The 2021 NBA Draft is behind us. That means it’s time to take our first look at the 2022 NBA Draft class.
A year ago, Cade Cunningham was an obvious choice to eventually be the No. 1 overall pick when we did our early mock the day after the 2020 draft. The 2022 class is much more wide open at the top. The first 10 players on our board each have a legitimate chance to become the top pick with a strong season. While it currently seems unlikely this class will feature a prospect on the level of Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, the 2022 class projects to have tremendous depth throughout the lottery.
We like to do a big board for next year’s class the day after the draft every year. Sometimes it looks pretty good, like when we pegged Luka Doncic as the top player in 2018, Anthony Edwards at No. 1 in 2020, and Cunningham as the top pick in 2021. I’ve had some misses, too, with Emmanuel Mudiay, Skal Labissiere, Josh Jackson, and Cameron Reddish at No. 1 in previous years. You can find our day-after-the-draft early mocks for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 here.
This is how we project the 2022 NBA Draft class right now.
1. Paolo Banchero, F/C, Duke
Banchero has the frame, power, and burgeoning skill to play in the NBA straight out of high school. He’ll be the centerpiece of Coach K’s final team at Duke, and will have every opportunity to prove he should be the No. 1 overall pick. Banchero’s calling card is his rare offensive versatility for a player his size. Listed at 6’10, 250 pounds by the Blue Devils, the Seattle native is already a monster interior scorer and rebounder, and has started to develop his perimeter skills. His passing flashes have been tantalizing, and should become one of his defining traits. He isn’t a dependable three-point shooter yet, but he’s been a good free throw shooter at the prep level and has started to take step-back threes off the dribble.
It will be fascinating to see how Duke uses Banchero. He’ll be able to bully college players inside with his strength from day one while leveraging his passing out of the high post to find shooters. His real upside comes in his developing shot creation ability, though. Banchero played more with the ball in his hands on the perimeter late in his high school career, showing off improved ball handling and the ability to lower his shoulder to create scoring chances on his drives. He’ll be an immediate threat on grab-and-go transition opportunities, but the hope is that Coach K allows him to initiate the offense at times in the halfcourt.
Banchero is a bit undersize for an NBA center right now, with a wingspan reportedly between 7’0.5 and 7’2. He doesn’t have the shooting yet to be a dependable floor spacer. It will also be interesting to monitor his lateral quickness defensively. He may not have the highest ceiling in this class depending on how his shooting, on-ball shot creation, and perimeter defense pan out, but his physical tools and skill flashes are enough to make him our top prospect entering the year.
2. Chet Holmgren, C/F, Gonzaga
Holmgren is the biggest name in this class after a standout prep career in Minnesota that ended with him following in the footsteps of his former high school teammate Jalen Suggs by committing to Gonzaga. He’ll head to Spokane ready to play the four next to returning center Drew Timme in what should be the most intimidating front line in America. As a freshman who will turn 20 years old before he’s drafted, Holmgren should be a college basketball star from day one with a huge spotlight to prove he’s worthy of being taken with the No. 1 pick.
A super skinny 7-foot big man, Holmgren combines incredible rim protecting instincts with developing ball handling ability and a dangerous shooting stroke. Holmgren could often be seen initiating the offense as a ball handler in high school, where he does a good job keeping his dribble low on his drives to the basket. He projects as a deadly shooter on spot-ups and pick-and-pops who should be an immediate floor spacer at the NBA level. While Holmgren’s thin frame has gotten plenty of publicity, he’s a legitimately fearsome defensive presence at the rim, showing remarkable timing and verticality contesting shots inside. Scouts will want to see Holmgren play through contact at both ends and see how he holds up against older and stronger competition. If he continues to improve his shot creation ability, he could be considered the front-runner for the top pick.
