The 2022 NBA Draft is here, with the Orlando Magic holding the first overall pick to start proceedings at 8 p.m. ET. The Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and Detroit Pistons round out the top five picks.
Here’s how our staff sees this year’s draft playing out, from the best prospect to the team with the most at stake.
Of the three prospects at the top of the draft, who is the best one?
Nick Simon, DKNation Staff Writer: Jabari Smith. I think him going No. 1 to the Magic will be warranted and he’ll help lead the franchise back to relevance. 6’10 sharpshooters don’t grow on trees and his enormous wingspan will make him a valuable commodity on defense.
Chinmay Vaidya, DKNation Sports Editor: It’s between Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren, as both have more upside over Paolo Banchero in my eyes. I’ll go with Smith, who will immediately make an impact and should eventually become a go-to scorer.
Benjamin Zweiman, DKNation Senior Managing Editor: Paolo Banchero. Holmgren and Smith have higher ceilings but I think Banchero ultimately ends up being the best player of the trio. We’ve seen Duke players in past drafts who have similar games (Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum) enter the NBA and thrive. Not to say Banchero ends up being either player, but that feels like a good prototype. Banchero is a bucket getter and has good size to play on the wing. He already has a pretty polished offensive game, so all he’d really need to focus on in the NBA is shooting and defense. I worry about Holmgren not being able to defend at all at the next level. Smith feels risky in the top 3. I’ll take Banchero to be the best player in 3-5 seasons.
Ryan Sanders, DKNation Newsdesk Writer: Chet Holmgren gets my vote right off the bat. A stringy 7-foot center who can dominate the glass and shoot over 40% from downtown should be enough to get anyone excited, regardless of how Gonzaga fared in the NCAA tournament this year. He can score with the best of them but his solid rebounding and shot-blocking skills give him the edge for me.
Collin Sherwin, DKNation College Sports Editor: Paolo Banchero is the best player in this draft, and I honestly don’t think it’s that close. Coach K and Duke’s system took away so much of his freedom, but go back and watch the Duke-Gonzaga game from November and remember that’s the player you’re getting. Not the kid being asked to isolate on the wing with poorly-spaced teammates and get to the nail. I’m all in on Banchero.
Which lottery prospect will not pan out in the NBA?
NS: Shaedon Sharpe. There’s a bit of a mystery to Sharpe heading into the drop and I don’t see it panning out for whoever takes him. I have questions about him going from a virtual unknown to the No. 1 high school prospect overnight and his bizarre year at Kentucky where he didn’t play a single game. I just don’t see the risk turning into a reward.
CV: G-Leaguer Dyson Daniels is looking like he’s going to be a lottery selection, and it’s hard to see why. He can’t shoot threes well, and doesn’t project as a go-to guy offensively. His defense is solid right now but that’s about it. Daniels could be a solid rotation player, but he’s not going to justify his draft position if he can’t shoot triples as a guard.
BZ: Jalen Duren. Duren is a 6’10 center who can’t shoot from outside. No thanks as a lottery pick in the NBA. I think Duren’s ceiling is an OK rim protector who can board but has very limited offensive upside if he doesn’t develop more of a shooting resume. I can see Duren dealing with foul trouble a lot early in his career in the NBA. There’s just too much that may not work in Duren’s game that concerns me. As a late first-rounder or second-round pick? Sure. In the top 10? I’d rather roll the dice on one of the versatile wings. There are a ton of those in this draft and that’s where you win in the NBA.
RS: If I have to pick, I’m going with Jaden Ivey. His offense and speed are huge upsides, but his defense seems to be severely lacking especially when he’s gassed. If he can’t improve on that right away in the league, he may find himself stuck in a bench role pretty quickly.
CS: I think he pans out, but I don’t understand the Jaden Ivey hype. To me he’s a solid starter but never an NBA All-Star. He’s a high character kid you want on your roster that will be a great teammate, but I don’t think he’s an elite scorer or that he has an elite skill.
Outside of the lottery, which prospect is your sleeper pick?
NS: Jalen Williams. The 6’5 forward from Santa Clara reportedly impressed scouts during the combine and could be a sleeper from this draft. He’s been described as a jack-of-all trades and his over seven-foot wingspan will allow him to be all over the court on both sides of the floor.
CV: I like E.J. Liddell out of Ohio State. He improved in key areas when he returned to college for another season and should have some room to develop further offensively. Liddell should be an immediate rotation player in the NBA.
