It’s still very early in the pre-draft process for 2022, but NBA teams are out in full force getting first impressions of many of the best prospects in the 2022 NBA draft class. Although the start of college basketball is still a month away, college pro days, practices and European league games and practices have already made an impact on ESPN’s top 100 for 2022.
How did Memphis freshmen Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren fare in their first exposure to high-level NBA decision-makers? How are top prospects Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, A.J. Griffin and Peyton Watson looking early on in Spokane, Durham and Westwood? Within the international realm, what are the early thoughts on how projected lottery pick Yannick Nzosa and potential first-rounder Ismael Kamagate are playing in Spain and France?
Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz crisscrossed the globe over the past few weeks, making evaluations and talking to other league evaluators to help answer those questions. ESPN has also established a new Top 100 as the 2021-22 college basketball season draws nearer on the horizon:
Top 100 for 2022 NBA draft
1. Chet Holmgren | PF | Age: 19.4 | Gonzaga
2. Paolo Banchero | PF/C | Age: 18.9 | Duke
3. Jaden Hardy | SG | Age: 19.2 | G League Ignite
4. Jalen Duren | C | Age: 17.8 | Memphis
5. Jabari Smith | PF/C | Age: 18.4 | Auburn
6. Caleb Houstan | SF | Age: 18.7 | Michigan
7. Yannick Nzosa | C | Age: 17.9 | Unicaja Malaga
8. Patrick Baldwin Jr. | SF/PF | Age: 18.8 | Milwaukee
9. Peyton Watson | SF | Age: 19.0 | UCLA
10. Jaden Ivey | PG/SG | Age: 19.6 | Purdue
11. Ousmane Dieng | SF/PF | Age: 18.3 | NZ Breakers
12. A.J. Griffin | SF/PF | Age: 18.1 | Duke
13. J.D. Davison | PG | Age: 19.0 | Alabama
14. Jean Montero | PG/SG | Age: 18.2 | Overtime Elite
15. Dyson Daniels | PG/SG | Age: 18.5 | G League Ignite
16. TyTy Washington | PG/SG | Age: 19.9 | Kentucky
17. Roko Prkacin | PF | Age: 18.8 | Cibona Zagreb
18. Kennedy Chandler | PG | Age: 19.0 | Tennessee
19. Daimion Collins | PF/C | Age: 18.9 | Kentucky
20. Ben Mathurin | SF | Age: 19.3 | Arizona
21. Khalifa Diop | C | Age: 19.7 | Gran Canaria
22. Mark Williams | C | Age: 19.8 | Duke
23. Nolan Hickman | PG | Age: 18.4 | Gonzaga
24. Allen Flanigan | SF | Age: 20.4 | Auburn
25. Tristan Vukcevic | PF | Age: 18.5 | Real Madrid
26. Keegan Murray | PF | Age: 21.1 | Iowa
27. Nikola Jovic | SF | Age: 18.3 | Mega Basket
28. Jaime Jaquez Jr. | SG | Age: 20.6 | UCLA
29. Caleb Love | PG/SG | Age: 20.0 | North Carolina
30. Hugo Besson | PG/SG | Age: 20.4 | NZ Breakers
31. Michael Foster | PF | Age: 18.7 | G League Ignite
32. Marcus Bagley |SF/PF | Age: 19.9 | Arizona State
33. Ochai Agbaji | SF | Age: 21.4 | Kansas
34. Andre Curbelo | PG | Age: 19.9 | Illinois
35. Walker Kessler | C | Age: 20.2 | Auburn
36. Ismael Kamagate | C | Age: 20.7 | Paris
37. Earl Timberlake | SF | Age: 20.9 | Memphis
38. Josiah Jordan-James | SG | Age: 21.0 | Tennessee
39. Johnny Juzang | SF | Age: 20.5 | UCLA
40. Matthew Mayer | SF/PF | Age: 22.0 | Baylor
