Basketball

2022 NBA Mock Draft: Lottery Picks

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The NBA season is over, as the Warriors knocked off the Celtics in six games to win their fourth title in six years. It’s officially the off-season. The first order of business is the draft, which will take place in Brooklyn on June 23, which means it’s less than a week away. The Orlando Magic won the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery, landing the top overall pick and their choice of one of the top three prospects in this class. There’s no consensus #1 overall pick, which may put more pressure on Orlando to pick the best of the three guys. The only other team to move up in the lottery was the Sacramento Kings, who landed the 4th overall pick despite holding just a 32% chance to land a top-four pick.

1. Orlando Magic – Chet Holmgren, PF/C, Gonzaga

The Magic’s young core already consists of guards Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, and Jalen Suggs alongside forwards Franz Wagner and Jonathan Isaac. Holmgren’s presence could transform any team’s defense, but the Magic could build a strong defensive identity with Isaac, Suggs, and Holmgren. Holmgren’s main concern is his lack of size, but he’s just 20 years old and has plenty of time to grow into his frame. He brings upside as a shot creator and a playmaker despite his 7’0″ frame and even shot 39.0% from distance last season at Gonzaga.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jabari Smith, PF, Auburn

The Oklahoma City Thunder are notorious for their stockpile of first-round picks, and they’ll pick twice in the lottery in 2022. They already have two young star guards in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, but they don’t have any young bigs. Adding Jabari Smith, a 6’10” power forward who can shoot the lights out, would fill out one of their glaring holes. Smith averaged 16.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG, and 1.0 BPG while shooting 42.9% from the field and 42.0% from three.

3. Houston Rockets – Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke

The Houston Rockets drafted Jalen Green with the 2nd overall pick last year and he put together a solid rookie year. He got off to a slow start but averaged 20.7 PPG on 47/39/76 shooting splits in 32 games from February 2nd onward. Banchero would fit perfectly alongside Green, and he showed up with big performances in the NCAA tournament. He’s a great shot-creator who would fit well alongside the fast-paced offense that Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., and the young Rockets play in.

4. Sacramento Kings – Keegan Murray, PF, Iowa

The 4th straight big off the board is Keegan Murray who the Sacramento Kings will select if they decide not to trade out of this pick. If anyone else got the 4th overall pick, I’d mock Jaden Ivey here, but the Kings already have a surplus of guards. They were forced to trade Tyrese Haliburton to the Pacers to free up space in their backcourt consisting of Davion Mitchell and De’Aaron Fox. Murray is a stretch-four who will fit perfectly alongside Domantas Sabonis in the frontcourt. Last year with the Hawkeyes, the sophomore averaged 23.5 PPG and 8.7 RPG while shooting 39.8% from three.

5. Detroit Pistons – Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue

The Detroit Pistons landed the top overall pick in 2021 and took Cade Cunningham, a point guard out of Oklahoma State. Although Ivey is also a ball-dominant guard, he has electric quickness and an uncanny ability to get to the hole. Ivey has the versatility to fit into nearly any lineup configuration, and he hit some huge shots down the stretch of the NCAA tournament for Purdue. Ivey drastically improved his three-point shot as he did from his freshman to sophomore year, turning himself into a true three-level scorer.

6. Indiana Pacers – Shaedon Sharpe, SG, Kentucky

Shaedon Sharpe left high school early to join the Kentucky Wildcats in January, but he never entered an NCAA game. He was ranked as the top recruit in the Class of 2022 before reclassing and being ranked as a top-3 recruit in the Class of 2021 by 247 Sports. The 18-year-old shooting guard declared for the 2022 NBA Draft, and he’s one of the more interesting players in the class. There’s a ton of upside for Sharpe, who has shown great potential as a slasher and a scorer. In Indiana, he’d be paired with Tyrese Haliburton to form a potentially deadly backcourt duo. The Pacers are beginning their rebuild, and bringing in a young, electric guard with elite upside is the shot they need to take.

7. Portland Trail Blazers – AJ Griffin, SF, Duke

The Portland Trail Blazers traded away CJ McCollum at the trade deadline and Jusuf Nurkic is a pending unrestricted free agent. Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons are a strong backcourt, and they may be inclined to trade out of this pick, but AJ Griffin is the perfect modern 3-and-D wing. Griffin has a 7’0″ wingspan and the lateral quickness to guard other wings, and there’s even more potential to be unlocked on the defensive end as he matures as a player. Along with the defensive upside, Griffin shot 45% from three-point range for the Blue Devils in 2021-22. At just 18 years old, Griffin may already be an NBA-ready wing.

