2022 NBA Draft: Live Grades for Every Pick | Bleacher Report

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    The future of the NBA starts right now.

    The 2022 draft has arrived and with it comes the promise of brighter tomorrows, ascending stars and, if everything breaks just right, maybe some banner-raising celebrations down the line.

    Whether these prospects can actually live up to the hype will only be revealed with time, but we know enough about their games and on-paper fits to make real-time evaluations for every selection.

    With red pens in hand, we’re here to grade every pick.

    Check back throughout the night as teams make each selection.

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    The draft’s first curveball comes with the first overall pick, as the Magic select Paolo Banchero—and not the oft-mocked Jabari Smith. For a team with such an obvious need for an offensive focal point (Orlando didn’t have anyone average 17 points), this is a swing for the fences and quite possibly a moon-shot blast.

    If this draft class produces a scoring champ, Banchero is the odds-on favorite. His offensive bag bursts at the seams with a drool-worthy blend of power, finesse, shot-making, finishing and an unfair amount of passing for a 6’10”, 250-pounder.

    Now, can he defend at the NBA level? Physically, he’ll be good to go from his first opening tip, but at Duke, his defensive motor sputtered like a broken-down pickup. A good coaching staff can correct that flaw, though, as well as improve his sometimes overly ambitious shot selection.

    From my viewpoint, Banchero is the best fit and the best prospect in the class. Job very well done, Magic.

    Grade: A

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    More than a few talent evaluators have Holmgren atop their big boards, so OKC should be thrilled to have him at No. 2.

    If Holmgren can bulk up his 195-pound frame, look out. He is plenty hard to handle now without the added muscle. Floor-spacing and rim-protecting unicorn bigs are all the rage right now, and Holmgren gets his metaphorical horn from his combination of 1.3 threes per game (at a 39.0 percent clip) and 3.7 rejections.

    Essentially, he’s an intimidating, shot-blocking big who doubles as a net-shredding, jumbo-sized perimeter player at the other end. That’s an easy skill tandem to grow infatuated with, even if his rail-thin body and half-court creation leave unanswered questions about his outlook.

    He needs time, but the Thunder can give that to him. They can also supply shot-creators in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, who should help with Holmgren’s trouble generating looks in the half-court.

    Grade: A-

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    Space City always sat in prime position holding the No. 3 pick in a draft with a three-player tier at the top. Even if Smith wasn’t the player most thought would fall to this spot, whichever one fell was going to be a no-brainer.

    He may be the best shooter in his class, which is high praise for anyone, let alone a 6’10” 19-year-old. He wowed with quantity (2.3 triples per game) and quality (42.0 percent) during his one-and-done run at Auburn, and everything about his outside stroke feels translatable to the big league.

    He doesn’t have quite as much shot-creation as you’d normally seek from a top-three pick, but he could tighten his handle with time, and if he does he’d be unstoppable. Rockets fans will fall in love with his competitiveness, while Rockets coaches will feel the same about his defensive versatility.

    Smith will widen attack lanes for Jalen Green, while Green will find shots for Smith on the move. Smith’s mobility and defensive versatility should also make him a snug fit with Alperen Sengun, assuming Houston has the latter penciled in as its long-term center.

    Grade: A

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    Sacramento snagged a clean roster fit and a player who should make a smooth transition to the league in Murray. But did the Kings take the best prospect on the board here? That’s debatable.

    Murray is simultaneously old-ish for a top prospect (22 in August) and young for his skill set, which looks like it belongs to an NBA veteran. His film is almost mistake-free and showcases everything from multipositional defense and shot-making to on-time (and on-target) passes and sound instincts.

    His shooting may not quite measure up to this past season’s 39.8 three-point percentage, as he shot just 29.6 percent as a freshman and 74.9 percent at the stripe for his career. He also needs to prove he can consistently create his own shot against pro defenders.

    Murray projects as a high-level glue-guy. That archetype really helps good teams. How much does it do for a play-in hopeful? It’s a solid selection, but you want more than solid from a No. 4 pick.

    Grade: B

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    Congrats, Motor City. You could have the Association’s most electric backcourt combo sooner than later after the Pistons paired Cade Cunningham with Ivey, who gives off serious Ja Morant vibes.

    Ivey is electricity personified. He pairs the burst of a track star with the aerial antics of a Cirque du Soleil performer to form a highlight-friendly arsenal. He looms as the likeliest candidate to lead this draft class in viral moments.

