2022 NBA Draft: Live Grades for Every Pick

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVJune 23, 2022

2022 NBA Draft: Live Grades for Every Pick

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    AP Photo/John Minchillo

    The future of the NBA starts right now.

    The 2022 draft arrived and brought with it the promise of brighter tomorrows, ascending stars and, if everything breaks just right, maybe some banner-raising celebrations down the line.

    Whether these prospects can actually live up to the hype will only be revealed with time, but we know enough about their games and on-paper fits to make real-time evaluations for every selection.

    With red pens in hand, we're here to grade every pick.

1. Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke

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    The draft’s first curveball comes with the first overall pick, as the Magic select Paolo Banchero—and not the oft-mocked Jabari Smith. For a team with such an obvious need for an offensive focal point (Orlando didn’t have anyone average 17 points), this is a swing for the fences and quite possibly a moon-shot blast.

    If this draft class produces a scoring champ, Banchero is the odds-on favorite. His offensive bag bursts at the seams with a drool-worthy blend of power, finesse, shot-making, finishing and an unfair amount of passing for a 6’10”, 250-pounder.

    Now, can he defend at the NBA level? Physically, he’ll be good to go from his first opening tip, but at Duke, his defensive motor sputtered like a broken-down pickup. A good coaching staff can correct that flaw, though, as well as improve his sometimes overly ambitious shot selection.

    From my viewpoint, Banchero is the best fit and the best prospect in the class. Job very well done, Magic.

    Grade: A

2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren, PF/C, Gonzaga

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    More than a few talent evaluators have Holmgren atop their big boards, so OKC should be thrilled to have him at No. 2.

    If Holmgren can bulk up his 195-pound frame, look out. He is plenty hard to handle now without the added muscle. Floor-spacing and rim-protecting unicorn bigs are all the rage right now, and Holmgren gets his metaphorical horn from his combination of 1.3 threes per game (at a 39.0 percent clip) and 3.7 rejections.

    Essentially, he’s an intimidating, shot-blocking big who doubles as a net-shredding, jumbo-sized perimeter player at the other end. That’s an easy skill tandem to grow infatuated with, even if his rail-thin body and half-court creation leave unanswered questions about his outlook.

    He needs time, but the Thunder can give that to him. They can also supply shot-creators in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, who should help with Holmgren’s trouble generating looks in the half-court.

    Grade: A-

3. Houston Rockets: Jabari Smith, PF, Auburn

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    Space City always sat in prime position holding the No. 3 pick in a draft with a three-player tier at the top. Even if Smith wasn’t the player most thought would fall to this spot, whichever one fell was going to be a no-brainer.

    He may be the best shooter in his class, which is high praise for anyone, let alone a 6’10” 19-year-old. He wowed with quantity (2.3 triples per game) and quality (42.0 percent) during his one-and-done run at Auburn, and everything about his outside stroke feels translatable to the big league.

    He doesn’t have quite as much shot-creation as you’d normally seek from a top-three pick, but he could tighten his handle with time, and if he does he’d be unstoppable. Rockets fans will fall in love with his competitiveness, while Rockets coaches will feel the same about his defensive versatility.

    Smith will widen attack lanes for Jalen Green, while Green will find shots for Smith on the move. Smith’s mobility and defensive versatility should also make him a snug fit with Alperen Sengun, assuming Houston has the latter penciled in as its long-term center.

    Grade: A

4. Sacramento Kings: Keegan Murray, PF, Iowa

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    Sacramento snagged a clean roster fit and a player who should make a smooth transition to the league in Murray. But did the Kings take the best prospect on the board here? That’s debatable.

    Murray is simultaneously old-ish for a top prospect (22 in August) and young for his skill set, which looks like it belongs to an NBA veteran. His film is almost mistake-free and showcases everything from multipositional defense and shot-making to on-time (and on-target) passes and sound instincts.

    His shooting may not quite measure up to this past season’s 39.8 three-point percentage, as he shot just 29.6 percent as a freshman and 74.9 percent at the stripe for his career. He also needs to prove he can consistently create his own shot against pro defenders.

    Murray projects as a high-level glue-guy. That archetype really helps good teams. How much does it do for a play-in hopeful? It’s a solid selection, but you want more than solid from a No. 4 pick.

