The NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 23rd at 8:00 PM Eastern.
H/T Draftkings Nation for the photo!
The NBA Draft is always one of the most exciting events of the summer. The Draft stands as a sign of new hope for the struggling teams who hit the jackpot at the lottery. It is a chance to reload on young talent that can contribute to your contending club in the years to come. Finally, it is the greatest opportunity for the kids who have worked their entire life for this moment to play the game they love and make a boatload of money doing it.
Many seasons there is a consensus order for the first couple of picks and it is easy to predict who will go where and play what role. 2022 is not one of those years, especially with how the lottery panned out on May 17th. With the Orlando Magic winning the No 1 overall pick, the dominos fell from there with Oklahoma City taking 2, Houston earning 3, and the Sacramento Kings surprising everyone by sneaking into the 4 spot. These teams vary in their needs and what they already have available, making it even harder to figure out their next move. Lucky for them, the future is bright whether you decide to take Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, or Paolo Banchero who round out the Top 3 best available.
And that is where I step in. We are going to see how well I can predict where each of these guys land, and then stack it up against the "NBA Experts" across the internet when it is all said and done. Building a mock draft is a fun challenge, but reading into all the reports to try to have a better mock than the rest of the analysts adds another fun element and I am ready to take on that challenge.
So without further ado, here is exactly how the 2022 NBA Draft is going to go:
1. Orlando Magic - Jabari Smith, F - Auburn
The Orlando Magic have finally won the #1 overall pick once again after ages of mediocrity. The Magic have a great history of hitting a home run when selecting in this spot, but then again, it is pretty difficult to screw up with the best prospect available. However, this year it is not as clear, and it is more about fit. You could make a case for anyone in this spot, and for me, Jabari Smith makes the most sense.
Standing 6' 10" Jabari Smith is the best spot-up shooter coming out of this draft class. His jumper looks incredibly advanced for someone who is just 19 years old, and with the right guys dishing him the ball he could get much better looks in the pros than he did at Auburn. This is where you can pair him with the Magic's pick last year in Jalen Suggs, and help cover some of Jabari's defensive weaknesses inside with Wendell Carter Jr. at center.
There is a case for Chet Holmgren here off of sheer upside, but the Magic have an interesting situation where they are locked in on Wendell Carter Jr. for the long term and should be able to keep Mo Bamba without paying a premium as he enters restricted free agency. Question marks also surround Jonathan Isaac as he has not been able to get on the basketball court much in the past two years with injuries. The good news is you have a ton of options at guard between Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, and a project in Markelle Fultz. You've also got Franz Wagner coming off of a spectacular rookie year that will help create space for Jabari.
For me, you take the surefire option that will give you an abundance of scoring, rebounds, and a block or two. People have criticized Jabari's handle, and the criticism is fair, but the kid is 19 and will have time to grow and learn in Orlando alongside an incredibly young team. It is not very often you find a player with such a complete scoring form at such a young age
and pairing him with solid guard play and competent bigs will make Jabari look great early on, and even better as he learns the pro game.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder - Chet Holmgren, C - Gonzaga
Ever since basketball fans laid eyes on Chet Holmgren at the start of the season last fall it has been apparent that he is something special. Chet is widely regarded as the largest upside prospect in the 2022 NBA Draft and with good reason. It is unheard of for a 7 foot tall 20 year old to have a handle, perimeter shot-making, and high-level rim-defending. How on earth is this guy real?
The Thunder need players everywhere except guard. With how Sam Presti operates historically as GM, and continues to trade everything in sight for more picks, his moves are finally paying off. Sitting at the #2 pick this year is a gift, and you can swing for the fences by taking someone in Chet Holmgren who may need to be a project at first but could eventually turn into the cornerstone of your franchise.
Pairing Chet with Josh Giddey is a dream come true in the modern NBA. You can depend heavily on the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop with a guy like Chet, and you also do not have to worry about him on defense. Chet averaged an insane 3.6 blocks and 0.8 steals at Gonzaga, which never puts his defensive effort into question this season like other prospects.
