Bona fide talent typically follows the one-and-done path to the NBA Draft, but some prospects take a bit more time to blossom and truly catch the eyes of NBA talent evaluators. While some returners like Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin accrue significant lottery buzz before their sophomore campaigns, others with legitimate NBA potential fly under the radar on preseason mock drafts and big boards.
Each of the past two offseasons, I’ve conducted a rising sophomore breakout analysis to identify potential sophomore NBA Draft sleepers hiding in plain sight. We’ll dig into the methodology in greater detail, but essentially this analysis leverages an array of historical freshman season statistics for sophomore draftees over the past decade and maps them to the current prospect landscape. Let’s take a look at the prior two seasons’ results (previously kept behind closed doors for agency/team confidentiality reasons):
2020 NBA Draft
G: Jared Butler
G: Devin Vassell
F: Aaron Henry
F: Robert Woodard
C: Daniel Oturu
6M: Nate Hinton
2021 NBA Draft
G: Bones Hyland
G: Deuce McBride
F: Jaime Jaquez Jr.
F: Justin Champagnie
C: Orlando Robinson Jr.
6M: Julian Champagnie
As can be seen, this analysis has shown positive returns in identifying sophomores with NBA potential before the market catches on and their draft stock rises.
While being ahead of the curve certainly isn’t the be-all-end-all to talent evaluation, there is some practical value to being early on a prospect throughout the professional basketball landscape. NBA teams can leverage such projections to get a head start on their intel gathering endeavors and prioritizing their in-person scouting schedules. Agencies can build out a strategic recruiting roadmap and gain a leg up by building relationships with these prospects ahead of their competitors. Companies in the market for college basketball players as endorsers of their products/services can identify potential NIL influencer or brand ambassador arrangements with high ROI potential as the player’s draft stock rises. And, of course, all NBA Draft centric media members love being early identifiers of draftable talent.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of this year’s analysis and identify the under-the-radar rising sophomore 2022 NBA Draft breakout candidates.
Create a list of under-the-radar rising sophomores in college basketball on the brink of breakout seasons that will propel their NBA Draft stock to warranting early entry into the 2022 NBA Draft.
In order to identify possible ‘breakout’ rising sophomores with the potential to catalyze their draft stock and propel themselves into 2022 early entrant consideration, a population of 159 relevant rising sophomore candidates was identified using the following criteria:
1. Must have played Division I as a freshman, be playing Division I as a sophomore, and not be redshirting during the 2021-22 season
2. Must meet at least one of the following criteria: ranked in the weighted consensus top 500 NBA Draft prospects, ranked in the RSCI Top 100 of their high school recruiting class, earned all-conference accolades as a freshman, participated in a national/global high school showcase event (McDonald’s All-American, Nike Hoop Summit, Jordan Brand Classic, Ball is Life All-American, Basketball without Borders Global Camp, Pangos All-American Camp, NBPA Top 100 Camp, CP3 Elite Guard Camp, SC30 Select Camp, etc.), participated in a shoe-sponsored high school / college showcase event (Nike Basketball Skills Academy, Adidas Nations, Under Armour All-American Camp), represented their country in FIBA youth tournaments, are an immediate relative of a current or former NBA player
NCAA Data Collection
Historical NCAA data to be used in this analysis was gathered by querying a comprehensive list of total, per game, per 40, rate, and advanced statistics (approximately 75 metrics in total) for freshman/sophomore Division I college basketball players’ individual seasons dating back to the 2010-11 season via SportsReference. This data was subsequently matched with the list of 116 sophomore NBA draftees dating back to 2012 (the draft prior to Steph Curry breaking Ray Allen’s single-season three-point record, marking the beginning of a new era in the NBA) and the rising sophomore candidates.
For this exercise, the analysis focuses on prospects that aren’t already prominent, established draft candidates or college stars. As such, ‘breakout’ candidates have been designated as a sub-population of the 159 sophomores identified above by filtering for only those who meet all the following criteria:
1. Ranked outside the preseason weighted consensus top 75 2022 NBA Draft prospects
2. Ranked outside the RSCI Top 75 of high school recruiting class
3. Has not previously tested NBA Draft waters
This resulted in a remaining sub-population of 99 ‘breakout’ candidates.
This sub-population of 99 ‘breakout’ candidates was then applied floor/ceiling filters to their freshman statistical profiles based on the statistical profiles of the 116 sophomore NBA draftees from 2012 to 2021.
To both stay true to this analysis being done on legitimate sophomores, prospects who will be 21+ years old on the day of the 2022 NBA Draft were also eliminated from consideration.
Given the emphasis on shooting and spacing in the modern NBA and the fact that 98 of the 116 historical sophomore draftees attempted at least 10 three pointers their freshman season, prospects who did not meet this threshold were also eliminated from consideration.
Of the eight prospects remaining, the highest consensus ranked prospect was retained for each position, with a sixth man named via my own qualitative consideration and two remaining honorable mentions who met all criteria.
The prospects noted below showed statistical indicators in their freshman campaign that suggest the potential for a sophomore season worthy of 2022 NBA Draft early entrant consideration.
2022 NBA Draft Rookie Scale Rising Sophomore Breakout Team
G: Kadary Richmond | Seton Hall | 6’6” | 200 lbs. | 6’9” WS
G: Devo Davis | Arkansas | 6’4” | 180 lbs. | 6’8” WS
F: Justin Lewis | Marquette | 6’7 ¼” | 245 lbs. | 7’1” WS
F: Efe Abogidi | Washington State | 6’10” | 225 lbs. | 7’4” WS
C: Ąžuolas Tubelis | Arizona | 6’11” | 245 lbs. | 6’11 ¾” WS
6M: Colby Jones | Xavier | 6’6” | 207 lbs. | 6’8 ½” WS
Honorable Mentions: Johnny Davis (Wisconsin), Kerwin Walton (North Carolina)
The analysis intentionally ends here, for now.
The Rookie Scale team will be closely monitoring these prospects’ progress throughout the season and circle back on how they fare in subsequent scouting profiles, film breakdowns, and more…