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 the 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 in 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.
The Wizards need help for Bradley Beal, and a physical guard like Johnny Davis is just what the doctor ordered. He can break down a defense and is a capable defender. This makes a lot of sense for Washington, and with a lot of variance in this draft beyond him, it’s a nice value at No. 10. Grade: A
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.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (via New York Knicks): Ousmane Dieng, F/C, New Zealand Breakers
One of the most unique prospects in this draft, Dieng presents a special combination of ball-handling skills with a 7-foot wingspan. After spending two years at INSEP, an academy in France, Dieng spent this past year playing in the NBL for the New Zealand Breakers. He’s following in the footsteps of LaMelo Ball, Josh Giddey and R.J. Hampton, who played in the NBL before becoming first-round draft selections. He came into his own at the end of the season and the game slowed down for him.
The fact that Dieng can handle the ball at his size makes him dangerous in the open floor because it allows him to draw defenders and create for others. At his stature, getting downhill makes him really dangerous and on the defensive end, he can guard positions one to four. The concern? Like many question marks surrounding the prospects in this class, it’s his perimeter shot. He’s shot 27% from three in the past two seasons of competitive action. Additionally, there are concerns with Dieng’s athleticism.
Following in the footsteps of their second overall pick, the Thunder are betting on potential with Dieng. He is a project and the perimeter shot needs work. Additionally, the inability to create his own shot is also concerning. I don’t love this pick at 11 for Oklahoma City. Grade: C+
By the numbers: Won Silver Medal at 2019 FIBA U16 European Championship, representing France. Averaged 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via LA Clippers): Jalen Williams, forward, Santa Clara
One of the best stories in the draft, Williams stayed the course at Santa Clara and has grown into a multidimensional wing that has a complete offensive package. He started out as a lead guard in high school, but with a significant eight-inch growth spurt, evolved into a playmaking wing. He can impact the game off the dribble in a variety of ways, whether it be a pull-up shot, a lethal floater, or a dish for a teammate to get a look.
Because of his length, Williams can guard 1-4. In terms of the negatives, Williams isn’t really an athletically explosive player and his activity on the defensive end of the floor is something that he can work on. That said, it’s not easy to be at the top of a scouting report every night and put up numbers, regardless of what league you play in.
The traditional wing skillset combined with a knack to make plays for others and the fact he only keeps getting better is what makes this yet another intriguing Sam Presti selection. It seems like Williams was a bit overvalued here at 12, though. Grade: B
By the numbers: Only the fourth player in Santa Clara’s history to be drafted in the first round and the first player since Steve Nash. Averaged 18.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
13. Detroit Pistons (via Charlotte Hornets): Jalen Duren, center, Memphis
He was the No. 1 player in the 2022 recruiting class before reclassifying to play for Penny Hardaway at Memphis. Duren won AAC Freshman of the Year and was an All-Conference First Team selection. With a 7-foot-5 wingspan, he fits the mold of an NBA center with an ability to provide explosive plays for a team above the rim. Duren runs the floor really well and one of his biggest strengths was reading the floor and catching lobs for easy dunks and finishes.
Effort is not a question with this 18-year-old. The issues with Duren are his footwork and decision-making. He’s just not a polished product and needs help with how he defends and works on the block. There are still many fine details that he needs to work on. He is a project, but one that could become a starter in the NBA in a best-case world.
For the sake of value, acquiring Jalen Duren makes sense for the Pistons. They could use a rim-running explosive big man. He’s a project and needs to learn how to defend, but for a center of the future, he’s as good an option as any at this point in the draft. Grade: B+
By the numbers: AAC Leader in blocks per game (2.1) and rebounds per game (8.1).
14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Ochai Agbaji, SF, Kansas
After testing the waters following his junior season, Agbaji took feedback and applied it to his senior year all the way to leading Bill Self’s Jayhawks to a national championship. A terrific athlete, Agbaji possesses a 6-foot-10 wingspan and an 8-foot-8 standing reach. He crosses off every box as a 3-and-D prospect with the ability to run the floor well and produce explosive plays for a team.
