It’s the league that never sleeps.
Exactly one week after the Warriors clinched the 2021-22 NBA title in six games over the Boston Celtics, commissioner Adam Silver will dust off the congratulatory daps and handshakes as the next batch of prospects arrives to basketball’s biggest stage.
The 2022 NBA Draft is here.
Dreams will be realized, steals-of-the-draft will be proclaimed and mistakes that will haunt franchises for years down the road undoubtedly will be made. That said, let’s dive into five bold predictions on what could unfold Thursday night at the Barclays Center in New York.
Surprise to start things off?
The 2022 draft class is led by a consensus big three -- Gonzaga forward Chet Holmgren, Duke center/forward Paolo Banchero and Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. Smith has arisen as the favorite to be selected by the Magic as the draft’s first pick, but Orlando won’t be able to deny Holmgren’s elite potential.
The 7-footer sports the ball-handling skills of a guard and nailed 39 percent of his 3-point attempts as a freshman with the Bulldogs. He also blocked nearly four shots per game with his 7-foot-6 wingspan. It might take Holmgren a year or three to get accommodated to the physicality of the NBA, but the Magic, who haven’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2009-10, have nothing but time.
Plus, the Holmgren choice would reunite him with Jalen Suggs, his high school teammate for four seasons at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minn., and whose footsteps he followed to Spokane, Wash., to play for coach Mark Few at Gonzaga.
Easy storyline to cheer for.
Kings land John Collins
Sacramento will have a new member of its starting five before the draft even begins.
In this hypothetical bold predictions world, the Kings will send veteran wing Harrison Barnes and a future second-round pick or two to the Atlanta Hawks for Collins, a 24-year-old power forward entering his sixth NBA season.
Collins, who has four years remaining on the five-year contract extension he signed with Atlanta last summer, would fit nicely with Domantas Sabonis in the Kings' frontcourt, cleaning up on the boards while also being able to serve as a sufficient rim protector and space the floor for the electric De’Aaron Fox.
On Wednesday, the Detroit Pistons shipped Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for a 2025 protected first-rounder and a couple of pick swaps. That did nothing but lower the price to acquire Collins. Plus, Atlanta is looking to clear up money before reportedly dishing out a max contract to Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton in a sign-and-trade this summer, per Zach Harper of The Athletic.
If the Collins-to-Sactown trade happens, there’d be nothing but great vibes at Golden 1 Center heading into the draft. Which leads us to …
Jaden Ivey at No. 4
Making what many consider the undisputed choice at No. 4 overall isn’t too bold of a move for general manager Monte McNair and the Kings, but considering all the wild trade rumors -- which reportedly include the Pistons (who own the No. 5 pick), Indiana Pacers (No. 6), Washington Wizards (No. 10) and New York Knicks (No. 11), per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski -- we’ll include it in here.
By trading for Sabonis at the 2021-22 deadline, the Kings signaled to the rest of the league that they want to win now. But nailing the correct top-four pick -- and prioritizing star potential rather than whether or not the player is a perfect fit for the current roster -- will help sustain that winning. Iowa's Keegan Murray, the other most popular pick by analysts to land in Sacramento, is looked at as currently being more NBA ready than Ivey, but the latter has a significantly higher ceiling.
Ivey doesn't perfectly complete the Kings' current puzzle of a roster, as the team already boasts Fox and last year's first-round choice Davion Mitchell at guard. But again, that’s not what lottery picks are for. The first few picks are for taking chances at claiming a potential superstar, which Ivey has the best chance to develop into after Banchero, Holmgren and Smith are off the board.
Fox and Ivey running the fast break. Who's guarding that?
Dejounte Murray blockbuster
In a report published Wednesday night, Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported, citing sources, that the San Antonio Spurs are fielding trade offers for Murray, fresh off an All-Star season. Fischer named the Hawks as the team most aggressively pursuing a Murray trade, but guess who also needs a guard? The Knicks.
With Sacramento sticking with Ivey at No. 4 overall and refusing New York's trade offers from No. 11, the Knicks get restless and fork over a mound of future first-round picks. Per Fischer's report, the Spurs are searching for a "Jrue Holiday-like package" for Murray, meaning -- at minimum -- they're looking for three first-round picks. New York has the future goods in the bank, including this year's No. 11 pick, as well as a few young tradeable assets like Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley.
The dream of Zion Williamson calling Madison Square Garden home has faded fast. Trading everything but the moon for Murray would give hungry Knicks fans hope after Julius Randle went from All-Star in 2020-21 to afterthought last season.
It's (Dame) Time for another move
The Trail Blazers knocked down the first trade domino of draft week by acquiring Grant on Wednesday, but they're not done yet. Portland still has the No. 7 pick, which it'll send to Toronto in exchange for forward OG Anunoby.
Portland dove into full tank mode in 2021-22, finally trading away Damian Lillard's longtime teammate CJ McCollum as well as Robert Covington, Larry Nance Jr. and Norman Powell. Acquiring Anunoby won't propel the Trail Blazers into title favorites, but it should keep Lillard happy as he enters the second year of a four-year extension.
Welcome to the NBA offseason, a three-month era of wild speculation. Let the chaos begin.