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2022 NBA Draft

(Lance King/Getty Images)

2022 NBA Mock Draft 1.0: Paolo to Houston

2022 NBA Draft
(Lance King/Getty Images)

2022 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

The 2022 NBA Draft is set for June 23, and it’s time to start taking a look at how things might shake out. For the sake of simplicity, potential draft day trades are not included. Selections are based on a combination of my prospect scouting and team needs. The draft order is based on the NBA standings at the close of the season and will change following the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery. Finally, it should be noted that Kentucky guard Shaedon Sharpe is not included in this mock as the indication as of April 11, 2022 was that he would return to school. Since then, he has announced he will be putting his name in the 2022 NBA Draft while maintaining his college eligibility. Should Sharpe leave Kentucky, he will likely be a top-10 pick.

1. Houston Rockets – Paolo Banchero, 6-10 Forward, Duke

The first overall pick might have been the hardest one to figure out, as there are three or four prospects who all have a case for it. However, I decided not to overthink it and go with Paolo Banchero. He’s the most NBA-ready and has a very polished offensive game that was extremely apparent in the tournament. Banchero is a talented shot creator who has a high-level midrange game and good post footwork. He’s also a gifted passer. The big question marks are whether he can take the next step to being a three-level scorer and what his ceiling is as a defender. Banchero is still a very safe pick and can have a near-immediate impact. His acclimation to the league won’t take long.

2. Orlando Magic – Chet Holmgren, 7-0 Center, Gonzaga

Chet Holmgren is commonly described as a unicorn and that’s an apt characterization. Quite simply, there has never been a prospect like him. Find me another seven-footer who can protect the rim, run in transition, handle the ball like a guard, and shoot over 40% from three. You aren’t going to find one. Holmgren impacts the game in virtually every aspect, but he projects to be an elite defensive presence who will block or at least alter a ton of shots. He’s almost too unique to the point that I wonder if teams will struggle to maximize his full skillset. If you want a player with a high ceiling, Chet is your guy. Orlando is still in the “figure out the direction” stages of their rebuild, and Holmgren can be a major piece for their frontcourt.

3. Detroit Pistons – Jabari Smith, 6-10 Forward, Auburn

Jabari Smith has been the top prospect on some big boards for months now, and I understand why. He has a lethal jumper and is a switchable defender with fluid athleticism. Getting him at the third pick would be a success for any team. However, Smith isn’t as NBA-ready as Banchero and doesn’t have a ceiling as high as Holmgren, which is why he falls to No. 3 in this mock. I have concerns about his loose handle and limited explosiveness which hamper his ability to create shots for himself. He might wind up being nothing more than a high-level catch-and-shoot guy, but getting a taller Harrison Barnes isn’t a bad thing.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jaden Ivey, 6-4 Guard, Purdue

Watching Jaden Ivey at Purdue, it was so clear that he is an NBA player. The second-year guard is a freak athlete who plays above the rim and is a nightmare in transition with his speed. Ivey’s three-point shot has steadily improved and he would be capable as a secondary ball-handler. His defense isn’t great right now and he sometimes forces shots outside the rhythm of the offense, but overall Ivey is probably the best guard prospect in the draft. He would be a worthy selection pretty much anywhere in the top five.

5. Indiana Pacers – Bennedict Mathurin, 6-7 Forward, Arizona

There’s usually a top-10 pick that goes higher than we expected and I think this one has a good chance. Bennedict Mathurin was one of the best players in the country this season, and I think a lot of people are overlooking the fact that he’s still a teenager. Arizona’s tournament game against TCU was a perfect look at what Mathurin can provide an NBA team – monstrous dunks, deep three-pointers, and a whole lot of energy. He already has good size for an NBA wing and still has plenty of room to develop at just 19 years old.

6. Portland Trail Blazers – Keegan Murray, 6-8 Forward, Iowa

The Trail Blazers have one job entering the draft, and it’s to surround Damian Lillard with quality pieces. Considering how thin they are at power forward, picking up Keegan Murray would be an excellent start. Iowa’s breakout star does pretty much everything well. He hits shots from anywhere on the court at a high clip, moves well off-ball, and can defend multiple positions. Murray should have a relatively high floor as an NBA forward.

7. Sacramento Kings – AJ Griffin, 6-6 Forward, Duke

Best player available has to be Sacramento’s strategy. That’s probably easier said than done given that the Kings are the NBA’s worst drafters over the last decade. However, I think Duke wing AJ Griffin is a interesting pick given his shot-making ability, athleticism, and high defensive IQ. He has suffered a few knee injuries in his high school career, so this pick wouldn’t be without risk. But that’s also kind of on-brand for the Kings, isn’t it?

