We're only four days removed from the 2021 NBA Draft but a whopping 325 (!!) days away from the event's return. So I'll be the first to throw out this rather obvious but nonetheless important caveat about my 2022 mock draft below: a whole lot can change between Aug. 2, 2021 and June 23, 2022. Players not on the first-round radar will undoubtedly emerge. Top-10 prospects now may not be top-10 prospects a year from now. And as things stand, the race for No. 1 remains wide open.
Yet even this far out, with so much still to learn about the 2022 draft class, we have a pretty good idea of what the draft will look like. Sure, the order of teams will change, as will the order of how we rank the class as we get more information over the next year. But, by and large, the pool of first-round prospects is already in focus.
Enough qualifiers -- below is my first stab at first-round projections for the 2022 class. Let's dive in. (Draft order is sorted by SportsLine win total projections for the 2021-22 NBA season.)
At 6-foot-10 with the ability to create off the bounce, score it from every level and defend well for his size because of his length and energy, Banchero gets the early nod for me as the No. 1 in this class. He's going to be a star at Duke as a freshman this season. He can really solidify his standing here if he continues to show off the skill on the perimeter and in the post that has made him such a fascinating prospect, and he'll get the chance to do a little of everything as the likely No. 1 option for the Blue Devils this season.
Holmgren won MVP for the U-19 World Cup team that took home the gold earlier this summer. He's a rangy center who has the skills of a big in that he can protect the rim, finish lobs and use his length to affect the game. However, what makes him a top-five talent in this class is the other stuff. He has an advanced handle for his size, can knock down 3s and has mega-sized wing talent -- making him a potential unicorn at 7-foot. He undoubtedly needs to work on his frame and pack on muscle, but there's so much skill to love in addition to the size and shot-blocking.
3. Pistons: Jalen Duren (TBD)
This is a projection on my part. Duren is currently the No. 1 prospect in the 2022 class and, thus, officially not draft-eligible until 2023. However, Matt Norlander reports that the expectation is that he eventually reclassifies and becomes eligible for 2022. If -- and when -- that move becomes official, I expect he'll launch himself into No. 1 pick consideration. So consider me the anti-Gary Parrish on Duren's pro prospects. (For posterity: GP has him as a lottery pick.) Physically gifted with a mature body already and a low-post force whose game should translate seamlessly. I'm a huge fan.
4. Cavaliers: Jaden Hardy (G League Ignite)
A tough two-way guard who will headline this year's G League Ignite crop, Hardy is a score-first point guard. He's really crafty at creating off the dribble and delivering dimes with good positional size. From a scoring perspective, he can really fill it up with a good mix of an in-between game and deep range. One of the most electric offensive talents in next year's draft.
5. Spurs: Jaden Ivey (Purdue)
Sign me up as president, CEO and conductor of the Jaden Ivey hype train. This kid is the real deal. Came on late for Purdue last season as a scorer and flashed further NBA potential this summer at the FIBA U-19 World Cup as a do-it-all guard who can score it and defend. Has a Marcus Smart-like impact on the game because of his roll-up-the-sleeves-and-work mindset. Needs to improve off his 25.8% 3-point number from last season, and I'm betting he does. Even if he doesn't, though, there's so many pieces of his game that translate to the NBA.
6. Rockets: Adrian Griffin (Duke)
Griffin at No. 6 may look silly a year from now, but there's a very real chance he goes No. 1 next summer. The combination of his 6-foot-7 frame, explosiveness and shot-making separate him as one of the most exciting prospects in this class. Personally, I'm taking a wait-and-see approach. He's coming off a year in which he sat because of an ankle injury, and that's a year removed from suffering a knee injury. He and Banchero are two of the biggest reasons I'm buying Duke title stock already, though. There's not a more talented 1-2 in the ACC -- and maybe the country -- than the Blue Devils will have with that duo.
Even on a loaded Michigan team that'll feature sophomore Hunter Dickinson, Houstan looks like a one-and-done lottery pick because of his refined skill set for his size. He can shoot it well with deep range, has a mature frame at 6-foot-8 and the size to be a jumbo-sized wing due to his ability to put the ball on the floor and create. Led Team Canada in scoring at the FIBA U-19 World Cup earlier this summer and struggled efficiency-wise, but finds a great fit at Michigan where he'll really be able to showcase his skills.
