Hollinger’s 2022 NBA Mock Draft: Chet Holmgren goes No. 1

Hollinger’s 2022 NBA Mock Draft: Chet Holmgren goes No. 1

The draft isn’t for 36 more hours, but the wheels are already turning and have been for several days. More than a week ahead of Thursday’s big event, two first-round picks changed hands. What is this, the NFL?

The waters will only get murkier as we get into draft night, with several more picks expected to be in play or on the move. Trade scenarios are very much in play as high as the 4th pick; seemingly all the lottery teams after the top three are looking to move out or move down for immediate help, while all the teams beneath them with multiple picks are looking to move up.

As a result, this mock draft is truly a mockery. How are we supposed to guess which players will be selected when we don’t even know which teams will do the selecting?

Alas, we press on and do the best we can. One guiding principle: Does the story add up? We’ll hear all kinds of smokescreens and crazy-ass rumors over the coming 36 hours. Circling back to a team’s cap situation, trade assets and front-office history helps separate the realistic possibilities from the random insanity.

A few other draft notes while we’re here:

• Houston’s acquisition of the 26th pick from Dallas will be completed on draft night after the Mavs make their selection, or possibly after free agency starts. Because the deal isn’t technically done, there is still a chance for this trade to expand.

• The Nuggets acquired pick 30 from Oklahoma City in a salary dump (sending out JaMychal Green and a future first) that was stage-managed to look like an acquisition; that one also hasn’t been called in to the league yet and could expand depending on what happens on draft night.

• I only cover the top 30 picks here, but activity will be wild and woolly in the second round, too. Expect the Lakers to try to buy a pick (and possibly Brooklyn, too), and look for Indiana (picks 31 and 58) and Orlando (picks 32 and 35) to see about a move into the first round.

• The Clippers (43) and Memphis (47) are likely to sign their picks to two-ways if they keep them, and that may restrict which players they select to those who indicate an openness to taking that route. Other teams with roster crunches and multiple seconds include Minnesota (40, 48 and 50), New Orleans (41 and 52) and Sacramento (37 and 48); each is likely to try either consolidating picks to move up or trade for future seconds, and any players they select will likely be on two-ways.

• That last point is important; a lot of teams believe in sussing out from agents ahead of time which players are willing to take a two-way if drafted in the second round. I’m lukewarm on this strategy — once a player is drafted he doesn’t have a lot of other options — but some teams don’t even want to chance a player signing the tender and occupying a roster spot.

• International man of mystery to watch: Karlo Matković of KK Mega Bemax. He put his name back in the draft an hour after pulling his name out, which is a strong indication that he has a promise in the second round from one of the teams with multiple second-round picks. He’s already under contract for EuroCup team Cedevita next season, so he’ll be in a strong stash situation. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to think Minnesota — whose new president, Tim Connelly, has a wee bit of history drafting big guys from Mega — might be a landing spot.

With all of that to consider, let’s look into the foggy haze of my crystal ball and see what picks are going to happen Thursday night … or at least, based on the above, what stories add up the best. Be sure to come back here on Friday for a good laugh:

1. Orlando Magic

 Chet Holmgren | 7-1 freshman | C | Gonzaga

I think I might be the only person who thinks there’s a realistic chance Holmgren goes No. 1.  Again: The story adds up. While most draftniks have Jabari Smith Jr. as the top-rated player (as do I), I don’t think that has ever moved the needle on how this front office thinks.

The Jeff Weltman-John Hammond front-office team in Orlando is also renowned for valuing length far more than most front offices, sometimes to its detriment (see Bamba, Mo), and sometimes hugely to its benefit (see Antetokounmpo, Giannis). While it’s overly reductive to say it’s the only thing the Magic look at — they took Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner a year ago, neither of whom had crazy wingspans — I’m not sure the lure of Holmgren’s rim protection will be resistible.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

Jabari Smith Jr. | 6-10 freshman | PF | Auburn

If Holmgren goes to Orlando, that means the Thunder would seem extremely likely to take Smith. (If Orlando doesn’t take Holmgren, he would be the pick here at No. 2.)

