The 2022 NBA Draft took place on Thursday night and like always it was a lot of fun. There were a lot less trades at the top than everyone expected but nevertheless it was very intriguing. Not many teams did poorly which is why you are going to see more much winners than losers here. So many teams improved in this year’s draft which was a great thing to see.
NBA Draft Winners And Losers
To be blunt with this, the Rockets blew this draft out of the water. It was awesome. First, they were lucky enough to get Jabari Smith at #3. He would have gone number one overall any other year and they got him third. Smith has future superstar written all over him. At 17 they got the best defender in the draft in Tari Eason. Those two right there should start for Houston from day one. Smith will at least for sure. After adding the Timberwolves to the Christian Wood Mavericks trade the Rockets got the 29th pick and used it to take Kentucky combo guard TyTy Washington. He’s a good bench piece for now but could develop into a starter, especially if the team trades Eric Gordon.
Jaden Ivey fell into the Piston’s lap at number five after the Kings passed on him, which will be discussed later. He is who the team wanted all along and they got him. Ivey is a great player who in pretty much every other draft would’ve been a top-two pick. Even though he does play the same position as last year’s number one overall pick Cade Cunningham, Ivey’s athleticism makes it possible for the two to play together and play well. They definitely didn’t need another point guard but this was too good to pass up. The two of them could end up being one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Detroit then flipped the pick they got from the Jerami Grant trade to the Knicks as part of a three-team trade with the Hornets. In return for that they got the 13th overall pick from the Hornets as well as Kemba Walker and his contract from New York. It was reported shortly afterwards that the team and Walker are negotiating a buyout. As for the pick, it was used to on Jalen Duren. He was traded to the Knicks then to the Pistons. Ivey and Duren are two immediate starters that add to the team’s young core that already includes Cunningham and Saddiq Bey. The team also added a possible stash player in Italy’s Gabriele Procida.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs had three first round picks and made great decisions on all of them. They needed a forward and got that in Baylor freshman Jeremy Sochan. Sochan came off the bench for the Bears but was impressive. He can start for the Spurs. At 20 they got Ohio State freshman Malaki Branham, who some think might be the steal of the draft at that position. He shot over 41% from three in his only season as a Buckeye and most thought he could be a lottery pick. Branham could very well be their shooting guard of the future alongside whoever their point guard is, whether is remains Dejounte Murray or is someone else. While Sam Antonio didn’t need more shooting guards, they took a second one with high upside in Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley, another freshman. He isn’t nearly as good of a shooter as Branham is but at only 19 can and will certainly develop, especially under Gregg Popovich.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder got exactly what they wanted to happen: the Magic didn’t take Chet Holmgren. That is who they wanted at #2 all along. Chet is a unicorn and has the potential to develop into an all-time great in my eyes. There isn’t really anything that he doesn’t do well and is a perfect fit for today’s NBA. They made a trade for the 11th pick and took France’s Ousmane Dieng, a versatile wing who showed a ton of offensive upside while playing for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s NBL. OKC made Jalen Williams the first Santa Clara player to be drafted since the legendary Steve Nash in 1996. He easily had his best season this past year, averaging 18 points per game and shooting almost 40% from three. They took an extremely similarly named player in Arkansas’ Jaylin Williams in the second round. He took a big leap in his second year in college, averaging just 11 points and 10 rebounds per game. He could end up being an excellent value pick.
The Grizzlies were already perhaps the deepest team in the NBA this past season, and they got even deeper on draft night. The first round netted them two players that could potentially be impactful off of their bench. Jake Laravia was good in his two years at Indiana State and then got even better last year at Wake Forest. He is a wing that is a great rebounder that could provide quality minutes. They moved up to get him. Memphis then traded De’Anthony Melton to the Sixers for the rights to David Roddy. I am a big fan of his. His scoring and rebounding ability can help offset the fact that he is quite the undersized forward. The Grizzlies also made a trade for the rights to Kennedy Chandler, who I think could be one of the drafts biggest steals. I thought he was a top 20 pick and they got him at #38.
This is an interesting one. The Pacers as winners isn’t one you’re going to see a ton of, but I quite like what they did. Arizona forward Bennedict Mathurin was an excellent pick at number six overall. He has a wide skillset as he is a high-volume scorer as well as a solid shooter and rebounder. Andrew Nembhard is an excellent pick for a backup point guard for Tyrese Haliburton and Malcolm Brogdon, especially if Brogdon gets traded. They made a trade later on in the second round with the Timberwolves in order to get Baylor freshman Kendall Brown. Brown is one of the many picks we saw in the second round on Thursday that is still pretty raw right now but has a lot of upside. Their draft wasn’t anything too flashy, especially compared to some of the other ones I’ve talked about, but I like it a lot.
New York Knicks
The Knicks seem to be tailoring their entire offseason plan around signing Jalen Brunson away from the Mavericks. In terms of just the draft, they coming out of it with just one guy. They traded the eleventh overall pick to the Thunder, then got the rights to Jalen Duren from the Hornets and immediately sent him to Detroit as a part of a three-team trade. Now yes, they did get some future first round picks and yes, they did get rid of Kemba Walker and his contract. They needed to clear cap space in order to try to pry Brunson away from Dallas. But now New York’s front office is completely banking on getting him, and that is far from a guarantee. If they don’t get him, what then?
As for the one player that they did get, Trevor Keels is a good addition to the team. He should pair nicely with the other guys that they already have on their roster, including fellow Blue Devil RJ Barrett.
Let me start this off by saying that selecting Keegan Murray instead of Jaden Ivey isn’t awful. The Kings didn’t need another guard and Murray is a much better fit and really exactly what the team needs. Plus, he was arguably the best player in all of college basketball last year. But what makes them one of the drafts losers is the way they went about it. They did it all wrong. We know that teams were lined up out the door trying to trade up for Ivey. Sacramento could have gotten an absolute haul for the fourth overall pick. And even if they still really wanted Murray they probably could have squeezed something out of the Pistons, who we know obviously really wanted Ivey.
There is also another problem: the Kings didn’t even seem slightly interested in Jaden Ivey. They didn’t talk to him, they did bring him in for any workouts, nothing. Because of that Ivey made it known that he didn’t really want to be picked by Sacramento, and he got his wish. A scouting department that doesn’t even do their due diligence on a player of Ivey’s immense talent level is really odd to me. Plus, the Kings have a history of draft decisions going terribly wrong.
There are going to be plenty of Duke fans mad at me for this one. Drafting Paolo Banchero at number one overall instead of Holmgren or Smith was a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t necessarily bad. Banchero is definitely one of the top talents and was the most NBA-ready prospect in this year’s draft class. But I don’t think he’s going to end up being one of the best players from this class down the line considering the class includes the likes of Holmgren, Smith, and Ivey. Also, when talking about just Holmgren, he already has a strong connection with Jalen Suggs, Orlando’s first-rounder from last year who they took fifth overall, after playing with him in high school and both going to Gonzaga, although a year apart. It wasn’t a bad pick, but was the wrong one. Canadian Caleb Houstan out of Michigan was their other pick. He probably needed another year in college but has high upside.
It’s not that the Bulls took a bad player. Dalen Terry is a good player. But it’s the fact that he does not help them. The Bulls already have plenty of point guards and just guards in general. What they really needed was a backup big man. They needed someone to help out Nikola Vučević and a hopefully healthy Patrick Williams and they didn’t get that. There is, of course, still free agency and the entire rest of the offseason. But with guys like Walker Kessler and Nikola Jović on the board, it was just not the right decision.