Draft Day: (Team) Fit Check
The No Ceilings crew reviews some of their favorite team and player fits from the 2022 NBA Draft.
This morning, our No Ceilings special guest Joshua “Spice” Lee gave us a spectacular in-depth breakdown of the best draft fits on Thursday night. The rest of the No Ceilings crew certainly can’t follow that act, especially on the fashion front, but we figured we’d do the next best thing.
With that in mind, we broke down some of our favorite draft fits—between team and player. We chose a wide range of players in the first round, from near the top of the draft to near the 30th overall pick.
For any fans of the players or teams represented below, someone at No Ceilings is all the way in on your particular situation.
Enjoy, No Ceilings family!
Metcalf: Jaden Ivey/Detroit Pistons: After the NBA Lottery results were revealed, the Detroit Pistons were largely viewed as one of the biggest losers because it appeared that they fell out of the range that would allow them to acquire an uber-athletic backcourt running mate for Cade Cunningham. Alas, the basketball gods smiled upon them, and Jaden Ivey was there for them. The Pistons put on a master class in the 2022 NBA Draft, and it all started by taking Ivey.
When the Pistons selected Cade Cunningham in the 2021 draft, my early 2000s fandom was reignited. When they selected Ivey (along with Jalen Duren and Gabriele Procida) as Cunningham’s backcourt pairing, they might as well have dumped a barrel of gasoline on it. Ivey is a perfect fit with the Pistons because he’s everything that Cunningham isn’t. Ivey was one of the best athletes in this draft and will be one of the best athletes in the NBA on day one. His burst is Kid Flash-esque, and he’s got the springs of a frog.
One of the more perplexing pre-draft discourses that came up was that Ivey had to have the ball to succeed. Why? It’s like we didn’t just watch him play as a shooting guard for the last two years. Yes, Ivey’s obscene potential is largely rooted in what he can do on-ball, but that doesn’t mean he’s inept off of it. He leaks out well in transition, runs hard off screens, and is highly effective at cutting, dribble handoffs, and shooting off screens. With Cunningham, Ivey can continue to do all of that (at a higher level because Cunningham controls the game better than anyone Ivey has ever played with) while also growing his on-ball offense by running the offense when Cunningham isn’t on the floor or is spotting up. The offensive fit is perfect, and the possibilities are endless.
Nick: Ochai Agbaji/Cleveland Cavaliers: While there were quite a few fits that I really liked in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft, I couldn’t go with any player and team fit besides Ochai Agbaji and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In my opinion, this is as close to a perfect fit as I could have imagined for the team with the last pick in the lottery.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, they pick up an elite off-ball defender on the wing who runs exceptionally well in transition and has developed into a lethal long-range threat. Agbaji is also an excellent cutter who will finish plays started by Darius Garland or Evan Mobley, and he brings big moment equity to the Cavaliers after winning a National Championship.
For Ochai Agbaji, he gets to go to a team that was the top seed in the Eastern Conference at one point last season before they dropped in the standings down the stretch due to injuries. He might have a chance at the starting shooting guard spot on Opening Night, but at a minimum, he should slot in as a key rotation player sooner rather than later for a team that could use his floor-spacing and his defense on the wing. I’m a huge fan of his fit on both ends of the floor, and I think that this is a nearly ideal situation for both player and team.
Nathan: MarJon Beauchamp/Milwaukee Bucks: There are a number of players I thought went to teams that could best utilize their strengths and overall serve as great fits. But to me, no fit is better from an identity perspective than Beauchamp and the Bucks.
When breaking down Beauchamp’s game, it’s easy to nitpick what concerns scouts on the offensive side of the ball. When the game slows down in the halfcourt, will Beauchamp be able to hit enough jump shots to justify staying on the court? I personally believe in the jumper, but that’s not his greatest selling point in terms of value.
Beauchamp is one of the best transition wings (depending on how one positionally classifies Tari Eason) in the class. For him, going to a team like Milwaukee that maximizes both scoring in transition AND defending in transition (top half of the NBA last year per Synergy in both play types) is the type of fit I love to see. Beauchamp will immediately hustle and contribute to running out, finishing around the basket, filling the corners, getting back on defense, and using his quick hands to make plays on the ball.
And even when the game comes to a bit of a halt, the Bucks have enough guys to command attention in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday to draw multiple defenders and give Beauchamp angles to cut where he’s also deadly. If the corner three is there for him, talk about a nice long-term swing for Milwaukee.
Rucker: Bennedict Mathurin/Indiana Pacers: It’s always fun to look back and connect some of the favorable fits from previous Draft classes. Personally, I keep finding myself fascinated by a specific connection. Former Arizona Wildcats sophomore Bennedict Mathurin was quickly becoming one of the hottest names in Draft circles in the final weeks before the 2022 NBA Draft.