8. Hornets: Nikola Jovic (Serbia)
Nikola Jovic is a big man out of Serbia (not to be confused with Nikola Jokic out of Serbia; he's the reigning NBA MVP) who, at 18 years old, will start this season squarely in the lottery discussion after averaging 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and hitting 40% from 3-point range as a 17-year-old last season for Mega Basket. Jovic plays like a big guard, as he can create off the dribble and has really good passing skills, and at 6-foot-10 that blend of talent is worthy of top-10 consideration.
9. Timberwolves: Patrick Baldwin (UW-Milwaukee)
An ankle injury early in Baldwin's senior season derailed a promising year in which he might've made a real push for the No. 1 recruit in his class. Now fully healthy, he's set to be a superstar for UW-Milwaukee -- where his father coaches -- this upcoming season because of his elite shooting ability for his size and position.
The son of former big man Jabari Smith, Jabari Smith Jr. has the size, skill and feel to be a fit at the power forward in today's modern game. Good shooter who can stretch the floor but has the skill to play inside, too, though he needs to add to his wiry frame in college. Should be one of the few must-watch freshmen in college hoops next season as a day-one contributor for Auburn next to UNC transfer Walker Kessler. Holy fun.
I'll admit I am higher than most on Chandler entering the season. The rub here is that he's on the smaller size for an NBA point guard (6-foot-1). The counter -- and his own personal counter on the court -- is that he's a First-Team All-Does Everything frontrunner next season. High-level passer who is a true floor general and loves affecting winning in all the small ways. Guards with his IQ and confidence are those I tend to gravitate toward, and I think he can be a lottery pick if it clicks for him under Rick Barnes at Tennessee.
12. Raptors: Yannick Nzosa (Congo)
Nzosa is a long, lean 7-footer who projects as a run-and-rim big at the next level. Moves very well for his size and uses his length to affect shots on defense. He has a nice little lefty floater and pretty good touch around the bucket, but at this point he's primarily a lob finisher whose main appeal is as a do-it-all versatile defender.
13. Wizards: Peyton Watson (UCLA)
On a loaded UCLA team next season featuring Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr., both potential first-rounders, Watson is likely off the board first in 2022. He's a 6-foot-8 wing whose length is disruptive on defense. He's still developing on offense, and physically there's some room for him to grow, but jumbo prospects with the upside of a combo guard/wing like him typically go earlier than later in drafts.
In the span of only a year, Washington has transformed from a recruit barely ranked in the top-100 to a borderline top-10 recruit. He's a true combo guard who can score it at every level, and knows how and when to get teammates involved, too. Expecting him to take over a starting role at Kentucky and emerge as a lottery guy if what we've seen over the last year continues.
15. Bulls: Roko Prkacin (Cibona)
Prkacin had some real first-round momentum before withdrawing late in the 2021 NBA Draft process. He should enter next year as a potential first-rounder because of his 6-foot-10 frame and floor-spacing potential after making 39.4% of his 3s with Cibona last season in the Adriatic League.
16. Rockets (via Heat): J.D. Davison (Alabama)
Nate Oats has a habit of recruiting and producing big-time guard prospects, and after two of his understudies went in the lottery in consecutive years (Kira Lewis Jr. and Josh Primo), Davison might be ready to keep that streak alive. He's a physically mature freshman ready to step in and take the reins from day one in Tuscaloosa, and his power and explosiveness from the lead guard spot should make him a can't-miss first-rounder.
17. Knicks: Marcus Bagley (Arizona State)
Not participating in the NBA Draft Combine didn't help Bagley's stock and, ultimately, he chose to return to Arizona State. It was probably the right call. He played in only 12 games because of injuries and didn't quite get to showcase his full array of skills. That hopefully won't be the case this season. He should be the focal point of what ASU does with Josh Christopher gone, and his game projects well as a big-bodied 3-and-D wing.
18. Nuggets: Johnny Juzang (UCLA)
The way Juzang took -- and made -- tough shots in the NCAA Tournament generated serious first-round buzz before he withdrew and returned to UCLA. He should be one of the faces of college basketball next season for a top-five Bruins team, and if he's able to build off his March Madness run, there will be first-round interest in him as a 6-foot-6 wing who can get buckets.
