What Each NBA Team Should Do With Its 2022 1st Round Pick

Welcome to the Sports Hub’s 2022 NBA Draft Manifesto. Below you will find a mock draft based on what each team should do in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday night. The picks are based on the Sports Hub’s Big Board (linked here) – which is the ranking of the best 68 players in the class – and teams’ needs. Each pick in the mock is followed by a scouting report of the player and how he would fit into the team he is selected to.

Again, this mock is based on what each team should do on Thursday night given the cards they are dealt.

No. 1, Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith Jr., Auburn

The case for Jabari Smith Jr. as the best player in this class over Paolo Banchero comes down to this: he’s the better defender and the better shooter.

Those are the two skills that not only are the foundation for a star, but for someone who will play in the NBA for a long time.

Yes, Smith Jr. is the safer pick, but that doesn’t mean he has a lower ceiling.

Smith Jr. isn’t just a good shooter because he can shoot over everyone at 6’10 – the guy is truly a sniper from everywhere on the court. He can hit tough ones, too. This is an unimpressive comparison for the player destined to go No. 1 overall, but think of the ways that players like Steve Novak, Mike Miller and late-career Ray Allen were used. Smith Jr. is on that level as a marksman and can be simply plopped in the corner and be ready to fire without needing a screen. 

The difference with Smith Jr. is that most shooters of his caliber can’t get it done on the other end of the floor. A 6’10 with incredibly fluid legs, Smith Jr. glides laterally and is able to be a lockdown defender on the toughest wing assignments. Switching is no problem either, and his length makes up for the times that he can be late getting around a screen.

Smith Jr. has taken a lot of crap in the pre-draft process for his perceived inability to create for himself, as indicated by his poor two-point percentage. It is a concerning metric, but Smith Jr. created plenty of shots for himself that he made last year. In that department, Smith Jr. likes to hang around the elbow and use a quick couple dribbles before shooting. It’s a neat, quick and efficient shot that is incredibly hard to stop given his size, and one that should have been utilized more if not for Auburn’s super poor guard play.

Smith Jr.’s handle is not as pristine for someone who is supposed to have the ball in their hands to take big shots, which could limit his ability to create beyond the three-point line. The Magic do have a stretch center in Wendell Carter Jr. who would pair well with Smith Jr. in the front-court, allowing Smith Jr. to operate in the paint area while Carter Jr. remains open for threes. Of course, in non-late game scenarios, Orlando could easily run a five-out system with both bigs as shooters.

Orlando desperately needs a star, as they’ve put together a pretty impressive group of young role players. Smith Jr. is the guy that can take them over the top, and thankfully he’ll have the guards at hand to help him out.

No. 2, Oklahoma City Thunder: Paolo Banchero, Duke

Banchero is far and away the second-best player in this class, and Oklahoma City’s lottery luck finally pays off with this selection.

Banchero is a bit of a complicated evaluation, but he brings a lot to the table in the short and long-term.

At worst, the former Duke big is an intriguing roll man who can score inside, pop to the midrange and throw impressive dimes elsewhere if the defense recovers or switches fast enough. He also has the ability to create for himself in isolation situations, using his large, muscular frame to bully players down low or create in the high post and pull up. 

His ceiling depends on multiple factors all coming together. Banchero is not a supreme three-point shooter at this stage of his career, and he missed a lot of outside shots last year at Duke, suggesting it wasn’t a sample size problem. That limits his efficiency greatly, and he already plays a style of basketball that doesn’t lend very well to analytical models with his heavy midrange dosage and slow, methodical operation in the post.

Defense from an all-around standpoint is also a major question mark. Banchero doesn’t have the best quickness laterally, although he does move quite well overall. His effort also wanes on that end, which limits confidence that he will actually work and try to get better. He’s too small to be a rim protector, which means he’ll be tasked with chasing around wings and navigating tough switches against guards – without improvement, he’s the exact type of defender teams will target late in games and in the playoffs. Banchero does bring down boards, and in certain schemes that possess potent offensive players, he can probably get away with playing the five in small-ball looks. But that is all predicated on the situation.

That situation could present itself in Oklahoma City, with Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander among other scoring guards in tow. But it remains to be seen how Banchero will immerse himself into the situation he’s drafted into. He’s said on record that he provides a team with “a star,” but that star has to be willing to develop his game in multiple ways. If Banchero does, he’s going to be that, and that player comes away as one of the best in this class.

No. 3, Houston Rockets: Shaedon Sharpe, Kentucky/Dream City Christian (AZ)

In this mock, the Rockets get the short end of the stick.

The board drops off dramatically after Smith Jr. and Banchero, and puts Houston in a tough situation.

Jaden Ivey is supremely the better prospect compared to Shaedon Sharpe, who essentially back-stabbed Kentucky and transferred high schools multiple times, trying to find a situation that put him first. But Ivey and Jalen Green are a really tough fit, for reasons that will be more clear below.

So that lands the Rockets Sharpe, who, for all the criticism just levied, probably has the third-highest ceiling in the draft. At 6’4, Sharpe plays bigger and longer than his height. It feels like he can shoot over anyone thanks to his wiry wingspan, which also helps swarm defenders when he feels like it.

His shooting stroke and defensive potential are just scratching the surface, though. Sharpe might be the best pure shot creator in the entire draft, as he uses his wiry frame, craftsmanship shooting and impressive handle to get by anyone. At times in high school, this led to some tunnel vision and ball-hog-like play, but at times it was justified, just because Sharpe was good enough. Additionally, Sharpe had plenty of impressive playmaking possessions throughout his high school and travel ball games – he’s a very good passer, and at times is willing to really serve as a facilitator for his team. He has the potential to run pick and roll in the way that other big wings do late in games in the NBA.

It’s hard to tell whether any of this translates to the big leagues, though. Sharpe was playing against guys that either are close to the level of prospect he is or well below, and it’s not like he learned anything at Kentucky that would help him greatly. 

But at worst, the Rockets need wings, and Sharpe provides the ability to shoot and play off of Green while also defending at a high level. Assuming there isn’t a tug-of-war for the keys to the offense, the two could be a dynamic scoring punch and really elevate Houston in a flash.

