2022 NBA Draft: Q&A with Matt Babcock on notable risers, latest intel

2022 NBA Draft: Q&A with Matt Babcock on notable risers, latest intel

The intensity is turning up as the NBA Draft looms on June 23. With all combines and withdrawal deadlines behind us, the final steps to draft night will take place behind closed doors — apart from rumors and reports, of course.

On Monday, we saw the first pre-draft trade of the season go down. Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Oklahoma City dealt its No. 30 overall pick and two future second-rounders to Denver in exchange for JaMychal Green and a 2027 first-round pick. That should be just the start of one of the most chaotic newsbreaking stretches in basketball.

Senior NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babock updated our 2022 NBA Mock Draft on Tuesday. Jabari Smith remains the No. 1 overall pick, but movement later on in the lottery highlights his projections. Babcock discused the notable changes and gave his pulse on the pre-draft chatter.

Most mock drafts have either Jabari Smith or Chet Holmgren at No. 1 to the Orlando Magic, and you have not wavered from Smith yet. How close is the decision between these two?

I have not wavered from having Jabari Smith as the No. 1 pick. However, at this point in the process, we've shifted our approach from being scouts and making our own picks to projecting what the teams will actually do. From my understanding, most teams are operating under the impression that Jabari Smith will be the first pick, but I have heard some teams think it could be Holmgren too. So we'll see what Jeff Weltman and John Hammond decide to do soon enough.

What pick do you consider to be the first major inflection point for unpredictability in the draft?

We currently have Chet Holmgren at No. 2, but I'm not overly confident that's how it will actually unfold. For starters, will Oklahoma City even stay put at this pick? Sam Presti is known to be a wheeler and dealer. Could the Thunder take Paolo Banchero or even Jaden Ivey? I also heard Holmgren has not provided his medical information to teams (at least most of them), and did not do the NBA's heart screening. That could suggest that his agents are trying to manipulate the draft and direct Holmgren to a specific spot, which is probably the most likely scenario. I don't know which team that would be though.

Shaedon Sharpe continues to be one of the most mysterious players in this pre-draft process. How have things been going for him?

Shaedon Sharpe has become a polarizing prospect for this year's draft. However, I don't think there is any denying that he has a lot of raw talent and upside. There have been some rumblings that he could slip a bit, but even with that said, he's still likely to go mid-to-late lottery.

What has Jeremy Sochan continuing to rise up your mock draft to No. 9?

The San Antonio Spurs have a lot of young pieces on the perimeter, but I think they need to address their frontcourt. I've heard they do have interest in Sochan. I also heard earlier today that the Spurs could be a team on the hunt to move up, with Keegan Murray being their likely target.

Ousmane Dieng is slotted at No. 14 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Is it safe at this point to say he'll be the first international player selected?

Rumors are flying that Ousmane Dieng has a guarantee, and he did receive an invite to the green room. Could that guarantee be coming from Cleveland? Maybe.

Were you surprised by any of the players who pulled their names out, or kept their names in, at the final withdrawal deadline?

I was a little surprised by some of the international players who decided to stay in the draft, as I expected guys like Yannick Nzosa, Ibou Badji and Matteo Spagnolo to pull their names out.

Which prospects do you think possess higher upside than most anticipate?

A few guys with a lot of upside that might not be getting a ton of attention are Max Christie from Michigan State, Moussa Diabate from Michigan and Josh Minott from Memphis. I'm not sure how much these players are ready to contribute right off the bat, but I wouldn't be surprised to see any or all of them establish themselves in the league over the next couple of years or so.

Who is one player that you think teams have higher on their draft boards compared to the media and general public?

At this point in the pre-draft process, I think teams and the media are generally pretty aligned. Of course, it only takes one team to take a player higher than expected to make all of our mock drafts look questionable. It just adds to the fun of the NBA Draft though.

We've seen one pre-draft trade go down so far between the Nuggets and Thunder (Note: Dallas also traded its No. 26 pick to Houston on Wednesday night). In general, do you expect a lot of movement or relative stability this year?

Oh, of course I always expect there to be movement on draft night. It's part of the business, but has naturally became part of the event's appeal as well. I remember being a kid and freaking out anytime David Stern would walk up to the podium and say, "We have a trade." The NBA Draft is such a special part of the NBA and the basketball industry. I'm very fortunate to be involved in something that I have loved since I was a kid. And this year, I'll be in New York for the draft. See you soon!

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