41. Justin Lewis | SF/PF | Age: 19.4 | Marquette
42. Julian Champagnie | SF/PF | Age: 20.2 | St. John’s
43. Drew Timme | PF/C | Age: 21.0 | Gonzaga
44. Zach Edey | C | Age: 19.4 | Purdue
45. Gabriele Procida | SG | Age: 19.3 | Fortitudo Bologna
46. Ruben Dominguez | SG/SF | Age: 18.7 | Estudiantes
47. Zsombor Maronka | SF | Age: 19.0 | Joventut
48. Fedor Zugic | SG | Age: 18.0 | Ratiopharm Ulm
49. Ariel Hukporti | C | Age: 19.4 | Melbourne
50. Taevion Kinsey | SG | Age: 21.5 | Marshall
51. Trevor Keels | SF | Age: 18.1 | Duke
52. Andrew Nembhard | PG | Age: 21.7 | Gonzaga
53. MarJon Beauchamp | SG/SF | Age: 19.9 | G League Ignite
54. Max Abmas | PG | Age: 20.5 | Oral Roberts
55. Malcolm Cazalon | SG | Age: 20.1 | Mega Basket
56. Gui Santos | SF/PF | Age: 19.3 | Minas
57. Azuolas Tubelis | PF/C | Age: 19.5 | Arizona
58. Terrence Shannon Jr. | SG/SF | Age: 21.1 | Texas Tech
59. Jahvon Quinerly | PG | Age: 22.8 | Alabama
60. Matteo Spagnolo | PG | Age: 18.7 | Cremona
61. Boogie Ellis | PG/SG | Age: 20.8 | USC
62. Will Richardson | PG | Age: 22.1 | Oregon
63. Keon Ellis | SG/SF | Age: 21.7 | Alabama
64. DeVante’ Jones | PG/SG | Age: 23.5 | Michigan
65. Abramo Canka | SG/SF | Age: 19.5 | Nevezis
66. Trayce Jackson-Davis | PF/C | Age: 21.6 | Indiana
67. Davonte Davis | PG | Age: 20.0 | Arkansas
68. Iverson Molinar | SG | Age: 21.8 | Mississippi State
69. Justin Powell | PG/SG | Age: 20.4 | Tennessee
70. Dawson Garcia | C | Age: 20.0 | North Carolina
71. Hyunjung Lee | SF | Age: 20.9 | Davidson
72. Ibou Badji | C | Age: 18.9 | Lleida
73. Jabari Walker | PF | Age: 19.2 | Colorado
74. Mike Miles | PG | Age: 19.1 | TCU
75. Wendell Moore Jr. | SF | Age: 20.0 | Duke
76. Pavel Savkov | SG | Age: 19.4 | Azpeitia
77. Osun Osunniyi | PF/C | Age: 22.9 | St. Bonaventure
78. Buddy Boeheim | SG/SF | Age: 21.9 | Syracuse
79. Mojave King | SG | Age: 19.3 | Adelaide
80. Tom Digbeu | SG | Age: 20.0 | Brisbane
81. Kenneth Lofton Jr. | PF/C | Age: 19.1 | Louisiana Tech
82. Marcus Carr | PG | Age: 22.3 | Texas
83. Courtney Ramey | PG | Age: 22.0 | Texas
84. Nate Laszewski | PF | Age: 22.2 | Notre Dame
85. Tyson Etienne | PG/SG | Age: 22.0 | Wichita State
86. Nikita Mikhailovskii | SF | Age: 21.0 | Tasmania
87. Mario Nakic | SF | Age: 20.3 | Andorra
88. Christian Braun | SG | Age: 20.4 | Kansas
89. Isaiah Wong | G | Age: 20.7 | Miami
90. Donta Scott | PF | Age: 20.8 | Maryland
91. Yoan Makoundou | PF/C | Age: 21.1 | Cholet
92. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua | C | Age: 22.4 | Baylor
93. Makur Maker | PF/C | Age: 20.9 | Sydney Kings
94. Jalen Wilson | PF | Age: 20.9 | Kansas
95. Scotty Pippen Jr., | PG | Age: 20.9 | Vanderbilt
96. E.J. Liddell | PF | Age: 20.8 | Ohio State
97. Adam Flagler | SG | Age: 21.8 | Baylor
98. Kofi Cockburn | C | Age: 22.1 | Illinois
99. Darius Days | PF | Age: 21.9 | LSU
100. Eric Ayala | SG | Age: 22.7 | Maryland
Emoni Bates shows talent, room for growth in intro to NBA scouts
Emoni Bates showed both his youth and talent in what was most NBA executives’ first live look at the ballyhooed 17-year-old.