While there has been a lot of noise about Jaden Ivey, I’ve always suspected that was more a scenario where the Thunder trade up from their pick at No. 12 to take him at, say, No. 5. The Thunder also have been pretty good with their draft smokescreens (pours one out for the 2021 James Bouknight rumors), and I don’t really see the angle here.

3. Houston Rockets

Paolo Banchero | 6-10 freshman | PF | Duke

Houston has it easy here at No. 3: Take whoever is left of the consensus top three. I’ve heard whispers that Houston might be trying to get into the top two, using some combination of picks 17, 26 and future firsts from Brooklyn or Milwaukee as bait, but I find this endgame improbable. Houston packaging some of those other picks to move up from 17, on the other hand, seems much more in play. We’ll get to that later.

4. Sacramento Kings

Jaden Ivey | 6-4 sophomore | SG | Purdue

And now the draft really starts. I’m more confident in the “Ivey” part than the “Sacramento” part, but neither is certain. There is some momentum to the idea that Keegan Murray fits the current Kings roster better and thus could be the pick here if Sacramento keeps it. Also, Ivey has done his best to cold-shoulder the Kings and push himself to Detroit (or a trade-up team) instead; he worked out for the Pistons but not Sacramento.

However, probabilistically, you’d have to bet on Ivey here. As near as one can tell, the teams that would trade up with Sacramento for this pick are doing it for Ivey, not Murray. Additionally, the Kings under Monte McNair have been pretty rigorous about drafting “best player available” and letting the chips fall later. So if you think there’s a 50 percent chance they trade the pick, a 75 percent chance the acquiring team takes Ivey and a 33 percent chance the Kings take Ivey if they keep it, then the overall odds still favor Ivey.

Sacramento trading down here is interesting, but I’m not sure I see the deal that helps the Kings, especially with teams like Washington and New York. An interesting thought is that Chris Duarte of the Pacers fits into their exception from the Tyrese Haliburton trade and could move them from No. 4 to No. 6, but I’d rather stand pat if I were them.

5. Detroit Pistons

Keegan Murray | 6-8 sophomore | SF/PF | Iowa

The Pistons would love to get their mitts on Ivey, and one wonders if a No. 5 for No. 4 trade could be part of the draft pick musical chairs on Thursday. I haven’t heard anyone talking about this, but swapping this pick, No. 46 and two future seconds to Sacramento for the fourth pick makes all kinds of sense for both teams. Each ends up with the guy they want, and the Kings get Murray at a lower salary; Sacramento’s leverage here is that it could trade down with another team and leave Detroit without Ivey.

Even if Detroit stays put, there’s a decent chance Murray is the guy. The Pistons don’t seem that into Shaedon Sharpe and likely will have an opening for Murray by dealing Jerami Grant (more on that in a bit).

If it isn’t Murray, the other name to watch here is Bennedict Mathurin, who has been quietly sneaking up draft boards.

6. Indiana Pacers

Bennedict Mathurin | 6-6 sophomore | SF | Arizona

I’m trying to keep track of all the balls Indiana has in the air right now. The Malcolm Brogdon rumors seem to be very real, with something for either Washington at 10 or New York at 11 a genuine possibility. However, both those teams are working on other stuff, too. The Knicks still have Kyrie Irving and Jalen Brunson dreams dancing in their head, and both are trying to move up to the No. 4 pick to grab Ivey.

Myles Turner is in play, too, and this time, it seems more serious than the other 36 times. A Turner-for-Deandre Ayton sign-and-trade at the start of free agency, for instance, would be a gobsmacker, but my read on the tea leaves is don’t get your hopes up. A more realistic endgame might be Turner going to Charlotte on draft night, bringing either the 13th or 15th pick and some combination of contracts from the Hornets. (Several possible iterations of this deal work, including a wild one I’ll list below.)

