What was expected to be a wild 2022 NBA draft full of trades, pick swaps and star player movement simmered into a relatively stable night — teams remained calm and stuck to their draft boards. But, like with any draft, several questions still remain: Which team drafted the next superstar? Who will be the biggest bust? What happened with the Knicks? Here are my initial winners and losers of the 2022 NBA draft.
The Oklahoma City Thunder
Despite a Woj bomb surprising everyone with Paolo Banchero becoming the Magic’s first overall pick after there were zero reports tying the Duke forward to Orlando, the Thunder got the guy they wanted in Gonzaga center/forward Chet Holmgren. The seven footer joins a young Oklahoma City core led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, two playmakers who can help Holmgren get adjusted to the NBA very quickly. But OKC didn’t stop there. General Manager Sam Presti used his plethora of draft capital to entice the Knicks away from their No. 11 pick to draft New Zealand forward Ousmane Dieng, while also adding Jalen Williams from Santa Clara and Jaylin Williams from Arkansas (the two Williamses replicated the Spider-Man meme in their OKC introduction!). The Thunder drafted players who can guard all five positions and have high upside, bringing them to an environment where they can develop with little to no pressure.
Jaden Ivey and the Detroit Pistons
When Detroit fell out of the top three of the lottery, despite having a bottom-three record in the league, Pistons fans lamented the fact that they would miss out on the three unicorns headlining the draft. But despite picking at No. 5, the player of their dreams fell into their lap in Purdue guard Jaden Ivey. It was a good story, with Ivey in tears as he heard his name called to Detroit, the city where his family carried the sports tradition; his mother, Niele Ivey, played for the Detroit Shock and his grandfather, James Hunter, played for the Detroit Lions. Ivey comes full circle to a Pistons team where he fits perfectly. His strong athleticism and shot creation should fit nicely next to Cade Cunningham’s playmaking and scoring ability. On top of landing Ivey, Motor City also traded for center Jalen Duren from Memphis, a player who offers them immediate starting caliber defense and much-needed size.
NBA draft reporting
What’s the point of following the draft live if ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic reporter Shams Charania, two of the NBA’s top-tier breaking news journalists, are going to tweet who got drafted five minutes before commissioner Adam Silver officially announces the pick? Their Twitter race escalated into a confusing slew of inconsistent reporting on several trades, namely the three-team deal involving Duren. Wojnarowski and Charania tweeted conflicting reports about where the Memphis center landed, with one reporting him on the Knicks and the other suggesting a trade from the Hornets to the Pistons. Even the broadcasters couldn’t figure out where Duren was going and what he was being traded for. Details of the trade only became apparent hours after the No. 13 pick was announced. It was a recurring theme of disorientation all night long, with draftees getting their name called for one team only to be announced in a trade five minutes later. NBA draft night can stand to be a lot less incoherent and a lot easier to digest for the casual fan.
Sacramento Kings fans
The entire ESPN broadcast was dedicated to making Kings fans feel terrible about their franchise’s decisions. Before their pick at No. 4, they showed a graphic of the busts the Kings had picked before NBA superstars like Luka Doncic, Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard. This was followed by Sacramento selecting Keegan Murray, the forward from Iowa, higher than his projection on most expert’s mock drafts. I’m not killing the Kings for picking Murray; while he is an older draft pick, he led the Hawkeyes with 23.5 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game. More impressively, he led the country in player efficiency rating at 37.8, and won a slew of national awards. Because of Murray’s high floor and NBA-ready game, it’s a pick that feels like a win-now move, which isn’t exactly easy for a Kings team competing in a loaded Western Conference. Additionally, Sacramento could have potentially traded down to get Murray later with traded assets, especially when so many teams were clamoring for Ivey. Kings fans have to sit through the next four months worrying whether their team made another terrible draft night decision.
To Be Determined:
The New York Knicks
The Knicks did a bunch of weird stuff, but long story short, they traded out of the lottery in a loaded draft class… for a bunch of conditional picks. That sounds like a disaster, but from New York’s perspective, the quality of draft prospects was thinning out by the No. 11 pick. And even if they did keep Dieng or whichever prospect they wanted, they would barely crack Tom Thibodeau’s rotation, a coach known for not playing rookies. Their plan on draft night was based more on clearing cap space to pursue breakout point guard Jalen Brunson. By dumping Kemba Walker’s $9.2 million contract, they have the salary cap space to potentially outbid Dallas. However, I’m not sold on the “All in on Brunson” plan; he’s less of a star and more of an excellent third option on a winning team — New York is not a winning team right now. Furthermore, their entire free agency plan goes up in flames if Brunson decides to return to the Mavericks. It’s difficult to call the Knicks draft night a loss until we know the value of those picks, what they can flip them for and if they can score big in free agency.