Dribble Handoff: Four potential post-lottery NBA Draft picks who could evolve into All-Stars
Every team picking in this month’s NBA Draft wants to hit the perfect combination of value and fit in selecting players. The goal, as ever, is making the most of each pick to set your team up for future success. But as the top of the draft passes, it gets harder and harder to find difference-makers, particularly once you get outside the lottery. (That feels especially true in this draft.)
It’s certainly not impossible to hit on big talent late, though. For example: nine NBA All-Stars this year (Fred VanVleet, Khris Middleton, Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic, Draymond Green, Dejounte Murray, Jarrett Allen, Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo) were not lottery picks. While statistically it’s true that lottery picks in 2022 — and in most years — are more likely to develop into All-Stars, it’s clear they can be found late in the first, into the second and, even on rare occasion, via free agent pick-ups.
So who in the 2022 NBA Draft could follow a similar path to the nine non-lottery All-Stars this year? Our writers make their predictions below. Using the latest mock draft projections, each of us picked one who is not expected to be a lottery pick but could realistically develop at some point into making an All-Star team during their career.
Do I wish Chandler were 4 inches taller? Sure. But, despite his 6-foot frame, I’m still a believer in his speed, ability to get where he wants to go and shot-making from the perimeter. And it’s not like small point guards don’t flourish in the NBA. Future Hall of Famer Chris Paul is only 6-0. NBA All-Star Fred VanVleet is 6-1. Jalen Brunson, who is about to sign a massive deal as a free agent, is 6-1. Those three players are similar in the sense that they were all — just like Chandler — great college point guards who ran winning teams and made shots consistently. Looking back on it, Paul should’ve been the No. 1 pick in his draft while VanVleet and Brunson should’ve been top-10 picks in their drafts. Their lack of size cost them on draft night but hasn’t stopped them from being tremendous NBA players, and I’d bet on Chandler being the next little point guard to follow in their footsteps and exceed all draft-night expectations. — Gary Parrish
Boy, there are some tempting potential All-Stars to consider. I tried to pick the player who I thought
a) is a sure-fire first-round talent
b) has already established himself as great at something
c) will have a clear role at the next level
Kessler was a top-three defender last season, and the amount in which he improved in just one year under Bruce Pearl is undeniable. He has the size and athleticism to immediately step in and be a deployable backup center. He’ll likely be a starter eventually. If he can continue to be a versatile defender and grow into one of the best rim-protectors in the NBA, that is going to put him in position to be one of the centers represented on an All-Star team. Plus, he’ll likely have enough of an offensive skillset to be more than just a one- or two-dimensional, defense-only player. There’s a lot of potential here, and I think Kessler winds up getting drafted 5-10 spots too late. — Matt Norlander
Patrick Baldwin Jr.
Injuries have cut short two consecutive seasons for Baldwin — first at the high school level and most recently at the college level with Milwaukee — which has clouded his once-promising All-Star ceiling. But, if healthy, the former five-star recruit has lottery-level talent. If you go back two years ago, you’ll recall he was the No. 1 recruit in his class. Talent is not a question. At 6-foot-10, he has a 7-foot-2 wingspan, a smooth shooting stroke and excellent positional length. The injuries may push his stock down past the lottery this year — and his production in college when healthy doesn’t help his case — but when he’s right, there’s a case to be made he’s one of the 10 best players in this class. If he can find his form, get back to full strength and stay there, he’ll be one of the draft’s biggest steals. — Kyle Boone
Malaki Branham turned in arguably the most underrated freshman season of anyone in college basketball. While most of the attention centered on Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren, Branham averaged 19.4 points over Ohio State’s final 11 games while connecting on 56.6% of his attempts from the field. That’s an eye-catching percentage for a 6-5 guard. If his offensive efficiency translates to the NBA, Branham is an easy pick to become an All-Star.
Over time, Branham’s game will likely need to become more 3-point centric — he shot 41.6% from 3 but on just 2.8 attempts per game at OSU — and he’ll be required to prove his merits on the defensive end. But as his frame fills out and combines with his natural athleticism, his offensive game is strong enough to allow him to become a lead offensive option on most teams. Some of his All-Star potential will depend on where he ends up, but if it’s a franchise that is in the sweet spot of competent but not championship-caliber, he could thrive as a 16 to 20 points per game player within a few seasons of entering the league. — David Cobb