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Auburn’s Jabari Smith Could Be Top Pick in 2022 NBA Draft

By Krysten Peek

The NBA draft is Thursday night, and the first round is starting to take shape.

Auburn’s Jabari Smith is projected to go No. 1 to the Orlando Magic (over Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero), and there are rumblings multiple teams are interested in trading up to No. 4 in pursuit of Purdue guard Jaden Ivey.

Wake Forest wing Jake LaRavia and Arizona guard Dalen Terry are late first-round risers. It will be interesting to see what Oklahoma City does with the No. 2 pick and if the Thunder keep the pick at No. 12 or try to package it with future picks and trade up.

Here’s a look at Yahoo Sports’ latest projections for the first and second rounds of the 2022 draft. Updates will be made with the latest intel and trades leading up to the draft Thursday.

(Note: The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks each lost a second-round pick due to violating league rules. There will be only 58 picks in the 2022 NBA draft.)

  1. Orlando Magic: F Jabari Smith

Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 220 pounds | Class: Freshman | Auburn: 16.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg

Smith might be the youngest of the top three prospects, but he brings a wide variety of offensive skills that can be plugged into this Magic team right away. He has the length and athleticism to defend positions 1-4 and is the best shooting big in this draft class, averaging 42% from 3-point range, something the Magic desperately need some help with after shooting 33% from deep last season.

The Magic brought in Holmgren for one of their last workouts (Smith worked out for the team June 9), but there is so much to like about what Smith brings to the table right away with his elite shooting and defensive versatility.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder: C Chet Holmgren

Ht./Wt.: 7-0, 196 pounds | Class: Freshman | Gonzaga: 14.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 3.7 bpg

Sam Presti is patiently building something in Oklahoma City, and Holmgren might be the superstar prospect who starts to bring it all together. Yes, there are concerns about his slight frame at under 200 pounds, but what Holmgren brings to a team and what he can do on the court is remarkable with his elite ball-handling and footwork in the paint. Defensively, he’s a tremendous shot blocker and has the length to defend the perimeter and challenge every shot. Fans will have to get used to seeing Holmgren and Aleksej Pokusevski (7-foot, 190 pounds) on the court together, but the duo might change the narrative of what an NBA frontcourt looks like. The pair will definitely be the most intriguing duo of bigs in the NBA.

The Thunder are keeping all options open at No. 2 and could target Ivey with this pick or try to package their 12th pick, a couple players and future draft picks to move up for either Ivey or Shaedon Sharpe.

  1. Houston Rockets: F Paolo Banchero

Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 250 pounds | Class: Freshman | Duke: 17.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.2 apg

The Rockets need size in the lane and Banchero will bring that plus much more. The ACC Rookie of the Year is a grab-and-go player who has the size to bang down low but is also comfortable with the ball in his hands. The Rockets are looking for that glue guy to get them over the hump, and Banchero could be the missing piece after leading Duke to the Final Four this season.

“I had a great workout and great conversation with Coach [Stephen] Silas and the front office,” Banchero told reporters last week. “I’ve known Jalen [Green] just through USA Basketball and KPJ [Kevin Porter Jr.] is from the same area and we played for the same AAU program.”

Houston has a top-three draft pick for the second straight year. Banchero is a player it can build around and a key addition to Green and Porter Jr. in the pick-and-roll option.

  1. Sacramento Kings: G Jaden Ivey

Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 195 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Purdue: 17.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.1 apg

Ivey is the best prospect at No. 4, but he duplicates what Sacramento already has in De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell. The Kings could trade down and have reportedly been in talks with the Pistons, Pacers, Wizards and Knicks. If they decide to keep the pick, this could be an entertaining backcourt filled with speed, highlight after highlight in transition and crafty shots around the rim. Ivey brings a consistent outside jump shot and can add a lot of value to Sacramento. If the Kings are looking for size in the lane, they could move down in the draft and get a lot in return.

