After weeks of intrigue, rumors and hype, the 2022 NBA Draft is sort of here.
While the primary three picks are virtual givens, with Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero expected locks to be drafted by the Magic, Thunder and Rockets (in that order), the NBA Draft figures to be fascinating.
Before it gets here, The Post offers up five daring predictions for Thursday night at Barclays Center:
The Kings … keep the No. 4 pick
In spite of everything the talk of Sacramento moving down, the Kings find yourself staying at No. 4, passing on a myriad of trade offers. But this being such a mismanaged franchise, they don’t make the precise move. They pass on the clear-cut best player there — Purdue guard Jaden Ivey — as a substitute choosing Iowa wing Keegan Murray. This permits the Pistons to hurry up their rebuild. Detroit takes Ivey at No. 5, pairing the blur of a guard with Cade Cunningham, the highest pick in last yr’s draft. Years later, when Ivey outperforms everyone ahead of him outside of Smith at No. 1, experts wonder how he ever fell to fifth. The Kings — that’s how.
Jaden Ivey through the 2022 NCAA Tournament.Getty Images
While the Kings don’t make a move, it’s still a busy night of transactions. One among the larger moves has the Hawks trading up from No. 16 to No. 6. Atlanta sends forward John Collins to the Pacers and uses the choice on G League Ignite prospect Dyson Daniels, a protracted, defensively-minded guard that matches well with Trae Young. Oklahoma City makes multiple moves, stockpiling future draft picks as Sam Presti once more punts his ceaselessly rebuild further down the road. The Trail Blazers, wanting to bolster its roster to maintain Damian Lillard blissful, trade the No. 7 overall pick to the Pistons for forward Jerami Grant. Detroit becomes the large winner of the night, using the pick on stout two-way Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin.
(From left to right) Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero are expected to go in the highest three of the 2022 NBA Draft.NBAE via Getty Images
Santa Clara’s star’s rise
Jalen Williams, a former three-star recruit who wasn’t even ranked in the highest 200 of his class, completes his magical rise by getting drafted within the lottery, No. 14 to the Cavaliers. It’s a remarkable story for a player who wasn’t even imagined to stay within the draft until a breakout performance on the mix, and now finds himself as a part of the young core of 1 probably the most intriguing young rosters within the league. He becomes Santa Clara’s first draft pick since Steve Nash way back in 1996.
A draft for traditional big men
The NBA is now a 3-point shooting, stretch-forward league. Teams don’t value old skool big men. This draft, though, shall be different. Two traditional centers — Memphis’ Jalen Duren (No. 10 to the Wizards) and Duke’s Mark Williams (No. 13 to the Hornets). Arizona center Christian Koloko is picked by the Warriors at No. 28. The three have one thing in common: They’re all elite rim-protectors, a skill that is required, and on this draft, rewarded.
Mark Williams through the 2022 NCAA Tournament.NCAA Photos via Getty Images
An enormous night for Duke
Mike Krzyzewski isn’t in attendance, but his fingerprints are throughout this draft, together with his final team producing five first-round picks, a faculty record that equals probably the most ever for one school, tying Kentucky in 2010. The massive surprise is Trevor Keels finding his way into the backend of the primary round, at No. 29 to the Grizzlies, following teammates Banchero (No. 3, Rockets), AJ Griffin (No. 11 Knicks), Williams (No. 13, Hornets) and Wendell Moore (No. 30, Nuggets). Coach K can take one last bow, this time from a distance.