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Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press
The 2022 NBA draft lottery is Tuesday, and it could change everything for whichever team lands the first overall pick.
In most cases, the squad that secures that top selection should keep it. Cost-controlled players with star potential are hard to come by, and there’s a good chance that the lottery winner is in desperate need of a cornerstone. Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr., Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey all fit that description.
Then again, a team that suddenly finds itself in possession of such a coveted asset might want to explore the return packages it could generate in a trade. That’s especially true of clubs with win-now timelines, which helps explain why we’ve seen the No. 1 pick traded twice in the last eight drafts.
Where we can’t concoct a reason for the lottery winner to trade out of the No. 1 spot, we’ll cook up a related deal—one that clears minutes for a rookie or balances out the roster. Most of these will be improbable and ambitious. Some of them will hurt your brain.
Hopefully, all of them crank up the anticipation for one of the most exciting days on the NBA calendar.
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Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 20-62
Odds of No. 1: 14 percent
Odds of top four: 52.1 percent
The Houston Rockets seem committed to Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. as their backcourt of the future, which diminishes their likelihood of trading back from No. 1 to snag Purdue guard Jaden Ivey. In this hypothetical, Houston will keep the top pick and use it on one of three frontcourt players: Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero.
2021 first-rounder Alperen Sengun is a key part of the Rockets’ young core, but 26-year-old Christian Wood probably isn’t. Moving his expiring $14.3 million salary to clear minutes for the top pick should be Houston’s main goal. Ideally, the Rockets could find a team with a need for frontcourt scoring and a willingness to take on a little extra money. If the Rockets can bring back a heavily protected first-rounder, or even a couple of seconds, they could potentially use those to sweeten a salary-dump package involving John Wall.
We’ll worry about Wall another time. For now, we’ll focus on Houston flipping Wood for Mason Plumlee (only $4.2 million of his $9 million 2022-23 salary is guaranteed), Kai Jones and a pick. The Charlotte Hornets get a one-year trial with the type of offensively talented center they’ve long lacked, and Houston clears room for the youth movement.
Houston Rockets Receive: Mason Plumlee, Kai Jones, 2022 second-round pick
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Christian Wood
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Matt Rourke/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 22-60
Odds of No. 1: 14 percent
Odds of top four: 52.1 percent
Between Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner, a hypothetically healthy Jonathan Isaac, restricted free agent Mo Bamba and annual “the breakout is coming” forward Chuma Okeke, the Orlando Magic have no shortage of quality options up front.
Selecting for positional need is almost always a mistake, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that Orlando’s pre-draft research indicates Ivey actually belongs in the top tier alongside Holmgren, Smith and Banchero. In that scenario, trading down a few spots would be an intriguing option.
Ivey’s top-tier athleticism and developing three-point shot (25.8 percent as a freshman; 35.8 percent as a sophomore) could make him the type of dynamic lead guard Orlando lacks. Jalen Suggs could still become such a player, but the ball just never went in for him as a rookie. He’s young, but there aren’t many current stars who began their careers by shooting 36.1 percent from the field and 21.4 percent from deep. All Cole Anthony has proved in two years is that he can get counting stats on a bad team.
Ivey and another asset could add real juice to the Magic’s rebuild. If the Detroit Pistons slip to No. 3 and decide they can’t live without Holmgren, there’s a deal to be made here along the lines of the 2017 swap that saw the Philadelphia 76ers trade the No. 3 pick and a future first to the Boston Celtics for the top selection in that year’s draft.
Orlando Magic Receive: 2022 No. 3 pick, 2025 lottery-protected first-round pick
Detroit Pistons Receive: 2022 No. 1 pick
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Nick Cammett/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 23-59
Odds of No. 1: 14 percent
Odds of top four: 52.1 percent
There’s a case to be made that the Detroit Pistons should consider trading down to take Jaden Ivey if they land the No. 1 pick. Cade Cunningham could use a better backcourt running mate than Killian Hayes, who’s averaged 6.8 points and shot 37.4 percent from the field in his two NBA seasons.
