At the Buzzer: A 2022 NBA Mock Draft
It’s the night of June 21st, and I’m just now sitting down to write my first and only Mock Draft of the NBA season. It took a lot of studying and really a whole lot of procrastination. This upcoming draft is one of the better ones in recent history, and for a few teams, the moves made Thursday night will determine whether or not some teams will contend for at least a play-in spot or if they’re stuck in lottery hell for the next few seasons. Since it’s my first and last mock draft of the year, I’m allowing trades and making picks based on what I think should happen.
#1: Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith Jr., Forward, Auburn
It’s rare to find a guy with a combination of this much size and skill. Smith stands out above the rest of this class because of his offensive upside. At 6’10, he might just be the best pure shooter in this class, but he showed at Auburn that he’s far from a finished prospect. While at Auburn, he suffered from a lack of playmakers around him. Orlando has a boatload of guards that can make plays for him. Regardless of the pick here, I don’t see the Magic ready to seriously compete for a playoff spot next year, so they might have a shot at Victor Wembanyama next year at the top of the lottery.
#2: Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren, F/C, Gonzaga
To have both the highest ceiling and the lowest floor of a draft class is rare, but such is the case for young Chet Holmgren who entered his freshman year at Gonzaga as the most talked-about prospect in recent memory and he lived up to expectations. There were times when his weight seemed to be an issue, especially on the offensive end where he couldn’t bully people down low. His offensive and defensive potential are off the charts, it’s just a matter of how he’ll be used that will determine how his career will go.
#3: Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero, F, Duke
The Banchero/Houston fit has been something that I’ve been paying attention to since All-Star Break, and it seems like a lock after Houston traded away Christian Wood to Dallas. Banchero in my opinion is the most pro-ready offensive player in this draft. He can score from all 3 levels, handle the ball at 6’10, and can facilitate to his teammates with ease thanks to his size. A Banchero-Jalen Green duo in Houston could get Rockets fans excited for what could be an interesting rebuild.
#4: San Antonio Spurs (Via SAC): Shaedon Sharpe, G, Kentucky
Projected Trade: SA sends 2022 9th, 25th, and Lonnie Walker IV for the 4th overall pick
Sacramento has no direction whatsoever. They have two legit young stars, but I don’t think anyone expects them to be picking above the top 6 next year. With this trade, they start accumulating assets and try to find some structure. I’m of the camp that believes the Spurs NEED to move up in this draft for either Sharpe or Jaden Ivey. Having a running mate next to Dejounte Murray who can score in bunches should be a priority for the Spurs heading into a new era of trying to compete in the league today. Sharpe has star power written all over him, he just needs to right tutelage that he can receive from playing a few years under Coach Pop. He’s the Jalen Green of this draft and can become a star with just a little push in the right direction.
#5: Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
I expect this pick to get moved, it’s just a matter of when and where. The Knicks seemed poised to be very aggressive during the draft this year, but I believe it all depends on if they believe they can get Kyrie Irving from the Nets. Say they do; that leaves Detroit with a decision to make. In this scenario, they draft the best player available who I believe would be able to play with Cade Cunningham and allow the team to take pressure off Killian Hayes to become a go-to guard. Detroit is a team like Sacramento with very little apparent direction, so anything could happen here.
#6: Indiana Pacers: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
The most pro-ready prospect all around is Keegan Murray out of Iowa. He’s got a lot of offensive tools and has the physical tools to be an elite defender. He’s the perfect player and fit for the Pacers who are looking to get back to the playoffs as fast as possible. With reports that Indiana is trying to acquire Gordon Hayward, Murray would fit nicely at the other forward position.
#7: Portland Trailblazers: Bennedict Mathurin, Wing, Arizona
There’s a whole at the off-ball guard spot in Portland since the CJ McCollum trade, and Mathurin might be the guy to fill it. At 6’6, he’s a different guard than what Blazers fans are used to, but I think he’d be a good fit for a team that needs a starting-caliber wing player. The biggest improvement from his freshman to sophomore year was his shooting and leadership. Pairing him next to a vet like Damian Lillard would do wonders for his development.
#8: New Orleans Pelicans (Via LAL): Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin
The Pelicans are another team that is a solid contributing player away from staying in the playoff hunt for the next few years. There aren’t too many needs on paper, so going best player available or trading down would be a great move. Davis is an experienced guard who offers a solid mid-range game and can defend multiple positions. Most importantly, he brings a win-now attitude that you normally see in an older player, and that’s likely what New Orleans would benefit from the most immediately.
