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

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 13, 2022

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

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder will continue to build from scratch through the draft, and only three teams will have a better chance of winning the 2022 NBA lottery. OKC hitting on its 12.5 percent odds would significantly help expedite its process of returning to relevance and creating a credible nucleus. 

    General manager Sam Presti locked in his backcourt of the future last year by selecting Josh Giddey to play alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. 

    Presti has ultimately added some keeper prospects, with Giddey looking like one of the league's top triple-double threats and best passers, Tre Mann flashing dynamic scoring ability and Luguentz Dort giving the team a valuable perimeter defender.

    The next obvious step for Presti is improving Oklahoma City's frontcourt, whether it's with a wing or a big. Next season will be critical for Aleksej Pokusevski, whose flashes haven't been persuasive enough to ease concerns over his lack of production and his inefficiency.

    This draft is known for the big men at the top, specifically Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith. It may hurt to land at No. 4.

    But by jumping into the top three, the Thunder can plug a hole at forward with a franchise-caliber player. Presti will have to determine how much fit should matter when assessing options at No. 1. Chances are, coming off a 24-win season with the majority of the players on the team looking upgradeable and replaceable, Presti and his staff will only take fit into account if they are struggling to confidently identify a best player available. 


    This is Part 5 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 Blazers; Part 3: New Orleans Pelicans Part 4: New Orleans Pelicans.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder: Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    The ideal next team-building step for the Oklahoma City Thunder would be to upgrade a frontcourt that features Darius Bazley, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Isaiah Roby. So this would be a good year for them to win the lottery with Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith at the top of boards.

    There is a good chance each is No. 1 for different teams, but Banchero should ultimately have the edge with the league's worst offense

    Compared to Smith and Holmgren, Banchero is more well-rounded offensively and equipped for a No. 1 option role. He'd get immediate reps, late-game shots and a green light to continue strengthening his three-point shooting. It's a good situation for Banchero, who'd be playing with a star guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and one of the league's best passers in Josh Giddey.

    Smith and Holmgren both have legitimate cases here as well. Banchero just beats both in the self-creation for scoring department, with Smith super reliant on tough jumpers and Holmgren more of a play-finisher in the half court. 

    The Thunder also finished near the middle of the pack defensively (No. 17), so Presti may feel more pressure to improve and balance out the offense. 

    A core of Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey and Banchero means Presti will still want to fill gaps with shooters and defenders. He'll have the Los Angeles Clippers' and Phoenix Suns' first-rounders to round out the roster. 

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

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    Picturing Chet Holmgren shooting threes and blocking shots next to Zion Williamson could be too tempting for the New Orleans Pelicans to pass on. 

    Jabari Smith figures to get heavy consideration, but Holmgren's defense behind Williamson is the major selling point. The Pelicans would feature two of the NBA's most effective weapons around the rim. 

    While Holmgren can struggle to create in the half court, CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Williamson would ease the burden. He could play to his strengths as a play-finisher around the basket or behind the arc. 

    His role wouldn't appear much different from the one he played at Gonzaga, where he shot 73.7 percent inside the arc and 39 percent from deep while finishing second in the nation in box plus-minus.

3. Indiana Pacers: Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF, Freshman)

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    The Indiana Pacers couldn't draw up a better plan than grabbing a top-three pick after trading Domantas Sabonis in a deal for Tyrese Haliburton. 

    They'd replace Sabonis with either Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith—whoever falls into their lap. In this case, Smith seems like a strong fit next to Myles Turner, whose rim protection would make up for the 18-year-old's lack of shot-blocking.

    A special shooter at 6'10", Smith would thrive in a lineup with passers such as Haliburton and Malcolm Brogdon. 

    Between Turner's interior defense and Smith's lateral mobility, the Pacers could move forward with one of the league's tougher frontcourts to score against.

4. San Antonio Spurs: Jaden Ivey (Purdue, PG/SG, Sophomore)

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    Whoever lands the No. 4 pick figures to be active in trade talks. The San Antonio Spurs would be one of those teams, either to move up for a star big or down for a defensive-minded one. Staying put will likely lead to a best-player-available search that finds Jaden Ivey difficult to resist.

    The Spurs have not been known to worry about position or needs in the draft, and they'd ignore them again in this situation. Ivey would join Dejounte Murray to give San Antonio one of the NBA's fastest backcourts.

    He's better suited to play the 2 alongside a more skilled playmaker such as Murray. The Spurs would just need to add shooters, but they're easier to find than star prospects, and scouts view Ivey as one of the draft's most likely stars.

5. Houston Rockets: AJ Griffin (Duke, SF, Freshman)

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    The best player available is tough to identify at No. 5, which could motivate the Houston Rockets to take needs and fit into account. That would give AJ Griffin an edge as an 18-year-old wing shooter. 

    The offense would continue to run through Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green and Christian Wood. Griffin showed an outstanding comfort level as a spot-up player at Duke playing alongside other creators.

    Eventually, the goal will be for Griffin to build on the flashes of step-backs to become a more threatening one-on-one scorer. In the short term, he'd play to his strengths as a catch-and-shoot player to build confidence. But for Houston, an 18-year-old in a low-pressure situation with a green light and reps seems worth betting on to develop.

Late Lottery

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    6. Orlando Magic: Keegan Murray (Iowa, PF, Sophomore)

    The Magic could use a productive forward such as Murray, who can find ways to score off the ball by getting out in transition, cutting, shooting and crashing the glass. 


    7. Detroit Pistons: Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG/SF, Sophomore)

    Mathurin would give the Pistons lineup a jolt of explosiveness that Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey don't. Still, the 6'6" sophomore wing has emerged as a lottery prospect for his shot-making and budding pull-up scoring game.


    8. Portland Trail Blazers: Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)

    Duren should interest a Blazers team with a struggling defense and set backcourt (assuming Anfernee Simons re-signs and Damian Lillard isn't traded). Between his 7'5" wingspan and leaping ability, he'll give the guards an easy-basket target and the team a rim protector to move forward with.


    9. Sacramento Kings: Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

    Sharpe should be interchangeable between the 2 and 3 and appear attractive to Sacramento for his athleticism and shooting between De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. 


    10. Washington Wizards: Jeremy Sochan (Baylor, PF, Freshman)

    Though loaded with forwards, the Wizards need more defensive-minded players for their rotation. Sochan may be the draft's most unique two-way player with his versatility to make shots, pass, score off the ball and guard all five positions.


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

    Davis would give the Knicks another shot-creator and scorer, while his toughness and knack for making shots in big moments should suit him well for New York's spotlight.


    12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Clippers): Mark Williams (Duke, C, Sophomore)

    After drafting Paolo Banchero, the Thunder could target his frontcourt college partner after the duo led Duke to the Final Four. Williams would give OKC an imposing presence around the rim with his 7'7" wingspan for finishing and shot-blocking.


    13. Charlotte Hornets: Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite, PG/SG, 2003)

    Though the Hornets' 2021 lottery pick didn't play much as a rookie, Charlotte could still target Daniels for his superior playmaking and defense to James Bouknight.


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

    The Cavaliers don't have any glaring positional needs, so they could just target Agbaji for an always useful combination of shooting and defense.