As Summer League ends and the first returns are out on the 2021 draft cycle, it's time to fully immerse ourselves in the 2022 NBA draft class. We have enough initial lessons and data points from the 2021 guys through Summer League to have glimpses into our projections -- not enough to draw conclusions from, but small tidbits that can illuminate which rookies come in more ready than others.
Turning the page to 2022, the pandemic still hangs over this crop of talent like a storm cloud. Last season's pandemic-shortened season stifled the results from many young players who were robbed of a traditional preseason process. Others took the opportunity to get an extra year of eligibility and open transfer rules to find an advantageous home that could more readily prepare them for professional waters.
The major theme either way: this is a fairly depleted class of returners when it comes to high-end pro talent. There were very few with first-round likelihood who came back to school. But that doesn't mean the ripple effects of the pandemic stop there. The incoming freshman class, for as highly touted as the elite talents are, remain underscouted by NBA teams due to the cancellation of their final AAU seasons en masse and the lack of in-person scouting as a result of COVID. For those who don't quite reach first round status as freshmen, many could be looking to return to school in 2022-23 to increase their stock.
What does that mean? Expect a decidedly older flavor to the second round next year. As we preview the best returning prospects in college basketball, the shortage of first-round alphas gives way to a field chocked full with second-round hopefuls. As we've always seen, preseason perceptions often get shattered and guys rise or fall with regularity.
That said, here's our first dive into the 2022 class in written form, looking at the 50 best returners by our measure, starting with players who come in 50-31.
50. Andre Jackson, Connecticut