Way-Too-Early 2022 NBA Mock Draft: Welcome to the Chet Holmgren Hype Machine
The completion of the 2021 NBA draft means it's time to start prepping for the 2022 edition.
While the coronavirus pandemic has limited evaluation opportunities, we've still seen plenty of film on the incoming freshmen. There is also a promising group of returning players who should help strengthen next year's class.
We used FanDuel's 2022 championship odds to create a mock draft order.
1. Houston Rockets: Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)
The hype keeps building around Chet Holmgren, who earned MVP honors at the U19 FIBA World Cup earlier in July.
He has rare skill versatility for a 7-footer, while his shot-blocking instincts and his foot speed to slide away from the basket fuel enormous defensive upside.
Questions about his thin frame (195 lbs) and lack of physicality could prevent Holmgren from going No. 1. Otherwise, his three-point shooting, open-floor ball-handling, drives into acrobatic finishes, high-IQ passes and defensive playmaking should garner loads of excitement from rebuilding NBA franchises.
2. Detroit Pistons: Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)
Listed by Duke at 6'10", 250 pounds, Paolo Banchero mixes his power with skill versatility that continues to expand.
Aside from finishing through contact and above the rim, he has developed into a ball-handler in transition who can shoot off the dribble and pass out of the post. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski figures to use him similarly to how he used Zion Williamson, who spent time in on the block, attacking from the wings and operating in ball-screen situations.
A new-school stretch 4 playmaker who's capable of defending bigs and wings, Banchero checks all of the right boxes for a modern forward. He'll compete with Chet Holmgren for the title of top prospect in 2021.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jaden Hardy (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)
After seeing Jalen Green score in the G League, it's easy to picture Jaden Hardy having similar success with the Ignite.
At 6'4", he's an advanced shot-creator with a dribble-jumper game that doesn't require much space. His shot-making skills 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 pull-ups in bunches.
Hardy will want to avoid concerns about his shot selection and efficiency, but a year from now, there shouldn't be any questions about who the draft's top-scoring guard will be.
4. Orlando Magic: Yannick Nzosa (Congo, PF/C, 2003)
Wild defensive potential could earn Yannick Nzosa top-five looks.
The 7-footer covers ground incredibly quickly to erase shots at the rim. And NBA coaches will love his quick feet for switching and guarding different positions.
But Nzosa's flashes of transition ball-handling and touch also hint at untapped offensive potential, and he should play a sizable role this season for Unicaja Malaga in the Spanish ACB.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jalen Duren (Undecided, C, 2003)
Expected to reclassify and either go a pro route or attend college, Jalen Duren should give the 2022 draft an extra potential star.
He's always popped physically because of his powerful frame and athleticism. Scouts got to see him at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, and they were able to attend his MVP showing at Peach Jam last month.
While Duren's finishing and shot-blocking potential are the easiest to bank on, his flashes of scoring skill around the post and his passing suggest he has plenty more offensive upside to unlock.
6. Sacramento Kings: AJ Griffin (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)
Listed at 6'6", 222 pounds, AJ Griffin should immediately pop with his NBA forward body. But his scoring versatility along with his particular tools is what could separate the freshman.
Scouts haven't seen much of Griffin lately. He didn't play last season while recovering from an ankle injury. Roughly a year ago, we pegged him as the class' top prospect, citing his physical profile, creation potential, shooting and defensive upside. He's strong enough to match up against 4s but operates with a three-level scoring skill set that mirrors most wings' and guards'.
His game screams NBA upside, and as long as his health and decision-making problems don't arise, there should be a path for Griffin toward the top three on draft boards.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: 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 who teams can use to run offense through in the post, stretch the floor or switch defensively.
8. San Antonio Spurs: Caleb Houstan (Michigan, SF, Freshman)
Caleb Houstan looks poised for a productive freshman season after averaging 17.0 points during the U19 World Cup and leading Canada to the semis.
He should slide right in for Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner on Michigan's wing. The 6'8", 205-pound Houstan stands out for his positional size and advanced shooting, and he's become a threatening scorer by driving by closeouts and converting body-controlled finishes.
He'll enter the draft with a three-and-D label and a high floor, with scouts hoping for more development from him as a creator.
9. Chicago Bulls: Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Milwaukee, SF/PF, Freshman)
It will be interesting to track the draft stock of Patrick Baldwin Jr., who passed on powerhouse programs to play for his father at Milwaukee.
That decision may create an uphill battle given his projected strength of schedule and the optics of what any inefficiency could look like against weaker competition. But because of his positional size and his shot-making versatility, Baldwin has looked like an obvious NBA prospect since his sophomore year in high school.
Though he didn't shoot great earlier this month at the U19 World Cup (7.7 points per game), the 6'9" forward has a projectable stroke with face-up scoring skills that create mismatches.
