2022 NBA Lottery Simulation and Mock Draft: Who Would NOLA Take No. 1?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 11, 2022

2022 NBA Lottery Simulation and Mock Draft: Who Would NOLA Take No. 1?

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    After a brutal 3-16 start to the season, the New Orleans Pelicans suddenly look like playoff regulars with a 26.3 percent chance of having a top-four selection in the 2022 NBA draft. They'll own the Los Angeles Lakers' pick, assuming it lands in the top 10 (99.5 percent chance), thanks to the 2019 Anthony Davis trade. And then New Orleans is expected to get Zion Williamson back for 2022-23. 

    What happens if the Pels hit on their 6 percent chance of winning the lottery?

    The Lakers' pick makes it easier to brush off the fact that the Pelicans will send their own first-rounder to the Portland Trail Blazers from the CJ McCollum trade.

    Between Brandon Ingram, Williamson and now McCollum, who flourished in 26 regular-season games for New Orleans (24.6 points, 5.8 assists), the Pelicans have three star-caliber players and a potential big-time prospect coming in.

    But a key, underrated story in New Orleans has been president David Griffin and general manager Trajan Langdon finding value later in and after drafts. Last year's No. 35 pick Herbert Jones has become an impact player with his two-way versatility, while undrafted rookie Jose Alvarado has also given the rotation an extra punch of scrappiness and competitiveness. 

    Having contributors on cheap contracts is always key in building a contender. New Orleans has a few, plus star power and the ability to add significant talent in the 2022 draft.


    This is Part 3 of a five-part series of mock drafts with a different team winning the lottery each edition, courtesy of Tankathon. Part 1: New York Knicks, Part 2: Portland Trail BlazersPart 4: Washington Wizards; Part 5: Oklahoma City Thunder.

1. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers): Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Looking at three potential No. 1 candidates in Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero, the Pelicans will surely think about how each one fits with Zion Williamson. 

    There is always the strategy of ignoring fit and drafting talent in a vacuum. But in this case, with the assumption Williamson is superior to every 2022 prospect and that he'll be more involved in the offense than any incoming player the team drafts, it may be more important than usual to take fit into account at No. 1.

    And it's difficult to picture a more favorable situation than New Orleans for Holmgren, who'd also seem to provide perfect, complementary skills and strengths next to Williamson. 

    With Holmgren, the Pelicans get their stretch big to open the floor and provide frontcourt shooting. New Orleans finished No. 27 in three-point percentage, which could make Jabari Smith extremely tempting as well. But Holmgren shot 39 percent from three while also possessing one of the highest imaginable defensive ceilings among prospects in recent drafts.

    While Smith's ability to move his feet around the perimeter makes him an appealing defensive prospect, Holmgren demonstrated promising mobility in space as well. The obvious difference is in rim protection, with Holmgren having swatted a whopping 117 shots in 861 minutes, compared to Smith's 35 blocks in 978 minutes.

    In six postseason games, opponents averaged 50.7 points in the paint against the Pelicans, who ranked No. 18 during the season in defense. Holmgren has far more potential to single-handedly improve the team's defensive identity than Smith, despite both players adding value at both ends. 

    Back to offense, Holmgren would give the Pelicans' high-usage stars more space and the lineup its second elite finishing weapon. He shot an astounding 80 percent at the rim with Gonzaga, and between him and Williamson, New Orleans should get plenty of easy baskets.

    With Holmgren in New Orleans' lineup, Williamson gets to play the 4 and 5 interchangeably. Both players are seemingly optimized when paired together, while Holmgren checks the right boxes for a team that needs more shooting and defense from a lower-usage player.

2. Portland Trail Blazers: Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF, Freshman)

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    It's reasonable to think the Portland Trail Blazers would target Jabari Smith at No. 1. He'd likely have an edge over Paolo Banchero, given the team's struggles shooting and defending, as he offers superior lateral mobility and three-point shot-making. 

    Even though Banchero may be deemed more NBA-ready, he won't move Portland's needle enough in 2022-23, while Smith similarly possesses star potential and seemingly checks the ideal boxes at power forward for this particular roster. 

    Between Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Smith, the Blazers would have at least three plus-shooters in their starting lineup.

    They'd still need to add more rim protection at the 5, as Smith's defensive value revolves more around his versatility, perimeter coverage and recovery ability. But Portland should have some extra cap flexibility to improve the center position following the CJ McCollum-Josh Hart trade.

3. Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    The NBA's No. 29-ranked offense in consecutive years should be thrilled to grab the draft's most polished scoring forward. 

    While Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs may be on the right track, Paolo Banchero would give the lineup a tougher mismatch to run the offense through. He'd add needed creation, particularly to the frontcourt. 

    Though the Magic have a handful of wild-card 4s and 5s who still have breakout potential, Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke and Wendell Carter Jr. just aren't the same caliber prospects as Banchero.

    He'd take some pressure off Anthony, who's finished under 40 percent from the floor in back-to-back seasons. With Banchero, the Magic get a go-to post option who can also handle around the perimeter with Franz Wagner.

4. Houston Rockets: Jaden Ivey (Purdue, PG/SG, Sophomore)

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    The Houston Rockets sliding outside the top three will likely lead to general manager Rafael Stone being aggressive in trying to move up. After drafting Jalen Green and having the league's worst record, ideally the team comes away with one of the draft's star big men. 

    As uncomfortable as it may be to draft another guard, at No. 4, the Rockets still have to operate in best-player-available mode. The roster is too far away for Stone to worry about needs and pass on Jaden Ivey. 

    Between Ivey and Green, the Rockets would have two of the league's most explosive guards with shot-making ability. Ivey would probably be used more as the facilitator. From a team-building standpoint, the question is whether Ivey would lead Stone to shop Kevin Porter Jr. instead of signing him long term. Or, would Stone and coach Stephen Silas be comfortable playing a three-guard lineup of plus-athletes and scorers?

5. Detroit Pistons: Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    The Detroit Pistons figure to be active in trade talks about moving up from No. 5. But staying put should mean considering Shaedon Sharpe, who's likely to enter the conversation after tempting teams with effortless athleticism and shot-making during workouts. 

    The Pistons can consider using Cade Cunningham as their full-time point guard over Killian Hayes. That would leave the 2-spot for Sharpe's scoring skills. He's an attractive fit in Detroit for his ability to create for himself and shoot.

    Thinking long term, the 6'6" Sharpe should be fairly interchangeable, so if or when Jerami Grant does wind up elsewhere, the Pistons could also play Sharpe and Saddiq Bey at forward if the team prefers using a more natural facilitator next to Cunningham. 

Late Lottery

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    6. Oklahoma City Thunder: AJ Griffin (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)

    The Thunder could see both upside and shooting value in Griffin, the 18-year-old, 6'6", 222-pound forward who shot 44.7 percent from three at Duke. In Oklahoma City, he'd have a greener light to experiment with his creation and develop into more of a three-level scorer compared to the spot-up player he was in college.

    7. Indiana Pacers: Keegan Murray (Iowa, PF, Sophomore)

    Looking to upgrade at power forward, the Pacers could already have eyes on Murray. He'd bring scoring versatility and defensive activity to Indiana's frontcourt, and he'd be a strong fit with Malcolm Brogdon and Tyrese Haliburton for play-finishing off the ball. 

    8. Sacramento Kings: Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG/SF, Sophomore)

    The Kings could view 6'6" Mathurin as an interchangeable wing who'll immediately bring transition offense and shooting between De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.

    9. San Antonio Spurs: Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)

    Duren would give San Antonio needed athleticism and verticality from the center position. He'd benefit offensively from Dejounte Murray's playmaking skills, though it's his rim protection that will drive his NBA value.

    10. Washington Wizards: Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite, PG/SG, 2003)

    Daniels would give the Wizards' rotation a needed plus defender. But they'd also try using him at point guard, given his playmaking flashes and mismatch 6'8" size for a ball-handler.

    11. New York Knicks: Johnny Davis (Wisconsin, SG, Sophomore)

    For the Knicks, the draw to Davis is his shot-making, toughness and improving creation. He'd slide into the 2-guard slot and move RJ Barrett to the 3 while the team continues its point guard search and experiments using Immanuel Quickley. 

    12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jeremy Sochan (Baylor, PF, Freshman)

    If the Thunder can grab offense at No. 6, they can target Sochan with the Clippers' pick for his defense. His game is also predicated on versatility, and he offers it at both ends with his shot-making, passing, cutting and the ability to guard at least four positions.

    13. Charlotte Hornets: Mark Williams (Duke, C, Sophomore)

    Assuming the Hornets don't want to use a lottery pick on a backup point guard, Williams seems like an obvious target for his rim protection when the team is already loaded with wings and forwards.

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

    Agbaji makes sense for a Cleveland team suddenly looking to win now and add more shooting around Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.