Prospect Watch: Key Questions for My First NBA Mock Draft of 2022 [Coming Thursday!]
Plus our Rookie, Sophomore and Draft Prospect of the Week
During the NBA, college and international seasons, my Tuesday newsletter will focus on NBA rookies and sophomores as well as prospects for the 2022 NBA Draft, especially those who have helped or hurt their stock in the past week.
My reports will be based on my own observations as well as information I receive from NBA scouts, executives and agents.
Prepping for Mock Draft 1.0
Our first 2022 Mock Draft is coming Thursday!
I’m typically reluctant to release Mock Drafts until the latter half of the NBA season for a couple of reasons.
First, my Mock Drafts are reported pieces that aim to provide insight into what each team will actually do. Each team has its own internal Big Board, and prospects are rated differently from team to team. When you factor in team needs (teams say they don’t, but they usually do), the Mock Draft can come out very differently from the Big Board, which is my attempt to capture consensus from across the league.
Second, the NBA standings typically change from night to night, meaning that the likely draft order can change night to night. But these days, those concerns are ameliorated by a couple of factors.
This year it looks like there are four teams (Orlando, Detroit, Houston and Oklahoma City) that will be duking it out for that 14% chance of landing the overall top pick. Since they all have essentially equal chances of landing the top pick, it provides for a fairly steady top of the lottery.
I’m also not going to venture outside of the lottery for this first Mock. With so many teams so close in the standings, within a week a team could move several spots in the draft. That means it’s harder for the teams themselves to sort out their options. When talking to most playoff-contending teams about their draft position, the answer I usually get is that they just don’t know. I believe them.
Here are some other key considerations for the Thursday debut of the Mock Draft.
Who’s No. 1?
I wrote in Big Board 3.0 that a consensus is starting to form that Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. should be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Of the lottery teams I surveyed, he’s become a pretty big favorite among most of them.
Right now, those three prospects are the only names in strong contention for the teams with the highest odds of winning the lottery. Purdue’s Jaden Ivey is a dark horse as I’ve written and as Fran Frascilla noted on my podcast.
Who’s the Top Guard in the Draft?
The consensus top three prospects for 2022 are big men.
At the moment, Ivey is the heavy favorite because of his elite athleticism. Davis is a hot name, but his shooting woes of late (he’s now down to 32.3% from 3) has scouts wringing their hands a bit. Hardy, who is coming off his best game of the season (30 points against Mexico City on January 9), has moved down from frontrunner to sleeper status.
Who’s the Top Wing in the Draft?
Wings dominated the 2021 NBA Draft. Given how coveted the position is, I expect they’ll make their mark again this year after some of the players noted above.
There’s a healthy debate among scouts about the best wing in this year’s draft, with freshmen AJ Griffin of Duke and Kendall Brown of Baylor atop the list for most NBA teams. While they are not putting up huge numbers or taking a lead role for their respective teams, Griffin and Brown are candidates to land in the top five.
Griffin, in particular, is a hot name. We profiled him three weeks ago in our Prospect Watch as a potential top-5 pick. More and more scouts are coming around to him going that high.
Two sophomores, Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin and Iowa’s Keegan Murray, also have a case, though teams worry they lack the upside of Griffin and Brown. At this point, I expect that all four will hear their names in the lottery.
The G League’s Dyson Daniels and Milwaukee’s Patrick Baldwin Jr. could also sneak in here. And don’t write off UCLA freshman Peyton Watson, who, despite a small role coming off the bench, has intrigued NBA teams with his defensive play.
Who is the Top Point Guard in the Draft?
While none of the top point guards look like they’ll crack the early part of the lottery, TyTy Washington’s strong play in Kentucky’s last three games might finally give him the edge in the debate over who is the best point guard in the 2022 draft.
Last week, with starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler out, Washington dropped 17 assists (along with 17 points) against Georgia. While Georgia isn’t the toughest opponent, Washington impressed when finally given the chance to run the show. It wasn’t just the assists that mattered — he also recorded just two turnovers against the Bulldogs.
Washington started at the point again last week against Vanderbilt, and while his numbers were more modest (15 points, four assists, three turnovers), he was pivotal in helping the Wildcats to another win.
Then on Saturday, with Wheeler back in the starting lineup, Washington had his best offensive game of the year, this time against a ranked opponent (Tennessee), scoring 28 points while shooting 10-for-13 from the field.
Washington’s ability to balance scoring with being a lead ball-handler is a key to his potential to be the top point guard in the draft. So is his 3-point shooting, which now stands at 41.1% on the season.
He’s not an elite athlete, nor does he have elite size for his position (although a 6’9” wingspan helps a lot). But with his patience, versatility, ability to run the pick-and-roll and talent for creating good midrange shots (Hoop-Math.com has him shooting an impressive 49.5% from midrange), Washington looks like he’s got the strongest case to be the first point guard taken in the draft over the likes of Alabama’s JD Davison, Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler and Overtime Elite’s Jean Montero.
Other Top Bigs
Memphis freshman Jalen Duren, Duke sophomore Mark Williams and Baylor freshman Jeremy Sochan are bigs who also have a shot at the lottery. Duren, especially, has fans given his age, NBA body and defensive ability. Williams is one of the three best shot blockers in the draft, while Sochan is a modern big who can stretch the floor.
Another key as we prep for our Mock Draft: Which teams have their picks, who has multiple picks and who is out of the draft?
As things look at the moment, the Thunder are in line to have two lottery picks: their own and a potential late lottery pick from the Clippers. The Thunder will also likely get a third first-round pick via the Suns.
The Grizzlies could have three first rounders in 2022 — their own and picks from the Jazz and possibly the Lakers (if it’s not in the top 10). The Rockets should have two first-round picks.
The Nets, Lakers and Clippers won’t have a 2022 first-round pick. It’s very likely that the Suns and Jazz will also lose their 2022 first-round picks.
And we’ve already had a trade of a first round pick, with the Knicks sending Charlotte’s first (if it falls between 19-30) to the Hawks as part of a trade that sent Cam Reddish to New York. Given the perceived weakness of this year’s draft, there may be more first rounders traded before the February 10th trade deadline.
This year will also have an oddity in the second round. The NBA has confiscated picks from the Bucks, the Bulls and the Heat for tampering. The Bulls don’t have their second-round pick this year, but it’s likely the Heat will lose one of theirs. So there will only be 58, not 60, draft picks in 2022.
Here's a look at all the first-round picks that could be on the move in 2022:
The Thunder own the Clippers’ first rounder.
The Thunder own the Suns’ first rounder (if 11-30).
The Thunder own the Pistons’ first rounder (if 17-30).
The Rockets own the Nets’ first rounder.
The Rockets can swap the Nets’ pick with the Heat’s first rounder (if it is pick 15-30).
The Grizzlies own the Jazz’ first rounder (if 7-30).
The Grizzlies own the Lakers’ first rounder (if 11-30).
The Pelicans own the Lakers’ first rounder (if 1-10).
The Hornets own the Pelicans’ first rounder (if 15-30).
The Bulls own the Blazers’ first rounder (if 15-30).
The Hawks own the Hornets’ first rounder (if 19-30).
The Hawks own the Thunder’s first rounder (if 15-30).