2022 NBA Mock Draft: Who Will League's Worst Teams Tank for This Season?
The 2021-22 NBA regular season is officially underway, which means that scouting for the 2022 NBA draft is starting up as well.
Scouts have already started visiting schools' pro days and practices. Those who work for rebuilding teams will frequently wind up being sent to Duke, Gonzaga, Memphis and the G League Ignite.
The 2022 draft discussion will start with a handful of No. 1 overall candidates, but most see two favorites.
We based this mock draft order on FanDuel's projected win totals and previous trades.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)
Over/under wins: 22.5
Projected to finish tied for the NBA's worst record, the Oklahoma City Thunder may have already started debating Chet Holmgren versus Paolo Banchero.
There may never be an obvious answer at No. 1 before the draft, in which case, each player could be No. 1 on different boards across the league. But the Thunder, who are close to ground zero of their rebuild, could find Holmgren's upside too tempting, even if it seems a little riskier than the 6'10", 250-pound Banchero.
At 195 pounds, Holmgren's lack of strength will get exposed throughout the season. However, it won't worry scouts as much when the 7-footer is drilling threes and jumpers off the dribble, scoring on takes past closeouts, initiating fast breaks and blocking shots from all over the floor.
Holmgren's unique fluidity as a shooter, ball-handler, passer and shot-blocker should make it tempting to take a chance on him beefing up long term.
2. Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)
Over/under wins: 22.5
After selecting ball-handling guards with first-round picks in the past two drafts, the Orlando Magic should be heavily scouting Paolo Banchero.
One of two No. 1 overall favorites with Chet Holmgren, Banchero should have a featured role at Duke to showcase his expanding scoring versatility.
His 6'10", 250-pound frame and athletic/physical finishes will help the freshman feel like a safe pick for NBA scouts. But they'll see All-Star upside thanks to his coast-to-coast takes, face-up drives and playmaking, shot-making flashes and defensive movement.
Looking competent from three while Holmgren struggles with physicality could ultimately lead to Banchero separating himself at No. 1.
3. Detroit Pistons: Jaden Hardy (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)
Over/under wins: 25.5
The G League's freedom, pace and space should help bring out Jaden Hardy's creation, shot-making and range for scoring in volume.
There is an outside chance that he could go No. 1 if he demonstrates playmaking that suggests he's capable of being a lead NBA point guard. Regardless, as the Ignite's likely No. 1 option, he figures to sway scouts with how effortlessly he separates, shoots off the dribble and releases from NBA distance.
A team like the Detroit Pistons will value his potential to carry an offense with self-creation while remaining a lethal catch-and-shoot threat next to Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes.
4. Houston Rockets: Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF/C, Freshman)
Over/under wins: 25.5
There shouldn't be a large divide among scouts on Jabari Smith. The only debate should be about the height of his ceiling. But at 6'10" and 220 pounds with refined skills from his sweet spots, Smith figures to finish as a consensus top pick on boards across the league.
He'll do most of his damage around the basket and post, where he has impressive footwork and the shot-making versatility to separate and score in tight windows.
Rising to No. 4 overall will require Smith to look comfortable from three. And he's flashed enough touch and range for Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl to give him the green light, especially with 7'1", 245-pound Kessler Walker drawing attention in the middle.
Smith should receive plenty of opportunities and shots now that JT Thor is gone and Allen Flanigan is out due to an Achilles injury. Between his age, tools, role, polish and shooting promise, he's an early favorite to crack the top five of 2022's draft.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)
Over/under wins: 27.5
A physical finisher and rebounder, Jalen Duren may look more like an older-school center for the majority of the season. But enough flashes of skill around the key, passing and defensive versatility should lead to hopeful Bam Adebayo-type projections.
His value to Memphis (and future NBA teams) will still revolve around his paint presence—catching lobs, dunking dump-offs, putting back misses, owning his area under the boards and protecting the rim. And alongside a handful of high-skill players this season, he'll be in position to play to his strengths and receive mostly quality scoring opportunities.
Shooting well from the free-throw line, showing IQ at both ends and flashing creation potential from the post should help sway teams who may be hesitant about drafting a center this early.
6. San Antonio Spurs: Peyton Watson (UCLA, SF, Freshman)
Over/under wins: 29.5
In a lineup with veteran wings Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Johnny Juzang, Peyton Watson will have to win scouts over with flashes of potential over production. His 6'8" size, creation ability, passing IQ and defensive versatility should help spark scouts' imaginations enough for them to look past pedestrian stats.
He'd help himself significantly by looking capable from three, where he struggled this summer at the U19 World Cup. But NBA teams have recently shown a willingness to remain patient for prospects who can impact games in multiple other ways (Scottie Barnes, Isaac Okoro).
