Now that we are multiple months removed form the 2021 NBA Draft, with the college basketball season officially started, it is time to transition full-swing toward the 2022 NBA Draft. I want to emphasize, this may not be the Cade Cunningham, Lebron James, or Tim Duncan draft, where there is a clear-cut #1 pick entering the college season; Some people prefer Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, or Jaden Hardy. Even though that is the case, it is still a very intriguing class with a handful of players who could become stars, or even more than stars. Also, we are so early into the college season, a lot could change. Zion Williamson emerged as the consensus #1 pick in 2019, even though RJ Barrett was considered the top guy going into that season. The rankings and mock drafts will remain very fluid until we get deeper into the season and draft season. With all of that being said, here is my first mock draft for the 2022 class:
- New Orleans Pelicans- Chet Holmgren (PF/C, Gonzaga, Freshman)
Even though there isn’t a consensus top prospect at this particular moment, Chet Holmgren is certainly the one who stands out. He is 7’1″ with a ridiculous 7’6″ wingspan. He has an absurd IQ on the defensive-end for a 19 year old and is the best shot blocker we have seen in many, many years, as he has tremendous length, verticality and timing when he contests shots. Offensively, he is a very instinctual playmaker who can handle the ball from the perimeter and open-court, he is also a good shooter with very good touch from all three levels. Chet’s 195 pound frame is concerning, that is the reason why he isn’t considered the consensus top talent as of now, but Chet should be the top prospect right now because he has the highest ceiling for a big any big we have seen in perhaps over a decade. Chet’s defensive prowess and ability to space the floor would be a tremendous compliment to Zion Williamson.
2. Boston Celtics- Paolo Banchero (PF, Duke, Freshman)
Even though Chet is the top guy in this mock draft, there currently is a near-equal chance Paolo Banchero becomes the highest-touted-prospect in the class. At 6’10” 250 pounds, Banchero is as complete and versatile as they come. He is incredibly unique as he has the scoring-bag of a 6’7″ franchise-wing, with his ability to pull-up, shake a defense, jab-step and fadeaway. He has every move from the mid-range. He also is a fluid and physical finisher as a slasher and from the post. To top all of that, he is a very sound passer who almost always makes the proper reads. He may not have near the defensive-upside Chet does, but Paolo is very engaged on that end and utilizes his NBA-body to his advantage. If Boston somehow had the opportunity to pair Banchero with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, that would be terrifying for the rest of the league.
3. San Antonio Spurs- Jaden Hardy (SG, G-League Ignite, 19-years-old)
For the first time in a long time, it seems like the Spurs should be extra invested in the top of a draft class to find their next franchise star, Jaden Hardy has a chance to be that. He is as special of a scorer as anybody in this draft, he is an elite shooter with range that extends to half-court, he is very comfortable shooting off the dribble and creating enough separation to get shots off, he also is a comfortable finisher when he gets to his right. Like many young wings, he will need to improve with his defensive engagement to maximize his strong physical tools, he also will need to do a better job of finding open teammates when there is a better shot available ( he is showing strong flashes in this department, nonetheless). With the way Anthony Edwards is beginning to pop as well as the flashes Jalen Green is showing as a rookie, they should only help Hardy’s stock.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves- Jalen Duren (C, Memphis, Freshman)
The Minnesota Timberwolves, once again, have had a sluggish start to the season and could easily start fantasizing about the top of this year’s draft if they fall too far behind. Jalen Duren would be the perfect fit for Minnesota, whether they choose to continue with this core or blow it up and build around Anthony Edwards. He is a freak, the most physically gifted prospect in this draft, as he is 6’11” 250 pounds with a 7’5″ wingspan. He is absolutely jacked for someone who is technically still a minor. He is explosive, quick, incredibly strong, and impressive laterally. His athleticism gives him a incredible edge as a rim-protector, rebounder and lob-threat in the open-court. Duren will need to prove that, in the modern NBA, he is skilled enough as a shooter and passer out of the post to be a star-level modern center in the NBA. If he does that, he could be the first pick in June.
5. Houston Rockets- Jabari Smith (PF, Auburn, Freshman)
Jabar Smith is certainly a sleeper name when talking about the #1 pick. He is a 6’10” forward who plays with tremendous intensity, he is super quick and laterally gifted for his height and is capable of switching on at least three positions on defense, which is coveted in the modern-NBA. Offensively, you do not see many players possessing his skill level at his height, he has a tight-handle, which has proven to be a real and unique asset in the open-court, he is a very good shooter with excellent footwork, who can pull-up and create off the dribble. He will need to add strength to become an interior presence, but his upside along is going to make NBA teams drool this year. For Houston, getting somebody with his upside outside the top four would be a rare opportunity.
6. Detroit Pistons- Patrick Baldwin Jr. (SF/SG, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Freshman)
It is unfortunate how it feels like Patrick Baldwin Jr.’s stock somehow fell just because of the college he chose, that is a flaw of scouting. When looking at pure talent, Patrick Baldwin Jr. is near the top of this class. He is 6’10,” super fluid athlete, with a beautiful stroke that allows Baldwin to be one of the best shooters in this class at his size, especially off the catch. He has a strong handle and a foundation of a pleather of moves he can build on. Baldwin will need to improve his efficiency as a shooter off the bounce, which may make his decision to go to Wisconsin-Milwaukee a good thing, as they will allow him to develop his game off the dribble. For Detroit, they are still in the talent-adding business, fit should not matter. Fortunately, Baldwin Jr. also happens to be an amazing fit here as he will add spacing on the court and won’t take the ball out of Cade Cunningham’s hands.
