The Draftniks’ 2022 NBA Draft Rankings

  1. Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn

The best player in his class, Jabari is worthy of the number one pick and then some. The difference between him and everyone else is not particularly close, at least to me. He may have the prettiest jumper I have seen from someone his size, with Kevin Durant’s being the only one that can compare. He is going to be one of the most efficient players in the league from day one and will score only the amount that it takes his team to win the game. Indeed, Jabari does not care about scoring but just winning. The perfect franchise changer for one that has been as bad as Orlando since Dwight. Jabari’s defense can be special one day and he does not neglect that side of his game. In just a few years, Jabari should be able to do whatever it is he wants on the court once he gets bigger and stronger, which will happen with time. There are zero red flags. He is Karl Towns if Towns were a winner and Anthony Davis if he did not get hurt often. Jabari Smith Sr., a former NBA player, has invested his life in Jabari and did a great job. 

  1. Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue

Jaden may not be the same athlete as Ja Morant but he is more athletic than just about anyone else. I’m not sure there is a player in the draft who expects more out of himself. Sounds like a perfect fit for New York, doesn’t it? He is not a pure or natural point guard but can outrun and outthink you. No player has improved his stock more in the country than, well, Ja. Jaden has an elite first step and is a powerful finisher who rips rims off. Jaden has a floater and other ways to score that he will get to bring out in the NBA. Think of him as something in the middle of peak Derrick Rose and Knicks D-Rose, when it comes to both burst and finesse. While it took Rose years to have a jumper, Jaden has one that should play well at the next level because of teams anticipating him to go downhill each time. His pull-up and three point shot will be hard to stop as a result. Defensively, he has the traits you look for with his speed and competitiveness to match. Like Jabari, Jaden has a parent who played professional basketball in his coach mom.

  1. Chet Homgren, C, Gonzaga

Chet is an enigma. The talent is absolutely undeniable but will his body hold up? He is a seven footer who weighs the same as a six footer. He wasn’t tested physically by college players like he will be very soon and it is fair to wonder how he will handle it. Is he ready for it? Does he even know to expect it? Chet will defend at a high level from day one but it is the offense that may take some time, despite how skilled he is. Players will not let him feast from the post and he probably can’t anyway, not for a couple years. He does have a feel for the game that seems to come naturally to him; however, it is hard to go off purely on instinct all of the time when you’re as physically behind as he is. His development may look more like MAGA Jon Isaac’s than most want to admit and it doesn’t help that there really hasn’t been someone like him you can look to for help. Still, the ceiling is too high for me to drop him much farther with potential DPOY awards.

  1. Keegan Murray, F, Iowa

The safest player in the draft, Keegan bores some with his playing style but not me. There’s nothing wrong with chocolate or vanilla ice cream, tried and true classics. No player in college basketball had a better season and is more ready for the league. Keegan runs well in transition and does everything well, whether it be shooting or in the post. This will create matchup problems and nightmares for teams to deal with, if he is given enough responsibility that he frankly deserves. Ranking him over Banchero shows my belief in him and how fundamentally sound he is in all techniques and facets. This is a player you have to see a lot and closely to understand and appreciate. In years past, he may have been labeled a tweener but is perfect for the NBA in today’s day and age. Keegan is not going to harm his team or be someone that can be targeted or picked on. He is the most cerebral player in the draft who knows exactly what he can and can’t do. Yet, he can become an even better shot creator or shooter who resembles Grant Hill.

  1. Paolo Banchero, F, Duke

Paolo has a lot of fans and rightfully so but I think many are starting to dream about him in an unfair way. Yes, Paolo is a great offensive player and will not struggle to score but is he the incredible passer some think he is? I would argue no. Even if he was, though, a scorer like him is not going to be the one running offense all of the time and shouldn’t. I see him more as a wing, actually, than a big, and believe he is better utilized that way. If you think he is an aggressive Ben Simmons, then I understand why he is #1 for many but does that player even exist? There are questions with his shooting as well that I will not get into but all one needs to know is he struggled to shoot 33% from the college 3. This is not Jayson Tatum or a solid defender at this point but remains a top 5 talent who you do not have to worry about being tough or physical. Anything more? I’m not so sure. My fear is that a team asks too much of him and he ends up being a Julius Randle type.

  1. Ousmane Dieng, F, New Zealand

I may be the highest on Ousmane of anyone I have seen and I am willing to be wrong on him since the payoff if I am right is game changing and potentially franchise altering. Now that I have your attention, let’s describe what he is and then who he can become. Ousmane processes the game at a tremendous level. People will focus on his ball-handling and dribble as his most desirable trait but I fully buy the intelligence, and most of all, the effort. His motor is always on and played against grown men overseas. Ousmane’s end to the season was strong and he clearly improved in a lot of different areas. The shot looks better every time you see him, speaking to his work in the gym. The passing ability is there as well for someone his size and he is just a freakish player. Whoever takes him has to be comfortable developing him at his own pace. He might not be ready to start for several years and that is OK if he turns into the player that he wants to be. The commitment to him has to be what a team picking number one overall has and they cannot just forget about him. This will determine if he’s Giannis or Thon Maker, who busted for the simple reason he lied about his age. Dieng is definitely a teenager.