    Grade: B

5. Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey, PG/SG, Purdue

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    Congrats, Motor City. You could have the Association’s most electric backcourt combo sooner than later after the Pistons paired Cade Cunningham with Ivey, who gives off serious Ja Morant vibes.

    Ivey is electricity personified. He pairs the burst of a track star with the aerial antics of a Cirque du Soleil performer to form a highlight-friendly arsenal. He looms as the likeliest candidate to lead this draft class in viral moments.

    His jumper is often there when he needs it, though not quite what you’d call consistent. He could also take his passing and on-court leadership to another level, but that’s probably true of any 20-year-old guard.

    If a perimeter player emerges as the best player in this draft, Ivey is the likeliest candidate. Detroit’s future brightened considerably Thursday.

    Grade: A

6. Indiana Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin, SG/SF, Arizona

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    If the Pacers are really pivoting into a rebuild—still waiting for the Malcolm Brogdon trade, and maybe the Myles Turner one, too—then they’re forming quite the perimeter trio to lead it. They drafted Chris Duarte last summer, added Tyrese Haliburton at the trade deadline and now complete the trio with Mathurin.

    He is a high-level athlete and shot-maker. If you know nothing else about his profile, you at least recognize there are reasons to be excited.

    There isn’t much creation in his game right now (for himself or his teammates), and his defensive impact comes and goes. Still, he’ll give the Pacers plenty of perimeter shots and transition scores out of the gate, and they could eventually have a real talent on their hands if they help iron out his weaknesses.

    Grade: B-

7. Portland Trail Blazers: Shaedon Sharpe, SG, Kentucky

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    Interesting. The Blazers, who need as much win-now talent as anyone as they try to rapidly retool around 31-year-old Damian Lillard, just spent a top-10 pick on someone who hasn’t played a game in a year. Then again, they also just snagged someone with a sky-high ceiling at both ends, so it’s hard to complain.

    This draft’s mystery man, Sharpe never played a game for the Wildcats. That forced scouts and analysts to fire up footage from his high school days, where he dazzled as a dunker, shot-creator and effortlessly smooth shooter.

    Still, he could face a steep learning curve in the league, as his handle and shot selection both need copious amounts of seasoning. If everything breaks right with his development, though, he could become a go-to scorer who keeps teammates involved and holds his own defensively.

    The boldness from the Blazers here is commendable. If there was a way to spend this pick and not have it lose trade value, this was probably the path, since Sharpe has such enormous potential.

    Grade: B

8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers): Dyson Daniels, PG/SG, G League Ignite

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    Assuming Zion Williamson puts his health problems behind him—a big assumption, but stay with me—the Pelicans have far fewer holes on their roster than their 46 losses would make you think. They could’ve gone any direction here, and they were smart to snatch up the fast-rising Daniels.

    He wowed on the predraft circuit, as he should have. His size-skill combination is drool-worthy. He is the second jumbo-sized playmaker (6’6”) plucked from Australia and planted in the lottery in as many years (joining last year’s No. 6 pick, Josh Giddey). Whatever they’re doing with big guards down under, it’s clearly working.

    As with Giddey, Daniels arrives in the Association with a shaky jump shot, and where that stroke eventually lands will determine what kind of career he has. Still, he offers too much as a versatile defender, slasher, playmaker and rebounder to not at least settle in as a do-it-all role player.

    Daniels feeding Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum should be all kinds of fun. Daniels teaming with Herbert Jones sounds suffocating at the other end. Nice pick.

    Grade: A-

9. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Sochan, PF, Baylor

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    It’s hard to tell how San Antonio’s long-term puzzle will take shape (particularly with Dejounte Murray trade rumors surfacing this week), which is kind of an issue since Sochan’s game doesn’t easily fit with every roster.

    He might be the most disruptive defender in this draft, but he’s also one of the least developed scorers (at least among lottery prospects). If he wasn’t such a dynamic defender, he’d be dinged a lot more for his red-flag shooting rates from three (29.6 percent) and the line (58.9).

    Admittedly, even with a suspect jumper, his potential is off the charts. He can defend any position and operate as a 6’9”, 230-pound table-setter. But unless his scoring really takes off, he needs shot-creators around him, and San Antonio doesn’t have enough.

    Saying all of that, this developmental staff has as good of a chance as any to bring the best out of him.

    Grade: C+

10. Washington Wizards: Johnny Davis, SG, Wisconsin

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    If the Wizards are keeping Bradley Beal, then finding polished players makes sense. Davis scratches that itch.

