The 2022 NBA Draft is underway at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and this year, the mystery starts at the very top with the Orlando Magic.
Throughout the night, FOX Sports College Basketball Analyst John Fanta will be giving his immediate analysis and grade for each pick in the first round, so make sure to follow along.
1. Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero, forward, Duke
Before we analyze any talent, let’s make one thing clear: the first name is made for him to be a big star in the NBA because it is so uniquely identifiable. A huge part of what makes Banchero so special is his combination of speed and comfort level to embrace contact. His ball-handling skills are those of a guard, and Banchero’s knack for being able to change the pace in transition is special for a player at his stature. He possesses outstanding body control and can also serve as a facilitator in an offense. His passing ability is underrated.
The biggest issue with Banchero is the perimeter shot. If he shows he can consistently stretch the floor and hit threes in the NBA, he could change a franchise. His 34 percent mark from deep is the area in question, but Banchero carries so many more pros than that con. He can be a go-to star for a team in the NBA.
The Magic are in need of everything. Orlando has an All-NBA Rookie Team member in Franz Wagner, but beyond him, the Magic just need to find quality NBA players. So, while this may come as a surprise, the Magic picked the most NBA ready player in this draft class with the selection of Banchero. Grade: A
By the numbers: Averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 48% from the floor. Becomes fifth Duke player to be drafted No. 1 overall.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren, F/C, Gonzaga
Holmgren is the most debated prospect in this draft class because the unicorn skill set is so fascinating, yet the fact he’s only 195 pounds carries concern regardless of what he did in the college game. But Holmgren likes physicality; he embraces contact and plays comfortably on the interior. The Minneapolis native was a consensus Second Team All-American this past season while notching WCC Defensive Player and Freshman of the Year honors.
It’s not as simple as taking away the perimeter game from him and making him shoot from deep, because Holmgren proved that doesn’t work. The question is simple: Can a body this unique handle the workload of an 82-game NBA season? The league is evolving, and Holmgren possesses the mentality that a big man has to have to achieve success in the league. He has offensive versatility. He has the work ethic and attitude to fit into a locker room. He puts his body on the line if it means he can stop a shot. But, will Holmgren’s lack of weight keep him from being able to battle night in and night out with the best bigs in the world? We shall see.
With four of the top 34 picks in this draft, the Thunder have lost a lot of games and racked up as many assets that they can get. With all of those picks, trying to make the splash of the draft is in play, and it fits the identity of general manager Sam Presti. Holmgren, if he pans out, could prove to be a generational talent. That’s a big “if” but with other picks ahead, it makes a ton of sense to get the unicorn of the draft. Grade: A
By the numbers: Led all of college basketball with a 78.7 defensive rating and averaged 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game while shooting 61% from the field and 39% from three. Is highest-drafted Gonzaga player of all time.
3. Houston Rockets: Jabari Smith, forward, Auburn
Bruce Pearl called him the greatest player he’s ever coached. The NABC Freshman of the Year and Second Team All-American lived up to the hype in his one year at Auburn. His shooting stroke is pure, and the catch-and-shoot ability that he possesses could make him a nightmare for opposing teams to defend. He has the explosiveness to rise above the rim, and defense should not be a concern. If there is an area for him to work on, it’s his ball handling, but that’s nit-picking.
Beyond basketball skills, Smith checks off every box. His father played for four seasons in the NBA, and Smith’s awareness level and maturity show that he’s been so groomed for this moment. Combine the size with his level of poise and a shot-making mentality in a shot-making league, and there’s reason to believe that Smith could be a superstar in The Association for years to come.
The Rockets have an All-NBA Rookie selection in Jalen Green at guard, and now he has a teammate to make up quite a duo in Houston. The Rockets needed a big who can shoot, and Smith’s mechanics are outstanding. He can run the floor really well, which fits Stephen Silas’ system. In Houston, they should be rejoicing. This is a third pick that could be the best player in the draft. Grade: A
By the numbers: Averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while shooting over 42% from both the field and beyond the arc.
