BROOKLYN, New York – What if they held an NBA draft and the main thing was – a real draft instead of a messy trade carnival? Well, the Thursday 2022 edition fit the description when, with a few exceptions later in the first round, the players who put a team cap on their head before shaking hands with Commissioner Adam Silver still returned to him after leaving the stage team belonged.
So the majority of NBA teams had spoken: We like the guy we took better than the offers we’ve heard.
Here’s how: The draft came and went without major surprises, and the only drama among the lottery picks was mild and quickly subsided when the Orlando Magic made their #1 pick.
The Magic picked Duke’s Paolo Banchero, one of three players widely considered worthy of a top pick. Unlike previous seasons, there was no consensus among the league’s scouts, and the Magic never tipped their hand in the draft; Banchero said he learned he was going to Orlando about a minute before his name was called.
With a stable of young guards — Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz — on the rotation, Orlando placed a heavy emphasis on securing the front line. Wendell Carter has a long-term contract at the center and the Magic received positive results on a forward position from Franz Wagner, one of their two first-round picks last year and a first-team all-rookie selection. So the Magic was basically between Banchero and Jabari Smith, who went to Houston in 3rd place.
“If I add myself, I think that’s going to cause problems for a lot of teams,” Banchero said. “There are three 6-9, 6-10, 6-11 guys who can dribble, shoot and have high IQs. I think that will be a big advantage for us.”
The Magic rebuild with assets through the draft; Your top four scorers last year were 23 or younger. That doesn’t include striker Jonathan Issac, who has essentially not played for the past two seasons while recovering from a knee injury; He’s 24 and signed a rookie extension shortly after starting rehab on his leg.
This plan to rely primarily on the auxiliary draft has historically met with mixed results. It worked for the Memphis Grizzlies, who have a franchise-record 56 wins and a bright future. Not so much for the Sacramento Kings, a regular lottery entrant still chasing their first playoff appearance since 2006. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City’s fate must still be determined by a surplus of tips and projects.
Banchero has impressive skills and a mature game that shows sharp instincts on offense. He helped Duke reach the Final Four last season and lived up to the promise he carried from high school, where he was considered one of the few best players in the nation.
“He was the best player in college basketball,” said Orlando Basketball Division president Jeff Weltman.
The top three predicted picks eventually filled those slots in that draft; After Banchero and ahead of Smith, Gonzaga’s lanky center Chet Holmgren went to Oklahoma City for second. Then the draft suspense began. While there were eight trades in the first round, only two were among the top 18 picks and none were among the top 10.
The Pistons were expected to be one of the busiest teams in the offseason — they teased that by trading Jerami Grant to Portland earlier in the week, mostly to make room for the cap. Well: Free agency doesn’t start until July 1, and in the meantime the Pistons took a chance to capitalize on the draft by adding a second first-rounder in a three-team trade.
The Pistons took over Purdue’s Jaden Ivey at No. 5 with their own pick, and then centered Memphis’ Jalen Duren with the Hornets’ pick (via the Knicks, more on that later) at 13. Which means next season the Pistons will be those both, plus Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey, all 23 and under, along with anyone else they might add in free agency.
Charlotte also owned No. 15, and with that pick just two spots down, GM Mitch Kupchak believed his man would still be there with the latter. And so it was; The Hornets were after Mark Williams, Duke’s defensive-minded center, who arrives and fills the need for a team desperate for muscle and edge toughness.
Given that the Hornets are well represented by youth in their rotation, “we didn’t think it was wise to use both picks,” Kupchak said.
The Knicks traded No. 11 – Ousmane Dieng, who played in New Zealand – to OKC. The Thunder sent back three conditional first-round picks from their treasury of future picks.
But that wasn’t the main draw of the evening for the Knicks, who boxed one of the OKC first-rounders (23rd overall) with four second-rounders for the No. 13 (majors) from Charlotte, who then boxed them with a The Salary of Kemba Walker Goes to the pistons. Walker, once hailed as a point guard saver for the Knicks, lost his starting job and was subsequently benched permanently.
There is a method to the madness: New York wants to release as much money as possible for a free agent run, presumably for Jalen Brunson from the Mavericks. To recap, the Knicks traded 11 (and technically 13), Walker and several seconds for Cap Space (aimed for Brunson) and three prospective first-rounders.
The Kings used the fourth pick for Iowa forward Keegan Murray and hope he’s a goaltender in more ways than one. Two of the Kings’ last five picks – all in the lottery – are no longer with the club (Marvin Bagley III, Tyrese Haliburton).
There was a common thread with the Blazers picking Shaedon Sharpe at No. 7 and Anfernee Simons of Portland, who placed 24th in 2018. Neither guard played college ball. Sharpe is the secret of this design; The nation’s consensus No. 1 high school player for 2022 graduated a semester early and enrolled in Kentucky in January to prepare for the 2022-23 college season. But Sharpe, a practice player during his one semester on campus, opted for the draft instead. His last official basketball game took place in spring 2021 – as a high school graduate.
The Timberwolves landed three late first round players, aided by trades with the Grizzlies and Mavericks. They ended with Walker Kessler, Auburn’s shot-blocking center, Kentucky guard TyTy Washington and Duke’s wingman Wendell Moore Jr. Memphis added a late pair through trades, with Wake Forest’s Jake LaRavia (Timberwolves) and Colorado State’s David Roddy (Sixers) going to the Grizzlies.
In the traditionally eventful second round – teams without first-round players are usually active here – there was a lot of movement after the first five selections. The Pistons, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Hornets, and Warriors all added players in the mid to late second round through trades.
The second-round picks that felt like the first round — some were expected to be late in the first round — were Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard at 31 for the Pacers, Arizona’s Christian Koloko for the Raptors at 33, and Jaden Hardy at G League Ignite with the Mavericks over the Kings at 37.
When the night was over and all names were called, the draft served its purpose. The teams got younger and maybe better. But the deep tension? That will have to wait until free agency in a week.
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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can email him here, his archive can be found here and keep following him Twitter.
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