    He looks like a problem for NBA defenses already—and that’s with the acknowledgement that his three-ball is a work in progress (30.6 percent in 2021-22). He can blow by bigger defenders and punish smaller ones around the basket with an impressive low-post arsenal for a 6’4” guard.

    That perimeter shot is a question, though, and his efficiency slipped with his expanded role this past season (42.7 percent shooting overall). His defensive effort is commendable, but he doesn’t have great size (196 lbs) or athleticism.

    He isn’t a perfect prospect, but he should be a helpful pro.

    Grade: B-

11. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Knicks): Ousmane Dieng, SG/SF, New Zealand Breakers

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    The Thunder landed this pick from the Knicks, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and immediately used it for a flier on Dieng.

    He is a bit of a project, but his size (6’10”), age (19) and skills make him a project worth undertaking.

    The pieces are in place for an impact, two-way player. He gets where he wants off the bounce, can separate from defenders, finds open teammates and comfortably defends multiple positions. He just needs a ton of fine-tuning, as accuracy (as a shooter and passer) and awareness are both big issues at the moment.

    Oklahoma City is playing the long game, as it should. If enough long-term darts hit the board, the Thunder could be a (literally) massive headache at some point down the line.

    Grade: B

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Clippers): Jalen Williams, PG/SG, Santa Clara

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    After some (relative) gambles on Holmgren and Dieng, the Thunder played it safe here with Williams, who looks like an early two-way contributor.

    He ranked among the combine’s biggest winners with his measurements (namely, a sweeping 7’2” wingspan), athletic testing and scrimmage work.

    Coming out of Santa Clara, his numbers are a bit tricky to break down given the competition level and the prominent role he’ll never fill in the pros. Still, he has the handles, vision, stroke and motor of a glue guy.

    If players like Holmgren, Dieng, Giddey and (fingers crossed) Aleksej Pokusevski come through, Williams could quietly shine as a connector.

    Grade: B-

13. Detroit Pistons (via Hornets): Jalen Duren, C, Memphis

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    After assembling their backcourt with the pairing of Jaden Ivey and Cade Cunningham, the Pistons solidified their center spot by landing Duren in a trade with Charlotte, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.

    Duren will make his presence felt around the basket—and above the rim. Even as a rookie, he’ll send NBA veterans to the wrong kind of viral fame as a shot-blocker and finisher on lob passes from both Ivey and Cunningham.

    He is a traditional center, though, and those are always tough to value in the modern NBA. He also displays a notable lack of polish, though that’s not surprising (or particularly alarming) considering he might be the youngest player selected (won’t turn 19 until mid-November).

    If Detroit’s guards are as dynamic as they look on paper, it makes sense to invest in an athletic rim-runner.

    Grade: B+

14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Ochai Agbaji, SG/SF, Kansas

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    The Cavaliers clearly (and correctly) identified the wing spot as their biggest need. Whether they grabbed the right one with Agbaji is the question.

    Agbaji fits the three-and-D mold, but only if you catch him on the right night.

    When he is making his outside shots, he looks like he could spend a decade-plus in the league. When the shots aren’t falling (33.3 percent from three his final 12 contests), he basically just has defense and bounce at his disposal.

    Agbaji should be solid, but history may not be kind to Cleveland for taking him with AJ Griffin and Malaki Branham on the board.

    Grade: C-

15. Charlotte Hornets (via Pelicans): Mark Williams, C, Duke

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    When the Hornets went on the clock at No. 13 with both Jalen Duren and Mark Williams on the board, they were officially in win-win territory. With the Cavaliers unlikely to select a center, Charlotte felt good enough about one falling to here to give up the No. 13 pick, and that’s exactly how it played out.

    Williams offers a coveted mix of size (7’0”), length (7’6½” wingspan) and athleticism. He can handle a rim-running role right now.

    The question, though, is what else he can become. Beyond flashes of passing and a pinch of shooting (72.7 free-throw percentage), he offers very little away from the basket.

    Still, Buzz City has been desperate for a big, and Williams has all of the tools to finally fill that void.

    Grade: B+

16. Atlanta Hawks: AJ Griffin, SF, Duke

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    The Hawks needed a wing defender who wouldn’t spoil their spacing. They should be overjoyed that Griffin fell in their lap.