Cunningham, though, could easily develop into a primary facilitator with wing size, which would expand the spectrum of player types the Pistons could employ beside him at the guard spots. If last year’s top pick truly becomes a lead playmaker, Detroit could go with three-and-D role players at both backcourt positions.
That makes this a best-player-available situation, and the consensus seems to be that Chet Holmgren is that guy. Assuming the Pistons keep the No. 1 pick and select the ultra-lanky Gonzaga product, they should shift their focus to securing more draft capital by moving Jerami Grant. The 28-year-old forward is a fine player, but in their current state, the Pistons should have no interest in the four-year, $112 million extension Grant reportedly desires.
The Portland Trail Blazers are trying to rebuild quickly around Damian Lillard, and Grant would be an ideal defensive upgrade in the frontcourt. Only $3.9 million of Eric Bledsoe’s 2022-23 $19.4 million salary is guaranteed, which makes him a clean salary match for Grant’s $20.9 million with few strings attached. The real prize for Detroit is the draft equity.
Detroit Pistons Receive: Eric Bledsoe, 2025 top-five protected first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick (via Brooklyn Nets)
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Jerami Grant
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Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 24-58
Odds of No. 1: 12.5 percent*
Odds of top four: 48.1 percent
If any team were in a position to trade up, it’d be the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have three first-rounders in 2022, plus the No. 34 selection. Here, though, we have to figure out what this pick-hoarding operation would do if it landed at No. 1. Tempting as it is to suggest the Thunder trade out of the top spot to continue their trend of adding as many future first-round selections as possible, it seems likelier their war chest is full enough.
Don’t worry, OKC can still wheel and deal after taking Chet Holmgren at No. 1.
The Thunder also have the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-rounder (12th-best lottery odds) and the No. 30 selection from the Phoenix Suns. Throw those together with Luguentz Dort, and perhaps the win-now Blazers would part with their own 2022 lottery selection, which is most likely to land at No. 6 overall.
Dort is on a bargain deal and brings valuable defense, but it’d be hard for the Thunder to turn down the opportunity to grab Holmgren and either Duke wing AJ Griffin or Iowa forward Keegan Murray. Neither would be on the board at No. 12, but one or the other should be there at No. 6.
The Blazers could desperately use a stopper if they intend to trot out Damian Lillard and restricted free agent Anfernee Simons together in the backcourt, and OKC should be looking to move Dort now before he hits unrestricted free agency in 2023 and commands a hefty raise.
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: No. 6 pick
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: No. 12 pick, No. 30 pick, Luguentz Dort
*The Thunder also have the L.A. Clippers’ first-round pick, which has a 1.5 percent chance of landing at No.1.
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Darron Cummings/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 25-57
Odds of No. 1: 10.5 percent
Odds of top four: 42.1 percent
The Indiana Pacers tried to trade Myles Turner prior to the 2022 deadline, only to see the best offers come off the table because of the shot-swatting center’s foot injury. If Indy lands at No. 1 and gets the chance to add another big man like Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith, it should revisit moving Turner and his expiring $18 million salary in a separate deal.
Apparently, the Pacers will have that chance.
Per HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto: “I spoke with four NBA executives who told me they believe Myles Turner can still get a protected first-round pick outside the lottery if he’s traded this offseason. When I asked the executives which teams they believe could try and trade for him, the usual suspects came up, including Charlotte, Toronto and Dallas.”
Easy enough. Let’s bring Charlotte and its desperate need for a center back into the fold, this time sending it Turner for Mason Plumlee’s partially guaranteed deal and the No. 15 pick in this year’s draft. The Hornets have to part with James Bouknight in this hypothetical to make the money match, which shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Bouknight disappointed as a rookie, and the Hornets still have their own first-rounder, projected at No. 13, to replenish guard depth if necessary.
