The 2022 NBA Draft Lottery is in the books. The results are significant for almost every team involved, but three teams specifically stood out.
Can Orlando pair another big with Wendell Carter?
No. 1 pick
Let’s get right to it — who is Orlando drafting with the first pick? There’s a case for several different options, but it’s currently looking like either Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero will be the pick. Each would allow Orlando to proceed with its backcourt plans for the recently-drafted Cole Anthony-Jalen Suggs duo but could cause some shake-up in the frontcourt. Mo Bamba will be a restricted free agent this summer, and it sounds like he could potentially end up on a new team. Such a circumstance would leave a vacancy in the starting frontcourt.
The 7-foot tall Bamba showed that someone with that build and skill set could fit next to Wendell Carter Jr., thus easing any concern that the also 7-foot tall Holmgren (slightly different skill set than Bamba) couldn’t fit. Holmgren clearly has a higher ceiling to reach and both ends of the court, though, as shown in his college film. Yet, both Smith and Banchero bring a more modern style of offense to the frontcourt that could quickly translate to the NBA.
Regardless of who ends up going first, the pick has a higher chance of being a hit than a miss as the Magic slowly keep chipping away at their rebuild. Potentially adding another member to the frontcourt leaves Orlando with some decisions, though. Again, Bamba is a free agent, Mo Wagner has a team option, and Jonathan Isaac will have three years left on his deal at more than $17 million per year. What Orlando decides to do with those guys could make things interesting for other teams this offseason.
First overall pick odds
Jabari Smith Jr.
Will Sacramento trade down?
No. 4 pick
The Kings are in a good position. Moving up spots via the Draft Lottery is never a bad thing. They hold the No. 4 pick, which could end up being the key that unlocks their season.
One option the Kings have with the pick is to trade back, although that sounds silly since they jumped up in the Draft Lottery. However, if Sacramento isn’t sold on the available players, but another team is and would willingly part with assets to move up, you do it. On the flip side, the Kings should draft the guy at four if they feel strongly about him.
But if their transactions at the 2021-22 trade deadline are any indication of what the organization is trying to accomplish moving forward, they’ll trade this pick. Sacramento traded for Domantas Sabonis to pair him with De’Aaron Fox, putting the team in win-now mode with hopes of making a run at the Play-in Tournament. In that trade, the Kings got rid of their logjam at guard by sending out Buddy Hield and a young combo-guard in Tyrese Haliburton, who played alongside Fox, thus making it all the more unlikely that Sacramento unexpectedly circles back and grabs another combo-guard like Jaden Ivey (if available).
Not only do I think they’ll trade the pick, but I also feel that is the right move. There’s a realistic chance that this No. 4 pick along with Sacramento’s several quality role players and expiring contracts could be packaged together in a trade that would return someone like John Collins or another player in a similar tier to Fox and Sabonis to give them a stronger chance of reaching the postseason. Then, couple the franchise’s playoff drought with its trade deadline intentions to go all-in on competing, and you could convince yourself that trading the pick is the obvious move.
“The belief among NBA executives and scouts is that picks Nos. 4 and 7, held by the Kings and Blazers, could be available in a trade.”@MikeVorkunov has intel from the NBA Draft Combine: https://t.co/llj9JnO95R pic.twitter.com/w5Xb5Q4dz3
— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) May 23, 2022
Would Portland do the unthinkable?
No. 7 pick
This past season, the Trail Blazers’ process signaled that a rebuild was on the horizon. Robert Covington and Norman Powell were the first to go in the lead-up to the trade deadline. Then, CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. were dealt days later. The moves brought back lesser proven NBA talent who all eventually got injured or were shut down for the season as Portland tanked the rest of the way to hopefully secure an early pick. And while the tank eventually led them to the seventh pick in the upcoming draft, Portland’s plan of action is still unclear.
So what happens now? Damian Lillard is under contract, but many of his running mates’ futures in Portland are unsettled. Those running mates include unrestricted free agents Jusuf Nurkic and Joe Ingles, restricted free agent Anfernee Simons, and the non-guaranteed deals that both Eric Bledsoe and Josh Hart have.
Should the Blazers actually plan on drafting a player with the pick, the next step becomes simple — commit to a full-on rebuild. That includes doing right by Lillard and sending him to a contender, which would accomplish several things. For Lillard, he’d get to go play winning basketball elsewhere and avoid having to sit through another potentially frustrating season. And for Portland, the team could get in return some significant assets to help build the team back up in the coming seasons.
But keeping the No. 7 pick and rebuilding doesn’t seem like the likely scenario. Lillard is still uninterested in running from the grind and so long as he’s in the Pacific Northwest, it makes sense to field the most competitive possible. It’s conceivable that Deandre Ayton will be available this summer, and the Blazers would have the cap space to make a play for him if interested. They’ve also been linked to Jerami Grant for a while, and a move for either player would presumably cost Portland its No. 7 pick.
For now, we’ll have to wait and see what develops in the coming weeks.
(Photo of Damian Lillard: Kamil Krzaczynski / NBAE via Getty Images)