NBA Draft Week is about to get hectic, but right now there’s nothing but calm before the storm of pre-draft maneuvering and draft-night trades. The chatter is intensifying, though, fueling new rumors as teams at the top of the draft put up their best smoke screens. The Orlando Magic certainly are enjoying their position with the first overall selection.
“Dialogue is always ongoing,” Magic president Jeff Weltman told reporters on Monday.
One mock drafter has already steered away from popular opinion, forecasting Duke forward Paolo Banchero to the Magic at No. 1 over the longtime favorite to be taken first, Auburn forward Jabari Smith. But after scrolling through the latest mock drafts, the first-round picture is getting clearer, not murkier.
Mock Draft Consensus 1.0 covered the lottery picks. Version 2.0 canvasses all 30 first-rounders.
1. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith, forward, Auburn.
Nothing has changed. It’s nearly unanimous that the Magic will draft the 6-foot-10 Smith, whose shooting stroke and defensive skills are ready for the NBA, over Chet Holmgren, an agile 7-foot unicorn who will need time to fulfill his potential.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren, center, Gonzaga.
Same deal here. OKC is searching for its next superstar, and mock drafters overwhelmingly believe Holmgren — with exceptional ball-handling, vision and a 7-6 wingspan to affect the game on both ends — is the Thunder’s best bet at No. 2.
3. Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero, forward, Duke.
Banchero still figures to be the beneficiary of the playing time created by the Christian Wood trade. The Rockets have cleared the way for a promising young big like Banchero to run with last year’s first-rounders, namely guard Jalen Green.
4. Sacramento Kings: Jaden Ivey, guard, Purdue.
The first three picks have been set for a while. That’s why the draft really begins here. The Kings could trade the No. 4 pick for a proven veteran. Or they could stay put and take the best player available. That would be Ivey, the top backcourt prospect of the 2022 class, despite the presence of guards De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell.
5. Detroit Pistons: Keegan Murray, forward, Iowa.
Momentum is gaining in the latest mocks for Bennedict Mathurin, but the majority of them still have the Pistons selecting Murray as the much-needed shooter to partner with 2021 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.
NBA draft prospect preview: Bennedict Mathurin
6. Indiana Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin, forward, Arizona.
Last week, Mathurin was being projected to the Pacers as much as Shaedon Sharpe. That hasn’t changed. Mathurin gets the nod because of his rising stock as a 6-6 wing who can knock down 3s and defend the perimeter.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: Dyson Daniels, guard, G League Ignite.
Daniels is the overwhelming choice for the rebuilding Blazers, who can have the 6-7 point guard serve as Damian Lillard’s apprentice.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (from Los Angeles Lakers): Shaedon Sharpe, guard, Kentucky.
The 6-5 Sharpe, forecasted last week to the Pacers, drops two spots to the Pels, and that’s a reflection of the growing uncertainty over the 19-year-old, who never played a game at Kentucky but projects as a point guard who can score.
9. San Antonio Spurs: Jalen Duren, center, Memphis.
The 6-11 Duren is the lottery’s other fast riser, and the athletic big man is being predicted to go here along with forward Jeremy Sochan. Duren makes the most sense because center Jakob Poeltl is in the final year of his contract.
10. Washington Wizards: Johnny Davis, guard, Wisconsin.
Bradley Beal desperately needs backcourt help. Mock drafters believe the 6-5 Davis can provide it. They envision the Big Ten Player of the Year immediately impacting games with his ballhandling and playmaking.
11. New York Knicks: A.J. Griffin, forward, Duke.
The Knicks need shooting. The 6-6 Griffin is regarded as the best shooter in the draft, having made 44.7% of his 3-pointers as a freshman.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Los Angeles Clippers): Jeremy Sochan, forward, Baylor.
Last week, forward Ousmane Dieng was being tabbed as the Thunder’s upside pick at No. 12. The 6-9 Sochan is the best fit for OKC because of his ability to defend all over the floor.
13. Charlotte Hornets: Mark Williams, center, Duke.
Duren, Griffin and Sochan are also mentioned as options, but the Hornets need a post presence. In the 7-2 Williams, they can add a big man who'll protect the rim and set screens for LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Malaki Branham, guard, Ohio State.
Ochai Agbaji continues to get projected here, but Branham is gaining steam with mock drafters who view the 6-5 shooter as a backup plan to Collin Sexton’s upcoming restricted free agency.
