Let’s be honest about this thought exercise: We don’t know who the winners and losers in the 2022 NBA Draft are, and we won’t know for three or four years.
Should the Magic have actually drafted Jabari Smith over Paolo Banchero? Should the Kings have taken Jaden Ivey instead of Keegan Murray? While I like Ivey better as a prospect, we won’t likely know the answer to that question until around the 2025 draft. A lot of what follows is my perception and opinion, which could be proven wrong in a few years.
With that caveat, here are my winners and losers from the 2022 NBA Draft. Just take this (and everyone’s analysis) with a grain of salt.
Winner: Paolo Banchero and his bettors
When the betting markets took a dramatic shift starting a little more than 24 hours before the draft — money started pouring in on Paolo Banchero going No. 1 overall — suffice to say, media members and their sources inside the league were confused. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski even posted a definitive Tweet a little more than 12 hours before the draft saying Jabari Smith was going first, Chet Holmgren second, and Banchero third.
It turns out, the sharps were onto something. About an hour before the draft, the tune from Wojnarowski and other news breakers started to change. By the time Adam Silver said they were on the clock, it was clear the Magic would take Banchero. Some sharp bettors made a lot of money.
It was a brilliantly run deception by the Magic, who clearly planned to take Banchero all along but put out a perfect smokescreen. The bigger question is, why run the deception? Nobody was snapping up their guy in front of them. Was it to try to shake out a trade for Smith, so they could trade down a couple of spots and still get their guy (ala Danny Ainge giving up the No. 1 spot so Philadelphia could take Markelle Fultz, then getting Jayson Tatum at No. 3)? Maybe it was just because they could. Whatever the motivation, the plan worked.
Winner: Detroit Pistons
For my money, Detroit was the big winner and had the best draft night of any team.
Part of that was luck — Jaden Ivey fell to them at No. 5. Ivey’s explosive athleticism is a perfect one-two punch with Cade Cunningham, forming the backcourt of the future, one that could be the best backcourt in the league in a few years. Then they traded for the center of the future in Jalen Duren, out of Memphis. (Does that make it less likely they chase Deandre Ayton in free agency?)
The Pistons are a team to watch.
Losers: Knicks fans
However, patience is never what Knicks fans want. They wanted their team to trade up and land a star in Jaden Ivey, or keep the No. 13 pick from that first trade and take the center of the future in Jalen Duren (now a Piston) or do something else bold. Instead, they got a little more cap room to make a run at Jalen Brunson, who is almost certainly staying with the Mavericks anyway.
What the Knicks did tonight:
NYK trades 11th pick to OKC
OKC trades 3 firsts (23 DEN, DET, WASH) to NYK
NYK then trades 23 DEN, 4 seconds to CHA for 13th pick
NYK then trade 13th pick & Kemba Walker to DET for MKE's 25 first
NYK trades 11, Kemba, 4 2nds & gets 3 future 1sts
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) June 24, 2022
The Knicks can appease their fans with moves in free agency, but on draft night the Knicks were boring, and their fans didn’t like it.
Winner: Houston Rockets
Paolo Banchero would have been good in Houston (he would be good anywhere), but Jabari Smith is a better fit next to Jalen Green.
Smith doesn’t create shots for himself as well as Banchero, but Green and Kevin Porter Jr. do that already for the Rockets. Smith shoots the ball very well and defends his position — two things the Rockets need. Smith is going to thrive in his role in Houston, and that makes the Rockets winners.
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder
They finished the night with lottery picks, one of whom they had to trade to get, who could/should form a critical part of the core being built in OKC.
They got the potential franchise cornerstone in Chet Holmgren at No. 2 — even after the Magic chose Banchero the Thunder stuck with the Gonzaga big man — plus traded with the Knicks to land Ousmane Dieng, then used their own pick to get Jalen Williams (not to be confused with Jaylin Williams, who they got in the second round).
These are all players that are considered to need a little time to develop, but you can see the kind of team Sam Presti is starting to build. Pair those three with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lou Dort and Josh Giddey; this becomes an interesting team to watch grow.
Loser: Fans rooting for NBA chaos
NBA fans have come to expect bold and aggressive moves in the offseason — and those still may come in the next few weeks — but the 2022 NBA Draft was a slow night for the agents of chaos.
Outside of the surprise at No. 1, there were no big trades, no record-scratch moments that shocked everyone. John Collins is somehow still a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Rudy Gobert is still with the Jazz. No huge trades, no insane picks out of nowhere (even the Kings passing on Ivey for Keegan Murray was expected, if not something anyone else would have done). Up and down the draft board, teams took players who fit pretty well.