2022 NBA Mock Draft: Zak's Draft 1.0

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The draft order is set and the NBA Combine is behind us, so it’s time for another mock draft! Favorable measurements and excellent scrimmage play boosted the stocks of guys I’ve mocked to go in the first round like Mark Williams, Christian Braun and Jalen Williams, and players likely to go in the second round or undrafted like Terquavion Smith, Kofi Cockburn and Andrew Nembhard.

This is my first mock, so there will obviously be movement between now and future mocks over the next month until the Draft on June 23. In these 30 picks, you’ll get a short player breakdown, team fit and fantasy outlook.

This is a top-heavy draft class with three players firmly above the rest, but there’s little doubt that the top pick will go to Jabari Smith or Chet Holmgren. Paolo Banchero is the clear No. 3, and then after that? Well, it gets a bit hazy. I’ll try to make sense of it all over the next 4,000 words. Let’s go!

1. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith | Auburn | Forward | Freshman | 6’10, 220

At 6-10, 220, Smith is a long and athletic forward who has a pretty shot from beyond the arc and excels when he gets downhill with a head of steam, particularly rim running on a fast break. Smith is excellent in the paint and getting to the basket, using his length and athleticism to score, rebound and disrupt opponents on defense. The Magic have their pick of three players in their own tier, but I think the choice comes down to Smith or Chet Holmgren. Smith is the best pure shooter of the bunch with fewer question marks about size and durability, so I think he hears his name called first on draft night. There’s no question Smith will have a major role in the Magic’s rotation right away, and his efficient scoring ability should give him top-100 fantasy appeal.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren | Gonzaga | Forward/Center | Freshman | 7’0, 195
The first NBA comp that came to mind was Aleksej Pokusevski, so it’s only fitting that he winds up with the Thunder in this mock. At seven feet tall, the Zags’ big man can take guys off the dribble and lead the break to finish coast-to-coast. His incredible length is obviously beneficial to him on the defensive end, while his offense is far more than dunks. A 7-footer with handles, shooting range and blocking ability makes me almost want to call him the “u-word,” but we already have one of those in the league manning the center position for Washington. Guys like Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson, Myles Turner and the aforementioned Kristaps Porzingis have proven how incredibly valuable a shot-blocking, three-point shooting center can be in fantasy. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him finish with mid-round value in 9-cat this season.

3. Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero | Duke | Forward | Freshman | 6’10, 250
Banchero has a lot of tricks up his sleeve on offense, including a beautiful spin move and turnaround jumper. He’s big and athletic (which work to his advantage), but he doesn’t rely on those physical tools alone. There’s a finesse to his game that allows him to easily create space and get his own shot. The Rockets got some monster games from Jalen Green down the stretch, and adding another reliable scorer and shot creator is just what the doctor ordered down in H-Town.

4. Sacramento Kings: Shaedon Sharpe | Kentucky | Guard | Freshman | 6’6, 200

He’s one of the biggest question marks in this year’s draft, but make no mistake about it, he’s a top-10 pick. Sharpe is only 6’6 but has a 7’0 wingspan and can jump out of the gym. This dude’s athletic ability is nasty, but NBA teams might pause because of his raw offense, limited range and tendency to live above the rim rather than taking threes. The 18-year-old has time to develop those parts of his game, and the athletic upside and explosiveness might be too enticing for teams to pass up early in the draft. Sacramento traded away ball-dominant guard Tyrese Haliburton because of his fit with De’Aaron Fox, but Sharpe doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make an impact. In fact, his off-ball abilities could mesh well with Fox in the backcourt. Sacramento could go for the safe pick in Keegan Murray, but nothing about Sacramento’s recent history suggests they’ll play it safe. I think the Kings swing for the fences on this pick. The lack of electric and athletic scorers outside of Fox in Sacramento’s backcourt suggests Sharpe will be involved from Day 1, making him an intriguing fantasy option, especially in points leagues.

