2022 NBA Mock Draft: Latest first-round projections originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Last Thursday, the Golden State Warriors were crowned champions for the 2021-22 NBA season.
This Thursday, what’s sure to be an exciting offseason begins in earnest with the 2022 NBA Draft.
Here is NBC Sports Chicago’s latest projection for how the first round will shake out, including the Chicago Bulls adding some frontcourt help with the 18th overall pick:
1. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith, F, Auburn
2021-22 Stats: 16.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.1 spg, 1 bpg | 42% 3P
The Magic will have had since mid-May to deliberate on this franchise-altering decision, and the consensus says they can’t go wrong with any of the top three power forwards. In Smith, they get an NBA-ready frontcourt shooter with tantalizing defensive upside to add to a burgeoning young core.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren, F, Gonzaga
2021-22 Stats: 14.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 3.7 bpg | 60.7% FG, 39% 3P
Holmgren was one of college basketball’s most dominant two-way forces last season — a shot-blocking menace with a versatile offensive game that includes passing, ball-handling and outside shooting. He would plug in splendidly alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, potentially pushing Oklahoma City into the next phase of their rebuild.
3. Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero, F, Duke
2021-22 Stats: 17.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.1 spg | 47.8% FG, 33.8% 3P
Banchero would be a heck of a consolation prize for Houston, which fell to third during May’s draft lottery despite finishing the season with the league’s worst record. He is a ready-made shot-creator from Day 1 with the upside to grow into an offensive hub as a scorer and playmaker for others.
4. Sacramento Kings: Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
2021-22 Stats: 17.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.1 apg | 46% FG, 35.8% 3P, 74.4% FT
Sacramento found good fortune at the lottery, jumping from the league’s seventh-worst record to fourth overall pick. And with their sights set on a playoff berth following February’s midseason trade for Domantas Sabonis, this selection is a candidate to be moved for immediate help.
Whoever ultimately winds up phoning in the pick, though, expect Ivey to come off the board. He’s an atomic athlete with playmaking potential that few in this draft class possess.
5. Detroit Pistons: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
2021-22 Stats: 23.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.3 spg | 55.4% FG, 39.8% 3P, 74.7% FT
Murray burst onto the scene in his sophomore season, more than tripling his scoring average and emerging as an elite two-way prospect. He’d slide snugly into Detroit’s forward rotation alongside Saddiq Bey, adding defensive versatility and much-needed shooting.
6. Indiana Pacers: Shaedon Sharpe, G, Kentucky
2021-22 Stats: N/A
Sharpe is perhaps this draft’s biggest enigma, having foregone his freshman season at Kentucky to focus on preparing for the pros. But the scoring talent he displayed in high school, which he exited ranked the No. 3 recruit in the nation by 247 Sports, is sure to catch the eye of an in-need lottery team. Here, he’d represent a home run swing by a Pacers squad in need of star talent and picking in the top 10 for the first time since 1989.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite
2021-22 Stats (Showcase Cup): 11.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.9 spg
This is another pick with a good chance of being flipped on draft night as the Trail Blazers look to re-tool around Damian Lillard. But in the event they retain the selection, Daniels’ defensive prowess and playmaking potential would make him a sublime fit with the Portland’s current roster and a building block moving forward as well.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers): Bennedict Mathurin, G/F, Arizona
2021-22 Stats: 17.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1 spg | 36.9% 3P
Long, athletic and full of energy, Mathurin would fit right into the Pelicans’ springy young core. And his pesky defense and scalable shooting could make him exactly the brand of two-way wing all teams covet.
9. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor
2021-22 Stats: 9.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.3 spg | 47.4% FG, 29.6% 3P
Sochan has the tools to be elite at the defensive end of the floor, but questions regarding his outside shot muddy his overall projection. Enter San Antonio, and their sterling reputation for developing jumpers and menacing defensive wings.
10. Washington Wizards: Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin
2021-22 Stats: 19.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.2 spg
Even with Bradley Beal headlining the roster, the Wizards could use more shot-creation in their backcourt. Davis, the reigning Big 10 Player of the Year, provides that in droves and offers an element of perimeter defense to boot.