As for the draft … oh, there’s plenty of that, too. What if they get the 10th pick from Washington, for instance, and combine it with the sixth pick to move up to No. 4 and get Ivey or Murray? They also have $20 million in cap room, so somebody might pay them with a first-round pick to dump a contract. Or, they’ll hang onto the space to make a run at Miles Bridges.

Indiana also has a pick at 31 with lots of interesting possibilities. And did I mention Buddy Hield yet?

Anyway, after all this, I think the Pacers will have trouble moving up, and the top five players on their board will be gone, leaving them to take Mathurin at six. But Indiana’s night will just be getting started at this point.

7. Portland Trail Blazers

 Shaedon Sharpe | 6-6 freshman | SG/SF | Kentucky

There seems to be an emerging consensus that Dyson Daniels is Portland’s pick if the Blazers keep it, although there is some significant Sharpe buzz here, too. Portland is under some win-now pressure because it has ignored the obvious move (trade Damian Lillard, actually rebuild) to do a Wizards of the West thing and chase the eighth seed.

If the Blazers are going that route, this brings us to my favorite fake three-way trade — Oklahoma City trading Lu Dort and the 12th pick to Portland for Nos. 7 and 36, Eric Bledsoe, Didi Louzada and Justise Winslow, followed by Portland trading 12 to Detroit for Grant.

Oklahoma City has been linked to Sharpe for a while, and picking him would be pretty consistent with the Thunder’s preference for working with raw clay. I don’t think he gets to them at 12.

While we’re making trades on behalf of Joe Cronin, the trio of Josh Hart, Winslow and Louzada also could be aggregated to bring back John Collins, in a trade down to Atlanta’s pick at 16. The Hawks seemingly would have more preference for Daniels here, giving them a wing who actually plays defense and can slide in at backup point guard when Trae Young rests.

The Blazers have so many options because they’re sitting on a $20.8 million trade exception from the CJ McCollum trade, which allows them to take in a player like Grant (or OG Anunoby, or Harrison Barnes, etc.) without needing to match salary.

In the midst of all that, I’ve also heard whispers about Portland moving up to take Murray. Stay tuned.

8. New Orleans Pelicans

Dyson Daniels | 6-6 | SG | G League Ignite

(Chamberlain Smith / NBAE via Getty Images)

Here’s another pick that could be in play, although last season’s playoff run slowed down some of the “win now” mojo. The angle: With a $6.2 million trade exception from the Steven Adams deal, trading the eighth pick for a player and the accompanying $5.4 million salary slot for somebody who makes roughly the same amount is a real option, as it’s the one way for the Pelicans to add “win now” talent while staying below the luxury tax. That’s the through line to the rumors about dealing for Phoenix’s Cam Johnson, for instance, who happens to make $5.9 million next year.

A zillion players have been rumored to be in the mix here for New Orleans, but let’s cut through the smoke. Regardless of who ends up with possession of Nos. 7 and 8, it seems increasingly likely this part of the draft will go either Daniels-Sharpe or Sharpe-Daniels.

9. San Antonio Spurs

Jalen Duren | 6-11 freshman | C | Memphis

The Spurs went waaaaay out of the box when they took Josh Primo at 12 a year ago; could we see another out-of-left-field pick here? I think Daniels is their type of guy, but I have him gone by the time they pick, which leaves us with Duren. The Spurs, even in recent years, have valued bigs more than other teams (I mean, given their history, you would, too), and Duren gives them a fallback if they either trade Jakob Poeltl or see him leave as a free agent in 2023.

The Spurs also have picks 20, 25 and 38 and could try to package them to move up, but I don’t see the team ahead of them that is jonesing to move down and complete a trade like this with them.