Running the point extensively for Memphis, Bates showed his advanced scoring instincts, budding playmaking ability and craft as a big guard. There were extreme highs — complicated sequences of polished footwork and changes of speed operating out of hesitation moves to get to the rim for explosive finishes. There were also lows — moments of overdribbling, missed passes, blown defensive assignments and questionable shot selection — which have characterized Bates’ game since he first emerged as a 14-year-old.
Went on ESPN Radio in Memphis to recap the Memphis Pro Day and Emoni Bates’ transition to the college game. pic.twitter.com/BtqFn34G2d
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) October 8, 2021
It’s clear that Bates has put in serious work into adding bulk to his lanky frame — he’s up to 190 pounds, nearly 20 pounds more than two years ago — and has made a conscious effort to play the game unselfishly and get others involved. His energy and intensity was infectious, and he’s obviously well-liked by teammates and the coaching staff.
Despite the added bulk, much was made of the poor measurements and athletic testing data (conducted by the same outfit that works the NBA combine) Bates posted. He measured a wingspan nearly 2 inches shorter than his height, with small hands, and a paltry 24½-inch standing and 31½-inch running vertical leap, as well as very slow sprint times. His closest NBA comparison in our measurements database is Atlanta Hawks’ wing Kevin Huerter. Bates’ lack of length was already well known, and many of the concerns about his athletic testing data were eased as executives watched him put his head on the rim on several impressive finishes in drills and live action. Bates is not the fastest or most explosive player around, which is why continuing to add bulk is going to be important.
Emoni Bates measurements from the Memphis Pro Day. pic.twitter.com/T2csW4jrpc
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) October 6, 2021
NBA scouts had mixed first impressions. Some called Bates overrated, comparing what they saw (unfairly) to the unrealistic “next KD” expectations that were placed on him when he was 14. Others were enthusiastic about the overall package of shot-making, bucket-getting prowess, notable team spirit and some of the impressive passes he made off a live dribble. It’s important to remember that Bates will play most of this upcoming season as a 17-year-old, and his age is the reason he won’t be eligible for the NBA draft until 2023. He’s more than seven years younger than teammate DeAndre Williams, has no real experience at the position he’s being asked to play, and has basically never been coached.
While there’s plenty to nitpick, and it’s obvious that Bates’ transition to the point guard position will be an up-and-down process, there’s no question that this season (and the following one if he decides to stay) will be outstanding for his long-term development, giving him the type of reps and hard coaching he needs to expand his game and break free of many of the bad habits acquired earlier in his career.
Bates had a much stronger practice the second day, which included plenty of live scrimmaging, compared with the first, which was more heavily attended by high-level decision-makers. Compared to what we saw this past summer, where Bates really struggled with efficiency and decision-making, this was an encouraging showing, confirming his status as one of the best prospects in the 2023 NBA draft. — Jonathan Givony
NBA draft Stock Watch
Loved breaking down film with projected top pick Chet Holmgren today in Spokane. Really impressed with his feel for the game and understanding of how to digest tape. Made some spectacular plays in practice on both ends. Big-time talent who should have a major impact this season. pic.twitter.com/4Rqp3aX5o4
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) October 8, 2021
Chet Holmgren | No. 1 in Top 100 | 7-1 | PF/C | Gonzaga
It didn’t take long into Gonzaga’s Oct. 8 practice to be reminded exactly why Holmgren sits atop our top 100. Now standing close to 7-2 with a 7-5-plus wingspan and impressive agility for his size, Holmgren put an absolute lid on the rim defensively, playing with a relentlessness you rarely see from prospects with his thin build. Offensively, Holmgren splashed pick-and-pop 3s with ease, rose into a two-dribble pull-up going left with the grace of an NBA wing, and showed his passing chops off the dribble.
Aside from his long-term durability and ability to add weight to his paper-thin frame, there aren’t many question marks about Holmgren as he enters his freshman season in Spokane. He can surely become more of a force on the defensive glass, play better in traffic offensively and slide on the perimeter more effectively. But Holmgren is even further along than a big like Evan Mobley at the same stage — both offensively and as a rim protector — which is high praise as the Cavs big man was highly regarded as a No. 1-caliber pick in most drafts. He’s also much tougher than a big like Kristaps Porzingis was at the same stage, which should allow him to slide up and play some 5 down the line.
