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2022 NBA Mock Draft: Jabari Smith Headlines First-Round Lottery Picks

Matt Brandon Jun 18th 4:35 PM EDT.

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors pulled off their most impressive championship run and defeated the Boston Celtics in six games. With the NBA Finals in the rearview mirror, it’s time to switch gears and focus on the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, which will kick off Thursday, June 23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Although the Dallas Mavericks lost to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, the team has been making plenty of noise leading up to the draft. The Mavericks have agreed to send the No. 26 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Boban Marjanovic, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss, and Sterling Brown to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Christian Wood. The Mavericks finally acquired a big man who will help Luka Doncic shoulder the load as we gear up for the 2022-23 campaign. A flexible, 6’10” center who can space the floor with his three-point shooting prowess and also operate as a legitimate threat down low in the pick-and-roll game, Wood is the perfect fit in Dallas and should thrive with Luka and the Mavs. 

Dallas may not have a first-round pick in this year’s draft but they are looking like one of the most potent offenses in the Western Conference. Now, let’s take a look at which NBA prospects are most likely to be selected in the lottery. Will there be any draft-day trades or surprises? Let’s dig in!

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2022 NBA Mock Draft: Lottery Picks

Orlando Magic (Pick 1.01): PF Jabari Smith, Auburn

While Chet Holmgren is likely the best prospect in the 2022 draft class, the Orlando Magic already have Wendell Carter Jr. under contract. Mo Bamba, one of the few notable free-agent centers on the market this summer, is eligible for a $10.1 million qualifying offer, which would make him a restricted free agent. Although Orlando could easily let Bamba leave and draft Holmgren, it may take the big man out of Gonzaga a few years to adapt to the NBA level. Smith on the other hand is ready to make a big impact right now!

The Magic also have a decent duo in the backcourt between Cole Anthony at the point and Jalen Suggs at shooting guard. For this reason, Orlando will likely opt for a modern-day stretch power forward with three-point shooting skills such as Jabari Smith. At 6’10” and 220 lbs., Smith averaged 16.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game with Auburn as a freshman. The athletic big man managed to convert 42% of his shots from beyond the arc. Although Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero both make sense as potential top overall picks in the draft, Smith’s 42% clip from deep on a team that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament is ultimately what separates him as the clear-cut top prospect in the class. With his long frame and ability to knock jumpers down over defending opponents, Smith’s game and catch-and-shoot mentality will translate seamlessly at the next level in a system featuring Anthony and Suggs in the backcourt. Both young guards are skilled in the art of passing but Anthony specifically should be able to open up space and get Smith the ball in the right spots on the court.

The former Auburn Tiger has the skillset and work ethic to be a contributor from day one. Although Orlando has a few decent young players on their roster, Smith can become the team’s primary scorer if he continues to improve his long-range shooting touch. He’s also a rare physical specimen who can defend all five positions on the court. Although the youngster performed as more of a catch-and-shoot player at the collegiate level, he has the handles and athleticism to create his own opportunities with and without the ball. The Magic have been a pretty terrible team for the last few years but Smith is the perfect guy to lead this team out of the gutter in the Eastern Conference. He may remind fans of Jaren Jackson Jr. with a slightly better touch from long range.

Oklahoma City Thunder (Pick 1.02): C Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga

The Thunder employed a ton of different starting lineups but could never find the right player to start at the center position. They tried Jerimiah Robinson-Earl, Isaiah Roby, and even the aging Derrick Favors. None of them performed very well. In steps the best prospect of this draft class, Chet Holmgren, from arguably the best college basketball team in 2021. Holmgren is a solid 7’0’ but his weight (195 lbs.) has been somewhat concerning. Some scouts don’t believe he will be able to body up the more dominant centers in the league. Holmgren ranked in the 94th percentile on defense and the 99th percentile on offense last season. He really thrived as the defensive anchor and ranked within the top 10 shot blockers in the NCAA (a whopping 3.7 swats per contest). Although he isn’t strong enough to body up centers such as Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, and Rudy Gobert, he has the wingspan and simply needs a couple of years to put on some weight.

Fortunately, the Thunder still have a while to go before they are Western Conference contenders. They can afford to give Holmgren a couple of years to develop and train with a strength conditioning coach. He is the perfect complement to the rest of the roster and should develop into one of the best centers in the NBA. Holmgren can be the next Marcus Camby on defense and has shown flashes of Dirk Nowitzki on offense, though that’s clearly where his focus will be for the next few years. If he develops into the shooter that Dirk was, the sky is the limit for Holmgren.

