Smith Leads Stacked Class
The 2022 NBA Draft is considered a “forward’s draft” — with many of the top prospects listed as an “F.” Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr., the favorite to be selected first overall by the NBA odds, leads this rich crop of forwards as we project where the five best forwards are going to land in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
Jabari Smith Jr. (Auburn)
Going by the online sports betting odds, Jabari Smith Jr. should be taken with one of the first two picks. The 6-foot-10 freshman has drawn comparisons to the likes of NBA Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh. He has been labeled a “can’t-miss” prospect.
However, the Orlando Magic may elect to go with Chet Holmgren with the first overall pick as this unites him with Jalen Suggs, a teammate at Gonzaga and in high school. If Smith is available with the second pick, the Oklahoma City Thunder won’t think twice about drafting him. Landing in OKC gives Smith the undisputed spot at either shooting forward or power forward, making him a favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year.
Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 2 Overall)
Paolo Banchero (Duke)
Paolo Banchero was, at one point, the top prospect for the NBA. He may have tapered off but he’s still a top-3 pick and heavily favored by the online odds. The Houston Rockets pick third behind Orlando and Oklahoma City and won’t be able to resist taking Banchero and pairing him with Jalen Green.
The combination of Banchero and Green will give the Rockets one of the best young duos in the NBA. Will this translate to wins? Not immediately, but the Rockets will have a promising core and be one of the more entertaining teams to cheer for or bet online. Banchero goes third overall.
Pick: Houston Rockets (No. 3 Overall)
Keegan Murray (Iowa)
Iowa’s Keegan Murray is the betting favorite to be taken fifth overall by the Detroit Pistons. We won’t argue with this even if many mock drafts have him going sixth to Indiana. The Pistons are partial to building with a big team. Hence why they’ve acquired rangy wing-type players in the last two years.
Murray fits the mold that Detroit is looking for, especially with rumors circulating that the team is looking to shop Jerami Grant. Even with Grant, Detroit should still select Murray as he has one of the highest upsides among the remaining players, especially with his comparisons to Michael Porter Jr.
Pick: Detroit Pistons (No. 5 Overall)
AJ Griffin (Duke)
AJ Griffin is another Duke forward projected to be taken as a lottery pick. While the NBA odds have him going outside of the top-10, he fits in nicely with the San Antonio Spurs. The freshman is a potent shooter, which is something the Spurs need desperately. He also has a high upside and could be an elite “3-and-D” type of player.
Gregg Popovich may be retiring soon and the Spurs may finally embrace the new NBA and load up on shooters and defenders. Griffin will likely be one of the faces of this “new Spurs” as he joins Dejounte Murray as the team’s leading players.
Pick: San Antonio Spurs (No. 9 Overall)
Jeremy Sochan (Baylor)
Had this not been such a stacked class for forwards, Jeremy Sochan could have been projected as a top-five draft pick. The forward has the prototypical body for an NBA forward and his versatility on offense and defense makes him a highly coveted player. However, there are at least four forwards squarely ahead of him so he may fall outside of the top 10.
It will either be the New York Knicks, the Thunder (via the Los Angels Clippers) or the Charlotte Hornets taking Sochan. The Knicks badly need guards and OKC is projected to take a big man. Charlotte will either draft a big or go with the best player available, which is Sochan.
Pick: Charlotte Hornets (No. 13 Overall)