Aside from the sweet shooting and shot-blocking instincts, what stood out most in a practice setting is Holmgren’s no-nonsense approach and intensity. No matter how many times he gets thrown to the ground, he always gets right back up immediately, rarely wincing or complaining. He’s advanced in the film room for a freshman, already understanding NBA concepts when we sat to break down his high school tape in Spokane.
Alongside Drew Timme up front, Holmgren will have no shortage of early opportunities to back up his No. 1 ranking with Gonzaga set to take on Texas, Peyton Watson and UCLA, Paolo Banchero and Duke, JD Davison and Alabama, Washington and Texas Tech in November and December. The Holmgren versus Banchero matchup in Las Vegas on Nov. 26 is arguably the most anticipated head-to-head elite prospect matchup we’ve seen in recent memory. — Mike Schmitz
Really productive day in Durham at Duke practice. Was able to get an updated look at potential top pick Paolo Banchero, who is in line for a big season. Great to check in on fellow freshmen AJ Griffin & Trevor Keels. Wendell Moore & Mark Williams have both taken a step forward. pic.twitter.com/YiDoGRdTDf
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) October 7, 2021
Paolo Banchero | No. 2 in Top 100 | 6-10 | PF | Duke
Spending the day in Durham at Duke practice affirmed the notion that Banchero will be a double-double machine this season, battling for an all-conference spot and status as the draft’s top prospect in the process. He’s every bit of 250 pounds with thick legs, a strong upper body and impressive mobility at 6-10 that should allow him to put pressure on opposing front lines with an effective blend of power and agility. In live action playing alongside 7-footer Mark Williams, Banchero showed his passing feel, ability to attack open space off the dribble, score out of the post and create extra possessions on the offensive glass.
For Banchero to emerge as the top pick in this 2022 class and surpass the tantalizing Holmgren — and other No. 1 candidates like Jaden Hardy and Jalen Duren — he’ll have to prove himself as a consistent 3-point shooter, continue simplifying his game by being more efficient with his dribble, and fine-tune his defense, showcasing more versatility on that end.
Playing alongside a finisher like Williams, it’s important that Banchero is able to knock down the 3 at a decent clip, as that will create hard closeouts and set the table for the rest of his offensive attack. If his 3-point consistency is ultimately slow to develop, Banchero’s best collegiate position might be small-ball 5 if surrounded by shooting thanks to his shot creation relative to his strength. But regardless of which position he’s playing, given his sheer physicality, skill level, and feel for the game, there’s little doubt about Banchero’s NBA floor. We’ll all learn a lot more about him against Kentucky and Oscar Tshiebwe (Nov. 9), and when Duke takes on Gonzaga in Vegas (Nov. 26).
As for the rest of the Blue Devils, projected lottery pick AJ Griffin (No. 12 in the Top 100) is now out with a sprained knee suffered in practice, and figures to be one of the more polarizing prospects for scouts to follow this season. Playing with the second unit for Duke, the 18-year-old stumbled a bit out of the gate when NBA scouts evaluated him at the aforementioned scrimmage, but showed his value when we were in Durham, competing, attacking the rim and making plays on both ends. Having just turned 18 on Aug. 25 and still evolving in terms of skill level and consistency, scouts should be patient with Griffin, who has clear NBA tools at 6-6, 222 pounds with a 7-0 wingspan, huge hands, and a pro-ready body.
Williams (No. 22 in the Top 100) is the Duke prospect who has garnered the most buzz out of Durham, and it’s easy to see why at 7-0 with a 7-7 wingspan, huge standing reach and ability to change the game as both a finisher and rim protector. Should Williams continue building on his preseason momentum, expect him to get first-round looks this season. Junior wing Wendell Moore (No. 75) appears poised to make a jump as well, playing with more confidence from beyond the arc while possessing an impressive physical profile (6-5, 210 pounds, 6-11 wingspan) and a strong feel for the game. Some scouts noted he was the best player on the floor for stretches during Duke’s scrimmage.
