NBA Draft

2022 NBA Lottery Teams Preparing to Split Crossroads

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The NBA playoffs will crown a champion soon, and it’s time to start looking ahead to the offseason.

On May 17th, the league’s 2022 Draft Lottery determined the order of the first 14 picks in this year’s draft. The Orlando Magic earned the right to make the first pick after holding one of the three-highest odds.

Here is where all 14 lottery teams stand.

How did the Draft Lottery affect the draft outlook for the lottery teams? Here are five of the biggest takeaways that could impact the 2022 NBA Draft the most.

The Magic’s Pick Determines All

Orlando fans were pretty happy when the Magic gained the top pick in the draft for the first time since selecting Dwight Howard in 2004.

Since Howard left the team in 2012, the Magic have won two playoff games, had nine seasons finishing below .500, and never won more than 42 regular-season games. 

Orlando’s recent draft history in the post-Howard era is shaky, at best. The Magic drafted players that never broke out (Victor Oladipo in 2013 and Aaron Gordon in 2014), youngsters with questionable futures (Jonathan Isaac in 2017 and Mo Bamba in 2018), and total flameouts (Mario Hezonja in 2015).

Now, the Magic have the chance to select a real franchise cornerstone.

Per Jonathan Givony, the Magic are expected to take Auburn forward Jabari Smith with the first pick, but Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero round out what is seen as the consensus top-three picks in this year’s draft. 

All three are predominantly forwards with high upside that could slide down to the center position. However, the Magic already have a number of young players at both forward and center.

Wendell Carter Jr. is just 22 years old (15.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.8 APG) and had a breakout season with the Magic after being acquired from the Chicago Bulls last year, rookie Franz Wagner (15.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.9 APG) showed promise as a consistent two-way player, Mo Bamba (10.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 1.7 BPG) took massive leaps in his fourth year, and Chuma Okeke offered critical defensive promise in his second season. The aforementioned Isaac was a reliable defensive anchor before missing all of the 2021-2022 season with continued knee troubles.

The Magic are clearly in need of more offensive firepower after finishing 29th in points per game and 30th in offensive rating this past season. Smith, Holmgren and Banchero could provide that punch on offense and play big minutes as rookies. Orlando needs to figure out which of these three youngsters can fit the best in an already-crowded frontcourt, however.

And speaking of fit…

Fit Matters Most for Consensus Top-3

The Magic, Thunder and Rockets would all make for pretty good destinations for Smith, Holmgren and Banchero. 

Each team, however, is stuck in the NBA’s cellar when it comes to regular-season and playoff success.

The Rockets finished this past season at 20-62, their worst record since 1983. Houston already has a starting center in Christian Wood (17.9 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.3 APG) and a promising up-and-comer in Alperen Şengün. Banchero and Smith could slot right in at the power-forward spot, but unless the Rockets trade Wood, Holmgren could struggle to fit alongside a roster that ranked last in defense and doesn’t have a traditional, pass-first point guard.

The Thunder (24-58 last season) would make for a perfect fit for any of Smith, Holmgren and Banchero. OKC ranked 30th in points per game and are in desperate need of some frontcourt depth after rolling out a mix of past-their-prime veterans and unqualified youngsters. Rookie standout Josh Giddey (12.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 6.4 APG) and All-Star-caliber guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (24.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.9 APG) offer experience and stability for this year’s top prospects.

Portland’s Strategy to Rebuild Around Dame Uncertain

The Trail Blazers are facing a predicament: what is the best way to build around franchise superstar Damian Lillard?

Lillard’s scoring and efficiency dipped in limited action before Lillard was sidelined for the rest of the season with an abdominal injury. Coming back fully healthy, Lillard can easily return to his All-NBA form, but there are concerns that his play could be slipping heading into his age-32 season.

At his best, Lillard is a top-three guard who can shoot anywhere within 35 feet, keep the defense honest, and anchor an elite NBA offense. The Blazers (27-55) finished with their worst record in the Lillard era and could use a second star with C.J. McCollum gone.

The real question is how Portland acquires that player.

With the seventh pick in the 2022 Draft, the Trail Blazers can opt to take a young prospect to pair with Lillard. Does Portland take an NBA-ready prospect or someone who offers higher upside but more time to develop?

They could also package the pick along with other salaries to acquire a more-established veteran that could complement Lillard. 

At this point, the Blazers can use any help they can get. Portland finished in the bottom-five in points per game and points allowed per game this past season.

The clock to retool around Lillard is ticking, and Portland doesn’t have much time to make any more mistakes.

Don’t Count Out the Spurs

The Spurs will have the ninth, 20th and 25th picks in the 2022 NBA Draft. San Antonio is not known for making big moves, but this year might be different.

The Spurs boast a roster of All-Star candidate Dejounte Murray (21.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 9.2 APG) surrounded by young talent in Keldon Johnson (age 22), Devin Vassell (age-21), Lonnie Walker IV (age 23), Zach Collins (age 24) and Joshua Primo (age 19). 

But the Spurs are in desperate need of a true superstar.

San Antonio hasn’t made a big draft-day trade since they traded George Hill for the rights to select Kawhi Leonard in 2011. Leonard became an All-NBA superstar who continued the Spurs’ dynasty as Tim Duncan began to age.

They can either take three different prospects with each of their first-rounders, or they could package them to move up higher in the draft.

After a long history of not doing much, the 2022 Draft might be the right time for the Spurs to make a splash.

Pelicans and Kings Are This Year’s Wild Cards

Sacramento hasn’t reached the postseason since 2006– the longest-active playoff drought in the league.

The Kings made headlines when they swapped youngster Tyrese Haliburton (14.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 7.4 APG) for All-Star Domantas Sabonis (18.9 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 5.8 APG) to pair with De’Aaron Fox (23.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 5.6 APG).

But the Kings still finished outside of the play-in (and playoff) picture.

This year’s NBA Draft becomes cloudy after the top-three picks, with several prospects available for Sacramento to take. The Kings need to decide if they should package their No. 4 pick to acquire veteran talent, or if they should select an intriguing prospect. Sacramento also has the flexibility to trade down and acquire more young assets to build around Fox and Sabonis.

The Pelicans got off to a rough start before surging into the eighth seed of the playoffs and taking Phoenix to six games in the first round. New Orleans has yet to have a winning record since the team drafted Zion Williamson back in 2020, who missed all of this past season with a foot injury.

Williamson (27.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 3.7 APG in 2021), Brandon Ingram (22.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.6 APG) and C.J. McCollum (24.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.8 APG) are an intriguing trio in New Orleans heading into 2022-23. Similar to the Kings, the Pelicans need to decide whether they should take a prospect or trade the pick for someone more established.

New Orleans has a critical choice to make heading into this year’s draft with the Western Conference getting more competitive next season.

The 2022 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 23rd at 7:30 pm EST on ESPN and ABC.

 

About Dominic Chiappone

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