2022 NBA mock draft: Jabari Smith or Chet Holmgren at No. 1?

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The race to unseat the newly crowned Golden State Warriors begins Thursday when the NBA will hold its annual draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

While most teams who pick the lottery are a long way from a title shot, their fans can rest easy knowing that the Warriors and their final opponents, the Boston Celtics, both built their cores through the draft. Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers have all advanced to the playoffs thanks to home-grown franchise players. “Superteam” dreams may come and go, but nothing inspires hope quite like the draft.

The Class of 2022 will be led by three frontcourt players: Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero. All three have legitimate instances of being the first player picked in a night who could see multiple trades within the first 10 picks. Let’s look at how the lottery could get out of hand with a fast-hitting mock draft.

Orlando Magic rediscovers lottery luck and wins the top pick in the NBA draft

1. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith (Maroon)

There is no runaway No. 1 favorite like last year (Cade Cunningham) or 2019 (Zion Williamson). Instead, the Magic made good on their promise from Lottery Night to conduct a thorough pre-draft evaluation process by meeting with a variety of front-runners. The 6’10 (16.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG) Smith has a high ceiling and low bust potential: Shooting, size, and defensive versatility were coveted commodities in the postseason, and he brings all three to the Table. Additionally, his scoring skills and fan-friendly personality would add a dash of excitement to a Magic franchise that has been lagging behind since Dwight Howard’s departure.

Don’t count Holmgren out yet. Orlando managers Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have long valued length.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga)

Holmgren (14.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.7 BPG) is a 7-footer who combines Defensive Player of the Year potential with plenty of offensive ability. Don’t let the Minnesota native’s thin build overshadow his many basketball virtues: Holmgren is a trainable gym rat with a 7ft 5¼ wingspan, a smooth three-point strike and great timing around the rim. Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti is committed to an extended rebuild, and Holmgren would be an ideal match for rising backcourt star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

There’s a lot more to Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren than just his skinny frame

3. Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero (Duke)

The post-James Harden Rockets used last year’s No. 2 for Jalen Green, an athletic keeper who can fill it. Pairing Green with Banchero (17.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG) would advance Houston’s vision of building a high-profile offense full of shot producers. Built like Carmelo Anthony or Tobias Harris, the 6ft 10 banchero will be ready to make an offensive contribution from day one thanks to his physical presence and ability to get to his favorite spots. The Rockets will need to add some defensive talent and a traditional point guard at some point, but they’re years away from gaining pressure.

Paolo Banchero’s smooth game? The Duke star gets it from his mother.

4. Kings of Sacramento: Keegan Murray (Iowa)

This selection was the subject of significant trade speculation for a number of reasons: the Kings advanced in the draft lottery after finishing just four games from the play-in tournament; they traded a promising youngster (Tyrese Haliburton) for an established All-Star (Domantas Sabonis) at deadline; They have a history of unpredictable draft-day decisions motivated by a desperate desire to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. and they don’t need a goaltender like Jaden Ivey, widely regarded as the fourth best candidate in the class.

When you add it all up, the kings could easily trade back in search of another proven starter, or get out of the lottery altogether. If they make the choice, 21-year-old Murray (23.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG) should be able to start as a scoring power forward.

5. Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey (Purdue)

The great luxury of building around Cunningham is that virtually any player can fit next to him. If the 6-foot-4 Ivey (17.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG) were paired with a traditional point guard, there could be concern about the size and defensive ability of the resulting backcourt. In Detroit, of course, Ivey would step in as a second scorer while letting Cunningham and Saddiq Bey do the toughest defensive work. If the Kings buy the No. 4, the Pistons should enter the bidding war to bolster their offense at No. 28.

6. Indiana Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona)

Indiana took the plunge by trading Sabonis in February, and more dominoes could fall this summer. Assuming the Pacers are looking to build a winner on Haliburton’s timeline, they don’t have much use for high-priced veterans like Malcolm Brogdon or Buddy Hield. Mathurin (17.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG) ticks two key boxes: he has enough potential and drive to potentially become the star Indiana has been seeking for years, and his scoring ability and height of 6ft 6 would put Haliburton in complement a backfield of the future.

7. Portland Trailblazer: Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky)

With huge frontcourt holes and a desire to pull off a quick turnaround, the Blazers really needed some luck with the ping-pong balls on lottery night. Unfortunately, new Portland general manager Joe Cronin will certainly look to buy that pick to fill his starting lineup around All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who only played 29 games this season due to a stomach injury.

If those efforts fail, Cronin should trust his risk-taking instinct, swinging for the fences at a 6-foot-6 Canadian who was a No. 1 high school prospect before serving out his first season in Kentucky.

8th. New Orleans Pelicans: Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite)

This pick is like a free game on a pinball machine: New Orleans is the only one of this year’s 14 lottery teams to make the playoffs, but it gets a top-10 pick thanks to its 2019 Anthony Davis trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. With Williamson expected back in good health next season, there won’t be many available minutes in the rotation, giving New Orleans an opportunity to play Daniels longer-term. The Pelicans could use a little more size in their backcourt and the 6ft 7 Aussie could fill that gap and grow into another multi-position defender.

9. San Antonio Spurs: Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand Breakers)

The 19-year-old Dieng, who hails from France, needs some work: He’s not yet a major threat on the edge or beyond the arc, and he’s put up modest numbers (8.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG) in his year-old die New Zealand Breakers who play in Australia’s National Basketball League. Still, he has the frame, feel, and passing approach to fit in at San Antonio.

10 Washington Wizards: Jalen Duren (Memphis)

Few executives playing the late lottery need a home run more than Tommy Sheppard, whose Wizards lacked the depth to survive Bradley Beal’s months-long wrist injury. A partnership between Beal and Kristaps Porzingis cannot be seen as a viable long-term solution, so Sheppard must target young talent who have the potential to develop into key players.

Though his offensive game lacks an element of stretch, 18-year-old Duren (12 PPG, 8.1 RPG) has an NBA-fit physique and an impressive wingspan. Duren plays over the edge and in the paint, which would allow Porzingis to focus on perimeter scoring.

10th in the NBA draft, Wizards have more options than usual

11. New York Knicks: AJ Griffin (Duke)

New York doesn’t have to worry about their position holes at point guard and center with this pick. With Julius Randle coming off a bad year and RJ Barrett needing reliable running mates, the Knicks can pick the best player available. Griffin (10.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG) shares a Duke connection with Barrett, and he projects himself as a two-way impact player who can score goals without dominating the ball and defend multiple frontcourt positions .

12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jeremy Sochan (Baylor)

Presti has amassed three first-round picks — including this one from the Los Angeles Clippers thanks to the 2019 Paul George trade — and a second-round player, leaving Oklahoma City almost certainly to consolidate its assets. Still, the energetic, defensive-minded Sochan (9.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG) would be an intriguing fit for the Thunder, who have demonstrated their willingness to look beyond a player’s throwing limitations when they find other ways to influence victory.

13. Charlotte Hornets: Mark Williams (Duke)

The Hornets have been searching for a long-term answer at center for nearly a decade. Enter Williams (11.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG), a prototypical rim-protecting 7-footer that could serve as a target for All-Star guard LaMelo Ball.

14 Cleveland CavaliersJohnny Davis (Wisconsin)

Cleveland got a breakout season from all-star point guard Darius Garland, who proved he could run the offense much more effectively than Collin Sexton. Hypothetically, a good-sized defensive guard like Davis (19.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG) would be a more sensible long-term Garland partner than Sexton, an undersized goalscorer who is targeting a lucrative new contract this summer.

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