The 2022 NBA Draft order is set. The Orlando Magic are in celebratory mode after landing the No. 1 pick. Now comes the hard part for decision-makers in Orlando. They will have to make a choice between Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, and Jabari Smith Jr.
It’s a good problem to have, but that doesn’t make the decision any easier. With the lottery locked in, there are a few changes in the latest version of ESNY’s NBA mock draft.
1. Orlando Magic: Chet Holmgren, F/C, Gonzaga (2002)
Chet Holmgren is a tantalizing prospect, but there are concerns about his strength and long-term durability. Positional fit and his streaky three-point shooting are less of a concern at this stage in the game. The Magic are taking a chance on one of the unique draft prospects becoming the next big thing in the NBA. Holmgren could slot in nicely next to Wendell Carter Jr. in the frontcourt.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Paolo Banchero, F, Duke (2002)
It’s hard to fault Oklahoma City for going with the most polished offensive player in this class. Paolo Banchero is strong enough physically to bang inside, has an uncanny touch in the mid-range for someone his age, and is improving rapidly from beyond the arc. He’s a three-level scorer with defensive upside.
3. Houston Rockets: Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn (2003)
Jabari Smith Jr. is my top-rated prospect in this class, but after seeing how the lotto shook out, I have him going No. 3 to the Rockets. He will be a great fit on any roster due to his defensive versatility and lights-out three-point shooting, but I have a hunch that the Thunder and Magic will be swayed by the offensive polish of Banchero and sheer upside of Holmgren.
Houston is stealing the best player in the draft at pick No. 3.
4. Sacramento Kings: Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue (2002)
Jaden Ivey is the best guard in the draft. Whether he’s defined as a shooting guard, combo guard, lead guard, or all of the above, it doesn’t really matter. His athleticism, downhill ability, and overall upside make him a lock to go in the top four. Ivey could go anywhere between two and four in this draft.
5. Detroit Pistons: Shaedon Sharpe, G, Kentucky (2003)
Shaedon Sharpe is the biggest wild card in the draft. Sharpe didn’t play a single minute at Kentucky despite being one of the top recruits in the country. Questions about his draft eligibility hung over his season, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is dripping with talent. A bouncy guard/wing who can make tough shots? A lot of NBA teams would sign up for that.
6. Indiana Pacers: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa (2000)
Keegan Murray can be considered the old man in the lottery, but his age shouldn’t scare teams away. The Iowa product has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he can score from anywhere and he is tough enough to clean up the glass too. There’s a hole at power forward in Indiana after the Domantas Sabonis trade.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: Jalen Duren, C, Memphis (2003)
Jalen Duren might not be the best big man in the draft, but he is the best rim-running center in this class. He’s tall, can run the floor, and protect the rim. He checks all the boxes as a defensive anchor and lob threat. The Trail Blazers could let Jusuf Nurkic walk and replace him with a younger option.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via LAL): Dyson Daniels, G, Ignite (2003)
In all likelihood, Dyson Daniels will be the first G League Ignite player off the board. The combination of size and his feel for the game are tantalizing qualities that every team needs. The Pelicans don’t have a true point guard and everyone who fits that mold would be a reach here. The next best option? Taking a playmaking wing like Daniels.
9. San Antonio Spurs: AJ Griffin, F, Duke (2003)
AJ Griffin’s path to the NBA Draft has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. He was one of the top recruits out of high school but struggled to produce early in his freshman season at Duke. He even fell outside the lottery in some mocks during his rough patches. However, he re-established himself as a lottery lock by shooting 44.7% from three.
10. Washington Wizards: Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin (2002)
Johnny Davis saw his draft stock rise during a tremendous season at Wisconsin. He became much more comfortable with the ball in his hands and flashed impressive shotmaking as a combo guard-wing hybrid. The Wizards make perfect sense for Davis. Pairing him with Bradley Beal is a partnership that could work.
11. New York Knicks: Bennedict Mathurin, SG, Arizona (2002)
The Knicks should run to the podium if Bennedict Mathurin falls this far. He is a no-doubt lottery pick and a likely top-10 guy. He blends long-term upside with fantastic college production. Mathurin is a three-level scorer with enough defensive versatility to cover guards and wings in the NBA. Although his three-point shooting dipped by about five percentage points during his sophomore season, he was taking tougher shots as Arizona’s No. 1 option. Not to mention, his volume was up as well.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via LAC): Ousmane Dieng, F, NZ Breakers (2003)
Ousmane Dieng is another wild card in this draft. He struggled early in the NBL but showcased a strong feel for the game as he improved with each rep. If he’s up to 6-foot-10 like some reports suggest, don’t be surprised when Oklahoma City takes a big swing on his upside.
