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NBA Draft Tracker: Grading every pick in the first round in 2022

Happy NBA Draft night, everyone.

Thursday marks the 2022 edition of teams taking future rookies, with some big names who could be top-five picks: Jabari Smith out of Auburn, Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren, Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey from Purdue. So much talent!

We’ll grade each first-round pick in real time as they come in (we’ll factor in trades when they’re reported), so keep refreshing this page to hear from our draft expert Bryan Kalbrosky as he delivers his takes on each of the 30 selections.

Here are the grades, and keep an eye out as we update throughout the night:

1
Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero, Duke

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Orlando gets an A+ for this one and it’s not even close. The way they had us all fooled deserves a standing ovation. Paolo Banchero moves exactly the way the modern NBA is headed. We have near 7-footers who can handle the ball and create their own bucket. After the success Jayson Tatum has had in Boston, it makes sense that they would want to replicate this with a go-to scorer around a nice core of Orlando’s emerging talent.

GRADE: A+

2
Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

I love that the Thunder were willing to go against consensus to go with their gut and select Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. Even though consensus would say to pick Auburn’s Jabari Smith here, I had the big man as the top overall player on my big board. I think that Holmgren fits everything that the Thunder are building. He is someone who does so well in a grab-and-go transition offense, so they have the most unique blend of size and ball-handling in the league. Meanwhile, I think he can have a similar defensive impact that Cleveland’s Evan Mobley had last season.

GRADE: A+

3
Houston Rockets: Jabari Smith, Auburn

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

If you get the guy that everyone expected to go first overall at No. 3 overall, even if it wasn’t originally in the cards, you have to get an A. That’s simply fantastic value. Smith was the most efficient player in the country on unguarded catch and shoot attempts among those who had as many opportunities last season, per Synergy, and he will get lots of those looks playing alongside someone as talented as Jalen Green.

GRADE: A

4
Sacramento Kings: Keegan Murray, Iowa

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I like Keegan Murray quite a bit. He is going to be an awesome fit in a transition offense led by the speedy De’Aaron Fox. There is so much to like about his versatility, and I think he was the most pro-ready player available. That’s great news for the Kings, who have a playoff mandate next season. Even if Jaden Ivey has more All-Star potential, Ivey never worked out for the Kings, whereas Murray was more than willing to meet with the organization and get to know the stars.

GRADE: A

5
Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey, Purdue

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

There are plenty of people around the league who had Jaden Ivey as the top overall prospect in this class. He was, without a doubt, the most athletic player in the draft. After drafting a star in Cade Cunningham last season, the Pistons could have another on their hands in Ivey. Cunningham’s playmaking should help bring out the best out of Ivey, and Ivey’s explosiveness near the basket should give Cunningham more room to get to work with the ball in his hands.

GRADE: A

6
Indiana Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin was reportedly a workout warrior, someone who impressed at every destination along the way to the 2022 NBA Draft. He’s a great athlete who plays with extraordinary confidence. I think he will play more off-ball at the next level, but I could see him getting hot and having some huge scoring performances at the next level. Mathurin rises to the big moments. My biggest concern is about his defensive output, but I trust he can figure it out.

GRADE: B+

7
Portland Trail Blazers: Shaedon Sharpe, Kentucky

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Maybe this grade looks dumb in a few years. But why would a team trying to build around a win-now player like Damian Lillard draft someone like Shaedon Sharpe, who hasn’t played competitive basketball in quite a long time and is a bit of a mystery box? I’m not entirely sure. I get the appeal of Sharpe, though. He has the most vertical pop of any prospect in the class. Plus, the Blazers recently improved their roster by trading for Jerami Grant. This pick is one more for a future because Sharpe is closer in age to Portland’s Anfernee Simons (who also didn’t play college basketball). But I think that with Lillard’s window slowly closing, why wait?

GRADE: B-

8
New Orleans Pelicans: Dyson Daniels, G League Ignite

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This pick kind of rocks! Australia’s Dyson Daniels has compared himself to Lonzo Ball in the past, and let’s be honest, the Pelicans needed someone like Ball on their roster last year. Daniels is considered a positive impact defensive player, so it makes sense that the Pelicans wanted him. I’m especially excited to see Daniels play alongside Herbert Jones.

