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Today marks the day of the 2022 NBA Draft. Dreams are fulfilled and teams are looking to find prospects to help them win championships. Now, no one has any idea how good any one of these guys will end up being. I especially have no clue. But I love to guess and play fake GM. So here is a mock draft of what I personally would do in these spots if I were running these teams. 

1. Orlando Magic – Paolo Banchero F Duke

I wrote more extensively here as to why I think Banchero is the best prospect in this draft. He can grow into Orlando’s premier halfcourt option as soon as he steps into the building.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder – Chet Holmgren C Gonzaga

A perfect fit next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey with Holmgren’s versatility as a floor spacer, rim roller, shooting off the bounce, and slashing ability. Don’t overthink Chet Holmgren.

3. Houston Rockets – Jabari Smith Jr. F Auburn

Jabari Smith gets called a 6-10 Klay Thompson but don’t get it twisted: that’s a really damn good player. Especially after watching him in person, Jabari Smith is exactly what teams want from their wings in today’s NBA. I just wish he could create off the bounce more.

4. Sacramento Kings – Jaden Ivey G Purdue

Jaden Ivey is simply immensely better than Keegan Murray and anyone else in this group; you could even argue Ivey is a better prospect than Jabari Smith or others in the top three. Sacramento does have a cluster of guards, though. People recommending them trading away De’Aaron Fox and his max salary to make room for Ivey is easier said than done though. But I just can’t pass Ivey up, especially after the names this franchise has passed up over the last decade-plus (Luka Doncic, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, to name a few). Take Ivey and worry about the roster clog at guard later.

5. Detroit Pistons – AJ Griffin F Duke

I wrote more extensively about Griffin here. Suffice to say, I think Griffin has more creator skills than he was allowed to show at Duke and is probably the best shooter in this draft. I LOVE the fit with Griffin and Cade Cunningham. 

6. Indiana Pacers – Bennedict Mathurin F Arizona

Perhaps no one played as well in the NCAA Tournament as Bennedict Mathurin. The idea of Mathurin and Tyrese Haliburton harassing guards all over the floor defensively is incredibly enticing. I love the fit here.

7. Portland Trail Blazers – Keegan Murray F Iowa

The Blazers finally added a wing in Jerami Grant on Wednesday. Keegan Murray isn’t a stopper defensively but can cover a lot of ground, can stretch the floor and would make for a great pick and roll tandem with Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, or Grant. Portland wants to compete now, so getting one of the most pro-ready prospects in this class makes sense.

8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Los Angeles Lakers) – Shaedon Sharpe G Kentucky

New Orleans is already a playoff team with plenty of draft ammunition in their tool kit. They’re a team that can take a risk in the top 10 so why not take the chance on Sharpe, who some say is the most talented player in this class. I love the idea of Sharpe learning from the steady professional scorer CJ McCollum. The fit around New Orleans’ two building-block stars in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson makes sense too.

9. San Antonio Spurs – Jalen Duren C Memphis

Jakob Poeltl has one year left on his contract. The Spurs have four picks in the top 40. Duren is the best center in this class with a game comparable to Boston’s Robert Williams III. They can get a guard or wing later. I like the fit here with Duren.

10. Washington Wizards – Jalen Williams F Santa Clara

Williams is a two-way wing close to the size of Paul George with the athleticism of Donovan Mitchell? I talked more about Williams after the NBA combine, but safe to say I’m a fan and that going at ten even might be too low for his potential.

11. New York Knicks – Dyson Daniels F G League Ignite

Dyson Daniels going in the top seven doesn’t make too much sense to me. He seems like someone that is solid at everything but not great at anything. 11 is much more palatable to me. He could play off RJ Barrett very well and seems very much like a Tom Thibodeau guy.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Los Angeles Clippers) – Tari Eason F LSU

At some point, the Thunder have to try to win some games, right? Tari Eason is one of the best defenders in this draft. Him and Holmgren smothering front courts with both having the versatility to defend all over the floor? Sounds good to me.