Inside the 3-point arc? That’s a negative. Agbaji has to show he can do something in that area, as he isn’t a strong ball handler nor a good passer. The perimeter shot is a big pro, but it can’t be the only one for him to pan out in the league.
The Cavaliers had a clear need at the wing position, and they addressed it with the veteran college player who can get it done on both ends of the floor. He can fit into Cleveland’s defensive mindset and knock down open shots with deliveries coming from a talented backcourt. This is a quality pick at 14. Grade: A
By the numbers: Set the school record for consecutive games with at least one made 3-point field goal at 53 games. Averaged 18.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game on 48% from the field and 41% from 3-point range.
15. Charlotte Hornets (via New Orleans Pelicans): Mark Williams, center, Duke
How much room is there for the vintage, interior-based center? With a 7-foot-7 wingspan and strong ability to run the floor, Williams wants to show that the presence he brings defensively as a rim protector combined with great hands to finish at the rim will allow for him to achieve success in The Association.
Williams garnered ACC Defensive Player of the Year accolades with 2.8 blocks per game. His rim protection skills are off the charts. The biggest concerns with Williams are that he can’t shoot the ball, and he’s an unproven passer. But, he protects the rim and can run to it with good quickness for his size and a great amount of strength.
The Hornets got their guy at center and reportedly acquired a future first-round pick and four future second-round picks by trading No. 13 in the process. To get Mark Williams at No. 15 addresses a clear need, and he does so much around the rim as a true 5. This gets a thumbs up from me, even though Williams is limited offensively. Grade: A-
By the numbers: Averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. Brother of WNBA veteran Elizabeth Williams, who also played for Duke and was the fourth pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft.
16. Atlanta Hawks: AJ Griffin, wing, Duke
He is one of the best pure shot-makers in the class, having gone 49% from the floor and 45% from 3-point land this past season. Griffin’s frame makes him a powerful player as well, coming in at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. He uses his strength to find separation off the dribble with a game that features a terrific stepback jumper. The shot, while unique, is consistent and has been at every level.
He’s shown he can finish at the rim as well and because of his physical frame, he takes contact well. On the defensive end, Griffin could be a liability. He doesn’t have good foot speed and got blown by at times in college.
The Hawks need supporting guard play to help Trae Young out, and they could use better defensive players. That said, the opportunity to pick arguably the best catch-and-shoot weapon in the draft and have him play off Young is really intriguing. Grade: B
By the numbers: His .447 3-point clip ranked fifth in Duke history and second by a Duke freshman. Won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, averaging 13.5 points and a team-high 3.3 steals per game in six contests.
17. Houston Rockets (via Brooklyn Nets): Tari Eason, forward, LSU
With a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Eason is incredibly strong and aggressive as a player. He does not react – he initiates. The biggest strength for the Los Angeles native is that he’s an elite defender, capable of guarding against 1 to 5. Eason has great hands to disrupt passing lanes and he’s so active on that end of the floor, it feels like there’s more than one of him. In fact, at times it feels like Eason is going too fast which can lead to careless mistakes.
Aggressiveness is great, but his feel for the game can lead him to doing too much at times, which creates questions for him as he gets on the floor with NBA players. The jumper is also inconsistent.
The Rockets have added length and defense on this draft night. The combo of Eason’s 7-foot-2 wingspan with Jabari Smith’s 7-foot-1 wingspan changes the way Houston can play defensively. There’s still so much for Eason to figure out on offense, but Houston is in developmental mode. Grade: B
By the numbers: 2021-22 SEC Leader in box plus-minus (14.7).
18. Chicago Bulls: Dalen Terry, wing, Arizona
There was a thought in mind before Terry elected to stay in the draft that had he stayed in college for the 2022-23 season and then gone pro, he would be a lottery pick next year. That said, as this draft has gotten closer, Terry’s stock has only kept rising. The Phoenix native did a little bit of everything offensively, and was one of the best defensive players in the Pac-12.
