Pre-Lottery 2022 NBA Mock Draft

Jabari Smith Jr. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

1. Houston Rockets- Jabari Smith Jr. (PF, Auburn, Freshman)

Projection who will be the #1 pick this year is as difficult as it has been. It will be dependent on the team that will be at the top. I would have my reservations taking Jabari Smith with a top two pick, but he is the current favorite according to multiple betting sites. Jabari Smith is an elite shooting prospect for a big, shooting 42% from deep on 5.5 attempts (most of those attempts weren’t easy) is very special. He is also a very mobile athlete with absurd defensive potential. Where I have my reservations are as a shot creator, playmaker, and especially as a finisher. If Jabari Smith goes top five (which he will), he will have the lowest 2P% out of any top five pick in the last decade… as a big! I personally don’t buy into him being a #1 in the NBA with his skillset, which is desired with the first pick. Nonetheless, his floor is super high with his second and third level scoring. He would be a great complement to Jalen Green.

Comparison: Two-Way Michael Porter Jr.


2. Orlando Magic- Chet Holmgren (C/PF, Gonzaga, Freshman)

Over the years, Orlando has prioritized length and versatility at the top of the draft, and Chet is a rangy 7’1” with a 7’6” wingspan. Despite Chet’s frame, he is arguably the best talent with his rim protection instincts, mobility, handle, playmaking, shooting, and I think his offensive repertoire is deeper than he was allowed to show at Gonzaga. Orlando is a very good fit for Chet as well because they would embrace a defensive identity for its young core with Chet being able to play the four next to Wendell Carter Jr., which is likely his best position coming into the NBA.

Comparison: Modern Kevin Garnett

3. Detroit Pistons- Shaedon Sharpe (SG, Kentucky, Red-Shirt Freshman)

First curve ball of the night! For now, most people would reject the idea that Shaedon Sharpe couod be a top three pick, but like how I said last year Scottie Barnes will be taken ahead of Jalen Suggs, I feel good about this possibility. Shaedon Sharpe is a mystery because we didn’t see him in college, but he might be the best talent in the draft. He is 6’6” 210 pounds with a 7 foot wingspan. He has a whopping 49 inch vertical. On top of those physical tools, he is an excellent shooter with range off the catch and off the dribble. He also can get to the hoop at will and has excellent defensive potential. If Sharpe has a great combine, don’t be surprised if he gets looks #1 overall. He would be able to slide in at the two next to Cade Cunningham and create potentially the most dynamic young back Court in the league.

Comparison: Anthony Edwards

4. Oklahoma City Thunder- Paolo Banchero (PF, Duke, Freshman)

With the curve balls thrown ahead of Oklahoma City, the organization lucks out by landing a top two prospect in the class outside of the top three. Paolo Banchero is the most sure-thing in this draft to be a star. He is a stout 6’10” 255 pounds. He can beat you off the dribble from the post, as a slasher, from tie mid range, his three pointer is improving, and he is the best passer out of the tier one prospects in this draft. Paolo is an absolute monster who will be an offensive mismatch in the NBA as long as he remains engaged. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Lu Dort, and Paolo Banchero as a one core would and should make OKC fans exceptionally excited.

Comparison: Pistons Blake Griffin, Shades of Karl-Anthony Towns

5. Indiana Pacers- Jaden Ivey (PG/SG, Purdue, Sophomore)

The Indiana Pacers finally have leaned toward a rebuild. It hasn’t had a top 10 pick since 1987. The Pacers have acquired Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte in the last year, which is a solid foundation for a backcourt, but they need talent. Jaden Ivey is from Indiana and is the best talent available because of his lightning quick speed, his finishing, his handle, and upside as a perimeter scorer with excellent length and athleticism. Chris Duarte is already 25 years old, there likely isn’t the upside there to develop into a star and his skillset would fit off the bench. Ivey does have star potential and his scoring burst and overall athleticism makes a lot of sense next to an efficient and methodical playmaker in Tyrese Haliburton. Jaden Ivey and Tyrese Haliburton would be must watch TV immediately.

Comparison: De’Aaron Fox

Jalen Duren (Via. commercial

6. Portland Trailblazers- Keegan Murray (PF, Iowa, Sophomore)

The Traiblazers seem to be attempting a really, really fast rebuild with the financial flexibility they obtained and the high draft pick. They were supposed to have two lottery picks, but New Orleans made the playoffs, so that sets them back in that ambition. With a win now mindset, Keegan Murray is the most sensical selection here. He is the best and most ready player available with his defensive versatility, three-level-scoring, basketball instincts, and maturity. His feel for the game and versatility makes him an NBA ready Swiss Army knife who can play three positions on both ends of the floor. Murray will be 22 years old by the time he makes his debut, but with the rate he developed in Iowa, there is still room to grow here. Murray is a day one starter in the NBA.