3. A.J. Griffin, G/F, Duke
Griffin enters his freshman year at Duke with perhaps the most tantalizing upside in this class. The 6’7 wing is a dynamic shot-maker off the dribble with a deep bag of step-back and side-step threes he can go to in any situation. Add in a mid-range game built to get tough buckets at the end of the shot clock, and Griffin has a case as the top three-level scoring prospect available. He just tends to make his living on difficult shots, and needs to prove his ability to make the correct reads as a passer if he wants to play full-time with the ball in his hands. Griffin’s physical tools also show up on the defensive end, and he could turn into one of the better perimeter defenders in this class.
Griffin’s took his senior year off during the pandemic as he recovered from an ankle injury, so he’s still something of unknown heading into Duke despite his notable bloodlines as the son of 9-year NBA pro Adrian Griffin and the brother of Syracuse wing Alan Griffin. He’s also one of the youngest players in this class, not turning 18 years old until the end of August. We’ll put Griffin at No. 3 for now because he projects as the sort of long, athletic wing with shot-making ability the NBA craves.
4. Patrick Baldwin Jr., F, Milwaukee
Baldwin could have played anywhere in the country, but he chose to spend his one-and-done season being coached by his father in the Horizon League. The 6’10 forward has an elite skill with his shooting ability. He has a quick release and deep range on his jump shot, and will be a dangerous catch-and-shoot threat from the minute he gets drafted. While a top-tier NBA draft prospect choosing to play in a true mid-major conference would be disappointing in most contexts, it could be a beneficial decision for Baldwin because he’ll be forced to play with the ball in his hands. To this point, Baldwin has been more of a complementary off-ball shooter, but he should get every chance to show he can create for himself and others with the Panthers.
Baldwin could be a truly elite 6’10+ long-range shooter at the NBA level, but scouts will want to see more versatility from him. His most limiting factor is that he isn’t a dynamic run-and-jump athlete, and will have to prove he can survive on the perimeter defensively. In a class full of big shooters, Baldwin is our early pick for having the best pure shot for any forward. Now let’s see what else he can do.
5. Caleb Houstan, F, Michigan
Michigan has some big shoes to fill at forward this upcoming season with the loss of Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers to the pro ranks, and it’s hard to imagine a better freshman for the job than Caleb Houstan. The 6’8 Canadian wing is the latest lottery prospect from Florida prep powerhouse Montverde Academy, and offers a clean projection into any level of the game because of his skill as a shooter and perimeter defender.
Houstan is coming off a starring role for bronze medal-winning Canadian team in the FIBA U19 World Cup where he averaged 17 points and 2.3 steals per game. While Houston only hit 11-of-58 attempts from three, the volume of his attempts from deep (8.3 per game) was impressive and you can bet the percentage will be more respectable in Ann Arbor. In a class full of tall shooters, Houstan separates himself on the defensive end. He’s great at getting into the passing lanes as a help defender, and shows impressive ability on the perimeter. How much Houstan can create with the ball in his hands will be a main factor to see if he can break into the top-five.
6. Peyton Watson, G/F, UCLA
Watson is a late bloomer who grew seven inches in high school to blossom into an athletic 6’8 wing who is still just scratching the surface of his long-term upside. The L.A. native will join a loaded UCLA team that brings back everyone from its Final Four run last season while adding center Myles Johnson as a transfer from Rutgers.
Watson should be a high-level perimeter defender from day one as a rangey wing who can cover a ton of ground and defend multiple positions with a 7’1 wingspan. It will be interesting to see how he fits in on the offensive end on a team with multiple high-usage scoring options (namely, Johnny Juzang and Jamie Jacquez). Watson is developing into a dynamic driver off the dribble who has the athleticism and body control to finish around the rim. He showed skill as a cutter and offensive rebounder on USA Basketball’s U19 World Cup team, establishing himself as high-energy reserve who didn’t need to hold the ball to impact the game. His jump shot is the obvious swing skill. Scouts will want to see how diverse his shot diet is, and what his volume and accuracy looks like from three. There are more polished players in this class right now, but Watson’s rapid development arc gives him a huge ceiling.
