2022 NBA Draft: Just How Good Can Jaden Ivey Actually Become?

Jaden Ivey, NBA Draft
NBA Analysis Network

There are three names circling at the top of NBA mock drafts for league insiders – forwards Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith. But Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, an explosive combo guard who helped bring Purdue to this year’s Sweet 16, just might be a better choice.

Jaden Ivey’s game has so many facets to love. The guard is a nightmare in transition, a fearless finisher with lightning-quick acceleration. Ivey was able to get to the rim at will this season and showed the strength, length, and creativity to finish through and around contests.

Aside from the scoring at the rim, Ivey has shown improved three-point shooting, hitting 35.8% from deep this year. He’s not afraid of deep threes either – Ivey gladly hit threes from NBA range this season when defenders backed away to prepare for a drive.

Like any prospect, Ivey has his drawbacks – his assist numbers weren’t gaudy and his defense slipped at times. But when considering how good Jaden Ivey can be – just like with his unreal leaping ability – the sky is the limit.

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Ivey has some similarities to Ja Morant – and I recognize that they’re different players. But watch these finishes and you’ll see why he reminds me of Morant.

Highlights 101

Jaden Ivey is a blur in the open court, speeding by defenders in transition and getting to the rim in a blink. In the half-court, Ivey can do the same thing.

Ivey prefers his right hand with his finishes, but is capable of going with either. Even with a preferred finishing side, Ivey varies his release points so much that he is almost impossible to block.

LATEST NBA NEWS: 2022 NBA Mock Draft: Early Look At Full First-Round Projections

Capable of avoiding contact with acrobatics or engaging it and finishing, Ivey is the complete package when it comes to rim scoring. The guard posted a .469 free throw rate this season, not far off from Ja Morant’s .512 mark his sophomore year.

A look at Ivey’s game would be incomplete without specifically acknowledging his fastbreak prowess. Ivey looks like a young Russell Westbrook, blowing by people on an unstoppable bee-line to the rim. It’s fitting he was a Boilermaker – because Ivey is a freight train on the fastbreak.

Highlights 101

Jaden Ivey will always prefer to get to the rim – not a bad mindset for a lead guard to have. But he’s also shown promise running an offense in the half-court.

LATEST NBA NEWS: 2022 NBA Mock Draft: Early Look At Full First-Round Projections

Ivey isn’t a standout passer, but he’s shown flashes of elite skill in that area. Ivey is already a good decision maker when it comes to basic passes. Out of the pick-and-roll, Ivey is very capable of leveraging his driving threat to set up his roller for easy baskets.

Highlights 101

Further leveraging his driving, Ivey can make routine drive-and-kicks, and despite his focus on reaching the rim, he doesn’t often miss open shooters in the corner. Ivey doesn’t have elite vision, but since he so often draws help, he has an easy time finding open teammates.

Highlights 101

The above assist really impressed me. As fast as he’s going, Ivey is forcing the defense to recoil and try to stop his drive, which he turns into a wide-open 3 in the blink of an eye.

Ivey shot near 36% from deep this season, but his freshman year only nailed 25.8% on his threes. I’m not concerned about his shooting – but it’s possible the three-pointer is still not quite there. A natural concern with non-shooting guards is that they’ll be an off-ball liability in the half-court since they can’t space the floor. That’s not the case with Ivey.

LATEST NBA NEWS: 2022 NBA Mock Draft: Early Look At Full First-Round Projections

The three has been falling, for one, making him necessary to at least keep an eye on in that regard. Aside from that, though, Ivey’s size and explosiveness makes him a constant lob threat. If the defense turns a blind eye, Ivey can slither to the rim and explode for an alley-oop finish.

There is reason to believe in his three, too. Ivey hasn’t just been shooting them at a standstill – he’s taken and made movement threes for Purdue this year. He’s sunk some tough ones too – watch for the game-winner at the end here:

Highlights 101

Ivey is as much of a big-play guy on defense as he is on offense.

Highlights 101

The guard uses his length, anticipation, and excellent hands-on defense to generate steals, which almost always lead to fastbreak dunks thanks to his speed. But he’s more than just a big-play guy – Ivey has the tools to be an effective NBA defender.

Ivey’s size, length, and quickness are a great starting point. He has the physical tools to be an effective defender in space. Quick to slide his feet, Ivey can stay in front of drivers reliably. When a ballhandler does get by him, he has the recovery speed and bounce to erase lay-up attempts.

Highlights 101

Like many prospects, Ivey can get lost or caught napping in off-ball defense. Staying engaged 100% of the time will be the first step toward improving his defense to an NBA level. Regardless, Ivey’s physical tools ensure his defense will at least be passable, affording him the playing time to let his offense shine.

LATEST NBA NEWS: 2022 NBA Mock Draft: Early Look At Full First-Round Projections

Jaden Ivey has the potential to be the best player in the 2022 NBA draft class. His explosiveness and finishing are NBA-ready, and if his shooting and passing continue to develop moving forward, he could be one of the best offensive guards in the league one day.

Elite passing, shooting, or adding a reliable floater would expand Ivey’s offensive potential to the level of a Ja Morant. No matter what, defenders will need to respect Ivey’s ability to get to the rim, and if he can continue leveraging that advantage to make the rest of his game easier, Ivey will be a special player.