2022 NBA Mock Draft: How 3 Trades Could Shake Up the Lottery
The NBA draft is rarely short on surprises.
The 2022 iteration should be no exception.
While there isn't a consensus top prospect in the class, there is a trio generally regarded above the rest: Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren, Auburn's Jabari Smith and Duke's Paolo Banchero. That alone could spark some trade activity, either involving teams moving up to snag one of the three or climbing into the fourth spot to nab the best of the rest.
Speaking of trades, we're here to liven up our latest mock first round by executing three deals within the lottery. Who's moving up, down or out of this draft? We'll find out as the mocking commences.
1. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith, PF, Auburn
The Magic could be pulled three different directions atop this draft.
This front office has an affinity for length—see its previous selections of Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba—which won't make it easy to overlook Chet Holmgren. This offense, the league's only attack lacking a 17-point scorer, needs a focal point, which could be an argument for Paolo Banchero.
And yet, Jabari Smith seems the likeliest selection here. In fact, most teams already see this pick as "a formality," per ESPN's Jonathan Givony. The Magic are desperate for spacing after shooting just 33.1 percent from range (28th), and Smith is a marksman from distance, having shot 42.0 percent from beyond the arc at Auburn. He'll have chances to probe deeper into his shot-creation in Orlando, while his elite versatility on defense can elevate the Magic's 19th-ranked unit.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren, PF/C, Gonzaga
The "overwhelming expectation" among league execs is that Holmgren will head to the Sooner State at No. 2, per Givony. The skilled 7-footer could be the next link in the chain that eventually carries OKC out of asset-collection mode and into actual competitiveness.
Holmgren's paint protection, shooting stroke and off-the-dribble acumen can bolster what this club does at multiple ends. In return, the Thunder could grant him the time to bulk up his 195-pound frame and the playmakers (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey) to ease any difficulties Holmgren could otherwise encounter creating shots against half-court defenses.
3. Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke
Houston, you have an offensive identity.
If this is how the draft board breaks, then the Rockets can pounce on Paolo Banchero and immediately unleash him in a 1A-1B attacking system with last year's No. 2 pick, Jalen Green. Both can create shots for themselves and their teammates, and each is a viable offensive threat off the ball. This fit could be all kinds of fun on offense—hopefully enough to offset the growing pains it will inevitably encounter on defense.
TRADE at 4. Atlanta Hawks (via Kings): AJ Griffin, SF/PF, Duke
Atlanta Hawks receive: No. 4 pick and Harrison Barnes
Sacramento Kings receive: No. 16 pick, No. 44 pick and John Collins
Atlanta's backtracking from conference finalist to first-round fodder has opened up the possibility of "wholesale changes," per B/R's Jake Fischer. Turning the oft-rumored John Collins, a non-lottery pick and a mid-second-rounder into the No. 4 pick and a plug-and-play swingman in Harrison Barnes could get the ball rolling on a busy summer.
Spending that pick on Duke's AJ Griffin could help the Hawks really take flight in the near future.
From opening night, the 6'6", 222-pounder could handle a three-and-D role. He splashed an impressive 44.7 percent of his triples at Duke and flashed tremendous defensive upside thanks to his strength, toughness and sweeping 7'0" wingspan. For now, he is built to support a star like Trae Young—Atlanta's lone untouchable, per Fischer—as not only a sniper and stopper but also an explosive cutter and willing passer.
Over time, though, the Hawks' hope would be that Griffin's flashes of individual creation make him a high-level second option. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor likened Griffin to Jaylen Brown and a three-point-shooting Jimmy Butler. If Griffin even approaches that level, Atlanta could have the juice it needs to rocket back up the conference standings.
5. Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey, PG/SG, Purdue
If Detroit can pair Jaden Ivey with last year's top pick, Cade Cunningham, its future immediately becomes so blindingly bright that it can only be viewed with shades on (Buffs, of course).
There is real thunder-and-lightning potential with this twosome, as Cunningham has the power to overwhelm opponents (plus the smarts to outwit them) and Ivey is a blur off the bounce. This could be an All-Star backcourt sooner than later, especially if the Pistons' defensive culture rubs off on Ivey.
6. Indiana Pacers: Keegan Murray, PF, Iowa
The Pacers set their backcourt for the present and future by drafting Chris Duarte and then acquiring Tyrese Haliburton at the trade deadline. Now, they can find their young guards a dynamic running mate in the frontcourt.
Yes, Keegan Murray is theoretically closer to his ceiling than other prospects in this range, since he'll turn 22 before next season tips. However, that also means he is more polished than most, sporting a three-level scoring arsenal and enviable versatility on defense. He's also a late bloomer—247Sports ranked him outside its top 300 in the 2020 class—so he could have more growth potential than you think, particularly if he can tighten his handle.
