The 2022 NBA draft, at last, is Thursday.
You likely know the drill by now — the Detroit Pistons have the fifth overall pick and feel good about their odds of landing an impact player. Mock drafts are more art than science, and there will always be surprises on draft night.
The Pistons could go in several directions, depending on what happens with the first four picks. Here’s my best guess on what will happen.
1. Orlando Magic: PF Jabari Smith Jr.
Vitals: 6 feet 10, Auburn freshman.
2021-22 averages: 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, two assists, one block, 42% from 3-point range.
Chet Holmgren should have some appeal to the Magic here, as they’ve long valued length in the draft. But Smith appears to be the safest choice here, and his elite shooting will immediately raise Orlando’s floor.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: PF/C Chet Holmgren
Vitals: 7-0, Gonzaga freshman.
2021-22 averages: 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, 39% from 3.
The “unicorn” label gets thrown around a lot these days, but it fits Holmgren — a seven-footer at 195 pounds with fantastic rim protection instincts and plenty of offensive upside thanks to his ball-handling and outside shooting.
3. Houston Rockets: PF Paolo Banchero
Vitals: 6-10, Duke freshman.
2021-22 averages: 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 33.8% from 3.
Big, playmaking wings run the NBA. That’s Banchero, whose advanced footwork, touch around the rim and strong court vision should help him become a primary offensive option.
4. Sacramento Kings: G Jaden Ivey
Vitals: 6-4, Purdue sophomore.
2021-22 averages: 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 35.8% from 3.
This is where the uncertainty starts, as the Kings have several options. Ivey, an explosive guard with superstar upside, is the best player available here. But Sacramento could opt for Murray — a better fit for their roster — or trade the pick.
5. Detroit Pistons: F Keegan Murray
Vitals: 6-8, Iowa sophomore.
2021-22 averages: 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 39.8% from 3.
Detroit’s options will be shaped what the Kings decide. It still feels safest to assume the Kings will draft Ivey, as he’s the most coveted player outside the top three. If Sacramento isn’t enamored with Ivey’s fit next to De’Aaron Fox, it’s more logical for them to take him and work out a trade later, rather than let him fall to the Pistons. Ivey didn’t work out for Sacramento, but the Kings are accustomed to drafting players without meeting them beforehand.
If Ivey goes fourth, the Pistons will likely pick between Murray and Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin, who has risen up draft boards this week and has long had fans in Detroit’s front office. Murray’s sheer productivity at Iowa last season could be tough to pass on, and he would give Detroit an immediate replacement for Jerami Grant after their trade of the forward to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
6. Indiana Pacers: G/F Bennedict Mathurin
Vitals: 6-6, Arizona sophomore.
2021-22 averages: 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 36.9% from 3.
You can never go wrong with drafting a wing shooter, and Mathurin is arguably the best in the draft. He knocked down 38.3% of his 225 3-pointers through two college seasons, and his athleticism and playmaking upside could help him grow his game considerably.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: G/F Shaedon Sharpe
Vitals: 6-6, Kentucky freshman.
2021-22 averages: N/A.
Sharpe is the biggest mystery since he didn’t play a game for the Wildcats, but his upside may be too great for Portland to pass on.
8. New Orleans Pelicans: G Dyson Daniels
Vitals: 6-6, G League Ignite.
2021-22 averages: 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists.
The Australian guard has seen his stock rise during the pre-draft process thanks to his playmaking, defensive activity and size.
9. San Antonio Spurs: C Jalen Duren
Vitals: 6-11, Memphis freshman.
2021-22 averages: 12 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks.
Robert Williams’ performance during the Boston Celtics’ playoff run illustrated just how impactful athletic and defensively active centers are in today’s league. Duren is the best center prospect on the board after Holmgren.
10. Washington Wizards: G/F Johnny Davis
Vitals: 6-6, Wisconsin sophomore.
2021-22 averages: 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists.
Davis starred for an undermanned Wisconsin team last season, and his shifty perimeter defense and touch at the rim and inside the arc should help him become a productive NBA player for a long time.