The 2022 NBA Draft is Thursday, June 23. I love the excitement surrounding the draft. This is a chance to land that franchise-altering prospect! This is the time to show how smart the GMs are and how diligently and cleverly the scouting department evaluates talent. In theory.

In reality, most of the 60 picks taken on Thursday will make little to no ripples in the NBA pond. Sometimes, though, the ripples are delayed. 

Take Mr. Andrew Wiggins. He is a former number one pick and now he is an All-Star and an NBA champion. It just took a while to get from points A to B and C. A lot has been written about Wiggins’ journey from number one draft pick to being traded immediately, disappointing on bad Minnesota teams, and finally his recent redemption, so I won’t rehash the whole thing here.

I will say that in my estimation, that eight-year gap to finally blossoming into the player that the basketball-loving public wanted him to be is about as long as it can take. He had all the talent, he just needed to be put in the right situation. 

Each of these new draftees will be hoping for that perfect situation when they join their respective teams. Some will find it, most will not. Drafting is very difficult. What I endeavored to do was look back at the aforementioned eight-year “Wiggins Window” for each of the teams drafting in the lottery and see a) how they did, b) do they have any players who could pop, c.) laugh at some of the choices, and d) think about how their picks this year might fit the team. 

In order to figure out who each team might select, I took from the consensus list created on nba.com, which collected the mock drafts from several different sites. 

The Magic are first on the board. 

1. Orlando Magic

Consensus pick: Jabari Smith Jr.

  • 2021 – 5. Jalen Suggs, 8. Franz Wagner
  • 2020 – 15. Cole Anthony
  • 2019 – 16 Chuma Okeke
  • 2018 – 6.  Mo Bamba, 35. Melvin Frazier
  • 2017 – 6. Jonathan Isaac, 33. Wesley Iwundu
  • 2016 – 41. Stephen Zimmerman
  • 2015 – 5. Mario  Hezonia, 51. Tyler Harvey
  • 2014 – 4. Aaron Gordon

The Magic having the first pick feels momentous. They have had that privilege three other times and they made it count each time. In 2004, they took Dwight Howard. For all his flaws—an inability to post-up and yet a strong desire to post-up, a personality that rubs people the wrong way, and weird coaching shenanigans being a few—he did lead the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals when everyone had expected LeBron James or the Boston Celtics to come out of the East.

In 1993, they drafted Chris Webber and immediately traded for the rights to Penny Hardaway instead. Penny was an amazing player derailed by injury, but he was a dynamic performer with one of the best commercial gimmicks in my childhood. The year before, in 1992, the Magic selected Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was easily one of the most dominant players ever to play basketball, and he and Penny led the Magic to the NBA finals in 1995. Both Shaq and Dwight then left the franchise for the Lakers.

Thus the track record has been established. If the Magic draft you #1, you will lead them to the finals before leaving the team for greener pastures or getting tragically injured. All of those have happened outside of the Wiggins Window. Their other picks in that time have been spotty. Part of that is luck, with those picks falling just outside the top tier of talent in the draft.

The Magic have mostly made what they could out of those mid-lottery selections. Cole Anthony can be a spark plug guard and I think his true talent could be unlocked if he doesn’t have to be the guy. He may still think he is the guy, however. I like Jalen Suggs, but really the stud they grabbed last year was Wagner. He can impact a game in multiple phases, including running the offense for stretches. He can score, rebound, and he doesn’t take crap. If Jonathan Isaac is healthy, he is an intriguing defensive stopper. Every contender needs a wing like that—we just saw Wiggins blossom in exactly that role–the problem is that health is a big IF. 

So it comes down to their selection. Jabari Smith is going to be an immediate offensive threat. His ability to spread the floor and shoot over anyone will mix well with the Magic’s other length. Is he the guy to pin Orlando’s title hopes on in 2025? We have to say yes, right?

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

Consensus Pick: Chet Holmgren

Wiggins Window picks:

  • 2021 – 6. Josh Giddey, 18. Tre Mann, 55. Aaron Wiggins
  • 2020 – Traded all picks
  • 2019 – Traded all picks
  • 2018 – 53. Devon Hall, 57. Kevin Hervey
  • 2017 – 21. Terrance Ferguson
  • 2016 – No picks
  • 2015 – 14. Cameron Payne, 48. Dakari Johnson
  • 2014 – 21. Mitch McGary, 29. Josh Huestis

Picks via trades:

  • 2021 – Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 
  • 2020 – Alexei Pokusevski 
  • 2016 – Domantas Sabonis

The Thunder own every pick in the 2023 draft. This year, they have a lot. In the lottery, they have numbers 2 and 12. If past drafts have taught us anything, it’s that no teams are infallible. Players that seem like sure things fail and players that are afterthoughts become important role players. There is some real logic to taking as many shots as possible to hit the big one. The Thunder are certainly trying that.

