2022 NBA draft: Fantasy basketball winners and losers

By Henry Weinberg, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

With 58 new draft picks and dozens of undrafted players signing on with NBA teams, rotations around the league will be reconfigured and reset heading into the 2022-23 season. The 2022 NBA draft brings another influx of talent to a league already booming with high-upside young players.

Led by No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, the 2022 class is deep with potential instant-impact prospects. But how many of those first-year players will be worth targeting in 2022-23 fantasy basketball drafts? That’s the question fantasy managers are pondering — especially coming off of a 2021-22 season in which several top rookies — including Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes — wound up finishing the season as top-75 values.

With the dust settling on the draft and free agency approaching, it’s time to evaluate the biggest fantasy winners and losers heading into the offseason.

Winner: Jabari Smith, Rockets

Freshman season at Auburn: 16.9 ppg, 42.0 3PT%, 7.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks

The exporting of Christian Wood to Dallas last week was a coup for Smith well before he knew he would be donning a Rockets uniform. The Rockets are making a conscious effort to give playing time to young pieces. Smith averaged 7.4 rebounds per game at Auburn while playing next to a traditional, throwback big man in Walker Kessler.

He now finds himself in an environment where he's the tallest player on the Rockets’ roster. Jalen Green will still run the show in Houston, and Alperen Sengun should step into a much larger role in Year 2, but Smith is now a foundational piece for a franchise that’s moving in the right direction. He has arguably the highest floor of any player in the 2022 draft, so for fantasy purposes, he should be a reliable source of points, boards, efficient threes and some defensive stats from the jump.

Winner: Keegan Murray, Kings

Sophomore season at Iowa: 23.5 ppg, 55.4 FG%, 39.8% 3PT% 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.3 steals

Murray fits like a puzzle piece into the Kings' projected starting lineup, slotting in as the top power forward on the depth chart. He and Harrison Barnes make for an exciting jumbo combo-forward duo.

Murray’s rebounding prowess will get overshadowed in the box score by Domantas Sabonis, at times, but his modern stretch build will allow him to stuff the box score in Sacramento. Per Synergy, Murray ranked in the 97th percentile in transition and the 99th percentile in post-up offense last season. Even with an expected learning curve, he’ll find ways to generate buckets. Murray’s 3.2 steals/blocks per game are extremely eye-catching for fantasy managers, as well.

Losers: Washington Wizards' young players

The selection of Johnny Davis at No. 10 doesn’t help Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert and Deni Avdija — none of whom are creators. As a sophomore at Wisconsin, Davis averaged 2.1 assists and 2.3 turnovers per game. He won’t help get them involved and could be a ball-stopper, at times. Davis brings defensive energy to Washington, but the ripple effects he and Bradley Beal will have down the roster are yet to be determined.

Rui Hachimura #8 of the Washington Wizards reacts against the New York Knicks during the first half of an NBA game at Capital One Arena
Rui Hachimura and the rest of the Wizards' young unit saw their fantasy values plummet following the NBA draft. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The outlook for Davis himself depends almost entirely on what happens with Beal. If he re-signs with the Wizards and returns as the unquestioned No. 1 option, then Davis will take a clear backseat. But even so, Davis could very well begin the season starting alongside Beal. He’ll still be fourth in line behind Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma, but as long as he’s able to shoot even relatively efficiently, he could push for top-120 fantasy value by season’s end. Davis is a well-above-average rebounder for his position, which should help keep him relevant in deeper leagues.

Winner: Bennedict Mathurin, Pacers

Sophomore season at Arizona: 17.7 ppg, 36.9 3PT%, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 FTA, 1.0 steals

The Pacers graded as a league-average offense and a bottom-three defense last season. After the acquisition of Tyrese Haliburton, the offense improved dramatically while the defense got even worse. With Myles Turner on the trade block to boot, Indiana is looking to be an enticing fantasy destination.

Personnel-wise, Mathurin gets to play alongside an offensive maestro in Haliburton. Mathurin will be a benefactor and get plenty of wide-open threes via Halliburton's dishing. At present, the Pacers’ depth chart is a bit of a mess — particularly in the backcourt — but the selection of Mathurin at No. 6 further hammers home the notion that Malcolm Brogdon will likely have a new home before the start of next season. Assuming that’s the case, the coast should be clear for Indiana to roll out a Haliburton-Mathurin-Buddy Hield trio.

At the end of the day, the Pacers added a potential franchise cornerstone and put him in an environment where his strengths can be capitalized on. Mathurin — and by extension, Indiana — is one of the all-around big winners of the night.

Losers: Orlando’s top scorers

Orlando’s leading scorers last season, Cole Anthony and Franz Wagner, ranked 51st and 61st, respectively, in the NBA in points per game last season. Anthony averaged a stout 16.1 points, 5.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Wagner impressed all-around as a rookie, spearheading his two-way effort with 15.2 points on 46.8/35.4/86.3 shooting splits on 12.3 shots per game.

However, a new offensive hub is in town. Paolo Banchero will need the ball. He’s a projected superstar who instantly becomes the Magic’s top developmental priority. Anthony is probably the biggest loser, as the third-year guard will likely cede the most touches to Banchero, who’s plenty capable of operating on the ball at 6-foot-10. Wagner is more of a natural complementary piece so he likely won’t see a major drop-off in value, but with Banchero in town, it may be difficult for him to take a meaningful step forward.