    Ankle and knee injuries robbed him of nearly two years of his high school career, but you wouldn’t know it based on his polish. Chalk that up to his tremendous work ethic, but credit at least a little of it also to his father, former NBA wing and current Toronto Raptors assistant coach, Adrian Griffin.

    Duke’s loaded roster kept Griffin’s numbers relatively in check, but he still popped with a 44.7 percent splash rate from three and 54.7 percent mark on twos. He looks the part of an NBA-ready three-and-D wing (with more shot-creation than the label typically implies), though his defensive awareness needs an upgrade to really fill that niche.

    Grade: A-

17. Houston Rockets (via Nets): Tari Eason, PF, LSU

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    Houston’s defense is trending up. Granted, it had nowhere else to go after last season’s last-place finish, but still, the additions of Smith and now Eason could help establish the culture on a young Rockets team.

    Eason has a ton of tools and plenty of question marks, too. He defends all over the floor, creates momentum-shifting steals and blocks and can put anyone on a poster in transition. He also fouls at an alarming rate (4.8 per 40 minutes), gets careless with the basketball and is prone to bouts of tunnel vision.

    His long-term outlook intrigues, but he needs a lot of work to approach his ceiling. Good thing Houston is in no hurry to win.

    Grade: C

18. Chicago Bulls: Dalen Terry, PG/SG, Arizona

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    Chicago’s defense nosedived in the season’s second half, so it makes sense to snag a stopper.

    Terry has good size for a guard (6’6”), creates havoc on the defensive end and has the vision and handles to run some offense in a multi-creator attack.

    But can he shoot? Or score in general? Those questions went unanswered across his two seasons in Arizona, where he averaged just 6.6 points per game and shot 35 percent on low volume from three.

    This feels early for a perimeter defensive specialist. The Bulls must think there is more to his game than he showed at Arizona.

    Grade: C-

19. Memphis Grizzlies (via Timberwolves): Jake LaRavia, PF, Wake Forest

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    The Grizzlies entered the offseason with a deep bag of trade chips and the chance to make a splash. This isn’t a cannon-ball, but it’s interesting from a fit perspective.

    LaRavia shot his way through the combine and into the first round. That was a big boost for the 6’7” forward, since he didn’t shoot the three with much quantity in college (career 0.6 triples made per game) and didn’t even have the quality part as a sophomore in 2020-21 (31.3 percent).

    If his outside shot is reliable, then he should be, too. He makes good decisions on or off the ball, and what he lacks in athleticism on defense, he often makes up for with good awareness and a great competitive edge.

    If Kyle Anderson walks in free agency, Memphis just found his replacement.

    Grade: B-

20. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors): Malaki Branham, SG, Ohio State

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    The Spurs perhaps reached a bit earlier with Sochan at No. 9, but here they smartly stopped Branham’s slide.

    There is enough shake in Branham’s game to wonder whether he has a background in breakdancing. He isn’t a standout athlete, but he is so slippery you’d swear he was covered in soap. He has the speed changes, fakes and dribble moves to ditch defenders and the touch to convert pull-ups past the three-point arc.

    He needs to perk up his playmaking and bulk up in the weight room, but his youth (turned 19 in May) and rapid rise (38th-ranked recruit in his high school class, per 247Sports’ composite) point to significant growth potential.

    Grade: A-

21. Denver Nuggets: Christian Braun, SG/SF, Kansas

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    The healthy Nuggets should be title contenders, so they’re in the market for finishing pieces—not foundational ones. Braun could qualify as such, even if this feels a bit early for him.

    He empties his fuel tank anytime he takes the floor, and consistently working hard is an underrated skill. His motor and athleticism alone should make him an open-floor asset.

    Can he find his niche in a half-court offense? His lack of off-the-dribble creativity and inconsistent shooting will make that a challenge, though being able to play off the likes of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray will help cover that up.

    Grade: C-

22. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Jazz via Grizzlies): Walker Kessler, C, Auburn

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    The Timberwolves have been linked to several centers in recent rumors, but they went the draft route instead with Kessler. How exactly he fits with Karl-Anthony Towns is a question worth watching.

    Kessler could emerge as the best shot-blocker in this class, although his athletic limitations could force him into a reserve role.

    Adding an outside shot would be massive for his development, but his sub-60 percent free-throw shooting doesn’t inspire much hope. He at least is willing to fire from three, and maybe Towns can give him some tips.