10. Charlotte Hornets: Matthew Cleveland (Florida State, SF, Freshman)
The NBA has shown love for Florida State prospects, with a program-high three players being selected in Thursday's draft. And Matthew Cleveland could keep that trend going with his scoring instincts, length and ability to play within an offense.
He just finds ways to get points in transition by cutting and slashing or making open shots. Coaches won't need to run many plays for the versatile 6'6" wing.
With Scottie Barnes, RaiQuan Gray and M.J. Walker on the way out, Cleveland should have a big opportunity to produce and get noticed.
11. Washington Wizards: Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee, PG, Freshman)
12. New York Knicks: Daimion Collins (Kentucky, C, Freshman)
13. Indiana Pacers: Peyton Watson (UCLA, SF, Freshman)
14. Toronto Raptors: Jaden Ivey (Purdue, SG, Sophomore)
15. Memphis Grizzlies (via Pelicans): Jean Montero (Overtime Elite, PG, 2003)
16. Memphis Grizzlies: Dyson Daniels (G League Elite, SG, 2003)
17. Portland Trail Blazers: Nikola Jovic (Mega Leks, SF, 2003)
18. Boston Celtics: Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG/SF, Sophomore)
19. Houston Rockets (via Heat): Kendall Brown (Baylor, SF, Freshman)
20. Atlanta Hawks: J.D. Davison (Alabama, PG, Freshman)
With Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer leaving for the NBA, Chandler should have a big role running Tennessee's offense. He just showed off his shooting touch at the U19 World Cup, and though not blessed with great size (6'0"), he'll earn fans with his athletic ability, pace, overall skill level, IQ and defensive quickness.
Kentucky gets a quick replacement for Isaiah Jackson in Collins, an outstanding frontcourt athlete. He could come close to matching Jackson's shot-blocking activity with his mobility and length. And it's easy to picture plenty of easy baskets fueled by his tools and bounce at the rim.
Montero was a huge signing for Overtime Elite. He's a scoring ball-handler with exciting creation skills and dangerous shot-making ability.
Watson is raw, but he aces the eye test with his positional size (6'7", 180 lbs), athleticism and budding face-up skills, and he'll join a loaded UCLA team that's getting back Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Ivey's stock is already up after a solid showing at the U19 World Cup (12.3 points and 1.6 steals per game, 48.3 percent shooting). Athletic with shot-creation and shot-making potential, he appears to be on breakout watch heading into his sophomore year with confidence.
Daniels just averaged 14.0 points, 4.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game for Australia in the U19 World Cup. He's a combo guard with athleticism, three-level scoring skills and playmaking ability, and he figures to do most of the facilitating next to Jaden Hardy with the Ignite.
Jovic is also coming off a huge U19 World Cup, where he averaged 18.1 points on 36.4 percent shooting from three. He blends his 6'10" size with guard skills and just needs to show he can defend with some more toughness away from the basket.
Scouts should fall in love with Brown's defensive athleticism and instincts at Baylor, while Mathurin's shooting potential should already have their attention. Davison's explosiveness will generate plenty of buzz, though he'll need to show he can make good decisions and enough promise as a shooter.
21. Dallas Mavericks: Max Christie (Michigan State, SG, Freshman)
22. Denver Nuggets: Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)
23. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Walker (Colorado, PF, Sophomore)
24. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Clippers): TyTy Washington (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)
25. Utah Jazz: Nolan Hickman (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Suns): Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand Breakers, SF, 2003)
27. Golden State Warriors: Matthew Mayer (Baylor, SF/PF, Senior)
28. Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Foster (G League Ignite, PF, 2003)
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Julian Champagnie (St. John's, SF, Junior)
30. Miami Heat (via Nets): Mark Williams (Duke, C, Sophomore)
Prkacin was easily the most surprising withdrawal of the 2021 draft. He was ready to draw first-round looks after receiving an invite to the NBA combine and productive seasons in the Croatian and Adriatic Leagues. Next season, he figures to consistently be one of the better players on the floor, and he'll still be younger than some incoming NCAA freshmen.
At 6'10", he has an NBA power forward skill set in order to shoot, attack closeouts and space and finish above the rim. In April, he exploded for 29-point and 38-point games at just 18.
Turning 20, Washington is old for his class, but he should emerge as one of Kentucky's top scoring options with his slashing and shooting ability.
Keep an eye on Walker at Colorado. Flashes of shooting, rebounding activity and defensive versatility hint at a future NBA fit for a 6'8" forward.
Baylor lost four starters, so Mayer should be in line for a lot more touches and shots. His versatility popped in spurts throughout the season, with the 6'9" big able to shoot, pass and finish.
Foster (6'9", 220 lbs) has the body of a big with the skill set of a wing. How efficiently he can execute in the G League will determine whether he moves into the top 20 or falls out of the first round.
Champagnie pulled out of the 2021 draft and now looks poised to emerge as one of college basketball's top scorers and shot-makers.