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Instant grades for every 2022 NBA Draft first round pick

There’s an old adage that says no one can accurately judge a draft pick for at least five years after the selection is made. That’s undeniably true, but it has never stopped us from giving our snap judgements on the picks from the moment they are made.

The 2022 NBA Draft is here, and again we will be grading every first round draft pick. Our grades will be informed mostly by our final top-60 draft board, which was published earlier this week. We will also factor in perceived team fit and value in each spot when giving our grades.

We have been writing about this draft for a full year, with our first board for this class publishing the day after the 2021 draft. So much has changed since then, but our top-two players — Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren — stayed in the same spots all season. It’s been such a fun draft cycle to cover.

Let’s grade every first round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Feel free to get back to us in a few years and tell us how wrong we were. Until then, we are sticking by these grades.

1. Orlando Magic – Paolo Banchero, F, Duke

Grade: A+

Banchero has been our No. 1 prospect all year because he’s the best shot creator in the class at 6’10, 250 pounds. Banchero’s ball handling and live dribble passing ability is remarkable for someone with his frame. He’s also an excellent scorer who can finish with strength when he gets downhill, drain midrange shots from the elbow after creating space with his jab step, and bury defenders in the post with his power and touch. Banchero is only an average three-point shooter right now, and he’s not an elite run-and-jump athlete. There will be questions about his defensive translation, but his size and feel for the game should help him be at least average on that end. Where Banchero is really special is with the ball in his hands creating shots for himself and his teammate. The Magic have a nice stable of guards, but they don’t have anyone who profiles as the primary option on a team that can make a deep playoff run. Banchero can be that guy. After months of rumors that Jabari Smith Jr. would go No. 1 to Orlando, I think the Magic eventually landed on the right pick.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder – Chet Holmgren, C/F, Gonzaga

Grade: A

Holmgren was our No. 2 prospect in the class, and feels like a great fit for the Thunder’s long-term rebuild. Oklahoma City already has two gifted young guards who can create good looks for others but have shaky outside shots in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. Holmgren gives them a front court player with extreme length (7’6 wingspan), the ability to space the floor to three-point range on offense, and incredible shot-blocking skills on defense. He was one of the most productive players in the country as a freshman at Gonzaga, and has essentially aced every test he’s faced since first emerging as a top prospect in the high school ranks. It’s easy to question Holmgren’s translation because of his thin frame, but his tools, statistical output, and relentless motor makes him an easy player to bet on. The Thunder got a good one.

3. Houston Rockets – Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn

Grade: A

It’s easy to see the appeal of Smith: he might already be one of the best 6’10+ shooters in the world, and he’s a strong defender in space, as well. We had Smith as the No. 4 player on our board because he often struggles to create shots for himself and his teammates off the bounce. He only shot 43.5 percent on two-pointers this season, which feels way too low for a 6’10 player going in the top-three of the draft. The most interesting top-end outcome for Smith might be as an oversized wing defender a la Mikal Bridges — because he really is that good on his feet defensively. Smith can still become the best player in this class if he tightens his handle and gains more craft as an interior scorer. Smith probably has the highest floor of any player in the draft, but we have questions about his ceiling. Still, Smith feels like a great fit in Houston next to last year’s No. 3 overall pick Jalen Green. That’s a dynamic young pairing.

4. Sacramento Kings – Keegan Murray, F, Iowa

Grade: C

Keegan Murray is going to be a good NBA player for a long time. At 6’8, 220 pounds, Murray can rip three-pointers off movement, score in transition, and play solid team defense. At the same time, he feels like more of a “high floor” pick than a “high ceiling” pick — and the Kings need all the upside they can get. Jaden Ivey was the best player on the board and the Kings didn’t take him because of his fit with De’Aaron Fox. Drafting for fit is the wrong move for almost every team. Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006 in large part because they are so inept in the draft. The Kings once passed on Luka Doncic to take Marvin Bagley III. Somehow, they’ve made another blunder by overthinking fit instead of just going with the best player on the board. We had Ivey as our No. 3 overall player and Murray as our No. 9 overall player. He just doesn’t have the upside to warrant this selection.

