The NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 23rd at 8:00 PM Eastern.
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, who is a massive upgrade on the below-average guards Jabari had to make the most of during his freshman year. Having Wendell Carter Jr. at center allows Jabari to not feel pressure to defend inside, as his defensive prowess outside of the paint comes easy for such a young talent.
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 Smith 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 handles, 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 General Manager 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. He has also been a prospect many casual fans have been watching since his high school days, with some bookmarking the 2022 NBA Draft knowing Chet would be featured.
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 a 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 to NBA star privileges. It's been reported multiple times that these two can be a bit cancerous 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 toolbox 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 and 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 produce right away for Sacramento.
I might totally be giving the Kings too much credit here and they end up taking the best available, however, Murray isn't that much of a reach at 4 compared to taking someone else outside of Ivey and Sharpe. Murray also fits well alongside De'Aaron Fox who excelled following the Haliburton deal, and newly acquired Domantas Sabonis at center. Mitchell was the more experienced prospect on draft boards in 2021, so look for the Kings to follow a similar path in 2022 if they do not end up trading this pick away.
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 - Dyson Daniels, G - G League Ignite
Dyson Daniels is one of the biggest names to watch after it has been said that he had impressive workouts with teams and at the NBA Draft Combine. The Australian native is a tall combo guard standing 6'6, and has strong defending for someone who just turned 19 recently. The shot making was once a worry, but teams are noting his improved jumper which has helped him rise up draft boards the last few weeks.
The Indiana Pacers already have Tyrese Haliburton running the point, but I do not see it being an issue having two facilitators on the floor especially when Dyson can play at the 2 and still thrive. The creativity that Daniels offers is a huge plus, and having the help of Myles Turner to run the pick-and-roll or feed inside with Dyson's threat of scoring near the basket will be a solid pairing. Bringing Haliburton and Daniels together allows the Pacers to be creative with their sets, and will help enable the next pieces they continue to add as they embrace the rebuild road ahead.
7. Portland Trailblazers - Jeremy Sochan, F - Baylor
Blazers fans I get it. You want to be rewarded for deciding to tank halfway through last season, and getting the seventh overall pick is not the most exciting spot in the world when you thought it would have been better. However, there is one way to move forward after such an underwhelming season highlighted by a transition period.
The Portland Trailblazers ranked dead last in defensive efficiency rating last season. As the league continues to highly value versatile wings that offer stellar defense and great length, there is a player that makes the most sense for Portland to take right away. Introducing one of the most colorful players in play style and hairstyle, Jeremy Sochan.
Sochan is arguably the best defender in the draft and, at only 19 years of age, 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 Blazers' defense and take some of the defensive burden off of a team that needs it badly. Add to a slowly but surely growing perimeter shot, and you have a complete 3 and D wing that will contribute to your franchise for years to come.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers) - Bennedict Mathurin, G/F - Arizona
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 they do have a number of options that can make an immediate impact while still holding lots of upside.
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 is quickly rising up draft boards and I would not be surprised if he goes even higher than 8.
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 that would add even further to a New Orleans culture that Willy Green has been building over the last year. Mathurin does not need to be your main scorer or playmaker, and can be a great source of offense at any given moment.
9. San Antonio Spurs - AJ Griffin, F - Duke
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. Griffin's 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.
San Antonio would be able to let Griffin run wild, and he would have Dejounte Murray teeing him up for success night in and night out. The defense could probably also use some work, but the upside is so high on this guy that I don't see why the Spurs would skip out on Griffin.
10. Washington Wizards - Shaedon Sharpe, G - Kentucky**
Shaedon Sharpe never played a single minute for Kentucky this past season, and his poor attitude during team workouts paired with skipping on NBA Draft Combine activities have become the headline for him heading into NBA Draft week. 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 12, but the question marks are there due to lack of experience and not enough information besides how amazing he looked in high school.
The Wizards can afford to take a swing here with a weird mix of characters on their roster. The Bradley Beal situation continues to be an intriguing story as it has been the last couple of offseasons, which makes me reluctant to make a pick based on team need when the future is so confusing. Sharpe may be a huge risk, but the potential scoring upside he brings will be the reason a team takes a chance on him. However, Sharpe's main skill being solely scoring the basketball could come back to haunt him if that doesn't show up on a consistent basis, making him a massive "What If?" candidate years down the road.
11. New York Knicks - Jalen Duren, C - Memphis
Jalen Duren is an incredible 6'11 big man talent that is still only 18 years old. Giving Duren time to develop in New York will be the most important part of growing his game, and with Mitchell Robinson becoming a free agent and a quickly approaching clean-out at big man, Duren can slot in right away.
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 to be given minutes and experience to get it where it needs to be. This would be an exciting addition for the Knicks and if they stay patient with Duren they could really land an amazing talent here at #11.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Clippers) - Ousmane Dieng, F - New Zealand
The 6'10 forward from New Zealand would be welcomed to Oklahoma City with open arms as they strive to develop their talent and continue to gather picks. Dieng just turned 19 and already has an advanced control of the ball, and the fundamentals he offers are making scouts believe he can blossom into something more. The issues with Dieng are that he started off struggling with his scoring and filling up the stat sheet.
