeves will be one of the more convincing cases to track.
Freshman || 6-8 & 185 pounds || Memphis
Penny Hardaway has been connected to a variety of NBA gigs this offseason and will be moving forward, but his application of NBA principles to his own roster at Memphis could quickly become a factory for next-level prospects. Long, high-wired wings with shot making versatility fill the roster. Josh Minott caught my eye earlier this year and slowly began to gather more attention. With Landers Nolley and Earl Timberlake in the fold, it may be difficult for Minott to gather enough playing time early. Whether its in the 2022 or potentially 2023, Minott’s guard skillset, playmaking instincts and explosiveness as an athlete fit a ton of NBA prerequisites. Physically, he is still rather raw and wiry, but Minott has a rare ability to find his pull up game to rise and fire. I am extremely intrigued to see if he can carve out a role, as he was one of the more undervalued prospects in the 2021 cycle in my eyes.
Sophomore || 6-8 & 215 pounds || Georgia
Sophomore || 6-10 & 220 pounds || Washington State
Sophomore || 6-5 & 215 pounds || LSU
Sophomore || 6-4 & 200 pounds || Ole Miss
Sophomore || 6-7 & 215 pounds || TCU
Freshman || 6-8 & 220 pounds || Louisville