NBA Draft’s 8 best team and player fits in 2022

One of the golden rules of the NBA Draft is to think long and hard before making a selection based on fit. Team needs can be filled with veterans in free agency. In the draft, it’s more prudent for teams to go after the best player available regardless of position or circumstance given how long it typically takes young players to develop and how quickly NBA rosters can change.

Of course, drafting the ‘best player available’ is a strategy that only works when there’s a big gap between the available talents. I had Purdue guard Jaden Ivey rated No. 3 overall and Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. rated No. 4 overall on my big board, but the Rockets were never going to draft another smaller guard in Ivey when they already have one on the roster with last year’s No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green. Smith was a much better fit and was close enough in terms of overall talent that Houston still earned an “A” grade from us for the selection on draft night.

Our draft grades and draft night winners and losers were mostly determined by which teams we believed landed the best available players. We didn’t want to overlook fit completely, though. Here are our eight favorite fits from draft night.

Keegan Murray to the Kings

Murray to the Kings was probably our least favorite pick of the first round. Sacramento hasn’t made the NBA Playoffs since 2006. They need star-power more than anything else, yet still thing to pass on Jaden Ivey – clearly the best player left on the board – in favor of Murray at No. 4. While this certainly feels like the latest in the long line of King draft mistakeseven we have to admit that Murray is a good present day fit for the roster.

The Kings went all-in on the De’Aaron Fox-Domantas Sabonis pairing last year when they traded Tyrese Haliburton for the former Pacers big man at the trade deadline. We didn’t like the deal at the time for Sacramento, but it at least set a direction for the franchise with clear franchise pillars. Murray is the sort of selection that can complement both of the Kings ’best players. He can run with Fox as an excellent transition scorer. He can space the floor around Sabonis’ high-post touches with his impressive shooting ability. Slot in Murray next to Harrison Barnes, and the Kings suddenly have two big forwards who can shoot it around Fox and Sabonis.

We see the vision, Sacramento. It just requires Fox having a massive bounce-back year after a disappointing campaign this past season. We would have taken Ivey and flipped Fox in a trade. The Kings chose to keep doubling down on their current set-up. At this point, the Kings really should be two for a good draft pick, so here’s hoping Murray proves to be exactly that.

Christian Braun to the Nuggets

The Nuggets are going to look totally different next season from the team we just saw in the playoffs. The expected return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. from injury gives the Nuggets a championship ceiling around two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. Denver simply needs to fill out the roster with complementary talents, and the selection of Kansas wing Christian Braun seems like an outstanding fit on paper.

Braun won a national championship at Kansas in April, and checks almost every box for what Denver needs out of a fifth-option. He has good size for a wing at 6’6, shot 38 percent from three over his three-year college career, and has the athleticism to attack close-outs and make plays in transition. Perhaps more than anything, Braun is an extremely fiery competitor who will bring a raw emotional edge to a Denver team led by a very even keel superstar in Jokic. This was a nice marriage of both fit and best available player, making it one of our favorite picks in the draft.

Dyson Daniels to the Pelicans

The Pelicans feel like they’re on the verge of something big. New Orleans gave the league-best Phoenix Suns a tough first round series last year even while Zion Williamson was out with a foot injury the entire season. With Williamson set to return, the Pelicans are dreaming about making a deep run in the postseason. The selection of Dyson Daniels at No. 8 overall can help them do that.

Daniels is a big 6’8 guard who will make his money on defense. His size, quickness, and tenacity at the point of attack should be a major benefit for a New Orleans team that will have a couple poor defenders playing major minutes in Williamson and CJ McCollum. Daniels should also make an impact on the Pelicans with his quick ball movement and overall plus passing ability. The swing factor for Daniels has always been his three-point shot, and the Pelicans just happen to have the best shooting coach in the league at Fred Vinson.

If Daniels becomes a capable three-point shooter, it’s easy to see him having similar value to someone like Marcus Smart down the road. That would be a major addition to an already excellent young core in New Orleans.

Jaden Hardy to the Mavericks

Hardy was considered a top-five recruit coming out of high school, and was projected to be in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft when he signed with the G League Ignite rather than going to college. Unfortunately, Hardy got off to a slow start in the G League, posting underwhelming scoring efficiency numbers as he went cold early from three and struggled to attack the basket with poor spacing around him. The 6’4 guard eventually figured things out and got better and better as the season went on, but he somehow still slipped to the second round.

While going in round two would have been an unthinkable outcome for Hardy at the start of the season, it feels like he ultimately landed in the best place possible with the Dallas Mavericks. Hardy is the type of combo guard built to play off a bigger initiator, and the Mavs have arguably the best player in the world in that regard with Luka Doncic. Hardy can space the floor, attack closeouts, and not worry about making passing reads on every possession as Doncic does the heavy lifting as a playmaker. Hardy probably would have been a top-10 pick if he decided to sit out the season like Shaedon Sharpe, but he will be able to make up for the lost money on his second contract if he shines next to Doncic. His microwave scoring ability feels like a perfect fit in Dallas.

Mark Williams to the Hornets

Mark Williams to the Hornets was the easiest pick in the draft to project. The Hornets had a clear need at center, and most figured Williams would still be on the board when Charlotte came on the clock at No. 13 or No. 15.

We preferred Jalen Duren to Williams as far as centers go because of his additional versatility on both ends, but Charlotte traded his rights to the Pistons when they came on the clock at No. 13. Williams was still waiting there at No. 15, where they scooped him up to run alongside LaMelo Ball and company.

If trading the rights to No. 13 helps the Hornets retain restricted free agent Miles Bridges, we can see the vision of trading the Duren pick. Williams feels like a hand-in-glove fit in Charlotte give his length (7’7 wingspan), motor, shot-blocking skills, and catch radius on lobs from Ball. We still would have preferred Duren, but Williams should be a solid fit, too.

Patrick Baldwin Jr. to the Warriors

Like Hardy, Baldwin was another top-five recruit whose draft stock fell immensely after a terrible freshman season at Milwaukee. The Golden State Warriors eventually ended Baldwin’s slide by taking him with the No. 28 pick, and it truly feels like there is no better landing spot for him to develop.

Baldwin’s freshman year was wrecked by ankle injury that has now lingered for two years. Golden State doesn’t need him to contribute immediately, and will give him the time to get fully healthy before taking the floor. Baldwin’s size (6’10.5) and shooting ability will be an excellent for a Warriors system built off spacing and ball movement. Golden State offers Baldwin a rare opportunity to take a medical redshirt if he needs one before showing the talent that made him a top prospect from the moment he entered high school.

Read our feature on Baldwin’s rise and fall as a top draft pick from earlier this month.

Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason, and TyTy Washington to the Rockets

The Rockets never expected Jabari Smith Jr. to still be on the board when they came on the clock at No. 3 overall. While Houston might have some regrets over missing out on Paolo Banchero, Smith is an outstanding prospect in his own right and a wonderful fit for what the Rockets are building. Houston made the Smith fit even better with their other two first round picks by landing Tari Eason and TyTy Washington later in the draft.

Smith gives the Rocket an incredible three-point shooting and impressive defense as a 6’10 forward. He’ll provide spacing for Jalen Green’s drives to the basket and backline help to cover up for Green’s shaky defense. Meanwhile, Eason is a huge slasher and buzzsaw defender who fits cleanly in lineups with Green and Smith’s spaced-out shooting skills. Washington is a midrange assassin with plus size for a point guard, who should be able to play off all three.

Landing Smith instead of Banchero also makes for a cleaner fit with Alperen Şengün, a non-shooting five who nonetheless has a ton of offensive talent. The Rockets suddenly have an awesome collection of young talent that all seems to fit nicely together.

Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren to the Pistons

We’re saving the best for last here. No one had a better draft night than the Pistons, who picked up Purdue guard Jaden Ivey at No. 5 and swung a trade to land Memphis center Jalen Duren at No. 13. We had both prospects rated as top-five players on our big board, and each is a seamless fit next to last year’s No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham.

Cunningham is a big creator who can shoot and defend, but he’s not the best run-and-jump athlete. That’s where Ivey comes in. Ivey offers blazing speed and an absurd combination of leaping and agility. He can provide an extra boost of rim pressure around Cunningham’s more deliberate playmaking. Meanwhile, Duren is going to be an awesome lob threat for Cunningham to hit on alley-oops. Duren is also a versatile defender who gives the Pistons some serious rim protection as Ivey gets up to speed on the defensive end.

The Pistons might have the best young core in the NBA right now. They’re the biggest winners of draft night.

Leave a Comment