If you took the names off the front of the jerseys, threw age out the window and discarded recruiting accolades, it would be interesting to see how perceptions around the top of the 2022 NBA Draft class would change. Keegan Murray of Iowa, who is ranked No. 8 on the CBS Sports NBA Draft Big Board, might be the biggest benefactor in those circumstances.
Because Murray was just a three-star prospect coming out of high school, and because he'll be 22 when the next NBA season begins, it seems like he may be getting slighted just a tad in the lead up to the NBA Draft combine, which begins next week in Chicago. To be sure, Murray's star sophomore season for Iowa catapulted him into being a likely lottery pick in next month's draft, which is a sign of respect for the 6-foot-8 forward.
But if Murray were coming from a blue-blood program instead of Iowa, which has not produced a first-round draft pick since Ricky Davis in 1998, it's worth wondering if his game is fully appreciated. Another factor that could have an influence on his stock is association with Luka Garza, who was similarly productive for the Hawkeyes but did little in his rookie season as a second-round pick in 2021 to suggest he'll become a consistent contributor in the NBA.
Ultimately, the differences in Murray and Garza couldn't be more distinct. Murray can do everything valued in the modern NBA on both ends of the floor, and he is still willing to do the dirty work. He's not the youngest prospect in this class, and he doesn't come from the sexiest college program. But if you take away those external factors, there is a place in the conversation for Murray as a top-three pick, and that's where he lands in this mock draft.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Duke • Fr • 6'10" / 250 lbs
Banchero is the safest bet in the upper range of the lottery this year because of his NBA-ready frame and the fact that he can already score at all three levels. Banchero's potential to defend all positions and exceptional ball skills also set him apart in this draft class. The versatile forward averaged 3.8 assists per game over the season's final two months. Some of the other contenders for the No. 1 spot arguably have a higher ceiling, but Banchero's floor is as a solid all-around NBA starter which makes him a low-risk selection for a team that hasn't totally fallen in love with someone else at the No. 1 slot.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Jabari Smith PF
Auburn • Fr • 6'11" / 220 lbs
A 6-10 player who is an elite outside shooter is incredibly rare in college basketball, where traditional bigs abound some teams deploy two classic post players in the same lineup. Smith's uniqueness helped him stand out in that environment, as he was protected in some ways by an elite true center in teammate Walker Kessler. Smith's one already elite skill — outside shooting — will be defended more competently at the next level, which will force Smith to tighten his handle and hone his shot-creation acumen. Defensively, opponents will test the theory that he can guard 1-5 by trying to exploit his slender frame on the block while testing his quickness on the outside.
Round 1- Pick 3
Iowa • Fr • 6'8" / 225 lbs
Murray will be 22 when the 2022-23 NBA season begins, while Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero will be just 19. Perhaps that's a turn off for some franchises wanting to mold a player to their specifications. But if you throw out age and just look at the game, there is a chance that Murray could be the first player from this draft class to make an NBA All-Star game. He's coming from a program that hasn't produced a first round draft pick since 1998, and considering the quantum leap he made as a sophomore, it's tantalizing to consider what additional elements of Murray's game can be unlocked by an NBA staff. He's well-equipped to guard all positions and is an offensive maestro who is especially effective in transition.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Gonzaga • 7'1" / 195 lbs
If concerns over Holmgren's physicality and ability to handle the rigors of the NBA with a lanky 7-foot frame wind up pushing him out of the conversation to be the No. 1 pick, then he'll be an unbelievable value in this range. Two of Holmgren's comps — Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis — were also picked fourth. They're both stars, but they both also dealt with serious knee injuries before age 24. Being a do-it-all 7-footer who logs 70+ games year in and year out is physically taxing.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Jaden Ivey SG
Purdue • Fr • 6'4" / 195 lbs
The way Ivey gets downhill and finishes in the paint and at the rim with a combination of athleticism and touch is reminiscent of Ja Morant. While Ivey lacks Morant's distribution skills and is more of a shooting guard, the upshot is that he has the potential to be a better defender. That potential didn't manifest itself in college, but if an NBA team can unlock Ivey's defensive capabilities, they may find themselves with an All-Star.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Kentucky • Fr • 6'5" / 200 lbs
Sharpe has no college film to evaluate enrolling at Kentucky in for the spring semester but not suiting up. He's billed as an athletic shooting guard with the explosiveness to create shots and finish at the rim, and he wound up as the No. 3 ranked prospect in the 2021 recruiting class. That slotting put him ahead of players like Jabari Smith, Jalen Duren and AJ Griffin. It's hard to see a prospect with those credentials slipping much further in this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Ochai Agbaji SG
Kansas • Fr • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Depending on where he lands, Agbaji could make an NBA team better immediately as a plug and play 3-and-D wing. That may also be his ceiling, but the development he showed from his junior to senior season showcase Agbaji's relentless work ethic and make you wonder what more untapped potential may be there.
