BROOKLYN, New York What if they did the NBA draft and it was basically a real draft and not a chaotic trading carnival? Well, Thursday’s edition of 2022 lives up to the description where, with a few exceptions later in the first round, the players who put the team cap on their heads before shaking hands with commissioner Adam Silver still belonged to that team after leaving the stage.
So most NBA teams said we like the guy we got more than the offers we heard.
So: the draft went without any major surprises, and the only lottery drama was light and quickly resolved once the Orlando Magic made their No. 1 pick.
The Magic selected Duke’s Paolo Banchero, one of three players considered by many to be top picks. Unlike previous seasons, there was no consensus among the league’s talent scouts on which number one should be No. 1, and the Magic never spilled a hand in the draft; Banchero said he knew he was flying to Orlando about a minute before he was called.
With a stable of young defenders – Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz – in the rotation, Orlando relied on the defense of the front line. Wendell Carter signed center to a long-term contract, and the Magic got positive results at one forward from Franz Wagner, one of their two first-round picks last year and a first-team rookie selection. Thus, the Magic’s decision was between Banchero and Jabari Smith, who went to Houston at No. 3.
“Adding myself, I think it will cause a lot of problems for the teams,” Banchero said. “There are three guys 6-9, 6-10, 6-11 who can dribble, shoot, have a high IQ. I think it will be a huge advantage for us.”
Magic regains assets through draft; their top four scorers last year were aged 23 or younger. This does not include forward Jonathan Isaac, who has barely played the past two seasons while recovering from a knee injury; he is 24 years old and signed a rookie contract shortly after he started leg rehab.
This plan to rely primarily on the draft for help has historically met with mixed results. It worked for the Memphis Grizzlies, who set a franchise record with 56 wins and have a bright future. Not much for the Sacramento Kings, a lottery regular who is still chasing their first playoff appearance since 2006. Meanwhile, the fate of Oklahoma City is still determined by an excess of picks and projects.
Banchero has impressive skills and a mature game, demonstrating sharp offensive instincts. He helped Duke reach the Final Four last season and reaffirmed a promise made to him in high school, where he was considered one of the nation’s few top players.
“He was the best player in college basketball,” said Jeff Veltman, president of basketball in Orlando.
The top three prospective picks ended up filling those spots in this draft; after Banchero and before Smith, Chet Holmgren, the lanky Gonzaga center, finished second in Oklahoma City. Then the rough suspense began. Although there were eight deals in the first round, only two made the top 18 picks and none in the top 10.
The Pistons were expected to be one of the busiest teams in the offseason—they teased that by trading Jerami Grant to Portland earlier in the week, mostly to clear cap space. Well: Free agency doesn’t start until July 1, and in the meantime, the Pistons took the chance to capitalize on the draft by adding a second-round first-rounder in exchange for three teams.
The Pistons took defenseman Jayden Ivey from Purdue at No. 5 with his own pick, and then center Jalen Duren from Memphis with the Hornets’ pick (via the Knicks, more on them later) at No. 13. This means that in next season, the Pistons will feature these two, plus Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey, all 23 and under, and anyone they can add as free agents.
Charlotte also owned the number 15, and since that pick was only two positions down, general manager Mitch Kupchak figured his man would still be there with the last. And so it was; The Hornets have targeted Mark Williams, the defensively oriented center from Duke, who arrives and fills the need for a team desperate for muscle and rim stiffness.
Given the Hornets’ rotation is well-represented with youngsters, “we didn’t feel it was wise to use both picks,” Kupchak said.
The Knicks lost the 11th pick, Usman Dieng, who played in New Zealand, to OKC. The Thunder have returned three conditional first round picks from their treasure chest of future picks.
But that wasn’t the main move of the night for the Knicks, who packed one of the OKC first-rounders (23rd overall) with four second-rounders for No. 13 (Duren) Charlotte, whom they then packed with Kemba Walker. dumps salary in favor of the Pistons. After being hailed as the Knicks’ point guard savior, Walker lost his starting job and subsequently remained on the bench permanently.
Madness has a method: New York wants to free up as much money as possible to get a free agent working, presumably for Jalen Brunson of the Mavericks. As a reminder, the Knicks traded 11 (technically 13), Walker and a few seconds for a cap spot (targeting Brunson) and three future first-round players.
The Kings have used Iowa’s fourth-pick forward Keegan Murray and are looking to see him as a goaltender in many ways. Two of the last five Kings picks – all in the lottery – are no longer with the club (Marvin Bagley III, Tyrese Haliburton).
There was a common thread with the Blazers’ No. 7 pick Shaydon Sharpe and Portland’s Anferny Simons, who finished 24th in 2018. None of the defenders played college ball. Sharpe is the mystery of this project; by all accounts, the No. 1 high school player in the nation for 2022 finished the semester early and entered Kentucky in January to prepare for the 2022-2023 college season. But instead, Sharp, who practiced for one semester on campus, put forward his candidacy for the draft. His last official basketball game took place in the spring of 2021 when he was a high school student.
The Timberwolves earned three late first-rounders, aided by trades with the Grizzlies and Mavericks. They ended up with Walker Kessler, a shot-blocking center from Auburn, defenseman from Kentucky T.T. Washington (later traded to Houston), and wingman Wendell Moore Jr. from Duke. Memphis added a late pair in a trade: Jake LaRavia of Wake Forest (Timberwolves) and David Roddy of Colorado State (Sixers) moved to the Grizzlies.
The traditionally intense second round – teams without players from the first round are usually active here – after the first five selections there was a lot of movement. The Pistons, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Hornets, and Warriors added players mid or late in the second round in a trade.
The second round picks that felt like a first round — some of them must have been late in the first — are Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard to the Pacers at 31, Arizona’s Christian Koloko to the Raptors at 33, and G’s Jaden Hardy. League Ignites. Mavericks through Kings at 37.
When the night was over and all the names were called, the draft had served its purpose. The teams are younger, maybe better. But deep uncertainty? Will have to wait until release in a week.
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Sean Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can send him an email here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.