No. 4, Sacramento Kings: Jaden Ivey, Purdue

The Kings just got out of a log jam with their guards, and adding Jaden Ivey to the mix would only bring that scenario back. But Davion Mitchell wasn’t a favorite of the big board’s last year, and didn’t display anything that should stop the Kings from making this pick in 2022.

Ivey brings incredible athleticism and potent shot creation to the table, something that not even Ja Morant has been able to really tap into yet. The Morant comps feel lazy, just because of the recency bias of it all, but there is some sense to it. Morant’s probably a better athlete, but Ivey isn’t much worse, and combining Ivey’s hops with the pure shot creation skills we wish Morant had creates a beast of a player. Ivey with De’Aaron Fox, another athletic marvel, would make the Kings incredibly hard to stop – imagine Domantas Sabonis throwing passes to those two whipping around the court, in addition to the pure off-the-dribble bounce each would have getting to the rim.

Ivey’s jump-shot has come into question in the pre-draft process, and understandably so. But if we’re wanting to compare it to Morant’s, it’s leaps and bounds better. Ivey has a nice stop-and-pop game inside three point line – it’s just from range where he struggles. But he’s a tenacious player who works quite hard in all facets of the game, and one would think it would improve over time. Ivey also hit jumpers in huge spots during his at Purdue – from three and inside. The lacking shot will probably hurt him more when he’s off-the-ball rather than on it early in his career, which is why playing with Green in Houston seems like a bad idea. At least Sharpe can really shoot when playing alongside Green.

Ivey’s defense is not great, which would add to a troubling trend in Sacramento. But shot creators of his level don’t come around very often – the Kings have the chance to add a player who could be the best guy on a very good team (at least) someday. With that skill set, you simply deal with the consequences later.

No. 5, Detroit Pistons: Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona

Bennedict Mathurin ranks one spot below AJ Griffin on the big board, but the idea of a Pistons backcourt that features Cade Cunningham and either Ivey or Mathurin is too hard to pass up on.

While his potential is higher thanks to his size and defensive potential, the floor for Griffin is much lower than Mathurin. Injuries are a huge concern, and it’s very likely he ends up getting drafted well below his big board position.

It may not seem like it, but the Pistons are under some pressure with Cade Cunningham. Huge strides should be expected from the second-year guard in 2022-23, and Detroit might find itself closer to becoming competitive than they originally thought. They cannot afford to miss out on high picks like this – surrounding Cunningham with guaranteed talent should be the goal, because he is good enough to elevate them if needed.

Mathurin would give the Pistons a sick duo of shot creators in their backcourt. He hit the tough shots at Arizona, and really excels with the ball in his hands. But that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of playing off another high-caliber player – Mathurin is one of the best shooters in the draft, and it’s his No. 1 skill, making him a safe bet whether the shot creation translates or not.

During his freshman year, Mathurin practically played point guard. The role tanked his draft stock, but some refinery could allow him to emerge as a real facilitator in his career. Regardless, the resilience Mathurin showed taking on different roles that he didn’t overwhelmingly succeed at was impressive, and displays his work ethic in a real way.

Mathurin has gotten the “Three-and-D” label, helping him be pegged as a safe bet in this class. The defense isn’t quite there, but he has the frame and athleticism to be a force on that end. If everything hits, Mathurin has the chance to be an absolute star, and Detroit shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to put him and Cunningham together if Ivey is gone.

No. 6, Indiana Pacers: AJ Griffin, Duke

The Pacers could arguably go anywhere here, which usually results in taking the best player available. In this case, that’s Griffin.

No matter which path Indiana takes this offseason, Griffin fits. If it’s trying to be competitive next season, Griffin offers insurance for TJ Warren and brings defensive potential that Buddy Hield doesn’t possess. Additionally, the Pacers benefit from adding someone with star potential and shot creation upside to the mix.

If Indiana is looking at blowing things up at the draft and into free agency, Griffin is the perfect complement next to Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte long-term.

Griffin is fifth on the big board because his ceiling is incredibly high. Right now, he’s a lights out shooter in a massive 6’6, 222-pound frame. For someone labeled by most as a “three-and-D” player, his defense isn’t ideal, as his size and injury history limits how fluid his frame can be. But there remains potential for him to emerge as a big, strong stopper who can switch any pick and roll at the top of the key with his size.

Griffin’s potential is even higher on the offensive end of the floor. He was kind of Duke’s third cog in the machine last year, and his late start to the 2021-22 college season due to injury was likely the result of that. But it hurt his ability to showcase everything he could do offensively. At 6’6, if Griffin can develop his isolation game more to pair with his in-place shooting stroke, then a team could be getting a special player. It’s why he’s ranked ahead of someone like Mathurin, who’s smaller and has similar flaws, on the big board.

Keegan Murray could make a lot of sense here for the Pacers too – he’s their type of cat in the sense of his ability to contribute immediately on boths ends in year one. But at some point, Indiana needs to hit a home run and not a single.

No. 7, Portland Trail Blazers: Keegan Murray, Iowa

It’s an absolute home run for Portland landing Jerami Grant without trading this pick. A trade involving No. 7 that put Grant on the Trail Blazers was a little too rich without further compensation. Now, Portland is ready to put a win-now young player from the draft and a veteran in Grant around Damian Lillard.

There’s no better choice than Keegan Murray. He’s a rare prospect in the sense that he still has a high ceiling at 22 years old.

At worst, Murray can join the Blazers and defend practically anyone. There’s a world that can see him guard both the ball-handler and the roll man in pick-and-rolls thanks to his impressive footwork and immense size. He can effectively close out on shooters thanks to his length, and has lockdown potential in one-on-one situations. He’s not guarding traditional fives, but if opponents go small, it’s very likely Murray will be able to survive against that team’s biggest player. 

On the offensive end, Murray is yet again a jack-of-all-trades. At Iowa, he was the Hawkeyes’ No. 1 offensive option, and got buckets in virtually every way. That was against typically slower, less athletic Big Ten defenses though, where his craft and technique mattered and not his lack of athleticism. In the NBA, the lack of athleticism and burst offensively may not allow Murray to play the same way and be the 6’8 mismatch nightmare who can score all by himself. 

But even if that trait doesn’t translate, Murray has ways to be effective. His big frame allows him to be a roll man at the next level, which ups the likelihood of him being a true small-ball big greatly. Murray’s also a fantastic and selfless player off-the-ball, which is a rare quality for a small-ball big. 