Freshman Trevor Keels (No. 51) has been a pleasant surprise for Coach K and Duke so far, as he appears in line to potentially start for the Blue Devils despite having just turned 18 one day after Griffin. Keels is a thick-bodied 6-4, 221-pound guard who competes defensively, has an impressive feel for the game, can make an open 3 and impacts the game without needing much volume, which could eventually appeal to NBA scouts if he keeps working on his body, and turns in an efficient season. — Mike Schmitz
Jalen Duren | No. 4 in Top 100 | 6-10 | C | Memphis
Duren, the No. 4 prospect in the ESPN 100, had an overwhelmingly positive showing at the Memphis pro day, measuring and testing exceptionally well and more importantly having some absolutely dominant moments in both drills and live action. His measurements compared favorably to the likes of DeAndre Jordan and Nene, while his play drew comparisons to the likes of Bam Adebayo and a young Dwight Howard. Like Bates, Duren elected to skip his senior year of high school and enroll early at Memphis, but unlike Bates (born in January 2004), Duren’s November 2003 birthday makes him NBA draft-eligible this upcoming June.
Talking through Jalen Duren’s performance at the Memphis Pro Day, his NBA evaluation and a lot more on 92.9 ESPN Radio in Memphis pic.twitter.com/3Qa93ihFDT
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) October 8, 2021
Duren’s intensity — previously a question mark — was on another level from what we had previously seen, as was his productivity. He had several eye-opening moments where he skied above the rim (while barely needing to gather himself) and nearly crushing the basket on his finishes, showing the type of power and explosiveness you rarely see from a 17-year old. Several NBA executives said Duren could easily step on the floor for them and not look out of place, especially with the versatility he showed defensively — hedging ball screens and covering ground impressively on both ends of the floor.
Memphis appears to be in the process of installing a new offense intended to take advantage of Duren’s solid passing ability, allowing him to create out of dribble-handoffs from the perimeter and make decisions out of short rolls. The speed Duren shows getting in and out of ball-screens, and his ability to make himself a target for over-the-top lobs thanks to his reliable hands and ability to get off his feet quickly, will be huge for Memphis, as will the presence he brings sprinting the floor and crashing the offensive glass. Duren’s at-times mechanical style of play and average touch around the rim was more noticeable in the second day of practices, which featured more competitive scrimmaging, but overall this was a very positive impression for NBA scouts seeing him for the first time. — Jonathan Givony
Jabari Smith | No. 5 in Top 100 | 6-10 | PF/C | Auburn
With top-40 prospects Allen Flanigan (achilles) and Walker Kessler (concussion) injured, Jabari Smith had the attention of several dozen NBA scouts assembled at the Auburn Pro Day all to himself. Smith capitalized in a major way with a strong two-hour practice highlighting the impressive combination of physical ability, offensive skill and defensive versatility that makes him a projected top-five pick — Smith possesses one of the highest upsides of any prospect in the class.
Really impressed with the mobility, fluidity, shooting stroke and defensive versatility Jabari Smith showed at the Auburn Pro Day. Modern big man with a huge upside to continue to evolve physically at just 18-years old. pic.twitter.com/o1YUBYP8Nc
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) October 9, 2021
While still on the leaner side at just 220 pounds, Smith will be one of the most fluid and mobile players in the college game. He covers ground exceptionally well on both ends of the floor and gets off his feet effortlessly. Smith put his head on the rim several times, also looking very natural stepping out to the perimeter and throwing in 3-pointers with smooth mechanics and soft touch. Smith lacks a degree of physicality and strength, and is still figuring out how to best use his very high skill level inside the arc, but showed several flashes of ball handling and passing that could be honed into significant tools in time.
Defensively, Smith was regularly matched up with guards and showed a very athletic stance, getting low and sliding his feet with agility on the perimeter, as well as contesting shots around the rim and beyond the arc. He gets moved around a little more than you’d hope, especially on the defensive glass, but seems to have huge upside on this end of the floor as well.
Drawing some comparisons to Jaren Jackson at the same age, Smith’s productivity this season will help determine where he eventually gets picked, but it was clear that NBA executives are extremely high on his long-term potential. — Jonathan Givony
In Pauley Pavilion today for UCLA practice. Over 15 NBA scouts here to evaluate 6-8 freshman wing Peyton Watson, 6-7 scorer and NCAA tournament standout Johnny Juzang, high motor wing Jaime Jaquez and the rest of this Bruins group that went to the Final Four last season. pic.twitter.com/lNtNr25wTm
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) October 6, 2021
Peyton Watson | No. 9 in Top 100 | 6-8 | Wing | UCLA
Along with more than 15 NBA scouts, we attended UCLA’s first open practice to get a look at Watson and a loaded Bruins team that could be headed for another deep NCAA tournament run. Coming off the bench for UCLA in practice, Watson doesn’t have the easiest pathway to an ultraproductive freshman season with Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez likely garnering a lot of the offensive volume. With that said, scouts got to see Watson in a role he’ll likely play in the NBA — defending, getting out in transition, attacking the rim, taking open 3s and moving the ball. As we saw at the U19 World Championships, the late-blooming Watson is far from the most polished prospect in this draft as his spot-up shooting is a work in progress.
