Each year, the NBA draft is one of the most efficient and enticing ways for teams to import talent, reform the roster, and even build a dynasty. As the 2022 NBA Draft wraps up in June, 58 young and promising talent have joined the world’s biggest stage.
From the first to the last selection, every selection counts. The San Antonio Spurs began their dynasty by picking Tim Duncan as the first pick in the 1997 NBA draft, while the legendary Golden State Warriors trio of Stephen Curry (7), Klay Thompson (11) and Draymond Green (35) were all selected after the first six picks.
With the addition of a large roster of high-ceilinged rookies, even some of the regular-season’s worst teams seem interesting next season. It’s time to take a deep dive into the league’s best young cores.
Players under the age of 23 are counted. But certain players aged 25 or younger may still be considered. A core of three players is selected from each team, and each player is scored from 1 to 5 points, and then the three are added together to produce a total score.
10. Orlando Magic (10 points)
Paolo Banchero – 19 years, (4 points)
Franz Wagner – 20 years, (4 points)
Cole Anthony – 22 years, (2 points)
What kind of dramaturgy was that? When everyone thought Jabari Smith Jr. would be picked as the No. 1 pick overall, the Orlando Magic surprisingly took a bet on Dukes forward Paolo Banchero. And so far, Banchero has rightly proven why he should be the chosen one, averaging 20 points, five points, six rebounds, 2.5 steals and one steal in his two games during the 2022 NBA2K23 Summer League.
In addition to Banchero, there are many other youngsters on this Magic team, including 6’10 forward Franz Wagner and guard Cole Anthony. Wagner was selected to the 2021-22 NBA All-Rookie First Team. As a sophomore, Anthony made a remarkable leap, filling his stat sheet with an average of 16.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
With the addition of Banchero, the Magic are expected to show off their improvement since the start of next season.
9. Houston Rockets (10 points)
Jabari Smith Jr. – 19 years, (4 points)
Jalen Green – 20 years, (4 points)
Kevin Porter Jr. – 22 years old, (2 points)
It’s widely believed that Smith wasn’t the original Houston Rockets pick, but he really is of the same caliber as Banchero. Smith has already demonstrated his NBA-level shooting and defending skills, particularly on switch defense on small and athletic guards.
The Rockets are headed in the right direction because of their backcourt, Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. Green is a walking scoring bucket with versatile offensive skills and freaky athleticism, averaging 17.3 points in his rookie year. Last season was a transition for Porter as he learned to be a more efficient playmaker for the team rather than being a pure goalscorer.
Houston might still struggle next season as their young roster needs time to grow and the West gets stronger, but their time will come in years.
8. Toronto Raptors (10 points)
Scottie Barnes – 20 years, (5 points)
Gary Trent Jr. – 23 years, (2 points)
OG Anunoby – 24 years, (3 points)
It’s tough to get a team with Rookie of the Year – Scottie Barnes – in eighth place. On the other hand, it shows how talented these young teams are.
6-foot-7 Barnes has emerged as one of the most valuable young talents in the NBA after averaging 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a freshman. His ability to defend from one to five is the ultimate goal for positionless basketball. If Barnes could improve his shooting as a sophomore and become the Raptors’ top two offensive players, he would have a shot at becoming an All-Star.
Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby are all solid young two-way players with more playoff experience, but may have fewer advantages than young players on other teams.
A big difference between the Raptors and most young teams is that Toronto is already a playoff-level team, which means their young players will have a lot more high-level playing experience than others, just like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown by the Boston Celtics.
7. Detroit Pistons (10 points)
Cade Cunningham – 20 years, (5 points)
Jaden Ivey – 20 years, (3 points)
Jalen Duren – 18 years, (2 points)
The Detroit Pistons are widely regarded as one of the biggest winners of the recent draft, with a steal from guard Jaden Ivey in the fifth pick and center Jalen Duren in the 13th pick. Both players are athletic and extremely young, making them the perfect complement to the absolute core of the team, guard Cade Cunningham.
Cunningham missed the start of last season through injury but ended the season on a strong note, averaging 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists. With his skills and vision, he has found the balance between individual and team offensive and has developed into one of the best playmakers in his class.
With a combination of Cunningham, Ivey and Duren, the Pistons will be an entertaining team next season.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (11 points)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 24 years, (3 points)
Josh Giddey – 19 years, (4 points)
Chet Holmgren – 20 years, (4 points)
Chet Holmgren is the true unicorn of the 2022 draft at 7ft tall and 7ft 6 wingspan. Offensively, he can dribble like a guard and hit 3-pointers from behind the arc. On the other hand, he has dominated every Summer League game so far, averaging 2.3 steals and two blocks per game.