7. Jabari Smith, F, Auburn
Smith enters Auburn looking like a prototypical stretch four as a 6’10 big man with a sweet shooting stroke. He has NBA range on his jumper and should be dynamic on pick-and-pop and spot-up opportunities. Smith can also put the ball on the floor to attack a closeout with plus athleticism for a player his size in terms of both speed and leaping ability. He has flashed defensive versatility on the perimeter defender and as a shot-blocker, but will need to add strength and prove he can hold up on that end against SEC opponents.
The son of a former Sacramento Kings second round draft pick back in 2000, the younger Smith won a gold medal with USA Basketball in the U16 FIBA Americas tournament back in 2019 by averaging 13.8 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting from three. Scouts will want to see how he handles physical play as a rebounder and interior scorer and defender, but his shooting touch makes him a seamless fit for today’s game.
8. Jalen Duren, C, Montverde Academy
Duren is currently playing grassroots ball as the top ranked player in the high school class of 2022, but there are rumors he could reclassify to hit the league as soon as possible. As Duren decides between top colleges like Kentucky and pro options like the G League Ignite, it feels like he’s destined to be a top-10 pick regardless of the path he takes. A strong 6’10, 225 pound center with an enormous 7’5 wingspan, Duren is a powerful force inside who explodes off the ground as an interior scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker.
He should be a great finisher as a roll man or in the dunker spot with impressive bounce around the rim. He will be a threat to score in the post, too, with the power to punish smaller defenders on switches and the length to finish over fellow bigs with his jump hook. While he doesn’t have a reliable face-up jumper yet, Duren will attack defenses off the dribble to get to the basket. He’s also an intimidating shot-blocker around the rim who looks fairly mobile on the perimeter.
9. Jaden Hardy, G, G League Ignite
In a class full of tall shooters, the single best shot-maker in this draft will be Jaden Hardy, a 6’4 guard out of Nevada. Hardy will be the headline name on this year’s G League Ignite team, where he’ll be expected to show off his world-class pull-up shooting ability before becoming a top-10 pick. Hardy’s shooting skills off the bounce have drawn early comparisons to Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal. He has deep range and a quick trigger on his jumper, regularly splashing shots from 30+ feet away during his senior year. He’s also effective as an off-ball threat who can leverage his shooting gravity to run around screens, hit shots, and get opposing defenses all out of sorts.
Hardy’s offensive mindset is so aggressive as a scorer that he needs to prove he can beat the defense as a passer, too. His decision-making will be watched with a close eye with the Ignite. He is a good athlete, but will also need to prove he can consistently get to the rim and finish over length in the G League. Hardy is the first true guard to show up in this mock, and this spot is probably the floor for him.
10. Yannick Nzosa, C, Unicaja
Nzosa is a 6’11 center from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who played for Unicaja in Liga ACB and EuroCup this past season. Nzosa will have a case as the draft’s best defensive player as a buzzsaw big man with a high motor, rim protecting instincts, and an impressive ability to hold his own on the perimeter. Born in Nov. of 2003, he could be the youngest prospect in the 2022 draft, and could go at the end of the top-five. Read The Stepien and ID Prospects for more on Nzosa.
11. Nikola Jovic, F, Serbia
Jovic is a 6’10 Serbian forward who put his scoring talent on display during the FIBA U19 World Cup. With tremendous size for a forward, Jovic can put the ball on the floor and attack opposing defenses as a slasher. He showed off enticing playmaking ability on his drives, whipping passes to teammates around the arc when the defense rotated to stop him in the paint. His shooting was impressive, too, as he hit 12-of-33 shots from three (36.4 percent) and 38-of-69 shots from two-point range (55.1 percent).