But at 6-8, 200 pounds with a 7-0 wingspan, Watson is a rangy defender who can wreak havoc on and off the ball, can finish above the rim in space and is farther along as a ball handler and passer than most wings in his mold. I wouldn’t expect Watson to put up gaudy box score numbers this season, but if he can add value defensively, make plays off the dribble in space, and shoot it well enough to instill some optimism that he can eventually evolve into a league-average spot shooter, he’ll get no shortage of looks in the top 10. As we saw with Ziaire Williams going 10th after a tough freshman season at Stanford, the NBA is starved for rangy wings, and Watson fits that mold.
Watson isn’t Mick Cronin’s only NBA prospect, however. Jaime Jaquez, 20, has been regarded as the best player in the gym for a lot of the preseason. A rugged 6-6 wing who has turned himself into a sniper from 3 and a capable facilitator off the bounce, Jaquez (No. 28 in the top 100) could garner first-round interest if he makes the jump most expect him to as a junior. Johnny Juzang (No. 39) remains firmly on the NBA radar as well thanks to his size, length, and versatile shooting stroke. While still improving defensively, Juzang, a 6-6 scorer, looked much more comfortable as a passer in practice, making heady reads out of pick-and-rolls and quick actions, which would go a long way in boosting his stock. — Mike Schmitz
Last game abroad before heading to the states: Unicaja vs Murcia. Getting eyes on 17-year-old Congolese big man Yannick Nzosa, a potential 2022 1st rounder. The long & lean Nzosa is incredibly quick and light on his feet at 6-11, which shows up both as a rim runner and defender. pic.twitter.com/02LpBnkq49
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) October 2, 2021
Yannick Nzosa | No. 7 in Top 100 | 6-11 | Center| Unicaja Malaga
ESPN traveled to Murcia, Spain, to evaluate the potential lottery pick. Nzosa is a speedy 6-11 big man who cemented himself on the NBA radar with his surprise productivity in the ACB and EuroCup for Malaga as a teenager last season. After missing five months with a groin injury, the Democratic Republic of Congo native is off to a slow start for Unicaja Malaga, shooting just 7-of-22 from the field through six games after converting 64% of his shots through 39 games a season ago.
Even though he’s still working through some rust on the offensive end, Nzosa showed exactly the type of game-changing defender he can be in the NBA during an 18-minute, four-block performance in a come-from-behind win over Murcia. At close to 6-11 in shoes with a 7-4 wingspan, Nzosa covers an incredible amount of ground defensively, challenging shots at the rim with verticality, sprinting the floor for chasedown blocks and suffocating guards on the perimeter as a switch defender. While his defensive discipline could still use work, Nzosa plays with tremendous energy and is the type of live body who can barely sit still on the bench. He can switch, hang with perimeter players, and change shots around the rim, but to fully maximize his defensive potential he’ll have to continue getting stronger, as he’s quite lean with a wiry 208-pound frame that would remind you of young bigs like Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Jackson, Anthony Randolph, Nic Claxton, among others.
Offensively, Nzosa is at his best sprinting the floor — which he does better than any big-man prospect I’ve ever evaluated with rare speed and the ability to even shift gears while in full stride. He’s a lob threat in the half court, an active offensive rebounder, and capable of getting from the 3 to the front of the rim for a dunk in one dribble. Nzosa will have to continue improving his screening angles, shaky hands, ball handling, decision-making and touch around the rim to fully utilize his physical tools as a diver and slasher — he’s scoring just 8.5 points per 40 minutes right now.