  1. Detroit Pistons: F Keegan Murray

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 215 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Iowa: 23.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg

Murray brings great size at the wing position and was arguably the best college player last season. He isn’t going to be the No. 1 option on the court for the Pistons but has an efficient midrange game and is a solid defender. He’ll need to improve on his playmaking at the next level, but will be a great secondary ball handler with size that should alleviate some responsibility from Cade Cunningham.

  1. Indiana Pacers: G Shaedon Sharpe

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 215 pounds | Class: Freshman | Kentucky: Did not play this season

Sharpe is the most athletic player in this draft class and a dynamic shooter from beyond the arc. There is a ton of mystery surrounding Sharpe after he sat out the second semester at Kentucky. Regardless, Sharpe was the No. 1 player coming out of high school for a reason and the Pacers have room to take a swing at a prospect like Sharpe with Tyrese Haliburton, Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield in the backcourt.

Sharpe told Yahoo Sports that he worked out for the Thunder, Magic, Trail Blazers, Hornets, Spurs and has his last workout before the draft with the Pacers on Monday.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers: G Benn Mathurin

Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 210 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Arizona: 17.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.5 apg

There has been some top-five buzz surrounding Mathurin after strong workouts, and if he’s here at No. 7, the Trail Blazers would love to add him to the roster alongside Anfernee Simons and Damian Lillard. Mathurin is a plug-and-play guy from positions 1-3 and was the go-to scorer during his sophomore season at Arizona. Mathurin’s scoring could complement Lillard and remove some of the pressure from the All-Star guard in crunch time or at the end of the shot clock.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans: G Dyson Daniels

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 200 pounds | Australia | G League Ignite: 11.3 ppg, 4.4 apg

Daniels had a great showing at the combine with his pro day and interviewed well with teams. After a slow start in the G League, Daniels surged to close the season, creating for others and showcasing his size and length against much stronger opponents. The Australian native grew 2 inches from the start of the G League season and is now close to 6-foot-8 in shoes. His height and high basketball IQ make him an intriguing prospect if he falls to No. 8 in the draft. The Pelicans could use a guard like Daniels with his length and plug him in right away next to CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

“Dyson is the type of player that can fit into a lot of different NBA systems,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “He has great size, can come in as a secondary ball handler and also possibly be an option on the wing with his versatility on and off the ball. He’s a player that’s just going to continue to improve and have a long NBA career.”

  1. San Antonio Spurs: C Jalen Duren

Ht./Wt.: 6-11, 250 pounds | Class: Freshman | Memphis: 12 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg

Duren was a consensus top-three player coming out of high school and despite his young age at 18 years old, he held his own in college hoops this season. He has an NBA-ready body at 250 pounds and was one of the best passers out of a double team in college basketball. Duren will be a project and is still a couple years away from immediately contributing to a team. He’ll need to work on his jump shot out of the pick-and-pop and his lateral quickness when having to occasionally step out and guard the perimeter. The Spurs could develop Duren alongside their 12th overall pick last year, Josh Primo. Primo spent most of his first year in the G League, and it could be a similar path for Duren, further developing under a great coaching staff.

  1. Washington Wizards: G Johnny Davis

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 194 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Wisconsin: 19.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 apg

Davis remains one of the safest picks in the lottery with his intensity, hard-working mindset and consistent play. There is long-term value and upside in Davis, and even though he might not be the superstar to change the franchise, he is a nice complementary piece to Bradley Beal. Davis consistently made the right reads when he got downhill this season and could be an instant contributor to this Wizards team.

  1. New York Knicks: F A.J. Griffin

Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 222 pounds | Class: Freshman | Duke: 10.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg

If Griffin can stay healthy, he might end up being a steal at No. 11. He has all the physical tools to make an instant impact in the NBA, but has struggled to consistently stay on the court due to nagging injuries during his young career. The spacing in the NBA will cater to Griffin because of how strong he is with the ball in mismatch situations, and he can add a lot of size to the wing on this Knicks team (if they keep this pick and don’t move up).

