The NBA Finals ended less than one week ago.
The NBA Draft is tomorrow. Unlike the NFL, which has nearly three months of buildup between the Super Bowl and the draft, there is no downtime between the end of one NBA season and the beginning of the next.
That’s not ideal for draft bettors, as league insiders were understandably focused on the Finals until last weekend. Still, there have been enough breadcrumbs over the past few weeks for gamblers to build a solid portfolio, even if there’s less information and betting opportunities for the NBA Draft compared to its NFL counterpart.
Anthony Amico and I have been following the predraft process closely and acting on these breadcrumbs for weeks now. Most betting opportunities have dried up — as you’d expect with fewer than 36 hours until the draft — but we think it’s a cool idea to have a mock draft from the lens of degenerate bettors rather than league insiders.
There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding this year’s draft. I think most people who have been following the predraft process would agree that certain tiers have formed (at least in the lottery), but it’s truly anyone’s guess as to the order players go within each tier. With that in mind, it’s crucial to not take player-team pairing in this mock as gospel. In the explanation under each pick, we’ll outline why we mocked each player where we did and any other notes we have about the pick. That context will hopefully provide a lot more insight about what we’re thinking compared to just the prediction alone.
Let’s get right to it.
Note: This mock will be updated leading up to Thursday night.
Last update: 4:12 PM ET
1. ORLANDO MAGIC – JABARI SMITH (AUBURN)
On Wednesday night and into the early morning hours on Thursday, betting markets shifted from Smith -600 to go No. 1 overall to Paolo Banchero -200. It was a seismic change and the first time throughout the entire predraft process that Smith was not favored to be the first pick.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski threw cold water on the line movement when he tweeted on Thursday morning that Smith was expected to be the first pick. Big-time insiders have maintained the whole time that Smith will be the top pick. Sportsbooks took the No. 1 pick market off the board for a few hours. When they reposted it, Banchero again got steamed to being the favorite. Smith then got steamed back. As I write this, Smith is anywhere from -225 to -450 to be the first pick.
Does this line movement mean anything? Is there a sharp group somewhere with an inside scoop saying the Magic will take Banchero (or the Rockets will trade up for him)? I have no idea, but this is the most insane line movement I have ever seen. We’ll stick with Smith at No. 1 for now, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it’s Paolo and someone actually does know something. It’s just tough to go against Woj.
2. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER – CHET HOLMGREN (GONZAGA)
The Thunder are a tight-lipped organization, but Holmgren is an ideal fit given their personnel and philosophy. The Gonzaga big man only worked out for the Magic and Thunder and is rumored to want to land in Oklahoma City. It’s hard to say more than that because we don’t know much about the Thunder’s board nor who the Magic will take first overall. Oklahoma City does supposedly like Jaden Ivey and Shaedon Sharpe, but it would be a surprise if they take either second overall. Holmgren is unanimously mocked to OKC at No. 2, and we’ll stick with the consensus here, even if the top of this draft seems murkier than it has been in recent years.
3. HOUSTON ROCKETS – PAOLO BANCHERO (DUKE)
Here’s what we do know about the top of the draft: The Houston Rockets love Paolo Banchero. All reports indicate they are praying he falls to No. 3 and perhaps even exploring trading up to secure the Duke star. Jabari Smith didn’t work out for the Rockets. It’s unclear whether Chet Holmgren gave Houston his medical info, and there have been rumors that he has a specific team in mind that he wants to go to (OKC?). We don’t know what the Rockets will do if they don’t get Banchero, but it’s safe to assume the war room will not be a happy place if they can’t secure Paolo.
4. SACRAMENTO KINGS – JADEN IVEY (PURDUE)
When I initially wrote this last night, we had Keegan Murray in this spot. The Kings haven’t worked out Ivey. Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis joined Murray for dinner recently. Ivey is rumored to want to avoid Sactown. Murray has spoken highly of the Kings. Team owner Vivek Ranadive is said to be a fan of the Iowa star as well.
However, the Kings didn’t work out Davion Mitchell or Tyrese Haliburton before selecting them in the lottery. Plus, the Kings will be fielding offers for this pick all the way up until they’re on the clock. Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman reported the Pacers, Blazers, Wizards, and Knicks are all trying to trade up to No. 4 for Ivey. There are likely other teams vying for his services as well.
