Where Will They End Up: A Projection of the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery

Today marks the beginning of a new crop of talent entering the NBA. This year’s class features a consensus ‘Big 3’ of Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr. who many believe will be the next generation of NBA stars. But aside from them contains a heap of prospects throughout the first round who can flourish into stars as well.

Here is a projection of this year’s NBA Draft Lottery.

#1. Jabari Smith Jr., Forward, Auburn

Jabari Smith Jr. is a sharpshooting jumbo wing that can switch on nearly every position on defense. Jabari Smith Jr. is the best prospect in this year’s NBA Draft. At 6’10, Smith Jr. can shoot the three, create his own shots, and defend at a high level. In his lone season at Auburn, Smith Jr. averaged 16.9 points per game, 7.4 rebounds, and 2 assists. He shot 43% from the field, 42% from three, and 80% from the free-throw line.

Smith is just 19 years old and possesses an NBA-ready game that will compliment any team he is drafted to. He has the agility and effort to defend at a high level. Most players at his size struggle to defend quicker players but Smith uses his athleticism to bother shots on the perimeter and at the rim. The freshman’s biggest weakness at this stage is his shot creation ability. He doesn’t have a dribble package to break down defenders, but that is due to his ability to just rely on his size and shoot over defenders. If Smith is selected to the Magic, he will play alongside guards like Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, and Markelle Fultz so that weakness won’t be as glaring. Those guards will create shots for Smith and put him in a prime position to score open and easy shots. I think Smith has the potential to be an MVP-level player and, at worst, a Rashard Lewis-level talent.

#2. Chet Holmgren, Big, Gonzaga

Chet Holmgren is a 7’0 defensive maestro that can do everything well on offense. Holmgren played his college ball at Gonzaga in a well-coached offensive system that allowed him the freedom to score and play make within the offense. Holmgren averaged 14 points, and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 41.2% from three. On defense, Holmgren used his 7-foot 6-inch wingspan to be a stalwart at the rim. He is a savant at being in position and being on time on help defense. Holmgren averaged 3.6 blocks per game at Gonzaga and deterred so many other drivers from even attempting shots at the rim, let alone altering shots.

Holmgren’s feel for the game shows up on the film when you see his quick passing and timing on offense. It seems like he is always in the right position on both ends of the floor. Despite his size, he has the agility to hold his own on the perimeter against some guards and wings. His biggest flaw at this stage is his slender frame. He weighs just 195 pounds and is as thin as a rail, and defenses will take advantage of that. Sometimes his length is negated by physicality and bigger wings and forwards will try to bull him out of position to score. Holmgren already thinks of himself as the best player in NBA, and he carries himself with an aura that radiates confidence. Holmgren will fit excellent in Oklahoma City and will fill a lot of holes in their team. Chet has been compared to a modern-day Pau Gasol with his defensive and offensive intelligence and versatility. Holmgren isn’t the post scorer Gasol was in his heyday but can be an impact in multiple areas of the game like Gasol was. If he can play next to a true center, as the Cavaliers Evan Mobley did with Jarrett Allen this year, I think Chet will be a multiple-time all-star and dominant defensive player for years to come.

#3. Paolo Banchero, Forward, Duke

Paolo Banchero is probably the most NBA-ready prospect in this year’s draft. Banchero was measured at 6’10 1/2 without shoes and weighs in at around 250 pounds. Paolo mixes his power with agility to either get to the paint to finish over and through defenders or he can create space and knock down jumpers. He is an unselfish player who can make the necessary pass when he sees it. At Duke, he averaged 17 points per game with 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Paolo was a safety valve and a primary scorer for a loaded Duke roster that made it to the Final Four.

Despite his size and athleticism, Banchero failed to consistently put it all together to be a great defender. When he did though, he used his attributes to get stops on various positions from all over the floor. I believe that once he improves the consistency and smoothness of his jump shot, it will open up the floor even more for him. But at just 19 years old, he has plenty of time to develop those things in his game. Banchero’s mix of skill and size reminds me of Blake Griffin in his latter days with the Clippers. At that point of his career, Griffin’s once-in-a-generation athleticism was fading away and he shifted to become more of a skilled big, developing his handle and his ability to create his own shot. Both players are around the same size and can still use their brute strength to get to their spots.

#4. Keegan Murray, Forward, Iowa

Keegan Murray is a big forward who was fourth in the nation in scoring with an average of 23.8 points per game, but when you look at his game the scoring isn’t even his greatest attribute. Murray is a do-it-all defender that is great on-ball defending multiple positions and being disruptive in help. His 6’8, 215-pound frame allowed him to use his length and IQ to average over 2 blocks and one steal a game this season.

