Unsurprisingly, the 2022 NBA Draft delivered with mock drafts blowing up quickly, and confusing trade details leaving us waiting for the next Twitter notification.
But in the end, 58 picks have been made and we have a better sense of what teams wanted to do with their respective selections.
So, which teams stood out and which ones failed to impress? Let’s sort the winners and losers from the 2022 NBA Draft:
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder
Well we know general manager Sam Presti loves collecting draft picks, but he parted with three future first-round picks to add another first-rounder this year. Oklahoma City entered the lottery with two picks but added another after acquiring the No. 11 overall pick from the New York Knicks. The Thunder flipped those picks into Chet Holmgren at No. 2 overall, Ousmane Dieng at No. 11 and Jalen Williams at No. 12.
Oklahoma City has a working core of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Luguentz Dort as its other trove of youngsters continue to develop, but all three lottery picks on paper were fantastic picks. Holmgren is the team’s center for the future, Dieng’s upside is one of the highest from this class and Jalen Williams is an extremely versatile 3-and-D wing who is also a multi-level scorer.
In the second round, Oklahoma City chose Arkansas big man Jaylin Williams, a charge-drawing savant who is a high-IQ player on both ends of the floor. The Thunder have numerous youngsters who will be competing for a roster spot next year, but this four-prospect group is a tremendous haul on paper.
Loser: Sacramento Kings
No, this is not to jump on the team with the longest playoff drought in the league, and this spot could’ve gone to the New York Knicks had they not acquired multiple 2023 first-round picks. The Kings got their guy in Keegan Murray at No. 4, but after jumping to the top five in the lottery, one may think why not swing for Jaden Ivey, who looks to have the explosive star upside? If the Kings couldn’t find a partner to trade back a few spots to get Murray, that’s one thing, but they also stood pat the rest of the draft.
They traded the No. 37 pick to the Dallas Mavericks and the No. 49 to the Cleveland Cavaliers for 26-year-old Euro prospect Sasha Vezenkov. Sacramento doesn’t have a ton of money for free agency and the roster isn’t ready to compete for a playoff spot, barring internal jumps from guys like De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell. Maybe undrafted free agent Keon Ellis becomes the steal of the draft, but the Kings should’ve been more aggressive in adding young talent to build a roster, and tonight could’ve been better.
Winner: Detroit Pistons
The Pistons had one potential star fall into their lap while they went back in and traded for their future center. After the Kings picked Murray, Purdue guard Jaden Ivey fell to Detroit, forming an enticing backcourt with 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham. Cunningham’s ability to create and control a game will blend smoothly with Ivey’s explosiveness as a 1-2 pairing.
Then the Pistons came back toward the tail end of the lottery and acquired Jalen Duren at No. 13, another explosive athlete at the center position from Memphis-all that took was a 2025 first-round pick that belongs to Milwaukee, which will most likely be closer to a second-round pick than a lottery one. Add Saddiq Bey to the core and there’s something revving in The Motor City.
In the second round, Detroit grabbed Gabriele Procida at No. 36. He played overseas in Italy and shot well from deep although on low volume, but he just turned 20 and is a nice stash prospect.
Loser: EJ Liddell, Kendall Brown
Normally not a fan of calling players losers, but EJ Liddell and Kendall Brown were the two biggest drops in the draft. The Ohio State forward was widely viewed as a mid-to-late first-round pick, but he fell all the way to No. 41 in the second round.
Liddell improved his numbers all three years in college, especially with his ability to shoot from deep as a small-ball big man. In the end, the New Orleans Pelicans snatched him up after getting Dyson Daniels with the No. 8 pick, adding to their impressive rising collection of young talent.
Brown is a 6-foot-8, 19-year-old small forward who was also seen as a possible first-rounder because of his potential. But he fell all the way to No. 48, where the Indiana Pacers picked him up after landing Bennedict Mathurin at No. 6. Brown still has to prove he can extend his range from beyond the perimeter, but these two players unfortunately fall into this category.
Winner: Houston Rockets
Houston is creating a problem. With three first-round picks coming in the form of Jabari Smith Jr. (No. 3 overall), Tari Eason (No. 17) and TyTy Washington Jr. (No. 29), the Rockets can field a starting five from the last two drafts when you factor Jalen Green-who blasted off in the last few months of the 2021-22 campaign-and Alperen Sengun. And that’s before we get into Usman Garuba, who still has yet to fully show what he can do.
The Rockets have a ways to go to compete, but they’re fielding a variety of young, versatile players in the post-James Harden era that makes it an exciting time for the franchise. Next up is to move on from John Wall’s contract.
The Golden State Warriors drafted Patrick Baldwin Jr. at No. 28, a perfect stash-and-develop prospect for the next year. Baldwin was supposed to be a top-10 guy this year, but his freshman campaign at Milwaukee didn’t go as planned. But he lands in a perfect situation as Golden State can get him prepped behind the scenes, similar to 2021 lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
Jeremy Sochan (No. 9), Malaki Branham (No. 20) and Blake Wesley (No. 25) were all very San Antonio Spurs-like picks. The Spurs are still building out their next core following the Tim Duncan-Manu Ginobili-Tony Parker days, and these three first-rounders could develop nicely with 2021 All-Star Dejounte Murray leading the way.
Both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors addressed big needs. Minnesota picked Walker Kessler at No. 22, a defensive-minded center who will help in the rotation alongside offensive-minded bigs Karl-Anthony Towns and Naz Reid. Then Toronto selected Christian Koloko at No. 33, a 7-foot shot-blocker who has solid lateral quickness when you factor the Raptors’ love for switchable players.
The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Evan Mobley’s older brother, Isaiah, at No. 49 out of USC. The 6-foot-10 big man could end up as a rotational backup for a rising young team that just barely missed out on the playoffs last season.