Comparison: Grant Williams/Kyle Kuzma

7. Sacramento Kings- AJ Griffin (SF, Duke, Freshman)

With the Sacramento Kings willing to deal Tyrese Haliburton three months ago, the Kings are looking to win very soon. On top of that, the Kings need to prioritize acquiring and developing young pieces. AJ Griffin is a great combination for Sacramento due to his fit, readiness, and upside. AJ Griffin is NBA ready because he has an NBA body at 6’6″ 222 pounds and a seven foot wingspan, which should help him physically translate. He could also return to being an elite athlete as he gets longer removed from his knee issues. He is also one of the best shooters in the draft who has shown flashes as a shot maker. Griffin would be a seamless fit next to De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis with his tools and shooting.

Comparison: Jaylen Brown/Harrison Barnes

8. New Orleans Pelicans- Bennedict Mathurin (SG/SF, Arizona, Sophomore)

The Pelicans organization had a very encouraging and sweet ending to its season this year and appears to have found a young core that can become very high-level in the near future. As a cherry on top, the Pelicans clinched having the Lakers pick since that team had a bottom 10 record, unless something super abnormal happens in the lottery that makes the Lakers picks fall out of the top1 0. The Pelicans added an infusion of two-way athletic wings in Trey Murphy and Herbert Jones, and Benedict Mathuring would be another archetype. That may sound redundant, but this is a league where you cannot have too many athletic wings who can defend and shoot. With the athleticism and versatility of this young core… adding Mathurin to that, it would be even harder to match the pace this young Pelicans team could play with Zion Williamson also returning.

Comparison: Warriors Andrew Wiggins

9. San Antonio Spurs- Jalen Duren (C, Memphis, Freshman)

The Spurs have prioritized wing in the draft in the last handful of years; now it could be time to pursue the center of the future. Jalen Duren is one of the youngest players in the draft, yet he has a monstrous 250 pound frame and a 7’5″ wingspan. Defensively, he can protect the rim, navigate the pick and roll, and switch on the perimeter with his light feet. He is a special defensive big. Offensively, he is a pure roller and looks to pass. Outside of the top four, there is not a big that touches the upside Duren has.

Comparison: Robert Williams+

10. Washington Wizards- Johnny Davis (SG, Wisconsin, Sophomore)

Sometimes when a high-level prospect falls to a certain point in the draft, you just need to take that player for value and figure it out later. That is what the Sacramento Kings did with Tyrese Haliburton 12th overall, and while they should have kept him, he still became the main piece in a trade for an All-Star in Domantas Sabonis. Johnny Davis isn’t an ideal fit wit Bradley Beal as he projects to be a relatively high-usage scorer, but the upside for him as a tough shot maker from three levels and as defender is too much to pass up on. Also, the Wizards should and may eventually look to blow it up, and Johnny Davis could be a big part of a rebuild.

Comparison: Devin Booker-lite

Ousmane Dieng Photo (by Paul Kane/Getty Image)

11. New York Knicks- Ochai Agbaji (SG, Kansas, Senior)

With Tom Thibadeau as the Knicks’ coach and with Leon Rose drafting Obi Toppin two years ago, the Knicks don’t have fear in drafting older prospects in the lottery. Outside of Quinton Grimes, the Knicks don’t have a natural floor spacer in its young core. Ochai Agbaji is an elite 40.7% shooter from three who is money in spot ups. He is a solid finisher and he has long arms and a big frame that suggests defensive upside, even if he hasn’t met that potential yet. Ochai Agbaji is NBA ready and would be a seamless fit next to RJ Barrett.

Comparison: Malik Beasley

12. Oklahoma City Thunder- Mark Williams (C, Duke, Sophomore)

The Thunder have a lot of upside in the guard and wing spots, but they have no true young center on its roster. Mark Williams has a true center frame at 7 feet with a 7’7″ wingspan. He can move, catch lobs, protect the rim, and hit free throws. His game would be elevated by the feel of Josh Giddey. While there isn’t substantial offensive potential here, his skillset is vital on winning teams and he would give OKC the infusion of interior talent they need.