11. New York Knicks: Jalen Duren, C, Memphis
2021-22 Stats: 12 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg | 59.7% FG
With Mitchell Robinson set to enter free agency and the rest of the frontcourt picture — headlined by Julius Randle — uncertain, it wouldn’t be a bad time for New York to take a swing on a center of the future. Duren provides plenty of “best prospect available” potential, too, because of his age and multi-faceted skill set, including gaudy rim protection, athletic upside and even some playmaking proficiency.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Clippers): A.J. Griffin, G/F, Duke
2021-22 Stats: 10.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1 apg | 49.3% FG, 44.7% 3P
With their second lottery pick, the Thunder could take a flier on the supremely-talented Griffin, who brings NBA-ready outside shooting right away, but must work at the other areas of his game, particularly at the defensive end. In Oklahoma City, he would have plenty of opportunity to play through mistakes.
13. Charlotte Hornets: Mark Williams, C, Duke
2021-22 Stats: 11.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.8 bpg | 72.7% FT
The Hornets have been hunting for a foundational center for years, and may find it if Williams is their pick. Standing 7-foot-2 with a 7-7 wingspan, the Duke product is an otherworldly rim protector with the athleticism to thrive in Charlotte’s high-octane offense steered by LaMelo Ball.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Malaki Branham, G, Ohio State
2021-22 Stats: 13.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2 apg | 49% FG, 41.6% 3P
Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen figure to patrol the paint for the next decade-plus in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers couldn’t be happier with the pairing. But if last season’s surge-then-slump revealed anything, it’s that this team needs more perimeter shot-creators to reach the next level. There aren’t many left on the board who fit that bill better than Branham, who thrives in the midrange and has off-ball potential as a 3-point shooter as well.
15. Charlotte Hornets (via Pelicans): Ochai Agbaji, G/F, Kansas
2021-22 Stats: 18.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg | 40.7% 3P
Agbaji spent four years at Kansas, so he is a bit older than a typical prospect selected in the top half of the first round. But his profile as a defensively steady wing with a knockdown jump shot will give him instant value at the NBA level.
16. Atlanta Hawks: Tari Eason, F, LSU
2021-22 Stats: 16.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.1 spg | 52.1% FG
Eason’s athleticism, defensive disruptiveness and interior scoring ability (paired with a physicality that gives him a knack for free-throw line trips) have teams enamored with his potential. And it’s a skill set that would mesh well with an Atlanta team in need of defensive energy, especially if John Collins is traded in the offseason.
17. Houston Rockets (via Nets): Ousmane Dieng, G, New Zealand Breakers
2021-22 Stats: 8.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.1 apg | 39.8% FG
In Dieng, the Rockets would get a flier on a high-upside playmaker to pair with Jalen Green. His size (6-foot-10) and ball skills represent a tantalizing combination in a league that year after year is skewing towards positionless basketball — and the Rockets would be in no rush to develop him.
18. Chicago Bulls: E.J. Liddell, F, Ohio State
2021-22 Stats: 19.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg | 49% FG, 37.4% 3P
This is another pick that could be on the move if the Bulls find a deal to their liking that can improve the team immediately. But if they hold the selection, Liddell nicely straddles the line between upside and rotation readiness. His defensive sturdiness and suddenly proficient spot-up shooting (he improved his 3-point percentage every season at Ohio State) would add two-way versatility to a frontcourt in need of reinforcements.
2022 NBA Draft Profile: E.J. Liddell, Ohio State
19. Minnesota Timberwolves: TyTy Washington, G, Kentucky
2021-22 Stats: 12.5 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.5 rpg | 45.1% FG, 35% 3P
A crafty scorer and playmaker, Washington would be a prudent swing at a backcourt mate of the future for Anthony Edwards. In the meantime, Patrick Beverley and D’Angelo Russell could hold down point guard responsibilities — while Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns also shoulder heavy offensive loads — as the Kentucky product develops.
20. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors): Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame
2021-22 Stats: 14.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.3 spg | 40.4% FG, 30.3% 3P
The Spurs displayed a penchant for raw, high-potential shot-creators by plucking Josh Primo late in the lottery of the 2021 draft. Wesley has a similar profile. He burst on the scene as a freshman at Notre Dame, becoming the first one-and-done in the program’s history on the weight of his physical tools and dynamic off-the-dribble game. If he can iron out his scoring efficiency at the next level, he could wind up a tremendous value in the back-end of the first round.