Murray’s shooting off-the-ball and from three-point land remains to be seen, but if he’s used largely as a big at the next level offensively, it should be mitigated by Lillard and Grant, the latter of whom can be his Detroit self and not be asked to take on the role offensively that he did in Denver. Murray should be more than happy to play his part, while also giving Portland offensively upside that combines well with Grant.

No. 8, New Orleans Pelicans: Dyson Daniels, G-League Ignite

It’s really hard to pinpoint an exact type of player the Pelicans should target this offseason, but if there are two skills they could use, it’d be passing and defense.

Fittingly, not only does Dyson Daniels bring both of those to the table, but he’s also the best player available on the board, which is the exact direction one should go without a true need.

Daniels is nearly a carbon copy of fellow Aussie point guard Josh Giddey, who OKC took No. 6 overall last year and scored big on. Daniels can throw any pass in the book, which is extremely valuable at his size of 6’8. He’s less of an athlete and fluid mover than Giddey is, which limits his offensive profile and ability to drive and kick, but it doesn’t bother him on the defensive end at all, which is an area that Giddey did and still does struggle at. He also struggles, at this point, as a shooter, which is another trait that’s in lock-step with Giddey.

But the defense Daniels brings to the table is real. He’s got strong legs and is super attentive, making him capable of defending 1-3 at the next level. Depending on the matchup, that could be stretched to four-men, but he may be a little undersized for certain guys.

New Orleans seems destined to have CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson be its main facilitators next year. While it worked with just McCollum at point guard late in 2021-22, there are reasons to be concerned as to whether those two can get the job done, especially while making reads in PNR. While his lack of shooting makes him a bit of a concern off-ball, Daniels would be extremely dangerous as a secondary ball-handler next to either McCollum or Williamson next year. He’s a very selfless player on offense overall, and that translates to his cutting and off-ball movement. The passes he’d be able to throw off cuts could allow the Pelicans to run an offense similar to Golden State’s if it chooses with Daniels in the mix.

No. 9, San Antonio Spurs: Malaki Branham, Ohio State

The Spurs have three picks in the first round, and while it makes sense for them to take as many shots as possible in an attempt to find a future star player, it could also make sense for them to package everything together and move up. A trade-up for practically anyone in the top six of the board would make a lot of sense, if they can find a partner.

But if they get stuck with all their picks – including No. 9 – going for the highest ceiling player is the next best choice.

Center is understandable here, and there’s a really good case that this is where Chet Holmgren should land, but Malaki Branham ranks higher on the board, and center is less of a need for the Spurs than a star is.

That said, this is where a large drop-off occurs in the “star-hunting” search. Branham has a lot of potential, but his shot is a bit of a question mark, which makes the label of “Three-and-D” a little overzealous. 

But Branham can score, and he can defend. He’s only 6’4, but doesn’t play like it defensively. He should be equipped to guard most wings thanks to his tenacity on that end.

Offensively, Branham is very similar to 2021 Spurs draft pick Joshua Primo, who they reached for in a ghastly way. But the idea made sense: San Antonio knew it needed someone who could emerge as a real shot creator, and Primo had a lot of those skills. There wasn’t much pop in Primo’s first year, although his G-League time was impressive at times. Selecting Branham is more of the same for San Antonio, but they don’t really have anywhere else to go. If he hits, there’s a good player in the works.

No. 10, Washington Wizards: TyTy Washington, Kentucky

This is a lot higher than consensus, and it’s not perfect by any means.

If the Wizards know they can land someone like Malcolm Brogdon via trade or Tyus Jones via free agent signing later this summer, then they would be best off selecting someone like Ochai Agbaji with this pick to help improve their defense. But the Hub is operating with much less knowledge than that.

Washington is one of the more underrated prospects in this draft regardless of how much sense it makes or not for the Wizards to take him this high. Few point guards are equally good at creating and passing as he is, and he deserves more credit for both skills.

Washington signed Spencer Dinwiddie last summer thinking he’d be the perfect fit next to Bradley Beal, with his ability to make fundamental passes and still create for himself. The latter got out of control, leading to his midseason trade to Dallas and the Wizards without a point guard again.

Washington should be able to bring the best of both qualities to the table for the Wizards. He’s a really good passer in all kinds of different sets, although questions about his threat in the PNR will linger thanks to his poor shooting. Still, Beal could figure to be the Wizards’ main operator in that look, limiting teams’ ability to continually go under on Washington possession after possession.

At 6’3, Washington’s ability to create for himself is very intriguing. He’s got a really good pull-up shot in the midrange, which he knocked with ease this past year. He has length and sliminess getting to the rim, which makes up for a lack of burst. While he won’t improve an already porous defensive backcourt, his length could allow him to develop into a competent defender down the line.

In Washington, the Wizards would get another fire-powered guard to pair with Beal, and this time, there won’t be worries about whose ball it is, or the efficiency either player is churning out.  

No. 11, New York Knicks: Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga

This is obviously not where Chet Holmgren will go on Thursday, and the big board is obviously much lower on him than consensus.

Let’s explain.

There has never been anyone who’s had a successful career in the NBA who looks anything like Chet Holmgren. 

It’s honestly impressive that he can move as well as he does in his frame – players that are as skinny and tall as him tend to move robotically and can’t shuffle their feet well at all. Holmgren is surprisingly fluid in that department, but it’s relative to his frame.

Holmgren’s high hips, hunchback posture and overall frailness is the biggest concern, and that affects him in multiple ways. The first is simply his ability to stay healthy and hold up against the strength of NBA players. Holmgren fell down a lot at Gonzaga, whether it be from a result of just getting bumped or as a result of hard contact. He didn’t miss any time due to injury, but the physicality only increases in the NBA, and if he’s going to be in more of a role than just a rim runner – which some feel he is capable of – it’s highly concerning how thin he is. Not only does it hurt his ability to create mismatches with his size, but it puts him in a liable state for the defender he’ll be matched up with.

It’s hard to see Holmgren adding weight to his frame too – part of what actually makes him intriguing is the mobility the frailness gives him. Adding weight could slow him down even more. He might be better off just having tight skin.

The ceiling for Holmgren that some project seems a little unreasonable as well. He doesn’t have a great handle, although the fact that he has as good of one as he does at his size is quite impressive. The shooting seems legitimate, although you’d like to see a little more volume before committing to the idea that he’ll be a shooter at the NBA level.

