The 2022 NBA Draft cycle has been marked by uncertainty, and that continues into the final hours before the big night arrives. While there is a consensus top four with Jabari Smith Jr., Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey, and Chet Holmgren in some order, most of the focus at the very top of the board has been on Smith and Holmgren. Then, almost on cue, a flurry of activity transpired in the handicapping world with Banchero and the No. 1 overall pick, bringing even more clouds to the mix.
Barring a total shock, one of the top four players will land in Orlando on Thursday, with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets reportedly likely to snag other players from that grouping. From there, things might fly off the rails with the always entertaining and unpredictable Sacramento Kings at No. 4 overall, and in a draft that projects as relatively flat in the mid-to-late lottery, “consensus” may be moot by eight o’clock hour on June 23.
With that as the backdrop, it is time to check in with a final mock draft look at the 2022 board, acknowledging that chaos will almost certainly reign on the festivities with trades and unexpected selections in the offing. Keep in mind that this is not a big board, but rather an educated estimate on what might transpire, taking into account public and private intel and reasonable team needs as they are known at this juncture.
1. Orlando Magic – Jabari Smith Jr. (F, Auburn)
Smith is the consensus No. 1 from a mock perspective, and he’s here until the behind-the-scenes info changes. With that said, it doesn’t feel like a lock by any means, and this is a true “eye of the beholder” class all the way through. As a player, Smith is arguably the best shooter in the draft with the length to shoot over anyone, but he also tends to settle for contested shots, rather than showing the ability to get by defenders and attack the rim. With his high-end shooting and defensive potential, though, there is a ton to like.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder – Chet Holmgren (C/F, Gonzaga)
Holmgren is my personal No. 1 player, albeit not by a wide margin. He is reportedly viewed highly in Oklahoma City and only worked out for the top two teams. That is likely for a reason, and the idea of Holmgren is exceptionally tantalizing. By now, anyone paying attention has heard endless discussion of his frame, but Holmgren’s defensive feel and length are off-the-charts, and he is the archetype of a rim protector and floor spacer that teams certainly covet in the modern game.
3. Houston Rockets – Paolo Banchero (F, Duke)
Banchero might be a heist for Houston. He is viewed by some as the best prospect in the draft and, if you buy his shooting and/or his potential to be solid defensively, that makes sense. Some of the public reaction to the Christian Wood trade as a tie to Banchero was likely overblown, but he’s the best player available in this slot, and he’s a very popular mock selection here for a reason.
4. Sacramento Kings – Jaden Ivey (G, Purdue)
The Kings are the Kings, and speculation is rampant that Sacramento could move this selection for a player that is more present-day ready. That would be a mistake in a vacuum, at least when viewing the Kings’ roster through a rational lens, and one reason is that Ivey is a tier above the rest of the players on the board. Is the fit between Ivey and De’Aaron Fox great? Probably not, but if a team lands in the top four, taking the best prospect is the best thing to do on about 99 percent of occasions.
5. Detroit Pistons – Keegan Murray (F, Iowa)
This is a perfectly fine outcome for Detroit, though many (including myself) would be fascinated by a partnership between Ivey and Cade Cunningham. Alas, Ivey should be the No. 4 pick, no matter which team makes that selection, and Murray is believed to be one of the favorites in Detroit. The Pistons could easily go off the board with Bennedict Mathurin or another interesting prospect, but Murray’s statistical profile was tremendous at Iowa, and he checks a lot of positive boxes, even without presenting grand slam upside.
6. Indiana Pacers – Bennedict Mathurin (G/F, Arizona)
There is a ton of smoke that Indiana is interested in landing either Ivey or Murray. Since we aren’t projecting trades in this mock, the Pacers have to go elsewhere, and Mathurin seems logical. He is widely projected to be a top-eight pick, and there is a chance Mathurin is one of the best shooters in the draft that has some off-dribble juice and a reasonable defensive projection.