From Los Angeles Lakers
Round 1 - Pick 8
AJ Griffin SF
Duke • Fr • 6'6" / 220 lbs
If Cam Johnson can get drafted 11th overall at 23 years old and become a key player for one of the NBA's best teams, then Griffin can absolutely go in the top 10. At 6-6, he's a couple inches shorter than Johnson but brings the same elite skill as a knockdown 3-point shooter. Griffin will be just 19 when the season begins and could be a high-level 3-and-D wing by his third season in the league.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Tari Eason PF
LSU • Fr • 6'8" / 215 lbs
Eason enjoyed a breakout sophomore season after transferring to LSU from Cincinnati. He can score at all three levels and is a high-upside, versatile defender. His college coaches employed him as a sixth man, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Eason cast in the same role at the next level. At 6-8, he's like a perimeter-oriented Montrezl Harrell in terms of motor, grit and the type of role he may play.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Baylor • Fr • 6'8" / 230 lbs
Sochan is a nimble power forward who is comfortable shooting from the outside and guarding players at any position. Assuming he improves on the 29.6% 3-point mark he posted in one season at Baylor, Sochan should play in the league for a long time.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Arizona • Fr • 6'5" / 210 lbs
Mathurin's length and ability to rise up to get a look late in the shot clock should serve him well at the next level. The jury is out on his defensive ceiling, but he has the tools and talent to become a solid two-way player over time.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 12
Johnny Davis SF
Wisconsin • Fr • 6'4" / 195 lbs
His 30.6% 3-point shooting mark as a sophomore might spook some scouts, but Davis basically ran the show for a Wisconsin team not exactly known for having a modern offensive philosophy. In the right system, Davis will shine as a two-way talent because of his defensive tenacity bucket-getting prowess. Over time, he'll need to trade some of his mid-range attempts for 3-point shots if he wants to fit in the modern NBA as an off-ball guard.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Kentucky • Fr • 6'3" / 195 lbs
Washington can play on or off the ball and is an intense defender, though at 6-foot-3 he may be too small to contest the shots of taller NBA wings. Nonetheless, he's a versatile guard with the doggedness and intangibles to find a role in the league.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Baylor • Fr • 6'7" / 205 lbs
Brown was an elite role player in his lone season at Baylor as he showed excellent offensive efficiency as a secondary option. His athleticism and defensive versatility should help him carve out a long — though perhaps not All-Star caliber — NBA career.
From New Orleans Pelicans
Round 1 - Pick 15
Daniels served as the primary facilitator for G-League Ignite, averaging 4.4 assists per game in his 14 appearances with the program. His outside shot is a work in progress, but for a franchise with the leash to develop a raw playmaker, Daniels is worth taking a flyer on.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Duke • Fr • 7'0" / 240 lbs
The market for centers who don't shoot 3-pointers is lean in today's NBA. Williams is good enough as a shot blocker, rebounder and finisher to find a role, though. The 7-footer can bruise with anyone and is also active enough to hold his own in pick-and-roll situations.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 17
Of the international prospects in this class, Jovic seems like the safest bet. He's already adept at scoring from all three levels and shows signs of the defensive competency you'd hope for with an offensively gifted 6-10 forward.