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder: G Malaki Branham

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 180 pounds | Class: Freshman | Ohio State: 13.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg

Branham improved tremendously and was one of the most impactful point guards in college basketball to close out the season. He’s still young, turning 19 on May 12, but will be a solid backup option in the second unit. It speaks volumes to his continued rise when Ohio State essentially shifted the offense to run around him to close out the season. He has strong shooting instincts and is consistent in the catch-and-shoot and getting shots off the dribble. If the Thunder keep this pick, Branham will be an additional complementary piece to Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

  1. Charlotte Hornets: F Jeremy Sochan

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 230 pounds | Class: Freshman | Baylor: 9.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg

Sochan had one of the best pro days during the draft combine and showcased his speed and consistent 3-point jumper — something that he struggled with at Baylor. The NBA spacing and pick-and-roll option cater to Sochan, and he will undoubtedly be a much better pro than his one year in college would indicate. The Hornets have two picks nearly back-to-back and are looking to add size and defensive versatility, something Sochan excels at.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers: G Ochai Agbaji

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 215 pounds | Class: Senior | Kansas: 18.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg

Agbaji is the perfect example of what can happen when a player returns to school and continues to develop for the next level. He tested the NBA waters twice, listened to feedback from teams, returned to school and now is a projected lottery pick. The Cavs could benefit from Agbaji’s 3-point shooting, after averaging 41% from deep this past season. He’s an older player (22) in this draft class and can be plugged in right away.

  1. Charlotte Hornets: C Mark Williams

Ht./Wt.: 7-0, 242 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Duke: 10.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3 bpg

Williams is an athletic center who loves to run in transition and is a solid shot blocker with his 7-foot-7 wingspan. At 20 years old, he still has room for growth and development, but the improvements he made under Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski in two years is indicative to the type of worker he is. Williams is extremely coachable and a player who will continue to get better in the NBA.

  1. Atlanta Hawks: F Ousmane Dieng

Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 185 pounds | France | NZ Breakers (NBL): 8.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg

Dieng is a unique prospect and has shot up draft boards on his potential one or two seasons down the road. He continues to develop his slight 6-foot-10 frame, but what he does with the ball in his hands is impressive. He’s an elite passer, particularly on the wing and his 3-point shot continues to be an area of development. The Hawks drafted Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper last year, and Dieng is a great complementary piece to both young players as they continue to develop their games.

  1. Houston Rockets: G Jalen Williams

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 209 pounds | Class: Junior | Santa Clara: 18 ppg, 4.2 apg

Williams is one of the biggest risers after playing well during the draft combine scrimmages. He got to the basket with ease, shot the ball well and had some of the best finishes in transition. Defensively, he fought through screens to keep his man in front and was effective in help-side defense, shooting the gap for steals and tips.

  1. Chicago Bulls: F Tari Eason

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 216 pounds | Class: Sophomore | LSU: 16.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg

Eason is an athletic wing who piqued scouts’ interest with his defensive versatility and the way he plays above the rim in transition. He’s a long, perimeter player who was productive on both ends of the floor this season. His shot selection will need to improve from 3-point range, but there is a lot to like about Eason’s upside as an NBA prospect.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves: G Blake Wesley

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 185 pounds | Class: Freshman | Notre Dame: 14.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg

Wesley is the first one-and-done prospect to come out of Notre Dame and is a player who flew under the radar for half of the college basketball season. Wesley is one of the best passers out of the pick-and-roll and has the confidence to get a shot off at the end of the shot clock or when the game is on the line. Wesley is still young at just 19 years old and has a ton of upside as a budding shooting guard in the league.

Wesley on being ND’s first one-and-done player: ‘I just want to hear my name called by Adam Silver’

  1. San Antonio Spurs: G Dalen Terry

Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 195 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Arizona: 8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.9 apg

Terry elected to stay in the draft after not participating at the combine outside of his agency’s media day. The Spurs have three first-round draft picks and can afford to take a player like Terry, whom they can mold the next couple of years as a secondary option alongside Josh Primo and Jalen Duren (our No. 9 pick).