We think it’s a toss-up between Ivey and Murray if the Kings keep the pick — we might lean Murray slightly because Sacramento does seem to love him — but there’s a good chance someone moves up to this pick for the Purdue sophomore. For Murray to go No. 4, the Kings need to keep this pick and they need to take him over Ivey. Because Ivey has two outs to go fourth overall (a trade or the Kings preferring him over Murray), he lands here in this mock, even if we think it’s a coin flip if Sacramento keeps the pick.
5. DETROIT PISTONS – KEEGAN MURRAY (IOWA)
If Jaden Ivey falls to No. 5, we expect the Pistons to jump at the opportunity to draft the Purdue star. Otherwise, they’ll have a difficult decision between Murray and Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin. That feels like a coin flip, but we’ll slot Murray in here after the Pistons traded PF Jerami Grant to the Blazers on Wednesday. But again, this could easily be Mathurin if Ivey goes No. 4.
6. INDIANA PACERS – BENNEDICT MATHURIN (ARIZONA)
While Mathurin may have only jumped a couple of spots from where he was mocked in May, it’s fair to call him one of the biggest winners of the predraft process. Mathurin is a sharpshooting wing with the athleticism to improve his game further in the NBA. At 6-foot-6, he boasts ideal size for a wing and thrived as the top option for one of the nation’s most efficient offenses last season. The Arizona product has distanced himself from other wings — Johnny Davis and AJ Griffin — and solidified himself in the top half of the lottery. He’s widely expected to be a top-six pick.
Mathurin has a chance to go one spot earlier than this, especially if Ivey does end up going fourth overall. However, the Pistons’ decision to trade Jerami Grant could signal their intention to draft Murray, plus Givony flip-flopped Murray and Mathurin this afternoon to put the Iowa product at No. 5.
7. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS – SHAEDON SHARPE (KENTUCKY)
Sharpe is the mystery man of the 2022 NBA Draft. He didn’t play a single minute at Kentucky and maintained all college season that he would return in the fall to play for the Wildcats. That obviously didn’t make much sense, as he was a projected lottery pick. Predictably, he declared for the draft without ever playing in college. Since then, he’s had a tumultuous predraft process and been mocked anywhere from No. 4 overall to barely inside the lottery. With only hours remaining until the NBA Draft, his range is still cloudy, although we think he goes anywhere from No. 7 to No. 13 (which I know isn’t exactly helpful).
Amico made a good point to me that the Blazers can’t trade this pick because of the Stepien Rule. They can, however, trade the rights to the player they draft. That means they could make a handshake agreement with another team and then trade his rights on draft night. Interestingly, Sharpe canceled his workouts with the Pelicans (eighth pick) and Wizards (10th). Does that mean he has a promise in the first seven picks? We don’t know — and Sharpe has been really difficult to get a pulse on throughout the process. Most mocks have him in the same tier as Mathurin and Dyson Daniels, but he’s also much more prone to falling on draft night simply because teams don’t have as much info on him.
8. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS – DYSON DANIELS (G LEAGUE IGNITE)
Like Mathurin, Daniels has been another winner of the predraft process even if his stock has really only risen a pick or two, mostly because he seems to have solidified himself as a consensus top-eight prospect. Daniels could realistically go as early as No. 6 but is more likely to go either No. 7 or No. 8. He’s an elite perimeter defender with a feel for the game that you simply can’t teach.
9. SAN ANTONIO SPURS – OUSMANE DIENG (NZ BREAKERS)
Last year, Josh Primo was being mocked at the end of the first round.
The Spurs chose him 11th overall. San Antonio is also one of the tighter-lipped organizations in the league, making it even tougher to pin down what they’ll do on draft night. Most mocks have them taking one of Dieng, Jalen Duren, or Jeremy Sochan ninth overall. With Mathurin and Daniels off the board, this does feel like the start of a big new tier of guys who are live to go somewhere in the second half of the lottery. Givony has the Spurs taking a flier on Sharpe here and notes that the team is in talent accumulation mode. That’s a possibility too if Sharpe makes it to No. 9.
