USATSI_17940259 (1)
USATSI_17940259 (1)

If the Orlando Magic don’t select Jabari Smith with the No. 1 pick of the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday, it will come as a total surprise. The mock draft community has predicted for weeks that the supremely talented Auburn forward will be selected first by the lottery winners.

A status quo of projections is expected to follow — Chet Holmgren to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 2, Paolo Banchero to the Houston Rockets at No. 3 and Jaden Ivey to the Sacramento Kings at No. 4 — but keep an eye on the Kings. They could be the first lottery team to make a deal.

Over the past month, some prospects’ draft stock fluctuated while canvassing the first round for Consensus 1.0 and Consensus 2.0. Now we finally get to find out who gets drafted — and where.

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.

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: Ousmane Dieng, forward, New Zealand Breakers.

There's no real consensus on Dieng, who's being projected between No. 8 and No. 19. The 6-10 Frenchman had a breakout season in New Zealand and would fill the Cavs' need for a wing with size.

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: Malaki Branham, guard, Ohio State.

Branham lost his place in the lottery to Dieng. If the Hawks keep the pick, mock drafters have the 6-5 shooter landing in Atlanta.

17. Houston Rockets (from Brooklyn Nets): Tari Eason, forward, LSU.

The 6-8 Eason is the popular pick here for the Rockets, who can use an energetic wing (especially on defense) to complement Banchero.

18. Chicago Bulls: Jalen Williams, forward, Santa Clara.

E.J. Liddell could be the Bulls' selection, but the 6-6 Williams might be too much of a fascinating 3-and-D prospect (with playmaking experience) to pass up.

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): Dalen Terry, guard, Arizona.

With three first-round picks, the Spurs can take a flyer on a raw prospect. The latest mocks offer a wide range of options (center Walker Kessler; forwards E.J. Liddell and Nikola Jovic). The 6-7 Terry would give San Antonio another athletic defender.

21. Denver Nuggets: Blake Wesley, guard, Notre Dame.

Wesley, an unpolished but powerful 6-4 guard who can attack the basket, would be worth the dice roll.

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. Kessler, the 7-1 shot-blocker 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 (Eason), 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: NO CONSENSUS.

Consensus 2.0 had the Heat taking Bryce McGowens. Now, the 6-6 guard from Nebraska is just one of several potential selections that include Arkansas center Jaylin Williams, Duke forward Wendell Moore Jr. and Marquette forward Justin Lewis.

28. Golden State Warriors: Jake LaRavia, forward, Wake Forest.

The reigning champions could move the pick to save on next season's luxury tax. But if they keep it, mock drafters like how the 6-8 LaRavia fits the Golden State profile as a forward who can pass and shoot.

29. Memphis Grizzlies: Kendall Brown, forward, Baylor.

The 6-7 Brown will need time for his offense to catch up to his defense. The grit-and-grind Grizzlies won't mind having to wait.

30. Denver Nuggets (from Phoenix Suns via Thunder): Wendell Moore Jr., forward, Duke.

The latest mocks point to the 6-5 Moore's shooting (41.3% on 3s) and playmaking (4.4 assists per game) as a junior at Duke as the main reasons why he'd be perfect for the Nuggets.

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