With a 7-foot-1 wingspan, ball-handling ability and decision-making skill set, Terry carries a ton of intrigue. He is incredibly active both on and off the ball as a defensive player, utilizing his quickness to disrupt the action. The key for Terry, like many prospects, is his perimeter shot. He shot 28-for-77 from beyond the arc this past season, and his confidence was up-and-down. Additionally, his mechanics are a bit off. He could be a point forward role player in the league, but his ceiling will be determined by whether he can score from the perimeter on a consistent basis.
The Bulls hit the home run of the teens in this draft. They needed defense. Terry will supply that, and his passing ability is super intriguing. Terry would have been a lottery pick next year. I love the high upside of Terry in Chicago. It’s a nice mix of fit and potential. Grade: A
By the numbers: Averaged a near double-double at 10.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
19. Memphis Grizzlies (via Minnesota Timberwolves): Jake LaRavia, forward, Wake Forest
Transferring from Indiana State to Wake Forest, LaRavia’s feel for the game helped the Demon Deacons to take a huge leap under Steve Forbes this past season. He has a smooth shot when his feet are set and is a good reader of passing lanes. He’s fundamentally sound off the ball and defensively.
The concerns lie with his lack of quickness and his inconsistencies with his shot off the dribble. That said, those issues are not what a team would be picking him on. LaRavia can come into an organization and be a catch-and-shoot weapon for a team while not being a liability on defense because he has a feel for the game.
The Grizzlies don’t have many needs, but one of them is 3-point shooting. LaRavia will come right into Memphis and fill that role, and his feel for the game defensively makes him yet another piece for the Grizz. Grade: A
By the numbers: Averaged 14.6 points, 6.6 boards and 3.7 assists per game.
20. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors): Malaki Branham, guard, Ohio State
Branham is a big-time shot-maker and it’s why he ended up being a one-and-done player in Columbus. The hometown kid showed in his year with the Buckeyes that he possesses a lethal midrange game containing a quick release. He also was comfortable drilling tough shots and finishing at the rim in the physical Big Ten. The issues with Branham? He needs to mature physically. At the moment, he’s 180 pounds.
This is a “best available talent” pick over it being a perfect fit for San Antonio, which is okay. Branham’s lack of defensive ability and explosiveness means that he has to develop under the Spurs staff, which is very much in play. The scoring punch he can add to this team is why he makes sense. There are several questions for him to answer in terms of strength, though. Grade: B
By the numbers: Set an OSU freshman record for points in a Big Ten game, scoring 35 points in the overtime win at Nebraska in January.
21. Denver Nuggets: Christian Braun, forward, Kansas
A great weapon in transition, Braun is an underrated explosive player who runs the floor well and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He really set an attitude for the national champion Jayhawks and fit into his role well, averaging 14.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 39% from 3. On the other end, Braun is a solid team defender who can switch and guard the perimeter well.
He won’t be confused as someone who can create his own shot. That isn’t Braun’s game, and it’s not what he would be getting drafted to do. He’s projected to be a role player for a team that comes off the bench, can connect on threes and play with toughness.
I think Braun is being overvalued as the No. 21 pick in the draft. He fits as a complementary piece to Jamal Murray and Bones Hyland, and will add to Denver’s locker room culturally. That said, Blake Wesley and Wendell Moore Jr. were both on the board and I wonder if Braun could have been picked later in the round by six to seven picks. Grade: C
By the numbers: Won the NCAA Championship in 2022 while shooting 39% from 3-point range.
22. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Utah Jazz): Walker Kessler, center, Auburn
The Atlanta native is an elite rim protector and runs the floor really well for a guy at his size. With a 7-foot-4 wingspan and 9-foot-5 standing reach, his measurables check off the boxes. Averaging 4.6 blocks per game, the defensive capabilities cannot be overstated. Offensively, Kessler’s game is limited. He struggles to create his own shot and his perimeter game needs work. It’s just not there yet. Kessler, while being strong at the rim, is also raw in other defensive areas. He is a scheme-based big.
