What would the 2022 NBA Draft look like if the only players who could be selected were current NFL superstars?
For the purposes of this article, we’re only going with current NFL players and drafting them as if they were “draft eligible” i.e., in their prime. The players selected are a blend of notable basketball talents as well as some of the most athletic men on the planet. Could they seamlessly transition into an NBA career and be as successful as a lottery pick in the actual 2022 NBA Draft? Almost certainly not, but it’s fun to think about some of our favorite players going from the gridiron to the hardwood.
Since I know next to nothing about basketball, I got the help of longtime friend of The 33rd Team, Coach Tom Crean. Coach Crean is one of the top college basketball coaches of our era and recruited some of the best athletes in the world to come play basketball for him at places such as Marquette, Indiana, Georgia, and numerous other stops. He’s also a huge football fan and the brother-in-law of Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh and Michigan Wolverines Head Coach Jim Harbaugh.
- Orlando Magic — Myles Garrett (G/F, Cleveland Browns)
At 6-foot-4, Garrett is small by NFL standards but at 271 pounds, he would also be one of the stoutest, strongest, and most explosive athletes in the NBA from day one. That’s not hyperbole. Garrett may only have decent pickup basketball skills, but as the NFL’s premier pass rushing talent, he’s one of the freakiest athletes on the planet. In many ways, Garrett helped inspire this article as he made news with his viral pickup games & participating in NBA All-Star Weekend.
The Magic know they need to leave the NBA Draft with a superstar, and Garrett has already been that guy for an NFL franchise.
- Oklahoma City Thunder — Jimmy Graham (F, Free Agent)
Graham is right on the cusp of “active NFL player” because at 35 years old, he may not get the opportunity he wants to continue his NFL career, but the four-year basketball player at Miami is almost certainly the kind of player who should be toward the top of any list like this. At 6-foot-7, 259 pounds, he’s still built like a (rocked up) basketball athlete and if we rewind to his prime, was adept at shot blocking and rim shattering dunks.
- Houston Rockets — Arik Armstead (C, San Francisco 49ers)
Of all the former basketball players on this list, Armstead might be the most surprising for most NFL fans. At 6-foot-7, 290, Armstead would immediately be one of the biggest big men in the NBA and has the potential to own the paint. He didn’t quit playing basketball until falling out of the rotation during his second season at Oregon
“He’s a mountain man inside,” Coach Crean said. “Good touch and a quick shoulder to rim finisher. Also a fantastic shot blocker.”
- Sacramento Kings — Nick Foles (G, Indianapolis Colts)
Athletically, Foles is likely the most surprising name on this list and many further down (even quarterbacks) are more explosive on the field. However, one look at Foles’ basketball clips showcases some athleticism that isn’t utilized in his time as a pocket passer. Recruited for basketball by Georgetown, Gonzaga, and Arizona State among others, Foles has always been an effortless passer and dunker and recent pick-up clips show he’s maintained some of those skills.
- Detroit Pistons — Patrick Mahomes (G, Kansas City Chiefs)
Multiple people I’ve spoken to believe that Patrick Mahomes could’ve ended up in the NBA as a combo guard. He averaged 19 points and 8.3 rebounds per game at Whitehouse (Texas) High. Of course, basketball was maybe his third love after football and baseball and it’s a little daunting to wonder what his career could have looked like had he focused even more on his basketball game.
Is there any player in the NFL who would be a better running mate for Pistons PG Cade Cunningham?
- Indiana Pacers — Mo Alie-Cox (F, Indianapolis Colts)
A four-year player at VCU, Alie-Cox was on the Atlantic 10 Conference’s All-Defensive and All-Academic Teams during his college career and inspired a once-iconic “Mo Says No” chant after his devastating shot blocking. Only 28, he’s one of the few players on this list who likely could walk over and play some solid minutes in an NBA lineup in real life.
Oh, and the move from Lucas Oil Stadium to Gainbridge Fieldhouse isn’t the worst commute.