#9: Sacramento Kings (Via SAS): Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite
Daniels is a great complementary player next to De’Aaron Fox as a versatile defender and great playmaker at 6’7. He can take over primary playmaking duties and let Fox continue on the tear that he started at the trade deadline. Many teams will be looking to move up for him after the top 3 guards are off the board, so Sacramento could make yet another trade back.
#10: Washington Wizards: Jalen Duren, C, Memphis
The Wizards have the feel of a team that’s going to be stuck in limbo for the next few years. Bradley Beal is reportedly opting out of his contract, making him a free agent and there is almost no star power left on this team if he’s gone. Drafting Duren can add some excitement to the front court next to Rui Hachimura. Duren is the most physically imposing prospect in this draft which is incredible considering he won’t be 19 until November. He can thrive in the dunker spot on day 1 but could develop into a much better all-around offensive player as he develops.
#11: New York Knicks: Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor
This Knicks roster is a mess, and that’s with Julius Randel and Mitchell Robinson still around. I think both will be gone before next season, so drafting one of the biggest mystery men in the draft could shake things up a bit. Sochan is this year’s Scottie Barnes and I think every team could use a player like that. He’ll make his money early on by guarding everybody and being a playmaker. His shooting isn’t far behind, and if he’s developed correctly, he could become one of the more dependable players in the league.
#12: Oklahoma City Thunder (Via LAC): A.J. Griffin, Wing, Duke
Griffin is in the upper echelon of shooters in this draft class, and we only saw flashes of it at Duke. It wasn’t necessarily his fault; he just wasn’t one of the first options on the team. He’s dealt with injuries that robbed him of some of his prime developmental years, but he can contribute right away with his knockdown shooting and will be allowed to grow at his pace in OKC.
#13: Charlotte Hornets: Ochai Agbaji, Wing, Kansas
Agbaji is one of my favorite players in this draft, in part because he’s an adult. He paid his dues at Kansas and was eventually awarded a national championship for it. Now, he’s league bound. In this mock, he ends up in a great situation. Charlotte is ready to start competing for the playoffs now after losing in the Play-in tournament the past two seasons. Lamelo Ball is an All-Star, and they have a blend of young and old talent around him. Agbaji can come in as a guy who already has a role on whichever team drafts him. He's a terrific athlete and can shoot the lights out. Any other development is an added bonus.
#14: Cleveland Cavaliers: Ousmane Dieng, G/F, NZ Breakers
The Cavs obviously value size, and Dieng brings plenty of that while not really having a set position. He’s 6’10 and has a great feel for the game despite being so young. His potential is off the charts, and I’d love to see him play with the young stars on this Cavs team. At the very least, he’ll bring size and defense to a team that definitely values those two things.
#15: Charlotte Hornets (Via New Orleans): Mark Williams, C, Duke
If you’ve seen Williams mocked to the Hornets before, it’s because it’s a great pick and should happen either at 13 or here. Lamelo Ball needs another lob threat, and the Hornets need a true center who can block shots. Williams was arguably one of the best shot blockers in the entire country and took home ACC Defensive Player of the Year in his sophomore season.
#16: Atlanta Hawks: Tari Eason, F, LSU
This is another popular pick, especially when you consider all the chatter around a possible John Collins trade. Eason is the best defender in this draft and would make a great defensive trio with both Deandre Hunter and Clint Capela. He’s still a ways away from becoming anything more than a dunker in the half-court, but getting him out in transition with Trae Young would be incredibly fun for everyone involved.
#17: Houston Rockets (Via BKN): Kennedy Chandler, G, Tennessee
The best pure point guard in this draft is Kennedy Chandler. He’s mature beyond his years and was the driving force for the Volunteers this season. He’s a great playmaker and would thrive with great scorers around him like Jalen Green (and Paolo Banchero). He’s a bit undersized, but he’s sneaky athletic and has shown the ability to finish amongst the trees.
#18: Chicago Bulls: Walker Kessler, C, Auburn
Nikola Vucevic is a great offensive piece but offers nothing on the defensive end. Enter Walker Kessler who was the National Defensive Player of the Year this past season. He’s a tremendous shot blocker and has some upside defending the pick and roll due to his length. He’d bring immediate defensive intensity to a Bulls team who looks like they’re just trying to see what sticks.