5. Detroit Pistons: Keegan Murray | Iowa | Forward | Sophomore | 6’8, 225

How do you like a guy who can play either forward position, fight for rebounds, score at the basket and shoot lights out from three? Murray averaged 23.6 points and 8.6 boards while shooting 40.2% from three last season at Iowa. The dude is a walking bucket, and while Detroit could take Jaden Ivey here, the fit alongside Cade Cunningham seems less than ideal. Adding a score-first forward who can play defense makes sense considering the guy they already have doing that (Jerami Grant) is probably on his way out the door. As long as he can garner a significant place in the rotation, he should be a worthy fantasy contributor as well.

6. Indiana Pacers: Jaden Ivey | Purdue | Guard | Sophomore | 6’4, 195
Another fairly instant player comp when watching Ivey is Ja Morant, and it’s not just for the physical resemblance. Ivey loves to get to the rim, and he’s absolutely thrilling to watch when he drives to the basket. His athleticism and creative scoring bring a crowd to its feet, just like Morant in Memphis. Ivey can get teammates involved, but his greatest strength is his scoring. His fit may be a little tough alongside Tyrese Haliburton and Malcolm Brogdon, but there’s been plenty of rumors hinting at Brogdon being traded, and the Pacers could employ Ivey as an off-ball scorer alongside Haliburton who can run the offense if needed. His skill set is much more favorable for points leagues rather than 9-cat.

7. Portland Trail Blazers: Benedict Mathurin | Arizona | Guard/Forward | Sophomore | 6’7, 210
Mathurin is a human highlight reel thanks to his tremendous leaping ability and posterizing dunks. He doesn’t shy away from getting to the basket in traffic or going up for a rebound and outworking bigger players. He plays his best basketball in the paint, but he’s a solid three-point shooter who can also take defenders off the dribble. Mathurin should transition well to the NBA as a score-first wing who can do plenty of work on defense. Portland grabs the best player left on the board at No. 7, and the rebuilding Blazers are one of the best fantasy landing spots in the NBA.

8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers): Dyson Daniels | G League Ignite | Guard | 6’6, 170

Daniels isn’t a score-first guard, but he’s got plenty of tricks in his bag and can take guys off the dribble with a nasty spin move and the ability to finish in traffic. His three-point game needs some work, but he has the potential to develop that aspect of his game. Daniels is an excellent passer and an incredible rebounder for his size, showing off his innate ability to gobble up offensive boards and help his team out with second-chance points in the paint. New Orleans’ biggest weakness for most of the season was guard play, and while that was addressed in the C.J. McCollum trade, the Pels could still use a reliable distributor who will hustle on both ends of the court. New Orleans has scoring covered thanks to McCollum and Brandon Ingram, but Herbert Jones showed that rookies on this team can be extremely valuable in fantasy if the can make an impact outside of getting buckets.

9. San Antonio Spurs: A.J. Griffin | Duke | Forward | Freshman | 6’6, 220

Griffin moves well without the ball, making the right cuts to get to the basket or taking advantage of catch-and-shoot opportunities. He used his size and athleticism to fight for rebounds and finish powerfully at the rim at Duke last season and shot a blistering 44.7% from beyond the arc. Griffin has the skills to finish as a top-5 player in this draft class, and the Spurs get a steal at No. 9. San Antonio isn’t a great fantasy landing spot thanks to typically slow development, but Griffin could operate well alongside Dejounte Murray if given the opportunity.

10. Washington Wizards: Jeremy Sochan | Baylor | Forward | Freshman | 6’9, 230

Are we looking at the next Dennis Rodman? Sochan’s hair immediately gives off Rodman vibes, and his game does too. The Baylor standout is a defense-first forward who hustles for rebounds, affects opposing players’ shots and makes high-IQ plays. Sochan can shoot a three, and his moves off the dribble are silky smooth. He’s got some finesse in his game but Sochan can also slam it with authority when driving baseline or catching an alley-oop. Washington has a lot of holes in its roster, so they add the impactful two-way forward. He could be fantasy-relevant, but likely in the same end-of-bench way that Matisse Thybulle was a season ago.

