The 2022 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 23 at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The Indiana Pacers are in a favorable spot heading into said draft.
Not only do they have the sixth pick, the first top-six pick for the franchise since 1988, but the Pacers also have two veteran players reportedly on the trade block in Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon. The two candidates could very well be dealt on draft night itself, further setting up Indiana for a potentially busy Thursday evening.
The most interesting component for the Pacers and the 29 other teams involved is the unpredictability of this draft. There are so many players that are heading in with high ceilings but low floors, and those are risky picks for many franchises looking to make a splash immediately.
Indiana, like many other teams, has a number of options, come 8 p.m. Let’s break those down:
Keep pick No. 6 and acquire no additional first-round picks
Currently slated at pick No. 6 and with a roster that has holes at almost every position other than point guard, the Pacers are sitting pretty at this spot. The top three players in this class are essentially set in stone, however, picks four and five are not.
The Sacramento Kings pick at No. 4 and with a backcourt of De'Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell, I feel it’s unlikely they pick a guard, meaning no Jaden Ivey of Purdue. I feel the two most viable options are the Kings either trade the pick for more assets or take Keegan Murray of Iowa to fill in their power forward position, with Domantas Sabonis sliding over to center.
With the fifth pick in this scenario, the Detroit Pistons could realistically take just about anyone on the board. If Jaden Ivey is available, I feel he is their most likely selection, to create a backcourt of Ivey and Cade Cunningham. If Ivey is unavailable, I think the Pistons could either trade the pick or select Murray, as they are likely to trade their current power forward, Jerami Grant.
Now, if the Pacers keep the sixth pick, it all depends on who is still available.
If Ivey and Murray are available, I feel we take Ivey due to his Indiana ties and the potential of an Ivey and Tyrese Haliburton backcourt. If only Murray is available, we would undoubtedly be happy to take him and put him in a starting power forward role with a large part to play on the offensive end.
If neither Murray nor Ivey are available at six, I feel their next best option is either Benedict Mathurin of Arizona or A.J. Griffin of Duke. Indiana desperately needs wing help, whether that be small forward or power forward, and each of these athletes can play a wing position, although Mathurin is more of a shooting guard/small forward than Griffin’s traditional wing fit.
How do they decide?
Mathurin is the safest option. He has more experience and the Pacers have a better understanding of the player they get if they select Mathurin.
With Griffin, the Pacers are getting a player with more potential than Mathurin, however, as mentioned earlier, he has a lower floor. Griffin is a bit of a work in progress, but with Indiana in rebuild mode, this is certainly an option that could reap major benefits for the Pacers.
Trade up to No. 4 with the Sacramento Kings
The Pacers and Kings have a history of trading together, most recently swapping Sabonis for Haliburton and Buddy Hield, among other players involved in the acquisition. Don’t be surprised if they make their second trade together in 2022 as the Kings are in a prime spot to trade down and the Pacers are in a prime spot to trade up on draft night.
While the Pacers are rebuilding, they need a player who can create an immediate impact and who has boundless potential. What better way to try and make that happen than move up two spots and relatively have their pick of who they could realistically draft?
As stated earlier, the top three picks (in no particular order) are essentially set, however, the rest of the draft board is up in the air. Again, in this scenario, both Murray and Ivey would likely be available and I feel the Pacers would select the Indiana native (Ivey).
If this trade goes down, look for Indiana to trade picks No. 6 and No. 31 (the first pick of the second round), as well as potentially an additional second-round pick, to Sacramento for No. 4. Trading with Detroit for No. 5 is not a likely option for the Pacers, as the two franchises are rivals and divisional opponents.
Trade for additional first-round picks and potentially a player
This is the most likely scenario, in my opinion. With Brogdon and Turner reportedly on the trade block, the Pacers could easily make a move to acquire another lottery pick while still holding on to No. 6.
An option that makes a lot of sense is trading Malcolm Brogdon to the New York Knicks for the 11th overall pick. The Pacers can afford to let go of Brogdon, especially if it puts them in a position to draft another young player, and the Knicks, shockingly (not), are looking for a solidified guard.
Another option could be the Charlotte Hornets, who could trade for Myles Turner or Malcolm Brogdon while giving the Pacers their 13th or 15th overall pick in return, possibly even both.
The bottom line is, the Pacers are in rebuild mode and I feel they should approach the 2022-23 season in the same way. The way to do that is to build around young players, I.E., through draft picks.
Use this next season as one last rebuilding year until attacking the 2023-24 season as one where the young core is entering their prime and Indiana can climb back into playoff, not play-in, potential. Therefore, my official prediction is the Indiana Pacers will keep pick No. 6 and acquire pick No. 11 from the New York Knicks in exchange for Malcolm Brogdon, where they will draft Mathurin and Griffin, respectively.
Official Lottery Mock Draft
Now, my official 2022 NBA Mock Draft is one that has been everchanging, but just over 24 hours before selections begin, I feel relatively confident in this. That said, here is my "official" 2022 NBA Mock Draft of the lottery (picks 1-14):
Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith, forward (Auburn)
Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren, center (Gonzaga)
Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero, forward (Duke)
Sacramento Kings: Keegan Murray, forward (Iowa)
Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey, guard (Purdue)
Indiana Pacers: Benedict Mathurin, guard/forward
7. Portland Trail Blazers): Johnny Davis, guard (Wisconsin)
8. New Orleans Pelicans: Shaedon Sharpe, guard/forward (Kentucky)
9. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Sochan, forward (Baylor)
10. Washington Wizards: Dyson Daniels, guard (G League Ignite)
11. Indiana Pacers (via trade with the New York Knicks): A.J. Griffin, forward (Duke)
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ousmane Dieng, guard/forward (New Zealand Breakers)
13. Charlotte Hornets: Jalen Duren, center (Memphis)
14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Ochai Agbaji, guard/forward (Kansas)