8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Los Angeles Lakers) – Jalen Duren, 6-11 Center, Memphis

Jalen Duren is one of the best athletes in the 2022 NBA Draft. Although he plays like a traditional center, he is an excellent rebounder and rim protector who dominates with his size and physicality. Duren moves well off-ball and is a good finisher around the basket. He doesn’t currently have a perimeter game, but he’s still just 18 years old with enough bankable skills to buy in on his potential and elite athleticism. Throw him in the dunker spot and let him eat.

9. San Antonio Spurs – Johnny Davis, 6-5 Guard, Wisconsin

The Spurs can’t really go wrong in this draft because pretty much every position is a position of need. Johnny Davis will be selected in the lottery following a breakout sophomore season where he was one of the best scorers in the country, finishing with 19.7 points per game. He has a solid offensive skillset with a high-level midrange game and enough athleticism and agility to finish around the rim or create opportunities off-ball. As a bonus, Davis is also a very good rebounder, pulling down 8.2 boards per game this season. The three-point shot needs some work, and Davis’ aptitude with off-ball movement is essential to his success because he isn’t great at creating space for his own shot. Some players just have that scoring instinct; Davis is one, and this also gives the Spurs the opportunity to hedge on their questionable Josh Primo pick.

10. Washington Wizards – TyTy Washington, 6-3 Guard, Kentucky

The Wizards need a long-term option at point guard, and TyTy is the best guy available to fit that need. He’s got about everything you could want out of a lead guard. Washington has a ton of skill as both a shooter and a facilitator. He has also showed promising signs of being a plus perimeter defender. At times he struggled with consistency on both ends of the floor, but that happens with plenty of freshmen adjusting to the college game. I don’t think NBA front offices will overthink it with TyTy and will buy his lead guard potential in the lottery.

11. Portland Trail Blazers (via New Orleans Pelicans) – Mark Williams, 7-0 Center, Duke

Mark Williams provides excellent rebounding and interior defense, plus a decent low post game. He’s a very good athlete and gives a lot of effort on the defensive end, which more often than not produces good results. He averaged 2.8 blocks per game for Duke this season while also providing a little interior scoring at 11.2 points per game. The defense will be there at the next level and the offense has a good enough foundation to be promising. Portland is a horrible defensive team with both Jusuf Nurkic and Cody Zeller entering free agency. They can fill a big hole with a high-upside interior presence like Mark Williams.

12. New York Knicks – Blake Wesley, 6-5 Guard, Notre Dame

Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker aren’t getting any younger, so it would be good if the Knicks got a young point guard sooner rather than later. Best case scenario for the Knicks is that they get TyTy Washington, but in this mock he’s already gone by pick No. 12. I’m really coming around on Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley as a potential lottery pick. I don’t think ND used Wesley in a way that maximized his potential as a lead guard. He’s a good shooter that can handle the ball and create shots for himself or for others. He’s not without his flaws regarding decision-making, but I wouldn’t be shocked if a team buys into Wesley’s upside as early as the lottery.

13. Atlanta Hawks – Jeremy Sochan, 6-9 Forward, Baylor

The Hawks are one of the worst defensive units in the league, and if there’s one thing Sochan provides, it’s defensive versatility. He’s extremely switchable, able to take pretty much any assignment on defense. The Baylor freshman also rebounds well for his position and is a solid post scorer. He isn’t going to be a stretch forward at this point in his career, but he has a relatively high floor with his toolsy athleticism and NBA frame.

14. Charlotte Hornets – Tari Eason, 6-8 Forward, LSU

I don’t know that there’s a team that needs something more than the Hornets need interior defense. Goodness gracious, it seems like every big that plays Charlotte is due for a career night. Unfortunately, Mark Williams will be gone by this point in the mock and it’s too early to get a guy like Walker Kessler or Christian Koloko (although I was tempted to put Kessler here). Luckily, there’s another elite defensive prospect available in Tari Eason. The LSU sophomore was one of the country’s best defenders this season, rating high in plenty of defensive metrics and finishing with 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He also averaged 16.9 points and pulled down 6.6 rebounds as the SEC Sixth Man of the Year. He’s far from a one-dimensional player, but he would immediately benefit the Hornets with his defense alone.

15. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Los Angeles Clippers) – Ochai Agbaji, 6-5 Guard, Kansas

Ochai Agbaji just capped off a phenomenal senior season with the 2022 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player award. He’s an excellent shooter (40.9% from three this season) who can be counted on to give 100% and look for ways to impact the game on occasions where his shots aren’t falling. The defensive effort is there even if the discipline isn’t, so he won’t be a negative on that end. OKC has needs everywhere, so getting a dependable, athletic wing in Agbaji is a good move.