7. Portland Trail Blazers – Shaedon Sharpe (G/F, Kentucky)
This is kind of cheating, because I don’t think the Blazers would take Sharpe. But Portland is widely expected to take offers/calls on the No. 7 pick all the way until the selection is made if necessary. With that in mind, I’ll slot in Sharpe as the mystery player of the draft, but as a guy with legitimate star upside as a shot creator if it all comes together. He does have real downside, but it is easy to be enticed by what he could be.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via LA Lakers) – Dyson Daniels (G, G League Ignite)
Daniels has been a personal favorite throughout the process, and this might be his practical floor with the way the intel is trending. The big question is whether he can shoot at a high enough level to be a massive offensive threat, but Daniels is a gifted defender who plays the game with tremendous feel. He also has great size at 6’7 for a player with guard skills, and Daniels is comfortable as a playmaker to the point where he should be able to solidly perform as a secondary option.
9. San Antonio Spurs – Jeremy Sochan (F, Baylor)
Things get very interesting from here, in part because the Spurs are prone to going off the board a bit. Sochan is a perfectly solid value at this slot, and San Antonio seems to be a team that would value his defensive versatility. In fact, Sochan projects as the most intriguing defender in the entire class, at least outside of the center options, and San Antonio has a reputation of fixing issues on the offensive end. The offense has a long way to go, but Sochan could be a multi-faceted, highly valuable future piece.
10. Washington Wizards – Johnny Davis (G/F, Wisconsin)
Washington has been leaning on players who are “NBA-ready” in the recent past, and Davis does check that box. This time, Davis would actually be appropriate in terms of future-facing value as well. In fact, there was a time in which it would not have felt strange to see Davis at No. 5 or No. 6 on big boards, and not too much changed when it comes to his evaluation. Everyone wishes he was 6’7 and could play small forward on a regular basis, but Davis is a very good basketball player who competes and brings two-way equity.
11. New York Knicks – A.J. Griffin (F/G, Duke)
This is a splendid value for the Knicks, as long as Griffin’s medicals are in order. He was the No. 1 player in his high school class at one point and, while Griffin’s athleticism has declined a bit, he shot the ball at an absurd level at Duke. If he can recapture some burst and improve his defense, look out.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via LA Clippers) – Tari Eason (F, LSU)
Oklahoma City is the first team to make multiple picks, and that makes the Thunder even more interesting. Beyond the stockpile of assets they already possess, the Thunder add Chet Holmgren in this mock, and go with another defensive disruptor in Tari Eason. While Eason isn’t a polished product, he is physical, aggressive, and talented.
13. Charlotte Hornets – Jalen Duren (C, Memphis)
Duren might be gone by No. 13 but, if he isn’t, he slots into the Mark Williams Memorial Draft Slot. That isn’t a slight to Williams, who you will see shortly, but Duren has the higher ceiling and is largely viewed as the better prospect. He’s still 18 years old and has room to develop, but Duren lobs from LaMelo Ball could be special and fun.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers – Ochai Agbaji (G/F, Kansas)
Agbaji is one of the better shooters in the class and Cleveland needs shooting and wing depth. There is a potential bonus in that Agbaji projects to be able to contribute sooner rather than later, but the trade-off is that his ceiling is lower than some of the other options available in this range.
15. Charlotte Hornets (via New Orleans) – Ousmane Dieng (F, New Zealand Breakers)
This is probably too low for Dieng based on where the intel is with him. The Hornets also might be interested in moving one of their two top-15 selections, so it’s also a placeholder. He’ll need some time to grow into his game, but Dieng’s raw tools are tremendously intriguing with his playmaking chops, length, and defensive potential.
16. Atlanta Hawks – Jalen Williams (F/G, Santa Clara)
Hawks President of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk has always been fond of “dribble, pass, shoot” players, and Williams checks every box. He was a late riser in the process, but Williams is 6’6 with a 7’2 wingspan and he operates at his own tempo and under complete control. The challenge is that he’s a fairly limited athlete by NBA wing standards, but Williams has been impressing on the workout circuit, and he can run a pick-and-roll to give the Hawks some secondary creation.
17. Houston Rockets (via Brooklyn) – Malaki Branham (G/F, Ohio State)
This is a best player available choice for Houston, at least within reason. Branham does have some downside as a middling athlete and a very poor defender at this stage, but he has a reported 6’10 wingspan and a varied offensive game. He can get to his own shot, connect from long distance, and give the Rockets another long-term shot creator.