13. Charlotte Hornets: Tari Eason, F, LSU (2001)
Tari Eason fits the profile of a dynamic NBA wing. Defensively, he has the length and strength to cover multiple positions, but any team taking him in the lottery is ultimately banking on his offensive upside.
14: Cleveland Cavaliers: Ochai Agbaji, F, Kansas (2000)
Injuries ravaged the Cavaliers down the stretch of last season. They have an All-Star point guard (Darius Garland) and an All-Star center (Jarrett Allen). They add a plug-and-play wing in Ochai Agbaji who is fresh off a National Championship at Kansas.
15. Charlotte Hornets (via NOP): Mark Williams, C, Duke (2001)
LaMelo Ball needs a rim-running center who can body up with bigs and be a dangerous lob threat. Mark Williams is that guy.
16. Atlanta Hawks: TyTy Washington, PG, Kentucky (2002)
TyTy Washington is the first pure point guard to go off the board here. He slides in as Trae Young’s understudy from day one.
17. Houston Rockets (via BKN): Nikola Jovic, PF, Mega Basket (2003)
If Nikola Jovic can hang with the physicality and speed of the NBA, someone in the teens or 20s of this draft is getting a steal.
18. Chicago Bulls: Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor (2003)
Jeremy Sochan will fight for minutes from the moment he steps on an NBA floor. The Bulls need help off the bench and he can provide that.
19: Minnesota Timberwolves: Christian Braun, SF, Kansas (2001)
The Timberwolves could take another leap next season, but they need to add more depth. Christian Braun brings an edge and he comes from a winning program.
20. San Antonio Spurs (via TOR): Patrick Baldwin Jr., F, Milwaukee (2002)
Patrick Baldwin Jr. entered college as a potential top-five pick in this draft. A disappointing freshman season at Milwaukee and injuries have his stock falling. San Antonio feels like a safe landing spot for the high-IQ wing.
21. Denver Nuggets: Jean Montero, PG, Overtime Elite (2003)
The Nuggets could be willing to take a chance on Jean Montero’s upside despite the difficulties of assessing a player from Overtime Elite.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (via UTA): Walker Kessler
Steven Adams is a free agent after next season. Walker Kessler was the best shot-blocker in college basketball last season and could be a nice hedge for the Grizzlies in the event that Adams walks.
23. Brooklyn Nets (via PHI): Kendall Brown, F, Baylor (2003)
The Nets need to surround Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with capable wings. They take a chance on the athleticism of Kendall Brown.
24. Milwaukee Bucks: Jaden Hardy, G, Ignite (2002)
Jaden Hardy is no longer a viable option in the top 10 after a disappointing showing in the G League, but he’s still too talented to drop into the second round.
25. San Antonio Spurs (via BOS): Gabriele Procida, F, Fortitudo Bologna (2002)
Gabriele Procida converted on 39% of his threes across three seasons in Italy’s top league. The Spurs return to their roots as a destination for international prospects.
26. Dallas Mavericks: E.J. Liddell, F/C, Ohio State (2000)
E.J. Liddell is undersized for a big, but he fits the Mavericks like a glove. He’s a strong defender with a high IQ on both ends of the floor. In other words, a perfect small-ball big to pair with Luka Doncic.
27. Miami Heat: Kennedy Chandler, PG, Tennessee (2002)
This is a perfect situation for Kennedy Chandler as he can learn from Kyle Lowry in one of the best cultures in the NBA.
28. Golden State Warriors: JD Davison, PG, Alabama (2002)
There will be manageable expectations for JD Davison in Golden State. Stephen Curry isn’t going anywhere.
29. Memphis Grizzlies: Malaki Branham, SG, Ohio State (2003)
Surrounding Ja Morant with shooters is the best way to unlock his greatness. Memphis adds another sharpshooting wing with Malaki Branham.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (via PHX): Ismael Kamagate, C, Paris Basketball (2001)
OKC is going to keep taking big swings on high-upside guys. They have enough picks over the next few years and there seems to be no mandate to win anytime soon.