- Portland Trailblazers — Josh Allen (G, Buffalo Bills)
With a 33.5″ vertical leap, Allen would rank in the top handful of athletes tested at the NBA combine every single year. At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, Allen has solid size for a combo guard (like a more athletic James Harden) and was the leading scorer on his H.S. basketball team.
The Trailblazers desperately need some shooting, and the work Allen has put in as a well-timed vertical passer would likely lend itself well to hours in the gym practicing his three-point shot.
- New Orleans Pelicans — Mike Evans (F, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
“The Buccaneers’ Mike Evans could have been a basketball star,” Coach Crean said, “but he chose his first love instead. I’ve heard he’s good too. He could score and was very quick to the rim”
The Pelicans need a versatile playmaker, and Evans is a 6-foot-5, freakish and sudden athlete who could likely refine his shot to the new-style NBA. Until he does that, you know he’s going to find his way to the rim.
- San Antonio Spurs — Mark Vital (F, Kansas City Chiefs)
From a team standpoint, Vital is the most accomplished basketball player on this list after winning a National Basketball Championship at Baylor. He was no slouch on that team, either, as a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Finalist.
“Vital was a four-year defensive star for Baylor,” said Coach Crean. “He got big assignments from the start. On the offensive side, likes to hit you with his shoulder to finish. Tremendous attitude.”
Yeah, sounds like he’d fit in with the Spurs.
- Washington Wizards — Sam Darnold (G, Carolina Panthers)
Both the NBA and the NFL love to talk about bloodlines, and Darnold is the grandson of USC Final Four player (and original Marlboro Man) Dick Hammer. Much like Foles and Mahomes above, Darnold was the kind of high school player who never had an awkward phase, he just showed up and excelled in any sport he put his mind to.
He started playing basketball at age 5 and was the district basketball MVP for his high school. Although he was always headed to football, several mid-major schools took his temperature over the years to see if he would consider playing basketball and his high school thought he had potential to play in the PAC-12.
- New York Knucks — Mike Williams (G/F, Los Angeles Chargers)
I let Coach Crean make some of these selections and he outsourced this one to Los Angeles Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco and Director of College Scouting Kevin Kelly who both raved about Williams.
Williams has called basketball his favorite sport in the past, and it’s not hard to see how his ability to box out defensive backs and high point footballs in the air showcase his basketball background.
- Oklahoma City Thunder — Marcus Santos-Silva (F, Cleveland Browns)
The most recent “convert” from the basketball court to the NFL, Santos-Silva is currently attempting to latch on as a tight end for the Cleveland Browns after a pretty solid college basketball career first at VCU and then at Texas Tech. He averaged 8.5PPG and 6.3RPG.
“Santos-Silva is a tremendous inside scorer,” Coach Crean said. “Quick, he bounces off of people. Thanks to his great length and wingspan, he rebounds the ball at a high level.”
- Charlotte Hornets —Keenan Allen (G, Los Angeles Chargers)
Another pick of Coach Crean and the Chargers brain trust, I’ll let this short YouTube clip of Keenan Allen do most of the talking. Now, at 30 years old, Allen looks like a far more athletic version of guys playing over at your local YMCA. Had Allen been a full timer on the basketball court since H.S.? He’s almost certainly a solid three-and-d point guard with elite quickness and sky-high hops.
Oh, and for Charlotte, the North Carolina native makes a ton of sense.
- Cleveland Cavaliers — Joe Burrow (G, Cincinnati Bengals)
What if I told you that one of the best basketball players in the state of Ohio this side of LeBron James is now playing quarterback for the Bengals? Burrow was an All-Ohio basketball player who averaged over 17 points per game and played with his now-trademark “Joe Shiesty” swagger which oozed far more aggressively on the basketball court where he was known as a talker.
“Great vision as a passer in high school,” Coach Crean said. “He had very good change of direction on his dribble with plenty of range as a shooter.”
Next on the List: Chazz Surratt (G, Minnesota Vikings); Cam Newton (F, Free Agent), Jacoby Brissett (G, Cleveland Browns)