The 2022 NBA draft will take place on Thursday 23 June. Since the networks have decided to defer the selection owed to them in the James Harden deal, the sixes will select 23rd overall. Before drafting, we’ll be looking at several prospects that fit the Sixers and could represent realistic possibilities at No. 23.
Increasing evidence points to Daryl Morey and Elton Brand trading their 2022 NBA draft pick. The rumor with the most legs is that they’re shopping Danny Green along with Pick No. 23. But if they choose to keep this one, They could be considering another very big swing.
And at 6-5, 187 pounds, a 19-year-old guard from Notre Dame, Blake Wesley might just fill that bill.
The South Bend IN. Native appeared in 35 games last season dropping 14.4 points on 40.4% shots from the ground, 30.3% from deep, 65.7% from the streak, plus 3.7 rebounds, 2, 4 assists and 1.3 steals per out. He brought the coveted triple threat skills and showed he is a talent who can help his team off the ball and as a playmaker as well.
Wesley made the 2021-22 All-ACC Second Team and the 2021-22 All-ACC Freshman Team. Some people wondered if he might be able to jump the lottery in 2023 by staying one more season, but he’ll be a one-and-done … Notre Dame’s first ever.
Only a select few of your favorite Sixers prospects have received Green Room invites (for the likely top 20 picks). Wesley is one of those guys. Tari Eason, Jalen Williams, MarJon Beauchamp and Wesley, for example, received Green Room invites for Thursday’s draft, while Jaden Hardy, Dalen Terry, Kendall Brown, Kennedy Chandler and EJ Liddell did not.
Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley has received a Green Room invitation to take his family to the June 23 NBA draft, a source tells ESPN. pic.twitter.com/prryFLvw8f
— Jonathan Giveny (@DraftExpress) June 17, 2022
And you can see why he looked like a pro among varsity players at times, like when he lost six triples to Wake Forrest:
- ESPN ranked him 27th overall.
- The alarm clock: 21
- The athlete: 24
- CBS: 26
Wesley has some exciting bursts and is comfortable with tempo and direction changes in small spaces. He’s flaunted both slippery and wild finishes in just 35 games at Notre Dame. Mixing feline quickness that squeezes through tight spaces with raw power that harnesses a strong lower body, he has shown enough to paint an abstract portrait of a versatile two-way NBA combo guard in the future.
As I watch his film, I’m surprised I haven’t heard his name more often in Sixersville. He’s an impressive sight.
Among the top ball leaders in the country, Wesley was just too heavy for most defenders to stay ahead, using isolation and ball shielding to create valuable paint touches for his team while also waving raw playmaking skills.
As Jake Rosen, who our Jackson Frank met recently, might tell you, it’s all about pops of color.
He’s even shown a flare for big moments and practiced some clutch shots for the Irish vs. Georgia Tech, Boston College, University of Kentucky and most notably against Alabama in the tournament.
Defensively he has shown he can stay with his man, has fluid hips, quick feet and good balance. During the year, he also developed a knack for hitting passes (44 steals total) and creating high-proof transition looks for blue and gold.
Wesley is an aggressive and confident contender. That can work for and against him. But he was an important part of the Fighting Irish’ second tournament win over Alabama as he finished 8 of 14 on the big stage with 18 points and three steals.
Wesley excelled in pick-and-roll situations:
He’s a good athlete who brings an enticing agility on the wing to any team.
His plus 6-9 wingspan and 8-7 stance help him on both ends of the ground, lending credence to the theory that he could one day defend 1-3 in the big leagues and improve his finishing on the rim.
Per ESPN, as of March 2022:
“Wesley is a huge talent who has NBA feet and strays from dribbling, can get a sliver of paint at will and has at least shown enough dribbling shot potential to suggest there is room for improvement. With a strong pre-design process, it’s not impossible for Wesley to turn heads in his teens, especially if he shoots the ball well.”
It remains to be seen if Wesley did enough in the pre-draft process to warrant a teenage pick, but it’s clear he’s impressed for showing a serious NBA-level breakout.
Wesley enjoys playing the ball, his usage rate has been a 31.3, and there is no glaring need for another ball-dominant player in many competing teams that select in this area. And he’d probably be better served in a secondary, tertiary, or off-ball role earlier in his career. But his catch-and-shoot game might not be ready for all of that.
He was only 32 percent in catch-and-shoot jumpers and 33 percent in all jumpers.
As Mike Schmitz wrote before leaving ESPN for the Portland Trailblazers:
“Of the 143 players who fired at least 130 shots to the rim in the halffield, Wesley ranked 142nd for efficiency. He also needs to prove himself as a perimeter shooter throughout the pre-draft process as he finished the year with 30.3% out of 3.”