19. Trail Blazers: Kendall Brown (Baylor)
Scott Drew has never had a one-and-done get drafted in the first round, but Brown could -- and most likely will -- be the first. He's a 6-foot-8 wing with a great positional size advantage and crazy athleticism who will be highly-coveted for teams looking to add a long defensive wing with major long-term upside.
20. Hawks: Jean Montero (Overtime Elite)
Overtime Elite landing Montero was a massive win for the startup league. He's got top-10 potential and could really help the league establish a pipeline to the NBA. More than that, though, Montero is just an absolute show-stopper. He plays with so much swagger and pizazz on the court and has the skills -- namely as a scorer and creator -- to back it all up.
21. Mavericks: Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona)
Mathurin made a strong impression playing for Canada at the FIBA U-19 World Cup where he averaged the seventh-most points per game among all players (16.1) and shot 48.8% from the field and 34.5% from 3-point range (after making 52.1% on 2s and 41.8% on 3s as a freshman at Arizona). The elevator pitch for him is simple: he's a big wing who can really shoot it.
22. Thunder (via LAC): Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite)
G League Ignite will feature Daniels next to Hardy next season as one of the most fun and electric backcourts to watch in the game. Daniels is coming off a strong FIBA U-19 World Cup showing in which he averaged 14 points and 4.6 assists per game for Australia, and he has the scoring and playmaking chops to be a legitimate wing creator.
23. 76ers: Dylan Disu (Texas)
Disu averaged 15.0 points and 9.2 rebounds while hitting 36.9% of his 3s last season at Vanderbilt. He'll be featured in the first iteration of Texas' new-look program under Chris Beard and his size, scoring and willingness to crash the boards could draw interest from teams in the first round.
24. Warriors: Mark Williams (Duke)
Overcoming a slow start to his Duke career, Williams finished with a flurry as a freshman last season averaging 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds over his final six games -- including a monstrous 23 points and 19 rebounds in the season finale against Louisville. He should be able to pick up where he left off last season and the fit next to Banchero in the frontcourt should benefit him.
25. Grizzlies (via Jazz): Matthew Mayer (Baylor)
After losing four starters, two of which were drafted (Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler), Mayer is in line for a feature role with the reigning title winners of Baylor. There's reason to buy into his talent in an expanded role after hitting 39.5% of his 3s last season as a 6-foot-9 role-player. Could be one of college basketball's big breakout stars in 2021-22.
26. Celtics: Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech)
Really like Shannon Jr. as a prospect and had him as a top-40 guy in the 2021 draft before he returned to school. 6-foot-6 shooting guard who gets after it defensively and can attack downhill (to say nothing of his powerful finishing ability). Needs to improve his shot after hitting only 32.8% from 3 in his first two seasons. I buy the touch and the silky left-handed release.
27. Pelicans (via Lakers): Kadary Richmond (Seton Hall)
Richmond averaged 6.3 points and 2.6 boards per game as a freshman at Syracuse last season but routinely was one of the more impactful players on the Orange roster. In a bigger role at Seton Hall, teams will love what they see from him defensively. If his offense develops from last year, he'll be on the first-round radar.
28. Thunder (via Suns): Ousmane Dieng (France)
Really intriguing long-term prospect here with Dieng, who at 6-foot-9 has real playmaking and passing chops for his position and effectively operates as a primary ball-handler. Still very young and needs to add to his long and slender frame, but has the baseline to be one of the draft's biggest booms if it comes together for him.
29. Heat (via Nets): Jabari Walker (Colorado)
Like a number of others on this list, the appeal with Walker is two-fold: He has an NBA frame for a forward and can shoot the leather off the ball. He made 52.3% of his 3s as a freshman last season, albeit on only 44 attempts. With McKinley Wright IV off to the NBA he'll see an expanded role as a sophomore.
30. Bucks: Daimion Collins (Kentucky)
Athletically, Collins is going to check all the boxes of a first-round pick: he's an explosive leaper who has crazy long arms and can do a little of everything around the rim on both ends of the court. He may be more of a developmental prospect, though. Very raw and thin. Still, he's the type of player teams tend to bet on, and if some of that comes together for him at Kentucky he'll easily slide up this list.