2022 NBA Mock Draft: Way-Too-Soon Predictions for Next Year's Class
With a break in action for 2021 NBA draft prospects, Bleacher Report has spent time talking with scouts and watching film to prepare for the 2022 class.
There won't be a consensus No. 1 overall pick like there was this season with Cade Cunningham. But there are a handful of strong candidates, plus plenty of impressive incoming freshmen to fill out the lottery.
We could also see another solid group of international players make themselves eligible.
As for returning prospects, we included potential breakout stars who've already announced they're coming back, and some we anticipate who'll eventually withdraw after testing the waters in 2021.
1. Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)
The 2021-22 season will open with multiple No. 1 overall candidates. But the early edge will go to Paolo Banchero, a 6'9", 235-pound physical standout who's gradually modernized his game for today's NBA power forward position.
Strong and athletic around the basket, Banchero has gradually expanded his offensive skill set to pose a threat handling in transition, shooting off the dribble and passing out of the post. Coach Mike Krzyzewski figures to use him similarly to how he used Zion Williamson, who spent time in the post, attacking from the wings and operating in ball-screen situations.
Banchero is the new-breed stretch-4 playmaker who's capable of defending bigs and wings. There won't be a player in the draft who can match his combination of physical talent and skill versatility.
2. Detroit Pistons: Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)
Some scouts view Chet Holmgren as the prize of the 2022 draft.
If you can see past his skinny arms and picture his frame adding bulk, it's easy to understand why Holmgren has support as the No. 1 incoming NBA prospect.
At 7'1", he's more of a guard or wing offensively than a center. And his fluidity handling the ball, shooting off the dribble, separating into fallaway jumpers and playmaking make Holmgren's scoring versatility seem believable when trying to envision it working at the NBA level.
Defensively, he demonstrates outstanding lateral mobility and timing/anticipation as a shot-blocker.
Comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis seem inevitable, but Holmgren's creativity, playmaking and defense are ahead at the same stage entering his predraft season.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Adrian Griffin (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)
Duke could see a repeat of 2019, when Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett both become top-three picks. Scouts feel safer right now with Paolo Banchero, but they may wind up equally excited about Adrian Griffin Jr., who didn't play this season recovering from an ankle injury.
Almost a year ago, we pegged Griffin as the class' top prospect, citing his 6'7", 210-pound frame, creation potential, shooting and defensive upside. He's strong enough to match up against 4s while operating with a three-level scoring skill set that mirrors most wings' and guards'.
His game screams NBA upside, and as long as health and decision-making problems don't arise, there should be a path for Griffin toward the top three on draft boards.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF, Freshman)
Another textbook fit for today's NBA power forward spot, Jabari Smith should immediately pop at Auburn with his 6'9" size, refined skill and shooting touch.
Though not the most creative ball-handler, Smith has moves to go to from different spots on the floor, with an ability to jab step into jumpers, create with his back to the basket or attack closeouts. And he's developed into a reliable three-point shooter with a projectable stroke for the next levels.
With an excellent physical profile for shot-blocking and containing in space, Smith comes off as a well-rounded, fundamentally-sound big that teams can use to run offense through in the post, stretch the floor or switch defensively.
5. Orlando Magic: Jaden Hardy (Undecided, SG, 2002)
Whether Jaden Hardy goes to college or the G League, he's a good bet to lead all lottery picks in scoring next year.
At 6'4", he has an easy time creating shots for himself, although he doesn't require much space. His shot-making skill and range are special. And while his shot selection isn't always the sharpest, it doesn't take much for Hardy to enter a heat zone and connect on high-difficulty jumpers in bunches.
His efficiency will determine how high he goes in the draft. He's the favorite to be the first guard selected, but if he shoots a relatively high percentage and avoids setting off alarms with his decision-making, Hardy could have a case as the draft's top prospect.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers: Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Undecided, SF/PF, Freshman)
Scouts see another version of Michael Porter Jr. in Patrick Baldwin Jr., a 6'10" forward with advanced shooting ability.
Regardless of what school he chooses, it won't be difficult to identity a valued, translatable NBA-caliber skill. His shot-making at his size is highly convincing. And with handles and face-up moves, he should wind up being interchangeable between the 3 and 4 positions.
Baldwin isn't the most explosive athlete, but his jumper, body-controlled finishes and overall smoothness alleviate any concerns. He's arguably the sharpest perimeter-oriented frontcourt player in the draft.