5. Detroit Pistons – Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue

Grade: A+

The Pistons found their franchise star in Cade Cunningham last year with the No. 1 overall pick. They never expected Jaden Ivey to still be on the board with the No. 5 pick in the draft, but good things happen when you select behind the Kings. Ivey is clearly the best available player on the board, and a great fit with Cunningham. The Purdue guard is the most athletic player in the draft, blessed with extreme speed in the open floor, incredible burst in the half court, and ridiculous leaping ability around the rim. One of Cunningham’s few weaknesses is he’s not an elite run-and-jump athlete. Getting a super fast guard like Ivey next to him is going to cause massive problems for opposing defenses for the next decade. Cunningham can take on the tougher defensive assignment and space the floor around Ivey’s drives. Ivey gets to the basket both in transition and against a set defense in a way that will make Cunningham’s life so much easier. The Pistons have an elite backcourt foundation moving forward.

6. Indiana Pacers – Bennedict Mathurin, G, Arizona

Grade: B-

The Pacers need star-power. They should have done everything possible to trade up for the hometown hero Jaden Ivey. They could have taken a swing for a high-upside wing like Shaedon Sharpe or AJ Griffin. Instead, the Pacers played it safe with Mathurin, a bouncy athlete, good three-point shooter, and awesome cutter who should fit nicely next to Tyrese Haliburton. We had Mathurin at No. 11 on our board because he isn’t great at creating offense for himself and others off the dribble. We also have questions about how he translates defensively. Mathurin just feels a little one-dimensional to us with a loose handle and a lack of refined playmaking chops. How you feel about this pick probably comes down to how you feel about Mathurin’s defense. Ultimately, the Pacers are a team that badly needed to take an upside swing, and it feels like they left higher-ceiling options on the board.

7. Portland Trail Blazers – Shaedon Sharpe, G, Kentucky

Grade: B+

Sharpe is the mystery man of this class after enrolling at Kentucky midseason as next year’s No. 1 recruit and deciding not to play. He has a great frame for a shooting guard at nearly 6’6 with a 7-foot wingspan. He has ridiculous leaping ability, and can make plays way above the rim. He also has soft touch from three-point range. What else does Sharpe do? Who knows. His NBA debut will mark a full year since his most recent game. There will be major questions about Sharpe’s feel for the game, how he translates defensively, and what kind of passer he is. It sure seemed like he settled for tough shots too often against the high school level, even if those shots often went in. Still, we’re giving this pick a high grade because of Sharpe’s tools. With the right amount of patience and development, Sharpe can eventually be a really good player who does things you can’t teach. This is a nice upside swing by the Blazers even if it’s a risky pick.

8. New Orleans Pelicans – Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite

Grade: B+

Daniels is one of the best defensive players in this class as a 6’8 guard with quick feet, long arms, and the physicality to take on a variety of assignments. No one knew what to expect when the Australian entered the G League Ignite this year, but it quickly became evident he was going to be a lottery pick for doing all the little things teams need to win. Daniels plays with a high-motor every second he’s on the floor, and his offensive skill set is just starting to come into focus. Daniels is a good ball handler and passer in the open floor who loves to set up teammates. He got better as a three-point shooter as the year went on, but will still have to prove himself in that area. Daniels is weakest as a downhill scorer, but he can still have an impact without putting a ton of pressure on the rim. The Pelicans needed good defenders around Zion Williamson, and Daniels is the one of the best in the class.

9. San Antonio Spurs – Jeremy Sochan, F, Spurs

Grade: B+

Sochan is the best defensive forward in the class. At 6’9 with a 7-foot wingspan, Sochan is an incredibly disciplined defender who can wall off driving lanes, contest shots, and use his active hands to force takeaways. Sochan also has some skill with the ball in his hands, showing the ability to handle the rock and make easy passing reads. The big question in his game is his shooting ability, both from three-point range and the free throw line. If Sochan can become a league average shooter, he’s going to be a great pick for the Spurs. We’re not super optimistic on his offensive impact, but he’s so versatile defensively that he’ll most likely find a way to succeed either way.

10. Washington Wizards – Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin

Grade: A-

Davis is a tough-minded guard who can excel at the point of attack defensively and provide 1-on-1 scoring punch with the ball in his hands. He was one of the very best players in college basketball as a sophomore at Wisconsin, overcoming poor spacing and the lack of NBA talent elsewhere on the roster to will them to a share of the conference title. Davis averaged nearly 20 points per game mostly on tough shots, whether it was midrange pull-ups, crafty finishes around the rim, or by posting up smaller guards. Davis is also excellent at navigating screens on defense and should be a nice complement to Bradley Beal on that end. Davis’ game isn’t always pretty, but he finds a way to get it done. We think he’ll improve on his 30 percent three-point stroke when he doesn’t have to carry such an immense burden offensively.