Jovic’s ceiling is limited some by his lack of burst as a driver and average explosion around the rim, but his size will play at any level. He’ll be the headlining young star on KK Mega Soccerbet in the Adriatic League this upcoming season, and should have every opportunity to prove he deserves to rise from here.
12. Jean Montero, G, Overtime Elite
Montero is a 6’2 point guard from the Dominican Republic who bounced from Spanish club Gran Canaria to the upstart Overtime Elite league for the upcoming season. The 18-year-old point guard has been on NBA radars for the last couple years after a breakout performance at the U17 World Cup in 2018. A quick and shifty ball handler, Montero combines skill as a driver, pull-up shooter, and live dribble passer to position himself as the best pure point guard prospect in the class. Montero will have to prove he can shoot consistently from deep and show he’s a pesky defender, but in a weak class for floor generals, he looks like a promising bet to eventually become a lottery pick.
13. Matthew Cleveland, F, Florida State
Cleveland will be the latest strong, athletic swingman to pick Florida State for what should be a one-and-done freshman season following in the footsteps of Scottie Barnes, Patrick Williams, and Jonathan Isaac. The Georgia native rose from a four-star recruit to an elite five-star recruit over the last year as a big 6’6 wing who is just beginning to grow into his impressive physical tools. Cleveland is a long wing who thrives slashing to the basket and playing in transition with good body control near the rim. He needs to improve his jumper and passing reads on offense, but his physicality should make him an intriguing wing defender for the ‘Noles from day one.
14. Roko Prkačin, F, Cibona (Croatia)
Prkačin is a 6’9 forward who we had as a top-20 prospect in the 2021 NBA Draft before pulling out at the last second. It’s likely a smart move for him: Prkačin didn’t have a ton of buzz around the league despite an accomplished resume, and would have been the youngest prospect taken in 2021. Now he gets to return to his club in Croatia and try to prove he’s worth of being a lottery pick.
Prkačin won an MVP playing for Croatia on the junior FIBA level, made his Adriatic League debut with Cibona at 16 years old, and was named a team captain at 17. He’s an impressive athlete for his size who can handle the ball in the open floor and likes to attack with straight line drives. He shot 39.4 percent from three, and 53.2 percent from two-point range this season, but his 65 percent mark from the foul line is concerning. He looks like a first round pick simply on the basis of his size, improving perimeter skill set, and proven production against grown men at such a young age.
15. Ben Mathurin, F, Arizona
Bennedict Richard Felder Mathurin (just wanted to get his full name out there for the world) is an explosive 6’6 swingman who we would have projected as a first rounder in the 2021 draft if he decided to declare. Instead, the Canadian wing is going back to Arizona for his sophomore year where he should be one of the top returning NBA prospects at the college level. Mathurin has good speed and great bounce around the rim which helps him finish near the basket on put-backs and in transition. He’s also a promising outside shooter who hit 41.8 percent of his three-pointers as a freshman on 91 attempts, and finished in the 96th percentile on spot-up opportunities, per Synergy Sports.
Mathurin is coming off an encouraging run in the U19 World Cup where he helped lead Canada to a bronze medal where he dropped 31 points on Serbia in the third place game. Mathurin needs to continue developing his handle which limits his creation ability with the ball in his hands, but for now he looks like a good shooter with serious athleticism who can impact the game off the ball.
16. Ousmane Dieng, F, New Zealand Breakers
Dieng is a French wing who immediately popped in junior tournaments because of his wirey 6’9 frame, open floor athleticism, and developing skill level. He decided to bypass college basketball and an offer from the G League Ignite to follow in the footsteps of LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey by playing for the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL. The Breakers produced a first round pick in 2020 in R.J. Hampton, and Dieng has even better tools to work with. He took 35 three-pointers over a four-game stretch during the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Belgrade, and showed developing touch as a shooter even if he only hit them at a 31.4 percent clip. He’s another long, rangey wing who with tons of long-term upside.
17. Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
Murray was completely overlooked in recruiting rankings — listed as the No. 334 player in his class by 247 Sports — before a breakout freshman season for his hometown Hawkeyes. He is a long and agile 6’8 wing with immense defensive versatility and jarring offensive efficiency numbers. Defensively, Murray posted a 7.2 percent block rate and a 2.6 percent steal rate on a team that didn’t generate many takeaways. On offense, he finished in the 91st percentile of halfcourt efficiency. While he only made 16-of-54 attempts from three (29.6 percent), he showed an impressive ability to attack closeouts and did hit 75 percent of his foul shots. No one would have predicted Murray’s rise as a freshman, but he enters the year as having a case for the best NBA prospect in the Big Ten as a sophomore.
18. TyTy Washington, G, Kentucky
Washington started his senior year on the fringes of the top-75 rankings in his high school class before blossoming into a five-star recruit. He decommitted from Creighton and eventually pledged to Kentucky, where he’s now considered the highest-ranked member of their incoming recruiting class, per ESPN. The Wildcats overhauled the roster with veteran additions via transfer this offseason, but Washington should still be the most dynamic creator on the roster. The 6’3 guard from Arizona is a quick and shifty ball handler who can get to the basket with impressive burst while flashing legitimate playmaking chops. He should be the answer at point guard that Kentucky has seemingly been searching for the last several seasons.
19. Kennedy Chandler, G, Tennessee
Chandler is a Tennessee native who became the latest five-star recruit to pick the Vols for college. The 6’1 point guard will be undersized for the position in the NBA, but he has a proven track record as a winner entering college with USA Basketball’s U19 squad, his EYBL team Mokan Elite, and high schools Briarcrest Christian and Sunrise Christian Academy. Chandler is quick with the ball in his hands, a dependable shooter (39 percent from three at the U19 World Cup), and solid passer off a live dribble.
20. Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
Ivey was a fringe top-100 recruit entering Purdue who broke out late in his freshman season as a slashing 6’4 guard with impressive defensive versatility. Ivey finished with double-figures in scoring in 10 of his last 12 games, including a 26-point performance in the Boilermakers’ first round NCAA tournament game. His breakout continued with a strong effort during the FIBA U19 tournament, where he shot 64 percent on two-point field goals and was all over the floor in the gold medal win over France.
Ivey’s ability to attack the basket with straight line drives and cause havoc defensively will make him one of the top returning prospects in college basketball this season. His three-point stroke and his playmaking will be watched closely by scouts.
21. JD Davison, G, Alabama
Davison is a 6’2 point guard who committed to his hometown Crimson Tide as a consensus five-star recruit in the incoming freshman class. He became one of the most well-known recruits in the country for his scoring binges and extreme athleticism. Davison can fly in the open court and has ridiculous bounce as a dunker around the rim. He’s a flashy ball handler who made some impressive passes at the high school level, but scouts will want to see how he organizes Alabama in the halfcourt. If his skill level impresses as a freshman, he could be a lottery pick.
22. Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite
Daniels is a 6’6 Australian guard out of the NBA Global Academy who will be one of the most interesting pieces on the next G League Ignite team alongside Jaden Hardy. Daniels is a versatile offensive wing who showed intriguing creativity off the dribble and as a finisher during Australia’s run in the U19 World Cup earlier this summer. He averaged 14 points and 2.3 steals per game on 54 percent shooting on two-point fields and 13-of-43 shooting (30.2 percent) from three.
23. Kendall Brown, F, Baylor
Brown played with Chandler at Sunrise Christian Academy this past season and is about to join the national champs at Baylor as one of their top-rated recruits ever. The 6’8 swingman has elite physical tools with great length (6’11 wingspan) and a bundle of quick-twitch muscles. He’s an explosive athlete in the open floor and around the rim who should spend the season making highlight reel plays both in transition and on the defensive end. Brown isn’t a polished shooter or creator at this point, but he seems to have a nose for making winning plays.