13. Charlotte Hornets – Ousmane Dieng F France / New Zealand Breakers

Charlotte needs wings and Dieng has the frame and game to excel next to LaMelo Ball as a point forward wing and also bring some much-needed defense to the Hornets. With two first-round picks, Charlotte can afford to take a shot on upside here too.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers – Johnny Davis G Wisconsin

There may not be a better fit for Davis than Cleveland. He is not a playmaker yet, but no worries because Darius Garland is already one of the best playmaking guards in the NBA. Garland isn’t a great defender, but Davis gets after it there with his 6-6 frame and athleticism. He can hit tough shots in the midrange, which would be a requirement with Cleveland’s two-big frontcourt. Cleveland should run to deliver the card with his name on it.

15. Charlotte Hornets (via New Orleans Pelicans) – Mark Williams C Duke

Charlotte needs a center as badly as Spongebob needed water when he first visited Sandy’s dome. Mark Williams instantly bolsters Charlotte’s defense and makes an awesome lob partner for LaMelo Ball.

16. Atlanta Hawks – Jeremy Sochan F Baylor

I’m not as big a Jeremy Sochan fan as others but he’s a stud defensively who just turned 19. Also, the ‘You Don’t Mess With the Sochan’ potential marketing campaigns are just sitting right there. You’re welcome, NBA teams.

17. Houston Rockets (via Brooklyn Nets) – Kennedy Chandler PG Tennessee

This might be too early for Chandler but this is what I would do damnit! I don’t want Banchero to succumb to pedestrian point guard play as he did at Duke for a large portion of their season, though Jalen Green is a good playmaker in his own right. Chandler is arguably the best pure floor general in this class with pesty defense and athleticism to go with it. He can make Green and Alperen Sengun’s life easier too. I love this fit.

18. Chicago Bulls – EJ Liddell F Ohio State

The Bulls so badly need depth on the wing. Poor Alex Caruso was sent to the wolves in the playoffs by having to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo when Patrick Williams got in foul trouble or needed a blow. Though Caruso is one of the best defensive players in the NBA, he shouldn’t have to take on that kind of assignment. Liddell is pro-ready both in terms of game and frame (6-7 240-pounds) and provides exactly what Chicago needs in terms of defense, additional rim protection, and floor spacing.

19. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jake LaRavia F Wake Forest

Jake LaRavia does many of the same things as Liddell. He isn’t as skilled an offensive player as Liddell but is a more bouncy athlete. I wrote more about him here but he’d make for a perfect fit with Karl-Anthony Towns and the Wolves.

20. San Antonio Spurs – Ochai Agbaji F Kansas

This seems low for one of the best players in college basketball last season. Agbaji helped Kansas win a national championship last year and has a game that reminds me a lot of Mikal Bridges. I think he’d fit like a glove in San Antonio.

21. Denver Nuggets – Malaki Branham G Ohio State

This seems low as well. Malaki Branham may not be the best prospect to come from St. Vincent St. Mary High School but he’s one of the best shooters and scorers in the draft. I know Denver drafted Bones Hyland to fill that role last year but getting more players who can fill Jamal Murray’s shoes if he can’t play in a given game. 

22. Memphis Grizzlies (via Utah Jazz) – TyTy Washington G Kentucky

TyTy Washington has numbers and a game eerily similar to Tyrese Maxey. I pounded the table for teams to consider Maxey higher than where he went. Teams that passed on him proved to make a big mistake. Washington is a bit more polished playmaker than Maxey coming out of Kentucky and the Grizzlies could very well lose Tyus Jones this summer. Jones was invaluable filling in for Ja Morant; perhaps Washington can take that spot.

23. Philadelphia 76ers – MarJon Beauchamp F G League Ignite

The Sixers are in dire need of a burst of perimeter defense and athleticism. Tyrese Maxey impersonated Usain Bolt when he ran compared to the rest of the Sixers roster. Beauchamp gives them that much-needed infusion of speed and defense that the Sixers sorely lack.

24. Milwaukee Bucks – Christian Braun G Kansas

I wanted to give the Bucks a bigger wing a la PJ Tucker to unlock more lineups with Giannis Antetokounmpo at the center spot, but I couldn’t find one I loved here. Christian Braun will suffice as a replacement and upgrade to what they lost in Donte DiVincenzo last year.

