The 2022 NBA Draft has passed and while many questions were answered, plenty of important ones weren’t. While some teams capitalized heavily on improving their rosters, other instead chose to defer their futures despite the plethora of veterans available for trade. Here are some of the biggest winners and losers of the 2022 NBA Draft.
Winners: Detroit Pistons
There’s no question that the biggest winner of the draft is the Detroit Pistons after their stellar moves. While it was likely that Jaden Ivey was going to fall into their lap because of the lack of fit and interest for Ivey with the Kings, this is still an A+ pick for the franchise.
Cade Cunningham has demonstrated a lot of point-forward skill and tendencies, making him more of a positionless franchise player for the Pistons rather than someone who is an automatic lock for the starting backcourt. Due to his size, Cunningham could easily fit offensively in a lineup as the power forward with consistent shooters around him. He could also be the point guard surrounded by athletic wings because of his playmaking ability.
Jaden Ivey solidifies himself as one part of the backcourt and a perfect franchise partner with Cunningham. As another uber-athletic guard, Ivey brings a ton of swagger and identity to the Pistons that have lacked a household name like that since Grant Hill due to their poor development of top draft selections. Additionally, Ivey’s ball handling could ease the burden of third-year guard Killian Hayes, who has struggled thus far in his young career.
But the Pistons’ draft success didn’t stop there. They were also able to cash in on a favorable three-team trade with the Hornets and the Knicks and bring in one of the best big men in the entire draft in Jalen Duren. He’s another athletic center that should form a successful pick and roll duo with Ivey and Cunningham. His inside offensive game could use some development but what he brings defensively will make him an instant impact player for the Pistons. They also got a great development prospect in Ismael Kamagateout of France. He’ll likely be a draft stash for a few seasons but his size and frame give him a ton of upside if he can develop in the Summer League and overseas.
Winners: San Antonio Spurs
While the Spurs now look like they’re entirely blowing things up after trading their only all-star in Dejounte Murray, they still had a successful draft this offseason. It starts with Jeremy Sochan out of Baylor University. Despite only starting in one college game, Sochan’s size and swiss army knife kind of ability make him a perfect prospect for the Spurs to select. He brings a ton of versatility to find his role with the future of the Spurs while they now go through a full rebuild. He also needs a lot of improvement, especially his shooting splits. But because of the rebuild, Sochan will have a few seasons of leniency for growth without much expectation.
The same can be said for Malaki Branham, a freshman out of Ohio State. Branham is a three-level scorer who puts up great percentages and can be a perfect complementary player with a lot of upside if he’s able to develop and improve his isolation game.
Lastly, the Spurs snagged Blake Wesley out of Notre Dame with their last first-round pick. A point guard also with a lot of upside, Blake Wesley’s athleticism highlights his overall game. He’s no doubt a developmental prospect after shooting low percentages his only season at Notre Dame.
With some development, which they have a phenomenal history of doing for decades, the Spurs have a great chance to continue to set themselves up for success in the future.
Losers: Portland Trail Blazers
Portland has had its history of poor draft selections. Of course, going back to 2007 when they selected Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant is the most notable of misses. But it’s much more extensive than just that. It starts going back as far as 1996 when they selected Jermaine O’Neal, a six-time all-star but only averaging four points with the franchise before being given away to the Pacers. Martell Webster at sixth overall in 2005 was another bust for the franchise. Zach Collins in 2017 and Meyers Leonard in 2011 never panned out either. Portland also failed to hit on any of their later selections excluding Zach Randolph at 19th overall in 2001. Yes, they hit on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and a draft night trade for LaMarcus Aldridge. They also have a steal in the making with Anfernee Simons.
But there’s a trend with the picks that Portland hits on. They’re way more NBA-ready prospects when coming to the league. Lillard instantly impacted the Blazers, and McCollum carved out a role within two and a half years. It’s going to be hard for the Trail Blazers to justify picking the project labeled draft prospect when they have failed to develop most project players for the last 20 years. Sharpe certainly brings a lot of size and skill to the team. However, not playing any college or post-high school basketball is going to be detrimental to his development if Portland cannot add any support. Time will only tell, but Dyson Daniels from the G-League would have been a much safer selection for a team that is in dire need of high upside prospects to build a new core with.
Losers: New York Knicks
Jalen Bruson is a great basketball player just entering his prime at 25 years old. But what the Knicks are doing to guarantee he signs with the team is questionable for their future. For starters, they’re paying and playing him like a number one option, something that he has yet to prove in his four years. His 2022 playoff run has been his peak, but that came playing alongside Luka Doncic, who draws the opposing team’s best defenders. How will that work with Brunson as the best scoring option for the Knicks? We’ll have to see, but it’s certainly a risk worth considering.
The Knicks also cut some of their depth by trading away role players in Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel to clear cap space for the signing. Credit does need to be given for shedding Kemba Walker’s contract; that was a necessary move.
But, the big miss for the Knicks came when they passed on two quality prospects for questionable future assets. They first traded the 11th overall pick to the Thunder for the following draft picks: 2023 first-round pick via Detroit (protected 1-18 until 2024, protected 1-13 in 2025, protected 1-11 in 2026, protected 1-9 in 2027). 2023 first-round pick via Washington (protected 1-14 in 2023, protected 1-12 in 2024, protected 1-10 in 2025, protected 1-8 in 2026). 2023 first-round pick via Denver (protected 1-14 until 2025). A lot of protections that likely won’t hit until the selections fall to the 20s in future years.
At 11, the Thunder selected Ousmane Dieng, a versatile point forward from France who brings unorthodox size and skill, a clear pattern for the team as they select another potential “unicorn” kind of player. The Knicks also passed up on Jalen Duren when shedding Walker’s contract, giving up four future second-round picks in the process. Instead, they continue to roll with Mitchell Robinson, carrying a lot of risk with his injury-prone history and lack of offensive game. These moves aren’t ones that move the needle for the Knicks, and there could have been better alternatives to bolster their roster in order to make another push for a playoff run.