The 2022 NBA Draft is a very heavy draft class with the same four players projected to the top since the start of the college basketball season. Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Purdue’s Jaden Ivey have all played well this season and maintained their draft stock since November.
Midway through the NBA season, a few teams began the process of tanking to secure a higher percentage for a first draft pick when the NBA Draft Lottery rolls out on May 17. The Oklahoma City Thunder sat star rookie Josh Giddey after suffering a minor hip injury. in February. Starting point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was also out for the past two weeks and Lu Dort’s last game came in early February.
The Sacramento Kings traded Tyrese Haliburton after taking on the starting guard with the 12th overall pick just two years ago and also traded Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III in February.
The Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons are clearly in rebuilding mode, but everyone is looking for that franchise-changing player and that potential dwindles after the No. 4 pick.
The Rockets, Magic and Pistons all have the best odds for the No. 1 overall pick (14%) and a top-four pick (52.1%). The Thunder are next with a 12.5% chance of being the first pick and a 48.1% chance of being a top four. The Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers and Kings follow, rounding out the top seven teams with the best odds, according to Tankathon.
What does a team do if they fall outside the top four? Here’s a look at five players (plus two front-row bonus players) who are good options for teams picking up five-to-seven.
Murray might be the safest choice at No. 5 after a strong second season at Iowa. He led the nation in points (822), field goals (307), player efficiency rating (37.8) and box over/under (15.7). He averaged 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and shot 40% from 3 points. At 6-foot-8 and with a wingspan of 6-foot-11, Murray was one of the most versatile offensive players in the country. He preferred to go down when possible, connecting on 62% of shots in the paint. He was also solid in the pick-and-roll and read defense well and was a threat when the defense went under the screen, knocking down 66 threes this season. Whether on the open court or in the half court, Murray proved to be one of the most effective scorers last season.
Defensively, he doesn’t have that burst to keep up with stronger attackers in the open court and his lateral quickness isn’t great against faster guards who turn off switches on the perimeter.
One team that could target Murray near the top of the draft is Portland. The Blazers need a player with size on the wing, and Murray’s elite offensive abilities could help him see the opening minutes.
There is no other player in this draft with a bigger question mark attached to his name than Sharpe. The 6-foot-6 shooter was the No. 1 player out of high school and didn’t play a single minute at Kentucky after signing up early and being deemed eligible for the second half. Sharpe declared himself for the NBA Draft on April 21 and said he would maintain his college eligibility, but the chances of him returning are slim.
“I need to take this next step to officially go through the process, to test the waters and receive feedback,” said Sharpe.
Sharpe averaged 21.4 points, six rebounds and three assists in his senior season in high school. Last summer, Sharpe topped Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, averaging 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per outing. He’s an athletic guard who likes to play over the edge and has a solid jump shot on the outside. It will be interesting to see where he lands on draft night, but there’s enough potential there to take him as high as No. 4 and as low as No. 10 overall, depending on the workouts of the team.
Mathurin is a longtime combined guard at 6-foot-6 and finished his second season strong, averaging 20 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in the playoffs. His best game of the season came in an overtime thriller against TCU where he scored 30 points (8 for 19 from the field) and did a bit of everything offensively.
It’s hard to project what Mathurin’s role will ultimately be on the next level. He has a strong catch-and-go style on a missed shot and is a reliable one-read passer who has connected on great lanes off the dribble. Arizona played with two centers in the field for most of the game and Mathurin didn’t necessarily have to show his creativity down the hall with the strong inside presence.
His improvement from his first year to his second year is encouraging. Mathurin is a bit late and has room to grow in his game at just 19. Mathurin isn’t as tall as Murray but is still a solid 3-and-D option for a team. He’s a reliable defender who disrupts set attacks, whether on a dribble pass or sneaking up to the weak side block to help a double team. A solid 3-and-D player is always in demand and if a team falls outside that powerful top four, Mathurin could soar to the next level with the NBA game spacing allowing him to open his game.
Griffin has had some ups and downs in his lone season at Duke, but the NBA potential is definitely there. He’s huge in size for a 6-foot-6 wing and a solid 220-pound frame. Physically, he is the most ready wing in the NBA and will be able to come off the block in lag situations.
Griffin has been plagued with a few injuries during his young career, including a knee injury to start the season at Duke. Griffin excels in iso situations and his inconsistency at Duke could have been the set playing at the collegiate level and all the other options on the court like Banchero and center Mark Williams. According to Synergy Sports, he was rated “excellent” in point shooting, averaging 1.2 points per possession and ranked in the 99th percentile in offense against man-to-man defense. Also, according to KenPomGriffin’s two-point field goal percentage went from 54.7% to 56.2% against top-tier opponents.
If Griffin’s medical looks solid during the pre-draft process, his draft range is between fifth and 10th overall.
Davis was the biggest draft pick since the start of the season so far. The sophomore from Wisconsin is a gritty point guard who is an excellent downhill playmaker. While Ivey may be a more consistent shooter, both players are excellent in transition and crafty around the edge. Davis has similarities to Jalen Suggs (who finished fifth overall for the Magic last year) in the way he sees the court, his toughness on defense and his high basketball IQ. The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and two assists per game and shot 35% from deep in his two years at Wisconsin.
The Pacers could target Davis to the top of the draft. With their vision for the court and the passing of Tyrese Haliburton, the duo could be a dream backyard duo to build on for years to come.
Bonus options in central position
While none of these players are projected in the five-to-seven range, there are teams that need help in the front court. If a team like Oklahoma City falls outside the top three and misses Holmgren, Smith or Banchero, the Thunder could consider making a trade or taking Mark Williams from Duke or Jalen Duren from Memphis.
Williams’ draft stock rose after a strong showing in the NCAA Tournament. He’s still pretty raw as a prospect, but has a huge advantage with his 7-foot frame and 7-foot-7 wingspan. Williams blocked 110 shots in 39 games and offensively shot 72.1% from the field in his second season.
Duren is one of the youngest players in this draft class, upgrading a grade to play for Penny Hardaway a year earlier. He has the most physically ready frame, alongside Banchero in the forward position at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds. In the one-on-one with Holmgren in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Duren held his own, and on a few plays he bullied Holmgren to the edge. He won’t be a plug-and-play guy right away at the NBA level, but can make a difference in the paint after a few years of development in the league.