Jabari Smith Jr. leaps to No. 1, but team with top pick might matter more than ever – The Athletic | #schoolshooting

Before diving headfirst into the mock, I think it’s worth setting the scene a bit.The 2022 NBA Draft is not considered a particularly strong one at the moment by evaluators. The top of the class is solid, not spectacular. The middle of the lottery has an enormous number of questions. There is more uncertainty regarding players in the back half of the first round than I can remember in a draft, largely for a couple of reasons.

First, the 2022 draft’s scouting and development process has been uniquely interrupted due to COVID-19. A lot of the players involved in this class don’t have as much tape and haven’t been seen as much by evaluators as in previous classes. On top of that, they haven’t played quite as many big games due to how stop-start their high school careers and AAU seasons were. On top of that, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is starting to wreak havoc on the collegiate schedule. In a class with this much uncertainty to begin with, many players just haven’t gotten as many chances to be seen as others. Because of that, I would expect some substantial shake-up throughout the rest of the collegiate season to this draft board. I wouldn’t be surprised if the conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament play an even more outsized role in the draft than they typically do.

Right now, the team that gets the No. 1 overall pick will have an immense influence on who goes No. 1. This is not a draft that currently has a no-doubter guy at the top, a la Zion Williamson, Cade Cunningham or Anthony Davis. Rather, I would say there is a good group of four players at the top in Jabari Smith Jr.

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