Let’s be honest with this thought exercise: we don’t know who the winners and losers of the 2022 NBA draft are, and we won’t know for three or four years.
Should the magic actually have drawn in Jabari Smith over Paulo Banchero? Should the Kings have picked Jaden Ivey instead of Keegan Murray? While I prefer Ivey as a prospect, we probably won’t know the answer to that question until around the 2025 draft. Much of what follows is my perception and opinion, which may be proven wrong in a few years.
With that caveat, here are my winners and losers of the 2022 NBA draft. Just take this (and everyone’s analysis) with a grain of salt.
Winner: Paulo Banchero and his bettors
With betting markets undergoing a dramatic shift just over 24 hours before the draft – money starting to pour in as Paulo Banchero finished first overall – suffice to say the media and their sources within the league were confused. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski even posted a definitive tweet a little over 12 hours before the draft, saying Jabari Smith would go first, Chet Holmgren second and Banchero third.
Turns out the smart bettors were on to something. About an hour before the draft, the tune of Wojnarowski and other news breakers began to change. When Adam Silver said they were on the clock, it was clear the Magic Banchero would take over. Some astute bettors made big bucks.
It was a brilliantly executed deception by the Magic, who clearly intended to take Banchero all along, but gave off a perfect smokescreen. The bigger question is why is the deception being carried out? Nobody grabbed their guy in front of them. Was it to try and shrug off a trade for Smith so they could trade down a few spots and still get their guy (ala Danny Ainge giving up first place so Philadelphia could take Markelle Fultz to then Jayson Tatum on 1st place? . 3)? Maybe it was just because they could. Whatever the motivation, the plan worked.
Winner: Detroit Pistons
For my money, Detroit was the big winner and had the best draft night of any team.
Part of that was luck – Jalen Ivey fell to them in 5th place. A perfect one-two with Cade Cunningham, Ivey’s explosive athleticism is building the backcourt of the future, one that could be the league’s best backcourt in a few years. Then they traded for the Center of the Future in Jalen Duren, outside of Memphis. (Does that make them less likely to pursue Deandre Ayton freehand?)
The Pistons are a team to watch.
Losers: Knicks fans
New York didn’t do anything bad wrong, it was just boring. The Knicks continued with Leon Rose’s pattern of patience, clearing up a small cap space carried on by Kemba Walker.
However, patience is never what Knicks fans want. They wanted their team to trade and land a star in Jaden Ivey, or keep the #13 from that first trade and take the center of the future in Jalen Duren (now a Piston), or do something else bold. Instead, they have a little more leeway to attack Jalen Brunson, who will almost certainly stay with the Mavericks anyway.
What the Knicks did tonight:
NYK trades 11th pick for OKC
OKC trades 3 firsts (23 DEN, DET, WASH) for NYK
NYK then trades 23 DEN, 4 seconds for CHA against the 13th pick
NYK then first trades the 13th pick & Kemba Walker for DET for MKE’s 25th
NYK trades 11, Kemba 4 2s and gets 3 future 1s
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) June 24, 2022
The Knicks can mollify their fans with free-hand moves, but on draft night the Knicks were boring and their fans didn’t like it.
Winner: Houston Rockets
Paulo Banchero would have been good in Houston (he would have been good anywhere), but Jabari Smith is a better fit alongside Jalen Green.
Smith doesn’t record for himself as well as he does for Banchero, but Green and Kevin Porter Jr. are already doing it for the Rockets. Smith shoots the ball very well and defends his position – two things the Rockets need. Smith will thrive in his role in Houston, and that’s what makes the Rockets winners.
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder
They ended the night with lottery tickets, one of which they had to trade to get, which could/should form a crucial part of the core being built in OKC.
They got the potential franchise cornerstone in Chet Holmgren at #2 – even after the magic chose Banchero the Thunder, who stuck by Gonzaga big man – and traded with the Knicks to land Ousmane Dieng, and then theirs made their own choice to get Jalen Williams (not to be confused with Jaylin Williams, who they got in the second round).
These are all players who are believed to take a little time to develop, but you can see the kind of team Sam Presti is starting to build. Pair these three up with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lou Dort and Josh Giddey; This will be an interesting team to watch grow.
Losers: Fans cheer on NBA mayhem
NBA fans are expecting bold and aggressive moves in the offseason — and those could still be coming in the next few weeks — but the 2022 NBA draft was a slow night for the agents of chaos.
Aside from the surprise at #1, there were no big trades, no record-breaking moments that shocked everyone. John Collins is somehow still a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Rudy Gobert is still in jazz. No big trades, no insane picks out of thin air (even the kings passing Ivey for Keegan Murray were expected unless something else was doing). Up and down the draft board, teams took players who made pretty good passes.
Now it’s up to Kyrie Irving to cause chaos. Which he is quite capable of.