He also had his best performances against Gonzaga’s WCC opponents, and struggled early in the year when the Bulldogs faced tougher, non-conference opponents. Fellow draft classmates Jalen Duren and Paolo Banchero also throughout played him in their matchups this year.

Now for the positive elements of Holmgren, which, yes, do exist. 

If he can stay healthy, Holmgren has the potential to be a generational shot blocker. That’s very different from being a rim protector, which Holmgren still may struggle to be generationally good at unless his body changes drastically. But his ability to block shots all over the court and from all different types of angles is pretty much unprecedented at any level, and it’s not a skill that his body will inhibit him from using in the NBA.

Holmgren is also a very good passer. His ball-handling still needs some work for him to be truly unlocked as a facilitator, but Holmgren makes the right reads and can get the ball to the next player if his look isn’t good.

The Knicks need a star and a center. While it seems unlikely that Holmgren can truly blossom into what some project him as, he would give New York a potential dominant force down low defensively while displaying upside as a shot creator and a purely unstoppable player.

No. 12, Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Duren, Memphis

After what feels like years of taking guards, the Thunder finally round out their front court in this year’s draft with Banchero and Duren, and land some of the highest pedigree prospects in the draft as a result.

Duren ranks ahead of Holmgren on the big board mostly because of the safety he provides. The Memphis product is a massive human being with a threatening frame – guards are not going to even want to venture into the paint with him down there. Duren grabs every board, and is super explosive, making him an imposing lob threat and hard to stop on pick and rolls. Betting on him to be a scorer a team feeds down low feels unlikely, but he has a knack for getting the ball to go down. There aren’t many bigs in the NBA that can physically match him on post-ups.

Defense is where Duren will make his money. As mentioned, he’s just a force in the paint with his shot blocking and vertical rim protection. His leaping ability should allow him to limit fouls, though that was a struggle point at Memphis. In the NBA, he’ll be dealing with bigger, stronger players, which should limit the intensity of the collisions he has in the air (Duren sent tiny dudes FLYING in college – in the NBA, not many of those guys exist).

A Banchero-Duren front-court works defensively, as Duren can clean up for the anticipated Banchero mistakes. Offensively, the spacing is tight, but Duren could shoot at some point, and the Thunder have plenty of guards to run PNRs or pick and pops with – the PNP should be a go-to with Banchero in the fold, which will keep the floor spaced well for Duren down low.

No. 13, Charlotte Hornets: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas

The Hornets could go many different directions here, as they are building for the long-term around LaMelo Ball.

Neither Gordon Hayward nor Terry Rozier figure to fit that plan, so replacing their spots in the rotation down the line should be Charlotte’s goal with its two first round picks.

A trade up for anyone in the top seven of the board would make a lot of sense, as the Hornets will have a bit of a roster crunch of players who need minutes if they make both selections on Thursday. But for now, Charlotte gets a steal in Ochai Agbaji at No. 13.

We’ll have the Hornets going center with their next pick, but Agbaji is arguably the safest player in the draft. He got better all four years at Kansas, which led to some emergence of him being more than just a typical “Three-and-D” wing in 2021-22. 

Agbaji put on much muscle with the Jayhawks, as he now possesses a chiseled frame that allows him to handle bigger, tougher assignments defensively. He was a near non-shooter his freshman year, and now hits shots at an acceptable rate. He’s not the nastiest defender or the most complete creator, and at 22 years old there may not be much upside left, but the strides he showed at Kansas made it clear he’s not afraid to work hard on his game.

No. 14, Cleveland Cavaliers: Ousmane Dieng, New Zealand

Cleveland is in a spot where it can kind of do whatever it wants with this selection. The Cavaliers should be running things back as much as possible next season, which for now should include trying to re-sign Ricky Rubio, who’s pairing with Darius Garland had Cleveland playing its best basketball of the entire year before injuries ripped them apart. Still, Rubio probably isn’t the long-term partner for Garland in the backcourt, and even with their enormous starting lineup of Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland could probably still use some traditional wing defenders – it’s also unlikely Markkanen is around in the far-on future, making the addition of Dieng in this draft logical.

Dieng has some pretty special qualities. For someone as tall and as skinny as he is, he moves very well. This enables him to defend at an extremely high level, which he excelled at with the New Zealand Breakers. It remains to be seen how effective he can be switching onto multiple types of guys, but Dieng is a fantastic help and off-ball defender who rarely misses spots or a rotation.

It’s an addition that can add value to Cleveland immediately, but that’s hardly all Dieng brings to the table. Even at this early stage of his development, he’s somewhere between a primary and secondary ball-handler. In the future, point guard might be a stretch, but there’s a world where he becomes a glorified second facilitator that can really manipulate defenses.

Dieng’s also a very quick reactor when playing off the ball. When guards swing it to him, it makes a defense extremely off balance, given that they have to account for Dieng and the team’s point guard both being able to facilitate. He’s always reading and reacting to the court.

His jump shot and scoring ability has a ways to go, but any development of either skill could really turn him into a star. For now, the Cavs get needed defense, and get a long-shot play at Garland’s back-court counterpart.

No. 15, Charlotte Hornets: Mark Williams, Duke

Here is where the Hornets circle back and grab their center. This does feel a little redundant after they took Kai Jones at No. 19 last year, but he hardly got any time on the court, and that’s saying something considering the play down low in Charlotte.

Williams is another good bet to be the safest player in this draft. He’s massive, and his presence alone is enough to deter penetrators from driving to the rim. He’s an extremely fluid athlete for being so large, which bodes well for his ability to rim run in the NBA, and potentially switch. That area of his game may not ever develop, but some speed training could benefit him.

On offense, Williams won’t space the floor, but he’s a very good passer for a rim-runner. He’ll be a fun weapon in dribble-handoffs and pick and rolls, and the idea of lobs from Ball to him will make defenses bend their minds.

No. 16, Atlanta Hawks: Tari Eason, LSU

The Hawks could plain and simply use more defenders, and while this would seem like the perfect fit for Jeremy Sochan given Atlanta’s needs, Tari Eason is a bit safer of a pick.

We’ll get into Sochan shortly, but the main ingredient that Eason brings to the table that Sochan doesn’t is capabilities on offense. At LSU, Eason was a scoring machine off the bench, using his almost 6’7 frame to get to the rim off the dribble constantly. That went hand-in-hand with a chaotic but impactful defensive presence.

