At long last, the 2022 NBA Draft process is beginning to give us clarity. With the draft order for every pick officially finalized and thein the rearview mirror, how next month's draft may look like is starting to take shape. Now's when we start making projections and start taking into account team need, fit and intel about which team may or may not favor specific prospects.
Now's when the real fun begins.
Our latest mock draft projections for every first-round pick takes all of that into account and features a new No. 1 for the first time this year. The new No. 1 in my mock draft is Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr., who has consistently been a top-four player on the mock draft all year and a top-three player on the Big Board. Smith bumps Gonzaga 7-foot center Chet Holmgren . Early guesses are the Magic favor Smith's sharpshooting safety over Holmgren, whose upside comes with some risk given his skinny frame.
This Orlando front office is the same one that picked Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mo Bamba, I should add, so the idea of passing on First Team All-Wingspan in Holmgren is something I'll have to see to believe. But if they do indeed favor Smith over him, as is reflected below, Holmgren won't fall far. With the Oklahoma City Thunder securing the No. 2 overall pick and in dire need of frontcourt help, he goes to the Thunder at second overall.
Both big men in some order are destined to go No. 1 or No. 2 in some order in this draft based upon betting odds and early intel. If Orlando goes with Smith, OKC picks Holmgren. If the Magic go with Holmgren, the Thunder pick Smith. For now, we're operating under the assumption the former transpires.
Here's how the rest of the first round as such may follow.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Jabari Smith PF
Auburn • 6'10" / 220 lbs
Kevin Durant recently said on Twitter that "size for position, shot-making, efficiency, IQ" and being a multipositional defender is most important in determining the best player in the NBA. Smith checks nearly every box there as a prospect. Great positional size, elite shooter for his position, capable defender and just scratching the surface of his All-Star potential. Both a safe pick by Orlando AND a huge swing at a future star.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Gonzaga • 7'0" / 195 lbs
I get it, I get it, my fellow Oklahomans: the skinny frame is a concern (along with the injury worries that come along with it). I just ... don't care! Holmgren is an elite defensive prospect because of his ability to block shots and affect shots around the rim. He's also a knockdown shooter who at 7-foot can be additive on offense as a creator as well. If you focus more on what he can do and less on concerns over what-ifs of the skinny frame, Holmgren's clearly a top-two prospect in this class.
Round 1- Pick 3
Duke • 6'10" / 250 lbs
Houston grabs a future star to add to its frontcourt to pair with 2021 No. 2 pick Jalen Green, one of the most electric young guard prospects in the NBA. Banchero was an All-American in his lone season at Duke whose playmaking and overall polish on offense at 6-10 can add another exciting dynamic to this young Rockets core.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Jaden Ivey SG
Purdue • 6'4" / 195 lbs
Sacramento will be arguably where the draft may turn on its head. Anyone is in play here, I'd think, but if they're just taking best available talent, Jaden Ivey should get the nod as a promising potential future lead guard with elite athletic ability. He and De'Aaron Fox sharing the backcourt would be must-see TV.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Iowa • 6'8" / 225 lbs
Upside or floor? If you're taking a huge swing, it's Shaedon Sharpe. If you're comfortable adding a really, really solid player, Murray is the answer. He was the best player in the Big Ten last season and one of the most dynamic forwards on offense in the sport, hitting nearly 40% from 3-point range and averaging 23.5 points per game. The Cade Cunningham-Keegan Murray would be electric.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Kentucky • 6'5" / 198 lbs
Sharpe did not play a game last season at Kentucky but his potential as a 6-6 wing with elite athletic ability -- he has nearly a 50-inch vertical -- is reason enough to take a chance on him here for the Pacers. The former No. 1 overall recruit easily represents the best bet-the-house option at No. 6 if he's on the board.
Round 1 - Pick 7
AJ Griffin SF
Duke • 6'6" / 222 lbs
Portland's in the middle of something of a rebuild and it is in need of restacking the cupboard with talent. In Griffin, they add a player who fits the archetype of prospects they typically covet and they get one who should be a consistent two-way contributor.