11. New York Knicks: Mark Williams | Duke | Center | Sophomore | 7’2, 243

Duke’s shot-blocker and powerful dunker extraordinaire has been rocketing up draft boards recently, and his measurements at the combine have boosted his already-rising stock even more. Williams came in at 7’2 with a 7’7 wingspan and 9’9 standing reach, the second highest in Combine history. Like Washington, New York has plenty of needs, but the Knicks grab Williams for his monstrous size and shot-blocking abilities in the hope that he can be more durable than Mitchell Robinson, who will likely be gone after this season in free agency. It’s hard to get too excited as a fantasy manager, thanks to Tom Thibodeau’s blatant love affair with giving veterans 40 minutes a night.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Clippers): Johnny Davis | Wisconsin | Guard | Sophomore | 6’5, 195
Davis is such a fun player to watch that you can forget just how skilled he is. He’s such a creative scorer and shot-maker who can put the ball in the basket seemingly without effort. Davis can shoot off the dribble, take opponents one-on-one in ISO situations, run the break or catch and shoot. He’s a solid defensive player who loves to go after rebounds and hustle for loose balls, and last season taught us that playing for the Thunder is a dream scenario for fantasy basketball. Oklahoma City makes its final pick of the lottery and comes out with Chet Holmgren and Davis - not a bad haul indeed.

13. Charlotte Hornets: Tari Eason | LSU | Forward | Sophomore | 6’8, 216

Oh my, big fella! The ragin’ cajun, the big boy from the bayou, Eason is striking with his imposing size and length. He’s a walking bucket who averaged 25 points per 36, slamming down powerful dunks, spinning into the lane and weaving his way through traffic to put the ball in the hoop with the many tricks in his offensive bag. Eason averaged 1.1 blocks and 1.9 steals and turned defense into offense frequently last season at LSU. The Hornets need a big man, and while Jalen Duren would be a great addition, the Hornets pick again at 15, and there’s little chance Cleveland selects another big man. Charlotte can double down here by grabbing Eason and then taking Duren two picks later, shoring up a frontcourt that’s been a major point of weakness over the last two seasons. Eason’s skillset should be excellent for fantasy purposes, but the biggest concern for him as a rookie is playing time. Of course, the last time Charlotte took a forward inside the top-15, they selected PJ Washington 12th in 2019, and we all remember how well that went for the impressive rookie!

14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Ochai Agbaji | Kansas | Guard | Senior | 6’5, 215

At 6’5, 210, Agbaji is big for a guard, and that size should serve him well in the NBA. He upped his scoring average in each of the last three seasons, posting 18.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.7 triples per contest in his senior season with Kansas. Cleveland leaned on its impressive defense last season, but the team could use more reliable scoring options to take some of the pressure off Darius Garland and get a bucket when Caris LeVert isn’t available. Older players in the draft aren’t major red flags like they used to be, and the 24-year-old Chris Duarte thrived in Indiana in his first season. Agbaji has a clear path to fantasy relevance, especially if Collin Sexton is moved in the offseason.

15. Charlotte Hornets (via Pelicans): Jalen Duren | Memphis | Center | Freshman | 6’11, 250
Duren is a prototypical big man who uses his strength and length to alter shots as an elite rim protector and rebounder. He can score on dunks or putbacks, but he’s not going to step outside the paint to shoot a jumper. That’s not a problem for Charlotte, as the team is loaded with shooters and in desperate need of a big man. Montrezl Harrell is undersized and didn’t look great in his limited appearances, while Mason Plumlee has simply been “meh.” Charlotte gets a steal with this pick after Mark Williams shoots up to 11 and leaves Duren just outside the lottery. If James Borrego makes him the starter from Day 1, Duren has major fantasy appeal.

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16. Atlanta Hawks: Ousmane Dieng | New Zealand | Forward | International | 6’9, 185

Dieng will need to work on his offense, especially in the half-court, but his solid defense led to plenty of transition points for the Breakers last season. At 6’9 with long arms, he’s got the skillset that NBA teams are looking for in a defender who can take on guards and wings on the perimeter. Dieng shot less than 29% from beyond the arc, and while his release looks a bit slow, he’s got the mechanics to develop into a reliable three-and-D wing at the next level. He’s more of a project than an NBA-ready guy right now, and Atlanta is loaded at both forward positions, so there’s not much to get excited about from a fantasy perspective for Dieng in Year 1.