    His jumper is often there when he needs it, though not quite what you’d call consistent. He could also take his passing and on-court leadership to another level, but that’s probably true of any 20-year-old guard.

    If a perimeter player emerges as the best player in this draft, Ivey is the likeliest candidate. Detroit’s future brightened considerably Thursday.

    Grade: A

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    If the Pacers are really pivoting into a rebuild—still waiting for the Malcolm Brogdon trade, and maybe the Myles Turner one, too—then they’re forming quite the perimeter trio to lead it. They drafted Chris Duarte last summer, added Tyrese Haliburton at the trade deadline and now complete the trio with Mathurin.

    He is a high-level athlete and shot-maker. If you know nothing else about his profile, you at least recognize there are reasons to be excited.

    There isn’t much creation in his game right now (for himself or his teammates), and his defensive impact comes and goes. Still, he’ll give the Pacers plenty of perimeter shots and transition scores out of the gate, and they could eventually have a real talent on their hands if they help iron out his weaknesses.

    Grade: B-

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    Interesting. The Blazers, who need as much win-now talent as anyone as they try to rapidly retool around 31-year-old Damian Lillard, just spent a top-10 pick on someone who hasn’t played a game in a year. Then again, they also just snagged someone with a sky-high ceiling at both ends, so it’s hard to complain.

    This draft’s mystery man, Sharpe never played a game for the Wildcats. That forced scouts and analysts to fire up footage from his high school days, where he dazzled as a dunker, shot-creator and effortlessly smooth shooter.

    Still, he could face a steep learning curve in the league, as his handle and shot selection both need copious amounts of seasoning. If everything breaks right with his development, though, he could become a go-to scorer who keeps teammates involved and holds his own defensively.

    The boldness from the Blazers here is commendable. If there was a way to spend this pick and not have it lose trade value, this was probably the path, since Sharpe has such enormous potential.

    Grade: B

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    Assuming Zion Williamson puts his health problems behind him—a big assumption, but stay with me—the Pelicans have far fewer holes on their roster than their 46 losses would make you think. They could’ve gone any direction here, and they were smart to snatch up the fast-rising Daniels.

    He wowed on the predraft circuit, as he should have. His size-skill combination is drool-worthy. He is the second jumbo-sized playmaker (6’6”) plucked from Australia and planted in the lottery in as many years (joining last year’s No. 6 pick, Josh Giddey). Whatever they’re doing with big guards down under, it’s clearly working.

    As with Giddey, Daniels arrives in the Association with a shaky jump shot, and where that stroke eventually lands will determine what kind of career he has. Still, he offers too much as a versatile defender, slasher, playmaker and rebounder to not at least settle in as a do-it-all role player.

    Daniels feeding Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum should be all kinds of fun. Daniels teaming with Herbert Jones sounds suffocating at the other end. Nice pick.

    Grade: A-

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    It’s hard to tell how San Antonio’s long-term puzzle will take shape (particularly with Dejounte Murray trade rumors surfacing this week), which is kind of an issue since Sochan’s game doesn’t easily fit with every roster.

    He might be the most disruptive defender in this draft, but he’s also one of the least developed scorers (at least among lottery prospects). If he wasn’t such a dynamic defender, he’d be dinged a lot more for his red-flag shooting rates from three (29.6 percent) and the line (58.9).

    Admittedly, even with a suspect jumper, his potential is off the charts. He can defend any position and operate as a 6’9”, 230-pound table-setter. But unless his scoring really takes off, he needs shot-creators around him, and San Antonio doesn’t have enough.

    Saying all of that, this developmental staff has as good of a chance as any to bring the best out of him.

    Grade: C+

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    If the Wizards are keeping Bradley Beal, then finding polished players makes sense. Davis scratches that itch.

    He looks like a problem for NBA defenses already—and that’s with the acknowledgement that his three-ball is a work in progress (30.6 percent in 2021-22). He can blow by bigger defenders and punish smaller ones around the basket with an impressive low-post arsenal for a 6’4” guard.

    That perimeter shot is a question, though, and his efficiency slipped with his expanded role this past season (42.7 percent shooting overall). His defensive effort is commendable, but he doesn’t have great size (196 lbs) or athleticism.

    He isn’t a perfect prospect, but he should be a helpful pro.

    Grade: B-

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    The Thunder landed this pick from the Knicks, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and immediately used it for a flier on Dieng.