In some way, Eason will be able to fit in offensively. If all he becomes is a simple roll man at the four or five, he has the touch and size to put the ball in the basket – him rolling would not be a fun thing to guard. He’s also got a really good sense for passing, which is rare for someone in his frame and with his game. With Eason, Atlanta would get a swiss-army knife defender and not fret about whether teams will guard him on the other end of the floor.

No. 17, Houston Rockets: Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee

Like Washington for the Wizards, this is high, but there’s a real lack of true point guards in this class, and Houston can afford to miss given that they have three first round picks. A potential trade up for Daniels using this pick and No. 26 would make a lot of sense given that they selected four first-rounders last year.

But if they can’t move any of them, including this pick, then Chandler makes the most sense.

The Rockets don’t have anyone close to a point guard on their roster. When Kevin Porter Jr. actually plays, he’s shown more interest in creating for himself than others, and keeping him on the court has been a struggle. While Jalen Green has shown some signs of being an instinctive passer, he’s probably best equipped focusing on scoring, which Chandler can help him do.

Houston has shown zero interest in building a competent defense. While Sharpe may help with that, Chandler will struggle to survive at 6’1 on an NBA court. But the Rockets need him for his passing and frankly that only considering the roster they have built. 

Chandler may be capable of more – his size actually helps him get to the rim because he is smaller than most defenders, but his lack of height and pure athleticism could result in those shots getting blocked at a high rate. At Tennessee, Chandler was a good creator off-the-dribble as well, but it’s hard to bet on those skills coming to fruition at the next level given his frame.

No. 18, Chicago Bulls: Jeremy Sochan, Baylor

The Bulls need defense, and Sochan has a case to be the best defender in this draft. His value falls because of what he projects to be on offense. There’s not a lot of promise for him to become a jump-shooter, and while his passing skills are impressive, Sochan needs to hit Draymond Green levels of effectiveness on both ends to justify taking him as high as he’s projected to go in the draft.

That said, the fit for him in Chicago is fantastic. The Bulls can afford to have a player left alone by defenses with all that they have at disposal, which includes Nikola Vucevic, who’s no slouch of a threat offensively. Sochan can play center on that end of the court with Vucevic stretching. It’s a niche role that Sochan has to fill for the Bulls – essentially, the “Who’s guarding an opponent’s best wing player?” role – and he’s perfectly capable of doing so, even at such an early stage of his career. Sochan’s that special defensively, and it’s a shame that his flaws push him so far down the board.

No. 19, Minnesota Timberwolves: Johnny Davis, Wisconsin

This is strictly a best player available pick for the Timberwolves. D’Angelo Russell is seemingly on the market for other teams – his absence would leave Minnesota devoid of playmaking and shot creation talent. Even with Russell in the fold long-term, his inconsistency on the offense end has left Minnesota at times in trouble. Davis is a decent bet to aleve some of those issues.

Davis comes in much lower than consensus on the board. That’s because of the boom-or-bust potential of his game. Davis was an excellent scorer in college, but he doesn’t bring much else to the table at the NBA level. It takes a special player to be successful in the pros when that’s your only skill set – even Jalen Green in last year’s draft had his athleticism be potent enough that one could consider it a skill. Davis doesn’t have anything besides scoring on his scouting report at the NBA level, and his three-point shot is a serious question.

That’s the justification for Davis being so low on the board. Even though he was a good defender at Wisconsin, Ivey types are not that common in the Big Ten, and Davis is quite frail at 6’4.

Still, in the long or short-term, the Wolves could use someone to replace some of the firepower Russell brings to the table. The search for a good facilitator at the top of the offense remains, but it seems likely that Russell is around for longer than most Minnesota fans probably hope. Additionally, Davis would enjoy what is essentially a hometown crowd in the Twin Cities. It seems unlikely that Davis is the star some project him to be in the NBA, but he’s worth the pick at this stage of the draft, and could be a productive sixth man in his career.

No. 20, San Antonio Spurs: Christian Koloko, Arizona

Here is where the Spurs go for the center that they could use but don’t really need.

Koloko is a menace of a man, and he moves impressively well given his large size. He’s a force on defense – guards do not want to drive against him in the paint, and his size makes him tough to box out for rebounds. While he’s not incredibly switchable, he does have a chance against certain players on the perimeter – he’s not the liability other centers are out there.

Offensively, Koloko will never shoot from a distance in the NBA – even the midrange seems a bit far out – but a team can easily run four shooters around him. He’s not going to post people up, but is available for easy buckets down low and lobs.

Jakob Poeltl’s future has come into question via multiple reports since the playoffs began, and Koloko would represent a solid short-term and long-term replacement for the Spurs down low.

No. 21, Denver Nuggets: Jabari Walker, Colorado

Arguably the pick that is the biggest reach in this entire mock, Walker comes in way higher on the big board than consensus. 

The Nuggets biggest need heading into 2022-23 is to surround their core with competent players. While injuries were taking their toll, the 2022 playoffs displayed that Denver had close to zero depth on its roster, as back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic had zero help without his co-stars in tow.

Denver simply needs guys who can come in and play right away. With a sweet shooting stroke, some ability to create for himself and a long frame capable of defending, Walker fits the bill well. 

Walker had games with the Buffaloes where he simply couldn’t miss, and defenses were forced to either guard him tight or double team. Yet, Walker would still hit tough shots from deep. Walker would be a welcomed replacement for Jeff Green’s minutes in the Nuggets’ rotation.

No. 22, Memphis Grizzlies: Josh Minott, Memphis

The Grizzlies split the pie of approval in last year’s draft, as they traded up to No. 10 in search of a star (good thinking) to select Zaire Williams (wasn’t a fan). Williams had moments during his rookie year, but ultimately didn’t earn minutes you would expect from a top-10 pick, which limits belief that he showed Memphis that much regarding what he could do.

At this point in the draft, star hunting is extremely hard to do, but it’s really the only need the Grizzlies have. They could also use a player who’s ready to contribute now – one who can play defense, hit shots and play unselfishly on offense. 

