2022 NBA Draft: First Round Grades and Analysis
With the 2022 NBA Draft behind us, here are grades and analysis for each first-round selection.
1) Orlando Magic – Paolo Banchero (Forward, Duke)
I’ve had Paolo as the No. 1 prospect on my Big Board for some time now, and I’m very excited that Orlando went and got him with the top pick. Banchero is as NBA-ready as they come and has a high floor as an offensive creator. Love this pick for the Magic.
2) Oklahoma City Thunder – Chet Holmgren (Center, Gonzaga)
Chet has the highest ceiling in the draft and should be a great fit on this OKC roster. The Thunder will benefit from his unique versatility as a seven-footer who can shoot the three, handle the ball, and protect the rim. Very good high-upside pick.
3) Houston Rockets – Jabari Smith Jr. (Forward, Auburn)
I’ve given my thoughts on Jabari Smith. I don’t believe he was worth the number one overall pick, and I also don’t think he’ll end up being a top-five player in this class when all is said and done. He’ll be a solid NBA player for his perimeter shooting and defense, but I don’t see a ton of star potential here. As long as the Rockets have a good sense of his strengths and use him accordingly, this is still a good pick for them.
4) Sacramento Kings – Keegan Murray (Forward, Iowa)
I feel like Keegan Murray is already 75% of the player he could be, but that player is still extremely good at basketball. I disagree with the Kings’ approach to this draft in drafting for fit when they’ve been so consistently terrible, but Murray should be a contributing two-way piece for a long time.
5) Detroit Pistons – Jaden Ivey (Guard, Purdue)
Huge W for Detroit getting Jaden Ivey with this pick. The top guard prospect in the 2022 NBA Draft has shades of Donovan Mitchell with his athleticism and high-level scoring ability. He will be an excellent fit next to Cade Cunningham – that backcourt is going to be a lot of fun.
6) Indiana Pacers – Bennedict Mathurin (Wing, Arizona)
I am unabashedly a huge fan of Bennedict Mathurin and believe he has more star potential than most are giving him credit for. He’s a freak athlete who shoots the three extremely well. One of the big knocks against him is that his handle is subpar and he will struggle to create for himself. He’s going to a team with Tyrese Haliburton so I’m really not concerned about that. There’s too many positives with Mathurin for me to not be excited about him.
7) Portland Trail Blazers – Shaedon Sharpe (Guard, Kentucky)
The Shaedon Sharpe hype entering the draft has been ludicrous to me. He has evaluators swearing by their careers that he is the next big thing, and that is not a jump I’m willing to take. The sample size is too small and the rise has been too steep. Obviously Sharpe has some positive traits, but I cannot give Portland a positive grade in good conscience based on my evaluations.
8) New Orleans Pelicans – Dyson Daniels (Guard, G League Ignite)
Daniels is a great fit in the New Orleans backcourt as an oversized playmaker. His jumpshot isn’t quite there, but I have faith this part of his game will develop in time. Daniels will at least be a plus defender and rebounder right away that will add another dimension to the Pelicans offense with his passing vision. If he finds a consistent three-point shot, watch out.
9) San Antonio Spurs – Jeremy Sochan (Forward, Baylor)
Back-to-back years where a Baylor player is taken No. 9 overall. I get the appeal with Sochan but I’m not as high on him as some other people. He’s one of the best defenders in the draft class, able to guard pretty much anyone 1-5. However, I see very minimal offensive upside and I think this pick might have been a bit of a reach in the top 10.
10) Washington Wizards – Johnny Davis (Guard, Wisconsin)
Davis single-handedly carried Wisconsin to the NCAA Tournament last season. He’s a good scoring guard who is also a high-level rebounder and defender. I like this for Washington, but it remains to be seen whether Davis’ inefficiency this season is a product of his high usage or something to expect moving forward. Either way, he gives 100% at all times and that is worth something.
11) Oklahoma City Thunder – Ousmane Dieng (Wing, New Zealand Breakers)
I like OKC taking a swing on Dieng. The NBL product is probably more of a project than most people realize, but his ceiling as a shotmaker and playmaker is extremely enticing. He needs to develop into a more consistent performer, but he could be something special.
12) Oklahoma City Thunder – Jalen Williams (Wing, Santa Clara)
Williams was one of the biggest risers of the 2022 NBA Draft process, but I think he’s actually a pretty safe prospect who was underscouted at Santa Clara. He’s a very promising shot creator with good length who should thrive next to primary playmakers like SGA and Giddey.
13) Detroit Pistons – Jalen Duren (Center, Memphis)
Another win for the Pistons, who ran circles around both the Knicks and the Hornets to trade into this pick and get perhaps the best center in the draft. Duren is a freak athlete and excellent rim protector who has also flashed playmaking out of the post. Cade Cunningham is going to love having him in the dunker spot.
14) Cleveland Cavaliers – Ochai Agbaji (Wing, Kansas)
Agbaji was the best player on Kansas’ national championship team and I think this is a good spot in the draft for him to go. He’s an excellent three-point shooter who can hit shots off movement. Agbaji also plays with a high motor that helps him on the defensive end. I think he could wind up having a Desmond Bane-type impact for Cleveland.
15) Charlotte Hornets – Mark Williams (Center, Duke)
I like that the Hornets filled their blatant need for an interior presence. Mark Williams is a great fit for them with his rebounding and rim protection (2.8 blocks per game last season). However, I have to knock Charlotte a little bit because it feels like they settled. Jalen Duren fell in their lap and they opted to trade out of their lottery pick and take the guy they predicted they would get before the draft. They could have had Williams and another lottery-level player.