16. Indiana Pacers (via Cleveland Cavaliers) – Jaden Hardy, 6-4 Guard, G League Ignite

The Pacers are a pretty boring team (not meant to offend, just being real here). You know who isn’t boring? Jaden Hardy. Long considered a top-five pick with elite scoring traits and defensive skill to boot, he has fallen down draft boards after an inefficient season with G League Ignite where the defense never really showed up either. Hardy certainly possesses plenty of skill on the offensive end, that much is undeniable. He’s fast, shifty, and exceptional at creating space. For whatever reason, the shots weren’t falling this season once that space was created. Hardy plays with confidence, which is normally good, but it becomes a negative when it results in terrible shot selection and ball-stopping. I think Jaden Hardy has tons of talent and this was just a weird year, similar to what happened with Brandon Boston Jr. at Kentucky last season. If he falls this low, someone is getting a steal.

17. Houston Rockets (via Brooklyn Nets) – Nikola Jovic, 6-10 Forward, Serbia

The Rockets are in need of playmakers, and Jovic would be an interesting move to fit that need. The Serbian international has the size of a typical big with the skills of a guard. Jovic is extremely well-rounded: he reads the floor well and makes smart passes, projects to be a good shooter, and can run in transition. He would be a mismatch nightmare for any opponent, able to play out of the post or on the perimeter. The 18-year-old plays with a lot of confidence, and could add another dimension to a Rockets offense that has the young firepower to wind up among the best in the NBA.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves – Malaki Branham, 6-5 Guard, Ohio State

Branham has some solid tools to work with, finishing his Big Ten Freshman of the Year campaign averaging 13.7 points per game on 49.8% from the field and 41.6% from three. He’s probably a bit of a project at this stage, so it’s good he’ll be just 19 years old on draft day. The flashes have been there for what Branham could become: an athletic two-way player who knocks down shots with volume and efficiency. He’s not explosive and had some struggles with ball security, but he’s a safe first rounder at this point in the draft process.

19. Chicago Bulls – Ousmane Dieng, 6-9 Forward, New Zealand

Some GM is going to buy in on Ousmane Dieng in the first round. I don’t know who specifically is going to do that, but there’s some front office out there that will be all over him. The French international struggled early in the season with the NBL’s New Zealand Breakers, but he has shown a ton of potential with his recent play that should put him right back in the first round discussion. Dieng is a long playmaker who is making strides as a shot creator and three-point shooter. Extremely high upside here.

20. Denver Nuggets – Kennedy Chandler, 6-0 Guard, Tennessee

Kennedy Chandler is just over six feet tall, but he plays much bigger than that. The Tennessee freshman is an excellent facilitator who reads the floor well for someone his size. Facundo Campazzo is coming off Denver’s books this offseason, and Chandler would be a cheaper replacement who is better as both a shooter and a playmaker. The Nuggets have the highest percentage of assisted buckets in the NBA, and Kennedy Chandler would fit right in.

21. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors) – MarJon Beauchamp, 6-6 Guard, G League Ignite

San Antonio have three first-round picks in the 2022 NBA Draft, and that allows them to improve at multiple positions. After taking a guard at No. 9 overall, Beauchamp would be a good wing prospect to snag. His athleticism allows him to do most things on the court. Beauchamp needs to improve his three-point shot, but he has good mechanics and a good foundation as a scorer. He also rebounds well and adds some plus defense. San Antonio could mold him to fit their needs. It’s possible Beauchamp turns into the best G League alum from this class.

22. Memphis Grizzlies (via Utah Jazz) – Kendall Brown, 6-8 Forward, Baylor

Kendall Brown is an interesting prospect to evaluate. Many analysts had him in the lottery picture for much of the season, but the consensus seems to be cooling a bit on him. The Baylor freshman could be a big steal if he falls into the later parts of the first round. Memphis would be a fantastic fit given the skills Brown has. He’s an exceptional athlete who thrives in transition while being one of the best defenders in this class. Kendall Brown projects to be a two-way slasher at the NBA level and he would fit extremely well into the Grizzlies system.