Round 1 - Pick 18
E.J. Liddell PF
Ohio State • 6'6" / 240 lbs
Liddell is like a slightly more athletic version of third-year Celtics forward Grant Williams, who is playing a big role for Boston in the NBA Playoffs after he was taken with the No. 22 pick in 2019. He's got a stocky build reminiscent of a traditional post player but can shoot 3-pointers and is agile enough to hold his own as a versatile weapon in the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Montero, who has been playing for Overtime Elite, looks the part of a future starting NBA point guard offensively with his ability to distribute the basketball and high-level handle. He put those traits on display in a Nike Hoop Summit exhibition vs. some of college basketball's top incoming freshmen. The questions here are whether his offense is good enough to outweigh some potential defensive limitations that come with being 6-2 and slender.
From Toronto Raptors
Round 1 - Pick 20
At 6-9 and with the coordination and flow of a guard, Dieng is among the most intriguing prospects in this class. The French prospect enjoyed a nice finish to his season with the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL but will likely face a long road toward NBA proficiency.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Justin Lewis PF
Marquette • 6'7" / 245 lbs
It's easy to envision Lewis as a floor-stretching power forward in an NBA system after he demonstrated some outside touch by hitting 34.9% of on 5.2 attempts per game as a sophomore at Marquette. At 6-7 and with a built frame, he brings the physicality expected of the position along with the modern requirements of versatility.
From Utah Jazz
Round 1 - Pick 22
Duke • Fr • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Moore could wind up as a steal and find himself in the running for NBA All-Rookie honors, depending on where he lands. He can guard multiple positions, is efficient offensively and continues to improve his outside shot. He may not be a superstar, but he's a solid value play in the later half of the first round who can contribute early in the right situation.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 23
Beauchamp will turn 22 just before the NBA season after taking an unorthodox path to the G-League Ignite program. But at the end of the day, he's a physically gifted wing who can develop into an NBA starter if his 3-point shot continues developing.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Blake Wesley SG
Notre Dame • Fr • 6'3" / 185 lbs
Wesley can put his head down, get to the paint and collapse a defense with the best of them. With an athletic 6-5 frame, he played the role of bucket-getter for Notre Dame as a freshman. Wesley still has tons of room to improve as a shooter and facilitator. But his offensive upside is excellent and he's got the tools to thrive defensively.
From Boston Celtics
Round 1 - Pick 25
Kansas • Fr • 6'6" / 220 lbs
Braun faces a big decision on whether to return to Kansas and become a superstar and Big 12 Player of the Year candidate like Ochai Agbaji did last season. He's a dynamic forward who can guard 1-4, knock down 3-pointers and get to the basket. He's NBA ready now, but perhaps he could be a lottery pick after a full season in the college spotlight.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Ohio State • Fr • 6'4" / 180 lbs
Branham's offensive efficiency stood out during his one season with Ohio State as he hit 53% of his 2-pointers and 41.6% of his 3-pointers. He showed big-time scoring ability while earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and could compare reasonably well to Malik Monk at the next level if he can continue to prioritize his outside shot.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Tennessee • Fr • 5'11" / 170 lbs
The knock on Chandler is that he's just 6-foot and slender, and to some draft heads that screams defensive liability. Sure, he can't guard bigger wings and post players, but Chandler's defense was arguably the most impressive aspect of his lone season at Tennessee. He can hold his own on that side and has plenty of offensive upside to warrant first-round consideration.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Hardy led G-League Ignite in scoring but did it on just 35.1% shooting in 12 games. The former No. 4 overall prospect from the 2021 recruiting class has plenty of upside, but it's going to take some risk-tolerance to use a first-round pick on him.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Auburn • Fr • 7'0" / 245 lbs
Kessler ranked second nationally in shots per game with 4.6 and was incredibly efficient at the rim for an Auburn squad that spent a chunk of the season at No. 1. The big man also began attempting some 3-pointers as a sophomore, which is a skill he'll need to continue to develop at the next level.
From Phoenix Suns
Round 1 - Pick 30
Memphis • Fr • 6'10" / 250 lbs
If you're in the market for a rim-running center who can protect the rim and handle pick-and-roll defense, Duren checks the boxes. Offensively, he needs substantial development from a skill standpoint. But his physical tools will make him an effective rebounder and defender in the NBA even if the offense remains underwhelming.