11. Oklahoma City Thunder – Ousmane Dieng, F, New Zealand Breakers (trade with Knicks)

Grade: B+

The Knicks sent this pick to the Thunder in return for multiple future first rounders. Dieng fits everything OKC wants: a young, long, toolsy wing who has no pressure to immediately contribute. Dieng is a 6’10 French forward who played for the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL and got better and better as the season went on. The appeal of Dieng of his ability to play out on the perimeter offensively with such great size. He can handle the ball a bit, and showed promise shooting it from three-point range. Defensively, he’s going to need to add strength to his frame, but has showed good rim protection instincts as the low man at times. Dieng might be a couple years away from contributing at the NBA level, but the Thunder are also a couple years away (at least) from competing. This is a good upside swing to take.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jalen Williams, G, Santa Clara

Grade: B-

Williams was a three-year college player out of Santa Clara who was the biggest winner of the draft combine for his ridiculous measurements and impressive performance in the scrimmages. Williams is a 6’6 wing with an absurd 7’2 wingspan who shot 40 percent from three-point range and also graded out in the 90th percentile of pick-and-roll ball handling. The knock on Williams is his lack of elite quickness. While he did post excellent vertical leaping numbers, he’s someone who very much has to use crafty dribble moves to get where he wants on the floor. Williams’ advanced numbers were worse than you would like for a three-year lottery pick in a mid-major conference, which shows the impact of that lack of athleticism in our opinion. Still, the Thunder need wings and need shooting, and Williams checks both boxes. This is earlier than everyone expected him to go. Williams can contribute now while No. 11 pick Ousmane Dieng develops down the line.

13. Detroit Pistons – Jalen Duren, C, Memphis (via Hornets, via Knicks)

Grade: A+

The Pistons are officially the biggest winners of draft night. After getting our No. 3 overall player Jaden Ivey with the fourth pick, Detroit found a way to land our No. 5 overall player in Jalen Duren with the No. 13 pick. Duren is the youngest American player in the draft, but he already has grown man’s strength and tremendous athleticism. The Memphis center can slam home lobs and block shots with his 7’5 wingspan, and he also shows quick feet on the perimeter. We love Duren for his coverage versatility in the pick-and-roll, the potential he shows as a short roll playmaker, and his obvious athletic gifts. He plays with so much power around the rim, and is just coming into his own in terms of his offensive skill set. The Pistons just set themselves up for a bright, bright future.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers – Ochai Agbaji, G, Kansas

Grade: C

Agbaji is the first senior off the board after leading Kansas to a national championship and being named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament. Agbaji was always known as a good athlete, and this season he finally made the strides the NBA was waiting for as a shooter by hitting about 40 percent of his threes. The Cavs certainly needed wings who can shoot, and Agbaji fits that bill. While the fit is solid, we had Agbaji ranked in the 30s of our board because he struggles to create shots off the dribble for himself and his teammates. We’re also a bit skeptical of how he’ll translate defensively given that he lacks plus size. This is a fit pick all the way, and we prefer drafting for the best available talent.

15. Charlotte Hornets – Mark Williams, C, Duke

Grade: B+

Mark Williams to the Hornets was the easiest projection of the draft. Charlotte badly needed a center, and Williams was a local product who always seemed like a great fit with LaMelo Ball. While we preferred Jalen Duren over Williams for his added versatility, Williams can make an impact with his wild 7’7 wingspan and high-motor around the rim. Williams will mostly play drop coverage in the NBA, but he can still challenge shots in a more conservative scheme with those long arms. He isn’t a plus passer or shooter, but he really just has to hammer home dunks off feeds from ball. This is a natural marriage between player and team that many suspected, and it actually came to fruition.

16. Atlanta Hawks – AJ Griffin, G, Duke

Grade: A

Griffin is one of the youngest American players in the draft, but you’d never know it looking at his body. The Duke wing has a huge frame and a sweet shooting stroke that helped make him a Tier 2 player on our draft board. Griffin hit 45 percent of his three-pointers for the Blue Devils this year, and should provide some critical spacing around Trae Young. The reason NBA teams were lower on Griffin is because he lacked pop as a north-south driver and screen navigator defensively after suffering multiple knee injuries before his college career started. He needs to become more flexible in his body, but he should have every tool to be an impactful wing who can hit threes and take on stronger forwards on the defensive end. This feels like a boom-or-bust pick in a sense, but we like the upside swing.