GRADE: A

9
San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Sochan, Baylor

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I firmly believe that Jeremy Sochan was put on this planet to play for the San Antonio Spurs. He considers himself a citizen of the world, and I can see why someone like Gregg Popovich would be wow’d by Sochan during interviews. Sochan kind of reminds me of Boris Diaw, who obviously was beloved in San Antonio. He is a do-it-all kind of player and I think his playmaking is even a bit underrated. But his specialty is his defense.

GRADE: A

10
Washington Wizards: Johnny Davis, Wisconsin

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with this pick. It’s a totally fine pick and it’s exactly what I expected the Wizards would do. I firmly believe that Davis can be a good role player in the NBA. If I were Washington’s front office, I may have taken more of a bold swing here. But I do think that Davis can be a helpful addition to their rotation.

GRADE: B

11
Oklahoma City Thunder (from New York Knicks): Ousmane Dieng, New Zealand Breakers

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If it all comes together for Ousmane Dieng, this pick is outstanding. He has so much raw potential and his ability to play on the ball at his height is incredibly appealing. For me, the question for Dieng is how long will it take until he is ready to contribute to winning at the NBA level. But the Thunder have a young core, so they have some time to wait while he develops his game.

GRADE: A-

12
Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Williams, Santa Clara

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Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams is another player who fits Oklahoma City’s preference for length. He was one of the fastest risers after dominating at the NBA Draft Combine, and he checks every box for competitiveness and athleticism. I’m a little wary of late risers, but he may have only flown under the radar because he was at a smaller school in Santa Clara. 

GRADE: B+

13
Detroit Pistons (from Charlotte Hornets): Jalen Duren, Memphis

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Memphis big man Jalen Duren feels like one of the players who went from slightly overrated to incredibly underrated. The Pistons were reportedly interested in Jalen Duren with the No. 5 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, so getting him this late in the draft was impressive, and they didn’t have to surrender too much draft capital to do it.

GRADE: B+

14
Cleveland Cavaliers: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas

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I’m a little cautious about players who weren’t outstanding during their first few years in college but exploded during their senior season. Did he finally figure it out or was he just significantly older than his competition? He won’t be older than his competition in the NBA, so only time will tell. But I think he can come in and immediately playing a role in Cleveland’s rotation, so drafting the national champion is not a dud, either.

GRADE: B

15
Charlotte Hornets: Mark Williams, Duke

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The Hornets desperately needed help in their frontcourt, and Williams was by far the best player available. I’m giving bonus points to MJ, who had the courage to draft a guy from Duke despite the rivalry with UNC.

GRADE: A

16
Atlanta Hawks: AJ Griffin, Duke

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The Hawks needed defense, and they drafted the player I have the most defensive concerns about. That’s why I wasn’t as high on AJ Griffin as the consensus opinion. However, he had a historically impressive season as a sharpshooter. So this late in the first round, that’s solid value.

GRADE: B-

17
Houston Rockets: Tari Eason, LSU

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The Rockets have their go-to scoring options now in Jalen Green and Jabari Smith. So they needed to add some more role player who play hard on defense, and I’m a fan of Tari Eason for that very reason. He was one of the best defensive playmakers in the NCAA last year and I think he is eventually going to be one of the league’s leaders in deflections per minute.

GRADE: B+

18
Chicago Bulls: Dalen Terry, Arizona

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There is so much to like about this fit. The Bulls made their identity on the defensive end of the floor last year with Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso in the backcourt. Arizona’s Dalen Terry is going to have a similar impact in the NBA. He is an unselfish playmaker who will make a positive impact at the next level.

GRADE: A

19
Memphis Grizzlies (from Minnesota Timberwolves): Jake LaRavia, Wake Forest

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This pick represents everything that the Grizzlies are about. Jake LaRavia was one of the most versatile prospects in this draft class, and he is an analytics darling who is able to contribute to winning in so many ways. I think that LaRavia, like recent Memphis picks outside the lottery like Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks, is going to play a long time in the league.