23. Milwaukee Bucks – Dyson Daniels, 6-6 Guard, G League Ignite

Dyson Daniels falls in the Keon Johnson category for me. I was pretty low on Johnson in last year’s draft cycle because I think it’s good to be wary of guards that can’t shoot. Evidently that was on the right track as most mock drafts had Johnson in the top 10, I mocked him at No. 16, and he was picked at No. 21. Same kind of thinking with Dyson Daniels here. There are a lot of things he is good at – court vision, rebounding, defensive engagement to name a few. His three-point efficiency is a glaring weakness in his game, as he converted just 25% of his attempts from distance for the G League Ignite team. If this persists at the next level, opponents will simply sag off of Daniels on the perimeter and limit his ability to make plays for others. He does plenty of the little things you like to see, especially from a 19-year-old, but his ceiling as a lead guard or scoring threat is severely limited in my opinion. The Bucks are already a good three-point shooting team and they have a good track record with player development, so I like this destination for Daniels.

24. San Antonio Spurs (via Boston Celtics) – Walker Kessler, 7-0 Center, Auburn

And with their third first-rounder, the Spurs bolster the frontcourt with Walker Kessler. Kessler has an argument for best interior defender in the draft class. He had two triple-doubles this season with points, assists, and blocks. The Auburn sophomore finished the campaign averaging over four blocks per game. Jakob Poetl holds his own at the rim in San Antonio, but Kessler could be a guy they bring off the bench to lock down the inside.

25. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers) – Wendell Moore, 6-6 Forward, Duke

I think Wendell Moore will have a Draymond Green-esque career as a Swiss Army knife who does a lot of things well enough to be valuable. He can handle the ball, play defense, rebound, and shoot, all at an above-average level. Brooklyn is a team where Moore could contribute in a variety of ways as a swingman. I’d love to see what he and Cam Thomas could do on the court together.

26. Dallas Mavericks – Christian Koloko, 7-1 Center, Arizona

The Mavericks need to figure out what direction they are going in with Luka Doncic, and that involves selecting players who can quickly make an impact. Koloko can immediately contribute as a rim protector, but he has also shown off an ability to finish close to the basket. The offensive value isn’t consistently there, but he’s shown it enough for that not to be a total red flag. Dallas could at least benefit from adding a solid rebounder who plays with a high motor, and Koloko is that.

27. Miami Heat – Patrick Baldwin Jr., 6-10 Forward, Milwaukee

PBJ was widely regarded as a lottery pick entering the season, but injuries and underwhelming performance on a bad team severely hurt his draft stock. However, the potential is still very much there and he might become a steal in the late first round. The Heat are pretty thin at the power forward spot and Baldwin can stretch the floor with his hypothetically-excellent shot-making ability. He was very inefficient this season, but he was dealing with a persistent ankle injury and the numbers he posted this year were not in line with the shooting prowess he’s shown off in the past. PBJ might not ever be the star many thought he would be, but he can certainly carve out a role for himself as a stretch four.

28. Golden State Warriors – E.J. Liddell, 6-7 Forward, Ohio State

E.J. Liddell has the midrange/post game to be worth a look in the first round. I watched him in person in the 2022 NCAA Tournament vs. Loyola Chicago, and this guy’s post fadeaway is automatic. Liddell simply doesn’t miss from within six feet of the basket. He steadily improved every season at Ohio State, which is a good sign for whatever team drafts him. In his All-American junior season, Liddell averaged 19.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game while also displaying some elite defensive instincts with 2.6 blocks per game. He would add another dimension to Golden State’s offense and also provide a nice defensive boost at a position where both Kevon Looney and Otto Porter stand to enter free agency.

29. Memphis Grizzlies – Bryce McGowens, 6-7 Guard, Nebraska

Memphis finds themselves with a late-first round selection for the third consecutive year, and this gives them yet another chance to flex their player development. McGowens is a project with tantalizing upside as a slashing shot-creator. He’s good at using his length and athleticism to finish around the rim, but he is prone to taking contested shots and being a ball-stopper. The Nebraska freshman is worth taking a flyer on and there’s something about the Grizzlies culture that gets the most out of guys.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Phoenix Suns) – Ismael Kamagate, 6-11 Center, France

Yet another first-round pick for OKC, and this time they get an international prospect who could be their center of the future. Pokusevski hasn’t really panned out to this point, so it might be back to the drawing board. Ismael Kamagate is a very good rim protector who plays well in transition. He needs to improve his rebounding, which isn’t as good as one might think given his size and athleticism. This is a ceiling play for Sam Presti and company.

2022 NBA Draft First Round Bubble: Christian Braun (Kansas), Jean Montero (Overtime Elite), JD Davison (Alabama), Trevor Keels (Duke), Alondes Williams (Wake Forest), Terquavion Smith (NC State), Harrison Ingram (Stanford)

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