The day has finally arrived.
It’s the 2022 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Dreams will come true. Mistakes will be made. There will be unexpected choices, players falling away, outrageous outfits and touching moments.
After weeks of intrigue, rumors, and smoke curtains, it was time to make a choice. Ahead, The Post’s Zach Brazeler gave one last look at how he sees it unfold Thursday night:
1. Orlando Magic
Jabbari Smith, Auburn (striker)
This has been the pick for weeks, ever since Magic won the draft lottery. Smith is the prototype of the NBA’s big man of the new era, a sharp striker who can defend on the perimeter and in the paint, adding to Orlando’s impressive young core that includes Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga (striker)
The most controversial player in this draft, Holmgren comes up with a fair number of questions about his slim chassis, but he also brings in a bewildering two-way talent. It’s easy to see this going in any direction. The Minnesotan can be a 3-point powerhouse, but he may also struggle against the league’s strength and physical nature if he is unable to gain the required weight. A very cool prospect that will be under the microscope of the league from day one.
3- Houston Rockets
Paolo Panchero, Duke (striker)
The Banchero’s Rockets sold out almost immediately, with starting strength striker Christian Wood traded for a late pick in the first round after Banchero visited Houston. Although there are questions about his movement and defensive pieces, Banchero will be an offensive weapon from the start, creating a powerful 1-2 punch with Jalen Green, the second overall pick last year.
4. Sacramento Kings
Keegan Murray, Iowa (goalkeeper/striker)
After weeks of commercial talk, the Kings ended up retaining the pick and passing Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, gearing up for a need for talent. Murray fits their roster best – Sacramento already has players similar to Ivy on its roster in DeAaron Fox and Devon Mitchell – as a big winger capable of playing several positions forward.
5. Detroit Pistons
Jaden Ivey, Bordeaux (goalkeeper)
Some have compared Ivy to Russell Westbrook. Others see similarities with Ja Morant and Donovan Mitchell. The Pistons have hit big here, superb complementing Cade Cunningham, ranked #1 a year ago, which will speed up the rebuilding process and give them a premium backside area for years to come.
6. Indiana Pacers
Dyson Daniels, G-League Ignite (keeper)
Defensively under-needed Pacers, one of the worst teams at that end of the floor a year ago, had one of the best defensive players in this draft, a tall guard from Australia who complements Therese Halliburton well. Daniels is working. A G-League Ignite source expressed his admiration for his stamina and determination to improve as a shooter and ball handler. “You never had to beg for him to go to the gym,” the source said.
7. Portland Trail Blazers
Benedict Mathurin, Arizona (keeper)
Helping Pac-12 Player of the Year Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers now and in the future. Initially, he contributes defensively and as an explosive leader in the transition. But the Canadian has all-star potential.
8. New Orleans Pelicans
Sheldon Sharp, Kentucky (keeper)
Mystery man, Sharp, is basically making the jump from high school to the NBA after scoring in Kentucky in January, but not playing in any game. He’s exceptionally talented, a talented shooting guard, and has played in dealer-managed drills, but he hasn’t played competitive basketball in a full year. Swans roll dice. There is no way to know what you get with a mustache.
9. San Antonio Spurs
Galen Doreen, Memphis (C)
Experts see some Bam Adebayo in the big man who’s been running alone, an 18-year-old rim guard capable of much more than what he demonstrated in Memphis. Spurs need front-court help, go to Uber-sportsic Duren, and look to him as a replacement for Jakob Poeltl.
10- Wizards of Washington
Johnny Davis (goalkeeper)
The Wizards feel like they’re on the brink of competition as long as they hold All-Star Bradley Beal, and so they take an immediate contributor to the Big Ten Player of the Year. Forget Davis’ low 3-point percentage as a sophomore – as a result of his high utilization rate – he’s an understated defender and a skilled shot-maker who can contribute from the bench straight away.
11. New York Knicks
A.J. Griffin, Duke (keeper)
There are similarities with Cole Anthony in the sharp archery Griffin. He came from the NBA dynasties, was a great recruit and now there are doubts after one disappointing year in college. But he’s a great goalkeeper who can stretch the floor, and while there are injury concerns, Griffin is one of the youngest players in the draft – he didn’t turn 19 until late August – and has a fairly high ceiling.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder
Jeremy Suchan, Baylor (striker)
The Thunder tries to trade a few points, but when the board falls on them, they end up with the player they wanted in the first place. The Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year fits the youth roster well, adding another high-quality and versatile defender to the defensive-minded Oklahoma City heart.
13. Charlotte Hornets
Mark Williams, Duke (centre)
A perfect fit for rookie Hornets, which fills a large space for a rim edge, and an attractive finish plate to fit the LaMelo ball. The Hornets are very familiar with 20-year-old Williams and his 7-foot-8 wingspan since his time at Duke, where he developed into one of the top big guys in the country when he was a sophomore.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers
Galen Williams, Santa Clara (goalkeeper)
Williams concludes his poverty-to-riches story by making his way toward the end of the lottery. The long 7-2 wingspan became Santa Clara’s first draft pick since Steve Nash in 1996, capitalizing on a breakthrough performance in the draft at such an unlikely height. It will be worth it for the Cavaliers, who get a powerful 3D opportunity and are able to evolve into even more.