Minott does two of those three things at this point in his career. He’s a hard-working defender who makes the right rotations more often than not, and he uses his long, athletic frame to stay with dribblers but also be a threat off-the-ball as a cutter. Minott stays busy on the court, and Memphis could use someone like that given the up-in-the-air future of Dillion Brooks.

Minott has serious upside offensively though. If he can hit jumpers at some point, the Grizzlies could have a future star on their hands. Minott is also an impressive passer for someone of his size, which ties into his unselfish play offensively. In a 6’8 frame, someone who is able to make cuts and be a facilitator from anywhere on the floor is a dangerous weapon, especially with Ja Morant a tough player to stop when cutting. 

No. 23, Philadelphia 76ers: Wendell Moore Jr., Duke

Only invigorated by Danny Green’s injury, the 76ers desperately need defensive-minded wings. 

Wendell Moore Jr. has one the most all-encompassing skill sets in this draft class, but the thing that should translate fastest is his defense. He’s only 6’4, but has a thick frame and a willingness to work hard defensively. The 76ers can deploy him against any opponent 1-4.

That’s not all Moore Jr. brings to the table though. The Duke product can shoot, pass and handle on offense. While he’s not the scorer other similar prospects are in this draft class, his ability to make passes out of drives or be a secondary facilitator from the wing is potentially very valuable. Being able to hit a three or make a guard-like read puts a defender in hell, and Moore should be able to bring that to the table, unlike some of the other wings the 76ers currently possess on their roster. 

No. 24, Milwaukee Bucks: Marjon Beauchamp, G-League Ignite

Going for a center here would make a lot of sense for the Bucks — Walker Kessler would make for a pretty terrifying defensive quartet with Giannis Antentokoumpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday while serving as insurance to an aging Brook Lopez. But if the Bucks are to play any center next to Antetokounmpo, that player needs to be able to space the floor.  As impressive as he is, Kessler will likely never do that in his NBA career.

Like Denver, a lack of depth seemed to plague  Milwaukee after injuries stuck in the playoffs — it could simply use one or two more competent role players on its roster. Enter Beauchamp.

At the end of the play, Beauchamp is a winning player. He’s a smart, high flying and physical defender who has a very long frame. He has great feet and can stay with almost anyone defensively. 

On offense, Beauchamp is still a ways away as a jump-shooter, but he still makes an impact offensively by trying to find open holes in a defense. He’s a willing cutter, and uses his athleticism to get put-backs and steal easy baskets.

Beauchamp should clock in higher on the board and among the consensus, but there have been some questions about his passion for the game, which feels odd considering that he wasn’t a chucker with the G-League Ignite. He’s not a selfish player at all. A winning environment like the Bucks would be a perfect fit to keep Beauchamp on track on and off the court. 

No. 25, San Antonio Spurs: Ryan Rollins, Toledo

With their third first round pick, the Spurs go back to star hunting after taking Branham and Koloko earlier.

Rollins is one of the most fun players in the draft. He’s reminiscent of Bones Hyland from last year, where he can simply score from everywhere in every way. But even if Rollins’ small-school experience doesn’t translate, he still should be a solid shooter from deep at the NBA level. Rollins also showcased some impressive passing ability for someone as gifted of a scorer as he is, but MAC defenses are not what NBA defenses are, which makes one queasy regarding his potential there. Still, Rollins is a sick shot maker, and the Spurs are best off continuing to take swings in that department. 

No. 26, Houston Rockets: Dalen Terry, Arizona

If Houston can’t trade up, continuing to take players that are either lengthy wing defenders and/or can pass is the way to go. Dalen Terry does both.

Terry is an incredible passer for a 6’6 off-ball wing. There were times throughout the past two years that both he and Mathurin played point guard, and it shows in both of their games. While Terry is not the shooter or shot maker Mathurin is, he’s a much better defender, giving him immense value.

Terry plays like a guard offensively, setting up players in spots and using his size to penetrate the lane. His usage in the PNR remains to be seen because of his faulty jumper — teams will have all the reason in the world to continuously go under screens for him. But landing a player who can do the two things Terry does well at this point in the draft is a steal.

No. 27, Miami Heat: Jake LaRavia, Wake Forest

If a team is trying to improve its efficiency on both sides of the ball, there is arguably no player in the draft who is more likely to help with that than Jake LaRavia.

He might be the smartest player in the draft.  During review of his game tape, there was one single possession where he missed a defensive rotation and another where he didn’t exert effort on a close out. LaRavia simply cares and doesn’t make mistakes. 

On offense, it’s more of the same. LaRavia finds open spots or open teammates. He always makes the right decision on whether to shoot or pass, and he always makes the right pass. He’s never taken a bad shot, and fits perfectly into the modern NBA.

The downside is that his ability to shoot is a little sketchy — his numbers were very much up and down throughout college. That could lead to him being an absolute zero on offense in the future. 

As impressive as Gabe Vincent and Max Strus’ development was last year, it did get to the point where we were questioning whether Miami was actually going to go to war with these guys in the playoffs. LaRavia has a chance to be more impactful than either player. 

No. 28, Golden State Warriors: Trevor Keels, Duke

It’s weird when the team that wins the NBA Finals is legitimately one guy short, but that’s basically what the Warriors were able to pull off a week ago.

Trevor Keels would give Golden State someone who isn’t going to kill it on either end of the court. 

Keels’ weight for his size is a bit concerning, but he uses it to his advantage. On offense, good luck stopping Keels when he’s going to the rim. At times at Duke, he looked like a mini Zion Williamson battering himself to the rim, leveraging his size against everyone. This skill could also make him an intriguing off-ball cutter in his career — who’s the defender you put on someone like him?

Keels is also a very good passer, which make his drives lead to kicks. That said, Keels is probably not a point guard in the NBA, and given his overall poor shooting from three, makes him a potential zero without the ball in his hands. 

Still, the Warriors can get around this by involving Keels in their chaotic movement offense. With his size, he could offer some potential as a roll man, though his height could present a problem against large roll defenders. 

Keels is worth a shot for the Warriors given how they can make anyone work who has perceived flaws. Golden State could have a simply bigger Gary Payton II on its hands with this pick. 

No. 29, Memphis Grizzlies: Walker Kessler, Auburn

While Memphis is mostly in search of players who have star upside or can contribute immediately, it’s fair to wonder whether they could attempt to upgrade down low over Steven Adams, who feels like the next big to get played off the court in an important playoff series.

