The 2022 NBA Draft saw a lot of players expected to go in round 1 fall to round 2. Per usual, there were lots of trades as well. Here are my five best selections in the 2nd round:
1) Christian Koloko goes 33rd to Toronto
The Toronto Raptors had a huge need at center and they got an ideal fit to fall right in their laps without having to maneuver up the draft board. Christian Koloko is a presence on the defensive end, both protecting the rim and having the ability to switch on the perimeter. He’ll fit right in with Toronto’s versatile forwards and be a force right off the bat. His offensive game has improved every year in college and he looks like he’ll develop a reliable jump shot. It’s still confusing to me how slept on Koloko was throughout this process, but the Raptors will reap the benefits for years to come.
2) Dallas trades for 37 to select Jaden Hardy
Coming out of high school, Jaden Hardy was a consensus top-5 ranked player nationally. He chose to play for the NBA’s G-League Ignite team rather than in the NCAA and that decision appears to have cost him a chance to be a lottery pick. While Hardy is a bit undersized for a shooting guard and a bit lacking as a playmaker to play point guard full time, he goes to a perfect situation in Dallas with Luka Doncic already implanted as the main ball handler of the offense. As long as he competes on the defensive end, he should find himself in the rotation right away in his pro career.
3) EJ Liddell falls to New Orleans at 41
While he’s maybe a bit of a tweener without a set position in the NBA, EJ Liddell can flat out play and the New Orleans Pelicans getting him in the middle part of the 2nd round was a steal. Most mock drafts had Liddell going in round 1. This is a player who averaged nearly 20 points per game last season with good rebounding and passing ability. At worst, Liddell will be a nice bench scorer and capable backup forward. The Pelicans have a very intriguing mix of scoring offensive-minded players and lock-down defensive options that should amount to some fun lineups.
4) Portland at 57 takes Jabari Walker
Jabari Walker is another player I didn’t understand how he was not being considered a 1st round selection. His overall shooting splits this season were not impressive, but if you remove a bad stretch at the beginning of the season, they’re fantastic. Walker wasn’t much of a playmaking wing either, but some of that might have been due to a lack of talent around him to pass to. Other than that, there’s a lot to like about Walker’s game. He’s an elite rebounder for a forward. Defensively he is above-average on the perimeter guarding quicker players and shows good instincts as a help defender and secondary rim protector off ball. Normally, the end of the draft is a crapshoot, but I believe Portland got a rotational forward with this pick.
5) Milwaukee acquires 58 to get Hugo Besson
Two years ago, Milwaukee agreed to a trade with Sacramento for Bogdan Bogdanovic. The problem was Bogdanovic was a free agent and free agency hadn’t started yet. The NBA voided the trade and Bogdanovic would go on to sign with the Atlanta Hawks. Fast forward to draft night and it looks like Milwaukee got a similar player in Hugo Besson. While Besson struggled to shoot while playing for the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian NBL, he showed enough to believe he has enough talent to play in the NBA. The combo guard has flashy ball-handling skills, a smooth looking jumper, and is crafty with the ball off the dribble. He has a tendency to take bad shots but playing on a team like the Bucks will certainly lead to him finding himself open more often than he was on the Breakers. It looks like the Bucks will wait to bring him over to the NBA, but he could end up leaving teams questioning why he fell to the end of the 2nd round.