    If our grade scale allowed it, this feels deserving of a shrug emoji.

    Grade: D+

23. Memphis Grizzlies (via 76ers): David Roddy, SF/PF, Colorado State

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    The Grizzlies gave up De’Anthony Melton to get this pick, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, so they must be big Roddy fans.

    For Roddy to find floor time, he’ll need to carve out a defensive niche, which could be tricky since he lacks size for the post (6’5”) and quickness for the perimeter. If he hits the hardwood, though, he can put on a show with a wide array of shot-making maneuvers and a willingness to involve his teammates.

    Memphis has made a slew of smart picks in recent years, so it’s tempting to give this front office the benefit of the doubt. Still, this feels like a bit of reach.

    Grade: C-

24. Milwaukee Bucks: MarJon Beauchamp, SF, G League Ignite

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    The Bucks needed more zip on the wing, and Beauchamp adds plenty of it.

    He checks virtually every box but outside shooting. Given the three-ball’s importance in the modern NBA, that’s kind of a big one to be unchecked.

    However, he has touch from mid-range, so there is reasonable hope for expansion. If he adds that to an arsenal already featuring swarming defense, explosive slashing and tight handles, he could be a jack-of-all-trades and master of several.

    At this point of the draft, this is a great dice roll.

    Grade: A-

25. San Antonio Spurs (via Celtics): Blake Wesley, SG, Notre Dame

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    The Spurs aren’t short on high-ceiling guards, but it isn’t clear which ones will pan out, so they might as well keep taking shots.

    Wesley slithers around defenders like a snake, and he can fire pull-up jumpers from anywhere. They may not always go down, but there’s an unpredictability to his game that will make opposing defenses uncomfortable.

    Still, his shooting must improve, and his playmaking has a long way to go. Landing in this developmental system could be a dream.

    Grade: B+

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Mavericks via Rockets): Wendell Moore, SG, Duke

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    Moore paved his NBA path in a support role at Duke, and he’ll handle the same duties alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards in Minnesota.

    Primary scoring and playmaking are likely off the table for Moore given his limitations as a ball-handler and athlete. Since the offense runs through the aforementioned duo anyway, that’s fine.

    As a supporting piece, Moore has the feel and skill to make his mark as a passer, spot-up shooter and willing defender.

    Grade: B-

27. Miami Heat: Nikola Jovic, SF, Mega

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    Jovic is a 6’10” forward with guard skills on the perimeter. That’s interesting. He’s also an inefficient shooter from all over and a defensive liability lacking the mobility to handle guards and the strength to bang with bigs. That’s potentially hugely problematic.

    His landing spot was important, and Miami has made a habit out of acing developmental projects. If the Heat can harness his outside shot, they’ll fill a need for a stretch big.

    Grade: C

28. Golden State Warriors: Patrick Baldwin Jr., PF, Milwaukee

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    For someone who had top-10 buzz before the season and wound up barely cracking the first round, Baldwin improbably walks away from the draft as a winner.

    Sort of. He’s joining the champs, which is good news for everyone. However, he’ll have to recover from a rocky, injury-riddled year to force his way into a good rotation.

    The idea of Baldwin intrigues. He has ball skills and a smooth shooting stroke, which give him some mismatch potential as a 6’9” forward.

    The reality of Baldwin is worrisome. He’s had trouble shaking a nagging ankle injury, completely underwhelmed during his 11 games at Milwaukee (34.4/26.6/74.3 slash line) and routinely gets roasted defensively.

    If the Warriors figure him out and maximize his potential, they’ll continue to stay light-years ahead. If not, they’re only out a late first-round pick they maybe didn’t want in the first place.

    Grade: B

29. Houston Rockets (via Grizzlies): TyTy Washington Jr., PG, Kentucky

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    If Washington has more to his game than he showed in college (as Kentucky guards have been wont to do on occasion), then the Rockets could have found a steal.

    Defenders always look antsy around Washington, who uses fakes and speed changes to keep them off-balance and then laces precision passes to open teammates anywhere on the court. He has every inside-the-arc pull-up shot in his bag, and there are flashes of outside-the-arc pull-ups, too.

    That said, his three-ball isn’t consistent, and it really needs to get there since he doesn’t have great burst, elite quickness or the explosiveness to finish at the rim.