The only worry with Chet is if such a unique body can stay healthy and remain durable when you will constantly be taking on contact inside the paint. If Chet can continue to improve as well as put on some muscle, it is impossible to know what he can become. For that reason, and with how long term of a project the Thunder are, they have all the time in the world to let Chet grow into a future superstar and build chemistry with their point guard of the future in Giddey.
3. Houston Rockets - Paolo Banchero, F - Duke
If you can, Google "Paolo Banchero Rockets." This guy would look damn good in red, black, and white. That's why he needs to go #3 to the Houston Rockets.
Jokes aside, the Rockets have to be thrilled they get to pick the third remaining Tier 1 prospect in the draft, because all three of Jabari, Chet, and Paolo have rotated being called the future #1 pick at some point in the past year. Paolo has been praised because of his elite scoring, ability to crash the boards, and solid vision of the court. Paolo was THE guy on a Duke team that was loaded with first-round NBA talent, and I think he has the real makings of being that guy for an NBA franchise as well.
The Rockets can easily build around Jalen Green and Paolo Banchero as their offensive options of the future. Pair these two with a do-it-all big man in Alperen Sengun and you potentially have a young big 3 in the making. The issue with this is you still have Kevin Porter Jr. who thinks he should shoot the ball 40 times a game, and Christian Wood who thinks he is entitled NBA star privileges. It's been reported multiple times that these two can be a bit of a cancer on this Houston Rockets team, and I would hate for these guys with poor attitudes to take away from the growth and development of the promising talent Houston has.
One major critique people have had of Paolo is how often he tried on defense at Duke. This is something that is in his tool box of skills, and I don't think it will be an issue when they need defense. However, we probably will not get to see him play a lot of defense as this is a foreign concept for the Rockets and they are not often in close games where defense matters. This will be something to note and I believe the next big step in Paolo's game that he can absolutely achieve.
4. Sacramento Kings - Keegan Murray, F - Iowa
This may come as a surprise with Jaden Ivey and Shaedon Sharpe still on the board. I am giving the Kings the benefit of the doubt here that they are not stupid enough to trade away Tyrese Haliburton then immediately go draft another guard. I believe they do like Davion Mitchell, and adding a sure fire prospect like Keegan Murray adds to your scoring and rebounding immediately.
Keegan Murray led the NCAA in scoring last season, and was reliable on the boards while sprinkling in a couple of assists and blocks now and again. It is rumored that King's owner Vivek Ranadivé has given his team an order to make the playoffs next season. This makes me like Murray even more in this spot because I think he can product right away for Sacramento.
I might totally be giving the Kings too much credit here and they end up take best available, however Murray isn't that much of a reach at 4 compared to taking someone else outside of Ivey and Sharpe.
5. Detroit Pistons - Jaden Ivey, G - Purdue
Full transparency here - this pick is #1 on my dream scenario list. A backcourt of Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey sets up the Pistons for the next decade and beyond. It is clear that the Killian Hayes project has turned into a flop, and even if he does develop then you have three studs at guard.
Ivey was the guy for Purdue this past season, with his dynamic shot making and strong three point percentage really showcasing what he could do for an NBA franchise. He comes from an athletic family with his mother, Niele Ivey, a former WNBA player and current Notre Dame head basketball coach. On top of that Jaden's father and grandfather both played in the NFL.
Ivey may not have gotten as many assists as you would want from your lead guard, averaging just 3.2 per game, but this isn't as much of a pain point when you can let Cade run the show or alternate when necessary. The defense needs some work, but his athleticism and electric moments on offense shine through to make up for this.
6. Indiana Pacers - Shaedon Sharpe, G - Kentucky**
I put asterisks by Kentucky because Shaedon Sharpe never played a single minute for them this past season. Sharpe is a rare exception of reclassifying and then becoming eligible for the NBA Draft right after, despite never stepping foot on the college basketball floor. His upside is tremendous and you will see him projected anywhere from 4 through 8, but the question marks are there due to lack of experience and not enough information besides how amazing he looked in high school.
The Pacers can afford to take a swing here with a lot of young building blocks making up the roster. The Pacers have uncertainty with Myles Turner's future and Malcolm Brogdon is not a long-term building block anymore either. Luckily they are covered at big man with several to pick from, but less certain at guard where Shaedon can come in and make a difference right away. Embrace the rebuild and swing for the fences Indy.