Murray was a fluid scorer at Iowa this season, getting doing a lot of damage getting to the rim and moving off of the ball. I can’t see Murray being a goto on-all scorer at the next level, especially if he goes to Sacramento, but along De’Aaron Fox and Domatas Sabonis he can be a third-level scorer who gets his buckets from catch and shoot, pick and pop (38% from 3pt this season) and cutting to the basket. Murray showed the ability to be in a good position to score with his high IQ and score within the offensive system even though he was the primary scorer. I see some Harris Barnes and Kyle Kuzma in Keegan Murray. Big wings who have the ability to be versatile offensive players but not the main guy while being solid and playing hard on defense. Murray may not be a superstar, but he will be a glue guy for a winning team for years to come.

#5. Jaden Ivey, Guard, Purdue

Jaden Ivey is by far the most exceptional athlete in the draft. At 6’4, 195 pounds, Ivey possesses the athleticism that reminds you of a bigger Ja Morant or De’Aaron Fox. Ivey’s ability to get to the rim in a blur and finish over defenders is something that is hard to come by. Ivey isn’t just a guard that pressures the rim, he also has some shot-making ability that makes him a viable three-point shooter as well. He averaged 17 points and 3 assists while shooting 36% from three this season. At Purdue, Ivey had to play in an offensive system that didn’t allow him the proper spacing to maximize his athletic attributes. He played with a lumbering center and other bigs who clogged the paint. With NBA spacing, Ivey’s abilities will only be enhanced as he will be able to play in open space in Pick and roll or moving off the ball.

Ivey’s biggest flaw is disinterest in playing defense. Ivey is prone to falling asleep on defense and allowing his man to either cut backdoor or just get an open shot from anywhere. He carried a huge load offensively for Purdie in college and sometimes Ivey took possesions off on defense to conserve energy on offense. With his athletic gifts, Ivey could be an exceptional defender if he puts it together. The obvious comp for Ivey is a jumbo Ja Morant, without Morant’s passing gifts. If Ivey is drafted by the Detroit Pistons, he can share the ball handling role with Cade Cunnigham. They can alternate being the primary ball handler on Detroit and give different looks to defenses with their contrasting styles of attacking on offense.

#6 Bennedict Mathurin, Guard, Arizona

Bennedict Mathurin is an athletic scoring guard out of Arizona. Mathurin stands at 6’6 and weighs 210 pounds. In his sophomore season, he averaged 17 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. Bennedict showed his ability to score at all three levels with his silky smooth jump shot and a quick burst to knife through defenses and finish at the rim. Mathurin shot 37% from three during his sophomore season, even though he shot a much higher percentage on off-the-screen threes vs. catch and shoot threes.

One of Mathurin’s biggest attributes is his fearless attitude. He plays with a competitive, “never die” attitude that allowed him to compete at such a high level throughout the season. He competes on defense despite having some lapses every now and again. His length and athleticism on defense at the wing is something that is heavily sought after throughout the NBA. Mathurin can come into a reduced role, albeit the right fit, and be a productive player from day one. His shot-making ability and competitive spirit on offense and defense make him a very valuable pick. Bennedict is also just 20 years old. Mathurin has shades of Victor Oladipo during his Indiana Pacers years with his quick burst and inside-outside scoring potential.

#7. Shaedon Sharpe, Guard, Kentucky

Shaedon Sharpe has the biggest question mark surrounding him in this year’s draft. In his high school class, Sharpe went from unknown to the #1 player within weeks. He had a dominant EYBL showing in his junior season, with averages of 23 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 36% from three. Sharpe is a smooth scorer, that uses his length and quickness to rise over defenders for his jumper or get to the rim and finish emphatically over defenders. He has explosive vertical ability and dexterity to make acrobatic layups in traffic. Sharpe has a smoothness that comes in the league’s best scorers and he puts me in the mind of a Bradley Beal or a Paul George. His empty resume of playing experience at the college level is a huge concern. At the high school level, Sharpe displayed flashes of tools that would make him a great prospect and flashes that teams will look down upon. For one, he showed flashes of being able to create shots for his teammates in either his downhill attacks or his pick and roll passing. Sharpe also displayed some tools that can make him a switchable defender. But with those pros, the direct cons are that sometimes Sharpe can get tunnel vision on offense and lack consistent effort on defense.