25. San Antonio Spurs (via Boston Celtics) – Jaden Hardy G G League Ignite

This is the Spurs’ third first-round pick. When I saw footage of Hardy I immediately thought of Jordan Poole and the jump he made for the Golden State Warriors. Hardy has a lot of rough edges to smooth over but also a ton of talent to work with. We very well could look back three years from now and wonder why Hardy wasn’t a lottery pick.

26. Houston Rockets (via Dallas Mavericks) – Dalen Terry F Arizona

Perhaps Houston uses this pick and their 17th pick to move up, but for now, we’ll have them take Dalen Terry. Terry doesn’t need the ball to make an impact, which will be important alongside Green and Banchero. Terry is a great defender and can do all the important winning plays on the edges.

27. Miami Heat – Christian Koloko C Arizona

The Heat doesn’t have another reliable big man behind Bam Adebayo that can produce in a playoff setting. Like Adebayo, Koloko is a menace switching onto guards and protecting the rim. I love the fit here.

28. Golden State Warriors – Jaylin Williams C Arkansas

Kevon Looney became a folk hero for what he did in the playoffs en route to Golden State’s fourth championship with Steph Curry. Unfortunately, running it back could mean a $400 million payroll next year. I wrote earlier about how well Jaylin Williams’ game matches Looney’s. The Warriors might be light years ahead of the league but even they have to make concessions at some point, right? Why not get the cheaper version of Looney?

29. Memphis Grizzlies – Blake Wesley G Notre Dame

Blake Wesley likely will go sooner than this. I think Wesley needs time to grow and develop before becoming a legitimate producer. Luckily, the Grizzlies are one of the best at developing their own and could use a bucket getter that can play alongside Ja Morant. With an extra first-round pick, why not?

30. Denver Nuggets (via Phoenix Suns thru Oklahoma City Thunder) – Wendell Moore Jr. G Duke

Wendell Moore is used to playing alongside star players and being productive and active without the ball. He’s a plug-and-play player on a team that rightfully sees itself as a contender.

Every year the NBA has held its scouting combine, and players use that opportunity to their advantage to boost their draft stock. The 2022 combine was no different. After four different scrimmages over the course of two days, here are a few guys that I am a fan of and thought did themselves a service not only competing with their contemporaries but helping their draft stock in the process to get themselves in consideration to be a late first-round pick or potential early-to-mid second-round pick.

Jalen Williams, Santa Clara

Last year, it was Josh Primo who used the NBA Combine to his advantage and skyrocketed his way all the way up to the lottery. He was mostly regarded as a fringe first-round pick, but there he was hearing his name called by the San Antonio Spurs with their 12th overall selection in last year’s draft. This year’s favorite for the Josh Primo bump is Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams. He slaughtered the combine in every which way imaginable. First is the testing aspect. Williams measured in at 6-5.75 with a 7-2.25(!!!) wingspan. He also posted a monstrous 39-inch max vertical jump and a vertical reach greater than the likes of springy big men Rudy Gobert and John Collins. Holy shit. Despite giving a couple of inches, Williams’ overall size and athleticism compares favorably to some of the best wings in the NBA.

But the NBA isn’t just about testing measurements; there have been plenty of workout warriors who get drafted too high but can’t play. Luckily, that isn’t Jalen Williams. He’s got a smooth feel and three-level scoring chops. He can play off the ball and nail catch-and-shoot threes, he can play and finish through contact, and rise for a midrange jumper if the lane gets congested. According to Synergy Sports, Williams finished in the 86th-percentile on plays he was the pick and roll ballhandler and in the 97th-percentile on spot-ups. He laid all of these skills out for everyone to see this week.

Jalen Williams is also a very savvy playmaker. He finished college with a career 2.9-1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio and had a +2 ratio in his final season at Santa Clara. He can make any read out of the pick and roll. This here is a good example. He sees the man defending his teammate on the wing tagging the roller and delivers the ball as his defender is tagging. Once his teammate attacks the open driving lane, Williams finds space along the baseline to get a dump off and finish a dunk. He essentially created a dunk for himself.