17. Houston Rockets (via Nets): Malaki Branham | Ohio State | Guard | Freshman | 6’5, 180

It’ll be tough for Houston to pass on Branham if he’s still available here. The St. Vincent-St. Mary grad wowed at Ohio State as a freshman, scoring 13.7 points per game on impressive 49.8/41.6/83.3 splits. He might not drop 20 a night, but that level of efficiency would make him an intriguing 9-cat option if he cracks the Rockets’ rotation as a rookie.

18. Chicago Bulls: Walker Kessler | Auburn | Center | Sophomore | 7’1, 245

Kessler is a looming figure in the paint who averaged a strong 2.1 blocks per game last season at Auburn. As a thick seven-footer, he’s not roaming outside the paint too often, but he can hit a three on occasion, and he runs the floor on the fast break. He’s not a guy who chases blocks and leaves his feet for fouls, and his defense is patient and sound. He’ll make a nice backup option behind Nikola Vucevic who would likely be a fine streamer if Vooch was forced to miss any time.

19. Minnesota Timberwolves: TyTy Washington | Kentucky | Guard | Freshman | 6’3, 195

More of a score-first guard but has the ability to find teammates and rebound effectively. Washington’s game sets him up as a solid points-league player thanks to his offense, especially if he lands with the run-and-gun Timberwolves. He might struggle to find standard-league value in 9-cat formats right off the bat due to his score-first nature, but there's certainly room for him to grow.

20. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors): Nikola Jovic | Serbia | Forward | International | 6’10, 205

Right off the bat, let’s clear things up. This is not the NBA’s 2020-21 MVP, but Jovic does have a similar skill set as a point big. He’s usually popping a three and making shots in a variety of ways, but he’s not a pass-first guy despite his excellent ability to find teammates. I’d love to project a Jovic/Jokic pairing and mock him to Denver, but I don’t think the Spurs will let him slip past them, especially with a proven track record of developing international players. Jovic might need some time to develop, so we can pump the breaks on a fantasy-relevant rookie season and leave him to dynasty leagues.

21. Denver Nuggets: Jaden Hardy | G-League | Guard | 6’4, 200

At 6’4, 200, Hardy plays with physicality and has no trouble muscling his way inside for a shot at the rim. Hardy isn’t regarded quite as highly for his offensive prowess as he was at the beginning of the season, but don’t let a less-than-stellar G-League season make you forget that he’s skilled on offense and a guy that Denver could utilize alongside Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.

22. Kennedy Chandler | Tennessee | Guard | Freshman | 6’2, 170

With Tyus Jones’ free agency looming, Memphis will need a strong backup PG, and they can get one at pick 22. Chandler is a score-first guy who can use his elite speed and finishing to get buckets in transition or get into the paint and score over bigger defenders. He’s a quality passer and someone that Memphis can rely on to run the offense when Ja Morant is taking a break or forced to miss time. The Grizz are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, so temper fantasy expectations.

23. Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers): Kendall Brown | Baylor | Forward | Freshman | 6’8, 205

This dude is in his bag around the rim, making tough shots look easy. His hops are effortless as he glides through the air for a rebound or a massive jam. Brown excels in transition where he uses speed and athleticism to get downhill and make opposing defenses pay. Finding fantasy value on a team loaded with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is a tad challenging, but given the risk to miss games and Brooklyn’s razor-thin roster depth, there’s a reasonable path to minutes and fantasy-relevant production.

24. Wendell Moore Jr. | Duke | Forward | Junior | 6’5, 213

Milwaukee has its choice of several talented players here, but Moore’s three-point prowess will make him the clear choice. The 6’5 wing shot over 41% from beyond the arc last season and proved his worth on the defensive end of the court. He’ll be a great addition to a team that could always use more shooters to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks’ offense made Grayson Allen a fantasy star in the early goings of 2021-22, so maybe we’ll see a similar spark from Moore.

