Winners and Losers from the 2022 NBA Draft

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The 2022 NBA Draft has come and gone. Now it’s time for the offseason, where we tackle free agency, watch the Knicks miss out on a star player, and see which productive player the Kings will inexplicably trade. It’s one of the best times of the year! Let’s grade some winners and losers from what turned out to be a surprisingly interesting draft.

Winners

Detroit Pistons 

The Pistons struck oil by having Ivey fall into their lap (more on that in a second), and other than securing a possible franchise point guard, they acquired a young center in Jalen Duren after the Hornets drafted him with the 13th pick. The Pistons are bad enough — and young enough — that these two guys fit in well with their roster and timeline. GM Troy Weaver has done a good job of loading the Pistons up with productive, young talent like Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart. And they have done a huge favor to those of us who still believe in Marvin Bagley (there’s a small group of us but we are still here), as Bagley looks rejuvenated and healthy as ever on this Pistons squad. Thank you, Pistons. And good job.

Houston Rockets 

While I like Banchero and Holmgren, I thought Auburn’s Jabari Smith was the best player in the Draft, and he happened to fall to Houston at number three. Anytime you can get arguably the best player in the Draft at a spot like that it’s a win (shades of Luka falling to three in 2018). People are throwing Durant comparisons around like it’s nothing, and I’m not a fan of that, but I do think Jabari’s game translates very well with his size, shooting, and overall playmaking ability. And just like at Auburn, he will be playing with guards who like to shoot way too much! It’s like the movie Groundhog Day and Jabari Smith is Bill Murray.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other Rockets picks where they grabbed the versatile, athletic wing Tari Eason from LSU 17th overall, and Kentucky guard TyTy Washington at 29. The Washington pick is somewhat of a steal given where it came in the Draft for a guy who has loads of talent even though his season at Kentucky was a bit underwhelming. A very well done draft by the Rockets front office.

Philadelphia 76ers 

The Sixers didn’t actually acquire anyone through the Draft process but that doesn’t mean they sat the night out. They quietly made a trade that I thought was really good for them, sending 35 year-old Danny Green to Memphis along with the 23rd pick for backup guard De’Anthony Melton. (And yes, that is former Hawks-were-looking-at-this-guy-in-free-agency guard De’Anthony Melton, as he’s known to some). Melton was really productive off the bench for Memphis last season while averaging almost 11 points and shooting 40 percent. It looks like Matisse Thybulle is on his way out, and Melton is another good guard to add next to James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Shake Milton. Don’t get me wrong, the Sixers aren’t winning a title because of this trade…but does it make them a little better? I think yes.

Losers

Sacramento Kings 

I’m going to try really hard not to totally bash the Kings here, but they make it very challenging. (I’m still recovering from them trading Haliburton–an efficient, team-first guard who will have a long career and wanted to be in Sacramento–for Sabonis–who has never won a playoff series and plays a position they really didn’t need any help with). The Kings passed on Jaden Ivey, the player everyone agreed topped off this “four person draft,” for the Iowa forward, Keegan Murray with the fourth pick. I’m a firm believer of taking the best player available, regardless of team fit, and figuring out the rest later. Just take the guy that will turn out the best! You’re the Kings! I think Murray will be fine as a player, but Ivey has a much higher ceiling. For them to pass on Ivey was an awful mistake that will just be added to the long list of Sacramento draft screwups.

The other thing that makes this horrible was that the Pistons, who took Ivey fifth, said they had other teams calling left and right trying to trade up to take the Purdue guard. So if you’re Sacramento and you know you aren’t taking Ivey, why would you not trade down and add some more draft picks? It is seriously mind boggling and frustrating. There is so much wrong with the pick. I was in a Buffalo Wild Wings watching and had to stop and compose myself from having a mental breakdown when the selection was announced. Anyways, this is what the Kings do. Have fun as the 12-seed next year.

New York Knicks

I’m not just going to pile on to the Knicks like everyone else did, but there were definitely moves that could’ve been made with the 11th pick other than trading it away.

To be clear, the Thunder got the 11th pick from the Knicks and selected Ousmane Dieng, while New York got back Detroit’s heavily protected 2023 1st round selection, Washington’s heavily protected 2023 1st round pick, and Denver’s 2023 1st round pick (also heavily protected).

I like the idea of getting picks, but the point of the picks is they have to turn into something. The chance of any one of those picks ending up top ten are basically none. So if the Knicks traded the 11th pick–where they could’ve taken AJ Griffin, Mark Williams, Jalen Duren, etc.–for three late first round picks, then it’s a major loss in my eyes. BUT, should the Knicks use those newly acquired picks in a trade for a big named player…say, Kyrie Irving or Donovan Mitchell, then I think that draft day trade becomes a success. Or maybe the Knicks trade their three 2023 1st round picks to move way up in next year’s draft. Point is, if the Knicks can successfully use those picks for something then it’s a win. But for right now, it’s nothing.