10. Washington Wizards

Jeremy Sochan | 6-9 freshman | PF | Baylor

With the win-now help unappealing, Washington might trade this pick for a point guard as part of its plan to chase a 44-win season around Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porziņģis. There isn’t a real point guard worth reaching for at this point in the draft.

If that’s the play, keep an eye on Indiana. A trade of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ish Smith and this pick for Indiana’s pick at 31 and Goga Bitadze would solve Washington’s point guard problem, at least for the 36 games that Brogdon plays this year, and open up some more room for the Pacers. They’d have to guarantee the contracts of Caldwell-Pope and Smith to make the trade cap-kosher; Bitadze would fit into Washington’s exception from the Montrezl Harrell trade in February.

As for this pick … I’ve seen Johnny Davis mocked here quite a bit, which would be sort of perfect as “who is the most half-good Wizards-type guy you could see them taking?” But in reality, I think whoever ends up with this pick is going to have one of Sochan or Duren higher on their boards.

If Washington keeps the pick, Sochan would be an awkward fit as the fourth consecutive young combo forward drafted by this team. But none of the previous three have taken the league by storm, and it might be time to move on from Rui Hachimura.

11. New York Knicks

Johnny Davis | 6-4 sophomore | SG | Wisconsin

As with Washington above, the Knicks might be tempted to parlay this pick into a real point guard rather than adding to their crowd of young wing players. There isn’t really a point guard to draft in this spot, although the Knicks-y move would be to select the Kentucky guy (TyTy Washington), even if it’s 10 spots higher than everyone expects him to go.

I also think the Knicks are a very plausible trade-down team; they’ve been pretty canny about extracting value on draft night in the Leon Rose era, and if there’s a sleeper pick in the late teens, it would be a smart play given how many teams are trying to move up.

Finally, if the Knicks have any free agency aspirations, it likely involves moving this pick and Evan Fournier, waiving Taj Gibson and stretching Kemba Walker, which would put them $27 million under the cap, even with Mitchell Robinson’s cap hold.

One other possibility: With Memphis looking to move up and having excess cap space, the Knicks could send an unwanted contract or two to the Grizzlies in exchange for a move from 11 to 22.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder

A.J. Griffin | 6-6 freshman | SG | Duke

Oklahoma City will try to move up from here and is armed with multiple assets to help do so; the question, as ever, is the motivation of the parties above them to move down. This is why trading up in the draft typically involves overpaying; the Thunder are just in a position to overpay and not feel it as much.

If the pick ends up staying here, Griffin is the one guy in the top 30 whose medicals are going to give teams a bit of pause. But the counterargument is, my goodness, have you seen this team shoot? The Thunder shot a league-worst 32.3 percent from 3 last year, and the two perimeter linchpins of the squad are Josh Giddey (26.3 percent) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (30.0 percent). Griffin might not be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but he fits this roster.

13. Charlotte Hornets

Mark Williams | 7-0 sophomore | C | Duke

League insiders debated who looked worse after the Kenny Atkinson fiasco — Atkinson for bailing at the last minute, or Charlotte for turning him off on the head coaching job so quickly. Let’s just say teams with head coach openings are going to be a bit nervous about going to the finish line with Atkinson; surely, in any repeat of a situation like this one, they aren’t going to let him finish out the season in Golden State before signing the contract.

Nonetheless, I’m not sure it affects much of Charlotte’s offseason planning. The Hornets have picks 13 and 15, and at least one of them is in play — possibly for Indiana’s Turner, or even in a package to move up.

If Charlotte keeps both picks, there is a strong case for leaving Williams to the pick at 15 and taking a perimeter player at 13, knowing that the Cavaliers are extremely unlikely to draft a big at 14.