10. WASHINGTON WIZARDS – JOHNNY DAVIS (WISCONSIN)
Wasserman said that league execs view No. 10 as the floor for Davis unless there’s a surprise faller. The question then becomes whether Shaedon Sharpe qualifies as a surprise faller, as he seems like the most likely to drop from where he’s getting mocked. Again, it’s the draft, so anything could happen, but Davis probably can’t go much earlier than No. 10 either since Mathurin and Daniels have distanced themselves a little bit from the next tier of wings.
Washington is easily Davis’ most common landing spot in mocks, and we’re not going to differ from the consensus here.
11. NEW YORK KNICKS – AJ GRIFFIN (DUKE)
Griffin shot 44.7% from deep in his one season at Duke, and he doesn’t turn 19 until August. That alone makes him an intriguing option in the lottery. There are concerns about his defense and playmaking ability, and there has been sharp action on his over (which was 10.5 but now sits at 11.5) within the past week or two. Griffin also has a fairly extensive injury history for someone his age. Still, his combination of shooting ability and youth will buoy his stock, and the Knicks have a history of selecting players with CAA representation. Plus, Griffin is a hometown kid, having grown up in New York. Givony noted that many teams expect the Knicks to trade out of this pick, but we think Griffin is a solid match if they keep it. If not, he should still go somewhere between No. 11 and the end of the lottery.
12. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER – JEREMY SOCHAN (BAYLOR)
Sochan has entrenched himself as a late lottery talent after a solid predraft process. The Baylor freshman can guard all five positions and has a special feel for the game for a big man. The Thunder are tight-lipped, but this is generally the range where Sochan is expected to be picked. He could go as early as No. 9 to the Spurs but will most likely be picked in the early double-digits.
13. CHARLOTTE HORNETS – JALEN DUREN (MEMPHIS)
The Hornets are another team that could look to trade, as they have two picks (No. 13 and No. 15) in the middle of Round 1 and might not want to babysit two rookies. However, they could use a lob threat for LaMelo Ball and a rim protector on defense, so Duren is a match made in heaven for Charlotte. The Memphis product could come off the board as early as No. 9 to San Antonio — in which case Charlotte would have to pivot to Mark Williams (who will likely be available at No. 15 if they don’t want to take him this early) if they want a true center. Duren and Williams are frequently tied to the Hornets because of fit, but Sochan, Dieng, and Griffin (basically whoever is available, honestly) could also be options in this spot. Sharpe also worked out for the Hornets, which is interesting considering the other workouts he has canceled. We don’t expect the Hornets to get Sharpe (they’d probably need to trade up), but it’s worth mentioning. Basically, the Hornets have been linked enough to Duren and Williams that we think they’d take the former if he falls to them, but it’s hard to discern what Charlotte plans to do.
14. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – JALEN WILLIAMS (SANTA CLARA)
Williams has been a major riser during the predraft process and has a chance to go at the end of the lottery if things break right. The Cavaliers are supposedly interested in the Santa Clara product, and he probably won’t make it that much past No. 14 if Cleveland doesn’t take him. Ochai Agbaji and Malaki Branham are two other options for the Cavs here. Agbaji in particular is mocked to Cleveland frequently. As we talked about earlier, Cleveland also likes Ousmane Dieng — and we think he’d be the pick if available — but he will likely be off the board at this point.
15. CHARLOTTE HORNETS – OCHAI AGBAJI (KANSAS)
We have the Hornets taking Duren at No. 13, which means Mark Williams is out of the question at No. 15. Charlotte is also a candidate to trade at least one of their picks. If they pick here and don’t take a center, Agbaji would make sense as an athletic wing who improved his shooting efficiency in his final year at Kansas (3PT went up 3% and FT went up 6%). A four-year collegiate, Agbaji may not have the tantalizing upside of a younger prospect, but he should be able to contribute immediately to an NBA franchise. His range likely starts around No. 10 or 11 and extends until No. 18 or so. There’s definitely a chance he’s not available at this pick, especially since the Cavs are said to have interest. Regardless of whether it’s the Hornets picking 15th or someone else, Agbaji is a sensible pick who can help many NBA teams right away.