I can understand what the Timberwolves were thinking in drafting a big who can play behind Karl-Anthony Towns and give Minnesota length they didn’t have. Kessler is the type of guy that’s not being selected on upside, though, and there were options for the T-Wolves to improve on the wing. Grade: B-
By the numbers: 2021-22 NCAA Blocks Leader (155 Blocks). 2022 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and 2022 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (via Philadelphia 76ers): David Roddy, guard, Colorado State
The Mountain West Player of the Year is a throwback talent who can do a little bit of everything at a unique size of 260 pounds. He led the Rams to the NCAA Tournament after averaging 19.2 points, 7.5 boards and 2.9 assists on 57% from the floor and 44% from three-point territory. He possesses terrific footwork and a wide-ranging offensive skill set that allows him to hit shots from anywhere. His spin move is underrated.
The negatives? He’s a heavy four-man, and it’s tough to find a defensive assignment for him. He struggles to stay on his man, and making the transition to the NBA level of guarding could prove to be really difficult for him. As much as Roddy can impact the game on offense, he needs a ton of work defensively and it’s hard to think there’s a lot of upside there.
David Roddy was a great college basketball player, but is he a top-25 pick in the NBA Draft? I just don’t see it. The Grizzlies have the luxury of being able to take a shot, but this is a pick that leaves me scratching my head. Hope I’m wrong. Grade: D+
By the numbers: 2022 Mountain West Player of the Year. Only the 3rd Colorado State player to be drafted in the First Round, and the first since 2007 (Jason Smith).
24. Milwaukee Bucks: Marjon Beauchamp, guard, G League Ignite
Beauchamp’s story is one everybody can get behind. Falling out of love for basketball during the pandemic, he went back home to Washington and played at the community college in his hometown, Yakima Valley. His love was restored, the NBA G League noticed, and he took advantage of his one year with Ignite to grow into a first-round prospect.
Beauchamp is a bull, possessing a strong frame and a 7-foot wingspan. He embraces contact and proved he can finish at the basket on the pro level. With a solid work ethic and his length, Beauchamp is also a quality, switchable defender. The issue? His shooting mechanics need more time to come together. He does not possess a reliable jumper at the moment and his offensive feel for the game needs work. That’s why he isn’t higher on boards.
Getting Beauchamp at No. 24 makes a lot of sense for the Bucks. He adds wing depth to a Milwaukee team that can use it and will fit right Into the organization’s defensive identity. His lack of skills offensively is a concern, but as a defensive specialist, this fits. Grade: A-
By the numbers: Averaged 15.1 points per game on 57.1% shooting from the field and 7.3 rebounds per game in the NBA G League.
25. San Antonio Spurs (via Boston Celtics): Blake Wesley, guard, Notre Dame
Wesley is an interesting prospect because he only scratched the surface of what he could be in a year at Notre Dame. He has explosiveness on the drive and a handle that could allow him to become a multidimensional scorer in the league. But he needs to get stronger.
Athleticism is not a question. He has a 6-foot-9 wingspan and an 8-foot-7 standing reach, which is a really strong result in that category. The issue with him is not being able to find separation but to be able to take well to contact and finish. Additionally, he only shot 30% from three this past season.
The value and pick at No. 25 is good for the Spurs to be able to get Wesley. He’s another project, but the explosiveness and athletic ability are promising. What he ends up being comes down to the shot, but seeing the selection of Wesley following Branham shows San Antonio’s collective goal of adding scoring guards. Grade: A-
By the numbers: Averaged 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game as a freshman. 2022 ACC All-Rookie Team selection.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Dallas Mavericks): Wendell Moore Jr., wing, Duke
Moore is the unique Duke product that didn’t go the one-and-done route, but was overwhelmed in his first season and gradually grew into becoming the Blue Devils’ most reliable perimeter weapon on a Final Four team as a junior. With a 7-foot wingspan, Moore is a strong player with a good feel for the game. He should not be overwhelmed by transitioning to the pro level.
There are concerns about his athleticism and whether this past season’s results from the perimeter are what he really will be in the NBA or not. In the last three seasons, he’s shot 21%, 30% and then the outlier 41% from three this past year.
The Timberwolves have a major need at the wing position, which Moore can fill. But, consider the trade: Minnesota gave up the 29th pick, which ended up being TyTy Washington to Houston, and two additional second-rounders to the Rockets for someone who has some athleticism and shooting questions. I’m not sold here. Grade: C
By the numbers: 2022 Julius Erving Award Winner, which is awarded to the top small forward in Division I men’s college basketball.