Despite his projected low usage, Watson should be in position to play to his strengths as a secondary scorer, finisher and ball-mover while guarding different positions and making plays on defense.
7. Washington Wizards: Caleb Houstan (Michigan, SF, Freshman)
Over/under wins 34.5
One of the class' easiest, projectable pros, Caleb Houstan should also have a favorable role after the departures of Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers from Michigan.
NBA teams will see a plug-and-play fit based on his combination of 6'8" size, convincing shooting ability and production from off-ball scoring.
Flashing more creation upside could push Houstan higher up boards, and over the past year, he's had success in a lead-option role at Montverde Academy and the U19 World Cup. But he still figures to spend most of his possessions spotting up at Michigan, hitting catch-and-shoot threes and attacking closeouts.
Regardless, Houstan should wind up generating interest from lottery teams with his shot-making and wing-defender tools, just like Devin Vassell in 2020 and Moses Moody last July.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves: Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG, Sophomore)
Over/under wins: 35.5
An efficient freshman season and productive U19 World Cup (16.1 points) point to a Bennedict Mathurin breakout into a more layered scorer.
His 6'6", 210-pound frame, explosiveness and shooting stroke had already created a promising foundation for NBA 2-guard prospect. This season, he's earned more opportunities to make plays off the dribble and show scouts he can generate his own offense.
An effective, translatable spot-up player (96th percentile, per Synergy Sports) and transition weapon, Mathurin could blossom into a lottery pick with more frequent flashes of pull-ups, specialty shot-making and one-on-one slashing.
9. Sacramento Kings: AJ Griffin (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)
Over/under total: 36.5
Rising to the top five seems achievable for AJ Griffin, a 6'6", 222-pound wing scorer with three-point range, creation potential and one-on-one shot-making skill.
Griffin recently sprained his knee in practice, which could lead to a slower start and questions about his durability after he sat out most of last year with an ankle injury. But at full strength, Griffin immediately jumps out for his physical profile and skill set to face up and attack, finish drives with muscle or touch and comfortably hit jumpers out to the arc.
Sequences of him guarding smaller wings or bigs and blocking shots also scream defensive upside.
Inconsistency and debatable shot selection could possibly hurt Griffin. But his size, power and scoring versatility could also make scouts see All-Star upside.
10. Toronto Raptors: Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Milwaukee, SF/PF, Freshman)
Over/under wins: 36.5
Choosing Milwaukee comes with its risks and rewards for Patrick Baldwin Jr., who'll be a No. 1 option but remain vulnerable to defenses loading up and questions about his team's strength of schedule.
Scouts figure to see through any freshman inefficiency and empty stats. Thinking long term, they'll value Baldwin's advanced shooting skills for a 6'10" forward. And enough flashes of ball-handling and driving should convince scouts to bet on his off-the-dribble development.
He'll also have every opportunity to showcase and work on his creation this season. As long as no serious concerns arise over his ability to separate, finish or defend in space, scouts will see a safe pick they can bank on for shot-making.
11. New Orleans Pelicans: Jaden Ivey (Purdue, SG, Sophomore)
Ivey raised expectations for the season after a productive U19 World Cup. He'll continue to generate most of his offense off athletic takes/cuts and energy plays, but he also flashed more passing skill at the World Cup. He still has room and a good chance to improve his shot-making.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Matthew Cleveland (Florida State, SF, Freshman)
With a knack for low-usage scoring by driving through lanes, cutting and getting out in transition, Cleveland seems like an ideal fit in Florida State's ball-sharing offense. Enough signs of shooting potential could propel the freshman into the lottery mix.
13. Memphis Grizzlies: Jean Montero (Overtime Elite, PG/SG, 2003)
Expected to compete mostly against high schools and fellow Overtime prospects in 2021-22, Montero will frequently be the most skilled player on the floor. Having played years overseas and last season in Spain's second division, the high-scoring ball-handler should be in line for monster production, punishing defenses with his off-the-dribble creation and perimeter shot-making.
14. New York Knicks: Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite, SG, 2003)
Daniels stands out most for his 6'6" size, ball-handling for creation, paint scoring/finishing and shot-making potential. But alongside Jaden Hardy, he should have a good opportunity to showcase his combo and playmaking skills, which we saw over the summer at the U19 World Cup (4.6 assists per game).
15. Indiana Pacers: Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee, PG, Freshman)
A sharp skill level for shot-making and playmaking, high basketball IQ and small 6'0", 171-pound frame have scouts split on Chandler's pro potential. Physical limitations shouldn't negate how well he runs offense, sets up teammates, uses his floater, shoots threes and pressures the ball. Scouts may question his upside, but by the draft, enough will want to buy his well-rounded game and impact.
