We are under two months away from the 2022 NBA Draft, the most stacked draft class we’ve seen in years. There is still no consensus top prospect. Instead, we have four very talented players that all have a case to be #1. Those players are Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren Duke’s Paolo Banchero, Auburn’s Jabari Smith, and Purdue’s Jaden Ivey. While any of these four have the chance to go 1st overall, I am leaning toward Chet as I believe he’s the most UNIQUE (not best) prospect the NBA has seen in quite some time. He has an extremely thin frame and I honestly don’t know if that’ll ever significantly change, but he is still 100% worth the risk. His floor is still an elite defender with top-level footwork and versatility. Below is my 1st mock draft of the year, with some insight on the lottery picks. I hope this ages well…
1. Houston Rockets, Chet Holmgren, C/F, Gonzaga
My #1 prospect this year goes #1 to the Houston Rockets, creating quite the trio of Jalen Green, Christian Wood, and Chet Holmgren. You’ll get a wide variety of opinions on Chet depending on who you ask, seeing he has an extremely thin frame and unique skillset. He can space the floor, make any pass needed from a big man and defend on the perimeter and interior, while he was limited to an extent vs other big men who could physically hold their own, I don’t see any reason why he can’t continue to have success at the next level. At the very worst you have a high-level defender who can do a wide variety of things offensively, and best-case scenario, the Rockets just got the next best big man in the NBA, a player who does things we have very rarely seen from someone his size.
2. Orlando Magic, Paolo Banchero, F, Duke
Paolo Banchero is the safest pick in this draft, at any point. Is this a hot take? I’m not sure but it’s the truth, he’s got good size (6’10’ 250 lbs) and NBA level strength already, his skillset offensively is far more developed than the other top three prospects in this draft and he’s the perfect piece to help Orlando finally get back to relevancy. The young core of Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, and Wendell Carter Jr is something that can make this team relevant for the first time since the Dwight Howard days.
3. Detroit Pistons, Jabari Smith, F, Auburn
Imagine a duo of Cade Cunningham and Jabari Smith. That is must-see TV if you ask me and, while I am not as high on Smith as the consensus is, I believe he still has multiple-time all-star potential. He needs a lot of development offensively, as I don’t see him being much more than a 6’10” shooter to begin his career but he’s an amazing shooter for his size so it’s not like that’s much of an issue. Smith has a great work ethic and sufficient athleticism to make whichever team that drafts him very confident in their future prospects.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder, Shaedon Sharpe, G, Kentucky
Call this the first surprise of the draft as Oklahoma passes on Ivey and opts for the higher-risk, higher-upside guard out of Kentucky. Sharpe didn’t play a single minute for the Wildcats this season and is still a lock to hear his name called very early, and rightfully so. Sharpe has elite scoring and shot-creating upside, he creates more separation on his jumper than any guard in this class, and even though he doesn’t project to be the best shooter from deep to start, I’m confident in saying that part of his game will come eventually. If Sharpe can work on his defense where he was oftentimes seemingly uninterested (a common theme for teenage recruits) and his decision-making, the Thunder could come out of this looking like geniuses, snagging a talent like Sharpe at pick 4.
5. Indiana Pacers, Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
Jaden Ivey is an explosive combo guard who plays much bigger than you’d think, and with him slipping to pick 5, the Pacers jump all over the idea of creating a Haliburton/Ivey duo. While this pick won’t help fill the seats (it’s Indiana, I don’t think there’s much that would), it will set this rebuild in the right direction.
6. Portland Trailblazers, Keegan Murray, F/C, Iowa
I have absolutely no idea what direction Portland is looking to head in this off-season, and I love that. On one hand, they could use their newfound cap space and draft capital to make some moves in hopes of contending with Damian Lillard. On the other, smarter hand, they can finally rebuild and build around the idea of Anfernee Simons, who would love the potential tag-team with Keegan Murray, a big man who can switch with ease and stretch the floor. Murray is 22, but his current trajectory is so impressive, I would be pretty surprised to see him go much later than this. His game fits the mold for the new NBA and he has a low bust probability, you’re welcome Trailblazers fans.