From Los Angeles Lakers
Round 1 - Pick 8
Kentucky • 6'4" / 196 lbs
New Orleans ranked 27th last season in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, something Washington should immediately be able to remedy. He's not only a knockdown shooter, but the variety with which he can routinely make difficult shots look not so difficult should be a game-changer in the NBA. Really like his playmaking potential as well -- something that was mostly hidden at Kentucky as he took a bigger role off the ball.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Daniels is rising up boards and clearly into lottery territory after a strong G League Ignite season and a strong pre-draft process. He's a creative live-dribble passer with great size and incredible defensive chops as one of the best on-ball perimeter defenders. Still needs to develop his game, particularly as a shooter, but the feel and IQ make me confident in his game translating.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Baylor • 6'9" / 230 lbs
The raw stats don't do justice to the impact Sochan made at Baylor and can potentially make in the NBA. He's a combo forward who can defend multiple positions, plays wing, power forward and center, and has playmaking ability to boot. His versatility has him as a likely lottery pick months after not even being considered a definite one-and-doner.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Arizona • 6'6" / 205 lbs
New York was 10th in its conference in 3-point shooting percentage this season, so Mathurin's an obvious gap-filler here in a great range. He shot almost 37% from the 3-point line as a sophomore with Arizona this season and has a quick, easily-projectable outside shot that will make him a valuable role-player for years to come.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 12
Dieng had a strong close to the NBL season with the New Zealand Breakers, a team from the same NBL league that once produced LaMelo Ball. He's a combo forward with guard skills. If his outside shot starts falling with regularity he could develop into a borderline star on the wing, the exact type of prospect OKC should be taking swings on in its rebuild.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Memphis • 6'11" / 250 lbs
Charlotte has waited patiently in addressing the center spot in recent drafts, but here, they grab a high-flying star in Duren who can defend the rim, run the floor and score it efficiently inside the arc. His lob-finishing ability makes him a perfect fit next to LaMelo Ball.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Johnny Davis SF
Wisconsin • 6'5" / 194 lbs
This would be a bigger slip than expected for Davis, one of college basketball's true breakout stars this past season. He's arguably the most polished prospect from the guard spot whose three-level scoring and defensive versatility could easily thrust him into a big role upon arrival in the NBA.
From New Orleans Pelicans
Round 1 - Pick 15
Tari Eason PF
LSU • 6'8" / 216 lbs
Eason, a big combo forward who can space the floor as a shooter, open up the offense as a straight-line driver and really impact the game on defense as a do-it-all weapon is a tricky one to pin down here. He's raw and his offense isn't quite NBA-ready but the physical tools and defense alone could get him into the teens of this draft on potential.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Duke • 7'2" / 242 lbs
Potential insurance for Clint Capela down the road for Atlanta. Williams fits a similar mold as a more modern big who doesn't space the floor, and while his leaping ability is nowhere close to that of Capela's, he brings big value as a rebounder and elite rim-protector.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 17
Ochai Agbaji SG
Kansas • 6'6" / 215 lbs
A year ago, Agbaji tested the draft waters and ultimately came back to school in a quest to improve his stock. And, well, mission accomplished. As a senior with KU this season he shot above 40% from 3-point range, embraced his role as the team's alpha scorer and -- oh, by the way -- led the Jayhawks to a national title. His NBA-ready body, defensive intensity and outside shooting scream NBA role player, all potentially making him a good fit on a young and exciting Rockets core.
Round 1 - Pick 18
After recently watching more film of Montero from the Overtime Elite league this season, it's clear Montero has realistic lottery talent. He's a quick athlete who plays lead guard with pizazz and has playmaking skills as both a creator and shooter. I really like how he can attack the rim, and think his offense can translate to the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Hardy's stock slipped a bit this season with the G League Ignite -- he was inefficient and his decision-making left something to be desired on the court -- but you have to love his overall production. He's a gifted scorer who is only 19 years old and has plenty of room to grow and develop. Still like his talent as a definite first-rounder.