27. Miami Heat: Nikola Jović, forward, Serbia
Playing in Serbia and winning the Young Player of the Year award in the Adriatic League this past season, Jovic possesses a fascinating skillset as a shooter and distributor at his size. The reviews on him from those in the know internationally are that he has an exceptional handle. Not only can he attack the rim, but Jović averaged almost four assists per game this past season. He’s also a very high IQ player. The issues? Jović lacks strength and that impacts him negatively as a defender. He’s far from a finished product, but the defense needs a ton of work. He is very versatile, though.
The Miami Heat could use backup options at center beyond Bam Adebayo, so this pick makes sense. It’s difficult to give out a grade on such an unfinished product, but because of Jović’s offensive versatility and the Heat’s track record of developing players, this is a good landing spot. Grade: B+
By the numbers: Averaged 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in the Adriatic Basketball Association.
28. Golden State Warriors: Patrick Baldwin Jr., forward, Milwaukee
Baldwin is the epitome of a boom-or-bust prospect in this draft. With a 7-foot-2 wingspan and 9-foot-2 standing reach, Baldwin’s size speaks for itself. The bet on his game is that his perimeter shot and his turnaround jumper are going to make him a really difficult matchup for an opposing defense in the NBA. The sample size is limited, as his year at Milwaukee playing for his dad did not show much.
He only appeared in 11 games, re-aggravating an ankle injury that derailed his high school career. The concept of his game fitting as a big who can shoot is interesting. That said, his defense is nonexistent. He really does not appear to have much feel on that end of the floor, so much so that it makes him a hard sell right now as a first-round prospect. It’s also tough to tell how big of a motor Baldwin has.
Finding a big is a need for the world champions and Baldwin fits in that category. In terms of fit, Baldwin can’t ask for a better landing spot. His lack of athletic ability is really concerning, but Golden State betting on their player development system is something you can’t hate. Grade: B
By the numbers: 2021 McDonald’s All-American. Was rated the No. 4 player in the class of 2021.
29. Houston Rockets (via Memphis Grizzlies): TyTy Washington, guard, Kentucky
Washington plays with plenty of pace and has an awareness level that allows him to be a quality decision-maker. His passing ability in finding Oscar Tshiebwe in transition and Kellan Grady for a perimeter look was sharp.
The perimeter shot is an area of question, but the consensus is that his sample size in Lexington doesn’t tell the full story due to his ankle injuries. On the defensive end, his foot speed is cause for concern. Overall, he could be a potential secondary guard option.
The Rockets have to be viewed as one of the biggest winners in the first round of the draft. They ended up getting a guy who could have been a fringe lottery pick at the 29th spot, and garnered two additional picks in a trade with Minnesota. The Washington pick in this spot and for this team is a home run. Grade: A
By the numbers: Set a UK single-game record with 17 assists in the win over Georgia.
30. Denver Nuggets (via Phoenix Suns): Peyton Watson, guard, UCLA
Watson was pegged as a one-and-done prospect out of high school, but he didn’t help himself in his year at UCLA. Only averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, Watson did not see the floor much on a Sweet-16 team. He has incredible measurables with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and 8-foot-11 standing reach. His pull-up game is intriguing, but it’s his ability as a passer off quality ball-handling that makes his upside valuable.
The negative is that Watson really lacks strength and his body hasn’t matured. Some prospects could make up for that with shooting ability, but Watson went 32% from the field and 23% from three in a year at UCLA and didn’t showcase that skill set in high school either. Does he present potential with his length and playmaking ability? Perhaps. But, he’s very raw and has potentially a couple of seasons ahead to develop.
To me, it’s hard to justify a long-term project as a first-round pick, even if it is the last one in the first round. Max Christie and Caleb Houstan, who I discussed here, were available for the Nuggets’ need at wing. Grade: C
By the numbers: Won the Gold Medal at the 2021 FIBA U-19 World Cup in Latvia, representing the United States.
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