7. Chicago Bulls: Yannick Nzosa (Republic of Congo, PF/C, 2003)
International scouts have been tracking Yannick Nzosa since he was 14 years old, and now he's 17 making an impact in the Spanish ACB.
He flies around the floor at 7'0" tall. NBA coaches are going to love his quickness and movement for defensive versatility, recovery, forcing turnovers and contesting.
Elite defensive upside is the main draw to Nzosa. But flashes of transition scoring, explosive drives into dunks and touch around the key are creating excitement around his offensive development as well.
8. Toronto Raptors: Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee, PG, Freshman)
Coaches and scouts started raving about Kennedy Chandler in 2019 after his signature performance at Peach Jam. His impact on winning has continued to shine, with the 6'1" point guard having recently led Sunrise Prep to the GEICO National's championship game.
He'll now star at Tennessee and audition for NBA teams that need a new floor general to run offense.
Quick and shifty with sharp handles, Kennedy gets anywhere he wants to while maintaining vision for live-dribble playmaking. He's an excellent passer and improved shooter with touch on his floater. And despite an underwhelming physical profile, Kennedy causes problems on defense with his snapping hands and anticipation.
9. Sacramento Kings: Daimion Collins (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)
Kentucky will lose Isaiah Jackson's finishing and shot-blocking and re-up with Daimion Collins.
It's tough for any big to match his open-floor mobility and bounce at the rim. Despite lacking muscle, Collins can dominate stretches of a game, particularly defensively with his quick jump, athleticism and length.
But increasing flashes of perimeter skill, including shooting and face-up moves, have raised Collins' potential ceiling and theoretically created some of the highest upside in the draft. Proving he can comfortably execute those highlights of dribble jumpers, drives and post-ups could push Collins even higher up boards.
10. New Orleans Pelicans: Kendall Brown (Baylor, SF, Freshman)
Playing with potential top-10 pick Kennedy Chandler at Sunrise Prep, Kendall Brown had a strong season and a phenomenal GEICO National's tournament.
Physical, 6'6" and explosive, he'll earn his reputation—and eventually his living—by blowing up plays defensively. Brown frequently forces turnovers, jumps passing lanes and turns steals into fast-break points.
Offensively, his shooting skill and paint touch are starting to improve, but for now, he uses his quick first step and athleticism for scoring off transition, line drives and cuts.
11. Washington Wizards: Matt Cleveland (Florida State, SF, Freshman)
A natural scorer, Cleveland manages to rack up points just by capitalizing off transition, driving lanes and cuts. Coaches don't have to run many plays or ball screens for the 6'6" wing to produce.
12. Indiana Pacers: Max Christie (Michigan State, SG, Freshman)
Looking at a sizable freshman role with Aaron Henry going pro and Rocket Watts in the transfer portal, Christie should have a good opportunity to showcase his smooth perimeter scoring. He'll start college with a proven jumper and budding creation skills for a 6'5" 2-guard.
13. San Antonio Spurs: Jean Montero (Dominican Republic, PG/SG, 2003)
Averaging 18.4 points and 4.6 assists in Spain's LEB Silver league, Montero figures to find more opportunities next season in the Spanish ACB. He hasn't seen much action there this year, but there is enough evidence of his special creativity and shot-making.
14. Memphis Grizzlies: Peyton Watson (UCLA, SF, Freshman)
The NBA eye test immediately detects Watson, a long, 6'8", athletic small forward. At his size, flashes of ball-handling wiggle, shooting range, one-on-one scoring and defensive playmaking hint at top-10 upside.
15. Charlotte Hornets: Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG, Sophomore)
Our top returning prospect, Mathurin stood out with his 6'7" size, athletic finishes and a 41.8 percent three-ball. Projecting a lottery pick means expecting more off-the-dribble scoring next season, but marginal improvement should be enough to warrant top-20 interest. His tools, bounce and jumper point to a surefire pro shooting wing.
16. Golden State Warriors: Caleb Houstan (Michigan, SF, Freshman)
One of the most reputable shooters among incoming freshman, Houstan has looked like a future NBA three-and-D wing since first arriving at Montverde Academy. His 6'8" size, jumper and fluid slashing create a high floor and easy projectable fit.
