Kai Sotto is looking to be the next big name to come to the NBA from Australia’s National Basketball League. Sotto’s stock is volatile, landing in the late first round on some mock drafts while other experts have him out of the draft altogether. Will Sotto join the likes of Lamelo Ball and Josh Giddey as the next NBL lottery pick?
Kai Sotto 2022 NBA Draft Profile
Amateur and Pro Career
Born in Las Pinas, the Philippines, in 2002, Sotto began playing basketball at the age of four. He represented the Philippines in the 2018 FIBA Under-16 Asian Championship, where he averaged a double-double and was named to the tournament’s First Team. Later that year, Sotto would average 16.4 points and 10.6 rebounds while leading his country to their best finish ever in the FIBA Under-18 World Cup. Sotto again played for the Philippines in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup, where he averaged 11.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and a tournament-high 3.1 blocks per game.
In 2019, Sotto moved to the United States to pursue a basketball career. The four-star recruit would attend The Skill Factory in Atlanta, Georgia, earning offers from several Division I programs before joining the NBA G League Ignite. Scheduling and logistical issues brought on by the pandemic would ultimately derail Sotto’s Ignite experience. Choosing to play for the Philippine national team in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers meant that he would miss several games for the Ignite. This would ultimately lead to Sotto signing with the Adelaide 36ers of the NBL in April of 2021.
Sotto played in 23 games for the 36ers, averaging 15.3 minutes played per contest. He scored 7.5 points, grabbed 4.5 rebounds, and blocked .08 shots per game in his time down under. He was named the NBL Fans MVP for the 2022 season.
Listed at 7’2”, it is no surprise that rebounding ranks highly on Sotto’s skill list. Specifically, on the offensive end, he has shown a knack for locating the shot and a great putback ability. He has some range, shooting a nice mid-range jumper and connecting on 38% of his three-point attempts for the 36ers. However, he only took 13 shots from deep in Australia and will need to show more consistency in that aspect.
The form is there, though, and I expect Sotto to have a nice shooting touch in the league. He has a nice face-up mid-range stroke that passes the eye test, and he shoots nearly 70% from the foul line. Along with this, Sotto has shown that he can drive to the rim. He has a decent handle and a nice touch near the basket. On the defensive end, Sotto’s shot-blocking is what makes him intriguing.
Sotto is not the most athletic big man in this year’s draft. Although he may be a good shot blocker, we will have to see if he has the lateral quickness to stay in front of the NBA’s elite frontcourt players. He has shown promise as a passer out of the post, but Sotto needs to improve his decision-making with the ball. Sotto was mainly used as a lob threat in the pick-and-roll. He has the mid-range game to become a dual-threat in this role, but time will tell if that becomes the case. Sotto’s post-game needs work. He has some moves but was a below-average performer in points per post-up possession among his peers in the NBL.
NBA Player Comparison
The best comparison for Sotto is Kristaps Porzingis. This is not by accident, as Sotto grew up idolizing Wizards’ big man. They both have a soft shooting touch and the ability to block shots with their enormously lanky frames. Sotto is raw, but there is a ton of potential here, especially on the offensive end. Sotto also idolized Tim Duncan, and while I am not willing to grant him any comparisons in that regard, it should be noted that the playmaking ability out of the post is a skill of Sotto’s that is just scratching the surface of its potential.
2022 NBA Draft Projection
Good luck with this one. Some claim that Sotto is the next unicorn draft prospect. A candidate for ‘steal of this draft’ if taken anywhere outside of the lottery. Other scouts and analysts have him outside of their top 60. Let’s settle somewhere in the middle. Sotto should be drafted on Thursday for his potential in the frontcourt and the media. Sotto is en route to becoming the first NBA player who was born in the Philippines. His desire to represent his country on the international stage and the potential backing of an entire country should entice a team to take him near the end of the second round but don’t be surprised if he is off the board a bit sooner.