BZ: I’ll be cliche and go with the Kentucky guard who is probably being overlooked in TyTy Washington. There’s really no questioning the success rate of UK guards in the NBA. Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyler Herro and Tyrese Maxey are a few more recently. Washington’s teammate Shaedon Sharpe is expected to go in the lottery. He’s likely the better prospect but I think the ankle injury held back Washington. We know most UK prospects have one foot out the door. Most of them look way better in the NBA. So if Washington is going to be around for a playoff team late in the first round, that environment alone should help him succeed. Booker, Herro and Maxey are great examples of this.
RS: Dalen Terry should be set to compete as a solid defender both on and off the ball in the league next year. His shooting is decent and definitely leaves room for improvement, but he’s got plenty of hustle and can create quick breaks off of steals or blocks. If he lands with the right team and is paired with some good offensive options, he could be a key player.
CS: I think Jalen Duren can be really, really good. Being freakishly athletic at 6’11, and not having Penny Hardaway/Memphis chaos will be good for him.
Who will be the best player from the draft 5 years from now?
NS: Jaden Ivey. Outside of Smith, Ivey could emerge as a breakout star quickly from this draft. He was a bucket getter at Purdue and quickly started drawing comparisons to Ja Morant, who elevated to superstar status in the NBA this past season. If he does end up somewhere like Sacramento or Indiana, he’ll have carte blanche to put up buckets upon his arrival.
CV: It’s rare to see the No. 1 overall pick pan out as the best player in a draft after five seasons, but I really believe in Smith becoming an offensive superstar. He’s going to get heavy minutes right away, which will help his overall development tremendously.
BZ: I’ll ride the UK narrative and that scouts are super high on Sharpe heading into the draft. We’re seeing GMs value size and athleticism at the top of the draft, plus versatility. That’s why Holmgren, Smith and Banchero are up there. I could see all three not panning out. There’s always upside in taking a scoring guard who has great size (6’6) and his wingspan is 7’0. Sharpe should be a great finisher around the rim and a walking highlight reel. If he develops an elite shot and pull-up game from mid-range, he’ll be very difficult to guard at the next level given his size for a two-guard. If it all comes together, Sharpe may have the most upside of anyone in the draft.
RS: Banchero has all the right skills to make it in the league. He comes in at the top of plenty of prospect rankings, and he’s a well-rounded player who can score from just about anywhere on the court. His speed and size should set him apart from a lot of other players, and by landing as a lottery pick, he should be a huge asset to any team.
CS: Future Hall of Famer and potential league MVP (or at least Bird/Johnson award winner in a Conference Finals) Paolo Banchero.
Which team has the most at stake on draft night?
NS: New Orleans. The Pelicans own the No. 8 pick and getting a solid contributor could elevate them from the fringe playoff team they are right now to one of the bigger surprises in the entire league. Things seem copacetic between the organization and Zion Williamson right now and the former No. 1 overall pick is reportedly on the verge of signing his rookie max extension. Nailing this pick could determine their viability as a rising team in the Western Conference for the next five years.
CV: The Spurs hold three draft picks, and they’ve made some questionable selections in key spots over the last few years. Do they package these picks in a deal to move up and land an exciting prospect to pair with Dejounte Murray? Do they trade for a star? Do they stay put and keep rounding out the rotation? San Antonio needs to get these picks right.
BZ: The Thunder have a ton of draft capital and can make a lot of different moves in the draft and in the trade market. OKC desperately needs a second option behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That may end up being Josh Giddey. It also may not work out. So nailing the second overall pick is a must. Banchero and Smith are both good fits for the Thunder. If Sam Presti is going to deal any picks to get an established player, again, it needs to be someone who can help SGA and start to win games.
RS: I know it’s the obvious answer, but I have to go with the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick. They finished with the second-worst record in the league last season and they’ll have their choice of anyone on the board. Any of the top three prospects would help their team, but they’ll need to make sure they pick the guy who best fits their needs and will be able to adapt to their system if they want a better finish next season.
CS: Detroit. The Pistons made a nice pick in Cade Cunningham, now they need to get him a supporting cast. Getting a high-ceiling 3-and-D guy to pair with him should be the priority because they don’t have another way to get an elite player.
Bold prediction for draft night?
NS: The Oklahoma City Thunder will somehow acquire more future first-round picks.
CV: With all the rumors swirling around established veterans being moved in the summer, we won’t see any of Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert get traded on draft night.
BZ: The Magic pass on Chet Holmgren and go with Banchero with the first pick.
RS: The Pistons will make a big trade with the Kings to acquire the No. 4 overall pick, resulting in two consecutive picks in the top five. Jerami Grant’s deal is expiring and they could certainly leverage him and his hefty price tag since the Kings are in dire need of wings. Detroit will look to bring in more young talent to play along with Cade Cunningham as they continue to rebuild.
CS: There will be over 2.5 trades in the first round.