Houston Rockets (Pick 1.03): PF Paolo Banchero, Duke

Houston would be ecstatic if they landed the talented power forward out of Duke. Banchero has the talent to be drafted first or second but due to each team’s needs, I’m anticipating Banchero landing with the Rockets. Houston already has a formidable backcourt with Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green but they recently acquired several bench warmers for the talented center, Christian Wood. The Rockets clearly need to prioritize the frontcourt. With Eric Gordon at small forward, Banchero can take Jae’Sean Tate’s role as the starting power forward. Following the departure of Wood, second-year center Alperan Segun should slot into the starting lineup. Banchero would look much better next to Wood but the recent trade assures that Banchero is going to get plenty of scoring opportunities as the most valuable asset in Houston’s frontcourt. 

The former Blue Devil averaged a whopping 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game in his freshman year at Duke. Banchero’s offensive skills and his ability to defend all five positions on the floor make him one of the highest-upside prospects in this draft class. This kid has the potential to be a perennial All-Star. If for some reason he never lives up to those lofty expectations, he’ll still be one of the best role players in the NBA. This is an absolute money pick by the rebuilding Rockets.

“They have a young crew and see me fitting right in with my playmaking skills and putting me anywhere on the floor,” Banchero said on a Zoom media availability call. “Putting us together and trying to create something is a plan they have.”

Sacramento Kings (Pick 1.04): PF Keegan Murray, Iowa

The Kings have not made the postseason since 2006 and will look to get back to the promised land by selecting perhaps the most NBA-ready prospect in Keegan Murray. Sacramento doesn’t want to waste the prime years of De’Aaron Fox and they especially don’t want to be seen as wasting Tyrese Haliburton’s talent in the trade for Domantis Sabonis. Murray gives the Kings the best chance to leap forward in 2022. Sacramento does need another shooter and may be tempted to take Jaden Ivey but Murray gives them the best chance to win right now. Plus, the Kings already have Fox and Davion Mitchell as their primary ball handlers. 

The Kings can opt to start Fox, Davion Mitchell at shooting guard despite being a true point guard, Harrison Barnes, Murray, and Sabonis with Richaun Holmes serving as the sixth man off the bench. Murray will be 22 years old when the season begins and will absolutely be capable of contributing right out of the gate. Despite his readiness to ball out in Sacramento, he still has tons of room to improve his game. He’s already one of the most versatile forwards in this draft class but if he can improve his shooting touch, this kid can be absolutely lethal. The product out of Iowa grew up in Cedar Rapids where he was a late bloomer. He was only 6’0’ and 145 points as a high-school freshman before undergoing a massive growth spurt (6’8” and 215 lbs.). Murray produced his breakout sophomore season with Iowa in which he put up 23.5 points while shooting above 55% from the field and grabbing 8.7 rebounds per game. He also did it on the defensive end with 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. All of these factors combined could make Murray the steal of the draft. 

Projected Trade: New York Knicks from Detroit Pistons (Pick 1.05): SG Jaden Ivey, Purdue

With the Knicks in desperate need of a guard, I am expecting them to offer the Detroit Pistons a deal that is difficult to refuse. The Knicks will send Evan Fournier, Taj Gibson, the No. 11 pick in 2022, and will give the Pistons the option to swap first-round picks with the Knicks in 2023 in exchange for Kelly Olynyk, Killian Hayes, and the No. 5 pick of the 2022 draft. 

This deal allows the Knicks to select the guy they have been eyeballing for months now, Jaden Ivey. Ivey is just what the Knickerbockers need. He plays like a mixture of Dwyane Wade and Ja Morant and could easily hold down the point for New York if asked. Ivey was absolutely sensational with the Purdue Boilermakers last season. As the primary ball-handler for Purdue, Ivey tallied 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Since the Pistons already have a ball-dominant shot-creator in Cade Cunningham, they can afford to part with this pick for the right price. And although the Knicks would be acquiring Hayes in this projected trade, Ivey is the player who is more likely to step into New York’s starting lineup. The Knicks lack depth in the backcourt and can no longer rely on Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose. Fortunately for the Knicks, Ivey is immensely athletic and can attack the rim like few others in this draft class. Ivey may even be better than Keegan Murray so if the 6’4” sophomore out of Purdue is still available, the Knicks shouldn’t waste time with their selection. Ivey has as much upside as anyone in this draft class.

If the Knicks don’t acquire the No. 5 pick from the Pistons, they may still try to move up in the draft unless they think Dyson Daniels or Bennedict Mathurin could fall to the No. 11 slot. Daniels most likely won’t be available but there is a real possibility that Arizona’s star shooting guard could still be on the board.