Winners: Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, Pistons

Ivey’s sophomore season at Purdue: 17.3 ppg, 35.8 3PT%, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.6 TOs

Duren’s freshman season at Memphis: 12 pgg, 59.7 FG%, 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks

By the end of the lottery, the Pistons came away looking like perhaps the single biggest winners of the night. Pairing Ivey with Cade Cunningham and landing their center of the future in Duren sets the Pistons on course to expedite their rebuild.

It’s all about the backcourt in Detroit. Ivey and Cunningham are Yin-and-Yang stylistically. The duo will see mutual success growing alongside each other and will put up numbers in the process. Cunningham connected on 40.0 percent of his threes at Oklahoma State but hit just 31.4 percent in his rookie season with Detroit. Ivey’s dynamic attacking should help boost that figure, while Cunningham will make everything easier on the former Purdue star.

Ivey will likely go through the usual rookie guard ups and downs, and there’s a good chance he’ll be a liability in fantasy leagues that value field goal percentage. But the major sell for landing in Detroit is abundant playing time — especially given that Ivey very easily could’ve landed in Sacramento alongside De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell.

It also goes without saying that the arrival of Ivey means Killian Hayes — a top-10 pick just two years ago — is a major loser. Detroit may not be ready to pull the plug on Hayes, but it’s clear that Ivey will be the much bigger priority going forward.

Loser: Chet Holmgren, Thunder

Freshman season at Gonzaga: 14.1 ppg, 60.7 FG%, 39.0 3P%, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 blocks

Holmgren feels destined to put up a quality rookie season. Oklahoma City has been a stable source of empty stats, Holmgren’s shot-blocking should get plenty of opportunities and he’s free for offensive experimentation.

Even as he goes through growing pains, Holmgren should have plenty of leeway to play through his mistakes. However, the specter of Oklahoma City putting forth one more grand tanking effort will be a cloud hanging over Holmgrem’s fantasy value all season. If he tweaks his ankle or pulls a muscle after the All-Star break, you can bet that the Thunder will exercise extreme caution. Long-term, Holmgren has the highest fantasy ceiling in the class, but for next season alone it could be a bit of a bumpy ride.

Winner: Mark Williams, Hornets

Sophomore season at Duke: 11.2 points, 72.1 FG%, 7.4 rebounds, 2.8 blocks

Williams gets to replicate his role at Duke as a rim runner and interior force. Williams has flashed talent as a passer and fluid offensive player, so continued evolution is in store. Regardless of how Charlotte handles Miles Bridges’ free agency, the presence of a defensive stopper at the power forward position is unlikely. Williams will be active blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. He’s an instant upgrade over Mason Plumlee, who becomes even more expendable than he was prior to the draft.

LaMelo Ball should also benefit by having a more capable lob-catcher in tow. Ball is the perfect point guard to pair with a player of Williams’ size and skill set. At this juncture, Williams may be on track to start at center from Day 1.

Loser: Dyson Daniels, Pelicans

2021-22 G League Ignite Tour: 11.9 ppg, 7.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.1 steals

An excellent fit for New Orleans’ ongoing re-tool, Daniels adds much-needed size and defensive acumen to the Pelicans’ backcourt. Long-term, he’s in a great spot. But as the lottery team best equipped for another postseason run in 2022-23, Daniels will likely be brought along relatively slowly. The Pels have CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones locked in as key pieces, while Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy should each take on larger roles next season. Devonte’ Graham is also still around, though that could very well change between now and October.

Right now, Daniels is too raw offensively to frequently share the court with Jones and Alvarado — two other defensive-oriented players. A destination like Washington, where Daniels could have been unleashed right away, would make him an intriguing fantasy option. But approaching that upside in New Orleans simply won’t be possible in Year 1.

Also of note: Zion Williamson and the Pelicans’ big men are subtle winners from the Daniels selection. Daniels brings highlight-worthy facilitating and floor general qualities to New Orleans.

Winner: Jalen Williams, Thunder

Junior season at Santa Clara: 18.0 ppg, 39.6 3P%, 4.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals

Williams brings his polished skill set to Oklahoma City at a time when no wings/forwards on the Thunder roster bring an offensive identity to compete with him. The Thunder have young pieces all over, but they’re still searching for a dynamic wing to complement the Chet Holmgren/Shai Gilgeous-Alexander/Josh Giddey trio. Williams will face competition for minutes, but the fact that he shot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc last season could give him a leg up.

Loser: Dejounte Murray, Spurs

Murray erupted in his age-25 campaign, averaging 21.1 points, 9.2 assists and 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. However, the Spurs clearly aren’t 100 percent sold on Murray as a franchise centerpiece. His name has been on the block and the Spurs drafted two players — Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley — who will need the ball in their hands.

Furthermore, Wesley doesn’t complement Murray and feels more like a long-term grooming project than a sidekick. Per Yahoo’s top public leagues, Murray was on 19.4 percent of championship teams last season. That’s not quite as likely in 2022-23.