I loved the idea of Indiana potentially adding Mathurin to their mix. Throughout the Draft cycle, I’ve continued to believe that Mathurin was being a bit “underrated,” even when he was projected as a potential Top 10 selection. After showing some upside as a freshman, Mathurin returned to Tucson for another year of development, this time under a new head coach in Tommy Lloyd. The up-tempo system from Lloyd brought out an entirely new type of weapon in Mathurin, and it should allow Mathurin to have a smoother transition at the next level.
Mathurin has the ability to be a dangerous player off of the ball with his movement shooting and his ability to cut. Adding him in the backcourt alongside gifted playmaker Tyrese Haliburton should be an exciting young duo for the Pacers to build around. Indiana looks like an organization that is trying to retool on the fly; getting a young core of Haliburton, Duarte, and now Mathurin is a great start.
Albert: Dyson Daniels/New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans are FUN! This squad is filled with young talented players who fit perfectly next to CJ and Brandon Ingram. Even without Zion last season, they fought hard against the Suns in the first round. Pelicans fans have to be feeling good about their future prospects, especially if Zion is as healthy as he looks in all 400 of his off-season photos.
Adding a guy like Dyson Daniels to this squad is perfect because he’s a low-maintenance player. Daniels doesn’t need the ball in his hands to succeed; he’s a guy that’s going to fit in seamlessly from day one due to his defense and basketball IQ. Daniels is a gigantic playmaker that can come off the bench and play both on and off the ball next to Jose Alvarado. If he somehow finds some minutes in the starting lineup, he’d be a great fit next to CJ McCollum, as well as a secondary creator and lockdown defender.
The guy is huge with a great frame, good vision, and a developing jumper. His profile is a nice addition to what they have, and he’s not going to have the pressure to produce in a big way from day one. With guys like Trey Murphy III and Herb Jones already in place as versatile wings, Daniels can be brought along slowly if needed.
Corey: Mark Williams/Charlotte Hornets: I really didn’t want to overthink this question. The crew at No Ceilings, as well as the majority of draft aficionados, have linked Williams to Charlotte for months because the fit seemed almost too perfect. When the fit seems so seamless and obvious, I feel like it almost never actually happens, only this time it did, which means Hornets fans will no longer have to trot out a Plumlee or Zeller brother for 30 minutes a night.
Williams fits so magnificently into Charlotte’s rotation because they kinda sorta suck defensively and Williams very much so does not. You can load up on all the offensive firepower you want, but if you don’t have a presence inside to clean up missed rotations and constant blow-bys, you’re probably destined for the play-in tourney at best. There’s just too much talent in the league nowadays to only play one side of the ball. This is also why hiring Mike D’Antoni would have been the wrong decision, as fun as it may have been. Williams is a massive human being with supernatural physical measurements who will erase all of the mistakes the young Hornets constantly make as the backline of the defense. While Williams will most likely be used mostly in a drop, he moves his feet better than he’s given credit for and will hang on switches. Williams’s defensive versatility will be a major coup for a team on the playoff fringes.
Williams is also super low maintenance on the other side of the ball. You know exactly what he’s going to bring to the team from jump street. The 7-footer will give LaMelo another lob target and will be an uber-efficient finisher around the hoop, cleaning up the garbage or finishing drop-offs.
The Hornets didn’t overthink this thing and gamble on the idea of potential; they made the savvy move of selecting a piece that could actually push their franchise forward towards playoff legitimacy.
Evan: Jabari Smith Jr./Houston Rockets: Although I’m sure he was slightly disappointed about not being the Magic’s selection with the #1 overall pick last Thursday night, Jabari Smith Jr. ending up in Houston at #3 ultimately might be the better fit for him long term.
Houston was possibly the worst defensive unit in the league last season. Adding arguably one of the most talented and versatile defenders in this class in Smith Jr. seemed like a no-brainer, as he could be an immediate anchor for them on that end of the floor. Combined with fellow first round selections Tari Eason and Usman Garuba, he now gives the Rockets a defensive trio capable of creating havoc on the Western Conference for years to come. Smith Jr. also plays with a fiery competitiveness that I believe is infectious in the best way and that his teammates in Houston are only going to feed off going forward.
Offensively, I think playing alongside shot-makers like Kevin Porter Jr, Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, and TyTy Washington is a spot in which Smith Jr. will thrive. It will allow him to shine off the ball as a lethal catch and shoot option, while his shooting ability overall should help improve Houston’s spacing immensely. However, I’m most intrigued to see how the Auburn star’s offensive skill set is utilized in the front court next to Turkish big man Alperen Sengun. The mismatch this duo could become for opposing defenses is tantalizing to think about now.