    Grade: B+

30. Denver Nuggets (via Thunder): Peyton Watson, SF, UCLA

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    After playing it (too) safe with Christian Braun at No. 21, the Nuggets closed out the first round by taking a home run hack at Watson.

    He has tools and pedigree, but almost a complete lack of production, too. He basically had a blink-and-you-missed-it stint with the Bruins, averaging fewer than 13 minutes per night. He also didn’t force his way onto the floor either, shooting just 32.2 percent from the field and 22.6 percent from three-point range.

    Still, he was a celebrated recruit for a reason—namely length, mobility and handles—so maybe Denver can coax some interesting stuff out of him in the future.

    Grade: C-

Picks No. 31-36

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    31. Indiana Pacers (from Rockets via Cavaliers): Andrew Nembhard, PG, Gonzaga — A-

    32. Orlando Magic: Caleb Houstan, SF, Michigan — B

    33. Toronto Raptors (from Pistons via Spurs): Christian Koloko, C, Arizona — A

    34. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jaylin Williams, PF, Arkansas — C-

    35. Los Angeles Lakers (from Magic via Pacers): Max Christie, SG/SF, Michigan State — B-

    36. Detroit Pistons (via Trail Blazers): Gabriele Procida, SG/SF, Fortitudo Bologna — C-

    Top Takeaways

    Nembhard Could Be a High-Riser in Re-Drafts

    As a senior prospect with underwhelming size and athleticism, Nembhard is the kind of player front offices too often talk themselves out of selecting. He can flat-out play, and the Pacers were wise to recognize that.

    If his shooting gains from this past season are legit (38.3 percent from three, 87.3 from the line), then he could make a long career out of delivering winning plays.

    If nothing else, Indy’s wings and bigs should be in great hands getting feeds from Nembhard and Haliburton.

    Masai Ujiri Does It Again

    The Raptors president of basketball operations had armed his roster with length all over, but they needed more size and activity from the center spot.

    Enter Koloko.

    The bouncy big checks every box for a rim-runner, and he could cause all kinds of problems for opponents around and above the basket. He needs to get stronger to control the interior, but as he’s doing that, he might add more juice to an improving jump shot and get even more interesting.

Picks No. 37-42

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    37. Dallas Mavericks (via Kings): Jaden Hardy, SG, G League Ignite — A

    38. Memphis Grizzlies (from Lakers via Spurs): Kennedy Chandler, PG, Tennessee — B-

    39. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Spurs via Jazz): Khalifa Diop, C, Gran Canaria — C+

    40. Charlotte Hornets (from Wizards via Hornets): Bryce McGowens, SG/SF, Nebraska — B

    41. New Orleans Pelicans: E.J. Liddell, PF, Ohio State — A

    42. New York Knicks: Trevor Keels, SG/SF, Duke — B

    Top Takeaways

    Mavericks Take a Big, Smart Swing With Hardy

    Hardy was supposed to rank favorably among the best prospects in this class, so the fact he went No. 37 speaks to his struggles this past season.

    Still, his ceiling is through the roof, as he has shown the dribble moves to elude defenders and the confidence to pull up from anywhere. The questions are whether his inefficiency can be coached out of him and whether he’ll bring anything beyond isolation scoring to the big league.

    There’s a non-zero chance he emerges as one of the top scorers in this entire draft.

    McGowens Has High Ceiling, Low Floor

    Which McGowens is the real one? The one who impressed scouts at the combine, or the one who made just 27.4 percent of his threes during his one-and-done season with the Huskers?

    If he’s the former, he has the off-the-bounce shake to eventually settle into a featured scoring role. If he’s the latter, he may not last long in this league, because he’s basically a one-trick scorer.

    Midway through the second round, it’s worth throwing a dart and finding out.

    Liddell Pick Has Steal-of-the-Draft Potential

    No one would have batted an eye had Liddell landed somewhere near the 20th pick. For New Orleans to get him in the 40s might qualify as larceny in certain jurisdictions.

    He strengthened his NBA case as a junior with a career-best 37.4 percent splash rate from three and then caught everyone’s attention at the combine when he registered the highest standing vertical—as a 6’6”, 243-pounder.

    Stardom won’t be in his future, but if his shooting gains sustain, he can be a helpful role player who defends multiple positions, converts scoring chances from inside and out and consistently makes the proverbial right play.

