The 2022 NBA Draft is in the books with a number of surprises all over the board.
As is always the case in the immediate aftermath of the draft, it’s virtually impossible to determine how good or bad the decision that each team made was.
With that said, it’s still very possible to make a call on winners and losers from the draft based on the current information available.
The Rockets got the best news they could’ve possibly got at the very start of the draft when the Orlando Magic opted to take Duke forward Paolo Banchero No. 1 overall.
With the Oklahoma City Thunder locked in on Gonzaga centre Chet Holmgren, that left the door open for Houston at No. 3 to take multi-faceted Auburn big man Jabari Smith, a player who was projected to go first overall for months until just about a week ago when rumours started creeping in that Orlando might be leaning in Banchero’s direction.
To be clear, this isn’t a knock against the Blue Devil and the Magic’s decision as he features the kind of high-upside offensive package any team would love to have, but for the Rockets Smith makes a lot more sense as he looks to be a perfect fit with them.
Smith is a player with real All-Defensive team potential as a rim-protecting centre with the ability to switch around all over the floor, in addition to an emerging offensive perimeter game that could make him an interesting pick-and-pop combo candidate with promising young Houston guard Jalen Green.
Add the fact that the Rockets managed to secure another strong defensive prospect in LSU forward Tari Eason at 17 and then a significant-looking steal in Kentucky point guard TyTy Washington switch the 29th-overall selection and you have a recipe for a good night at the draft.
The Sixers made what appeared to be the most immediately impactful move of the night when they managed to swing a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies in order to acquire De’Anthony Melton.
All that was required for Philly to get the still just 24-year-old high-level pesky 3-and-D guard was the No. 23 pick and Danny Green – who at 35 years old and having just suffered a terrible injury to the ACL and LCL of his left knee during the playoffs might be on his last legs.
This is incredible value for a Sixers team that has no need to bring in and try to develop a mid first-rounder into a possible contributor. Instead, the 76ers managed to bring in a a player in Melton who has already proven to be a good role player as a strong perimeter defender who can knock down an open three when given the chance (he’s shot 41.2 and 37.4 per cent from deep over his last two seasons).
Melton is exactly the kind of complementary piece Philadelphia needs around the likes of Joel Embiid and James Harden.
Canadian basketball (again)
In what is becoming a simple fact of life in the NBA draft now, Canadian basketball had another fantastic evening.
First off, for just the second time ever, a pair of Canadians were taken in the top 10 of the draft with Montreal’s Bennedict Mathurin going to the Indiana Pacers and Shaedon Sharpe of London, Ont., getting taken by the Portland Trail Blazers. Even cooler is both young men were selected back-to-back at Nos. 6 and 7.
Mathurin and Sharpe join Andrew Wiggins (No. 1) and Nik Stauskas (No. 8) in 2018 as the only two Canadians to be selected within the first 10 picks in the same draft.
That wasn’t the end of Canada Basketball’s big night, however, as a few hours later, at the start of the second round, a couple of Canadians in Andrew Nembhard (Aurora, Ont.) and Caleb Houstan (Mississauga, Ont.) also went back-to-back with Nembhard also landing with Indiana at 31 and Houstan going to Orlando at 32.
Two pairs of Canadians each getting taken back-to-back in the NBA draft. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
The Kings appeared to squander leverage they had over the Detroit Pistons when they opted to just take Iowa forward Keegan Murray with the fourth-overall selection.
It was widely reported that Detroit was very interested in explosive Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, who was projected by just about every mock draft and big board as a player who would go No. 4.
So, from the outside looking in, the ball was in Sacramento’s court to try to squeeze a deal with Detroit and still move down to acquire Murray, who does appear to be a better fit for the Kings than Ivey does.
Instead, Sacramento opted to just make a straight pick for Murray, leaving the door open for the Pistons to swoop in and pair Cade Cunningham with their top target at no additional cost.
New York Knicks
On paper, the Knicks turning the No. 11 pick into three different first-round selections doesn’t seem all that bad, but when you consider the fact New York traded out of the lottery to acquire draft picks that probably won’t be in the lottery it gets a little murkier.
Additionally, the move to offload Kemba Walker’s contract in an effort to open up cap space is a little puzzling as well.
Is New York really all that desperate to try to make a run at Kyrie Irving and all the baggage that would bring? Or, more realistically, Jalen Brunson?
Sure, Brunson’s a good player, but he doesn’t appear to be a superstar. That is, until the Knicks possibly pays him like one.
Mock drafts and bettors who made use of them
As was usual, the many, many hours that plenty of draft experts and connected insiders poured into making mock drafts were torn to shreds. Some were likely busted immediately with the Magic going with Banchero at No. 1.
That’s old hat at this point, however. More interesting, though, is the trickle-down effect these expert mocks likely had on the now legal betting public who likely used resources like published mock drafts and big boards to help influence where they were going to put their money down.
This includes the likelihood of big trades with rumour-mongering flying everywhere, including a fairly loud one around OG Anunoby, the Toronto Raptors and Trail Blazers.
Nearly nothing went as was hyped up to be. Average bettors just looking to add a little extra excitement to the draft likely lost out as information in regards to what was going to happen ended up shifting dramatically in a tight amount of time.