Best 1st Round Pick

Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons 

Like I said before, Ivey was a steal even if it was just the fifth pick. I love his fit in Detroit. An explosive guard that can attack the rim and punish defenders with his first step, paired next to the bigger guard/wing Cade Cunningham who can help stretch the floor. They will work beautifully. Add in Saddiq Bey, who had a really good 2022 season, and Isaiah Stewart, who brings a physicality and toughness to the group–I really like Detroit’s direction. If they could add a notable free agent with all that cap space, like a DeAndre Ayton, then they become a pretty complete roster filled with defenders, attackers, and shooters. I can’t wait to watch them on League Pass next year.

Worst 1st Round Pick

Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings 

I already ranted about this. It’s just inexcusable by the Kings until I see a valid reason/excuse as to why they didn’t take Ivey, or even trade down for Murray. It makes no sense at all. It was by far the worst, most baffling pick of the first round. The other one would be…

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers 

I wouldn’t actually say this was one of the worst picks; it just didn’t make much sense. Sharpe has a chance to be a really good scorer and shot creator, but the Blazers don’t really need that. I know I said take the best player regardless of fit, and I  mean that. But sometimes there are situations that call for something else, especially with other good guys still available. Portland needed size and/or defense.

With only three guys taller than 6’9″ (two of them don’t even get minutes), the Blazers would’ve been smart to trade down, add some draft picks, and take someone like Mark Williams. Johnny Davis would’ve been another good one for a guard spot. Personally, I thought the best pick for them was Jeremy Sochan out of Baylor because of his size and defensive flexibility. He doesn’t need the ball a ton and would fit in great next to Lillard, Simons, and Nurkic. This doesn’t come close to the Kings pick, though. Sharpe could turn out to be good and everything is fine.

Best 2nd Round Pick

Christian Koloko, Toronto Raptors

This is such a Raptors pick, and I really liked it. Koloko can do a lot of good stuff as a 7’1″ center. He can score inside well, and shot a very efficient 63% last season for Arizona. He does good work on the glass, but it’s his almost three blocks per game that stand out. Defensively, he will fit in nicely with the Raptors and coach Nick Nurse, and as a good teammate, he will buy into the Raptors culture. I’m not saying he’s going to win an MVP and make an All-NBA team or anything like that. But he couldn’t have been drafted to a better organization that develops complete basketball players. I expect him to be a solid rotation piece off the bench at the very least.

Best Fit

Mark Williams, Charlotte Hornets 

I’ve been preaching the good word on the Duke center, Mark Williams for a long time. We just watched Kevon Looney play a key part in the Warriors winning the title. If you can get easy layups, rebound the ball, and just be big while playing decent help defense then you can make it in this league, and I think Mark Williams can do just that. There’s also the possibility of him adding a jump shot to his game. I was really hoping the Hornets would take him at 15 and they did. He doesn’t command the ball. He’s a good shot blocker. And LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Gordon Hayward will love running pick-and-roll with him. I can’t get enough Mark Williams stock, and I think he’s the type of guy who sticks around the league for a while. He seems like an automatic 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. Love the pick up by Charlotte.

AJ Griffin, Atlanta Hawks 

It was a perfect match when AJ Griffin fell to 16 for the Hawks. Griffin can be a really good 3-and-D guy in this league, but the good news for the Hawks is the defense. He has a bit of an injury history, but it was worth the risk because when healthy, he can be an impact player. We just saw Jaylen Brown play well on his way to a Finals appearance, and if Griffin can improve some of the other areas of his game, then he could be the Hawks version of Brown. He doesn’t need the ball a lot to be effective either. Just put him on a wing or in a corner and let him shoot, or let him guard one of the best players on the other team. Feels like Griffin is a smart pick and a good fit in Atlanta.

“This Guy Was Always Destined To Get Drafted By That Team” Award goes to…

Jeremy Sochan, San Antonio Spurs

Congratulations to Jeremy and the Spurs organization. This is probably the best thing the Spurs have won in the Popovich era. It was always going to be Sochan, wasn’t it? He’s super active, athletic, and can guard all five positions well. He will definitely have to work on his scoring and shooting, but guys like Sochan could fit on any team in the league. He’s the perfect Spurs player, and his competitive spirit and hustle will make him a fan favorite. Pop will mold him into such a good player. If he develops a jumper, then watch out.

“We Will See This Guy Playing A Meaningful Role In The Finals In, Like, Ten Years” Award goes to…

Jalen Williams, OKC Thunder

This is also called the “Tyrese Haliburton” award. I really liked Jalen Williams from Santa Clara and was sneaky hoping he would be there for the Hawks at 16. Seeing comparisons of him to players like OG Anunoby and TJ Warren feel warranted for a guy who is a good passing ball mover and decent defender. It seems that guys like Williams stick around the league for a while because of their play style. He could fit on most teams because of his selfless play. Think Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Bobby Portis…not world beaters or max contract guys, but guys who make winning basketball plays on Finals teams. We are destined to see him play a big role off the bench in the 2032 Finals.

Photographer: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

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