Holmgren isn’t the only promising player in the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team has already developed one of the best young backcourts in the NBA – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey contributed 37.0 points, 12.8 rebounds and 12.3 assists per game last season.
With excellent height and span in all five positions, the Thunder will make life difficult for opponents on either end.
5. Atlanta Hawks (11 points)
Trae Young – 23 years, (4 points)
Dejounte Murray – 25 years, (4 points)
De’Andre Hunter – 24 years, (3 points)
The Atlanta Hawks moved up to fifth on the list with the addition of former San Antonio Spurs All-Star Guard Dejounte Murray. And here’s why.
The Hawks are one of four teams that now have at least two young current or former All-Stars, Trae Young and Murray. Young has everything a team needs offensively, including offensive ability, playmaking, basketball IQ, etc.
However, what limits his game is his defense. He could improve his defense by reading the game better, but he will always be the target of opponents due to his small size and weight.
That’s another reason why Murray and De’Andre Hunter are a perfect match for him. They are players with great defensive versatility who can switch to multiple positions and contribute high efficiency on offense.
With the gigantic trade for Murray, the Hawks are reportedly looking to get back to where they were two years ago.
4. Boston Celtics (11 points)
Jayson Tatum – 24 years, (5 points)
Jaylen Brown – 25 years, (4 points)
Grant Williams – 23 years, (2 points)
People would always forget how young the cores of the Celtics are because they’ve had so much playoff experience at such a young age.
Tatum, 24, has made 51 playoff games, including one appearance in the Finals and three in the Eastern Conference Finals. And the 25-year-old Brown has made 62 playoff games, including one appearance in the Finals and four in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Averaging 48.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 9.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game last season, they’ve become one of the best duos in the NBA.
But don’t forget about forward Grant Williams, who contributed some clutch moments at both ends in this year’s playoff games. With the talent the Celtics have, they are expected to be one of the most popular title contenders for years to come.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (12 points)
Yes Morant – 22 years, (5 points)
Jaren Jackson Jr. – 22 years, (4 points)
Desmond Bane – 24 years, (3 points)
Superstar guard Ja Morant elevated his game to the MVP level in his third year, finishing the regular season with a top 56 team wins and leading the team to the second round of the playoffs. Morant won the Most Improved Player Award for 2022 and was selected for the All-Star Game for the first time.
But the Memphis Grizzlies have so many other youngsters including Jaren Jackson Jr., who was selected to the All-Defensive First Team, and Desmond Bane, who averaged 18.2 points per game.
Jackson will miss most of next season’s games through injury, but Memphis’ deep roster will help them stay strong in the West.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (12 points)
Evan Mobley – 21 years, (5 points)
Darius Garland – 22 years, (4 points)
Jarrett Allen – 24 years, (3 points)
Despite not making the playoffs last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers still had an amazing run with their young cores Evan Mobley, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. Before the season, the Cavaliers were considered one of the bottom teams in the East, but their extraordinary behavior completely changed the narrative.
Forward Mobley was selected to the 2021-22 NBA All-Rookie First Team and as a rookie in the Defensive Player of the Year debate. Guard Garland and Center Allen have been voted All-Stars since the LeBron James era.
Next season the squad will be scarier.
1. New Orleans Pelicans (12 points)
Zion Williamson – 22 years, (5 points)
Brandon Ingram – 24 years, (4 points)
Herbert Jones – 23 years, (3 points)
The New Orleans Pelicans started the 2021-22 season with a 3-16 record, made the play-ins and finished the season after six games with the Phoenix Suns with 64 first-round wins. With a crazy run in the second half of the season, the Pelicans are considered one of next season’s dark horses.
Just because forward Zion Williamson will be back.
Williamson is a top-15 player in the NBA when he’s on the ground, averaging 27.0 points on 61.1% shooting during the 2020-21 season. His return will automatically position the team as a potential top-five offensive team with color dominance.
Along with former All-Star forward Brandon Ingram and young defender Herbert Jones, the Pelicans are forecast to have a 50-win regular season and a potential second-round playoff run.
“The sky’s not the limit for us … it’s the view,” said Swin Cash, the Pelicans’ vice president of basketball operations and team development.