Do we trust them to succeed? Sam Presti, the Thunder’s GM, has made his mark on the league primarily through his trades. His Westbrook for Paul deal and his various Paul George trades have set the Thunder up currently. His draft success rate since a strong run in the early 2000s is a little spottier. Perhaps that’s why the multiple picks strategy becomes that much more important. 

Looking at their previous selections, the trades stand out as the most interesting until you get to 2021. I think they struck gold with Giddey and I like Mann more than most. The trade for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander means they could have some real building blocks with tons of other options left to come. They can choose how to build around Giddey and SGA. 

Chet Holmgren has the type of versatility to fit in most NBA schemes. His defense could be an anchor point as he grows and with his length and guard skills, I could see the Thunder really whipping the ball all around the court. Let’s just hope they draft better than they did in 2014-2018, that was a really rough stretch.

3. Houston Rockets

Consensus Pick: Paolo Banchero

Wiggins Window Picks:

  • 2021 – 2. Jalen Green, 23. Usman Garuba, 24. Josh Christopher
  • 2020 – No picks
  • 2019 – No picks
  • 2018 – Traded all picks
  • 2017 – 43. Isaiah Hartenstein
  • 2016 – 37. Chinanu Onuaku, 43. Zhou Qi
  • 2015 – 18. Sam Dekker, 32. Montrezl Harrell
  • 2014 – 25. Clint Capela, 42. Nick Johnson

Picks via trades:

  • 2021 – Alperin Sengun 
  • 2020 – Kenyon Martin Jr. 

The Houston Rockets were in win-now mode for many years during the James Harden era. Looking at their list makes me think they felt the draft was an afterthought because of that mindset. Now they have some extra picks coming in and everyone is clear they are rebuilding. Last year, they got two very talented rookies and they will continue to build out a young core.

The Rockets best picks pre-2021 were big men, Harrell and Capela. James Harden and Russell Westbrook’s respective styles meant that both those players got traded. Now that the picks count, they are choosing some real possible stars. Jalen Green was a bit under the radar since the Rockets were terrible, but he really started to put stuff together during the second half of the season. Sengun is a ground-bound but feisty big man. 

Paolo Banchero is also a big man, but he’s more skilled than any of these other names. He can create offense that those other two young stars are going to feast off of. Green and Banchero are a terrifying duo if they are coming at you with momentum. Defense will not be the focus of this core, however. So future drafts may be important there.

4. Sacramento Kings

Consensus Pick: Jaden Ivey

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – 9. Davion Mitchell, 39. Neemias Queta
  • 2020 – 12. Tyrese Haliburton, 43. Jahmi’us Ramsey
  • 2019 – 40. Justin James, 60. Vanja Marinkovic
  • 2018 – 2. Marvin Bagley 
  • 2017 – 5. De’Aaron Fox, 34. Frank Mason
  • 2016 – 59. Isaiah Cousins
  • 2015 – 6. Willie Cauley-Stein
  • 2014 – 8. Nik Stauskas

Picks via trades:

  • 2019 – Kyle Guy 
  • 2017 – Justin Jackson and Harry Giles 
  • 2016 – Malachi Richardson

Looking back at the Sacramento Kings’ choices is like riding a first bicycle over cobblestones—real rough. I mean, five top ten picks in this span and not a single guy that people are really stoked about. That’s not including their best pick of Haliburton, whom they promptly traded. I like Fox, but I don’t think he’s a franchise-altering guy. So the consensus is for them to draft another guard and see what happens. I imagine the Kings will do some trading if this is how things shake out for them. 

That being said, Jaden Ivey is intriguing. If they do pair him with Fox that is one hell of an athletic backcourt at least. Still, when I look at it, I just think they should trade down and get more assets. This team is not one player away from the playoffs. I can’t look back on this list and say I trust this franchise to do the right thing. Taking Bagley over Luka Dončić is a real kick in the nuts. Stauskas was close to a title this year by keeping a seat warm on Boston’s bench. I wish the Kings the best, as being at the 4 spot in this draft is a tough pivot point.