TRADE at 7. Toronto Raptors (via Blazers): Dyson Daniels, PG/SG, G League Ignite
Toronto Raptors receive: No. 7 pick and Eric Bledsoe
Portland Trail Blazers receive: OG Anunoby and No. 33 pick
The Trail Blazers are attempting a rapid recovery from their second-half tank job to field a formidable roster around 31-year-old Damian Lillard. Thus, the No. 7 pick has been identified as a likely one "to be on the move," per The Athletic's John Hollinger and Sam Vecenie, and a deal for OG Anunoby (plus an early second-rounder to keep or trade) could put that possibility on the table.
Anunoby is exactly the kind of lanky, defensive-minded wing the Blazers have long needed alongside Lillard and his undersized, offensive-minded backcourt mate (CJ McCollum before, Anfernee Simons now). If the Blazers share the belief of some that Anunoby could be the second coming of Kawhi Leonard, this trade has home run potential.
The Raptors, meanwhile, could become enamored with the idea of the 6'8" Dyson Daniels eventually serving as their proverbial head of the snake. He was arguably the biggest winner at the combine, where he started to "generate some top-five pick buzz," per Givony. Daniels is a top-shelf defender and distributor with do-it-all potential if his jumper comes along.
There's a future in which Daniels and Rookie of the Year winner Scottie Barnes co-pilot a Toronto team full of long, shape-shifting wings ready to wreak havoc in coach Nick Nurse's fluid system. That potential—paired with Anunoby's recent injury issues—could grease the gears for this trade, which includes Eric Bledsoe strictly for money-matching purposes.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers): Shaedon Sharpe, SG, Kentucky
Give the Pelicans a healthy Zion Williamson, and they have far fewer roster holes than you'd think for a franchise riding a four-year run of sub-.500 winning percentages. Their depth—aided by last year's rookie haul of Herbert Jones, Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy III—could give them the flexibility needed to gamble on this draft's mystery man, Shaedon Sharpe.
He never suited up at Kentucky, which is where the mystery element comes into play, but the Pelicans could still pounce on his sky-high ceiling. With his bounce (both electric and lightning-quick), having him on the same roster as Williamson could prove a real-life cheat code. Tack on Sharpe's advanced creation moves, outside shooting (off the catch or the dribble) and defensive activity, and New Orleans could be grabbing a two-way star here.
9. San Antonio Spurs: Bennedict Mathurin, SG, Arizona
The Spurs just spawned a star in Dejounte Murray, and now they can find him a perfect backcourt complement in Bennedict Mathurin.
The 6'7" wing splashed 38.3 percent of his threes over two seasons at Arizona while expanding his scoring arsenal over the past campaign. The shooting should get him on San Antonio's radar, but the potential he has shown as a defender, passer and ball-handler could be what seals the selection.
10. Washington Wizards: Johnny Davis, SG, Wisconsin
If the Wizards are moving forward with Bradley Beal—he's still leaning toward re-signing, per Ava Wallace of the Washington Post—they need to put more capable contributors around him. Johnny Davis looks like he could handle regular rotation minutes right now.
His three-ball needs work (32.5 percent over two collegiate seasons), but that's about as much as you can nitpick his skillset. He can keep the scoreboard spinning from the mid-range, makes some highlight plays as a passer and always competes on defense.
11. New York Knicks: Malaki Branham, SG, Ohio State
The Knicks landed too low to get anywhere near Jaden Ivey and Dyson Daniels, so their point guard search will likely commence after draft night. Rather than reach for a floor general, they could grab a smooth creator like Branham. If his perimeter shooting sustains at a higher volume (1.2 makes per game at a 41.6 percent clip), he could be a real find as a secondary playmaker, reliable scorer and high-motor defender.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Clippers): Ousmane Dieng, SG/SF, New Zealand Breakers
Give Dieng time, and he might blossom as a 6'10" wing who can handle, score and defend. Luckily, Oklahoma City has nothing but time in its top-to-bottom rebuilding project.
TRADE at 13. San Antonio Spurs (via Hornets): Jalen Duren, C, Memphis
San Antonio Spurs receive: No. 13 pick
Charlotte Hornets receive: Jakob Poeltl and No. 25 pick
The Hornets have a hole at center and might not want to wait for a raw (but tantalizing) prospect like Duren to develop. If the Spurs aren't keen on paying Poeltl between now and next summer, they could flip him for a younger, cheaper player in Duren who has a much higher ceiling. His explosive athleticism could make him an effective rim-runner sooner than later, and his budding passing could help him add value on short rolls.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Ochai Agbaji, SG/SF, Kansas
It's possible the Cavaliers see too much potential in Jeremy Sochan to let him fall any further, but they gained enough ground this season for roster needs to inform their draft decision. Their wing spot is begging for more two-way talent, and the polished Agbaji would be an early source of shot-making and defensive versatility.