16. ATLANTA HAWKS – MALAKI BRANHAM (OHIO STATE)
The Hawks are another team that may not actually keep their pick, as the 16th selection (and Atlanta PF John Collins) are rumored to be on the trade block. Regardless of who’s at this spot, Branham seems like a solid pick if he’s still available. He’s a candidate to go in the lottery, and his draft prop currently sits at 14.5. Branham exceeded expectations as a freshman at Ohio State, shooting 41.6% from three-point range and 83.3% at the line to go along with 13.7 points per game. A four-star recruit, Branham emerged as the Buckeyes’ second option on offense over the second half of the NCAA season.
The Cavaliers could also take a long look at Branham, as they have displayed interest in two other scoring wings (Williams and Agabji) and he’s a hometown kid. The 19-year-old could go even earlier in the lottery too — he has been mocked as early as No. 11 and teams in that range are rumored to like him — but it’s just so crowded early on. He could fall too, as Givony has him at No. 18 to the Bulls and Vecenie pegged him in a YouTube stream as a projected lottery guy who could fall. It seems like Branham has one of the wider ranges among the fringe lottery prospects.
17. HOUSTON ROCKETS – TARI EASON (LSU)
Mark Williams has the highest consensus stock of any available prospect, but Givony, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, and SI’s Jeremy Woo all have Houston taking Eason here. While none of them sound like they have any intel on this particular pick, that type of consensus from three plugged-in reporters is enough for us to slot in the former LSU Tiger here. However, the lack of conviction in insiders’ writing about this pick leads us to believe that Eason is not a lock here by any means. There have also been rumors that he has a wider range and could fall a bit on draft night. Still, we’re rolling with the consensus and pairing the Rockets with Eason.
18. CHICAGO BULLS – MARK WILLIAMS (DUKE)
This is probably about as far as Williams could fall, and a few mocks have him going No. 13 to the Hornets. Honestly, most mocks have him going to Charlotte at either No. 13 or No. 15 (with the latter being more common), but that doesn’t make sense in this mock because we had them taking Duren 13th overall. As such, Williams fell a little bit, but that doesn’t mean we actually expect him to be on the board at No. 18. Williams, Agbaji, Branham, and Eason could all still be available at this pick, in which case we’d slot them in for Chicago. It just so happens that Williams is the odd man out with how things shook out here.
Williams’ landing spot likely depends on how early Duren goes. If Duren is off the board to the Spurs (or sometime before the Hornets), Williams is live to go No. 13. If Duren falls to Charlotte, Williams’ floor drops down to this range.
19. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – BLAKE WESLEY (NOTRE DAME)
There really haven’t even been any rumors tying Minnesota to specific players. Wesley may not go quite this early, but this is the start of a big uncertain tier at the end of the first round. Amico and I ran into a similar issue when making our mock draft last year; there just isn’t as much information out there about the end of Round 1 for the NBA Draft, which is a big difference compared to the NFL Draft when we have some intel on every team’s first-round pick. In short, we know which players are expected to go late in the first round, but we don’t know which specific team to pair them with in most cases. Wesley has one of the higher consensus stocks of this group — his draft prop is 21.5 — and Minnesota could be looking to add a guard with D’Angelo Russell‘s future in question.
20. SAN ANTONIO SPURS – DALEN TERRY (ARIZONA)
Terry has risen as much as anyone in the class throughout the predraft process. A 6-foot-7 guard with a wingspan north of seven feet, it’s easy to see why NBA teams have fallen in love despite his lack of college production. It’s also understandable that Terry didn’t put up huge numbers on a stacked Arizona team. He was a starter for the Wildcats last season and excelled in a larger role when Arizona PG Kerr Kriisa missed time with injury. Vecenie has Terry off the board at No. 23 but notes there’s a “relatively good shot” he’s off the board before that. Terry has solidified himself as a first-round pick.
21. DENVER NUGGETS – TYTY WASHINGTON (KENTUCKY)
There were a couple of reports within the past week suggesting Washington failed to gain much traction during the predraft process and could slip a little as a result. He probably won’t fall too far, but we are mocking him slightly lower than his draft prop (19.5). Washington can play both guard spots but was forced off-ball in his lone season at Kentucky with Sahvir Wheeler running the point. He also dealt with injuries throughout last season. Despite that, he averaged 12.5 points and 3.9 assists per game as a freshman.
22. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – EJ LIDDELL (OHIO STATE)
As is the case with most picks this late, there’s not much real information tying Liddell to Memphis, but this is the range in which he figures to come off the board. Liddell is a versatile big who significantly improved his three-point shooting as a junior last season. He was one of the best defenders in the country and offers rim protection ability despite standing just 6-foot-7.
23. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – JADEN HARDY (G LEAGUE IGNITE)
Hardy was the consensus fourth overall recruit coming out of high school last year but now finds himself mocked in the 20s. He is a microwave who can score from all three levels, but he didn’t light the world on fire in the G League, shooting just 35.1% from the field.
24. MILWAUKEE BUCKS – WALKER KESSLER (AUBURN)
In Givony’s mock:
Rival teams say the Bucks have indicated a willingness to explore moving up in the mid-to-late teens portion of the first round, potentially targeting some of the draft’s best 7-footers like Mark Williams and Walker Kessler.
Givony has the Auburn product off the board earlier, but that intel is enough for us to slot Kessler in at No. 24. He averaged five blocks per game in conference play and projects as one of the best rim protectors in the class. However, there are concerns about his ability to switch onto perimeter players — which we know can be a huge issue come the NBA Playoffs — and shooting stroke, so teams could be cautious of Kessler as traditional non-switchable bigs get less common. Still, this has been a common spot for Kessler in mocks throughout the process, and we’ll rock with Givony here, even though intel on picks later in Round 1 isn’t super reliable sometimes.
25. SAN ANTONIO SPURS – NIKOLA JOVIC (MEGA MOZZART)
Once viewed as a likely top-20 pick, Jovic’s stock may have fallen over the past week or two. Givony, Vecenie, Woo, and Wasserman all have him at the tail end of Round 1. None of them went into detail as to why they have Jovic later than they did a week ago, but we’re going to read the tea leaves and drop Jovic down here as well.
26. HOUSTON ROCKETS – MARJON BEAUCHAMP (G LEAGUE IGNITE)
Givony, Vecenie, and Woo all have Beauchamp to the Rockets at No. 26. Do they know something? I’m not sure! But at this point in the draft, that type of consensus is enough for us to also slot the G League Ignite product in at this pick. Vecenie did note the Rockets could look for wing depth at this pick with Jalen Green at guard and presumably another big or two already added by this point in the draft. Beauchamp fits that description and makes sense as a high-effort culture-builder for a young team.
27. MIAMI HEAT – JAKE LARAVIA (WAKE FOREST)
Wasserman signaled that LaRavia has been invited back for multiple second workouts and figures to go somewhere in the 20s. That means he’s a likely first-round pick. We don’t know exactly where to slot him in, but this is the range we expect for the Wake Forest product.
28. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – CHRISTIAN BRAUN (KANSAS)
Braun has emerged as a candidate to go at the end of Round 1 after a solid predraft process. He improved tremendously during his three years at Kansas and knocked down triples at a 38.6% clip last year. He’s also a strong perimeter defender, often guarding the opponents’ best wing player last season, and he jumped 41.5 inches at the NBA Combine.
29. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – KENNEDY CHANDLER (TENNESSEE)
Chandler makes sense for the Grizzlies since he went to Tennessee, plus Memphis could use a new backup point guard in case Tyus Jones leaves. Chandler is a strong perimeter defender despite his size but could struggle to defend bigger players at 6-foot-1. He’s good at basketball, but he might not be as valuable as he would’ve been 10 years ago since so many teams hunt for switches in the playoffs.
30. DENVER NUGGETS – ANDREW NEMBHARD (GONZAGA)
Nembhard went off when he scrimmaged at the NBA Combine and was the motor of a Gonzaga team that was unreal in the regular season during his two seasons in Spokane. He played basically every minute in must-win games for the Zags and operated as an unselfish leader of one of the nation’s most efficient offenses. Backup PGs are pretty replaceable, but Nembhard is a good bet to be in the league for a while. Wasserman also noted he could sneak into the 20s after a good predraft process.