  1. Shaedon Sharpe, W, Canada

Shaedon is every bit a lottery ticket that Dieng is but with less room for error. From a value proposition, around this range is where I’d assume the risk that comes with him. Everything will have to be checked out, like an explanation of what happened to him playing for Kentucky, for the intrigue to turn into action. I really like his footwork and his polished moves as a scorer but the latter could be predictable if seen enough times. The AAU tape available on him is pretty much useless and as useful as workout videos. I liken him to Cam Reddish, players who if you watch practice for the first time make you think that they were superstars. Sadly, for both of them, basketball is not one on zero. Both were the best high school player in the world at some point before graduation and leave you wanting more. Whoever buys is going to tell themselves they stole someone who would have gone first overall next year if they returned for second college seasons. He can certainly make defenders look bad and embarrassing when he accelerates and comes to an abrupt stop to shoot with them on the floor. That alone is enticing enough.

  1. Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin

Johnny is in many ways the anti-Shaedon. He’s had to earn everything he has got and there are no worries about how he will fit in on teams, both positionally and as a player. He is just athletic enough as he needs to be and put together the quietest star season. Johnny gives it his all every game and played injured throughout his sophomore year. There is a leadership factor about him and he is someone who will earn respect easily. He does not take many plays off and rebounds like guys who are much taller than him. Johnny has a lot of heart and that counts for something on this website. The ceiling is higher than one is led to believe and all you have to do is watch the tough shots made. He surprises with how high he can jump in some of the posters Johnny had this year. Analytics won’t love him but Johnny knows how to score and get to the free throw line, as well as twist and turn his body on offense and defense. He frustrates players when he is guarding them for not backing down. Devin Booker looked similar at this age too.

  1. Bennedict Mathurin, W, Arizona

I wrestled back and forth with Davis vs. Mathurin as I like both and can be convinced on either but Ben slots in here because of where he is currently as an unfinished product. Ben is going to be able to shoot but is almost too confident at times. I would like to see him continue attracting defenders and pass the ball out when he does as he has not. Whereas Davis gets every ounce out of himself defensively, the same cannot be said about Ben, who is reactionary when things are not going his way while trying to guard. His potential to defend is present despite getting caught not paying attention sometimes and a lot of this should improve as he keeps playing. When it comes to sheer potential, there is star ability in Ben, who can jump out of gyms and has helped himself pre-draft. Ben can play off the ball and get to his spots with ease, boding well for the Canadian. He is as well-built as anybody and his three-pointer is beautiful to watch with its release. The best may be yet to come as he improves his passing and ability to read defenses, just as Jonathan Kuminga did with the Warriors after being unfairly slammed last year.

  1.  Jaden Hardy, G, Ignite

Jaden Hardy is the player I was sure would be talked about this draft season but it seems like it will never happen so let’s discuss. There is concern that he is short and looks for his shot over others. All I had to do was watch the young man speak to be assured that those won’t be the things that hinder him, if he is hindered. He belongs in the top ten based on talent alone and the Draftnik will give it to him. Interestingly, his G-League stats were not accurate and did not reflect the incredible end to his season. He has been training with stars, who tend to see talent better than most draft experts. I will concede that he could be better with choosing what shots to take but the same can be said about Anthony Edwards, who basically is an identical height and weight as Jaden and went first overall anyway. The rest of the draft is rich in roleplayers and short on players who are as talented as Jaden. There is a swagger to him and he is a sleeper.

Thoughts on the rest:

  1. Malaki Branham

Malaki would be my tenth ranked if I did not want to feature Hardy but he is the most underrated player in most lotteries and big boards. When I hear the coverage on him, I want to yell “HE’S ONLY A FRESHMAN” and has a killer midrange. This is Caris LeVert.

  1. Dyson Daniels

Dyson Daniels has been a little too hyped for my taste but I like him a lot for the Blazers and at any point outside the top ten. Jaden Hardy’s teammate in the G-Leagues, I think there is some regret on the part of those who did not like Josh Giddey to reward Dyson.

  1. AJ Griffin

AJ has all the talent in the world to make this ranking look dumb but he won’t be able to do so unless he has a drastic change in health and mentality. He definitely did not look like the athlete he was in high school and was ridiculously passive in college this year.

  1. Jalen Duren

Jalen is no doubt a lottery talent. He is only left off by some because of the position he plays. The Finals showed the value of big men and you have to remember his age too. He has more potential than some above him, has a nice jumper and likes to pass. Bam?

  1. Jeremy Sochan

I initially wanted to rank him lower but that defense can play anywhere in favor of guys like Tari Eason, who I love and hope isn’t pigeonholed into being a sixth man like Portis, or TyTy Washington who has been destroyed by analysts like Cole Anthony once was. Anything you get out of him in terms of offense is a plus and should not be expected.

The best of the rest, in no particular order –

Mark Williams, the longest career.

Jalen Williams, the smooth operator.

Patrick Baldwin, the kid who chose the wrong school but can be Cam Johnson anyway.

Nikola Jovic, the next Galinari.

Jake LaRavia, the fake Gordon Hayward.

Dalen Terry, the player everyone wants to play with.

Ochai Agbaji, the shooter any team can use.

Blake Wesley, the draftee who should have stayed in college.

Justin Lewis, the best season you didn’t hear of.

Walker Kessler, the most overshadowed.

David Roddy, the funnest to watch.

EJ Liddell, the what if he were younger.

Wendell Moore, the glue-man.

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