The 2022 NBA Draft took place last Thursday. Just like every NBA draft, a lot of unexpected events happened. Paolo going #1, EJ Lidell falling to the second round, all of the trades, etc. From all these twists and turns we analyze who came away with the best value pick.
Check out which top players didn’t get drafted
It’s hard to determine undisputed value of a player because everyone values every player differently. For example, the Hornets came into the draft needing a center, therefore they are valuing a 7’0+ center from Duke, much more than they are a 6’5 guard who shot 40% from three. That scenario is swapped, vice versa, for other teams. We define value as a combination of a player who slipped in the draft, but also fits a need for their given team.
Check out the full list of NBA Draft Selections Here
We are avoiding the top-10 picks in this draft as these are all obvious value picks and generally fit a team’s needs. Click the name to quickly scroll down to the write-up of the given player below.
1. Ochai Agbaji
Selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers at pick 14, our best value pick, Ochai Agbaji, slides into the most valuable draft selection from the 2022 NBA Draft.
Ochai was a fairly known product coming into the NBA draft. Unlike a lot of his fellow draftees, Ochai played all 4 years of his college career. Usually, teams drafting in the lottery are less inclined to draft senior-aged college players because they think their ceiling is limited. But for teams like the Cavs who already have a competitive roster and cornerstone pieces, they are more so looking for strong role players. I believe that Ochai is the perfect role player for today’s NBA and for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ current roster build.
Who is Ochai Agbaji and what does he bring?
The National Champ and Big 12 unanimous player of the year fits a positional and player archetype need for the Cavaliers. He finished his senior season averaging 18.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. Not only did he significantly improve his per-game stats each year, but he also improved his efficiency each year. Notably shooting 41% from 3. Which I think is more impressive than what he’s given credit for. He is also very athletic with a measured 42″ vertical and has a lengthy frame, which is promising to be a switchable defender. Making him a strong candidate for carving out a 3&D role in the NBA.
How does best value pick Ochai Agbaji fit on the Cavs?
On top of all the pros that is Ochai, he also fits perfectly into the Cavs roster. Cavs ranked in the bottom half of the league for 3-pointers made per game and 3p%, Ochai can come in and boost these numbers quickly. The Cavs brought in Caris Levert last season, which is a strong pairing besides All-Star Darius Garland, but I could see Ochai molding into that Garland pairing in the backcourt. This would send Caris to the sixth man role in which he thrives, but at this point of his career, he more than likely wants more of a leading role on a team. Regardless, not only did we think Ochai fell a couple more draft positions than we expected, but he brings exactly what the Cavs need going forward. This is why Ochai was the most valuable pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
—> Check out if the Cavs should resign Collin Sexton <—
2. Jaden Hardy
Next on our list is the Dallas Mavericks draftee, best value pick, Jaden Hardy. The 6’4 guard elected to play in the G-League this past season. While he had a forgettable season for the Ignite, he fell much further than we projected for the amount of talent, athleticism, and potential he brings. Under the right team, Hardy can definitely develop into a strong contributor. The #2 prospect coming out of high school, Jaden Hardy, will be playing with a chip on his shoulder and with someone of his potential, that’s a scary prospect.
Who is Jaden Hardy and What does he bring?
Jaden, best defined as a combo guard, elected to play in the G-League in 2021, which is a step up in competition compared to college competition. This gives Hardy an advantage in terms of development. Players get better by playing against stronger competition, having a full year of that under his belt can be very valuable for Hardy moving forward. As I mentioned earlier, his production, especially his efficiency, was something to be forgotten. He took on the role of primary scorer and facilitator for the Ignite at 19 years old, which is no small feat. Hardy can definitely succeed in a role as a secondary option for a team, especially the Mavericks who showcased that they can bring the best out of combo guards with Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie.
How does our second-best value pick Jaden Hardy fit on the Mavs?
Depending on how free agency goes, Jaden Hardy could quickly be falling into a Brunson-esque role. Although we do believe that Brunson will be staying with the Mavericks, even if it seems popular that he will be going to the Knicks. In the scenario of Brunson staying, it gets a little harder for Hardy to get impactful minutes right away playing behind him and Dinwiddie. Although it should be said that a second-round rookie on a WCF team shouldn’t be getting impactful minutes right away anyways. With that said, I do believe Hardy can carve out a role in his rookie season, he will have more space to work with on the Mavs and I believe he will be a nice shot-creating scoring punch off the bench for the Mavs in 2022. Jaden Hardy has all the potential to be a #2 next to Luka for years and years to come.
The Dallas Mavericks got an absolute steal with Jaden Hardy, he is very comparable to Jaden Ivey skillset-wise but comes at a much cheaper cost. The only reason he isn’t ranked #1 on our list is that his fit isn’t as good as Ochai’s.
Check out 2 off-season keys for the Mavericks (little bit outdated after the Christian Wood trade, but still definitely worth the read!)
3. E.J. Lidell
We can’t make this list without mentioning E.J. Lidell. Probably the biggest surprise of draft night was E.J. Lidell, a lot of experts had him going around #18-#20 and he fell to pick #41. Something does have to be said about multiple teams passing on a guy who would fit their current roster, but falling into the mid-second round seems extreme. The New Orleans Pelicans were the ones who decided to take him on. Their roster is already pretty deep as is, so we don’t imagine Lidell getting much playing time right off the bat for the Pelicans.
Who is EJ Lidell and What does he bring?
EJ Lidell was a finalist for Big-10 player of the year and for good reason. The Junior averaged nearly 20 points and 8 rebounds for the Buckeyes in 2021, shooting 37% from 3. Amongst our best value pick, Lidell is a strong, smart, mobile forward who is versatile on defense. Standing at 6’7 this sounds like a pretty good make-up of a 3&D forward in the NBA, similar to PJ Tucker. One knock on Lidell is his weight and body fat %, coming in at 12.2% (5th highest in draft combine). I think this was the biggest reason why he fell. NBA GMs post-lottery are often looking for highly athletic players, where teams think they can smooth out the rough parts of the player’s game. I disagree with this take, I don’t think every late pick needs to be this high potential prospect due to their athleticism. I think EJ can prove to be versatile enough on defense and productive enough on offense to carve out a role for the Pelicans.
—> Check out 3 keys to the Pelicans’ 2022 offseason <—
How does our third-best value pick EJ Lidell fit on the Pelicans?
It’s hard to imagine Lidell getting anything more than garbage time to start off his rookie year with the Pelicans. The Pelicans have a strong core of forwards and had a breakout season from Herb Jones the previous season. I see Lidell being eased into the NBA and seeing what role he can fit on this roster. Who knows maybe he surprises people similarly to Herb Jones and is able to get meaningful minutes off the bench. I see him working his butt off for this team and proving he deserves to belong in the NBA. I see him having a ceiling of a Paul Milsap or P.J. Tucker-type player, which could fit perfectly alongside the Pelicans’ core.
Time will tell if EJ Lidell was a value pick or not, but you can’t deny that there is value with the pick when so many college basketball experts ranked him higher on their list and he fell so far down the board. The Pelicans have a good system for him to develop in, looking forward to watching him play.