Sharpe is just 19, and if he goes to the right team, he can blossom and become an elite offensive threat in the NBA for years to come. Sharpe also has the trajectory of bottoming out and becoming just another role player. I don’t think he will ever average 30 points in a season like Bradley Beal, but I do see him reaching a level where he is one of the primary scorers on a playoff team like Beal was. At worst, I think that Shaedon Sharpe will be like a Nick Young or Dion Waiters-level player.

#8. Johnny Davis, Guard, Wisconsin

Johnny Davis is a tough, hard-nosed guard who can score and works his ass off on defense. This season at Wisconsin, Davis averaged 20 points per game while snagging down 8 rebounds a game. Davis went from just another role player, averaging 7 points in his freshman season to being the leading scorer. He didn’t shoot the ball great from the field, shooting only 42% but he did show flashes of having a good offensive package that will translate to the next level. At 6’5, Davis isn’t the best vertical athlete, but he makes up for it with crafty finishes at the rim. Davis made a living in the mid-range, as his game relied heavily on footwork to get to his spots and rise over defenders. I feel that his shooting percentage is overrated because I think he was miscast as a primary scorer. Next to another playmaking guard in an offense where he doesn’t have to initiate most of his offense is ideal for Davis.

Defensively, Davis competes and plays very smart and solid. He is adapt to forcing defenders to their weaknesses and relies on his positioning and strength to stay solid and bother shots. Davis is also very active in the passing lanes. He often jumped passing lanes for steals and they resulted in a ton of easy buckets. Davis anchored himself against bigger defenders to force them into tough shots and didn’t give up ground. With his mix of scoring and defensive versatility, Davis can add some juice to any team right now. If he improves his three-point shot, it will be hard to not have Davis on the floor.

#9. Ousmane Dieng, Forward, New Zealand

Ousmane Dieng is a 19-year-old, 6’10 forward who has been playing his ball in New Zealand. Ousmane averaged just 9 points, 3 rebounds, and one assist per game, but there is a lot to him. Despite shooting just 27% from three, Dieng’s shot isn’t ugly, or broken. His form is smooth and doesn’t have a hitch to it. At 6’10, he can comfortably get it off over the outstretched arms of closing defenders. Dieng also showed the ability to make a dribble move and get his shot off. With more reps, I believe he can improve that aspect of his game. Dieng can be used as a good pick and short roll threat, using his length to either finish or make passes from the middle of the floor. The 19-year-old also showed some playmaking ability even though it is wonky at times. He is a raw prospect, but he does have some solid building blocks for an organization to nurture.

Defensively, Dieng will need to improve. His slight frame will be something that defenses attack and he doesn’t have that aggression to make up for his lack of strength, like a Chet Holmgren. Even with those deficincies he is a long, rangy player who can disrupt things when he is engaged. The Spurs have the 9th seed and are notorious for turning foreign prospects into viable players, and even a couple of Hall of Famers. If Ousmane lands in San Antonio, I think he can develop into a solid player for many years to come.

#10. Dyson Daniels, Wing, G-League Ignite

Dyson Daniels was apart of this years G-League Ignite squad that featured a couple of young NBA prospects, but Daniels shined the brightest.

Dyson Daniels stands at 6’8 with a wingspan of about 7’0. At that size, Daniels showed off his defensive versatility, guarding small guards and forwards, his playmaking, and his shooting potential. Daniels shot just 25% from three, but I can attribute that to him adjusting to the NBA three. Dyson Daniels also showed his playmaking ability with his elite court vision both in the halfcourt and making accurate and on-time outlet passes. In the G-League setting with other high-level prospects, Daniels’s game fit well with everyone he shared the floor with. His 4.4 assists per game seem modest, but when you consider the other factors you can understand his dynamic passing can improve even more. He’s grown about an inch since we last saw him, so his ability to see the floor will be a tad better when we see him on a spaced-out NBA floor with better and more reliable perimeter shooters.

Daniels is also a feisty and smart defender. He slides his feet well and stays in a good position without fouling. Daniels also is consistent at giving second and third efforts on possessions. Young players have a tendency of getting caught up or even dying on screens, but Daniels frequently recovers to get back in front of the ball handler. I don’t think Daniels will ever be a superstar, but he can definitely be a solid starter and fringe All-Star. I see a lot of Alex Caruso and Derrick White in Daniels, but I think Daniels can be a lot better than those two players, respectively.