Comparison: Javale McGee

13. Charlotte Hornets- Ousmane Dieng (SF, New Zealand Breakers, 18 years old)

The NBL has seen an infusion of talent going to the NBA the past couple years, and the Charlotte Hornets were beneficiaries by drafting franchise guard Lamelo Ball. This year, the top NBL prospect is Ousmane Dieng and he deserves lottery looks due to his immense potential as a 6’10” wing with guard skills who can pass in the pick and roll, provide flashes as a three-level-scorer, and instincts defensively. Miles Bridges is a very good player, but Charlotte should continue swinging for players with #2 star potential island a real opportunity is here. With how Dieng improved throughout the year at the NBL, he is worth swinging fir.

Comparison: Jaden McDaniels

14. Cleveland Cavaliers- Malaki Branham (SG/SF, Ohio State, Freshman)

It wasn’t until the middle of the season Malaki Branham was taken seriously as a one-and-done prospect. And he’s recently emerged as one of my favorite prospects in the draft.  In his last 22 games, he averaged over 17 PPG on better than 50% and 40% from three. That’s rare for an 18-year-old freshman. Branham’s length, fluidity, and shooting give him very projectable skills. On top of those tools, he is a three-level-scorer who can playmake off the dribble, giving him a great combination of floor and ceiling. Branham would be a seamless fit next to Darius Garland and Evan Mobley.

Comparison: Khris Middleton/Norman Powell 

15. Charlotte Hornets- Jeremy Sochan (PF/SF, Baylor, Freshman)

If the Hornets landed Ousmane Dieng and Jeremy Sochan, they would be winners in this draft. It would also rightfully push them to potentially deal Gordon Hayward to free minutes for these wings. Sochan doesn’t have the star potential Dieng does, but he is a special defender who can guard four positions. He is physical on the glass, and can put some pressure at the rim while being a very good passer. Sochan would immediately be the best defender on the Hornets.

Comparison: Draymond Green-lite

Jaden Hardy (Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images)

16. Atlanta Hawks- Jaden Hardy (SG, G-League Ignite, 19 years old)

Jaden Hardy came into the season considered a potential #1 pick. While he doesn’t deserve that nod with how he’s played as he shot 35% and 29% from deep at the G-League, he still is a first round talent with tremendous upside. We saw Jonathan Kuminga shoot as badly in the G-League, and while Kuminga is a better talent, he showed that efficiency doesn’t always translate from G-League to the NBA. Hardy has a chance to be a special scorer and he could be a great piece for Atlanta, a team who needs more shot creation and upsode around Trae Young.

Comparison: Tyler Herro

17. Houston Rockets- Leonard Miller (SF, Canada, 18 years old)

Leonard Miller is a mystery man in this draft, even more so than Shaedon Sharpe. While he only played high school basketball, he is a great athlete at 6’10” with long arms and great explosiveness. He can put pressure on the rim, pass, and has a ton of defensive upside. The upside here could become tantalizing enough for a team to take him just outside of the lottery, and Houston has nothing to lose in their position, so betting on that upside is reasonable.

Comparison: Jarred Vanderbilt/Ben Simmons

18. Chicago Bulls- Walker Kessler (C, Auburn, Sophomore)

Walker Kessler had one of the greatest shot blocking seasons in NCAA history. Averaging 4.6 BPG and having an all-time block % is no joke. At 7’1,” that skillset and size is easy to envision in the NBA. A team like Chicago desperately needs rim protection and Kessler provides that, despite his lack of offensive and defensive versatility.

Comparison: Cole Aldrich 

19. Minnesota Timberwolves- Tari Eason (PF, LSU, Sophomore)

A big part of Minnesota’s success this season was their athleticism and ability to switch defensively and play with pace. Tari Eason is a big time athlete with broad shoulders, big hands, quick feet, explosion, and defensive versatility. Offensively, he is dynamic in transition off the dribble and can hit an open jumper. The traits he possesses are incredibly intriguing and he fits with Minnesota like a glove, a very big one with how big those hands are!

Comparison: Patrick Williams

20. San Antonio Spurs- Kendall Brown (SF, Baylor, Freshman)

The Spurs have done a tremendous job adding talent to its young wing core with Keldon Johnson, Josh Primom and Devin Vassell. This is a league of good wings, and Kendall Brown would be a welcomed addition. Despite his lack of polish on offense, he is incredibly rangy and energetic defensively. Offensively, he is efficient around the rim and can make the necessary transition reads. By adding Jalen Duren and Kendall Brown, San Antonio would be able to switch everywhere with what it already has.

Comparison: Thinner Isaac Okoro

Dyson Daniels ( Via.

