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NBA mock draft 2022: These prospects can rise during March Madness

Here’s where the 2022 NBA draft class stands in March.

There’s a jarring lack of consensus throughout the 2022 NBA Draft class as college basketball hits its stretch run. There are at least three legitimate contenders to go No. 1 overall, a seemingly endless number of prospects who could sneak into the lottery after the top five, and a group of overlooked college veterans looking to crack the first round with a big performance in March.

Players rise up draft boards every year after breakout performances in the NCAA tournament, even as analysts consistently warn against it. Last season, Davion Mitchell saw his draft stock skyrocket after he helped power Baylor to a national championship. De’Andre Hunter solidified his top-five status in 2019 after helping Virginia win it all.

We did a deep dive into the 2022 draft class in the middle of January. Here’s an updated projection of where things stand heading into March Madness, with big picture themes to watch for after the table.

2022 NBA mock draft

Pick Team Player From Position Age
Pick Team Player From Position Age
1 Houston Rockets Paolo Banchero Duke Forward Freshman
2 Orlando Magic Chet Holmgren Gonzaga Forward/Big Freshman
3 Detroit Pistons Jabari Smith Jr. Auburn Forward/Big Freshman
4 Oklahoma City Thunder Jalen Duren Memphis Center Freshman
5 Indiana Pacers Jaden Ivey Purdue Guard Sophomore
6 Sacramento Kings AJ Griffin Duke Wing Freshman
7 San Antonio Spurs Keegan Murray Iowa Forward Sophomore
8 Portland Trail Blazers Johnny Davis Wisconsin Guard Sophomore
9 Portland Trail Blazers (from Pelicans) Tari Eason LSU Forward Sophomore
10 New York Knicks Ben Mathurin Arizona Guard Sophomore
11 Memphis Grizzlies (from Lakers) Jeremy Sochan Baylor Forward Freshman
12 Washington Wizards Kennedy Chandler Tennessee Guard Freshman
13 Charlotte Hornets TyTy Washington Kentucky Guard Freshman
14 Atlanta Hawks Kendall Brown Baylor Guard Freshman
15 Oklahoma City Thunder Patrick Baldwin Milwaukee Forward Freshman
16 Houston Rockets Ochai Agbaji Kansas Wing Senior
17 San Antonio Spurs Jaden Hardy G League Guard Freshman
18 Minnesota Timberwolves Blake Wesley Notre Dame Guard Freshman
19 Indiana Pacers MarJon Beaucamp G League Wing Freshman
20 San Antonio Spurs Nikola Jovic Serbia Forward Born
21 Denver Nuggets Dyson Daniels G League Wing Born
22 Chicago Bulls Mark Williams Duke Center Freshman
23 Brooklyn Nets Caleb Houstan Michigan Wing Freshman
24 Memphis Grizzlies (from Jazz) Walker Kessler Auburn Center Sophomore
25 Dallas Mavericks Malaki Branham Ohio State Guard Freshman
26 Milwaukee Bucks EJ Liddell Ohio State Forward Junior
27 Miami Heat Max Christie Michigan State Guard Freshman
28 Golden State Warriors Jean Montero Overtime Elite Guard Born
29 Memphis Grizzlies Harrison Ingram Stanford Wing Freshman
30 Oklahoma City Thunder Bryce McGowens Nebraska Wing Freshman

Who should go No. 1 in the 2022 NBA Draft? Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and Paolo Banchero all have the chance

It isn’t totally unprecedented for three players to have a real shot at becoming the top pick in the draft as March Madness approaches — it happened in 2020 with Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and LaMelo Ball — but it is unusual. Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and Paolo Banchero each have a case to go No. 1 overall this year. Outside observers will see three players who are roughly the same size and play the same position, but the reality is all three have distinct skill sets that can impact the game in completely different ways.

Banchero has been our No. 1 player since the preseason. He’s also probably been the least impressive of the three at the college level. Despite temptation to move him down a spot or two, we’re still rocking with Paolo because it feels like he has a better chance to eventually become a primary option in the NBA than anyone else in this class. Banchero combines an excellent midrange scoring package with impressive passing flashes. He needs to stress making quick decisions with the ball, and prove he’s a better three-point shooter than his percentage (30.6 on 111 attempts) would indicate. While Banchero isn’t a great leaper or super fast moving backwards, he shouldn’t be a majority liability defensively because of his size, strength, and smarts. It feels like his freshman season left scouts and executives wanting a little more, but his NBA upside remains sky-high in the right context.