8. New Orleans Pelicans – Bennedict Mathurin, SG, Arizona

Bennedict Mathurin showed the ability to lead a team in 2021-22 with the Arizona Wildcats, as they were a one-seed and made it to the Sweet 16. The 6’7″ wing averaged 17.7 PPG and 5.6 RPG last year while shooting 36.8% from distance on 6.1 attempts per game. As a freshman in 2020-21, he shot 41.8% from three as a spot-up shooter who split time between starting and coming off the bench. The Pelicans are the only playoff team picking in the lottery, and they could use a guy like Mathurin to come off their bench or complement Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and CJ McCollum in the starting lineup.

9. San Antonio Spurs – Jalen Duren, C, Memphis

The Spurs have a history of drafting very young, promising players who could be seen as boom-or-bust prospects. They’ve spent their past three first-round draft picks on Joshua Primo, Devin Vassell, and Keldon Johnson. They have an emerging star at the guard position in Dejounte Murray, and pairing him with a dominant big man could make this team dangerous within just a couple of years. Duren, a 6’10” center, averaged 12.0 PPG and 8.1 RPG in 25.3 MPG for Memphis in 2021-22. He has all the tools to be a great defensive big, and the Spurs may be inclined to take a chance on him with their first-round pick.

10. Washington Wizards – Dyson Daniels, PG, G-League Ignite

The Washington Wizards are in an interesting position entering the 2022 offseason. They’ve been inconsistent over the past few seasons but they moved towards a rebuild by trading Russell Westbrook to the Lakers last offseason. Bradley Beal will return from injury next season and Kyle Kuzma established himself as a nightly double-double threat last season. They could use a ball-dominant guard, and 6’8″ Dyson Daniels is a great fit. He has great upside as a two-way player, but his 25.5% 3P% for G-League Ignite is a real cause for concern.

11. New York Knicks – Johnny Davis, SG, Wisconsin

Johhny Davis is a fairly polarizing prospect in the 2022 draft process. On one hand, he’s an athletic, strong high-volume scoring guard who led the Wisconsin Badgers to a share of the Big Ten title and a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, Davis lacks the ball-handling, passing, and shot selection to be a primary option as he was in college. Davis came off the bench as a freshman and averaged just 7.0 PPG before breaking out as a sophomore, averaging 19.7 PPG and 8.2 RPG. He shot just 30.6% from three last year, but he’s shown the ability to stretch the floor in the past. The Knicks are a trade-up candidate, but they’d be happy to see Davis available with the 11th pick.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder, Ousmane Dieng, F, NBL

The Thunder are the only team with two lottery picks. They acquired the 12th pick from the Los Angeles Clippers when they dealt Paul George in 2019. Dieng, a France native who played for the New Zealand Breakers last year, is a 6’10 forward who has the skill set of a guard. He has a lot of work to do before he reaches anything close to NBA stardom, but Oklahoma City is in the right place to take a chance on a guy like that. They’re a few years away from contending, and Dieng could be the right guy for them if he pans out.

13. Charlotte Hornets, Jeremy Sochan, PF, Baylor

Jeremy Sochan is a guy who could go in the lottery or he could go later in the first round. He’s been shooting up draft boards recently, and it makes sense why. He’s a do-it-all forward who really only lacks a great jump shot. He struggles both from distance and from the free-throw line, but he’s an elite defensive forward who is a great playmaker and could serve as an emotional leader for a young team. If he can blossom as a shooter, there’s nothing holding him back from being an athletic, two-way glue guy. Even if he doesn’t, he’s a great playmaker with great size and elite defensive potential.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers, Ochai Agbaji, SF, Kansas

Ochai Agbaji led the Kansas Jayhawks to an NCAA Championship as a senior in 2021-22. He’s 22 years old, but he improved drastically each year of his collegiate career. As a senior, he averaged 18.8 PPG and 5.1 RPG while shooting 40.7% from three on 6.5 attempts per game. He’s as NBA-ready as it gets, and he excels as an off-ball threat. He’ll be a great complement to Darius Garland and Collin Sexton (should Cleveland hold on to him) with his secondary creation skills and elite jump shot. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but Agbaji is the perfect guy for a team like the Cavs who were the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference before losing both play-in rounds and falling out of the playoffs.

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