With the NBA Draft approaching rapidly, teams are now in the stage of narrowing their focuses to only a small number of prospects with the hope that they will still be available when it comes to their time to pick.
Obviously, teams will have favourites, but contingencies must exist if the player they have their eyes on has been scooped up before they can draft him. Whether that contingency means a different player or a trade down remains to be seen.
For players, the days and hours before the draft are ones where things start to become a little bit clearer for them, too. While there are always draft-day surprises, in many cases guarantees are made. Players are told by teams that if they’re still on the board, they’re going to take them. With so much uncertainty ahead of them, any kind of clarity is welcomed by players, even if that means ending up on a less-than-attractive team.
Ahead of Thursday’s draft, let’s look at where the four Canadians expected to be drafted could end up.
Caleb Houstan (Michigan), SG/SF – When it comes to Canadian content at the 2022 NBA Draft, there’s no shortage of mystery. With Shaedon Sharpe having never played an NCAA game, where he lands will be one of the draft’s most fascinating stories. But there’s some intrigue with Mississauga, Ont.’s Caleb Houstan, as well. A highly touted high school prospect, Houstan’s freshman season with the Wolverines was unspectacular. Struggling with his shot and a lack of athleticism, it was a bit of a surprise to see Houstan not return to Ann Arbor, but it was a big surprise to see him skip the NBA Combine. With that decision, speculation arose that he has a guarantee in place from a team that intends to take him in the first round. Who that might be remains to be seen, but the team that keeps being attached to Houstan is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs pick at No. 25 and Houstan will undoubtedly be available at that spot. Their second-round pick comes at No. 38 and there’s also a high likelihood Houstan will still be on the board there, too. But a promise is a promise (if one exists), and will that come into play for Houstan on Thursday night? Should he fall into the second round and is available at No. 33, Houstan will certainly be a consideration for the hometown Toronto Raptors with their lone 2022 pick.
Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona), SG – Montreal’s Bennedict Mathurin is unlikely to have to wait too long to hear Adam Silver call his name on Thursday. One of the most explosive players available, seemingly capable of posterizing an opponent on a nightly basis, Mathurin is one of the best wings on offer. There appears to be quite a bit of interest in Mathurin from the Detroit Pistons, who will select at No. 5. There already exists a Canadian contingent on Dwane Casey’s team in Toronto’s Kelly Olynyk and Cory Joseph. The addition of Mathurin would likely increase the chances of a Jerami Grant trade. The 28-year-old son of former Washington Bullets standout Harvey Grant, Grant’s last two seasons have been hampered by injury, but the Syracuse product has found his scoring touch in Detroit, averaging 22.3 points a night in 2020-2021 and 19.2 last season. Grant has one year and nearly $21 million remaining on his current deal. The Pistons should be able to command a hefty return for the player. Should the Pistons pass on Mathurin, the next team down the line – the Indiana Pacers – might be the team that selects him. The Pacers held an individual workout for Mathurin and are believed to be very interested in the Pac-12 Player of the Year, but are also said to covet both of Iowa forward Keegan Murray and guard Jaden Ivey of Purdue.
Andrew Nembhard (Gonzaga), PG – Few players saw their draft stock rise like Aurora, Ont.’s Andrew Nembhard did following the combine. The Gonzaga guard has gone from a borderline second-round pick to somebody who could easily go in the first round on Thursday night, thanks largely to the display he put on during the combine. Among point guards, Nembhard is one of the most experienced available and proven eminently capable of running an offence as its floor general. While his ceiling might not be as high as some of the other 1s available, his value is obvious, and he projects to be an NBA-level player. That said, it’s difficult to read the tea leaves when it comes to just when Nembhard might come off the board. But you can never have enough good point guard depth, so Nembhard will be an easy sell for more than one team on Friday night. If he does go in the first round, the Memphis Grizzlies (No. 29) and Denver Nuggets (No. 30) might be tempted to bite.
Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky), SG – Intrigue and uncertainty surrounding prospects headed into the NBA Draft is nothing new, but it’s a rarity when the type when that player is coming out of Kentucky. London, Ont.’s Shaedon Sharpe is probably the biggest question mark among draft-eligible players in 2022, with the lengthy wing having never actually suited up in an NCAA game. That is not going to be enough to dissuade teams from rolling the dice on a player who was the top high school recruit of the 2022 class and a player John Calipari says would be the first-overall pick in 2023 had he decided to return to Lexington for next season. Interestingly enough, the teams that like Sharpe are many of the same ones who are interested in Mathurin. With incredible athleticism, explosiveness and all the attributes necessary to excel at the pro game, Sharpe will be unlikely to fall out of the top 10 on Thursday night. While there appears to be no consensus as to where he could land, there is some buzz around the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 7.