Picks No. 43-48

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    43. Los Angeles Clippers: Moussa Diabate, C, Michigan — C

    44. Golden State Warriors (via Hawks): Ryan Rollins, SG, Toledo — B+

    45. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Hornets): Josh Minott, SF/PF, Memphis — C+

    46. Denver Nuggets (from Nets via Trail Blazers): Ismael Kamagate, C, Paris Basketball — C

    47. Memphis Grizzlies (from Cavaliers via Pelicans): Vince Williams, SF/PF, VCU — C

    48. Indiana Pacers (via Timberwolves): Kendall Brown, SF, Baylor — B

    Top Takeaways

    Golden State’s Young Core Grows with Rollins

    The Warriors are forming quite an impressive young core for a team that might still be hung over from a championship parade.

    Ryan Rollins won’t be a headliner the way Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman or even Patrick Baldwin Jr. could be, but like Moses Moody, Rollins could impress in a support role.

    He is quick off the dribble and a fearless shot-maker. If his perimeter shot comes alive, he could find his calling as a quick-strike scorer who isn’t a total liability on defense.

    Minott Could Be What Minnesota Needs at Forward…Eventually

    There is some mystery-box appeal with Minott, who averaged fewer than 15 minutes at Memphis. Sometimes mystery boxes reveal hidden gems. Sometimes they’re far less interesting once the box is opened.

    Minott’s athleticism and high motor could yield big dividends on defense, but the game gets too fast on offense for him right now. His shot needs plenty of polish, and he needs to up his awareness, strength and decision-making, too.

    The Wolves haven’t solved their long-term questions at power forward. Minott isn’t close to being up to that task now, but the right amount of imagination lets you picture him potentially doing it down the line.

Picks No. 49-54

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    49. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Kings via Bulls): Isaiah Mobley, PF/C, USC — C-

    50. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Nuggets via 76ers): Matteo Spagnolo, SG, Vanoli Cremona — C-

    51. Atlanta Hawks (from Raptors via Warriors): Tyrese Martin, SF, UCONN — C+

    52. New Orleans Pelicans (via Jazz): Karlo Matkovic, PF/C, Mega Mozzart — C-

    53. Boston Celtics: JD Davison, PG, Alabama — C

    54. Washington Wizards (via Mavericks): Yannick Nzosa, C, Unicaja — B-

    Top Takeaways

    Mobley Brothers Reunited!

    Cleveland struck gold last year by investing the No. 3 pick in Evan Mobley, the Rookie of the Year runner-up. The Cavaliers dipped into the same family tree by taking his older brother, Isaiah, with the 49th pick.

    The Mobley Brothers aren’t Spiderman Meme replicas of one another, but Isaiah has some skill. He served as the focal point at USC this past season and flirted with a nightly double-double (14.2 points and 8.3 rebounds) while shooting 35.2 percent from three on decent volume (3.8 attempts per game).

    Mobley wasn’t a lock to get drafted by any means, so the pick value isn’t great, but maybe that’s nitpicky at this stage of the talent grab.

    Davison a Name to Remember

    Davison won’t see the floor without improving his jump shot, but if he forces the Celtics to play him, he could be a regular on the viral-highlight circuit.

    His game is loud. He is a spring-loaded athlete, makes creative passes and always plays with the pedal floored.

    His skills need seasoning like a cheap piece of steak, but you can’t blame Boston for wanting to see what his explosive athleticism might turn into.

Picks No. 55-58*

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    Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

    55. Golden State Warriors: Gui Santos, SF, Minas — C-

    56. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Heat via Pacers): Luke Travers, SF, Perth — C

    57. Portland Trail Blazers (from Grizzlies via Jazz): Jabari Walker, PF, Colorado — B

    58. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers): Hugo Besson, SG, New Zealand Breakers — C+

    Untapped Talent in Undrafted Pool

    Players always fall through the cracks on draft night, and that might be as likely as ever this year, since two second-round picks were forfeited.

    Jean Montero didn’t set the world on fire with the Overtime Elite, but he’s a shifty shot-creator. Marquette’s Justin Lewis packs a three-level scoring punch. NC State’s Dereon Seabron offers size and playmaking and could get really interesting with a jumper. Wake Forest’s Alondes Williams is a top-level passer.

    Though undrafted, these players will have opportunities to make NBA rosters.

    *The 2022 NBA draft has 58 picks after two selections were forfeited earlier in the season.


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