However, I think it’s more likely that 15 gets moved and the Hornets get their guy at 13. With or without another veteran big, Charlotte needs frontcourt and rim protection help as it seeks to upgrade its swiss cheese defense of a year ago.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers

Ousmane Dieng | 6-8 | SF | New Zealand Breakers

There’s been a lot noise about Dieng going even higher than this, but I’m having trouble distilling the smoke from the fire. I know it “only takes one,” so to speak, but too many people I trust are Dieng skeptics for me to see an enthusiastic rush to snag him in the top dozen picks.

That said, I do think this pick might be something of a floor for Dieng. The Cavs need a big wing. Dieng is a big wing. There are no other major “can’t pass on this guy” talents left on the board. The story fits.

Obviously, one worries this is a case of Wisemanesque thinking in matching the square peg of the team’s biggest weakness and the round hole of a player who kinda, maybe looks the part of filling it. Dieng has flashed some potential, but I’m not sure this is the place to take a swing on him.

15. Charlotte Hornets

Ochai Agbaji | 6-5 senior | SG | Kansas

After reaching for the stars on a Bouknight-Kai Jones combo last year and not having much to show for it (Jones was pretty good in the G League, at least), Charlotte, I’d expect, will return to its pattern of picking brand-name college players this time around. A Williams-Agbaji draft haul would follow that trend line perfectly. I don’t think Agbaji is a top-15 pick, but enough people do that it wouldn’t be shocking to see him selected here, regardless of who does the picking.

The other domino, here, of course, is how these picks at 13 and 15 affect Charlotte in free agency. The Hornets can match a big offer sheet to Bridges but would be close to over the tax line if they did and are historically quite tax-averse. One of these picks could end up paired with outbound money; for instance, what if Gordon Hayward and both picks went to Indiana for Turner?

Also, while we’re here, what about an internet-breaking three-way trade of Russell Westbrook to Charlotte; Hayward, Mason Plumlee and two unprotected Laker firsts (2027 and 2029) to Brooklyn; and Kyrie Irving to the Lakers? I’ll just leave that here, expecting full well that the comments will now burn to ashes.

16. Atlanta Hawks

Malaki Branham | 6-4 freshman | SG | Ohio State

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: There’s a good chance this pick could be traded, too. Atlanta has Collins scenarios on the board, obviously, but that’s hardly the only thing the Hawks are working on as they look to shake up the roster after a disappointing regression in 2021-22.

The Hawks need immediate help more than they need another developing young guard, but Travis Schlenk loves him some offensive talent, and Branham can score. More generally, if this pick gets moved to whomever, Branham is probably the consensus best player available at this point in this mock.

17. Houston Rockets

Tari Eason | 6-7 sophomore | SF | LSU

Houston won’t deal this pick for players, but it might as part of a package with the recently acquired 26th pick to move up. If the Rockets keep it, Eason’s wild end-to-end game fits more easily here than at a lot of other places. Houston needs another wing defender, and Eason provides it. His ability to play the three will help keep him on the court with presumed third pick Banchero.

It’s an interesting spot, though, because Eason could slide a bit if he isn’t the pick here. Some teams aren’t as enamored with his ability to fit into a system. Could the Rockets gamble that he’s still there for them at 26 and go a different direction at 17?

18. Chicago Bulls

E.J. Liddell | 6-7 junior | PF | Ohio State

What would a package of the 18th pick and Coby White get you in a trade? OK, but what if we throw in Tony Bradley? The answer is not Rudy Gobert, and not even Turner. However, maybe it brings Chicago another big wing to fill in a pretty glaring hole in the current roster. So, yes, I do think this pick, like many here, is very much in play.

I also struggle to see who the guy is here that sends the Bulls head over heels, especially if the top 15 picks play out the way I outlined above. Enter Liddell, who fills a clear need as a four who can block some shots and make an open 3 for a team in win-now mode. If Chicago keeps the pick, he seems to make the most sense. Even for other teams that might trade into this spot, Liddell checks a lot of boxes as a role-player four; it’s not hard to imagine a team like Memphis or Minnesota trading up for him.

