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Walker Kessler and 3 overlooked 2022 NBA Draft prospects

Robbie Stratakos

Sure, Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero are the headliners of the 2022 NBA Draft class. Perhaps, a team trades up for Jaden Ivey or Bennedict Mathurin.

At the same time, there are plenty of other players who can be instant contributors and potentially as impactful as said prospects. Furthermore, there are several players who have fallen under the radar throughout the NBA Draft process.

Here are three overlooked players who can be savvy draft selections in the back end of the lottery portion of the annual event.

Relted: 2022 NBA mock draft

Malaki Branham is the upside pick of the 2022 NBA Draft

nba draft: malaki branham
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
  • Malaki Branham stats (2021-22): 13.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 49.8/41.6/83.3

Branham is a compelling selection as soon as the middle of the lottery portion of the draft. The 6-foot-5 wing had an enticing freshman season at Ohio State. Branham flashed an ability to do a little bit of everything on the offensive end — shooting efficiently, putting the ball on the floor and scoring in varying ways as a whole.

The former Buckeye also has long arms, which helps him execute athletic inside buckets and intercept passes on the defensive end. Now, Branham is a raw prospect. He only has one season of college play under his belt and didn’t pick up steam until conference play last season (roughly two months into the season).

On the other hand, Branham has the upside to become a reliable and versatile scorer. He’ll likely come off the bench wherever he lands, anyway, which is ideal for his precise standing.

  • Malaki Branham NBA Draft fits: New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Pelicans

Related: Top 50 2022 NBA Draft prospects

Kennedy Chandler is the sly point guard of the 2022 NBA Draft

nba draft prospects: kennedy chandler
Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Kennedy Chandler stats (2021-22): 13.9 points, 4.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game while shooting 46.4/38.3/60.6

One way or another, an NBA contender needs to have an effective lead guard. Chandler is one of the most-fascinating players in this draft class and a safe bet to become a starting point guard in the early stages of his NBA career.

The point guard looked like a seasoned pro in his lone season of college play. Chandler was a scrappy, two-way player. He got to the rim off the dribble, was a respectable shooter, electric on the defensive end and facilitated for Tennessee’s offense.

Chandler is a 19-year-old floor general and a coach’s dream. One could argue he’s the best true point guard in this draft who’s sliding down teams’ boards due to the amplitude of wing players for the taking.

  • Kennedy Chandler NBA Draft fits: Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves

Related: NBA Draft trades we could see Thursday

Walker Kessler is a tantalizing NBA Draft prospect

NBA: Draft Combine
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
  • Walker Kessler stats (2021-22): 11.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game while shooting 60.8/20.0/59.6

Unless a team finds a way to clone one of Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, the optimum NBA center is one who defends the rim at a high level and is money in the paint. Kessler fits the bill.

The 7-foot-1 big man was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end for the Auburn Tigers last season. He denied a nation-best 4.6 blocks per game, was a defensive enforcer and played a plausible role in the team’s offense. Kessler has displayed an ability to occasionally step out for mid-range and/or perimeter jump shot, too.

The big man is a plug-and-play prospect. He’s a legitimate defensive presence from the jump with the upside to develop a reliable jump shot. Memphis’ Jalen Duren and Duke’s Mark Williams are reputable center prospects, but Kessler could be a more tantalizing prospect than said big men.

  • Walker Kessler NBA Draft fits: Charlotte Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls