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Fantasy Basketball: Six first-round takeaways from the 2022 NBA Draft starting with Thunder making noise

There’s sure to be plenty of discussion about Thursday’s 2022 NBA Draft ahead of the weekend as basketball fans try to evaluate what teams came out on top. While there were a few surprises early on, there weren’t any extremely jarring moves made that shifted the landscape of the league. Nevertheless, quite a few incoming rookies have found their new homes and are gearing up for the 2022-23 season. We’ve identified six key storylines centered around some of the most Fantasy relevant events from the draft. Here are a few situations that Fantasy managers should keep an eye on:

The Thunder are building a Fantasy juggernaut

OKC is known for being cryptic around draft time, but the whole world seemed certain that they’d go with Chet Holmgren first overall. The Thunder had a clear need for a center and got an elite talent who can impact their play on both ends. The Gonzaga product nearly averaged a double-double and 3.7 blocks on just less than 27 minutes per contest in his lone collegiate season. Holmgren can touch 30 minutes a night for an underdeveloped frontcourt that got 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per start from Isaiah Roby last season. Holmgren seems poised to be the most productive rookie asset from a Fantasy perspective regardless of format. He can stuff the stat sheet without stepping on the toes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey.

Ousmane Dieng is more of a project, but many think he has as much potential as any player in the 2022 draft class. Whether he’ll break into the rotation soon with Darius Bazley and Aleksej Pokusevski in the way remains to be seen. Then there’s Jalen Williams, who was one of college basketball’s most efficient spot-up shooters for Arkansas as a sophomore. The 6-foot-6 guard shot better than 55% from the field in his third campaign at Santa Clara and could be a valuable bench contributor who really pops in spot starts throughout the season. The WCC’s second-leading scorer from last season will be a premier value DFS play multiple times in 2022-23.

Smith might’ve been caught off guard when the Orlando Magic opted to go with Paolo Banchero over him with the first overall pick, but Smith landed in the more ideal Fantasy situation. The Houston Rockets cleared the way for the Auburn forward by trading Christian Wood and Eric Gordon ahead of his arrival. Smith could realistically be the Rockets’ second option now that Houston’s leading scorer and rebounder from last year is a Dallas Maverick. Smith’s shot making is head and shoulders above that of any other frontcourt member he’ll play with. Establishing a hierarchy between himself, Jalen Green, and Kevin Porter Jr. will be key. The opportunity will be there for a stud who averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in college. 

Orlando has a lot of options

Orlando’s smokescreen leading up to Thursday fooled quite a few people when the Magic selected their best player available in Paolo Banchero. The former Duke standout is clearly the most offensively talented frontcourt player on the Magic’s roster, but Orlando’s roster construction could make his transition to the pros interesting. Franz Wagner was an All-Rookie First Team forward last season and Wendell Carter Jr. averaged a double-double as a power forward in a career year. Then there’s Jonathan Isaac, who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury but was touted as one of the league’s most promising two-way forwards before tearing his ACL. Orlando’s depth doesn’t make Banchero a bad Fantasy asset, but I’m hesitant to put him above Holmgren or Smith unless some trades are made. Banchero’s college numbers were nearly identical to Smith’s, but there are more mouths to feed in Orlando. He should still be considered a top-four rookie, though. 

Keegan Murray is threat to finish as top-three rookie

The Sacramento Kings aren’t letting their past traumas stop them from going with their gut. They opted to pick Keegan Murray over Jaden Ivey with the fourth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft despite knowing that teams were clamoring to trade up for the selection. The Iowa forward checked a ton of boxes in his sophomore season and appears to be a lock to start from Day 1. Murray was an elite scorer in transition, at the rim, and from long range last season. He also rebounded well and contributed on defense with 1.3 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. Murray improved at a rapid rate between his first and second college campaigns and more than tripled his freshman year scoring average in Year 2. I think the Kings will force feed him all the minutes he can handle. Trey Lyles shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to him as a backup.

The Pistons are firing on all cylinders

Detroit lucked out when an ideal backcourt partner for Cade Cunningham fell right in their laps with the fifth pick in the first round. Purdue’s Jaden Ivey was widely considered the best guard prospect in the draft and can form a lethal duo alongside last year’s top pick. The Pistons were short on explosive scoring threats last year and finished 28th in points per game. Only the Magic and Thunder were worse. Ivey boasts much more explosiveness and confidence than Corey Joseph and Killian Hayes. Cunningham’s gravity and the NBA‘s pace should give the dynamic combo guard plenty of space to get downhill and create quality looks. Jerami Grant’s team-high 19.2 points per game have to be replaced by someone. 

Holmgren, Parker, Banchero, Ivey, and Murray will likely round out the top five in most rookie rankings. They were the first five picks in the first round and all figure to be starters as rookies. Davis is a player I’m higher on than most, and I think he can creep into their ranks with the Washington Wizards. Davis initially seemed like an insurance policy for Bradley Beal, but now it appears that Washington wants to try out the 6-6 wing at point guard. I think he can be an impact player with or without a three-time All-Star pairing up with him in the backcourt. The streaky shooter carried a ridiculous workload for Wisconsin as a sophomore and showcased scoring and rebounding prowess by tallying 19.7 points and 8.2 boards per game. He posted those numbers while showing tremendous effort on defense and regularly made outlandish come-from-behind blocks. Like Murray, Davis is just coming into his own. He essentially doubled freshman stats across the board last season after receiving 10 more minutes of playing time per game. Whether the Wizards intend to use him as a point guard remains to be seen, but there’s a real case for Davis as a top-six Fantasy rookie if he handles significant on ball duties and Beal is headed out the door.




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