#11. AJ Griffin, Wing, Duke

Over the last few years, AJ Griffin has missed a lot of basketball due to injuries to his ankles and knees. When Griffin is right though, he has flashed star potential in his limited time. In his lone season at Duke, Griffin played with other first-round talents in Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams, Wendell Moore, and other great players. Griffin averaged just 10 points per game, but he lit defenses up with his 45% from three. Griffin proved himself to be one of the best spot-up shooters in college basketball while hinting at other areas of his game that could blossom. Griffin flashed some potential to get score off the dribble, with small combos and using his 6’6 220 pound frame to shield defenders off. Griffin was also adept at moving without the ball and making timely cuts to score. Even though he didn’t string it together for long stretches at a time, Griffin also flashed some defensive versatility.

As stated earlier, Griffin still has a lot of catching up to do, due to his injuries. Griffin needs to learn certain nuances of the game, especially on defense where he struggled at times. He has the profile of a switchy defender but gets beat off the dribble easily. Offensively he was reduced to a catch-and-shoot player because he isn’t much of a playmaker. Overall, I still think Griffin has time to develop into a very good player. He won’t be 19 years until August and already has an NBA-ready body. Griffin’s best ability needs to be available at the start of his career and the rest will work itself out. Griffin moved like Jimmy Butler but operated like a bigger Desmond Bane on offense.

#12. Jalen Duren, Big, Memphis

Jalen Duren is an athletic rim running big who played his only college season at Memphis. Duren averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds and was the bright spot for what was a disappointing Memphis Tigers squad. Duren has a big frame of 6’10, 230 pounds with a lot of bounce. Duren used that size to average 2 blocks a game this season.

Jalen Duren can be a pick and roll in several ways. Duren has good hands, can finish with his size, and is a lob threat. Pick-and-roll dominant teams are looking for great lob threats like Bam Adebayo, Robert Williams, Jarrett Allen, etc. I think that if paired with the right coach, Duren can flourish in that role. Defensively, he still needs some work but so do most 19-year-olds coming out of college. Duren does care on defense and is fearless when protecting the rim. I think that Duren can be a great pick-and-roll threat just like the names listed above.

#13. Mark Williams, Big, Duke

Mark Williams is a traditional center coming out of Duke. He stands at 7’0 and has a 7’7 wingspan. Although Williams may seem slender, he weighs in at 242 pounds. The center averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds along with nearly 3 blocks a game for the Blue Devils this year. Williams was a dominant presence in the paint on offense and defense this year. He cleaned up a lot of Duke’s defensive mistakes with his rim protection and was a force on the offensive glass. Whenever defenses collapsed on Duke’s ball handlers, he was always available for dump-off passes where he more than likely finished with an emphatic dunk. Williams has great hands and can be a threat in pick and roll diving to the rim and catching lobs.

In the NBA, Williams will struggle guarding on the perimeter, but a ‘Drop’ coverage scheme will likely be implemented when he’s on the floor to try to negate his lack of lateral quickness. He isn’t a giant lumbering big though, he has the agility to cover ground and alter shots and was very good at running the floor. Williams also doesn’t have a perimeter game, or much of a low poat game, but in a league where centers are often just ‘Dive’ bigs, that won’t be an issue. If he is drafted to Charlotte, the pairing between him and the dynamic young star Lamelo Ball can be the start of something special for the Hornets. Mark Williams reminds me a lot of a younger DeAndre Jordan or Jarrett Allen.

#14. Ochai Agbaji, Wing, Kansas

Ochai Agbaji represents the National Champion Kansas Jayhawks to round out the lottery. Agbaji is a 6’5 two-way wing that won Most Outstanding Player honors in the NCAA Tournament this season. He averaged 18 points, 5 rebounds, and shot 40% from three. The senior guard improved his shooting and scoring average every year at Kansas to the point where he was a knock-down shooter off the catch. Agbaji was adept at attacking closeouts and stepping in for a one-dribble side step or pull-up shot, and even attacking the rim. Agbaji is also a savvy mover of the ball, finding cutting lanes and the vertical explosion to catch lobs when his defender is asleep. Defensively, he used his 215-pound frame with his 6’10 wingspan to bother shots all over the floor. Agbaji didn’t have a high number of blocks and steals, but he played solid defense throughout the season.

At the next level, I don’t expect Agbaji to be a primary creator and playmaker. If he can develop his handle, he can become a Norman Powell type of player that can play within any offense. His shooting, size, and defense make him a prototypical ‘3 and D’ wing in the modern-day NBA, despite him being 6’5. If the Cavs take him at 14, he will fit right alongside Darius Garland and give Cleveland some much-needed shooting from the guard position.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.