The 2022 NBA draft represents hope for every franchise in the league. However, more than any sport, the basketball draft represents hope for teams at the top of the order.
Franchises with young cores have the chance to add potential superstar pieces that can grow with the foundation that has already been set.
None of these teams are completely devoid of talent, though.
Houston has Jalen Green, Detroit has Cade Cunningham and even Oklahoma City has Shai-Gigleous Alexander. Each of these teams desperately needs more talent to supplant their young building blocks with.
The possible outcome of the draft could lead to some pairings that are made in a laboratory. Others could still be disastrous for the development of these rookies.
With that in mind, here are five of the best possible combinations that could come out of draft night.
AJ Griffin and Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans:
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The Pelicans desperately need more perimeter shooters to help space their offense. The 2021 team shocked the world by making the Western Conference playoffs and now has a core intact of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
To take the next step, the Pelicans will need to find more scorers and create more room to operate. They have a lottery pick by virtue of the Los Angeles Lakers’ dreadful 2021 campaign and have a great chance to capitalize with a top-eight selection.
Griffin is a former five-star basketball recruit and had an up-and-down season with the Duke Blue Devils. The strong existing infrastructure offered by New Orleans presents a great landing spot for him. If Griffin is indeed the pick at No. 8, he can continue to develop his game and take his versatile scoring ability to a team that needs him.
His presence on the roster could only help Ingram and, hopefully, Williamson while their skill level ensures he’ll be in no rush to develop.
Cole Anthony and Jabari Smith Jr., Orlando Magic:
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Point guard Cole Anthony is coming off a stellar sophomore campaign for the Orlando Magic that featured 16.3 points and 5.7 assists per game. He’s formed an excellent guard duo with Jalen Suggs and now it’s up to the front office to surround their two former lottery picks with frontcourt players that can make their life easier.
Enter Jabari Smith Jr.
The 6-foot-10, 220-pound forward from Auburn offers instant spot-up shooting and high-level defense to whatever team he joins. Smith averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds with the Tigers and that skillset would mesh perfectly with what the Magic are building. Many are projecting a Klay Thompson-esque impact from Smith, which feels like a fair comparison.
Spacing the floor and benefiting from the playmaking ability of Anthony, Markelle Fultz and others, while being a major defensive asset on the other end, would only accentuate the guard’s scoring talent.
Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder:
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Josh Giddey showed off his playmaking ability immediately as a rookie in 2021. The Thunder guard averaged 6.4 assists in 31 minutes per game and was an excellent complement to the scoring ability of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Now, the Thunder have to find more scorers to complement their distributor.
Chet Holmgren can do exactly that.
Holmgren is an inside-outside scorer that stands at a staggering 7-foot tall and shot 39% from the 3-point line in 2021. There are concerns about his ability to grow into his massive frame but no location offers Chet more time to develop than Oklahoma City.
Giddey and SGA should create favorable looks for Holmgren where his versatility in scoring ranges should complement both of their games.
Jalen Green and Paolo Banchero, Houston Rockets:
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The Rockets hit a home run in last year draft when they selected Jalen Green second overall. He averaged 17.3 ppg and had a string of 30-point performances to end the 2021 campaign. Houston had the worst record in the NBA for a reason and should be hungry for talent all over the floor.
With little surrounding infrastructure in place, there isn’t a better potential scoring duo in the draft than letting Paolo Banchero from Duke join Green next season. Banchero averaged over 17 points per game and operated as more of a “point forward” than a true member of the frontcourt, despite playing at 6-foot-10.
Houston could run the offense through their 2-man game of Banchero and Green while supplementing the rest of the lineup with shooting and defense. Both players are uniquely gifted at scoring the basketball and could flourish into All-Stars playing alongside each other.
Should Banchero drop to the third pick, the Rockets should be running their selection to the podium.
Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons:
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Cade Cunningham was the No. 1 pick in last year draft for a reason. He just makes everyone better. The rookie sensation averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 assists per game and flashed the type of talent that left Piston fans feeling extremely bright about their future. Unfortunately, Detroit fell to the fifth overall pick during the lottery process. There is still, however, a prospect that fits their team perfectly.
There may not be a better prospect to capitalize on the overall greatness of Cunningham than Jaden Ivey. Ivey averaged over 17 points per game during his sophomore season with Purdue and has exploded onto the draft scene as perhaps the best guard in this year’s draft. His excellent slashing ability would be a great compliment to Cunningham and solidify Detroit’s backcourt for years to come.
Overall, this pairing would make for one of the most athletic backcourt duos in the NBA and feature two players whose games play off each other perfectly.