Kessler may not offer that much more switchability than Adams, but he does have really good feet, giving him a shot. He’ll also be a much better rim protector in general than Adams, as Kessler’s block numbers at Auburn were completely obscene.

It remains to be seen whether Kessler can effectively score as the roll man in the PNR, but it may not matter as his size makes him a more-than-viable lob threat. With a passer like Morant at the helm, that should work out alright.

No. 30, Denver Nuggets: Christian Braun, Kansas

Denver circles back here and takes another player who can help it now in Christian Braun. Braun is a stud defender, which will come in handy given that the Nuggets’ three best players all struggle in some regard in that department. Braun should be able to man a “Three-and-D” spot in the Nuggets’ rotation immediately, and could develop into a secondary ball-handler down the road. With rumors about Monte Morris being on the outs in Denver, Braun brings much potential yet sturdiness to the Mile High City.

The Big Board:


  1. Jabari Smith Jr.
  2. Paolo Banchero
  3. Jaden Ivey
  4. Shaedin Sharpe
  5. AJ Griffin
  6. Benn Mathurin
  7. Keegan Murray
  8. Dyson Daniels
  9. Ochai Agbaji
  10. Jalen Duren
  11. Malaki Branham
  12. Chet Holmgren
  13. TyTy Washington
  14. Tari Eason
  15. Mark Williams
  16. Ousmane Dieng
  17. Johnny Davis
  18. Jabari Walker
  19. Christian Koloko
  20. Walker Kessler
  21. Wendell Moore Jr.
  22. Josh Minott
  23. Marjon Beauchamp
  24. Kennedy Chandler
  25. Dalen Terry
  26. Jake LaRavia
  27. Jeremy Sochan
  28. Trevor Keels
  29. Christian Braun
  30. Ryan Rollins
  31. Andrew Nembhard
  32. Alondes Williams
  33. Keon Ellis
  34. JD Davison
  35. Jalen Williams
  36. Isaiah Mobley
  37. Julian Champagnie
  38. Jaylin Williams
  39. Ismael Kamagate
  40. EJ Liddell
  41. Bryce McGowens
  42. Tyrese Martin
  43. Blake Wesley
  44. Peyton Watson
  45. Max Christie
  46. Nikola Jovic
  47. Jared Rhoden
  48. Gabriele Procida
  49. John Butler
  50. Justin Lewis
  51. Jaden Hardy
  52. Caleb Houstan
  53. Mateo Spagnolo
  54. Marcus Bingham Jr.
  55. Dominick Barlow
  56. Jamaree Bouyea
  57. Moussa Diabate
  58. Trevion Williams
  59. David Roddy
  60. Hugo Besson
  61. Harrison Ingram
  62. Patrick Baldwin Jr.
  63. Yannick Nzosa
  64. Michael Foster Jr.
  65. Kendall Brown
  66. Jean Montero
  67. Khalifa Diop
  68. Deron Seabron

2022 NBA Finals Preview

This has a shot to be the best NBA Finals since 2016. In terms of making a pick, this was the hardest call since then. Last season’s matchup between Phoenix and Milwaukee was difficult as well, but that had more to do with the injury status of Giannis Antentokoumpo than anything else.

Here’s three big things to look for in these Finals between Boston and Golden State from an Xs and Os standpoint.

Boston’s lockdown D vs. Golden State’s chaos O

This exact matchup in these Finals has the chance to define how we think about building teams in the 2020s. A Golden State win likely sees teams try to be more patient and do a “middle build” that mixes youth with a veteran core and implements mid-2010s Warriors offensive schemes. A Boston win likely shifts the mindset to one that believes that defense is what truly wins championships, even though last decade proved that wrong.

The Boston defense is a beastly brick wall. Trying to win 1-on-1? Good luck against their feisty guards, lengthy athletic wings and switchable but sturdy bigs. Trying to get a good switch? Ditto. Trying to run a well-crafted set? Take all of those athletes mentioned in a 1-on-1 setting, give them Ime Udoka as their coach and watch them crank the effort up to 10.  The Celtics are built for nearly everything you throw at them.

But Golden State doesn’t run any of those offenses. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has received criticism throughout his tenure for the lack of pick and rolls he runs when conducting Golden State’s offense. At times, it’s been a fair criticism – perhaps the only one you can make during his time there – but the Warriors have never really needed to run offense like that.

Golden State has never really had a truly dominant PNR combo at its disposal. They’ve never possessed a big interior presence who could score easily at the rim, and it’s not like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson or even Kevin Durant ever needed a screen to get a shot off. Those three are pull-up maestros. 

Durant gets into the second reason as to why Golden State has never ran an offense that Boston is built to defend: who needs any sets when you have Durant and Curry creating off the dribble? 

Thus, you get a ridiculous array of actions that look sets but are really just a bunch of smart players trying to get the best shot. It’s a free-flowing river of flare screens, pin-downs and unselfishness that is impossible to guard. Throw in a playmaker like Draymond Green and now you have two-to-three passers to try and stop, depending on Jordan Poole and Curry’s presence on the floor.

The difference between the Golden State offense and ones that rely on sets is that there’s no structure or ability to predict anything. You just have to guess, help and recover or switch as fast as possible. Boston has smart defenders, but even the wittiest cookies struggle to crack this.

The Celtics video coordinators are in hell attempting to break down the Warriors. A lot of trust will be placed in Boston’s players to attempt to nail down the spots every Golden State player likes, and then execute that on the court. But trust only gets one so far without prayer. Udoka will be pressured heavily in this series – the Celtics’ true defensive fundamentals, like whether they’ll switch every off-ball action or help hard and recover fast, have to be nailed down in stone heading into Game 1. Every player has to know what to do on each action they may see from the Warriors.

What could be most viable for the Celtics in this series is to force Golden State into isolations if they lock up the off-ball movement. But even that has its drawbacks and worries.

The firepower

Most playoff series come down to one question: who has the best player?

It’s the question front offices ask themselves every offseason. Do we have a player that’s the best one on a championship team? What about a third round team? A playoff team?

This series, we’ll get answers to a couple questions we’ve had either for years or for months. How good is Tatum really? Is Jaylen Brown a viable sidekick? Is Thompson still that guy? Should we tempt down our expectations for Poole?

