Surprise NBA Draft Targets That Actually Make Sense for 5 Lottery Teams | Bleacher Report

0 of 5

    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Now that the lottery is over, the 2022 NBA draft order is set. Certain prospects will start getting tied to specific teams based on projections throughout the year and roster needs.

    However, general managers typically ignore buzz and expectations. The draft doesn’t always work out the way the media and fans guess it will.

    Here, we’ve picked a deserving but surprising prospect for five lottery teams, even if that player doesn’t fill a specific hole or get the same buzz as others.

1 of 5

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Obvious targets: Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero

    Some around the league believe that Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero aren’t all a lock to go in the top three. That’s because Jaden Ivey is as high as No. 2 on some scouts’ boards.

    If the Rockets plan to re-sign Christian Wood after next season or have doubts about a defensive frontcourt with him, Banchero and Alperen Sengun, Ivey could be a surprise pick.

    Ivey’s improved handles and assist numbers have raised confidence in his potential to operate more on the ball. Between the pressure he can put on defenses with his burst and Jalen Green’s self creation and shot-making, the Rockets could envision one of the league’s scariest offensive backcourts.

    Instead of operating with one pure point guard, the Rockets could see enough playmaking between Ivey and Kevin Porter Jr., who’s relatively interchangeable between positions 1 through 3.

2 of 5

    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    More obvious targets: Jaden Ivey, Shaedon Sharpe, Keegan Murray

    For most of the year, Jaden Ivey has been perceived as the next-best prospect behind Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero. Post-lottery, the natural reaction would be to project the Sacramento Kings grabbing him at No. 4 (if he doesn’t go in the top three). But there are some issues with a lineup that has three core players — Ivey, De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis — who are average to below-average shooters.

    It’s tough not to like AJ Griffin’s potential fit in Sacramento, even if he’s perceived as a reach at No. 4. Maybe Sacramento could trade down and swap picks with the Detroit Pistons, who’d likely value Ivey more for their particular roster.

    Regardless, Griffin is coming off one of the most impressive shooting seasons for a freshman we’ve ever seen. He just shot 44.7 percent from three, 45.3 percent off the dribble, 62.5 percent off screens, 41.9 percent when guarded closely, 44.4 percent on floaters and 79.2 percent on free throws.

    The 6’6 “, 222-pound wing won’t turn 19 until August, but he still flashed glimpses of self creation into drives and step-back jumpers. The Kings should see even more scoring potential to unlock.

    Meanwhile, after shooting 25.8 percent from three as a freshman, Ivey shot 25.6 percent from three over his final 15 games this season. That raises some flags about a potential fluky start to the year.

    On paper, putting Griffin between Fox and Sabonis makes a lot of sense, while the spacing with Fox, Ivey and Sabonis on the floor for 30-plus minutes per game could suffer.

3 of 5

    Chris Schwegler/Getty Images

    Obvious targets: Keegan Murray, Shaedon Sharpe, AJ Griffin

    There may be pressure for the Indiana Pacers to fill the hole at power forward left from the Domantas Sabonis trade. But Keegan Murray might not still be on the board at No. 6. And even if he is, the Pacers may be more motivated to improve their defense, which ranked No. 28 last season.

    After averaging 1.9 steals in the G League as an 18-year-old, Dyson Daniels just measured 6’7½ “in shoes and registered the fastest shuttle run time (change of direction) over the last two combines. His size, lateral mobility and instincts give him exciting defensive potential/versatility.The Pacers would be able to use him at the 3 next to Tyrese Haliburton and Malcolm Brogdon, or even as a small-ball 4, especially given his comfort level in the post on offense.

    The Pacers might be concerned with Brogdon’s durability considering that he’s played more than 60 games only once over the past five seasons. There would be plenty of teams interested in trading for Brogdon, whom Indiana could then shop for more frontcourt help.

    Drafting Daniels would give Indiana the flexibility to make a move like that. He split time playing point guard and off the ball for Ignite, showing promise as a playmaking passer, driver into floaters and touch scorer around the lane. And he started to get comfortable shooting from deep over his last eight games (13-of-28 3PT).

    It may be worth exploring moving down for Daniels, but the buzz around him is heating up.

4 of 5

    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    More obvious targets: TyTy Washington, Jeremy Sochan, Bennedict Mathurin, Johnny Davis, Dyson Daniels

    If the Washington Wizards are able to re-sign Bradley Beal, they’ll presumably have no interest in rebuilding. That could make Tari Eason more attractive than some of the teenagers who’ll be on the board at No. 10.

    Though Eason typically isn’t mentioned in the same discussion with other projected top-10 picks, he has a good case for late-lottery consideration.

    For the Wizards, who ranked No. 25 in defense last season, the appeal to the 6’8 “combo forward (7’2” wingspan) starts with his defensive activity and toughness. He ranked fifth in the country in defensive box plus-minus, and he finished as one of three NCAA players ever (joining Matisse Thybulle) to play 500 minutes and register a 4.5 steal percentage and 6.0 block percentage.

    But Eason has also developed into a versatile scorer, having recorded 20 grab-and-go transition baskets as a fast-break initiator, made 28 threes, converted 21 drives past closeouts and regularly finished off the ball as a cutter and offensive rebounder.

    He’s the type of impact competitor who won’t need plays run for him to be productive. And he’d be a fitting complement next to a finesse big like Kristaps Porzingis.

    With the intense, defensive-minded Eason at the 3 or 4, Washington could use Kyle Kuzma as a dangerous bench weapon for the second unit.

5 of 5

    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    More obvious targets: Dyson Daniels, Johnny Davis, Bennedict Mathurin

    The New York Knicks won’t find their point guard of the future at No. 11. One interesting pathway to go down is exploring rim protectors such as Jalen Duren or Mark Williams instead of re-signing the fragile Mitchell Robinson in free agency. But it feels tougher to find a quality-starting guard or wing than a shot-blocker/finisher who doesn’t handle or look at the hoop outside the paint.

    Malaki Branham deserves more love in the lottery discussion — potentially more than the higher-profile Johnny Davis, who’s a year older, not as long and a weaker shooter with less of an off-ball skill set (32.5 percentage usage). Some scouts see the draft range for the Ohio State freshman being Nos. 8-14.

    Playing the entire season at 18 years old, Branham shot 49.8 percent overall and 41.6 percent from three-point range. He also hit 61.4 percent of his attempts at the rim, 10-of-21 floaters and 43.6 percent of his 101 pull-ups. He graded in the 94th percentile as a pick-and-roll scorer while shooting 43.5 percent off the catch.

    The Knicks would be able to use Branham to create in ball-screen situations or spot up from the wings and corners alongside Immanuel Quickey’s creativity, RJ Barrett’s penetration and Julius Randle’s isolation game.

    Quentin Grimes looks like he’ll be a steal at No. 25 and a useful rotation player. But Branham offers more off-the-dribble driving and shot-making.

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.

Leave a Comment