GRADE: A+

20
San Antonio Spurs: Malaki Branham, Ohio State

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There were several experts who had a lottery grade on Malaki Branham, so getting him a bit later in the first round is impressive. He wasn’t originally expected to be a one-and-done prospect at Ohio State, but he had a great freshman campaign as a three-level scorer.

GRADE: A

21
Denver Nuggets: Christian Braun, Kansas

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Braun, another national champion, is a solid pick for the Nuggets. I love his confidence and he is an excellent athlete. Every team needs more wings who can shoot, and Braun shot well from beyond the arc during each of his three collegiate seasons.

GRADE: B

22
Minnesota Timberwolves (from the Memphis Grizzlies): Walker Kessler, Auburn

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Statistically speaking, Auburn’s Walker Kessler was a generationally dominant rim protector. But when it comes to how it will translate to the NBA, I’m not sure I buy it. With his potential mobility issues, I think he may be attacked in the pick and roll and could potentially be played off the floor when it matters most. If his shooting ever comes around, however, this pick will be more reasonable.

GRADE: C+

23
Memphis Grizzlies (from Philadelphia 76ers): David Roddy, Colorado State

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I’m one of the biggest David Roddy fans on the internet. For me, he was the most intriguing player in college basketball last season. He fits the profile of how the Grizzlies have drafted lately because with his unique versatility, his offensive game checks all the boxes you could want. My only question is, whether or not he could have been available a little bit later in the draft, but if this pick was used to give him confidence that he is their guy, I love it.

GRADE: B

24
Milwaukee Bucks: Marjon Beauchamp, G League Ignite

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This was one of the most heartwarming moments in the 2022 NBA Draft. MarJon Beauchamp had a very tough road to get to the pros, and he nearly walked away from the game. His different path brought him to the G League last season, and he showed he was ready to play against pros. The Bucks are going to contend for a title, and he’s going to play hard on both sides of the ball.

GRADE: A

25
San Antonio Spurs: Blake Wesley, Notre Dame

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I was a bit surprised that the Spurs were willing to draft three players in the first round. All three of them, including Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley, were one-and-done freshmen. The youth movement is on in San Antonio, and I dig the diversity of these picks. All bring something different to the table, and I’m a fan of Wesley’s upside.

GRADE: A-

26
Minnesota Timberwolves (from the Houston Rockets): Wendell Moore Jr., Duke

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Duke’s Wendell Moore was arguably the most improved player in college basketball last season. After struggling during his first couple of seasons in the NCAA, Moore college got better at nearly every statistical category and played his way back into the first round. If he can keep ascending the way we saw last year, this will be a good pick.

GRADE: B

27
Miami Heat: Nikola Jovic, Mega Basket

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I’m not sure why more people weren’t talking about Nikola Jovic during the pre-draft process. He only recently turned 19 years old, and he was one of the most intriguing international prospects in this class. He is a sharpshooter with good size on the wing, and I think the Heat did well with this pick.

GRADE: B+

28
Golden State Warriors: Patrick Baldwin Jr., Milwaukee

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After a disappointing freshman season and a rough showing at the 2022 NBA Draft Combine, Milwaukee’s Patrick Baldwin Jr. was still selected in the first round. The Warriors, who are coming off a title, took a gamble on Baldwin because of his upside. I get it. With his height, if his shooting comes back to where it was in high school, he could be a stellar pick in the late first round.

GRADE: B

29
Houston Rockets (from the Memphis Grizzlies): TyTy Washington, Kentucky

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Kentucky’s TyTy Washington is underrated. He is the kind of role player who should be able to play a long time in the league because of his high assist-to-turnover ratio and his low usage rate. He doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands to have an impact on winning. I’m curious what his selection means for Daishen Nix in Houston, but overall, this pick was one that made sense.

GRADE: A-

30
Denver Nuggets: Peyton Watson, UCLA

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Even though he barely played a role during his freshman year at UCLA, I wasn’t surprised he heard his name in the first round. I heard Peyton Watson was interviewing very well during the pre-draft process, and he was a great role player for USA’s U19 squad during his time on the FIBA circuit. I love his defensive potential. He just needs his productivity to return.

GRADE: B

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