Indiana Pacers Receive: No. 15 pick (via New Orleans Pelicans), Mason Plumlee, James Bouknight
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Myles Turner
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Jeff Swinger/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 27-55
Odds of No. 1: 9.0 percent
Odds of top four: 37.2 percent
Finally, we get to a team that would actually consider, just for a second, trading the No. 1 pick and all its future potential for a shot at major present improvement.
If the Utah Jazz choose Donovan Mitchell over Rudy Gobert in an either/or split this offseason—which their preferential treatment of the star guard suggests will be the case—the Portland Trail Blazers will have a chance to resuscitate their No. 29 defense in one fell swoop.
And all it’ll cost them is the top pick in the 2022 draft…plus some salary filler and future considerations.
Gobert is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, one uniquely experienced at covering for the mistakes of suspect perimeter defenders. The Blazers will struggle to keep guards out of the lane with Anfernee Simons and Damian Lillard sharing the floor, but adding the league’s top back-line stopper should take care of that issue. Heading into his age-30 season and owed $169.7 million over the next four years, Gobert isn’t the safest long-term investment.
But Portland is on Lillard’s timeline, and he’s two years older and costlier on an annual basis than Gobert. If the Blazers are truly committed to Lillard, they should have no problem going all in for a veteran—especially if said veteran addresses the team’s biggest weakness.
Giving up on the chance to draft a foundational star is never easy. But if there’s a team that would risk it in this lottery, it’s clearly the Blazers.
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Rudy Gobert
Utah Jazz Receive: Eric Bledsoe, Josh Hart, No. 1 pick
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Jessie Alcheh/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 30-52
Odds of No. 1: 7.5 percent
Odds of top four: 32.0 percent
What 30-52 team in desperate need of a cornerstone would give up the first pick in the draft?
The one that swapped Tyrese Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis.
The one that hired Mike Brown, its ninth head coach since 2012, with a clear organizational mandate to make the postseason for the first time in 16 years.
The Sacramento Kings are notoriously impatient, scrapping one quick-fix pursuit of instant gratification for another at warp speed. It’s how they’ve amassed the league’s longest playoff drought, and it’s why trading the No. 1 pick for more immediate help wouldn’t exactly be a far-fetched move. A bad one, sure. But not off-brand.
The Kings have a glaring hole on the wing, and they need shooting across the roster to offset the lack of range shared by their top two offensive weapons, De’Aaron Fox and Sabonis. RJ Barrett, the No. 3 pick in 2019, shot 40.1 percent from deep in 2020-21 and added layers to his offensive game en route to a 20.0-point scoring average this past year. He and Emmanuel Quickley would give Sacramento a formidable wing combo alongside Fox and Sabonis, with the ever-steady Harrison Barnes rounding out the first unit.
Is that enough to make the playoffs in the West? Probably not. But whomever the Kings might select at No.1 would likely be of less short-term help. And as always, the short term is all that seems to matter in Sacramento.
Sacramento Kings Receive: RJ Barrett, Emmanuel Quickley, 2022 first-round pick, 2024 top-14 protected first-round pick
New York Knicks Receive: Davion Mitchell, Richaun Holmes, No. 1 pick
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Matthew Hinton/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 36-46
Odds of No. 1: 6.0 percent
Odds of top four: 26.3 percent
The New Orleans Pelicans frontcourt is crowded enough as it is, so the addition of Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero should prompt some roster-balancing moves. Though it wouldn’t exactly be earth-shattering, the Pels could look to swap Jaxson Hayes for a defensive-minded guard to help Herb Jones harass opposing ball-handlers.
Hamidou Diallo is an A-plus athlete who, at 23, has shown small signs of developing offensive value. He can’t generate his own looks from three-point range, but Diallo excels at drawing shooting fouls and is a terror on the glass, never ranking below the 90th percentile in offensive rebound rate at his position across four NBA seasons. His speed and power translates on D, where Diallo put up a steal rate in the 99th percentile among wings in 2021-22.