17. Boston Celtics: Nikola Jovic (Serbia, PF, 2003)
Scouts evaluating Filip Petrusev for the 2021 draft get to also monitor Jovic for 2022. MVP of the Adidas Next Generation, the 6'10" 17-year-old is shooting 40.0 percent from three in the Adriatic League and appears on track toward starting next season in the first-round discussion.
18. Miami Heat: Josh Primo (Alabama, SG, Sophomore)
Primo is testing the waters for 2021, but odds are he returns to a bigger role at Alabama. The 6'6" guard shot 38.1 percent from three as a freshman and won't turn 19 until December. With more on-ball opportunities, Primo should be able to sell himself as a scorer with a money jumper, excellent size and still plenty of upside, given his age.
19. Atlanta Hawks: TyTy Washington (Undecided, PG/SG, Freshman)
A 6'3" combo guard, Washington offers a balanced mix of scoring and playmaking with his change of speed, three-level shot-making and unselfishness. Signs point to a one-and-done ball-handler with NBA tools, creation ability and a confident jumper.
20. Portland Trail Blazers: Dyson Daniels (Australia, PG/SG, 2002)
Daniels is on track to follow fellow Aussie Josh Giddey from the NBA Global Academy to the draft's first round. Athletic and creative with promising shooting touch, he's popped in the few settings we've seen him, including this month at Australia's U20 Championships. Whether he winds up in college or the NBL, Daniels looks equipped to produce and draw interest with NBA size and skills.
21. Dallas Mavericks: Ousmane Dieng (France, SG, 2003)
Dieng has stood out over the years with 6'9" size and combo-guard versatility to shoot and play-make. Playing in France's third division now, he'll make more noise next season, either in the G League with Ignite or another pro league overseas.
22. New York Knicks: Jahvon Quinerly (Alabama, PG, Junior)
After a quiet freshman season at Villanova, Quinerly reminded scouts about his ball-handling and jumper last year with Alabama. A 43.3 percent three-point shooter, he also operates with pace, an exciting bounce to his step and creativity.
23. Los Angeles Lakers: Jaden Ivey (Purdue, SG, Sophomore)
Ivey's freshman flashes of creation and shot-making point to breakout scorer. He gets to his jumper and layup package off ball screens and can shoot or drive off the catch. Improving his three-point percentage should ultimately be the key to the 2021 first round.
24. Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Foster (G League Ignite, PF, 2002)
Foster's game is suited for the G League, where he'll have more freedom to showcase his unique one-on-one game for a 6'8" power forward. He takes some wild shots, but at his age, Foster can create and shot-make at an extremely high level.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: JT Thor (Auburn, PF, Sophomore)
We're assuming Thor will be back to maximize his draft stock with more chances to showcase a coveting mix of shooting, driving and shot-blocking. At 6'10", he hit 22 threes, attacked closeouts and averaged 1.4 blocks in 23.0 minutes.
26. Brooklyn Nets: Matthew Mayer (Baylor, SF, Senior)
With Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler headed to the NBA, Mayer could return to a bigger role with a chance to better showcase his offensive versatility. In only 15.7 minutes this past season, the 6'9" forward was able to showcase an appealing mix of shooting, passing and athleticism around the rim.
27. Denver Nuggets: Julian Champagnie (St. John's, SF, Junior)
Twin brother Justin received more national recognition in the ACC, but scouts are also tracking Julian for his superior shooting. The 6'8" wing hit 2.4 threes per game and should be a 20-point scorer next year in the Big East.
28. Philadelphia 76ers: Allen Flanigan (Auburn, SG/SF, Junior)
A physical standout with 6'6", 215-pound size and exciting athleticism, Flanigan looked dramatically improved last year with his shot-making. Improving his shooting efficiency and cutting down on turnovers could help scouts have an easier time picturing an NBA scoring wing.
29. Phoenix Suns: Aaron Wiggins (Maryland, SF, Senior)
Wiggins improved his two-point efficiency, three-point shooting and playmaking last year. And at 6'6" with impressive flashes of shot-creation and shot-making, just being more consistent with his production and takeover scoring could finally help draw NBA interest.
30. Utah Jazz: Taevion Kinsey (Marshall, SG, Senior)
An explosive leaper, Kinsey has gradually improved each core skill, from his creation and passing to his shooting. He could have been a 2021 second-round pick, but taking his shot-making to another level could lead to 2022 first-round interest.