So despite the clear advantages and talent, Wesley’s game is so raw that scouts are wondering when (or if) he can pull it all together.
Turnovers and perimeter shooting have certainly been an issue for him at times over the past year. He only finished 3 of 14 in the final elimination game against Texas Tech with three turnovers. The game was looking a bit fast for him at this point.
There are the lackluster shooting splits the newcomer finished with: 40.4/30.3/65.7.
I got a chance to spend a day in Vegas and watch Blake Wesley train at Impact. Wesley’s suppleness, athleticism, ball handling and shooting really stood out in person. He also looks stronger and is said to have gained 9 pounds since the end of the season. pic.twitter.com/JuIDXsKB3B
— Rafael Barlowe (@Barlowe500) May 11, 2022
His ease of getting to his points and creating separation, his obvious comfort shooting from dribbles, teases an advantage as a jumper. But the fact remains, its current form is not a finished product. And that’s perhaps why he too often settles for competitive pull-ups when his favorite rim attacks are thwarted.
His shooting mechanics are compact, but last year there was a touch of catapult action as he pulls the ball towards his face with a bent elbow and then shoots without reaching the optimal arc:
When that jump shot comes, he’ll likely be a big steal where he’s likely to be picked. But because significant, lasting improvement is never certain for shooters, Wesley slips into the second round of some taunts.
Here, his free-throw form shows he’s mastered most of the principles, but Frank Ntilikina still looks a bit stiff:
This exaggerated backward tilt (see his hips in front of his shoulders) indicates an imbalance:
But he’s been working on it a ton since then and it’s looking a bit smoother lately. The right elbow can bottom out, but that’s workable.
Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley trained in front of a large audience of NBA executives at CAA Pro Day, displaying his strong ability to shift gears, explosiveness as a finisher and up-and-coming shooting. pic.twitter.com/ylJA6c8h0i
— Jonathan Giveny (@DraftExpress) May 28, 2022
His firing arm is too low. He needs to hold it, elbows at eye level so he gets more arch. Lock out that elbow and freeze the run.
Fit on Sixers
If the Sixers decide to keep that pick, it will be tempting to pick one of the highest upside prospects in the space. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor suggested Philadelphia take Wesley because he looks like he could get buckets. KOC sees shades of Tyler Herro, Jamal Crawford and Bones Hyland in Wesley’s game. While I’m not sure I’d agree with these contests, given these guys’ smooth jump shots, I can certainly stand behind the idea of drafting BW if they keep that choice.
Do the Sixers have a sense of confidence that they can work with a prospect who’s close but not quite there?
Remember, Tyrese Maxey’s release wasn’t as smooth as it is today:
Maxey had the basic foundation for a good shot. So if Philadelphia’s front office thinks Wesley does that too, thinks he’s a tireless worker, thinks they can help him with the rest, then this election makes a lot of sense.
Speaking of which… Krysten Peek caught up with B-Dub, who’s a huge Maxey fan (emoji eyes):
KRYSTEN PEEK: What NBA players do you watch and then try to emulate your game?
BLAKE WESLEY: Tyrese Maxey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Oh, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?
BLAKE WESLEY: Yes, him. And Caris LeVert. People remind me of Caris LeVert because I have the movement like him and I like the ability to jump like him and he likes the bounce.
Even so, the odds of Wesley not being able to clock up minutes in the upcoming season seem reasonable. He can overthink and misread, he can hesitate and then settle for difficult mid-range shots. That’s certainly not what the Sixers are looking for, and part of why Jaden Springer spent a year with the Blue Coats, as Daryl Morey has hinted. You need someone who, when open, can just fly it low out of the corners without overthinking it, and D up.
Blake Wesley may not be ready for this. But offensively he would be better than Matisse Thybulle, for example. And he’s a far better defender than names like Jaden Hardy. Still, he didn’t pull too many free throws. His decision making was suspect. As such, he may not be ready to step on the floor and force a coach as conservative as Doc Rivers to play him outright like Maxey once did. especially with James Harden in town.
So when I hear Wesley’s name on Thursday, I won’t be shocked if it’s in a pending deal for another team. He’s a real contender with real NBA tools and talent, so many teams will likely be excited to mold him. Again, market value comes into play if you want an asset that is valued. But if you stick with him, you can slowly allow yourself to rejoice in picking 23 for one of the bigger shots on the board. And I’m pretty optimistic that this jump shot is doable. So if teams called about Wesley, I’d be tempted to say, “Yeah, um, we’ll get back to you about this.”