Hayes showed improvement over the course of the year and even started down the stretch. But he lost time in the playoffs because of poor rebounding and rim protection, and he looks likely to enter next year behind Jonas Valanciunas, Zion Williamson, Larry Nance Jr., Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy III and whomever New Orleans grabs at No. 1 on the depth chart. Hayes will be further marginalized if Jones spends more time at the 3, sliding Ingram up to power forward in more modern looks.
Diallo would fill a more pressing need at shooting guard, and the Pelicans would also avoid dealing with Hayes’ restricted free agency in 2023.
These deals can’t all be blockbusters.
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Hamidou Diallo
Detroit Pistons Receive: Jaxson Hayes
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John Bazemore/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 34-48
Odds of No. 1: 4.5 percent
Odds of top four: 20.3 percent
From a fit perspective, Jabari Smith makes all the sense in the world for the San Antonio Spurs. His 42.0 percent hit rate on threes and 5.5 long-range attempts per game were both better than the figures Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren produced. Any team run by Dejounte Murray, especially one that also starts non-spacing center Jakob Poeltl, is going to need maximum stretch at every other position.
If San Antonio lands at No. 1, and if another team is desperate for Holmgren or Banchero, trading back a spot or two could be the right move.
Banchero has interest in teaming up with Murray, a fellow Seattle product. If the Spurs are mutually keen on the other high-scoring forward projected to go in the top three, the same approach could net them an extra asset. Since San Antonio also has the 20th and 25th picks, the best play would be securing a protected future first. There are only so many roster spots, and the Spurs probably don’t want to juggle four first-round rookies in 2022-23.
We’ve already created a hypothetical in which the Magic traded down, but this time they’re enamored with Holmgren and move in the other direction.
San Antonio Spurs Receive: No. 2 pick, top-four protected 2023 first-round pick (via Chicago Bulls)
Orlando Magic Receive: No. 1 pick
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Darron Cummings/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 35-47
Odds of No. 1: 3.0 percent
Odds of top four: 13.9 percent
Are we sure the Chet Holmgren-Jabari Smith-Paolo Banchero-Jaden Ivey quartet projected to go at the top of the draft shouldn’t have a fifth member? Iowa stretch forward Keegan Murray scored more points per game, 23.5, than any of those guys, and he shot 39.8 percent from deep, which put him behind only Smith in that department.
If the Washington Wizards are convinced Murray is in that top tier, and that he fits just as well alongside Kristaps Porzingis as any of the other available bigs, trading down to address other needs could result in a more balanced roster. Throw in the added benefit of more draft equity, and Washington stands to gain a lot in this hypothetical.
Here, we’ve got the Detroit Pistons trading up to take control of the draft at No. 1. They’ve got to give up on Killian Hayes and send out a pair of seconds to do it. Hayes is still just 20 years old and struggled with injury in both of his first two seasons. Washington badly needs a point guard, and banking on Hayes as a potential “second draft” option with major upside could pay off.
Detroit would get the benefit of Ish Smith’s nonguaranteed salary in 2022-23 and probably wouldn’t lose sleep over paying a couple of second-rounders to move up a handful of spots—particularly since one of them might wind up being a regifted Wizards pick.
If the Wizards wanted to address their guard void through the draft, they could use all these same machinations and take Ivey instead of Murray.
Washington Wizards Receive: 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick (via Brooklyn Nets), 2024 second-round pick (via Washington Wizards or Memphis Grizzlies), Killian Hayes
Detroit Pistons Receive: No. 1 pick, Ish Smith
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Jason DeCrow/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 37-45
Odds of No. 1: 2.0 percent
Odds of top four: 9.4 percent
To many New York Knicks fans, the only thing better than winning the lottery on extremely long odds would be getting rid of disgruntled forward Julius Randle.
