The 2022 NBA Draft is officially over, and we have seen a ton of talent get moved around the league across a couple of teams. We saw the top-three players in the draft get taken accordingly, with Paolo Banchero going No. 1 overall to the Orlando Magic. Chet Holmgren went No. 2 overall, and Jabari Smith fell to the Houston Rockets at No. 3 overall. There were some surprises, such as Jaden Ivey not being taken outside of the top-3 and also the lack of trade movement beyond moves by the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers. It was an exciting draft night nonetheless.
It is time to discover the 5 biggest winners and 5 biggest losers of the 2022 NBA Draft, focusing on the most important factors that lend themselves to team and roster changes. While there were some very big winners on draft night, there were also some noticeable losers that will undeniably be left scrambling for answers. Without further ado, here are the biggest winners and losers of the 2022 NBA Draft Night.
5 Biggest Winners
The Houston Rockets are big winners because they drafted the player that will most likely be the safest option in the draft. Jabari Smith is an excellent shooter and defender and is exactly what Houston needs to build around alongside Jalen Green. Both young players fit together perfectly because they are athletic and play hard to win. It was expected that Jabari Smith would have gone No. 1 overall, so grabbing him No. 3 overall made the entire Rockets fanbase happy.
While Houston would not have gone wrong with either Chelm Holmgren or Paolo Banchero either, Smith was the best fit for the team. Hopefully, the Rockets can win a few more games because last season, they finished with the worst record in the league at 20-62 and were complete pushovers on both ends of the court.
The Pistons were massive winners on the Draft Night, getting both Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren to join their young roster that already features Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey. Ivey and Duren could be long-term options because of their exceptionally high ceilings, and Ivey specifically fits wonderfully well alongside Cade Cunningham. For some reason, the Sacramento Kings did not select Ivey with their pick.
Detroit was one of the worst teams in the NBA this year but they could be on the uprise because the talent level on the roster keeps increasing. The Eastern Conference is stacked with the likes of the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat controlling situations so far. If Detroit can start creating All-Stars on their roster, the days of finishing at the bottom could be over. The Pistons also won the Jerami Grant trade because they are clearing space for the youngsters to grow.
The Orlando Magic were winners as soon as they had the No. 1 overall pick. They drafted the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard with No. 1 overall and made the Finals eventually with them as their top stars. While it is hard to expect Banchero to have the same type of impact as Howard or O’Neal, he is certainly a talented forward with excellent size and scoring ability. Finally, Orlando has a player they can build around for at least the next decade at least.
Banchero could be a favorite to win Rookie of the Year because of the lack of scoring talent around him, and that could do wonders for his career and confidence. The Magic finally have something to look forward to, and blowing up their team before the trade deadline two seasons ago gave them a player who will be better than anyone they had at the time. The days of below-mediocrity could be soon behind them.
Finally, the Portland Trail Blazers have found Damian Lillard some help. Firstly, Jerami Grant is a very good forward who can defend at a high level and has improved his offensive game enough to be 2nd or 3rd option when the offensive plays break down. Giving Lillard a reliable defender has always been in the cards because CJ McCollum was not the answer as a ball-stopping defender. Of course, Lillard will benefit from the growth of Anfernee Simons as well who will likely start alongside him in the backcourt.
The Trail Blazers also brought on board Shaedon Sharpe with the No. 7 overall pick. This pick was interesting because it seems that Portland wants to make the playoffs with Jerami Grant on board. Sharpe is certainly an interesting fit from that perspective because he has a high ceiling and some explosiveness that could come to use on both ends of the floor. He can probably score at a decent level already, and he can become a very good defender someday. But he needs time to become that guy, although he could reach it faster if he starts the season well.
Chet Holmgren is going to a market where fans will love him and the spotlight is away from him. For a young man that is incredibly skilled but also very physically unimpressive, that was the best fit for him. Had he ended up in Orlando, the comparisons to Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal as 7-footers would’ve created endless memes that would not help his cause. In Houston, there have been countless 7-footers including Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, and Yao Ming who all blossomed with their size.
In Oklahoma City, Chet can hone his craft, get into better shape, and showcase the talents that made him a No. 2 overall pick. Remember, Holmgren is not a center but a perimeter player who can bring shot-blocking rim protection. He is incredibly quick, has a natural jump shot, and seems to have the confidence to get to where he needs to go. He also has a chip on his shoulder for not getting drafted No. 1 overall, meaning he will be hungry to prove his worth. Overall, Holmgren is a big winner because the Thunder will give him the space to be the go-to guy.