5. Detroit Pistons

Consensus Pick: Keegan Murray

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – 1. Cade Cunningham, 42. Isaiah Livers, 52. Luke Garza
  • 2020 – 7. Killian Hayes
  • 2019 – 15. Sekou Doumbouya
  • 2018 – 42. Bruce Brown
  • 2017 – 12. Luke Kennard
  • 2016 – 18. Henry Ellenson, 49. Michael Gbinije
  • 2015 – 8. Stanley Johnson, 38. Darrun Hilliard
  • 2014 – 38. Spencer Dinwiddie

Picks via trades:

  • 2020 – Isaiah Stewart

I watched very few Pistons games this past season. That being said, I do not need a huge sample size to agree with the world that Cade Cunningham is special. The rest of this list may as well be written in Japanese, it is so tough for me to read. Dinwiddie just proved he could show up in the playoffs… on a different team. Brown and Kennard are contributors… on different teams. Johnson just got a new two-year contract… on a different team. 

So maybe they are okay at drafting, they just don’t keep guys? Isaiah Stewart is a fun throwback type of player. Hayes is still… pretty young? The Pistons need to surround Cunningham with talent. Part of his unique ability is that he can fit in with a wide swath of running mates.

Keegan Murray is slightly similar in that he can do a little bit of everything. He also fits in on the defensive side of the ball, which the Pistons are slowly improving. I think the pistons need to hit doubles while they build this team since they already might have their home run. Murray would be a solid fit.

6. Indiana Pacers

Consensus Pick: Shaedon Sharpe

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – 13. Chris Duarte
  • 2020 – 54. Cassius Stanley
  • 2019 – 18. Goga Bitadze
  • 2018 – 23. Aaron Holiday, Alize Johnson
  • 2017 – 18. T.J. Leaf, 47. Ike Anigbogu
  • 2016 – 50. Georges Niang
  • 2015 – 11. Myles Turner, 43. Joe Young
  • 2014 – Traded all picks

A lot of drafts have Keegan Murray going here if the Pistons don’t go for him. That would be a very Pacers pick. I would say that Shaedon Sharpe is not a pacers pick, and looking back at this list might prove it. But the Pacers were also the team that drafted Lance Stephenson, so who knows. This list, however, is a lot of established college players.

Plus they have Malcolm Brogdon and Haliburton leading the team. Sharpe chose not to play last season at Kentucky, but could provide some offensive punch. Goga got minutes after Turner went down and proved to be productive in that time. Duarte is solid, if not exciting. Turner has been in every trade rumor since he was taken in 2015. If he sticks around, I like his fit coming back from injury since the Pacers traded Domantas Sabonis.

7. Portland Trail Blazers

Consensus Pick: Bennedict Mathurin

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – No picks
  • 2020 – 46. CJ Elleby
  • 2019 – 25. Nassir Little
  • 2018 – 24. Anfernee Simons
  • 2017 – 26. Caleb Swanigan
  • 2016 – No picks
  • 2015 – Traded all picks
  • 2014 – No Picks

Picks via trade:  

  • 2021 – Greg Brown
  • 2018 – Gary Trent Jr.  
  • 2017 – Zach Collins  

The Trail Blazers finally pulled the trigger on breaking up the C.J. McCollum/Dame Lillard backcourt this past season. They also sent out several others via trades. Anfernee Simons has been rumored to be a possible rising star essentially since he was drafted in 2018. After the Blazers sent everyone else away and Dame got hurt, Simons finally lived up to that reputation. The rest of this list is, well, not good. Little might be a role player. Before this list, the team did draft Lillard and McCollum, but front offices change and this one did fairly publicly. 

The MO of the Blazers for years has been that the offense can be explosive and the defense always lets them down. The pick of Bennedict Mathurin here is an interesting one. He’s a good shooter in diverse situations, which is certainly helpful to have next to Dame’s playmaking. He is not yet a meaningful defender, in my opinion, though the physical tools are there. He’s still young despite staying two whole years in college so he could take the defensive challenge in the pros. He will be exciting either way.

9. New Orleans Pelicans

Consensus Pick: Dyson Daniels

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – 35. Herb Jones
  • 2020 – 13. Kira Lewis
  • 2019 – 1. Zion Williamson
  • 2018 – 51. Tony Carr
  • 2017 – Traded all picks
  • 2016 – 6. Buddy Hield
  • 2015 – Traded all picks
  • 2014 – No picks

Picks via Trade:

  • 2017 – Frank Jackson

Notably missing from the Pelicans draft list is current NBA darling Jose Alvarado, as he went undrafted. The Herb Jones pick has reaped immediate rewards and the Zion pick has been very close to franchise-changing. The Pelicans earned their wings this season without him, so getting him back will be huge in more ways than one.