Indiana Pacers (Pick 1.06): SG Dyson Daniels, G League Ignite

Daniels would make for an interesting fit in Indiana next to Tyrese Haliburton in the backcourt. Given his 6’10” wingspan, the Pacers would employ one of the best defensive guard units in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers did acquire Buddy Hield last season but he can easily play small forward while Myles Turner mans the paint. 

With the Pacers expected to trade Malcolm Brogdon, Daniels would lock up the backcourt for many years to come next to the uber-talented Haliburton. Daniels can even man the point when Haliburton needs a break after proving his ability to serve as the primary ball-handler and facilitator for G-League Ignite last year. The front office has been shopping Turner as well but Indiana seems to value their big man more than most other franchises. 

Daniels does need to improve his stroke from beyond the arc but with Hield and youngster Chris Duarte getting plenty of minutes, Daniels doesn’t have to drain every three right out of the gate. It’s going to take some time to perfect his shooting touch but when he does, opposing teams will struggle to find an answer. Daniels’ athleticism is awe-inducing and the Pacers would be very happy with a player who has tremendous upside on both ends of the court. Daniels sort of reminds me of a bigger Lonzo Ball with slightly more explosiveness. 

Portland Trail Blazers (Pick 1.07): SF AJ Griffin Jr., Duke

The Blazers are a hot mess with C.J. McCollum now in New Orleans, Damian Lillard creeping closer to father time, and Jusuf Nurkic seemingly unable to stay healthy despite Portland’s recent commitment to re-sign him. For that reason, the Blazers may want to trade out of this spot since they will likely miss out on their top two favorite targets -- Keegan Murray and Paolo Banchero. But if they don’t find any trade partners willing to fork up enough for the pick, the Blazers should simply take the best player on the board, who happens to play a position of need for Portland. AJ Griffin helped lead Duke to the NCAA Championship game with his incredible three-point shooting and strong defensive play. The former Blue Devil emerged as one of college basketball’s most elite outside threats last season but he can do much more than simply knock down threes at a 44.7% clip. He isn’t afraid to take it to the rack and he has the physicality and the frame to become one of the better defenders at the wing position in the NBA. With Lillard at the point, Anfernee Simons at shooting guard, and Nurkic down low in the post, Griffin could immediately start at small forward and make a significant impact for the Trail Blazers.

New Orleans Pelicans from Los Angeles Lakers (Pick 1.08): SG Shaedon Sharpe, Kentucky

After enrolling at Kentucky, Sharpe opted to sit out the 2022 college basketball season. After 2021, scouts across the nation had billed him as one of the most athletic and explosive shooting guards in the nation with the rare abilities to create shots for himself and finish at the rim while absorbing contact. Entering the 2022 season, he was the No. 3 ranked prospect in the class, ahead of studs such as Jalen Duren, AJ Griffin, and even Jabari Smith. However, due to his approach to the season and draft, there is no recent film to evaluate Sharpe. Still, after making the postseason with C.J. McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Jonas Valunciunas serving as “The Big Three” in the Big Easy (and with Zion Williamson expected back this coming season), Sharpe could be the missing piece to a true contender in the difficult Western Conference. They did give the Suns a run for their money in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Despite Sharpe’s lack of film, it’s hard to envision a prospect with his hefty credentials slipping further than this in the draft even though he’s a bit of a mystery. 

San Antonio Spurs (Pick 1.09): SG Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona

The Spurs need a ton of playmakers but they do have one of the most talented point guards in the league right now in Dejounte Murray. San Antonio would have a young and explosive backcourt if they lock down Mathurin, who averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game last year with the Arizona Wildcats. 

San Antonio has worked out several projected lottery picks, including AJ Griffin, Shaedon Sharpe, Dyson Daniels, and Johnny Davis. The Spurs prefer to snag a winger rather than a big man such as Jalen Duren. San Antonio would have a solid core three of Murray, Mathurin, and Keldon Johnson. In just two seasons at Arizona, Mathurin evolved and improved dramatically, eventually becoming one of the most feared players in the Pac-12 as a sophomore. The kid has a silky smooth jumper and can create shots for himself with his handles, speed, and agility, plus he’s got all the physical traits to become a top defensive wing in the NBA. Mathurin plays with real intensity and has one of the most lethal three-point strokes in college basketball. He could develop to be as good as Joe Johnson was or he could be a solid role player similar to Quentin Richardson.   