19. Minnesota Timberwolves

Jalen Williams | 6-6 junior | SG | Santa Clara

This would work out pretty well for Minnesota if Williams fell to 19, so well that Connelly would likely go with this option over selecting somebody named “Nikola Jović” with his first choice in Minnesota. Williams would give the Wolves another ballhandler, one with some size, after they too often leaned on undersized perimeter lineups last season. Liddell also would be a really good fit here, but I have him gone by this point.

20. San Antonio Spurs

Blake Wesley | 6-5 freshman | SG | Notre Dame

I’m higher on Wesley than most, listing him 11th on my board, and think this is a good fit on a team that has prioritized toolsy perimeter players in recent drafts. The Spurs have picks 20, 25 and 38 and could easily find themselves trading up, if they can just find a partner willing to trade down.

If so, the Spurs could do that in conjunction with a salary dump into their impending cap space. For one hypothetical example, they could take Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel off the Knicks’ hands in return for a swap of pick 25 for pick 11.

21. Denver Nuggets

TyTy Washington |6-3 freshman | PG | Kentucky

Here’s another one where the story feels believable. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the Nuggets can get under the luxury tax if they trade Monté Morris, and that he probably has enough demand around the league that it wouldn’t be hard to pull off. The Nuggets can fortify their flank in the backcourt by taking Washington; his stock has seemingly cooled off since an awesome midseason stretch, but he still might be the best pure point guard in a fairly weak class at the position.

22. Memphis Grizzlies

Wendell Moore | 6-5 junior | SG | Duke

Here’s another team with a lot of balls in the air, although it’s less certain that any of them result in a deal. Here’s the thing: Every pick the Grizzlies have made in Zach Kleiman’s tenure has been after trading up, except for Ja Morant, whom they picked second. With future draft capital, young players on friendly contracts and $20 million in cap room coming their way, the Grizzlies are again as well-equipped as any other team in the league to make such a move. They could possibly cash in their De’Anthony Melton stock and/or take on a bad deal from another team to move up.

One low-wattage possibility: Trading 22 and 47 to move up a spot or two, similar to what the Grizzlies did when they picked Brandon Clarke in 2019 and Xavier Tillman in 2020.

If they stay in this range, the two names I’ve heard for the Grizzlies are Moore and Dalen Terry. Both are plausible from a fit and team draft history perspective. It’s also possible one of them becomes Memphis’ guy at 29, although I think it’s slightly better than 50-50 that neither lasts that long.

23. Philadelphia 76ers

Dalen Terry | 6-7 sophomore | SF | Arizona

The Sixers have been active, but don’t necessarily read anything into it beyond that. Daryl Morey’s front office in Houston operated like this, too, calling everyone and getting the wheels turned with lots of offers … but their actual trade history (beyond the obligatory flipping of second-rounders in every single draft) was less active than their rep. That said, the Sixers surely are looking at what some combination of this pick and, say, Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz can land them in a trade. They’ll even throw in the rights to Filip Petrušev if you ask nicely.

If they keep the pick, the fit with Liddell is hard to ignore, but I have him off the board at this point. Terry might be a bit more developmental than the Sixers hope, but he fits nicely on a roster that doesn’t have a true three.

24. Milwaukee Bucks

MarJon Beauchamp | 6-5 | PF | G League Ignite

Milwaukee would be another great landing spot for Liddell; he’s gonna have a lot of fans in this stretch if the picks aren’t traded. Beauchamp is raw in a lot of ways, but bringing a high-energy forward off the bench might help goose the Bucks’ somewhat-sluggish second-unit play. Milwaukee doesn’t have any players in this size/position profile with a last name shorter than 13 letters.

Speaking of which, a Milwaukee trade of pick 24 to Orlando for picks 32 and 35 makes too much sense to ignore. The Bucks could take a stash player with one (such as Italian Gabriele Procida) and select a player with the other and sign him to a rookie-minimum deal, which would save about $5 million in salary and luxury tax for what is likely the team’s 14th and final roster spot. That savings would increase if the Bucks raise their tax bill further by shelling out to retain both Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton and using their taxpayer midlevel exception.