16. Chicago Bulls: Kendall Brown (Baylor, SF, Freshman)
Brown should create routine defensive highlights by blowing up screens, jumping passing lanes and making plays on the ball at the rim. Though he isn't the sharpest one-on-one scorer or shooter, consistently earning baskets off explosive takes, cuts, offensive boards, touch finishes and open jumpers could be enough for Brown to enter the first-round mix.
17. Chicago Bulls (via Blazers, protected 1-14): Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)
Off to a hot start shooting in the Croatian and Adriatic Leagues, Prkacin has made 15-of-34 threes, which is an intriguing development for a 6'9" forward who can handle and finish above the rim. He'll lose support if his shot falls off, but his scoring versatility from the power forward spot will force teams to continue sending scouts to Cibona games.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Clippers): Mark Williams (Duke, C, Sophomore)
Williams' finish last season set up breakout expectations that could lead to NBA interest in his paint presence at both ends. His 7'7" wingspan and mobility for finishing and shot-blocking will remain appealing, but flashes of post skill and touch around the key—plus a consistent motor —could significantly elevate Williams' draft stock.
19. Boston Celtics: Nolan Hickman (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)
Craftiness, passing IQ and shooting skill should allow teams to see past Hickman's lack of explosion and strength. He'll split ball-handling duties with Andrew Nembhard, whose presence could lead to easier decision-making for the freshman.
20. Atlanta Hawks: Trevor Keels (Duke, SG, Freshman)
With AJ Griffin already injured, Keels should have a chance to receive more touches and establish his value in practice and early games. NBA teams will see role-player potential tied to the 6'4" guard's shooting and feel for the game.
21. Denver Nuggets: Daimion Collins (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)
Kentucky will value Collins' athleticism around the rim most. But drawing first-round interest will come from the flashes of shooting potential he pairs with the explosive finishes and shot-blocking.
22. Golden State Warriors: JD Davison (Alabama, PG/SG, Freshman)
Explosiveness with the ball separates Davison, who'll need to show he can also run an offense and consistently threaten defenses with his pull-up. A strong performance at the Iverson Roundball Classic suggested he's improving as a setup passer and shooter.
23. Dallas Mavericks: Yannick Nzosa (Unicaja, PF/C, 2003)
Nzosa should be one of the draft's best defensive prospects, with 7'0" size and speciality mobility/quickness. Preseason top-10 projections seem ambitious, as his offensive game still appears limited based on early 2021-22 results. Nzosa's knack for picking up easy baskets, blocking shots and containing in space should still lead to first-round interest.
24. Houston Rockets (via Heat): TyTy Washington (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
A three-level scorer, Washington should be one of Kentucky's featured weapons and a prospect scouts like for his self-creation and shot-making versatility. Adding playmaking to strengthen his reputation as a combo guard or even a point guard will raise his draft stock.
25. Philadelphia 76ers: Nikola Jovic (Mega Bemax, SF, 2003)
Jovic is off to a rough start in the Adriatic League, but his 18.1 points per game at the U19 World Cup highlighted enticing ball-handling and shooting skill for a 6'10" forward. In all likelihood, his scoring versatility will eventually come alive for Mega Bemax.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Suns, protected 1-12): Hunter Sallis (Gonzaga, PG/SG, Freshman)
Sallis could have a tough time putting up numbers with Nembhard and Hickman handling the ball and playmaking. But even in a reduced role, his 6'5" size, athleticism and combo skill set should still pop under the NBA scouting scope, like how Josh Primo's did despite his limited opportunities at Alabama.
27. Memphis Grizzlies (via Lakers, protected 1-10): Michael Foster (G League Ignite, PF, 2003)
Foster should have the right setting to show scouts he's one of the draft's most skilled, shot-creating scoring bigs. Showing them he can play the right way—by efficiently picking his spots and keeping the ball moving—and defend in space will be his ticket into the first round.
28. Memphis Grizzlies (via Jazz, protected 1-6): Jabari Walker (Colorado, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Easy to spot at 6'8" with shooting range and fluidity attacking from the arc, Walker appears ready for a breakout, especially after his 24-point NCAA tournament game against Georgetown. A sharper off-the-dribble game and more volume shooting could lead to first-round looks.
29. Milwaukee Bucks: Josh Minott (Memphis, SF/PF, Freshman)
With a heavy presence of scouts expected at Memphis games and practices, they're bound to take interest in Minott. The 6'8" forward was one of the top performers at a loaded Iverson Roundball Classic, and his positional size, athleticism, shooting stroke and fluidity off the dribble should catch enough NBA eyes.
30. Miami Heat (via Nets): Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand Breakers, SF/PF, 2003)
A 6'9" wing with guard skills and shot-making ability, Dieng has been on the NBA draft radar since he was 16 years old. He struggled from the floor last year in France, so scouting eyes will focus on his execution creating and shooting in the NBL.