15. Charlotte Hornets
Angel Branham, Ohio State (Guard)
Having got the ball on his new partner, the Hornets found him a court breaker at Branham. An attacking proficiency, the former Ohio State superstar is the shooter who has the tools to become a strong defender and gives the creative ball more room to work.
16. Atlanta Hawks
Ochai Agbaji, KS (Guard)
Experience and maturity are undervalued in the NBA these days, viewed with contempt for pros and potential. That is why Agbaji was knocked out of the lottery – he is already 22 years old. But he can intervene immediately and produce on both ends of the ground for the Hawks, as a winger, shooting maker and representative defender. He’s improving on the Atlanta bench, while other teams have to wait years to get a return on their investment in the first round.
17. Houston Rockets
Tarry Eason, LSU (striker)
Neither Banchero nor Green were known to defend, and so the Rockets found them a grinder to supplement their offensive talents in the first defense wing. Pail will attend lunch and defend many talented scorers in the vicinity of the league.
18- Chicago Bulls
EJ Liddell, Ohio State (striker)
This might be described as access by some, but it’s what smart organizations do – look for winners who produce at both ends of the floor and have improved throughout college as Liddell did at Ohio State. Age can be overestimated. As one scout said, “Get me the guy who influences the win.” Liddell does that.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves
Walker Kessler, Auburn (C)
His defense alone makes sense to the Timberwolves, who get elite protection with Kessler. At Auburn last year, he blocked an astonishing 4.6 shots per game in 25.6 minutes, and could help improve Minnesota’s major weakness in the paint.
20. San Antonio Spurs
Usman Deng, New Zealand Kassar (striker)
With three first-round picks, Spurs can take a big swing at a project like Dieng. There is a huge upside in the prospect of the skinny striker who has improved as his NBL season progressed. But patience — and plenty of time in the weight room — are essential.
21. Denver Nuggets
Margon Beauchamp, G-League Ignite (keeper/forward)
Teams with picks from the back end of the lottery to the first part of the second round brought Beauchamp to practice, giving the wing-athlete a wide range of possibilities. He’s not a 3D prospect at the moment – his shot takes work – but his energy, defensive versatility and vulnerability to blast at the edge are the qualities the teams covet.
22. Memphis Grizzlies
Ty Washington Jr., Kentucky (keeper)
The potential departure of Teos Jones through free agency creates a gap in the guard post, one that Washington can fill. The Kentucky center guard would probably be higher had he played on the ball all year long at Lexington and hadn’t struggled with a left ankle injury late in the season. However, it fired 35 percent from a 3-point range and produced a better 2-to-1 assist-to-turn ratio, proving its potential in a small sample size.
23- Philadelphia 76ers
Kennedy Chandler, TN (goalkeeper)
The SEC leader in heists has blazing speed and an elite grip to go with a great mid-range game. His size (6ft) is detrimental, but his explosion can make up for it, and the 76ers need a play-industry guard behind Tyrese Maxey and James Harden.
24. Milwaukee Bucks
Daleen Terry, Arizona (goalkeeper)
Competitors like the Bucks can always use athletic wing defenders who have an offensive ascendancy like Terry. In Arizona, he was a solid player and playmaker because he played ball, an effective goalscorer who did a lot of dirty work and a solid defender. At first, he is an energy guy, but there is a bullet manufacturing potential that can be developed.
25. San Antonio Spurs
Wendell Moore Jr., Duke (keeper)
In each of Duke’s three seasons, Moore improved, and his numbers rose across the board. Most importantly, his 3-point percentage has increased to 40.1 this past season, as he has developed into a full-fledged player capable of not only scoring at a high level, but distributing and defending. The possibility of a high IQ had Spurs written on it.
26. Dallas Mavericks
Jake LaRavia, Wake Forest (striker)
Volume shooters will always have a place in the modern NBA, while LaRavia 6-9 has both. He made 38.9 percent of beyond the arc last year at ACC, and his 3.7 passes showed a ball-moving ability capable of creativity for his teammates.
27. Miami Heat
Blake Wesley, Notre Dame (goalkeeper)
The jump shot kept the former Notre Dame star out of the top 20. But there’s a lot he likes about him, from his speed with the ball in his hands to defensive potential and paint penetration frequency.
28. Golden State Warriors
Jaden Hardy, G-League Ignite (keeper)
Defensive champions can gamble on Hardy’s talent considering the robust nature of their roster, and bet they can make the most of the skilled goalkeeper who was considered among the top five prior to his fall year with G League Ignite.
29. Memphis Grizzlies
Nikola Jovic, Mega Mozart (striker)
Without an obvious need, the Grizzlies opt for potential with the high-profile 19-year-old striker from England who has strong peripheral skills for his size (6-11).
30. Denver Nuggets
Christian Colocco, Arizona (midfield)
The rim-operated sealer checks a lot of boxes for Nuggets, who have been looking for a Nikola Jokic backup for some time. His elite jumping ability and defensive prowess – 2.8 pieces per game last year – should enable Coloco to minimally impact the game at the edge.
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