Sengun’s playmaking, feel, and touch in the post, combined with what Smith Jr. can do as a mid-range scorer, might be a match made in heaven. It also gives the Rockets so much flexibility from a play-calling standpoint and the creativity in which they can now implement in the sets they choose to run. I love what the front office in Clutch City has done in these last two drafts to reshape their roster. Getting Jabari Smith Jr. only helps fortify their young core going forward, while providing Houston with the defensive identity they’ve been missing.
Alex: Patrick Baldwin Jr./Golden State Warriors: Everyone knows that I was a Paolo #1 guy and loved his fit on the Orlando Magic, but I already wrote about that extensively, so I am pivoting to another favorite fit of mine, and that’s Patrick Baldwin Jr. (aka “PBJ”) on the Golden State Warriors.
We all witnessed the disappointing freshman season that PBJ had at UW-Milwaukee when he was asked to be “the guy” offensively for a team that lacked good guard play, but talk about a polar opposite situation he landed in with the Warriors. He is going to walk into Golden State with absolutely zero pressure of being “the guy” for that team. Instead, he can solely focus on the one aspect of his game that I have the most confidence in translating to the NBA; SHOOTING. The guard play at UW-Milwaukee was not great, so PBJ was tasked to be more of a shot creator and offensive engine than he probably has the talent to do successfully. However, in Golden State, he will be playing off of guys like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, and Draymond Green, who are all bonafide passers, scorers, and shooters. Defenses won’t be zeroed in on stopping PBJ like they were in college, which should open up more open shot opportunities in the next level. At the end of the day, PBJ is still 6’10” and can shoot the basketball, so as long as he can focus on that aspect and try to perfect his off-ball movement, he should have a role in this league and on this Warriors roster moving forward.
I haven’t mentioned the defensive fit yet, but I ultimately think PBJ will become enough of a defensive option on Golden State to earn minutes. The main concern with PBJ on that end is athletic limitations and engagement. I can’t name another player I’d rather have a rookie learn from on the defensive end of the ball than Draymond Green, and PBJ will have the opportunity to do just that. Do you really think Draymond is going to accept PBJ not giving 100% effort defensively in practice? There will be an immediate sense of accountability which I ultimately think will work wonders for PBJ. He had some nice moments defensively in college, especially as a rim protector, but they were few and far between. Being in the winning culture of the Golden State Warriors should make PBJ more locked in and could turn him into a two-way role player who earns minutes sooner than some expect.
Maxwell: Johnny Davis/Washington Wizards: I’ve long said that the Washington Wizards should have one strategy on draft night: get high-ceiling players in their door. That’s Johnny Davis. He ranked 6th on my final big board. To get him at ten was a fantastic value proposition, but this isn’t a column about value; it’s about fit. And the fit is clean as a sheet.
Bradley Beal has long been considered a two-guard, which makes sense since he’s spent so much of his career playing off the ball as a shooting threat beside John Wall. However, Beal’s game has changed in recent years. For one, his three-point shooting percentage has started to come down over the years while he’s simultaneously shooting less of them. But fear not: he’s grown wonderfully as a scorer off the dribble and playmaker for others. This past season, Beal averaged 6.6 assists per game, a career high. He’s begun to have a better understanding of his gravity, and his years of experience have allowed him to develop his floor vision. On paper, Johnny Davis and Bradley Beal might be two players you think of as two-guards, but at this stage, Beal is more than okay holding lead guard duties.
A Beal-Davis backcourt does two things- it insulates Beal’s lack of positional size and poor defense, and it allows Beal to take a back seat on offense when he would like. Johnny Davis is an absolute dog on defense. His 2.0 STL % and 2.3 BLK % are both fantastic for a guard. Despite carrying a gigantic offensive workload, Davis still played defense like a walk-on who would do anything within his power to stay on the floor. He’s a hustler with a strong body who won’t give an inch. Last season, the Wizards were 25th in defensive rating. Adding another guard defender will not only help further unleash Beal’s offense as he gets additional rest but is a necessity if the team wants to be more competitive. Secondly, I believe Johnny Davis to be a better playmaker than he gets credit for being. Wisconsin was an abysmal shooting team from distance, so many of his passing reads didn’t show up in box scores. Having another player who can collapse defenses and pressure the rim will go a long way.
Johnny Davis is a great basketball fit right now, but he also fits what this team needs in the long run. Bradley Beal likely won’t be here forever. But even if he is a Wizard for the rest of his playing career, he’ll need to pass the torch at some point. The Wizards don’t have anyone else on their roster I can confidently point to and say, “he might make an All-Star team someday.” Davis gives them that guy. The kicker is that he’s going to bring a competitive nastiness on defense and an ability to attack the basket on offense that helps the team immediately, too.