Holmgren has made a strong push for our top spot — and might end up there eventually. While his thin frame is constantly scrutinized, the tape shows the Gonzaga freshman is one of the more physical players in this class. He’s a relentless finisher at the rim offensively and an intimidating shot blocker. He also brings intriguing perimeter skills: Holmgren is a 41 percent three-point shooter on nearly 97 attempts, he’s capable of handling in the open floor, and he makes the quickest decisions of any potential top pick. Holmgren feels like the sort of player who might end up as a second or third option offensively while still potentially projecting as the most impactful player on a good team.

Smith already has a case as one of the best 6’10+ shooters alive. His ability to shoot off movement at that size with deep range and a high release makes him almost unguardable outside the arc. Smith is also the strongest perimeter defender of the bunch, showing impressive lateral quickness when matched against smaller players. He still isn’t much a threat to create off the dribble and often settles for extremely tough shots instead of finding an easier look for himself or his teammates. Developing his handle and interior scoring craft — Smith shoots only 44 percent on two-pointers — could elevate him to superstardom. He feels like a player who needs to be paired with an elite creator, with makes his potential fit with Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons in this mock so enticing.

It feels pretty close between all three, in my humble opinion. Who ultimately emerges as the best player will depend on team context, role, and of course individual skill and physical development. Fast forward 10 years from now and the right answer for who should go No. 1 will seem obvious. For now, it feels like there’s no definitively wrong answer.

Johnny Davis vs. Ben Mathurin could be shaped by March Madness

Purdue sophomore Jaden Ivey has established himself as the top guard prospect in the class and a lock to go in the top-five. The next guard off the board will likely be either Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis or Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin. Both of these players are going to have a major opportunity to elevate their draft stock in the NCAA tournament.

Davis is a physical 6’5 guard who did it all to drag Wisconsin to a share of the Big Ten regular season title during a breakout sophomore season. He profiles as a strength-based creator who can bully smaller guards in the post, keep defenders on his hip in the pick-and-roll (where he scores in the 82nd percentile of the country), and easily get into his mid-range pull-up game. He should also be stout defensively at the next level. The question for Davis is how he overcomes his lack of top-end burst against NBA defenders, and if he can level up as a three-point shooter after going 33-for-104 (31.7 percent) from behind the arc entering the tournament. Davis was injured on a scary flagrant foul last week against Nebraska. Here’s hoping he can be at the peak of his powers in March.

Mathurin leads a top-seeded Arizona team that has become a trendy pick to win it all entering the tournament (guilty). Compared to Davis, Mathurin is faster, a better leaper, and a more dynamic shooter. The sophomore jumps out of the gym to get off his threes, which he hits at a 37.6 percent clip (74-197), often off movement. He’s also a dynamic cutter who does a great job finding open creases in the defense, finishing in the 84th percentile on cuts this season, per Synergy Sports. On the flip side, Mathurin lacks Davis’ size (he appears to be a tad shorter than the 6’6 he’s officially listed at), isn’t as good defensively, and struggles at times to create with the ball in his hands. If Mathurin improves as a driver and facilitator he could really level up, but for now he looks like an off-ball shooter who doesn’t impact the game defensively as much as you’d like for a top-10 pick.

How high can Keegan Murray climb?

Simply calling Murray the hottest player in the country entering the NCAA tournament might be underselling him. The Iowa sophomore has scored 20 points or more in 14 of his last 16 games entering the big dance, carrying the Hawkeyes to a Big Ten tournament title in the process. Murray is remarkably efficient by any metric: he shoots 62 percent on twos, 40.5 percent on threes on a high volume of attempts (163), finishes in the 98th percentile as a halfcourt scorer and in the 96th percentile as a transition scorer. At 6’8, 225 pounds, he can score from pretty much anywhere on the floor while doing a great job avoiding turnovers (his 6.9 percent turnover rate ranks No. 4 in the country, per KenPom). Murray is also a sharp rotational defender despite the lack of high-end athleticism. His dominance this season shouldn’t be discounted just because he’s a little older than most sophomores. Murray has felt like one of the ‘safest’ picks in the top-10, but at this point it’s worth asking if he might have serious NBA upside, too.

Who will be March’s biggest breakout star?

You know about the big names. Three names we’ll be closely monitoring outside of the top-10 in our latest mock: Tennessee freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler, Kentucky freshman guard TyTy Washington, and Kansas senior Ochai Agbaji. Each of them have the potential to rise if they can lead their teams on a deep run in the tournament.

With the uncertainty of draft class even extending to the top overall pick, there will be plenty of intrigue for NBA teams in March Madness. Don’t be surprised if this board gets a big shakeup after the national title game.


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