The good news is that things began to look a lot stronger for Ousmane towards the end of the season for the Breakers. A small sample of players who played in New Zealand have seen success now and again in the NBA (what's up LaMelo?) but Ousmane will need time to develop and grow if he is going to see similar success. Landing in Oklahoma City will allow for all the time in the world to get it right and see if Dieng can turn into the all around versatile forward scouts believe he can become.
13. Charlotte Hornets - Tari Eason, F - LSU
The most glaring weaknesses in Charlotte this past season were clear to anyone who watched. The first weakness was the lack of defense from anyone on the roster, which leads into the second weakness of having no help at big man. Tari Eason can help Charlotte address their defensive needs right away, as he is one of the best defenders in this 2022 Draft Class and can guard multiple positions.
I attribute this leap to 13 to be similar reasoning to my Sochan pick at #7. The league is beginning to really value forwards and wings that can defend multiple positions and shoot the 3. Eason's size and playmaking also make him a very desirable prospect, and as it stands today Charlotte has a lot to be desired in this space. Finally, Tari gets to the line and is as competitive as they come. This guy really cares about winning, and this is something that will be clearly seen from the first day he steps foot on the NBA floor.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers - Johnny Davis, G - Wisconsin
When Mock Draft Season started many people saw Johnny Davis as a potential top 7 or 8 prospect. However, as people learned more about the 2022 Draft Class, Johnny began to slip in many people's rankings. I also have Davis slipping to Cleveland here at 14, but would not be surprised if he breaks into the Top 10.
Davis has slipped a bit due to his lack of athleticism and questions about his shooting behind the arc. However, he is very strong with his mid range jumper, and averaged 8.1 rebounds for the Badgers which is very strong for a guard. What he lacks in athleticism he made up for in hustle and playmaking, which will earn him a spot in Cleveland where they are quickly piecing together a team of young stars that Davis can contribute alongside.
15. Charlotte Hornets (via Pelicans) - Mark Williams, C - Duke
As I highlighted at #13, Charlotte desparately needs a big man. Cleveland has no reason to take a center as they are set for a long time. Charlotte can take best available at #13, then bring in Duke big man Mark Williams two picks later to not only provide their answer at center but also answer their needs on defense.
Like many of the other Duke players, it was hard to fully appreciate the skillsets of all the talented young guys in Durham with the Paolo Banchero show happening before our eyes. However, Mark Williams was a defensive stalwart, had a strong presence in the pick-and-roll, and showed promise of developing a three point shot someday as he made over 74% of his free throws. These are all things Charlotte would love to see out of their center of the future, as Mason Plumlee provided none of them for the Hornets this past season. Finally, Mark Williams offensive rebounding will be a massive boost for Charlotte who oftentimes lacked hustle and care last season when shots did not go in right away.
16. Atlanta Hawks - Malaki Branham, G - Ohio State
Malaki is a talented scorer who can help contribute right away to a Hawks team that may have lost their identity last year after everyone thought they had figured them out during their Eastern Conference Finals run. Branham shot 42.5% from three for Ohio State last season, and had an 82.6% FT% too go with it. Branham is no stranger to scoring the ball, the next question is if he can expand on his game and help with creativity and defense. If he can improve on his vision, Malaki may become a great compliment to Trae Young in the back court.
17. Houston Rockets (via Nets) - Jalen Williams, F - Santa Clara
Jalen Williams is the 6'6 high upside forward you may not have heard about until recently. The Rockets are in the market for taking big swings, and going in on Williams at #17 is something that could prove to be huge down the stretch if his game takes the next steps required. Jalen can score the ball inside, nail shots from behind the arc, and led Santa Clara in assists for the past two years. His energy is contagious, and he can be someone that lights this Rockets team alive as there will be lots of growing pains for this young roster ahead.
18. Chicago Bulls - Ochai Agbaji, F - Kansas
Ochai Agbaji is one of the more NBA ready prospects in the 2022 Draft, however, you may see him slip down the board due to his age compared to the others. The Bulls should not mind this as they continue to try to add depth to such a top-heavy roster that had their hot start punctured by injuries and COVID-19. Ochai is capable of guarding many positions on defense and has a great 3-point jump shot. The national title winner will be able to contribute right away to a Chicago roster that will be looking to restore the hot start they had to begin the 2021-2022 campaign.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves - E.J. Liddell, F - Ohio State
The Timberwolves could use a bully on their team to pair with their newfound leader in Anthony Edwards. Karl Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell are good players on the stat sheet, but are soft when it comes down to being pushed around in the Playoffs. EJ Liddell is a hard worker and with his 6'7 and 240-pound frame is able to get what he wants in the post. He averaged 2.6 blocks a game for Ohio State which is a massive defensive boost for Minnesota, and improved his shooting and perimeter defense by returning last year instead of staying in the 2021 Draft. Now he gets a shot to prove his worth on a Timberwolves team dying for a player who has what Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz's friends were missing: a heart, a brain, and some courage.