From Toronto Raptors
Round 1 - Pick 20
Ohio State • 6'5" / 195 lbs
Ohio State turned to Branham as one of its go-to options down the stretch run of the season, and he responded by averaging 17.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in the second half of the year. He's a big wing who can torch the net and scores it at a really high level, and now that he's committed to staying in the draft, should be in the mix as a potential lottery pick.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Baylor • 6'7" / 205 lbs
We never got the full-blown freshman breakout from Brown in the same way we did from teammate Jeremy Sochan, but Brown's absolutely going to be in the mix as a potential lottery pick this summer. Has a big frame, defends the wing like crazy and can stretch the floor as a shooter as well.
From Utah Jazz
Round 1 - Pick 22
Beauchamp's an older prospect by comparison to most of this first round -- he'll be 22 years old later this year -- but he has validated first-round consideration after a strong season with G League Ignite. Quality defender with a 7-1 wingspan and a developing offensive weaponry to complement it.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 23
E.J. Liddell PF
Ohio St. • 6'7" / 243 lbs
Liddell doesn't quite fit into a traditional bucket as a prospect -- he's a tad undersized for a big -- but it's hard to ignore his production. He's a gifted scorer who finds ways to produce and he ranked among the top five of all Big Ten players in blocks and scoring. His improved outside shot and rebounding tenacity should help him stick in the league.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Tennessee • 6'0" / 172 lbs
Chandler is the smallest of any prospect in the top 60 of our rankings, so that stands out as a potential concern projecting him into the NBA. But if anyone can overcome that, it's him. Chandler's a lightning-quick talent who can blow by defenders and knows how to masterfully manipulate defenses with the rock in his hands.
From Boston Celtics
Round 1 - Pick 25
This is an upside play for the Spurs. Miller's incredibly raw as a prospect and not ready to be an NBA contributor just yet, but he's got the physical tools to be a dynamic two-way player in time. Low risk (picks in the late 20s don't hit all the time) but high reward (Miller could be a legit rotation player in a few years).
Round 1 - Pick 26
Milwaukee • 6'9" / 220 lbs
Two consecutive seasons ending with Baldwin Jr. injured -- first in high school then as a freshman in college -- have sprung up potential durability concerns for him. But as a former top recruit in his class, Baldwin Jr. likely still goes in Round 1 because of his 6-9 frame and shooting upside.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Santa Clara • 6'6" / 209 lbs
Williams has been the fastest-rising draft prospect the last month. He measured 6-6 at the combine with a 7-2 wingspan, is coming off a season in which he shot nearly 40% from 3-point range, and rated out in the 97th percentile last season according to Synergy as a spot-up shooter.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Jovic remains one of this draft's most unique prospects because of the blend of his size, shooting and creating. He's a really good passer and Mega has used him at times as its primary initiator, something you rarely see from a player that tall, which speaks to his vision on the whole. The point forward potential is probably not realistic at the NBA level but, like Josh Giddey in last year's draft, vision and creation ability regardless of level have a tendency to translate up. He's a connector, and a really good one at that.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Trevor Keels SG
Duke • 6'4" / 224 lbs
Another season at Duke may do Keels' draft prospects some good -- at just 18 years old, he could reasonably improve quite a bit next season and launch himself into the lottery -- but for now we're expecting he stays in the draft. Tough two-way guard who flashed some promise, but the inconsistency throughout the season is likely going to keep him in the late 20s or early 30s if he stays in the draft.
From Phoenix Suns
Round 1 - Pick 30
Michigan • 6'8" / 205 lbs
Houstan was one of only two prospects to decline an invite to the NBA Draft Combine, instantly leading to speculation in the industry about a potential promise for the former five-star recruit. OKC, which has three first-round picks, would be a potential suitor here at 30 and is more likely than most to take on bigger swings as it rebuilds.