24. Jabari Walker, F, Colorado
Walker was a late-blooming forward who was ranked outside the consensus top-150 of recruiting rankings before opening the eyes of NBA scouts with an impressive freshman year at Colorado. Walker is a long 6’8 forward with a good frame who showed a surprising amount of skill with the Buffs. He popped off for 24 points including 5-of-5 shooting from three-point range in Colorado’s first round NCAA tournament win over Georgetown (though it’s worth noting he went scoreless in 24 minutes in their second round loss to Florida State). Walker has good strength and showed impressive rebounding ability on both ends of the floor. He’s about to go from a reserve to a featured star as a sophomore, and the NBA will watching his every move.
25. Nolan Hickman, G, Gonzaga
Hickman is a 6’2 point guard who originally pledged to Kentucky before switching to Gonzaga as one of the few Utah natives to ever be named a McDonald’s All-American. Hickman is well-rounded guard who showed impressive shooting and passing flashes while also earning good reviews as an on-ball defender. The Zags have plenty of holes to fill following their national title game loss, and Hickman should be a major factor in the rotation as a freshman.
26. Earl Timberlake, F, Memphis
Timberlake was close to five-star status as a recruit when he arrived at Miami (FL) before only playing seven games because of a shoulder injury. He transferred to Memphis to play for Penny Hardaway this season, but he’s still rehabbing the shoulder injury and there isn’t yet a definitive timetable for his return. If Timberlake can get healthy, he’s a strong 6’6 wing with great defensive versatility to who can get the foul line. He’ll need to prove he can shoot at the college level after only going 2-of-7 from three in his brief career at Miami.
27. Terrence Shannon Jr., G, Texas Tech
Shannon is a springy 6’6 wing who made major strides as a shooter during his sophomore year at Texas Tech. He decided to bypass the draft to return for his junior season, where he should be the primary scoring option for a Red Raiders program now without departed head coach Chris Beard. Shannon improved from a 25.7 percent three-point shooter (on 35 attempts) to a 35.7 percent shooting (on 84 attempts) from his freshman to sophomore seasons. He scored efficiently in the halfcourt (74th percentile, per Synergy Sports), and has the tools to be a really good wing defender. Scouts will want to see a more diverse diet of scoring from Shannon this season and continued shooting improvement.
28. Julian Champagnie, F, St. John’s
While his twin brother Justin decided to enter the 2021 draft, Julian Champagnie is returning to St. John’s for his junior season, where he should be one of college basketball’s best wing scorers. Champagnie, a forward listed at 6’8 and 220 pounds, was an efficient, high-volume three-point shooter last season for the Red Storm. He hit 38 percent of his threes on 158 attempts. Champagnie also had encouraging defensive markers with a 3.2 percent block rate and 2.4 percent steal rate. He avoided turnovers, showed he could hit the glass, and drew fouls on the offensive end while shooting 89 percent from the foul line.
29. Daimion Collins, C, Kentucky
Collins enters Kentucky as a long and bouncy big man who could be one of the best rim protectors in this class. A five-star recruit who comes to the Wildcats as the second highest-rated member of John Calipari’s incoming class, Collins makes up for his lack of height (6’9) with a 7’5 wingspan and effortless explosion around the basket. Collins should be a great rebounder and lob target with the ability to quickly get off the floor. Scouts will want to monitor his awareness on both ends.
30. Will Richardson, G, Oregon
Chris Duarte turned into a surprising first round pick in the 2021 draft after a breakout senior year at Oregon. Will Richardson could do the same next year. The 6’5 guard has been a consistent producer for the Ducks over his career, averaging double-figures in scoring each of the last two seasons while hitting at least 40 percent of his threes. Richardson graded out in the 90th percentile of spot-up opportunities this past year, and also showed some skill in the pick-and-roll. He could force his name into the late first round with a big final season at Oregon.