The chance to add the 8 pick to the squad that finished the season pushing Phoenix to the brink (before we knew that was less impressive) is a real opportunity to flesh out the roster. The fact that the Pelicans might be evaluating talent well means even more.

Dyson Daniels won’t be asked to carry much of an offensive load with CJ, Brandon Ingram, and Zion running the show. He can use his playmaking skills to keep the offense humming. He has excellent vision and he could set the table for those other score-first players quite well. Pairing him with Jones on the defensive end is the really thrilling part for me. That’s a nasty pair of intelligent defenders.

9. San Antonio Spurs

Consensus Pick: Johnny Davis

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – 12. Joshua Primo, 41. Joe Wieskamp
  • 2020 – 11. Devin Vassell, 41. Tre Jones
  • 2019 – 19. Luka Samanic, 29. Keldon Johnson, 49. Quinndary Weatherspoon
  • 2018 – 18. Lonnie Walker IV, 49. Chimezie Metu
  • 2017 – 29. Derrick White, 59. Jaron Blossomgame
  • 2016 – 29. Dejounte Murray
  • 2015 – 26. Nikola Milutinov, 55. Cady Lalanne
  • 2014 – 30. Kyle Anderson

It is fitting the Spurs didn’t move up at all in the lottery. If they were picking any lower (or higher, you know what I mean) than 9, it would look too weird. Still, this is their highest (lowest? Dammit.) pick in… a long time. The Spurs have built their reputation on making the most of the picks they have. Grabbing Murray at 29 is an absolute steal.

Getting White at the same pick was a solid move, as he just helped propel the Celtics to the finals. They got Keldon Johnson at 29 too. Maybe the Spurs should trade back to the 29th pick? The fact that Kyle Anderson was drafted in 2014 and not 1999 really shook me, but he was an excellent pick either way. 

Last year, the Spurs picked Primo to the surprise of just about everyone. It didn’t feel like a Spurs pick even if it’s too early to tell. This consensus pick of Johnny Davis feels like a much more fitting move. He’s a midrange killer, like former Spurs DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge before him. And a defensive ace, like Kawhi Leanard, Bruce Bowen, and Matt Bonner before him. If that is the scouting report beforehand, I imagine it will come true once he gets into the Spurs program.

10. Washington Wizards

Consensus Pick: AJ Griffin

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – 15. Corey Kispert
  • 2020 – 9. Deni Avdija
  • 2019 – 9. Rui Hachimura
  • 2018 – 15. Troy Brown, 44. Issuf Sanon
  • 2017 – No Picks
  • 2016 – No Picks
  • 2015 – 49. Aaron White
  • 2014 – Traded all picks

Picks via Trade:

  • 2020 – Cassius Winston

The Wizards shot out of the gate last season before falling back to the depths of the conference. I think their fate falls more in the middle of that world. I continue to like the haul they got back for Westbrook, and their last three drafts have provided them with valuable role players at worst. I do not know why I’m still holding on to Avdija’s potential. If Beal continues to stick it out, and Porzingis can—I’m sorry, I can’t even finish the line because, yeah, we all know what will happen. KP will get hurt and they might trade Beal yet. 

That’s why this consensus pick of AJ Griffin would worry me. I remember his dad from the early NBA 2K games, but this guy has had too many injuries too early in his career for me to take a lottery swing. That being said, he could be a classic 3 and D wing. I hate to count out a guy so young, so let me change my tune. He could fit in well next to Beal.

11. New York Knicks

Consensus Pick: Jalen Duren

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – 58 Jericho Sims
  • 2020 – 8. Obi Toppin
  • 2019 – 3. R.J. Barrett
  • 2018 – 9. Kevin Knox, 36. Mitchell Robinson
  • 2017 – 8. Frank Ntilikina, 44. Damyean Dotson, 58. Ognjan Jaramez
  • 2016 – No picks
  • 2015 – 4. Kristaps Porziņģis
  • 2014 – 34. Cleanthony Early, 51. Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Picks Via Trade:

  • 2021 – Rokas Jokubaitis and Miles McBride 
  • 2020 – Immanuel Quickley
  • 2019 – Ignas Brazdeikis  
  • 2015 – Jerian Grant

I like the Knicks. I want them to succeed. I do not know what to make of them, however. They had one good season and then succumbed to the disease of success as if they won the NBA title. Their roster is a patchwork quilt and that might not be fair to quilts because they generally have a theme. The star they paid is not a star. I guess it all coalesced once, and maybe it can again.