15. Charlotte Hornets (from Pelicans): Ochai Agbaji, forward, Kansas.
After drafting Williams at 13, the Hornets can opt for wing depth with the 6-6 Agbaji, a four-year Kansas standout who would provide scoring punch off the bench right away.
16. Atlanta Hawks: Jalen Williams, forward, Santa Clara.
Tari Eason had been forecast to the Hawks quite regularly to address their pressing wing needs. The new consensus has Atlanta choosing the 6-6 Williams, a 3-and-D prospect with playmaking experience.
17. Houston Rockets (from Brooklyn Nets): Ousmane Dieng, forward, New Zealand Breakers.
Dieng’s stock has dropped, at least with the mock draft crowd. The 6-10 Frenchman, who had a breakout season in New Zealand, lands in a perfect spot with the rebuilding Rockets, who can wait for the long, bouncy forward to blossom.
18. Chicago Bulls: Tari Eason, forward, LSU.
There’s no clear-cut consensus. The 6-8 Eason just edges out E.J. Liddell as the favored forward prospect.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves: TyTy Washington Jr., guard, Kentucky.
Most mock drafts have the Wolves adding backcourt depth with the 6-4 Washington, who thrives in the pick-and-roll.
20. San Antonio Spurs (from Toronto Raptors): Blake Wesley, guard, Notre Dame.
Of late, the thinking is that the Spurs, with three first-round picks, can take a flyer on a raw prospect. Wesley, an unpolished but powerful 6-4 guard who can attack the basket, would be worth the gamble.
21. Denver Nuggets: Dalen Terry, guard, Arizona.
Those who project the 6-7 Terry to the Nuggets do so because of the 19-year-old’s vision and passing, qualities that would complement the franchise core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. very well.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (from Utah Jazz): Kennedy Chandler, guard, Tennessee.
With Tyus Jones set to hit free agency, the Grizzlies might need a new backup for Ja Morant. The 6-foot Chandler is the popular pick to join Memphis’ backcourt mix.
23. Philadelphia 76ers: Jaden Hardy, guard, G League Ignite.
Mock drafters expect Philly to trade this pick. If the Sixers keep it, they’re expected to go the best player available route by choosing the 6-4 Hardy, whose upside lies in his explosive scoring ability.
24. Milwaukee Bucks: E.J. Liddell, forward, Ohio State.
The 6-7 Liddell is the closest thing to a consensus pick for the Bucks, who are looking for help now, not later. Walker Kessler, the 7-1 center from Auburn, is also being projected here.
25. San Antonio Spurs (from Boston Celtics): Nikola Jovic, forward, Mega Mozzart (Serbia).
Like at No. 20, the Spurs figure to base their third and final first-rounder on biggest upside. The 19-year-old Jovic is a 6-11 point forward who could develop into something special.
26. Houston Rockets (from Dallas Mavericks): MarJon Beauchamp, guard, G League Ignite.
Having drafted forwards at No. 3 (Banchero) and No. 17 (Dieng), the Rockets can select the 6-5 Beauchamp, an intriguing prospect whose first-round grade is based on his nonstop energy and defensive versatility.
27. Miami Heat: Bryce McGowens, guard, Nebraska.
Terry appears in more mock drafts here, but since he’s projected to go to Denver at No. 21, the most logical forecast is the 6-6 McGowens, a skinny slasher who’ll need time to develop.
28. Golden State Warriors: Jake LaRavia, forward, Wake Forest. Some mocks have the reigning champs choosing a center (didn’t they watch the Dubs win the title without a traditional big?). The 6-8 LaRavia fits the Golden State profile as a forward who can pass and shoot.
29. Memphis Grizzlies: Wendell Moore Jr., forward, Duke.
Similar to the Heat’s pick at 27, no real consensus exists. The 6-5 Moore gets the nod because of his shooting (41.3% on 3s) and playmaking (4.4 assists per game) as a junior at Duke.
30. Denver Nuggets (from Phoenix Suns via Thunder): Andrew Nembhard, guard, Gonzaga.
The mock drafting community is starting to rally around the 6-4 Nembhard, whose size and steady play at point guard is needed in Denver. With Terry already in the fold with the 21st pick, don’t be surprised if the Nuggets opt for frontcourt help, such as Kansas forward Christian Braun or Florida State forward/center John Butler.