15. Charlotte Hornets (via Pelicans): Jeremy Sochan, PF/C, Baylor
After addressing their center spot earlier in the draft, the Hornets can afford to roll the dice on Sochan here. He is a safe bet to supply endless versatility on defense and an elite motor, but the real intrigue is how much his offense develops. There is a 6'9" playmaker, shooter and post scorer inside of him if Charlotte can bring out his best.
TRADE at 16. Sacramento Kings (via Hawks): Jalen Williams, SG, Santa Clara
The Kings need shooters around the De'Aaron Fox-Domantas Sabonis duo. Williams provides that (39.6 percent from three, 80.9 percent at the stripe this past season) and uses his 7'2" wingspan to maximize his defensive impact.
17. Houston Rockets (via Nets): TyTy Washington Jr., PG/SG, Kentucky
If the Rockets are unsure about the long-term fit of Kevin Porter Jr. at point guard, grabbing Washington could be the move to make. He makes good decisions (3.9 assists against 1.6 turnovers) and has significant growth potential if his outside shot keeps developing.
18. Chicago Bulls: Tari Eason, PF, LSU
The Bulls need long, versatile defenders, and Eason fits that archetype better than most prospects in this class. He is an elite athlete who can slide between any of the front-court spots and puts tremendous pressure on opposing defenses in the open floor.
19. Minnesota Timbrwolves: EJ Liddell, PF, Ohio State
It seems sensible for Minnesota to throw another dart at the power forward position. Liddell is strong, explosive, smart and skilled enough to hit the ground running with a playoff team.
20. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors): Jake LaRavia, PF, Wake Forest
After locking in their backcourt and finding a new center in this mock, the Spurs could boost their frontcourt with the sweet-shooting LaRavia. He went a blistering 18-of-25 in the three-point star drill at the combine, per B/R's Jonathan Wasserman, which was apparently all LaRavia needed to show, as he then backed out of scrimmaging.
21. Denver Nuggets: MarJon Beauchamp, SF, G League Ignite
Beauchamp's offense needs work and could always be capped by his limited explosion. Still, he's a tone-setter on defense, and the Nuggets need more of those players. Plus, he is clever off the ball, which is a necessity for anyone sharing the floor with two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (via Jazz): Jaden Hardy, SG, G League Ignite
The Grizzlies are deep enough to swing big for upside—like using last year's No. 10 pick on Ziaire Williams—and Hardy has plenty to offer as an effortless isolation scorer with a deep arsenal of moves. He was seen as a top-five prospect in this class just last summer.
23. Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers): Mark Williams, C, Duke
If the Nets keep this pick—they can defer and get Philly's 2023 first-rounder instead—they might race to the podium if Williams is still on the board. Bolstered by athleticism and a towering 9'9" standing reach, he could be an impact rim-runner right away.
24. Milwaukee Bucks: Kennedy Chandler, PG, Tennessee
The Bucks are light on playmakers and could use Chandler to fill that void. He is undersized at 6'0" but compensates to some degree with length and athleticism. He has a slick handle, limits his mistakes and boasts pull-up shooting range beyond the arc.
TRADE at 25. Charlotte Hornets (via Spurs): Wendell Moore Jr., SG, Duke
Charlotte should base every decision on how it impacts LaMelo Ball. Drafting Moore would give Ball both a lights-out long-range shooter and a secondary playmaker to help ease his offensive burden.
26. Dallas Mavericks: Nikola Jovic, SF, Mega Mozzart
The 6'10" Jovic grew up playing guard, and it shows in his skills. He can shoot, handle and create, which could be a strong enough package for the Mavs to overlook his athletic limitations.
27. Miami Heat: Blake Wesley, SG, Notre Dame
Wesley needs more development, but he couldn't land in a better place to find it than Miami. If the Heat sprinkle their player-development dust on him, he could help unclog their half-court attack with off-the-dribble separation, three-level scoring and on-target passing.
28. Golden State Warriors: Andrew Nembhard, PG, Gonzaga
The Dubs could use more depth behind Stephen Curry, and Nembhard has the IQ and ability to walk into a reserve role. This past season, he splashed 38.3 percent of his threes and more than tripled his 1.9 turnovers with 5.8 assists.
29. Memphis Grizzlies: Walker Kessler, C, Auburn
The Grizzlies could be in the market for a Steven Adams replacement sometime soon, and Kessler could look good in the interior enforcer role. The 7'1", 245-pounder shot 60.8 percent from the field and averaged an absurd 4.6 blocks in 25.6 minutes this past season.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Suns): Kendall Brown, SF, Baylor
Brown is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft. The Thunder have enough time to see what else he can become with the right amount of seasoning.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.