25. San Antonio Spurs

Kendall Brown | 6-8 freshman | SF | Baylor

I don’t really get how Brown is being projected in the 30s and 40s; there is too much combination of youth, size and athleticism to be pushing him behind a bunch of blah long shots. Given that the Spurs have only Doug McDermott as a quasi-realistic three-man right now, Brown fits here and would get plenty of opportunity in a strong development system.

26. Houston Rockets

Bryce McGowens | 6-5 freshman | SG | Nebraska

While I personally don’t have McGowens rated this highly, his toolset is getting enough attention in the 20s that it seems probable that at least one team in this range will take a chance. Houston probably would rather push this pick into a future season, but moving picks in the late 20s for a future first is complicated, and the Rockets may be stuck making the choice. An international stash also is a possibility, but the options feel like reaches until the draft get into the 30s.

27. Miami Heat

Justin Lewis | 6-6 sophomore | SF | Marquette

While I don’t expect the Heat to move this pick, it could end up in play in scenarios where Miami moves Duncan Robinson and multiple picks for a difference-maker. Miami can also trade its firsts in 2023 and 2027 as part of a package.

Without a player worthy of said package being available, the Heat probably go best player available and grab a big, strong wing they can groom as another switchable forward who can make an open shot. That’s the idea anyway; it’s pick 27, so who knows how it turns out.

28. Golden State Warriors

Jake LaRavia | 6-9 junior | PF | Wake Forest

Championship runs don’t give you a lot of time to work on the draft. The Warriors were doing their best by shoehorning June draft workouts into the days when the team wasn’t either in Boston for the NBA Finals or drunkenly celebrating winning the title (they just had their parade 48 hours ago).

Financially, there is one clear trade option here: Golden State could trade down with Indiana (pick 31) and draft a player who would make the league minimum next year. Because the Warriors’ luxury tax and repeater penalties make every marginal salary collar cost about six times more, exchanging the rookie scale of the 28th pick for the rookie minimum at pick 31 would save the team several million.

As far as actual basketball stuff goes, I love LaRavia’s fit in Golden State. He’s not an iso-ball guy but can do a lot of stuff in a motion system with his passing and cutting, and he held up pretty well defensively on switches.

29. Memphis Grizzlies

Kennedy Chandler | 6-0 freshman | PG | Tennessee

Memphis doesn’t need to roster its 29th pick this year and could take an overseas player here. The problem is that I don’t think the overseas players are good enough to justify investing a first-round pick. The Grizzlies also could trade out of this pick, but historically this is a difficult place from which to trade. You can’t really trade for a random “future first” when you’re offering pick 29 as the return.

Chandler, however, checks a lot of boxes. He’ll grade out well analytically, and he solves a roster issue created by Tyus Jones’ impending free agency. The draft market may be sleeping on him a bit because of his size, but his freshman season at Tennessee was pretty solid.

30. Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jović | 6-10 | PF| Mega Basket

This has to happen, right? A player from Mega named “Nikola Jović” going to the Nuggets? It’s too perfect. As an added bonus, Denver can plug Jović right into the “mildly intriguing former Mega Basket combo forward” spot on its roster being vacated by Vlatko Čančar and his expiring contract.

We have other reasons to suspect Jović might be the pick here, of course. The Nuggets have always loved their internationals, and Jović fits positionally with Denver’s likely roster needs in the next few years. On a talent basis, he might be the best player left on the board at this point.

Related reading

Vecenie: The Athletic’s 2022 Draft Guide
Scouts get candid on top prospects
Hollinger: My top 75 prospects in 2022 draft
Aldridge: Coaches, execs dish on draft’s top bigs

Related listening

(Photo illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; photo: Kyle Terada / USA Today.)

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