21. Denver Nuggets: Jalen Williams, G/F, Santa Clara
2021-22 Stats: 18 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.2 apg | 51.3% FG, 39.6% 3P
Williams is a multi-dimensional wing that fits the modern mold because of his ability to handle, facilitate and, of course, score — especially given drastic improvements to his 3-point shot in his junior season at Santa Clara. He’d be quite the offensive swiss army knife to plug into a Denver rotation that puts versatility at a premium.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (via Jazz): Kennedy Chandler, G, Tennessee
2021-22 Stats: 13.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 2.2 spg | 46.4% FG, 38.3% 3P
If Tyus Jones walks in his impending free agency, the Grizzlies could be in the market for a backup point guard. By selecting Chandler, they can address that need without sacrificing value. The 5-foot-11 lead guard is a sublime shotmaker, capable playmaker and feisty defender — despite profiling as undersized — which fits Memphis’ needs and identity.
23. Philadelphia 76ers: Dalen Terry, G/F, Arizona
2021-22 Stats: 8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.9 apg | 50.2% FG, 36.4% 3P
Whether Philadelphia trades or keeps this pick, Terry makes sense in this slot. He’s a long, active defender and savvy enough facilitator that, if he improves the consistency of his outside shot, could very well grow into the brand of 3-and-D wing that is so en vogue in this day and age.
24. Milwaukee Bucks: Walker Kessler, C, Auburn
2021-22 Stats: 11.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.6 bpg | 60.8% FG
The Bucks’ midseason acquisition of Serge Ibaka did little to shore up their backup center slot, and Bobby Portis has a player option looming. Could the best shot-blocker in college basketball be a remedy to the team’s need for size behind Brook Lopez? At least defensively, there’s a lot of Lopez in Kessler’s game, which assures he’d fit Milwaukee’s system.
25. San Antonio Spurs (via Celtics): Nikola Jović, F, Mega Basket
2021-22 Stats (Liga ABA): 11.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.4 apg | 42.8% FG, 35.6% 3P
Jović is a lesser-known quantity, having spent the last two seasons in the Adriatic League. But in theory, his jack-of-all trades skill set, which features everything from ball handling to table-setting to shooting, would be a dream match with the Spurs.
26. Houston Rockets (via Mavericks): Jaden Hardy, G/F, G League Ignite
2021-22 Stats (Showcase): 17.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.3 spg | 35.1% FG, 26.9% 3P
Just as they did with their multiple first-round picks in last year’s draft, expect the Rockets to bet on potential with their three selections this time around. Hardy struggled in his year with the G League Ignite. But the sky-high upside as a scorer that made him a touted recruit exiting high school persists.
27. Miami Heat: MarJon Beauchamp, G/F, G League Ignite
2021-22 Stats: 15.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.6 spg | 57.1% FG, 24.2% 3P
A rugged, physical wing that projects to be able to defend multiple positions and needs only to improve his outside shot to make a rotational impact? That sounds like someone Miami’s player development staff can mold.
28. Golden State Warriors: Jake Laravia, G/F, Wake Forest
2021-22: 14.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.7 spg, 1 bpg | 55.9% FG, 38.4% 3P
Laravia is a popular mock target of the Warriors because he blends size (6-foot-9), heady defense and dependable spot-up shooting. He may never be a superstar, but he’s the type of player that can affect winning in a system such as Golden State’s.
29. Memphis Grizzlies: Bryce McGowens, G/F, Nebraska
2021-22 Stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.4 apg | 40.3% FG, 27.4% 3P
With Kyle Anderson’s future uncertain, the Grizzlies could soon have a big wing-sized hole in their rotation. Enter McGowens, who excelled as a scorer in a heavy self-creation role at Nebraska and showed flashes of playmaking and defensive potential.
30. Denver Nuggets (via Suns): Andrew Nembhard, G, Gonzaga
2021-22 Stats: 11.8 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.6 spg | 45.2% FG, 38.3% 3P
The Nuggets could be in the market for a backup point guard this offseason, especially if Monte Morris is traded. Nembhard is the best remaining option, assuming this pick isn’t packaged to move up.
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