Lastly, Williams is a staunch defender. He was defending Christian Braun for much of his first scrimmage and didn’t let him do much. This play was another of many Williams made. Hugo Besson does a good job of maximizing the screen to get the big to commit. Once the big bites and steps out, Williams veers back to the roll man, got a deflection on the ball, and ultimately forces the turnover. You can’t ask for better execution than this. 

Jalen Williams typically found himself in the 40s of mock drafts and big boards. As a Lakers fan who hoped he’d slip through the cracks, this week was devastating for such hope (as was the entire season so what is new). Jalen Williams is undoubtedly a first-round pick and likely a lottery pick now. He’s going to make a fan base extremely happy.

Andrew Nembhard, Gonzaga

The West Coast Conference is getting some love today! Andrew Nembhard was awesome for Gonzaga the past two seasons. He’s as steady a point guard as any in this class. His career assist-to-turnover ratio is just under +3 (2.94); during his two seasons in Spokane, it sat at +3.2. That terrific feel and playmaking were on display from the jump. This one was my favorite from the day. Nembhard runs a pick and roll from the right side of the floor, sees the weakside man tagging the roll man, and then zips the ball all the way to the left corner to create an And-1 corner three.

The concern regarding Andrew Nembhard was whether or not he can create for himself against NBA length and size. Au’Diese Toney of Arkansas totally shut Nembhard down in Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 loss at the hands of the Razorbacks. But Nembhard quelled those concerns. He looked as cool as a cucumber hitting floaters and pulling off the bounce. He only played the second of his team’s scrimmages after sitting the first one with a quad issue. He made up for lost time and then some by finishing with 26 points and 11 assists compared to just two turnovers.

On top of that, Andrew Nembhard finished with one of the best agility times for a guard at the combine. For any team looking for a backup point guard, look no further. Seeing how Tyus Jones and Monte Morris kept their teams afloat after injuries hit their starters this season, it’s not hard to envision Nembhard playing a similar role for whoever selects him. I waivered on Nembhard after his tournament display, but I’m back in after he dominated the combine.

Christian Braun, Kansas

Christian Braun didn’t have much to improve at the combine on the floor, but he competed and showed out between the lines anyway. I loved watching Braun as a Jayhawk and he kept the National Championship momentum in Chicago. Braun is a great secondary playmaker and off-ball player who fills the gaps for whatever a team needs. He runs in transition, he’s a savvy cutter and typically makes the extra and/or right pass. He’s also a pretty damn good shooter. He was just under 38-percent for his career at Kansas from deep and 75-percent from the free-throw line. He didn’t shoot the lights out in Chicago but didn’t have a problem adjusting to NBA range.

I love the pump fake to get his man to bite before stepping up for a more open three. It’s an example of Braun’s feel and composure on the floor. 

Christian Braun also gets after it defensively. At 6-6 218-pounds, Braun can guard multiple positions and did exactly that at Chicago. This play was a great example. He gets switched onto Georgetown’s Aminu Mohammed (who himself had a nice showing at the combine) and holds his ground. More than that, he stands Mohammed’s drive up and packs him in the process, forcing a 24-second violation.

To ice his performance on the court, Christian Braun proved his athleticism was not just sneaky. He lit up the vertical testing, finishing with a 40-inch max vertical and a 33.5-inch standing vertical. He tested as one of the best athletes at the combine period. Braun was on the fringes of the first round but likely solidified himself as one this week.

Ryan Rollins, Toledo

Ryan Rollins is one of my favorite players in this entire draft. Nothing I saw in his lone scrimmage dismayed me from that train of thought. Rollins has a smooth CJ McCollum-esque game (his words, not mine); he loves getting to the elbows and flipping in floaters when he gets to the paint. He also looked very comfortable playmaking out of pick and roll scenarios, frequently making the right play whether that be hitting the roll man or finding shooters in the corners. He put all of his tantalizing offensive skills on display in his scrimmage on Thursday.

My main concern with Ryan Rollins is that he’s not the best athlete and still needs to extend to NBA range as a shooter. He actually tested pretty well and better than other guards in his draft range. But, he had a few open looks beyond the arc and I don’t remember hitting one of them. I don’t view this as a major problem; Rollins has a great touch and shot just under 80-percent from the free-throw line during his career. I believe the three-point shooting will come in due time. Ryan Rollins is a top-20 pick.