17. Houston Rockets – Tari Eason, F, LSU

Grade: A

Eason has great physical tools at 6’8, 220 pounds, with a 7’2 wingspan, and huge hands. He came off the bench for LSU this year but led the team in scoring and was one of the better defenders in the country. Eason ripped the ball away from people all year by posting sky-high block and steal rates. He also has wicked downhill driving ability, and forced teams to foul him more than anyone else in this draft class. He made 80 percent of his free throws, too. Eason’s three-point shot is question mark, and he needs to develop his off-hand. He also plays a little out of control at times. He feels like somewhat of a risky pick, but I love the physical tools and upside. This is a no-brainer selection for the Rockets after landing Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3.

18. Chicago Bulls – Dalen Terry, G, Arizona

Grade: B+

Terry was the heart and soul of an Arizona team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. He has all the attributes of a ‘glue guy’ as a 6’7 wing with a 7-foot wingspan who plays with great intensity every time he takes the floor. Terry is a very good facilitator for his size, hits the glass hard, and hit 57 percent of his two-pointers. His three-point shot is a question mark mostly because he often turned down open looks. When he does shoot, Terry finished a solid 28-of-77 (36.4 percent) from behind the arc. Terry was the lowest usage player on Arizona this year, and only averaged eight points per game. He’s going to need to make defenses respect his scoring ability to unlock his passing. He seems like a good player to bet on given his mentality, motor, and two-way versatility.

19. Memphis Grizzlies – Jake LaRavia, F, Wake Forest

Grade: B

The Grizzlies sent picks No. 22 and No. 29 to Minnesota for this pick, which is a lot of value to give up. With that said, LaRavia is the sort of big wing the Grizzlies really need. He has a strong feel for the game, can shoot from three, shows good passing flashes, and knows how to defend in a team defensive structure. LaRavia often gets pigeonholed into being a shooter, but his game is more complete than that. It’s tough to give up two picks for a player who was expected to be available at No. 22, but Memphis’ front office should earn the benefit of the doubt at this point after so many years of good drafting.

20. San Antonio Spurs – Malaki Branham, G, Ohio State

Grade: B

Most expected Branham to be gone by the No. 20 pick, but this feels like a more appropriate spot for him rather than the lottery hype he had been getting. Branham was never supposed to be a one-and-done, but became one at Ohio State by hitting 40 percent of his threes, shining in the midrange, and showing flashes of skill as a pick-and-roll ball handler. Branham isn’t a great athlete and won’t be a lockdown defender by any stretch, but he improved so much as the season went on that he’s an easy player to believe in. He feels like an old school shooting guard who shined against drop coverage vs. Big Ten defenses that might not be there in the league.

21. Denver Nuggets – Christian Braun, G, Kansas

Grade: B+

I love this pick for the Nuggets. Braun plays with great intensity, can get after it at the point of attack defensively, and has even more shooting upside than his college numbers show. He was a key part of a national title team at Kansas, and should be able to contribute right away for a Nuggets team with title aspirations this year. Braun will make plays above the rim in transition, hit spot-up threes off Nikola Jokic’s passing, and hound ball handlers. Denver could have done much worse here.

22. Minnesota Timberwolves – Walker Kessler, C, Auburn

Grade: B

Jabari Smith Jr. got so much of the attention for Auburn’s success this past season, but Kessler’s shot blocking was just as vital. He’s a monster rim protector who finished with the nation’s No. 1 block rate. He also went 10-for-50 from three-point range — better numbers than Duren, Williams, or Christian Koloko — perhaps hinting at shooting development down the line despite the fact that he wasn’t a good free throw shooter in college. This gives the Wolves a defensive counterpart behind Karl-Anthony Towns.

23. Memphis Grizzlies – David Roddy, G, Colorado State (via 76ers)

Grade: B

Roddy is a massive 6’6, 260-pound wing who can really shoot it from three-point range. Roddy hit 43.8 percent of this threes this year, hit the glass hard, and showed active hands on the defensive end. Roddy isn’t the quickest athlete getting around screens, but his strength helps him handle bigger wings on the defensive end. Memphis got this pick from Philadelphia for De’Anthony Melton, who struggled at times to crack the Grizzlies’ rotation. Roddy has better size, will now be on a cheaper contract, and gives the Grizzlies another shot at improving their talent on the wing.