7. Orlando Magic- Caleb Houstan (SF/SG, Michigan, Freshman)
Caleb Houstan may not have the raw, natural gifts and upside the players in the top six do, but players like Caleb Houstan are needed for sustainable success. Houstan is a 6’8” wing, who can defend multiple positions, he might be the best shooter in the entire draft, and he has shown flashes as a secondary playmaker. It would be unfortunate if Orlando doesn’t get a top draft pick because they have good depth of young talent, they are still seeking a franchise talent. Houstan would add more spacing and versatility around emerging star Cole Anthony, similar to Orlando’s current rookie out of Michigan, Franz Wagner.
8. Atlanta Hawks- Jaden Ivey (SG, Purdue, Sophomore)
Jaden Ivey is the only sophomore that will be in this lottery mock draft. He is a very athletic wing with a tremendous motor, that combination makes him one of the best defenders in the entire draft. Offensively, he is very shifty with the ball in his hands. He has tremendous finesse, body-control, and touch, making him a real threat around the rim. He is also an improving passer. Ivey will need to continue improving his shooting, he doesn’t have the most consistent shot base, which is responsible for his inconsistency to a considerable degree. If his jump shot develops and his efficiency improves, he could be one of the best players in the country this season.
9. Indiana Pacers- AJ Griffin (SF, Duke, Freshman)
AJ Griffin is one of the biggest question marks going into his freshman season. He was once considered one of the best player in his high school class, but he has battled major lower-body injuries since his junior year. Since he’s now coming back from a knee sprain, we will have to be patient with his production as he needs time to ramp up again. But, he’s a sensational talent. Freak athlete, 6’6” 225 pounds, strong explosive, he is very similar to Anthony Edwards as an athlete in terms of the size, strength, and explosion for a kid his age. He is comfortable putting the ball on the floor and has a deep mid-range package, similar to a Jimmy Butler. He also has outstanding potential as a defender. If Griffin stays healthy, he’s another name to look at in the top-three-pick conversation, but he will be put in this range until he is 100% healthy.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder- Peyton Watson (UCLA, SF/PF, Freshman)
During the early stages of the Thunder’s rebuild, it has become clear they enjoy taking chances on high-upside prospects, Peyton Watson qualifies as that. He is a hyper-athletic combo wing who can slash to the rim, find teammates off the ground, and provides high-defensive upside. This year will be a great opportunity for Watson to prove his readiness and polish level as he is playing on a National-Championship favorite in UCLA. If he is a key piece for them, there is no ceiling to where his stock could be. Watson would provide a level of athleticism to an OKC core that lacks it.
11. Portland Trailblazers- Dyson Daniels (SG/SF, G-League Ignite, 18-years-old)
Throughout the FIBA U19 tournament and the early part of the G-League season, one player who has really proven himself as a potential lottery-talent is Dyson Daniels. He is an incredibly versatile 6’6″ wing who specializes as an active and engaged defender, who also does a little bit of everything on offense. He has a very high basketball-IQ , which is shown with his vision as a secondary playmaker, he likes getting to the rim and showcasing perhaps the best floater in the class, and he has a smooth shooting-stroke. He will need to continue to grow as a shooter, tighten his handle, he also isn’t the rangiest or most explosive athlete, but do-it-all wings with a high-basketball IQ are desired more than ever.
12. Sacramento Kings- Nikola Jovic (SF/SG, Mega Basket, 18-years-old)
Nikola Jovic is currently my top international prospect in this draft. He is a 6’10” wing with guard skills,he is an advanced basketball mind capable of making point guard caliber reads, he has shown capabilities as a floor spacer, even though his shooting needs to be more consistent, he is excellent off the ball and does very well getting himself open. He is not a dynamic athlete, he lacks explosiveness and strength, he is not a great defender right now, and perhaps lacks an elite skill, but his size and skill is lottery-worthy. The Kings have drafted guards in the lottery the past two years, it’s time to add versatile wings! Jovic would be a good start.
13. Charlotte Hornets- Yannick Nzosa (C/PF, Unicaja, 17-years-old)
Yannick Nzosa is a prospect who I can’t gain a firm opinion on. His pros are SPECIAL: He is a near seven footer who moves as fast and gracefully as you will ever seen out of a seven footer, he may be the best defender in the entire draft with his prowess as a rim protector and his ability to switch to the perimeter. He has elite touch around the rim and is a solid shooter from the line. His cons, though, are concerning: He is very raw on the offensive end, he can’t space the floor, he struggles with making effective reads as a passer, and is raw in the post. He has not shown offensive growth this season- he is still incredibly raw- but he has only played basketball since he was 14-year-old and is oozing with upside. Adding another athletic big to complement Lamelo, along with Kai Jones, would be sensical for a team still trying to figure out their front-court depth.
14. Toronto Raptors- Kennedy Chandler (PG, Tennessee, Freshman)
It is bizarre that it took 14 pics to get to the first point guard selected in the mock draft, but that is the current perception of this draft class. It is very deep with bigs and versatile forwards, but lacking at the point guard position. Even though the first point guard is taken incredibly late, it would be a surprise for the first point guard to actually be taken at the end of the lottery in a league that values point guards at such a high level. The candidates for being the first point guard taken are Jean Montero, JD Davidson, Ty Ty Washington, and of course, Kennedy Chandler. Chandler is the most traditional point guard in the group, he has a very tight handle, is a smart playmaker who looks to involve his teammates, he also has good range and overall touch, making him a very respectable scorer as well. Chandler, though, is only 6’0”, but he has a 6’5” wingspan, which could give him strong upside as a defender. Chandler will need to overcome his size and improve as a finisher, and improve his ability to create separation off the bounce to be taken higher than this spot.