7. Portland Trailblazers - AJ Griffin, F - Duke
Damian Lillard still says he is locked in with the Portland Trailblazers. With emerging star Anfernee Simons and veteran big man Jusuf Nurkic still on the roster as it stands today, the Blazers are going to look into reloading at forward. Acquiring Josh Hart was great, and Justise Winslow offers upside although he has not been able to catch a break with injuries. Enter AJ Griffin.
AJ was solid for Duke this season but was outshined by Paolo Banchero. More people need to talk about how this guy shot 48.3% from behind the arc this season off of 120 attempts. Griffins jump shot and fearlessness driving to the bucket were not showcased as often as I would have liked at Duke, averaging just over 10 points a game. However, the formula is there for his game to explode if he gets more attempts and usage in the NBA.
The main case you will hear against Griffin is his injury history. He missed a large portion of his high school career as a result of injuries to his knee and ankle. As long as there is no serious risk of these things lingering around, if you are the Blazers you take Griffin and run.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers) - Bennedict Mathurin, W - Arizona
- TRADE - New York Knicks swap 8 & 11, send further pick considerations
If you are the Pelicans you can either take the time to really develop someone with this pick, or you look at the roster and see that with Zion returning this team can really do some damage next year. I honestly have no clue who the Pelicans would want to take at #8 with how their team looked to close out the year, but what I do know is how quickly Mathurin is rising up people's draft boards.
Bennedict Mathurin was one of the most electrifying players in college basketball this past season. Any highlight reel you watch of this guy on YouTube will be jam-packed with his amazing drives in transition and slam dunks that could bring the house down. Mathurin in Madison Square Garden paired with RJ Barrett who really hit his stride in 2022 would be some of the most exciting basketball the Knicks have seen in years.
You are getting a player in Bennedict that really cares about the game. You can see it in how hard he tries and the effort he puts in every possession, and for me, this has been something the Knicks have lacked this past season. Mathurin does not need to be your main scorer or playmaker, and can be a great one-two punch with RJ. Even if it is not the Pelicans or the Knicks, look for Mathurin to sneak into the bottom end of the Top 10 this draft.
9. San Antonio Spurs - Jalen Duren, C - Memphis
This is another pick I would absolutely love to see work out according to this mock. Jalen Duren is an incredible 6'11 big man talent that is still only 18 years old. Giving Duren time to develop in San Antonio with such an experienced and caring coaching staff would be awesome for his development and growth as a basketball player. We saw their patience with Dejounte Murray pay off immensely this year, and Pop is no stranger to showing a big man the ropes.
Duren's defensive effort is really where he shined for Memphis this season. Duren averaged over 2 blocks a game, 7.5 rebounds, and an offensive rebounding rating of 14.1% according to KenPom. His positioning when opponents enter the paint was pretty advanced for someone who legally just became an adult, and I think he will continue to build on this with time.
There is room for improvement on Jalen's offensive game, with an inconsistent jumper and not the most consistent shot around the rim. This will come with time, and he will have one of the best young guards in the game in Murray helping facilitate good looks inside for him if the Spurs decide to go that route. This would be an exciting addition for San Antonio and if they stay patient with Duren they could really land an amazing talent here at #9.
10. Washington Wizards - Jeremy Sochan, F - Baylor
The Wizards were an atrocious 25th place in defense efficiency rating last season. With so many questions about the future of Bradley Beal and what this team can become, there is a surefire defender waiting for Washington to take him. And let's be honest - are any of the wings currently on the Wizards even building blocks for a franchise at all?
Jeremy Sochan is arguably the best defender in the draft, and at only 19 years old he is capable of taking on all 5 positions at 6'9 and 230 lbs. Sochan offers you solid rebounding, creative passing, and off-ball awareness that allows him to be plugged into the NBA right away. Sochan would immediately bolster the Wizards' defense and take some of the burden off of a team that needs it badly.
Plus, what is not to love about his hair??
There will be more Draft Profiles on the way! For now, here are who I project to be picked the rest of the way in the first round. As I provide updates I will update who is going where, and add additional profiles. For now, let us know what you think in the comments or tweet at us @HHSportsHQ!