We’ve already covered how troublesome Golden State’s offense is for the Celtics. But that’s assuming that Thompson is hitting shots, and that Poole is on the court.

There hasn’t been a ton of consistency to Thompson during these playoffs, which was expected considering what we saw in the regular season. Still, 0-7 games from behind the three-point line – like what we saw in Game 4 against Memphis – are impactful this time of year. But so are games like his incredible Game 5 performance versus the Mavericks, when he sunk eight of 16 threes attempted.

At this point, how Thompson plays is a matter of luck for both sides. Boston has defenders to throw at him if it wants to in Tatum and Brown, both of whom’s wingspan can close out better than Marcus Smart’s or Derrick White’s. But does Boston really want to commit either of those two to a potential non-threat? It’ll likely be a matter of seeing how the early stages of the game play out for Udoka to make that call – it’s a simple question of whether Thompson has it or not in a given night.

For the Warriors, the stroke of luck in Thompson is just as volatile. Golden State has been hesitant to play Poole as many minutes as it did in the regular season during these playoffs, as opponents have smartly attacked Poole and his stature in PNR. But if Thompson can’t find his shot in this series, the Warriors may have their hand forced to play Poole, who brings a more dynamic and full offensive presence to the court.

How much Poole hurts defensively depends on what Boston can do offensively.

At times, Golden State can be fresh meat for the Celtics. Boston’s offensive strategy in this series will be more traditional – it’ll seek out the Warriors’ weakest defender and pound the mismatch, ideally with creators like Tatum or Brown trying to get a good look.

In Curry, Thompson and Poole, Golden State is at a disadvantage defensively. Curry’s probably a better defender than given credit for, but a lot of his success on that ends comes from measurable indicators like steals. Thompson’s a shell of himself from where he was pre-injury, and we’ve seen Poole’s size work against him already in these playoffs, hence the lessened minutes load.

But the Warriors didn’t have the league’s sixth-best defensive by defensive rating this year by accident. They still possess Wiggins and Green – inputting Wiggins there as a positive is still such a weird thing to do – and Looney has unlocked his 2019-self during these playoffs.

Whichever Boston wing Wiggins isn’t on throughout the possessions of this series is a win for the Celtics. Golden State likely doesn’t want Green on either Tatum or Brown because 1) it’s a lot to ask for someone of Green’s size at this point of his career and 2) he’s best deployed as a roaming help threat.

This leaves the Warriors with yet another predicament. If they want both Wiggins and Green out there, but not Poole, then who’s the other option? Otto Porter Jr. has been dealing with an injury the past couple weeks, and while Gary Payton Jr. returning to the lineup, it’s unclear how he helps solve Golden State’s problem as a small guard. Even if Porter Jr. is healthy, attaching him to either Brown or Tatum is risky.

Moses Moody or Jonathan Kuminga emerge, but then the Warriors are relying on rookies they’ve been reluctant to truly deploy in these playoffs. Either could get the job done, but it’s a big risk to give it a try in such a high stakes series.

The Celtics stars with viable switches just might top what Golden State can bring to the table. If Poole is given a more limited role, a lot of the brunt falls on Curry for the Warriors offense.

While the Warriors have their lethal offensive scheme to rely on, playing the guys that unlock that may give Boston the series’ overall edge thanks to what it allows the Celtics to do offensively.

And that’s not accounting for the bigs, either.

The Celtics’ size advantage

Boston as we know it does not possess a small-ball lineup.

If the Warriors force them to go to it in this series with their chaos-inducing offense, then it would mean that the Celtics are in serious trouble.

In any other scenario, Boston will have a serious size advantage over the Warriors, whether it be its typical look of Al Horford and Robert Williams III, just Horford or just Williams III at center – the latter of which Boston has deployed five times during the Playoffs, according to NBA.com.

Of course, this is all very dependent on Williams III’s health, which is anyone’s guess at this point.

Golden State would like for Boston to play one big as much as possible. In a scenario with both Horford and Williams III on the floor, the Warriors have to deal with Williams III on Looney and Horford trying to post-up Green. While Golden State will try to make the Celtics’ bigs work hard defensively, Boston has done a good job of protecting their bigs against unfavorable switches or actions. Williams III would likely hang on Green, as he’s the most sturdy cog in Golden State’s offensive machine. If Looney is on the floor, Horford should be able to hold his own.

If the Celtics play one big, it favors Golden State, allowing them to go small and put as much offense on the floor as possible. If they commit to allowing Boston’s wings to get what they want, then matching that output is their only option.

We’ll know early in the series how Golden State wants to dance. Regardless, the threat of Boston supersizing is there – and extremely threatening.

The pick

It’s funny how writing things out can change a mind sometimes. Going in, this pick was going to skew the Warriors’ way.

The bottom line in this series is this: As good as Golden State is offensively, and as problematic as their scheme is for Boston, the Celtics will likely figure it out. It might take awhile – perhaps Boston drops Game 1 in San Francisco on Thursday – but the Celtics are just too good from a fundamental and talent standpoint on the defensive end to let the Warriors torch them for four games. There’s a reason why the Celtics are discussed the way they are on that end of the floor, and being able to shut the door on an attack like this is why.

Additionally, Boston’s wings have the ability to put a lot of stress on a talented but still-lacking Golden State defense. Green will likely have to end up on one of Tatum or Brown, as Thompson just doesn’t have the legs and the rookies don’t have the experience to handle something like that. The Warriors then have to deal with the mismatch hunting Boston will try to do, and Golden State just isn’t switchy enough 1-5 to effectively deal with that, unless Moody or Kuminga 1) actually get minutes and 2) actually perform at the high level. Those both seem unlikely to happen.

Finally, Golden State going small against Boston just doesn’t seem like a viable plan in this series, which is when the Warriors are at their best. Multiple factors come into play there – the Poole in/Green at the five lineup being fresh meat for the Celtics’ hunting strategy and the size that Williams III and/or Horford bring to the table. It all seems like a lot for the Warriors to overcome.

That said, picking against Curry is terrifying. He’s still probably the best player in the series. Tatum doesn’t need to emerge ahead of Curry on the “guys you want in a playoff series” rankings for Boston to win this series. With the construction of each team, the Warriors can lose with Curry’s best, and Boston can win without Tatum’s. It’s not that Curry’s not up for it – it’s that the Warriors as a whole aren’t.

Prediction: Boston in 7