16) Atlanta Hawks – AJ Griffin (Forward, Duke)
Griffin slipped due to injury concerns, but it’s hard to see where the Hawks got him and not give them an A for taking a guy who some evaluated as a top-five player in the class. They’ll need to clear up some space for him on the wing, but he’s another elite shooter to add to the arsenal.
17) Houston Rockets – Tari Eason (Forward, LSU)
We are going to look back on this class years from now and wonder why Tari Eason wasn’t selected much earlier. He’s got great measurements and might be the best defender in this class. If the three-point shot he displayed last season at LSU is legit, he’s going to be a real two-way problem. Even without the outside shot, he can be used as a slasher. Houston adds a great piece to their young roster.
18) Chicago Bulls – Dalen Terry (Guard, Arizona)
Dalen Terry is one of the prospects I’m just not quite sure about and my middling grade grade reflects that. He wasn’t a huge feature for Arizona, but he does a little bit of everything from handling the ball to locking in on defense. I’m not certain what the best-case outcome for Terry looks like, but he’s a winner who is above average at enough things to stick around.
19) Memphis Grizzlies – Jake LaRavia (Wing, Wake Forest)
If nothing else, Jake LaRavia projects to be a knockdown shooter at the next level. He shot 38% in his junior season at Wake Forest, while also developing his playmaking ability as one of the primary options for the Demon Deacons. He’s an underrated athlete that can do a lot on the wing and that makes him an excellent choice for a Grizzlies team that needed some wing production.
20) San Antonio Spurs – Malaki Branham (Guard, Ohio State)
I’m not as gung-ho on Branham as some others, but I respect the pick. He’s an efficient scorer from all three levels who will be a good fit alongside Dejounte Murray if San Antonio keeps their lead guard around. Branham isn’t an explosive two-guard and he doesn’t have a ton of self-creation ability, but he’ll hit the shots if someone sets him up.
21) Denver Nuggets – Christian Braun (Wing, Kansas)
This might be a bit of a reach, but I don’t mind this for the Nuggets. Braun was a key piece for Kansas’ national championship squad and he’ll contribute as an energetic three-point threat off the bench for Denver.
22) Minnesota Timberwolves – Walker Kessler (Center, Auburn)
The Timberwolves have more glaring needs than center, so reaching on a center with their first-round pick is a questionable call. Kessler is an elite shot-blocker and can be a value add to the bench, but the draft position combined with Minnesota’s needs make me not love it.
23) Memphis Grizzlies – David Roddy (Guard, Colorado State)
This was a big surprise and probably also a big reach, but at least David Roddy is a good basketball player. The Colorado State product is a good shooter and passer who plays with a high motor. I really like his game, but there’s a chance he gets lost in the shuffle with Memphis. I’m also not sure if offloading De’Anthony Melton for this pick was a great call if Roddy was the target. It’s a reach that adds a good player to a crowded rotation, so we’ll see what that amounts to.
24) Milwaukee Bucks – MarJon Beauchamp (Wing, G League Ignite)
The Bucks needed wings and they got a good one. Beauchamp is a solid scoring option who plays plus defense. He’s got an incredible story and should be a good supplementary piece for a contending Milwaukee team.
25) San Antonio Spurs – Blake Wesley (Guard, Notre Dame)
Blake Wesley is one of my guys. He’s an underrated scorer and shot creator with great positional size at 6-5. His 6-9 wingspan comes in handy on the defensive end. Wesley has a lot of great tools and I’m confident the Spurs can maximize them.
26) Minnesota Timberwolves – Wendell Moore Jr. (Wing, Duke)
Wendell Moore is a real Swiss Army knife. He can shoot, handle the ball, create for others, and defend multiple positions. I think he can be a good supporting piece for Minnesota, but there aren’t a ton of elite outcomes for players like Moore which makes me worried for how the Timberwolves end up utilizing him.
27) Miami Heat – Nikola Jovic (Forward, Serbia)
I actually really like this for Miami. Jovic is a 6-10 shot creator, and that’s not something you’re going to find every day. He’s a massive negative as a defender, but putting him in the Heat’s development system might fix some of that. He’s 19 years old and Miami is a contender, so Jovic has time. It’s the end of the first round and this is a good value play from the Heat.
28) Golden State Warriors – Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Forward, Milwaukee)
I’m only giving this a positive grade because it’s the Golden State Warriors. Any other team pulls this and I’d have some serious questions. PBJ had a rough season at Milwaukee due to injuries and poor shooting. GSW is banking on that performance being an aberration and Baldwin becoming the 6-10 knockdown shooter he was billed as coming out of high school. As the defending NBA champions, they can afford to take the risk and that front office also has a proven track record of hitting on draft picks.
29) Houston Rockets – TyTy Washington (Guard, Kentucky)
Great pick for Houston. They needed a true point guard and TyTy Washington slid far enough for them to get him late in the first round. Washington needs to extend his range to beyond the arc, but he’s already a gifted facilitator with a nice midrange game. The recent trend for Kentucky guards has been positive. Good stuff.
30) Denver Nuggets – Peyton Watson (Wing, UCLA)
Massive project pick for Denver. I won’t lie, I see Watson’s potential as a wing prospect, but he has a ton of work to do. He was certainly underutilized by Mick Cronin at UCLA, but he shot the ball extremely poorly and the flashes of his upside were never consistent. Watson is extremely raw and it could be a long time before the Nuggets see any sort of return.
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