Winners, losers from the 2022 NBA Draft


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

New York didn’t do anything terribly wrong, it was just dull. The Knicks continued with Leon Rose‘s pattern of patience and cleared out a little cap space moving on from Kemba Walker.

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.

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.

Now it’s up to Kyrie Irving to bring the chaos. Which he is fully capable of doing.

Five players poised to make first NBA All-Star game this season


Who is ready to make the leap?

Every season there are players on the cusp of becoming an All-Star — not only has their game improved to be one of the top 24 players in the league, but their stature has risen to the point fans (voting for the starters) or coaches (voting for the reserves) want to see them in the game.

Here are five players on the cusp of making that leap and getting the chance to suit up in Salt Lake City this February for their first All-Star Game.

1. Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers)

He was the centerpiece headed to Indiana in the trade that sent Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento — and a lot of executives around the league were shocked the Kings gave him up. After the trade, Haliburton averaged 17.5 points and 9.6 assists a game with a 62.9 true shooting percentage — and this season he’s going to be asked to do even more on a team that is rebuilding (but still has Myles Turner and Buddy Hield on the roster… what exactly is Indiana doing?).

The Pacers will take a step back this season (which doesn’t help his All-Star chances) but Haliburton himself will be unleashed. He will draw the attention of fans and opposing defenses — coaches know and like his game, which is why he stands a good chance to be an East All-Star reserve this season.

2. Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)

Edwards has made the leap in popularity and stature — he is trash-talking Kermit in Adam Sandler’s Hustle — and he probably should have been an All-Star last season averaging 21.3 points a game.

Edwards has the explosive, highlight-factory game and has the big personality fans love (although his homophobic social media post over the summer does not help his cause). He will be in the spotlight more on an improved Timberwolves team — he will be the outside to Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert inside — that should be in the mix for the playoffs in the West. Anthony Edwards has a lot of All-Star Games in his future, this season should be his first.

3. Evan Mobley (Cavaliers)

As a rookie, Mobley was already a top-flight defensive big man who averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game — and he came back this season stronger and ready to make a leap on the offensive end. He finished a close second in the Rookie of the Year voting and took that personally, hitting the gym hard and coming out with a chip on his shoulder this season. He flashed potential last season with the ball in his hands, a guy who could beat his man and be a playmaker. Expect to see more of that, more of Mobley out on the perimeter as a creator this season (maybe even grabbing the board and bringing the ball up in transition himself).

He’s going to get noticed on a Cavaliers team with an All-Star backcourt of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, and if he has added to his game this year it’s Mobley’s turn.

4. Tyrese Maxey (76ers)

Maxey got thrust into the starting point guard role last season when Ben Simmons never suited up for the 76ers (and played like the guy the 76ers hoped Markelle Fultz would be). Then he thrived after the trade, working a little more off-ball and being a secondary shot creator off James Harden. Maxey averaged 17.5 points and 4.5 assists a game last season, and he is in a position to have those numbers jump again this season.

Maxey is quick with the ball and can get downhill, with the skill set to finish at the rim or pull up and nail the jumper. He shot 42% from 3 last season, although that may be unsustainable (he can shoot, but over 40% every year may be a big ask). Maxey is adding to that game on the court, but it’s his maturity and decision-making — this is his third year in the league — where the biggest leaps are coming.

The 76ers are going to be in the spotlight a lot and should win a lot of regular season games, and with Maxey shining in that light, the All-Star game is a real possibility.

5. Jalen Brunson (Knicks)

Brunson burst out of Luka Doncic’s shadow last season in Dallas and averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists a game last season — now he’s going to have the ball in his hands every night on the biggest stage in the NBA. Tom Thibodeau will hand Brunson the keys to the Knicks offense, which means the guard’s counting stats should climb — and with that his All-Star chances go up.

There are questions about how the Knicks’ offense will fit together with Brunson, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle, but Brunson is going to get the chance to prove he can be a No.1 guard. In that spotlight, a trip to Salt Lake City is in the offing.

Steve Nash on Ben Simmons: ‘I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot’


The last season he played, Ben Simmons took just 9% of his shots from beyond 10 feet — he did not space the floor at all, which meant Joel Embiid had to at times. That lack of a jumper he trusted has always been one of the knocks on Ben Simmons’ game.

Steve Nash doesn’t care. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets. He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He’s a great complement to our team, and he’s an incredible basketball player because of his versatility.”

In an offense with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving setting the table — particularly in the halfcourt — Simmons is going to be asked to play more of a role: Be an elite defender, push the ball in transition, work in some dribble-handoff situations where he can drive the lane as an option, be a cutter off the ball, and be a distributor in the halfcourt. It’s why Simmons’ ideal role with the Nets often gets compared to Draymond Green — it’s a Draymond-lite role. There will be far less of him as lead guard running pick-and-roll.

Will Simmons settle into that role? Also, it should be noted that peak Green (2016 for example) shot better than 30% from 3 and had to be respected out there (last season 29.6% on 1.2 3s per game) — he had to be covered at the arc. Simmons does not. Also, Green did not avoid getting fouled and getting to the line.

Nash has the task of meshing Simmons into the system and figuring out the rotations — can he play Simmons and Nic Claxton together, or is having two non-jump shooters on the floor at once clog the offense? Is Simmons going to play center at points? There is championship-level talent on the Nets roster, but so many questions about fit, defense, and grit.

There’s no question about Simmons taking jumpers, but Nash doesn’t care.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’


The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.


PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?


NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

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