25. San Antonio Spurs: Christian Koloko | Arizona | Center | Junior | 7'0, 221

At 7’0, 221, Koloko has a size advantage on most opponents, and that should translate well to the NBA. He’s typically in a good position to grab long rebounds, he’s a strong shot-blocker and he hits free throws at a high clip. After passing on a center with their first pick, the Spurs grab Koloko with a little bit of a reach and add some important big-man depth behind Jakob Poeltl. Jock Landale and Drew Eubanks (pre-trade) were useful streamers when Poeltl missed time last season, and Koloko could be too.

26. Dallas Mavericks: Bryce McGowens | Nebraska | Guard | Freshman | 6’7, 179

Dallas needs to get Luka Doncic a second top-tier player, but that need won’t be met in the draft. Still, Dallas shouldn’t hesitate to grab a guy who’s willing to put the ball on the deck and use his silky smooth moves and long, lanky frame to get a bucket. McGowens is underrated and undervalued, making him a steal for the Mavs at the back-end of the first round. He can use his length to develop into a quality NBA defender, but he should be called on for his scoring right away on a team in need of players who can go and get their own bucket. McGowens is an intriguing fantasy sleeper, particularly in points leagues.

27. E.J. Liddell | Ohio State | Forward | Junior | 6’7, 240

It’s not easy to get a quality two-way player so late in the first round, but Miami will be happy to land Liddell here all the way down at 27. The forward averaged nearly 20 points per game at Ohio State last season and used his large frame, quick reflexes and strong shot-blocking skills to make a major impact on the defensive end of the floor. Liddell isn’t a catch-and-shoot three-point specialist, and he’ll be a welcomed addition as a guy who can go and get a bucket alongside Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro. His scoring and ability to rack up defensive stats bode well for his fantasy outlook from Day 1, but playing time will be an issue on a team with Butler, Herro and Duncan Robinson.

28. Golden State Warriors: Christian Braun | Kansas | Guard | Junior | 6’6, 218

A prototypical 3-and-D wing, Braun will make a nice addition to a team that shoots and defends so well. He’ll likely have a tough time carving out a meaningful role right away due to Golden State’s depth at guard, but if he does find a spot in this crowded rotation, there’s no doubt he’ll make an immediate impact. Braun stood out at the NBA Combine, finishing his two scrimmages with 23 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and six steals. You don’t need to think twice about how valuable those types of numbers could be for fantasy hoops.

29. Jalen Williams | Santa Clara | Guard | Junior | 6’5, 209

No player saw his stock rise as much as Williams during the Combine, and after some favorable measurements and strong scrimmages, he’ll land in the first round. The 6’5 guard had a huge season at Santa Clara, averaging 18.0 points, 4.4 boards and 4.2 dimes while shooting 39.6% from beyond the arc, using his long arms and soft touch around the rim to get buckets. Despite his 6’5 height, he measured in with a ridiculous 7’2 vertical. Williams finished his two scrimmages with 30 points (12-of-16 FG, 3-of-4 3-pointers), eight boards, two stocks and an assist. He’s likely to keep moving up draft boards over the next month, but it woudln’t be wise to move him up fantasy draft boards due to Memphis’ tremendous depth.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jean Montero | Overtime Elite | Guard | 6’2, 172
Montero won’t wow you with freak athleticism, but make no mistake, this dude can ball. He’s a creative scorer who moves fluidly around the court and can get his own bucket. He’s best shooting off the dribble, but he was effective from three on catch-and-shoot opportunities. Montero is a good rebounder for his size and an excellent passer with great court vision, and that multi-dimensional game should serve him well for fantasy in the long term. He won’t turn 19 until after the draft and has already played two years overseas and a partial season for the OTE. Montero is exactly the type of young, high-upside player that the Thunder love to draft, and as mentioned earlier, getting drafted by the Thunder is the best case scenario for fantasy purposes.

Just missed: Blake Wesley, Jake LaRavia, Trevor Keels, Patrick Baldwin, Terquavion Smith, MarJon Beauchamp, Ismael Kamagate, Leonard Miller, Max Christie