4. Sacramento Kings: Keegan Murray, forward, Iowa
After earning Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors in 2020-21, Murray rocketed into becoming one of college basketball’s best players as a sophomore. He took what appeared to be a retooling Iowa program and powered Fran McCaffrey’s Hawkeyes to the program’s first Big Ten Tournament championship since 2006. Murray used his 6-foot-8 frame to his advantage, combining size with a smooth level of body control to be a difficult force to stop on the go.
The Iowa native was as efficient as any player in college hoops this past season and proved he could score in a variety of ways. Defensively, there’s room for improvement for Murray, and he won’t be confused as a great passer. But, in a scoring-driven league, that area of Murray’s game is going to translate at the next level.
The Kings need perimeter shooting, and Murray fits that mold to a tee. They shot 34 percent from the floor last year, so this addresses a need. He fits well potentially with De’Aaron Fox, but is he the fourth-best player in this draft? Not so sure about that. Grade: B+
By the numbers: Averaged 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 55% from the floor. First Iowa player drafted in the first round since Ricky Davis in 1998.
5. Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey, guard, Purdue
The First Team All-Big Ten selection and Second Team All-American took off in his second year at Purdue, becoming one of the most electrifying players in college basketball. Ivey more than doubled his scoring and rebounding from his freshman season. He has bloomed into one of the best pure athletes in the class, if not the best. Ivey’s first step is what separates him from other guards in this class, and when he gets on the move towards the basket, he glides.
What makes him a top-five pick is his ability to impact the game in transition. There are some potential pitfalls, with Ivey’s perimeter game going through droughts at times in college. The other key area for Ivey to address is his defense. At times, he showed he can be a great defender. His 6-foot-9 wingspan certainly causes issues. But, the defense would come and go as well. Can he be an everyday defender? That’s a big question for him to answer.
The Pistons reeled in the best athlete in this draft class, and selected another potential cornerstone piece to help make Cade Cunningham’s life easier. The thought of Ivey in transition combined with Cunningham on the floor has special potential. Detroit should be viewed as a winner of draft night. Grade: A
By the numbers: Averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 35.8% from 3-point range.
6. Indiana Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin, wing, Arizona
The Pac-12 Player of the Year and Second Team All-American is super athletic and possesses one of the best shooting strokes in the draft class. Where Mathurin does the most damage is in transition. He flashes on the run with the ability to throw down that momentum-changing slam or deliver a pass that will raise eyebrows.
The negative with Mathurin? He is raw defensively and can be turnover prone at times. He can be a quality second option for a team, with the ability to take over at times in games if all goes right because he knows how to shoot over people and with the right coaching staff, could maximize upside.
The Pacers are set at the guard position with Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, T.J. McConnell and Malcolm Brogdon. Mathurin gives them a reliable wing who can play off lead guard play. His shooting stroke will help Indiana and he can add a different dimension for them in transition. Grade: A-
By the numbers: Averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 boards and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 45% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. Was a member of Canada’s U19 team that took the bronze medal at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup in Latvia.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: Shaedon Sharpe, guard, Kentucky
Sharpe may be the biggest high-risk, high-reward prospect in the draft class. He’s super athletic and long, and can play above the rim. His shooting touch is elite, and he has the ability to provide a scoring burst for a team at the next level. While Sharpe fits the mold of a score-first guard, he is a capable passer and can make plays for teammates. So, why isn’t he higher on the board? What makes him such a high risk?
He did not play appear in a game at Kentucky this past season after reclassifying to be available for the second semester in Lexington. Add in the fact that Sharpe has only appeared in 42 competitive games since 2019, and it begs the question of whether or not he will be able to handle the challenges that come with transitioning to the NBA without going through much beforehand. This is felt on the defensive end of the floor, where Sharpe didn’t really shine in the sample size we do have. There’s also cause for concern with Sharpe’s shot selection and how he picks his spots in the NBA, with him not playing real 5-on-5 action since the Nike EYBL Circuit last July.
