Where Experts Predict Top 2022 NBA Draft Prospects Are Headed Post-Lottery

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2022

Where Experts Predict Top 2022 NBA Draft Prospects Are Headed Post-Lottery

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    Chris Schwegler/Getty Images

    The Orlando Magic have earned the right to the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft following Tuesday's lottery ceremony.

    Coming off a 22-60 campaign, the Magic were one of three teams with the best odds (14%) of winning the top pick.

    This is the fourth time the franchise has earned the No. 1 selection in the lottery era. But the Magic have a excellent track record in this spot, as they've previously used it to take Shaquille O'Neal (1992), Chris Webber (1993, traded to Golden State) and Dwight Howard (2004).

    The Rockets and Pistons, who also had the best lottery odds, will pick third and fifth overall, respectively. Here's a look at the complete order for the top 14 picks.


    1. Orlando Magic

    2. Oklahoma City Thunder

    3. Houston Rockets

    4. Sacramento Kings

    5. Detroit Pistons

    6. Indiana Pacers

    7. Portland Trail Blazers

    8. New Orleans Pelicans (from Los Angeles Lakers)

    9. San Antonio Spurs

    10. Washington Wizards

    11. New York Knicks

    12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Los Angeles Clippers)

    13. Charlotte Hornets

    14. Cleveland Cavaliers

    With the draft order set, we have a better idea of where some of the top prospects will land. Click through to see what experts are saying about the next group of potential NBA stars.

Chet Holmgren

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Most draft experts appear to have Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr., Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey at the top the talent grab, with perhaps Keegan Murray or Shaedon Sharpe breaking through.

    Of that bunch, Holmgren is probably the most intriguing player. The long-limbed 7-footer is a smooth shooter, great shot-blocker and comfortable in all areas of the court. A one-and-done with Gonzaga, he averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game with the Bulldogs.

    The 20-year-old was a popular choice in mock drafts to go No. 1 if the Rockets had the first pick, but the lottery didn't pan out that way. While he would be a great fit with Houston's Jalen Green, it seems unlikely he falls to the third spot given his skill set and potential fit with the first two teams on the board.

    The Magic might like the idea of pairing Holmgren with fellow Gonzaga alum and former high school teammate Jalen Suggs, who they took fifth overall last year. Of course, that would mean adding Holmgren to a crowded, lanky frontcourt that potentially includes Mo Bamba and Bol Bol, who are set to become restricted free agents this summer. If the Magic are ready to move on from them, Holmgren could get the look.

    If not the Magic, the Thunder would be an incredible landing spot for Holmgren at the No. 2. He would fit in well with emerging guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, giving the team a talented young core to build around with a bevy of draft picks still awaiting them in the coming years.

    ESPN's Jonathan Givony, The Athletic's Sam Vecenie and SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell all have Holmgren going No. 2 to Oklahoma City. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor predicts the Magic will take him off the board right away.

Jabari Smith Jr.

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Another potential top pick in the draft is Jabari Smith Jr., a 6'10" power forward who averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in his lone season at Auburn. He has an NBA pedigree, as his father played four seasons in the league in the early 2000s.

    The 19-year-old projects as a big-time scorer, with a knack for knocking down tough shots from all over the court. That talent extended to three-point range, as he shot 42 percent from beyond the arc for the Tigers.

    He does need to work on his consistency and shot selection, though, as he was only a slightly better shooter from two-point range at 43.5 percent.

    That caveat aside, Smith has all the tools you want in a modern NBA player thanks to his size and tenacity on both ends of the court. Givony and Vecenie have him going No. 1 to the Magic in their post-lottery instant reaction, while O'Donnell mocked him to the Rockets at No. 3.

    In a mock draft published prior to the lottery, O'Connor had Smith going to the Magic:

    "Smith would inject much-needed scoring into the Magic as a bucket from 3 who can hit tightly contested shots. Self-creation is a bit of a challenge at this stage, but Smith’s year-to-year improvement suggests it won’t be an issue in the future. And at 6-foot-10, he’d provide another long perimeter player next to Jonathan Isaac, or serve as insurance in case Isaac never returns to the level he was before. Smith also offers significant defensive potential. And if Isaac returns to his former self? Good luck scoring on Orlando."

    It's not hard to see Smith succeeding with the Thunder as well. That's where O'Connor has him after the lottery. The thought of pairing Giddey's passing skills and anticipation with the rookie's ability to knock down pull-up jumpers has to be on the minds of the Oklahoma City front office.

Paolo Banchero

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Paolo Banchero is another player who most experts seem to think will be taken within the first three picks.

    A versatile scorer with plenty of quickness for his size, the 19-year-old averaged 17.2 points per game as a freshman with Duke. He has tools to fit in with any team at the top of the draft, though some experts worry about his effort on the defensive end of the floor.

    SB Nation's O'Donnell has Banchero going No. 1 overall to the Magic: 

    "At 6'10", 250 pounds, Banchero has the ball handling and live dribble passing chops of a guard with multiple avenues to produce points for himself and his teammates. He already has an advanced mid-range scoring package and the strength to bully defenders down low. He's also one of the very best passers in this draft class, using his size to drop beautiful high-low dimes and the threat of his scoring to hit open teammates when defenses send two to the ball."

    If the Magic and Thunder pass on Banchero, look for him to get snapped up by the Rockets with the third pick. His NBA-ready skill set would pair well with Jalen Green running the backcourt.

    General manager Rafael Stone doesn't sound like he'll get too creative with this pick. Per Greg Bailey of KTRK, he said he wants to draft a "cornerstone" and is prepared to select the "best player available."

    If Banchero is as polished as the draft experts make him out to be, it's hard to see him falling past the Rockets. Givony, Vecenie and O'Connor believe that's where he ends up.

Jaden Ivey

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Unlike the other players mentioned in this article, Jaden Ivey is a not a big man, nor is he a one-and-done.

    The 6'4" Indiana native spent two years with Purdue, blossoming into one of the top players in the country as a sophomore. He averaged 17.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game last season, using his speed and explosiveness to get to the rim or dish out passes to open teammates on the perimeter.

    His three-point jumper still needs some work, but he's already shown an ability to make strides in that area, upping his rate from 25.8 percent to 35.8 percent between his freshman and sophomore seasons. 

    If Ivey does go in the top three, it will be a surprise to the draft experts. Givony and O'Connor have him at No. 5 to the Detroit Pistons, while O'Donnell and Vecenie have him going No. 4 overall to the Kings in their post-lottery mocks.

    Here's Vecenie's take on why the Kings might want to go with Ivey:

    "Picking Ivey this high is all about his upside. He’s the best athlete in the class and was extremely productive this year at Purdue. He has a lightning-quick first step, can power through defenders on the move and finish with explosive leaps at the hoop. The way he uses his speed to create driving lanes and transition opportunities resembles No. 1 pick John Wall early in his NBA career."

    Vecenie does note the Kings already have De'Aaron Fox but believes they will be going with the best player available here.

    Ivey could serve as a shooting guard alongside Fox at point, giving Sacramento a supremely athletic, though somewhat undersized backcourt.