Terquavion Smith, North Carolina State

Remember when Bones Hyland lit up the combine last year? Enter Terquavion Smith.

Bones Hyland’s numbers were a bit more efficient than Terquavion Smith’s but similar nonetheless. In Hyland’s sophomore year at VCU, he averaged 19.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 3.1 turnovers, and 7.8 three-point attempts per game on 44.7/37.1/86.2 shooting splits. Smith? He averaged 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 turnovers, and 8.1 three-point attempts per game on 39.8/36.9/69.8 shooting splits. Similar enough? If you liked Hyland last year (I did), it’s not hard to like Smith. Every team seemingly has or values these roaming three-point chuckers; using a first-round pick on Hyland, Jordan Poole, and Immanuel Quickley has worked out very well over the past three years. Smith is one of them in this class. He was picking up steam before the combine and gained more this week. He likely played himself into the first round.

Dereon Seabron, NC State

If Terquavion Smith at 6-4 160-pounds was the lighting for the NC State Wolfpack this season, the 6-7 180-pound Dereon Seabron was the thunder. It was rare for a defender to stay in front of Seabron, and once he got by his man he roared to the basket and routinely finished through contact. Just watch how many times he bulldozed to the rim here.

Dereon Seabron may be a wrecking ball as a driver, but he also flashed playmaking chops. He has only 14 more assists than turnovers through two seasons at NC State but knew how and when to find his teammates when handling the ball. The biggest hurdle for Seabron to clear is his shooting. In two seasons, he only shot 63 threes, making 16 of them (25.4-percent). He hit just 69.4-percent of his free throws too. Seabron showed well but still seems more like a second-round pick or candidate to return to college than a first-round pick. But he put himself on more radars this week, and that’s all anyone in his shoes could ask for.

Kenneth Lofton Jr., Louisiana Tech

No one, at least from this event, improved their stock more than Kenny Lofton Jr. Everyone knew he was a burly post-up brute who can plow through just about anybody. But, his skill and feel were amongst the best in both the G League Elite Camp (for more from that event, click here). Lofton Jr. shined so much during the G League Elite Camp that he earned an invite to the NBA Combine. More of the same followed in the one NBA Combine scrimmage he participated in. He wasn’t just a low-post threat; he was also a pick and pop weapon. Lofton did not shoot a single three during his freshman season and made just four of 20 last year, but wasn’t afraid to let it fly in Chicago.

A three-ball would unlock so much more to Lofton’s game. This play is a good example. The defense runs him off the three-point line, putting Lofton in a 5v4 advantage. From there, he uses a euro step to get off a floater that he misses. But after getting the offensive rebound and a quick second jump, the ball is in the basket anyway.

Lofton’s bread is buttered in the post but it is important to show he’s got these skills in his toolbox. Teams are not wanting bigs posting up other bigs in today’s NBA, nor should they unless they’re the best of the best. But if he can play bigs off the floor stretching them out to set up his post-game, then he’s going to be an incredible offensive weapon. Because his post-game is awesome.

If he gets a smaller defender on him, then it’s a wrap. He is too powerful and too skilled. That smaller defender is going to get put in the basket.

If he gets a smaller defender on him, then teams are going to need to send help. Luckily, Lofton is a brilliant passer. Double teams don’t phase him; just look at this play. The double comes and immediately Lofton looks to pass. He sees Jules Bernard zoning up in the corner. He looks at him making Bernard think he’s throwing it to the wing, only to gift the guy in the corner a wide-open three.

The NBA is trending away from guys like Kenneth Lofton Jr., but skill is skill no matter where it comes from. Lofton had a paltry three-point percentage and a negative assist-to-turnover ratio in college, but clearly showed he can impact those areas of the game and play in the modern NBA. The defensive end of the floor will absolutely be a challenge for Lofton, especially at his 6-7 275-pound size. But, Lofton dominated every scrimmage he participated in and showed skill and feel that superseded almost, if not, all of his peers. He can start as a scoring weapon against bench units as he gets into better shape. If/when that happens, a team gifts him a strong defensive stretch five to cover for him there, Lofton can be a dynamic offensive big man in the NBA.