    He is a bit of a project, but his size (6’10”), age (19) and skills make him a project worth undertaking.

    The pieces are in place for an impact, two-way player. He gets where he wants off the bounce, can separate from defenders, finds open teammates and comfortably defends multiple positions. He just needs a ton of fine-tuning, as accuracy (as a shooter and passer) and awareness are both big issues at the moment.

    Oklahoma City is playing the long game, as it should. If enough long-term darts hit the board, the Thunder could be a (literally) massive headache at some point down the line.

    Grade: B

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    After some (relative) gambles on Holmgren and Dieng, the Thunder played it safe here with Williams, who looks like an early two-way contributor.

    He ranked among the combine’s biggest winners with his measurements (namely, a sweeping 7’2” wingspan), athletic testing and scrimmage work.

    Coming out of Santa Clara, his numbers are a bit tricky to break down given the competition level and the prominent role he’ll never fill in the pros. Still, he has the handles, vision, stroke and motor of a glue guy.

    If players like Holmgren, Dieng, Giddey and (fingers crossed) Aleksej Pokusevski come through, Williams could quietly shine as a connector.

    Grade: B-

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    After assembling their backcourt with the pairing of Jaden Ivey and Cade Cunningham, the Pistons solidified their center spot by landing Duren in a trade with Charlotte, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.

    Duren will make his presence felt around the basket—and above the rim. Even as a rookie, he’ll send NBA veterans to the wrong kind of viral fame as a shot-blocker and finisher on lob passes from both Ivey and Cunningham.

    He is a traditional center, though, and those are always tough to value in the modern NBA. He also displays a notable lack of polish, though that’s not surprising (or particularly alarming) considering he might be the youngest player selected (won’t turn 19 until mid-November).

    If Detroit’s guards are as dynamic as they look on paper, it makes sense to invest in an athletic rim-runner.

    Grade: B+

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    The Cavaliers clearly (and correctly) identified the wing spot as their biggest need. Whether they grabbed the right one with Agbaji is the question.

    Agbaji fits the three-and-D mold, but only if you catch him on the right night.

    When he is making his outside shots, he looks like he could spend a decade-plus in the league. When the shots aren’t falling (33.3 percent from three his final 12 contests), he basically just has defense and bounce at his disposal.

    Agbaji should be solid, but history may not be kind to Cleveland for taking him with AJ Griffin and Malaki Branham on the board.

    Grade: C-

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    When the Hornets went on the clock at No. 13 with both Jalen Duren and Mark Williams on the board, they were officially in win-win territory. With the Cavaliers unlikely to select a center, Charlotte felt good enough about one falling to here to give up the No. 13 pick, and that’s exactly how it played out.

    Williams offers a coveted mix of size (7’0”), length (7’6½” wingspan) and athleticism. He can handle a rim-running role right now.

    The question, though, is what else he can become. Beyond flashes of passing and a pinch of shooting (72.7 free-throw percentage), he offers very little away from the basket.

    Still, Buzz City has been desperate for a big, and Williams has all of the tools to finally fill that void.

    Grade: B+

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    The Hawks needed a wing defender who wouldn’t spoil their spacing. They should be overjoyed that Griffin fell in their lap.

    Ankle and knee injuries robbed him of nearly two years of his high school career, but you wouldn’t know it based on his polish. Chalk that up to his tremendous work ethic, but credit at least a little of it also to his father, former NBA wing and current Toronto Raptors assistant coach, Adrian Griffin.

    Duke’s loaded roster kept Griffin’s numbers relatively in check, but he still popped with a 44.7 percent splash rate from three and 54.7 percent mark on twos. He looks the part of an NBA-ready three-and-D wing (with more shot-creation than the label typically implies), though his defensive awareness needs an upgrade to really fill that niche.

    Grade: A-

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    Houston’s defense is trending up. Granted, it had nowhere else to go after last season’s last-place finish, but still, the additions of Smith and now Eason could help establish the culture on a young Rockets team.

    Eason has a ton of tools and plenty of question marks, too. He defends all over the floor, creates momentum-shifting steals and blocks and can put anyone on a poster in transition. He also fouls at an alarming rate (4.8 per 40 minutes), gets careless with the basketball and is prone to bouts of tunnel vision.

    His long-term outlook intrigues, but he needs a lot of work to approach his ceiling. Good thing Houston is in no hurry to win.

    Grade: C

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