Following a breakout 2020-21 that was fueled by unsustainably hot shooting, Randle regressed across the board. His frustration level was the only thing that trended up. Well, that and his net worth, which the Knicks goosed by extending Randle for four years and $117 million.
If New York wins the lottery, it should keep the pick, grab one of the three big-name forwards and dump Randle to open up playing time. The Knicks should target a trade partner that might need to add one star to keep another happy.
The Wizards can re-sign Bradley Beal to a massive five-year, $242 million deal in July. Maybe bringing in Randle to pair with Beal and Kristaps Porzingis on draft night would seal the deal.
For its trouble, the Wizards would also get a first-rounder in 2023, plus a second.
Given Randle’s contract, it might take more for the Wizards to part with two starting-caliber wings in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma. But Randle is the biggest name in the bargain, and he’s played at an All-NBA level in the recent past. The Wizards could be buying low, but after such a tough year from Randle, the Knicks might not care. You could understand them wanting to sell at any price.
New York Knicks Receive: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Washington Wizards Receive: Julius Randle, top-10 protected 2023 first-round pick (via Dallas Mavericks), 2023 second-round pick
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Rusty Jones/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 43-39
Odds of No. 1: 1.0 percent
Odds of top four: 4.8 percent
If the Charlotte Hornets luck out and pick first, they have to take either Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith. Neither is exactly a center at the moment, but with the NBA trending smaller and switchier every year, it’s not hard to imagine either prospect capably manning the 5 down the road.
This is a franchise that should be taking the long view. LaMelo Ball is 20, restricted free agent Miles Bridges is 24 and the No. 1 overall pick Charlotte just imaginarily won will probably be a teenager. So why not try to add another young player of high value by packaging some assets to trade up?
The Hornets should target the Pacers, who have the fifth-best lottery odds. If Indy actually does land at No. 5, it’s hard to imagine it shipping that pick out. But Charlotte could offer its own No. 15 selection, a protected future first and the expiring $12.6 million contract of Kelly Oubre Jr., a combo forward who’d fill a major hole, assuming T.J. Warren doesn’t return in free agency.
If the Hornets exited the draft with two of Holmgren, Smith, Paolo Banchero and Keegan Murray, they’d be the biggest winners of the whole affair.
Charlotte Hornets Receive: 2022 first-round pick
Indiana Pacers Receive: Kelly Oubre Jr., No. 15 pick, top-10 protected 2025 first-round pick
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Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press
2021-22 Record: 44-38
Odds of No. 1: 0.5 percent
Odds of top four: 2.4 percent
The Cleveland Cavaliers almost certainly won’t defy the math and leap to No. 1. But if they do, they’ll have a wider range of intriguing options than any other team. Among them:
- Trade All-Star Jarrett Allen at the height of his value, trust Evan Mobley to anchor the defense and add even more ridiculous length to the frontcourt in the form of Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith.
- Trade down to select Jaden Ivey, giving Darius Garland an ideal combo-guard running mate while also diminishing the chance of an overpay to keep Collin Sexton in restricted free agency.
- Move on from Kevin Love, who settled in as an ace sixth man and is finally on the last year of his deal, or Lauri Markkanen, whose success at small forward makes him enticing to literally every team in the league.
In the end, the most exciting idea is selling high on Allen—mostly because Mobley feels like a lock to win a couple of DPOY trophies at center. The Portland Trail Blazers have the sixth-best lottery odds but are in win-now mode. They could take Allen into a trade exception and send the Cavs their own first-rounder. If Ivey slipped to No. 6 and joined Holmgren or Smith alongside Mobley and Garland, there’d be parades in Cleveland.
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: 2022 first-round pick
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Jarrett Allen
Stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass. Accurate through 2021-22 season. Salary info via Spotrac. Lottery odds via Tankathon.