Winners and losers from 2022 NBA Draft, Big Ten-style
The 2022 NBA Draft was a rarity for Big Ten basketball. Like, really rare.
For the first time since 2013, 3 B1G players — Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis — were drafted in the Top 10. The only other times that’s happened since the ABA/NBA merger are 1980, 1982 and 1990.
The best news for the league from a recruiting perspective is that all of those players are a credit to Big Ten coaching and development. All 3 spring-boarded into sensational sophomore seasons after promising, yet unspectacular, freshman campaigns.
Another Big Ten player, Ohio State freshman Malaki Branham, made it 4 first-round picks when he was selected 20th by the San Antonio Spurs. The Big Ten led all conferences with 9 players selected over the 2 rounds of the draft.
Obviously, it would have been nice if that top-heavy talent had provided a Big Ten team with its first national championship since 2000. Or even a Final Four appearance. But maybe this is just the beginning of an influx of NBA-caliber talent that will eventually lift a B1G team to that moment.
Whether or not that happens, the 2022 NBA Draft was a win for Big Ten basketball. But the B1G was not the only winner on draft night. Or even the biggest winner.
And for that matter, not everyone was a winner.
Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers from the 2022 NBA Draft, as viewed through a Big Ten lens.
Winner: Jaden Ivey
At No. 5 overall, Ivey is Purdue’s highest draft pick since Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson went No. 1 in 1994.
And that’s not Ivey’s only win. He avoided being drafted by the Sacramento Kings, who picked 4th.
Loser: Sacramento Kings
Not to put bad juju on Iowa star Keegan Murray, but …
this is legitimately staggering pic.twitter.com/ShwwPxGxB2
— claire de lune (@ClaireMPLS) June 23, 2022
This could be the single greatest harbinger of Ivey’s future greatness.
It’s not all bad news. At No. 4 overall, Murray is the highest-drafted player in Hawkeyes history. That tops Freddie Brown, who was taken 6th by the Seattle SuperSonics all the way back in 1971. Making history for a positive feat is always a good thing.
But I would have felt a lot better if Murray set that record as the 5th overall pick to Detroit, or any other team that might have traded up to be in that position. The Sacramento Kings are a curse.
Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, the longest active drought without a playoff appearance in professional sports. And in the pro league that sends the most teams to the playoffs, no less.
The Kings also have the 2nd-longest title drought in pro sports, trailing only MLB’s Cleveland Guardians. They last won a title in 1951 as the Rochester Royals.
I’m not sure Murray’s powers are strong enough to avoid being sucked into that vortex. But it may turn him into that grizzled veteran who ends up being a key piece of a championship team … somewhere else.
Winner: Detroit Pistons
The Bad Boys didn’t win back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and ’90 because they beat everybody up. (Though it didn’t hurt.) They won because they were driven by the Hall of Fame backcourt of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.
By drafting Ivey to pair with last year’s No. 1 pick, Cade Cunningham, Detroit finally has a comparably exciting backcourt rolling off the assembly line.
There might even be a bit of B1G synchronicity in play here. Thomas, of course, is the best NBA player in Indiana University history. If Ivey can become the same thing for Purdue, the Pistons will have struck point guard lightning in (almost) the same place twice.
Detroit wasn’t content to settle on just picking up Ivey, either. The Pistons also swung a trade with Charlotte to add promising University of Memphis big man Jalen Duren.
Winner: Johnny Davis
Davis starred in a Taco Bell commercial in the weeks leading up to the draft. He was saved by the bell when Washington took him with the 10th pick, averting any possibility of ending up with the Knicks at No. 11. The Knicks are just the Kings in a noisier setting.
Loser: Indiana Pacers
If you’re a basketball fan in Indiana, now seems like a time to focus your full attention on the Boilermakers, Hoosiers or Butler Bulldogs. Heck, even the Purple Aces might be more watchable than the Pacers now that Tom Crean is at Evansville.
The Pacers are going to stink. Stink-stink.
Milwaukee is the best team in the Eastern Conference. Chicago and Cleveland will both make the playoffs. And Detroit has a bright future with an opportunity to reach the play-in tournament and potential to storm into the playoffs like New Orleans did last season.
The Pacers are a stone-cold lock for last place, and will likely have the most ping-pong balls bouncing in next year’s draft lottery.
Winner: Bryce McGowens
At No. 40 overall, McGowens is the highest Nebraska draft pick since Tyronn Lue was taken 28th in 1998. McGowens probably would have crept into the first round next year, but there’s only so much opportunity to grow on a losing team. Whether it’s on a two-way contract or off the bench for the Hornets, he’ll have a chance to raise his game.
Loser: New York Knicks
If it’s draft night, you can rest assured that you’ll find the Knicks on the loser list. But this was even more exceptional than most years.
After a dizzying series of trades that precipitated multiple Stephen A. Smith meltdowns on ESPN, the Knicks didn’t actually end up with a pick until No. 42 overall. All in the hopes that they might open enough salary cap space for Jalen Brunson.
Winner: EJ Liddell
The former Buckeye was fringe first-rounder who dropped to the 11th pick in the second round, which might not shout out “winning.”
But Liddell is bound for New Orleans, which is basically a year ahead of Detroit in terms of assembling a quality nucleus of young talent. Liddell may end up bouncing around between New Orleans and the G-League in his rookie season, but he has a chance to become a great long-term value for the Pelicans.
Loser: Max Christie
Christie was a likely lottery pick if he returned for his sophomore season at Michigan State, capable of making the same leap we saw from Murray and Davis this year.
Instead, he was taken by the Lakers in the 2nd round and feels destined to spend the bulk of his rookie season getting much-needed reps in the G-League. The Lakers have an ancient roster that is not optimal for a rookie getting major playing time. I’m not sure that provides a better learning lab than Tom Izzo.