The Blazers are looking to build at every position surrounding Damian Lillard. They need more scoring threats, and at surface level, that is Sharpe’s game. That said, there’s just such a high level of variance with what Sharpe ends up being. Is Sharpe a win-now player? We’ll see. Grade: B-
By the numbers: Ranked the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2022 class by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports prior to enrolling at Kentucky a semester early. Averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the 2021 Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Los Angeles Lakers): Dyson Daniels, wing, G League
As part of a G League Ignite program that sees some young players take too many shots, Daniels is the exact opposite of that. He was a team player for Ignite, flashing his ball-handling skills and delivering pro-type passes throughout this past season. Daniels is a big guard, and because of his frame, his defense is beyond his years. There’s an argument to be heard that he’s the best defensive guard in this class.
He’s very switchable and is strong at fighting through ball screens. Beyond what he does as a distributor and defender, Daniels’ level of maturity and poise is really impressive. Having spent time with the 19-year-old in Las Vegas during his Ignite season, his selfless attitude and want to win oozed out of him. He has the type of demeanor, IQ and overall skill set to be a solid role player for a long time. The one concern? His jumper.
The Pelicans need shooting and defense. Daniels addresses the latter part. With the core of Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, and the return of Zion Williamson to the fold, it’s going to be interesting to see how a willing passer like Daniels fits in. The perimeter shot certainly needs work, but I think that’s something to bet on. I’m bullish on Daniels and think he’s mature for 19. Grade: A-
By the numbers: Averaged 4.5 assists per game to go along with 11.0 points and 6.3 rebounds. Represented Australia in July’s FIBA U19 World Cup, averaging 14 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists through seven games in Latvia
9. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Sochan, forward, Baylor
Disruptive. Defender. That’s what a team is getting when they draft the Baylor Bears product. The Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year can guard any position with a wingspan over seven feet and quickness that jumps off the page. The way that he came into Scott Drew’s program and carved out the role of being the stopper for the Bears was really impressive. He doesn’t take a play off on that end of the floor, and it would not be a surprise at all to see him emerge as an All-NBA Defensive Team selection down the road.
The downside to Sochan? He’s not a shooter. He has the quickness to beat a defender, but a concern could be that a team packs it in when he gets the ball on the perimeter. That said, his fingerprints are all over a game when he’s on the floor, and to stand at 6-foot-9 and switch on anybody defensively carries so much value in today’s NBA.
This is a very on-brand pick by San Antonio. Jeremy Sochan will never lack effort and never takes a play off defensively. His offense? It’s raw. But, the Spurs need frontcourt pieces and with their coaching staff, the developmental fit for Sochan is fascinating. They have Dejounte Murray and backcourt depth. Sochan addresses the top need for San Antonio. Grade: A-
By the numbers: Averaged 9.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this past season. Became the youngest player in Polish Men’s National Team history when he played for the team in 2021.
10. Washington Wizards: Johnny Davis, wing, Wisconsin
The Big Ten Player of the Year and Jerry West Award winner was college basketball’s breakout star this past season, doing anything and everything for the Badgers. What stands out about Davis offensively is his aggressiveness on the drive. He played with no fear in the challenging Big Ten, and could finish at the rim in a variety of ways.
One of Davis’ big strengths this past season was his post-up game, combined with an ability to hit the mid-range pullup shot. On the defensive side of the floor, Davis really competes. He’s relentless guarding the ball and fighting through screens, and can be disruptive in passing lanes. There’s a lot to like about the effort level he gives on that end, combined with the scoring bursts he delivered for Wisconsin this past season time and again in critical moments.
Davis can be a ball stopper on offense and takes a lot of higher degree of difficulty shots. His perimeter game took a step back as a sophomore as well, as he went from 38% from deep as a freshman down to 31%. Those are the elements of his game that need to come along, but there’s a pathway for him to fit a 3-and-D mold for a team, and his maturity could lead him to evolving into even more of a role than that. There’s high upside to Davis after a splash season.
By the numbers: Won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup. Averaged 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
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