24. Milwaukee Bucks – MarJon Beauchamp, F, G League Ignite

Grade: A-

Beauchamp is a monster defender who plays with a non-stop motor. He’s a long and strong wing at 6’6 with a 7-foot wingspan and often wins with his athleticism. Beauchamp can make plays in transition and showed tremendous shooting touch inside the arc, hitting 57 percent of his two-pointers. His three-point shot is a question mark, but the Bucks will love his intensity and defensive versatility. This is an inspired pick for Milwaukee.

25. San Antonio Spurs – Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame

Grade: A-

Wesley was a surprising one-and-done after emerging as the lead offensive engine of a Notre Dame team that made the NCAA tournament. The freshman guard has a blazing first step and can typically get wherever he wants on the floor. The problem is he struggles to finish. Wesley hit a cold streak as a shooter that hurt his three-point percentage at the end of the year, but he should be a decent shooter in time. Wesley also has the tools to be a good defender down the road. He simply does some things you can’t teach in terms of his shot creation ability. He might be something of a boom-or-bust pick, but for a Spurs team with so many draft picks, this is a good swing to take.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves – Wendell Moore, G, Duke

Grade: C

Moore is super young for his class, has a 7-foot wingspan, and slowly started to become the player many expected he’d be when he originally entered Duke as a freshman. Moore scored efficiently all year with defenses locked in on Paolo Banchero, hitting 41 percent of his threes and 54.4 percent of his twos. He posted 2.5 steal rate two years in a row — typically a good sign for NBA translation. Still, Moore is the type of player who always left you wanting … more. He doesn’t have much juice with the ball in his hands, and his defensive impact never felt quite as great as it looked on paper. This is a fine pick by the Wolves, but not my favorite. I had Moore ranked No. 45 on my draft board.

27. Miami Heat – Nikola Jovic, F, Serbia

Grade: B

Jovic is a 6’11 forward who has impressive 1-on-1 scoring ability for his size. He is comfortable playing out on the perimeter, with pull-up threes and drives to get into his midrange game being an essential part of his scoring package. He’s not a great athlete and will project as a poor defender early in his career, but it’s hard to find players with this much offensive talent at his size. This also feels like a boom-or-bust pick. If anyone can get his body and athleticism to improve, it’s the Heat.

28. Golden State Warriors – Patrick Baldwin Jr., F, Milwaukee

Grade: A

This is the best possible landing spot for Baldwin. The 6’10 forward was projected to be a top-10 pick coming into the year before enduring one of the most trying freshmen seasons by a highly-touted recruit in recent memory. Baldwin hurt his ankle early in his senior year of high school, and it lingered into his freshman year, limiting him to only 11 games. Baldwin had an offer from Duke but chose to play for his father at Milwaukee instead. The poor team context hurt him all season when he was on the court. If you throw out the freshman year, there’s a lot to like about Baldwin. He has major size with a 9’2 standing reach, and had a reputation as a knockdown shooter at the high school level. Baldwin is no sure thing because of his injury issues and his lack of athleticism, but his size, shooting, and blue chip pedigree is appealing at this point in the draft. Read my feature on Baldwin’s rise and fall as a top draft prospect here.

29. Houston Rockets – TyTy Washington, G, Kentucky

Grade: A-

Washington was looking like a lottery pick before a mid-season ankle injury limited his play down the stretch. When he’s at his best, Washington is a guard with good size — 6’4 with a 6’9 wingspan — who thrives scoring from midrange. He has one of the best floaters in the class, and hit 35 percent of his threes. He had a 17-point, 17-assist game this year for Kentucky, and could more even more potent in a more on-ball role after mostly playing shooting guard in college. He feels like a nice fit next to Jalen Green, and a very good value at this point in the first round.

30. Denver Nuggets – Peyton Watson, F, UCLA

Grade: B

Watson was supposed to be a top-10 pick entering college, but he barely cracked the rotation on a veteran UCLA team that was trying to get back to the Final Four. He only averaged 3.3 points per game this year, which is the lowest of any first round pick you will ever see, but he certainly has the tools NBA teams look for. Watson is a long and athletic 6’8 wing who has put together some very impressive defensive tape whenever he gets on the floor. The Nuggets will need lots of patience and developmental time here, but Watson has the physical attributes to look like a steal if he puts it all together down the road.



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