21. Denver Nuggets- Nikola Jovic (SF, Mega Basket, 18 years old)

Regardless of fit, the Nuggets should draft Nikola Jovic from Serbia for pure meme purposes. In all seriousness, Nikola Jovic is a lottery talent as he is an intriguing scorer off the dribble at 6’10,” he is a very good spot up shooter, and an excellent passer for his size. There are defensive holes in his game, but his talent is hard to pass up on here.

Comparison: Tony Kukoč

22. Memphis Grizzlies – Kennedy Chandler (PG, Tennessee, Freshman)

The Grizzlies will have to make a decision whether they pay Tyus Jones or not to be the long-term backup point guard. Kennedy Chandler would be a a good replacement. Not only he played in Tennessee, but he plays with a level of intensity and poise that fits the Grizzlies culture. His quickness, slashing, vision, and improving shooting give him a chance to be a very solid pro in the NBA. 

Comparison: Ish Smith

23. Brookly Nets- Dyson Daniels (SG, G-League Ignite, 19 years old)

If Dyson Daniels somehow fell to Brooklyn at this spot, they shouldn’t hesitate to submit this selection. He is a lottery talent with his 6’8” frame, excellent defense, vision, and natural touch, which suggests shooting upside despite a weak three point shooting season. Daniels would be a big addition to a young core that has more talent than people realize with Cameron Thomas, Nicholas Claxton, DayRon Sharpe, and Kessler Edwards.

Comparison: Evan Turner/Kyle Anderson

24. Milwaukee Bucks- Christian Braun (SG, Kansas, Junior)

The Bucks don’t have full control on their first round pick until 2028 after this year. With the Bucks getting older and more expensive, they should keep their pick and look to hit on it. Christain Braun was just the second best player on a national championship team, showcasing his shooting, athleticism, and underrated defense. I would not be surprised if he contributed to a winning NBA team early.

Comparison: Pat Connaughton+

25. San Antonio Spurs- Ty Ty Washington (PG/SG, Kentucky, Freshman)

Ty Ty Washington’s draft stock feels like a mystery. Some people love him, some do not. If that allows for him to slip to San Antonio, that would be a bonus for a team that could use a backup point guard. Washington’s ability as a passer in the pick and roll as well as a scorer both on and off the ball gives him the flexibility to play with many different types of guards. His 6’9” wingspan can be an asset defensively as well. Kentucky guards seem to do well when they slip, could that happen again with Washington?

Comparison: Less Flashy D’Angelo Russell

EJ Liddell ( Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

26. Dallas Mavericks- Patrick Baldwin Jr. (SF/PF, UWM, Freshman)

Dallas needs to continue adding spacing and upside around Luka Doncic to maximize his offensive operation. Patrick Baldwin Jr. didn’t shoot well in college, but his smooth stroke and sample size from high school and U19 olympics suggest elite shooting upside. PBJ has a long way to go, but we just saw it with Ziaire Williams, elite high school prospects can have rough college seasons, but some rebound quickly with the right role. PBJ would be awesome as a tall floor spacer early.

Comparison: Ziaire Williams

27. Miami Heat- Christian Koloko (C, Arizona, Junior)

The Miami Heat’s plan at the backup center spot after Dwayne Dedmon seems unclear. Christain Koloko is a late blooming prospect who has excellent tools and has the ability to play above the rim and protect the interior. His defensive upside could make Miami even deeper and more dangerous defensively if he develops.

Comparison: Bismack Biyombo

28. Golden State Warriors- Jalen Williams (SF, Santa Clara, Junior)

Jalen WIlliams has gotten much more first round buzz as we have gotten closer to the lottery. He is a very smooth scoring wing who has a tight handle for his position and can pull up from every level. He also has very long arms and an encouraging frame that provides two-way upside. The Warriors built its dynasty by nailing these late picks, Williams feels like a prospect who can become a big steal.

Comparison: Saddiq Bey

29. Memphis Grizzlies- EJ Liddell (PF, Ohio State, Junior)

Malaki Branham may have more upside than any OSU prospect this year, but Liddell was certainly the most productive. He may only be 6’7,” but with his edge and ability to space the floor, he has a real chance to be a depth piece for a team like Memphis that could use much more shooting from every position.

Comparison: PJ Washington 

30. Oklahoma City Thunder- Marjon Beauchamp (SG, G-League Ignite, 19 years old)

The Thunder addressed the front court with its first two picks in this mock, now there is no excuse to take the best player available. Marjon Beauchamp is an incredibly athletic wing who plays defense with high energy. He plays in transition and gives shades as a shooter and creator as well. Beauchamp has some raw skills, but skills with a foundation to build on.

Comparison: Kelly Oubre Jr.

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