#19: Minnesota Timberwolves: MarJon Beauchamp, Wing, G League Ignite
Beauchamp’s calling card right now is defense. His length will likely allow him to guard 1-4. He seems to have a dog mentality and is almost always in the right place at the right time. Outside of transition, his offensive game seems to be suspect, but he is willing to move without the ball and will find himself wide open on cuts at any given point of the game.
#20: San Antonio Spurs (Via TOR): Patrick Baldwin Jr., Forward, Milwaukee
If there’s a team that can afford to swing for the fences, it’s the Spurs. Baldwin Jr. was one of the highest-rated recruits in the country last year and made the decision to play for his dad at Milwaukee over the likes of Duke and various other schools. He struggled during his freshman year and saw his draft stock drop considerably. Despite this, he’s still one of the best shooters in the draft and shows plenty of potential offensively. He reminds me a lot of Michael Porter Jr. minus the injury concerns. If he can be developed properly, he can be one of the bigger steals in the draft.
#21: Denver Nuggets: Malaki Branham, G, Ohio State
Branham is a pure scorer with plenty of defensive potential. His mid-range game is his strength but he’s capable of knocking down threes when needed. He’s a creative scorer who should fit perfectly between MPJ and Jamal Murray. There’s a chance he goes a light higher than 21st overall.
#22: Memphis Grizzlies (Via UTA): Jalen Williams, G, Santa Clara
With the impending free agency of Tyus Jones, adding another pass-first guard would do wonders for a young Memphis team that looked very impressive this season. Williams is the best passer in this draft and would be a great fit for a team looking for a floor general for their second unit.
#23: Philadelphia 76ers: Nikola Jovic, F, Mega Mozzart
Jovic, not Jokic, is a young wing with plenty of upside. He’s got a quick release and is one of the better playmakers in this draft standing at roughly 6’9. Philly would benefit from having a big wing that can shoot it a little bit while looking for their primary scorers.
#24: Milwaukee Bucks: E.J. Liddell, F, Ohio State
Liddell improved his draft stock dramatically after coming back for his junior season. Defensively, he’s one of the most versatile players in the draft and his shooting improved over the season. He’s an experienced prospect who can come in and contribute to a title-contending team like the Bucks.
#25: Sacramento Kings (Via SAS): Wendell Moore, Wing, Duke
Wendell Moore can do a lot of different things for a Kings team that needs mature players. For much of the season at Duke, Moore was the primary playmaker and looked comfortable doing it. He’s an above-average athlete and shot the ball a lot better down the stretch. He also played key defense on the opposing team’s top perimeter threat.
#26: Houston Rockets (Via DAL): Christian Braun, Wing, Kansas
There’s a log jam of young guards in Houston, but none have the experience of Braun. He showed elite athleticism and good shooting in his final year at Kansas, helping the Jayhawks to a national title run. He used his athleticism to get to the rim, playing great defense, and grabbing boards at an alarming rate for a guard. He’d add plenty of structure to a team that needs it.
#27: Miami Heat: TyTy Washington, G, Kentucky
Kyle Lowry isn’t a spring chicken anymore and that showed with him missing some time during the playoffs. Gabe Vincent stepped in nicely when needed, but a long-term option at point guard will keep this team from falling into mediocrity in a few years. Washington is a good mid-range shooter and showed improved playmaking ability down the stretch for the Wildcats. He’d fit in perfectly with the spacing that Miami offers.
#28: Golden State Warriors: Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame
Wesley is one of the younger players in the draft and would benefit from playing with a team like the defending champs. Klay and Steph are getting older and since the team is already full of young wings, adding a young guard to learn from the splash brothers could be beneficial for all parties involved.
#29: Memphis Grizzlies: Jaden Hardy, G, G League Ignite
Hardy was once considered a top-5 pick but after a poor shooting performance overall in the G League, he almost plummeted out of the first round altogether. Fortunately, there’s plenty to work with. He’s a combo guard who knows how to score. Shot selection and improving his finishing game will be determining factors in his career trajectory. You could be looking at the steal of the draft in the next few years.
#30: Denver Nuggets (Via GSW): Dalen Terry, G, Arizona
There are rumors that the Wizards amongst other teams could be pursuing Monte Morris, so drafting a possible replacement for him could be in Denver’s best interest. Terry has all the length and playmaking in the world. He’s super young but could grow into a lead playmaker that wouldn’t take away from the team’s big 3. He’s also a plus defender, which this team could desperately use.