There are a few players every draft that are classified as “boom or bust” prospects. They can reach tremendous heights, but they can also easily fail to realize their potential and disappear on the bench. In essence, their range of outcomes is far greater than most. This year was no exception, as it contained picks of this nature. Will these players reward the risk taken by the franchises? Or will they be viewed as a dud because the players foreseeably failed to develop?
Shaedon Sharpe – Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers selected Sharpe with the 7th pick despite the glaring absence of basketball competition beyond the high school level. Sharpe was a consensus 5-star prospect who committed to Kentucky, but he ultimately decided to take the year off and protect his draft status. The 6’5” guard has a massive vertical leap and 6’11” wingspan. He’s shown elite isolation scoring potential and the ability to produce on or off-ball. Sharpe’s three-point shooting, effective handle, and mid-range chops are tantalizing, so it’s easy to envision a sparkling future for him. If Sharpe hits his ceiling, the Blazers will have drafted an All-Star scorer who can get to his spots at will and drop 28 PPG.
However, it’s completely unknown whether Sharpe can hang with NBA players or even elite college players. There are plenty of top recruits who dominate in high school, impress scouts, and utterly flop against the best of the best. He has the physical tools to excel, but Sharpe missed the opportunity to hone his technical skills at Kentucky. Because the jump from high school to the NBA is unfathomably large, it may take years for Sharpe to acclimate without the stepping stone of college aiding his transition. If Sharpe struggles, then he likely ends up as a decent but replaceable scorer off the bench. Given that his range is top tier All-Star or 6th-7th man, Sharpe is the biggest boom or bust player in the 2022 Draft.
Patrick Baldwin Jr. – Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors drafted Baldwin at 28th overall and banked on his upside over disappointing college production. He was 5th in ESPN’s 2021 Top 100 recruiting ranking, but he chose University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Duke to play for his father. The 6’10” forward sports a 7’1” wingspan and smooth jump shot. He displayed a nice fadeaway mid-range jumper and catch and shoot utility. If Baldwin develops, he can become a 18-20 PPG scorer who produces off the dribble and as a spot up shooter. His ceiling is fringe All-Star, but there are plenty of obstacles and warning signs.
Baldwin severely struggled with efficiency in college, and his on-ball defense was mediocre at best. The combine unearthed worrisome metrics, as Baldwin ranked last in max vertical leap (26.5”) and 2nd to last in lane agility time (12.25 seconds). With athletic limitations, poor defense, and streaky shooting, it’s extremely feasible that Baldwin becomes a perennial backup forward. His range of fringe All-Star to 12 MPG bench forward is sizable, but both outcomes are realistic. The fact that he landed with the Warriors should elate him, as they are superb at developing players.
PATRICK BALDWIN HIGHLIGHTS 🔥 pic.twitter.com/FEvYUrx2sY
— GoldenState 🏆 (@GoIdenState) June 24, 2022
Peyton Watson – Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets took Watson (12th in ESPN’s 2021 Top 100 recruiting ranking) with the 30th pick even though he averaged 3.3 PPG during his freshman season at UCLA. The Bruins were a hyper-competitive squad filled with veterans though, so it’s not frightening that he couldn’t crack the core rotation. The 6’8” forward displayed a clear defensive upside due to a 7’0” wingspan and solid footwork. He survived against guards on the perimeter when he switched and blocked plenty of shots from behind the ball handler. Watson flashed playmaking and ball handling potential, which is desirable for his size. If he fully develops, he can be a plus defender who creates for others and scores 12-16 PPG.
His offensive game is exceedingly raw; he had a 32.2 FG% and 22.6 3PT%. Watson’s shooting form is slow and forced, which rarely manifests itself into a sharpshooter. Despite his frame, he struggled to finish around the basket and looked uncomfortable overall. Should Watson fail to improve his jump shot, he would be a one-dimensional player who cannot stay on the court in the playoffs. His range is an impact starter near an All-Defensive team to a player barely clinging to any meaningful minutes. It’s unknown whether he will develop, but one thing is certain: it will take a few years.
Kendall Brown – Indiana Pacers
The Pacers acquired Kendall Brown with the 48th pick. He ranked 17th in ESPN’s 2021 Top 100 recruiting ranking and had a solid freshman season at Baylor. Brown is 6’7” with a 6’11” wingspan, so he has good length. Brown flashed great defensive potential as a forward who can switch 1-4. He often smothered opposing ball handlers and had sequences where he stuck to guards like glue. Brown was an effective cutter and transition player, and when given the opportunity, he flashed some playmaking. If Brown reaches his heights, then Indiana will have drafted a defensive stopper who can thrive in the open court and move the ball around.
Brown was a poor catch and shoot player who struggled mightily to convert off the bounce. His limited scoring diversity diminished his impact, and he turned the ball over too much. Brown must improve his shooting stroke and tighten his handle in order to become a great two-way starter. If his offense doesn’t improve, then Brown will be in a similar spot as Watson: a plus defender who is unplayable in the playoffs because of poor shooting. His range is also an impact starter near an All-Defensive team to a player barely clinging to any meaningful minutes. Should Brown hit his ceiling, he would be a candidate for “second round steal of the draft”.
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) May 27, 2022