The 17-year-old Nzosa, who speaks five languages but has been playing basketball only since age 13, might not be the potential top-5 pick he was once touted as, but the way he moves on the floor is incredibly unique. And that combined with his high energy, infectious personality and the need for switch-heavy, vertical-spacing bigs in the NBA in the Clint Capela mold, bodes well for him as long as he starts to get more comfortable on the offensive end as the season progresses. — Mike Schmitz
In Paris this morning scouting 6-11 French big man Ismael Kamagate of Paris Basketball. The springy 20-year-old had a great preseason averaging 13.2 PTS & 9.8 REBS while shooting 77% in 31.4 MIN over 6 games. Could be in line for a breakout season with Paris now in 1st division. pic.twitter.com/iBBwPwQYxN
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) September 30, 2021
Ismael Kamagate | No. 36 in Top 100 | 6-11 | Center | Paris Basket
The international prospect making the most noise is Kamagate, a bouncy 6-11 French center (with roots on the Ivory Coast, from which his parents are natives) on a rapid trajectory that should earn him looks throughout the second round — and potentially the first — if he keeps producing like he has. Through three France Pro A games alongside Celtics stash Juhann Begarin, Kamagate is averaging 11 points, 6 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 3.3 blocks in 29.1 minutes, most recently registering an 18-point, 9-block game last Saturday. For reference, Capela averaged 9.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.5 blocks in 21.6 minutes per game over 33 Pro A contests during his draft-eligible year (at age 19) and was ultimately selected 25th.
We spent the day with Kamagate in Paris to watch him practice, break down film, and learn more about his path from end of the bench youth player to NBA prospect. Kamagate looks the part physically standing 6-11, 227 pounds with a 7-3 wingspan and a 9-0 reach, giving him solid measurements for an NBA center, especially when you consider his late-blooming status. While not quite as long as Capela, his physical profile isn’t far off as Capela measured 6-11, 222 pounds and a 7-4.5 wingspan at the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit.
Kamagate is incredibly agile for his size with great hands, soft touch, and an improving passing feel that he showed off at the U20 European Championships this summer. His offensive confidence and defensive motor fluctuate far more than scouts would hope, but when Kamagate is playing with consistent belief, he’s an effective lob-catcher, offensive rebounder, switch defender, and rim protector. Improving on the defensive glass remains a priority for Kamagate. With Victor Wembanyama just a two-hour train ride away in Lyon, expect NBA scouts and executives to dig in extensively on Kamagate as he’s in an excellent opportunity to showcase his growth with consistent playing time at his disposal. — Mike Schmitz
Some footage of Earl Timberlake from the Memphis Pro Day. Timberlake showed impressive defensive versatility, passing ability and explosive finishing in front of a host of NBA executives. pic.twitter.com/1IiFkGLkbA
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) October 7, 2021
Earl Timberlake | No. 37 in Top 100 | 6-6 | SF | Memphis
While we saw a healthy dose of Emoni Bates bringing the ball up the court and initiating sets for the Tigers, he won’t be a one-man show based on what we saw from the Tigers in live action. The team has several capable passers at its disposal in Earl Timberlake, DeAndre Williams, Lester Quinones and last year’s starting point guard, Alex Lomax, all of whom bring collegiate experience to the table.
Timberlake, a transfer from Miami, is perhaps the most fascinating from a NBA perspective. Participating in only his third and fourth practices after having offseason neck surgery to alleviate a shoulder injury dating to last year, Timberlake will have to relearn his shooting mechanics in a process not all that dissimilar to what Markelle Fultz has undergone in his NBA career. The results were mixed in terms of Timberlake’s jump shot, which features a low release and awkward side spin, but he impacted the game in myriad ways elsewhere, drawing quite a bit of intrigue from NBA executives in the process.
Timberlake is one of the most explosive athletes on a roster full of physical specimens, boasting a chiseled 220-pound frame that should allow him to slide seamlessly to defending guards, wings, forwards and even big men. He also showed flashes of being perhaps the best passer on the roster, regularly initiating out of pick-and-roll sets and showing impressive timing on the move.
The least heralded member of Memphis’ recruiting class, John Camden, quietly had some impressive moments in both days of action, indicating that he might emerge as a real factor this season and certainly beyond. Duren’s teammate at the grassroots level, Camden is a big wing who stands 6-8, is a solidly built 208 pounds, and at times looked like the best shooter on the roster, piquing the interest of NBA executives. Memphis is loaded with wings and forwards, which might make it difficult for Camden to break through this season, especially with the team’s defensive-first identity, which doesn’t exactly fit Camden at the moment. Making strides in that area, which he’ll be asked to every day in practice considering the caliber of players he’ll be guarding, will determine whether Camden is able to emerge as a real prospect in time, but the early signs looked promising. — Jonathan Givony
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.