18. Chicago Bulls – Mark Williams (C, Duke)
The Bulls are heavily linked to Rudy Gobert as a one-man plan on defense. Obviously, Williams won’t be at Gobert’s level anytime soon, but his calling card is the ability to act as a defensive anchor and potentially elite rim protector. This also doubles as a strong value compared to my personal big board.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves – E.J. Liddell (F, Ohio State)
Rumblings indicate the Wolves could be in the market for a true center to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns, and Liddell isn’t that. However, if they don’t go with strategy, Liddell is a versatile, effective defender at the 4 that could help Towns and fit seamlessly with Minnesota’s pieces. A team in the top-20 would need to buy his shooting improvement from last season, but that is reasonable.
20. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto) – TyTy Washington (G, Kentucky)
Washington could benefit from a team buying into the “Kentucky combo guards are undervalued!” narrative from recent seasons. However, he hasn’t had much helium during the draft process, and a top-20 landing spot would be just fine. Washington has great feel and makes some sense next to a big creator like Dejounte Murray.
21. Denver Nuggets – MarJon Beauchamp (G/F, G League Ignite)
This is a bet on the rest of Denver’s offensive ecosystem. Beauchamp would be one of the more limited offensive players to go off the board in the first round, but he’s a very good defensive player already and might be an excellent one in the future. The Nuggets just need more defensive juice on the whole, especially when building around Jokic, Murray, and Porter Jr.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (via Utah) – Dalen Terry (G/F, Arizona)
It used to be trendy to view Terry as a top-20 pick. Now, many have wised to that viewpoint. Regardless, the Grizzlies seem to have Draft Twitter Brain, and Memphis nabs another riser as they did with Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke, and De’Anthony Melton in previous seasons. If Terry’s jump shot plays, he’s terrifying.
23. Philadelphia 76ers – Jake LaRavia (F, Wake Forest)
LaRavia is a huge riser at the end of the process, but those paying close attention to his season at Wake Forest aren’t surprised. He profiles as a genuinely valuable role player who can shoot, pass, and defend. He’s not an upper-tier NBA athlete, but there is enough there to hold up, and the Sixers could use a player who doesn’t need the ball to succeed.
24. Milwaukee Bucks – Christian Braun (G/F, Kansas)
The hope with Braun would be that he can function as a 3-and-D wing with transition appeal. Milwaukee’s pre-draft rumblings point to a desire for contributions in the near term, and Braun was a multi-year guy at Kansas who can hold up defensively, shoot it, and provide real athleticism. His biggest vulnerability is on-ball creation, but he won’t need to do that in Milwaukee.
25. San Antonio Spurs (via Boston) – Nikola Jovic (F, Mega)
Jovic is a bit of an odd player. He is a really gift ball-handler and potential creator with power forward size. If his jumper matches his creativity, he’ll be an offensive monster. On the other side, his defense could be a forever kind of problem, but the Spurs have multiple picks and can perhaps maximize his talents.
26. Houston Rockets (via Dallas) – Blake Wesley (G, Notre Dame)
Wesley is a very tools-y, theoretical prospect at this point, but the tools are very intriguing. He struggled at Notre Dame from an efficiency standpoint, but he’s a very good athlete that could put pressure on the opposition. Houston’s current front office tends to swing on upside, and he has some.
27. Miami Heat – Jaden Hardy (G, G League Ignite)
On one hand, this would represent a bit of a tumble for Hardy, who was once projected as a potential top-five pick in this class. On the other, Miami is a fantastic developmental situation, and Hardy has shot creation upside that most prospects simply can’t bring at this juncture in the draft.
28. Golden State Warriors – Wendell Moore (G/F, Duke)
Moore shot it well this year, dispelling some previous concerns about his ability to space the floor. He isn’t a lock first-rounder, but Moore is a very good and willing passer who can operate a pick-and-roll and hold up on defense. That does sound like someone the Warriors would enjoy.
29. Memphis Grizzlies – Kennedy Chandler (G, Tennessee)
This doesn’t really work if the Grizzlies decide to invest in Tyus Jones long-term, and that wouldn’t be the worst idea for Memphis. However, Jones is overqualified to be Ja Morant’s backup, and Chandler is a good value at this point in the draft. He’s small, but there isn’t much to worry about other than the size limitations, and it’s possible that Chandler is being needlessly overlooked.
30. Denver Nuggets (via Oklahoma City) – Andrew Nembhard (G, Gonzaga)
Does Denver actually want to make two picks? That’s unclear. Nembhard is a guy who has gotten enough first round buzz to draw an inclusion, though, and he would give Denver another interesting guard with size and the ability to play in the relatively near future.