  1. Denver Nuggets: G TyTy Washington

Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 197 pounds | Class: Freshman | Kentucky: 12.5 ppg, 3.9 apg

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has a tremendous track record with his former players, particularly guards, being productive pros. Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, De’Aaron Fox, Tyler Herro, Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley all played under Coach Cal. Washington played off the ball during his one year at Kentucky but is very comfortable as a primary ball handler and doesn’t have a problem getting downhill and creating for others.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies: F Nikola Jovic

Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 205 pounds | Serbia | Mega Basket: 10.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg

Jovic showed up to his pro day in Chicago with a Luka Doncic-like grin throughout the workout and hit 10 consecutive corner threes in the 30-minute span that impressed scouts. Jovic is a project, but his personality is contagious.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (via Brooklyn Nets): C Walker Kessler

Ht./Wt.: 7-1, 245 pounds | Class: Sophomore | Auburn: 11.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.6 bpg

Kessler led the country in blocks (155) during his sophomore season at Auburn. The rim-running center moves well for his size at 7-foot-1 and has solid footwork, pinning defenders on the block and finishing strong at the rim.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks: G Kennedy Chandler

Ht./Wt.: 6-0, 171 pounds | Class: Freshman | Tennessee: 13.3 ppg, 4.9 apg

Chandler had a rocky start to his one year at Tennessee but closed out the season well and demonstrated his dog-like mentality. He played at a high level in the NCAA men’s tournament. He has a second burst that’s tough to defend and a tight handle, and his passing improved as the season went on.

  1. San Antonio Spurs: F E.J. Liddell

Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 240 pounds | Class: Junior | Ohio State: 19.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.5 apg

Liddell was one of the most improved players in college basketball this past season and solidified himself as a first-round draft pick after expanding his game on both ends of the floor. His 3-point shooting improved and he has a Grant Williams style of defensive play. He might be undersized at the power forward position but he has the skills to step out on the perimeter and impact the game with passing and creating for others.

  1. Houston Rockets (via the Mavericks): G/F MarJon Beauchamp

Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 175 pounds | G League Ignite: 15.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.3 apg

Beauchamp has a steady jumper that has improved over the past year. He has good speed in transition and is not afraid to take the shot with a defender in his face. His biggest improvement is on the defensive end with his lateral quickness and ability to sit down and guard every position on the wing.

  1. Miami Heat: G Jaden Hardy

Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 198 pounds | G League Ignite: 17.7 ppg, 3.2 apg

Hardy struggled with his shot selection during G League play, but his raw talent is undeniable. Just 19 years old, he has great instincts on offense and has the ability to take players off the dribble, instead of settling for deep, step-back 3-pointers.

  1. Golden State Warriors: F Jake LaRavia

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 235 pounds | Class: Junior | Wake Forest: 14.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg

The Warriors don’t need to add much to their championship-winning roster, but LaRavia brings great size at the swing-four position and shot 38.4% from 3-point range during his junior season at Wake Forest. LaRavia could sneak up a few more spots in the first round with his high basketball IQ and relentless work ethic.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies: G Bryce McGowens

Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 179 pounds | Class: Freshman | Nebraska: 16.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg

McGowens is Nebraska’s first one-and-done in school history and is making a late rise after solid workouts with teams. McGowens is the next great prospect to come out of South Carolina and could be playing alongside another great player from the state, Ja Morant. McGowens is a long, athletic and slashing guard who has the ability to get downhill with ease and has a decent shot selection for a 19-year-old.

  1. Denver Nuggets (via Thunder): G/F Caleb Houston

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 205 pounds | Class: Freshman | Michigan: 10.5 ppg, 4 rpg

Houston has a ton of NBA upside and is a lights-out shooter, even if it wasn’t put on full display during his one year at Michigan. Teams in the first round love his size and the way he can shoot over the defense with ease. He’s not as athletic as other players his size but is far from a defensive liability.