5 Biggest Losers
The Kyrie Irving trade did not go down tonight, and LeBron James’ season is still not looking too good. He is still stuck with Russell Westbrook and an injury-prone Anthony Davis, and Father Time is not leaving him alone no matter how hard he tries. Without any major moves done by the Lakers on Draft Night, The King has to be a loser. The Lakers roster, as it stands, is the same as last year except everyone is one year older. Yikes. What is LeBron supposed to do with the same team that missed the play-in tournament last year?
Let’s face it, James needs his 5th ring more than anything. He is chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan, and he might never get there if he stays with the Lakers. Even Stephen Curry equaled him in championships, and there is already chatter about which player had the most impact in the NBA. While James is obviously the better player, the resumes are looking awfully closer as the seasons are passing. James needs Westbrook out of town, or else he is at risk of retiring with only 4 championships to his name.
New York Knicks Fans
Once again, New York Knicks fans are left with a sour taste in their mouths. They did not draft anyone and passed up on both Jalen Duren and Ousmane Dieng by trading them both for future draft considerations. Duren should have been kept because he is an imposing figure in the paint and has a high ceiling as a starting center. But instead, the Knicks are seemingly hell-bent on acquiring Jalen Brunson in free agency with a cleaner cap space. On a positive note, they do not have Kemba Walker anymore.
The Knicks would do good by acquiring Brunson, but would a 6’1” point guard really move the needle as much as other players would? Even with Brunson, the Knicks are not a very good team as currently constructed. Julius Randle had a poor season, and only RJ Barrett seems to be untouchable at the moment. The Knicks should have gone for a young player in the draft because the roster next year could be similar to last year. Knicks fans are unhappy right now, but aren’t they used to it by now?
The longer the Kyrie Irving fiasco draws in, the worse shape the team will be in. Even with Durant and Irving playing for them last season in the playoffs, they were swept in an embarrassing fashion by the Boston Celtics. Chemistry is one of the most important aspects of a team’s title chances, and Irving has essentially destroyed that singlehandedly. He is at a contract impasse with the Nets, and he could be out the door very soon. But it did not happen on Draft Night, and that means Brooklyn has to continue to work to figure out a solution.
The Nets brass are petrified of losing Kevin Durant, so they have to make a deal that is suitable for keeping their franchise player happy. As great as Kyrie is as a player, he isn’t Kevin Durant, and the forward should have all the power on the team right now. The Nets don’t want to admit it, but KD runs the show and they are at his mercy. If Durant does not sign off on any potential Kyrie Irving deal, the Nets are in very big trouble. By not moving Kyrie, uncertainty and stories will continue to surface as pressure builds around everyone in management and on the team.
The Sacramento Kings are probably getting roasted by social media for passing up on Jaden Ivey, who was easily the fourth-best player in the draft. Instead of making the safest and most expected draft choice, they took a leap with Keegan Murray. Now, Murray is a good player and not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination, but he isn’t what Ivey is. Of course, Ivey made it clear that he does not want to get drafted by the Kings, something that could have played a role in management’s decision to not draft him. But should they have folded if that was the case?
The Kings will hope Keegan Murray can develop quickly because they need to make the playoffs as their drought is the longest in the league right now. The Kings are hell-bent on making De’Aaron Fox their franchise player, and while he is a very good player, could he be the best player on a championship team? The Kings did not select Jaden Ivey, and that means their fans will continue to be frustrated as they continue to scratch their heads after the franchise traded Tyrese Haliburton last year.
Denver Nuggets Fans
The Denver Nuggets fans are losers because the franchise did not decide to take Nikola Jovic. They did a good job with Christian Braun, who was a safe selection with the No. 21 overall pick, and also made a decent selection with Peyton Watson at No. 30 overall. But Nuggets fans wanted Nikola Jovic, who is drawing comparisons to Nikola Jokic for obvious reasons. Beyond having similar names, Jovic is a player who can pass, dribble, and shoot. Instead, Jovic went to the Miami Heat and has a chance to develop his body and talent with a no-nonsense franchise.
Nuggets fans loved Tacko Fall, and they would have loved Jovic even more. With two-time MVP Nikola Jokic on the roster, there is no doubt the Serbian national would learn the ropes from one of the league’s best. But they have to accept that the Jovic-Jokic duo is not meant to be, and will hope and pray that Jamal Murray can return to his fringe All-Star form next year to push for a Western Conference Finals berth.