Washington Wizards (Pick 1.10): PF Jeremy Sochan, Baylor

The Wizards don’t necessarily need a power forward with Kyle Kuzma in the starting lineup but the 6’9” and 230 lb. freshman out of Baylor can operate at small forward or play his preferred position while Kuzma moves to the other wing position. Obviously, the Wizards’ offense runs through shooting guard Bradley Beal but he needs significant help if the Wiz Kids are ever going to get back to the postseason. Sochan only averaged 9.2 points per game but he did haul in 6.4 boards per contest. He’s not the biggest forward in the league but he is comfortable taking threes, though he’ll have to improve upon his 29.6% mark from downtown from his lone season at Baylor. Sochan really thrives on the defensive end and can guard pretty much any position on the floor due to his speed and athleticism. With a healthy Kristaps Porzingis holding down the fort at center and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rui Hachimura, and Corey Kispert all ready to come off the bench, Washington seems to only be lacking a point guard. They could select TyTy Washington out of Kentucky in this spot but I think the Wizards are perfectly content with Beal serving as a combo-guard and bringing the ball up the court. Given Washington’s depth at every position but point guard, Sochan may not get as many minutes as some of the other lottery picks. That said, so long as he improves his three-point conversion rate, the former Baylor Bulldog should have a long and prosperous career in the NBA.

Projected Trade: Detroit Pistons From New York Knicks (Pick 1.11): SG Ochai Agbaji, Kansas

After trading Killian Hayes in the proposed deal to acquire a better first-round pick next season, the Pistons can still get a real game-changer in the Jayhawks’ Ochai Agbaji. With Cade Cunningham running the point, Sadiq Bey at small forward, Jerami Grant at power forward, and Isaiah Stewart at center, Agbaji can immediately contribute to the Pistons as their starting shooting guard. Agbaji will prove to be the definition of a three-and-D wing. The progress this kid displayed between his junior and senior seasons showcased his work ethic and voracious appetite to learn and get better. He saw his point production increase each of the four seasons he suited up for Kansas. He led the Jayhawks to a championship his senior year and was named the Big 12 Player of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. He finished his senior season with a team-high 18.8 points per game on 47.5% shooting from the field along with 5.1 boards per contest. Agbaji already has all the accolades and now he will showcase that relentless work ethic yet again as he attempts to become the best ball player possible. Although he’s already a gifted scorer and awesome defender, there is still plenty of room for improvement. The Pistons are getting a very solid starter in the former Jayhawk.

Oklahoma City Thunder From Los Angeles Clippers (Pick 1.12): SF Malaki Branham, Ohio State

With the Thunder already getting perhaps the best prospect in this year’s draft class at the center position, Oklahoma City has a lot to be excited about with SGA in the backcourt, Josh Giddey at the wing, and Chet Holmgren anchoring the paint. Branham brings much-needed instant scoring to the Thunder rotation. Although some pundits expect Branham to be selected outside of the lottery, his offensive efficiency is simply too good to pass on after his spectacular season at Ohio State. Although the Thunder already have Giddey at small forward, they can either move him to power forward or move Branham to shooting guard if he continues to improve his shot-making skills. The 6’6” winger nailed 53% of his attempts inside the three-point line and 41.6% of his shots from long range. After averaging 13.7 points per game in his first collegiate season, Branham earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. Not to mention, he only improved as the season progressed. Branham could be one of the more controversial picks in the first round but he deserves to be selected between the 10th and 13th pick of the draft.

Charlotte Hornets (Pick 1.13): C Mark Williams, Duke

The Hornets may not have a ton of depth but their starting lineup is quite intriguing heading into the 2022 season with Lonzo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, and Miles Bridges. Mason Plumlee started at center last season but Williams could usurp the veteran on the depth chart if he is indeed selected with the final lottery pick. Jalen Duren could be selected here too but Williams is more NBA-ready and has the perfect size to be a formidable defensive presence against the biggest guys in the league. Like Plumlee, Williams has yet to master the three-point shot and many teams may pass on the big man for that reason alone. However, the 7’2” and 242 lb. center is a remarkable shot blocker and rebounder on the defensive end and thrives in pick and roll opportunities where he can finish around the rim. With Ball as his teammate, Williams could prove to be the missing piece the Hornets need to be a true playoff contender in the Eastern Conference. Plumlee can help mentor the youngster while P.J. Washington moves back to his preferred position as the backup power forward behind Bridges. The Hornets will still need to add some decent ball handlers and shooters for depth purposes but the starting lineup should be able to compete with most of the teams in the East. How Charlotte handles free agency will be a huge indicator of how much this team can improve in 2022. One thing is for certain: Williams will contribute to that improvement. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • C Jalen Duren, Memphis
  • SF Ousmane Dieng, France
  • SF Johnny Davis, Wisconsin
  • PG TyTy Washington, Kentucky
  • SF Nikola Jovic, Serbia

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