7. Sacramento Kings, Bennedict Mathurin, G, Arizona
The Kings are tired of losing, I’m sure of it. The finalists for their head coaching vacancy tell me that they want to make a playoff push ASAP. So, it makes sense to draft an instant impact player at a position of need. Mathurin is one of the more athletic prospects in the draft, and he proved to be a capable three-point shooter this season. He projects best in an up-tempo offense, which makes this a perfect fit as the Kings’ current personnel is built for speed. A starting lineup of Fox, Mitchell, Mathurin, Sabonis and whoever else they want to throw on the floor is playoff-caliber in a weaker western conference.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (from Lakers), Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor
As a defense appreciator, the thought of a Jose Alvarado, Herb Jones, Jeremy Sochan lineup makes me drool. Sochan is the BEST defender in this class, he was criticized for being a “dirty player” this past season and I have no issue with that, the NBA needs more bad guys. Sochan’s aggressive defensive playstyle alongside Jones and Alvardo gives 90s basketball revival vibes, something the league has really been missing lately. He doesn’t have much of an offensive game right now, but with proper development, it should come along. Sochan has a pretty smooth jump shot and showcased playmaking abilities to warrant said optimism.
9. San Antonio Spurs, Jalen Duren, C, Memphis
Finding a landing spot for Jalen was a bit tricky, as there isn’t a huge need for big men amongst the mid-to-late lottery teams. Mix that in with his offensive game being a bit outdated and where he fits is unclear. Nonetheless, I settled on the Spurs, a team that will be in need of a long-term option at the 5 (sorry Poetl fans). Duren is the youngest prospect projected to be drafted and has all the physical tools a team could ask for, there are concerns about his motor which is concerning seeing a player like this success is reliant on energy and effort. At the very worst, Duren projects to be a quality rim protector and post threat.
10. Washington Wizards, Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin
Johnny Davis has kinda been forgotten over the past few months after a red-hot start to the season. It’s probable that the Badgers disappointing March had something to do with this. I am not overly confident in Davis at the next level, but he earned a high selection and will get that, Concerns about his shooting range and his ability to be an effective distributor at the next level plague the 6-foot-5 guard. Some see him as a potential high-level backup who could win multiple Sixth Man of The Year awards, while others see a potential star.
11. New York Knicks, AJ Griffin, G/F, Duke
This is a natural fit, the Knicks could use a high-level shot maker AND he’s from Duke, something the Knicks have seemingly fallen in love with as of late. Griffin took a while to get going, probably due to starting his season with a nagging knee injury. But boy did he turn it up in a big way, ending his college career shooting 44% from deep on over 4 attempts per game. The Knicks will still need a long-term PG, but they can afford to ignore that while drafting the best payer available here.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Clippers) Tari Eason, F, LSU
The Thunder are in a fun spot here at 12. They have their long-term options at both guard spots, but everything else is on the table. I love the idea of adding a versatile big man who can guard multiple positions and run the floor like a guard. That’s where the former LSU Tiger and Cincinnati Bearcat Tari Eason comes into play. Eason does have some negatives to his game: foul trouble, bad decision-making, and he was a selfish player at times. Luckily, the Thunder have all the patience in the world with prospects and have proven multiple times that they can fix players. Why not take a shot here, he’d already be better than Poke from the jump.
13. Charlotte Hornets, Mark Williams, C, Duke
This really doesn’t need an explanation, the Hornets have desperately been in need of a true big man for some time now. Mark Williams is a high floor low ceiling guy who projects to have a long career, please make it happen MJ.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers, Malaki Branham, G/F, Ohio State
I love it when guys play themselves into the draft conversation and even more so when they play themselves into the lottery. After an amazing stretch of ball, Branham may have done just that. Malaki shot 41.6% from the 3-point line and took home Big 10 Player of the Year Honors last season.
15. Charlotte Hornets, Ochai Agbaji, F/G, Kansas
16. Atlanta Hawks, Jaden Hardy, G, G-League Ignite
17. Houston Rockets: Dyson Daniels, G, G-League Ignite
18. Chicago Bulls, Walker Kessler, C, Auburn
19. Minnesota Timberwolves, TyTy Washington, G, Kentucky
20. San Antonio Spurs, Kendall Brown, F, Baylor
21. Denver Nuggets, Wendell Moore Jr, F/G, Duke
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Patrick Baldwin Jr, F, Milwaukee
23. Brooklyn Nets, Nikola Jovic, F, INTL
24. Milwaukee Bucks, Ousmane Dieng, F, INTL
25. San Antonio Spurs, MarJon Beauchamp, G/F, G-League ignite
26. Dallas Mavericks, Christian Braun, G, Kansas
27. Miami Heat, Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame
28. Golden State Warriors, Christian Koloko, C, Arizona
29. Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Robinson, C, Fresno State
30. Oklahoma City Thunder, Ismael Kamagate, C, INTL