Adding a big man prospect like Jalen Duren would be a good move. He can be a part of a possible rebuild, or contribute in his areas more quickly. He’s a rim-running, shot-blocking type and would fit well next to R.J. Barrett. If he can eventually turn into a Robert Williams-type, that would help anyone on any resewn Knicks roster.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder

(See #2 above)

Consensus Pick: Jeremy Sochan

If you have SGA, Giddey, Chet, and Sochan, you have a wealth of length, playmaking and defensive options. I’m not sure you have enough shooting yet, although they are so young that may develop in time. Right now, Giddey and SGA are not statistically good outside shooters. I like the cutting and movement opportunities this could create though. Jeremy Sochan is a ridiculously versatile defender.

2020 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes was touted as a 1-5 defender and his versatility on both ends fueled a surprising Raptors turnaround. I’ve read that some see Sochan as a better defender than Barnes. Pairing him and Chet together on the back line will create fascinating options against most teams, Joel Embiid most likely excluded, as they don’t have a ton of beef back there.

13. Charlotte Hornets

Consensus Pick: Mark Williams

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – 11. James Bouknight, 56. Scottie Lewis
  • 2020 – 3. LaMelo Ball, 32. Vernon Carey, 56. Grant Riller
  • 2019 – 12. P.J. Washington, 36. Cody Martin, 52. Jalen McDaniels
  • 2018 – 55. Arnoldas Kulboka
  • 2017 – 11. Malik Monk
  • 2016 – Traded all picks
  • 2015 – 9. Frank Kaminsky
  • 2014 – 9. Noah Vonleh

Picks via trade:

  • 2021 – Kai Jones and JT Thor 
  • 2020 – Nick Richards 
  • 2018 – Miles Bridges
  • 2017 – Dwayne Bacon

Charlotte is in an odd middle ground. They didn’t really have any other choice other than LaMelo Ball and it was obviously the perfect choice. This is a fun run-and-gun team as a result of his playing style. They have swagger, but they need more to push them over the top. Bouknight needs to continue to develop. Miles Bridges is a perfect running mate for LaMelo. Whichever Martin twin they have is getting minutes and P.J. Washington has been a fun versatile 4 or small ball 5. 

Mark Williams, besides having the most boring name in the draft, is another solid fit around LaMelo. He’s the rim protector that can cover up defensive gambles and he’d be another lob threat on offense. The center position has been the weak spot for this rebuild and Mark could possibly lock that down.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers 

Consensus pick: Ousmane Dieng

Wiggins Window Picks: 

  • 2021 – 3. Evan Mobley
  • 2020 – 5. Isaac Okoro
  • 2019 – 5. Darius Garland, 26. Dylan Windler
  • 2018 – 8. Collin Sexton
  • 2017 – No picks
  • 2016 – No picks
  • 2015 – 53. Sir’Dominic Pointer
  • 2014 – 33. Joe Harris (traded Andrew Wiggins)

Picks via trade:

  • 2016 – Kay Felder
  • 2014 – Dwight Powell (immediately traded)

Ah, yes, the team that initially drafted Andrew Wiggins (that’s an article going full circle). The Cavaliers were a welcome surprise this year. Their turnaround can be largely attributed to their draft record. This team has been mostly very good at the crapshoot of selecting players. Often in their history, those choices were made for them.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were pretty easy picks to make. Anthony Bennett, not so much. In recent years, they’ve gotten so many top ten selections, it’s kind of ridiculous. But as I mentioned in the Kings and Magic sections, that doesn’t imply automatic success. 

The Cavs have made the most of their recent drafts. Sexton is an offensive power, although he’s coming off an injury. Okoro is a defensive-minded role player not concerned with shots. Garland and Mobly are All-Star level players and maybe more. Now that they are drafting outside of the top ten, we’ll finally see what they’re made of. 

Ousmane Dieng might be THE length and versatility prospect of the draft. Not a known scorer, he does everything else well, or at least projects to. And the scoring could come. He’s a fluid athlete with tremendous size. Pairing him with Evan Mobley might not be fair for the rest of the league. Last year the Cavs played big, so they have experience with the possibility of slotting Dieng in with Mobly and Jarrett Allen at the same time. The possibilities are certainly intriguing. 

On Thursday, we get to see the real picks. Maybe in eight years, we’ll be talking about one of these players swinging the fortunes of a finals team like Wiggins. Either way, I can’t wait to watch it play out.

 

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